His career as a professional musician began in 1956. He formed The Last Straw in 1974 and also played with the Judy Bailey Quartet from 1974 to 1979. Since 1978 he has played, recorded and toured internationally with The Last Straw, The Judy Bailey Quartet, The Engine Room, Ten Part Invention and Bernie McGann's trios and quartets. As a drummer he is an unusual stylist, playing left handed on a right handed drum kit.
With his own bands and the Bernie McGann trio he has won five ARIA and five 'MO' awards.
John Pochée received the Australian Jazz Critic's Award for drums in 1990 and 1992. In 1992 he also performed an improvised duet with the celebrated Classical pianist Roger Woodward AC MBE at The Sydney Spring Festival. He was elected to the Monsalvat Jazz Festival Roll of Honour in 1996.
At the Australian Jazz Awards in 2006 he was the third inductee into the Graeme Bell "Hall of Fame" for "Career Achievement." Described as "Overseas Ambassador and Jazz Pioneer" he was nominated for a Classical Music Award in 2007 for "Long Term Contribution to the Advancement of Australian Music".
In 2008 he delivered the sixteenth annual Bell Jazz Lecture at Waverley Library, Sydney.
Born in Sydney, Australia, in 1940, John Pochée began his musical career in 1956, playing at the El Rocco and the Mocambo, Sydney's major jazz venues of that time. In the 1960s he worked as a professional musician with various groups in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. In 1974 he formed The Last Straw and also played and recorded with the Judy Bailey Quartet from 1974 to 1979. The 1970s were an exceptional time for jazz in Sydney and these two groups were in big demand, working at most major venues including The Basement, Sydney Festival and Horst Liepolt's "Music is an Open Sky" concerts
The original line up of The Last Straw was Bernie McGann and Ken James (saxes), John Pochée (drums and leader), Dave Levy (piano), and Jack Thorncraft (bass). Along with original material from Bernie McGann, Dave Levy and Ken James their repertoire also included pieces written by Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus. When Dave Levy left the Straw in 1975 the piano chair was taken over by Tony Esterman, and the band's lineup generally remained intact for the ensuing years, the only personnel change being in the bass chair with Ron Philpott and then Lloyd Swanton taking over from Thorncraft in the 1980s. Apart from a three-year break in the late seventies the Straw continued to play until 1999, a 25 year run as unequalled by any other contemporary Australian jazz group until Ten Part Invention in 2011.
In 1987 The Last Straw recorded an album that won them an ARIA award for Best Australian Jazz Record (1990). They did three overseas tours, New Zealand (1988), Russia for the Australia Council for the Arts (1990) and the Montreal Jazz Festival (1989). In 1990 The Last Straw won First Prize for Best Band at the Leningrad International Jazz Festival.
Pochée's musical relationship with saxophonist Bernie McGann started in the early days of the Mocambo and the El Rocco and since the early 1980s he has been a member of Bernie McGann's trios and quartets, performing at Ronnie Scott's in London and concerts in Poland, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, India and Malaysia in 1988, Russia in 1990 and Canada in 1993 and 1996. They also toured Europe in 1996 and the USA in 1997. Their recordings have won four Aria Awards for Best Australian Jazz Record and two Mo Awards for Best Jazz Group. In 2003 they expanded to a quartet with the addition of trumpet player Warwick Alder, touring Europe and the UK in 2004.
In 1986 he formed the ten-piece ensemble Ten Part Invention, which was committed to performing exclusively the works of Australian composers. Over the years this band has recorded four albums and has performed at most major Australian jazz venues and festivals including the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and performances on national ABC television. This band has received numerous awards: three MO awards (1990, 1996 and 2000), the Australian Music Foundation Award (2000) and an Australian Music Centre Award (2000)., In 1994 they toured South East Asia for five weeks and also the Philippines, China and Taiwan in 1998. In September 2004 John Pochée led Ten Part Invention on a two-week tour of the USA after the group were invited to the Chicago Jazz Festival, where he had performed with the Bernie McGann Trio in 1997. They also performed at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Universities and Jazz Clubs.
The original rhythm section of Ten Part Invention was Roger Frampton (piano) Steve Elphick (bass) and John Pochée (drums) and this trio also achieved considerable success as the stand-alone unit The Engine Room. They toured Russia in 1989, being the first Western band to tour there following Glasnost, and they played at various jazz venues during the 80s and 90s, sometimes working as a quartet when joined by top Australian jazz musicians such as Dale Barlow, Warwick Alder and Daryl Pratt and with international artists Lee Konitz, Steve Lacy, James Carter and Vincent Herring.
John Pochée has also played,toured and recorded with many other high profile international jazz musicians including saxophonist Dewey Redman and pianists Barry Harris, Andrew Hill, Kirk Lightsey and Stan Tracey.
Over the years he has also worked prolifically as a freelance professional musician. He toured Australia and New Zealand with Shirley Bassey as her personal drummer in 1969 and 1970, and in the late 1970s and the 1980s was Musical Director for the successful show group The Four Kinsmen making 8 trips to the USA with them, appearing on The Bob Hope Show and performing in Las Vegas. At one time or another he has played with most Sydney jazz musicians, including performances with jazz group The Heads, The Ken James Reunion Band, The Chuck Yates trio, The Peter Boothman group and with vocalists Joe Lane and Susan Gai Dowling.
He has contributed many years to jazz committees, including the inaugural committee of The Jazz Action Society in 1985 and '86, 15 years on the Jazz Co-ordination Association of NSW and approximately 20 years on the Sydney Improvised Music Association (SIMA). He served on the Australia Council in 1988.
In 2007 John Pochée was elected President of the Professional Musician's Club and he continues to work as drummer/bandleader with Ten Part Invention and jazz quintet The Space Cadets, as well as various other engagements as a professional jazz musician.
(1979) Bissett, Andrew. Black Roots White Flowers - A History Of Jazz In Australia Golden Press Pty Ltd. ISBN 0-85558-680-X
(1995) Clare, John. Bodgie Dada And The Cult Of The Cool University of NSW Press ISBN 0-86840-103-X.
(1987) Johnson, Bruce. The Oxford Companion To Australian Jazz Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-554791-8
(1997) Page, Geoff. Bernie McGann A Life In Jazz National Library of Australia ISBN 0 908244 312
(!998) Sangster, John. Seeing The Rafters Penguin Books ISBN 0 14 01 0928 5
(1999) Clare, John. Why Wangaratta? The Phenomenon of the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz Inc. ISBN 0646380516
(2008) Sharpe, John. So You Wanted To Be A Jazz Musician? National Film and Sound Archive ISBN 978 1 921410 14 7
(2009) Shand, John. Jazz - The Australian Accent "John Pochee 10 Gallon Heart". University of NSW ISBN 978 1 921410 147
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