Musical Biography

Tom O’Halloran leads his own original jazz piano trio outfit and conducts orchestras from time to time, composes experimental music, and plays analogue synthesizers.

In 2017 he won the APRA Art Music Award for Jazz work of the Year. He has received two West Australian Music (WAM) Awards: in 2016 for Best Keys and Synth Artist, and in 2014 for Best Jazz Artist. In 2012 he received an APRA Australian Art Music award nomination, and in 2011 was a finalist in the Freedman Foundation Jazz Fellowship – where he was featured at the Sydney Opera House. His album We Happy Few won the 2009 Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Limelight Magazine award for best jazz achievement.

In 2017 Tom was commissioned to compose and perform music for the IN-SITU 2017 season; a site-specific dance work held at St. Georges Cathedral, Perth. He collaborated with dancer Stefan Karlsson to produce an experimental piece entitled Passage.

2017 also saw the band My Name Is Nobody release a debut album at the 2017 Perth International Jazz Festival. This is an unusual but particularly melodic and listenable trio comprised of Lucky Oceans (pedal- steel guitar) and Ben Vanderwal (drums) and Tom O’Halloran on piano and synthesizers. This group is also performing at the 2017 Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues.

In 2016 Tom released an album entitled Now Noise – for his group Memory of Elements (MoE). He also received an Australia Council grant to compose and develop the work. The album won Jazz Work of the Year at the 2017 APRA Art Music Awards, and the jury remarked that is was: ‘A fresh and thoughtful work, epic in scale, demonstrating outstanding compositional craft, many interesting, subtle and well-executed ideas’. MoE is an evolving project, and is comprised of Jamie Oehlers (saxophone), Carl Mackey (saxophone), Simon Jeans (guitar), Pete Jeavons (bass) and Ben Vanderwal (drums). They performed at the 2011 Wangaratta Jazz Festival, completed a national tour, and have a previously released self-titled album on the Jazzhead label.

Tom has two jazz piano trio records to his name, released through the Sydney based Jazzgroove Records label. Tom regularly tours Australia with this group comprised of Peter Jeavons (double bass) and Daniel Susnjar (drums). Together they have played large venues like the Sydney Opera House and The Promethean Theatre (Adelaide), and also the best jazz clubs in the country – including 505 and The Basement (Sydney), Bennett’s Lane and Paris Cat (Melbourne), and The Ellington Jazz Club (Perth).

Tom was a member of the successful Perth nu-jazz group VOID, that played live every week for about 4 years, toured extensively and released a CD recording and live DVD entitled Say When.

He has appeared with high caliber jazz artists from the USA including bassist Robert Hurst, Walter Smith III and Peter Bernstein. He regularly collaborates with many Australian musicians; the caliber of James Muller, Simon Barker, Andrew Gander, Kristen Berardi, Phil Slater, Cameron Undy and 20th Century Dog, Dan Barnett, George Washingmachine – and has performed at other Australian jazz festivals including the Melbourne Jazz Festival, Newcastle, York (WA), Manly and Coolah Jazz Festivals.

Tom has appeared overseas at the 2017 IP Jazz Festival in Malaysia, Houston International Jazz Festival, the IAJE festival in New York, Villa Celimontana in Italy, Dubai, UAE and club dates in New Zealand.

He has composed two multi-piano pieces; Dissolve, for two pianos, and Drumkit (for six pianos). These explored his hunger for musical interruption and chromatic saturation within his composing, synthesised with jazz interaction and improvisation.

When living in Sydney, Tom formed the new band Soundgun, comprised of Jonathan Zwartz (double-bass) and Evan Mannell (drums). They also debuted the group at the Wangaratta Jazz Festival in 2008, and have released a self-titled CD, which was also broadcast for ABC Jazz Radio and online.

He plays a myriad of styles, and arranged all the music for the concert series JONI – a Joni Mitchell tribute that was staged at the Sydney Opera House, Melbourne and Brisbane, starring Katie Noonan and Wendy Matthews. He has also worked with other industry greats such as Pete Murray (Sony), James Morrison, singers Tina Harrod, Ilan Kidron (Potbellez, Universal), Rachel Beck, Max Sharam, Geoff Duff, Josh Quong-Tart, Hugo Race, David Campbell, Deni Hines, Mark Sholtez and Rick Robertson (DIG).

Tom O’Halloran is a Senior Lecturer at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) at Edith Cowan University, where he leads the jazz piano department and also lectures in jazz composition, improvisation and jazz colloquium. He is a regularly commissioned composer, and currently holds a Master of Music in classical composition from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and a Bachelor of Music (Jazz Performance) from WAAPA.

His Masters thesis was entitled ‘Sustained Aspects and Precursors: Toward a Stylistic Synthesis’, and it discusses several of his compositions in terms of architecture, harmonic and rhythmic properties, and the underlying trend in his music toward integration of jazz and art music concepts and techniques. Included pieces are Beyond the 26th Parallel, written for large chamber ensemble, and Benevolent Apocalypse, for orchestra.

He is also currently enrolled in a PhD program through Monash University, Melbourne, and his topic is: Developing approaches to Jazz Improvisation and Composition via Messiaen’s Vingt regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus.

His Future research interests are: hybridity within jazz works, multi-disciplined approaches, technology and moving image within jazz, and assimilating techniques of Modernism within jazz improvisation and composition.

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