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The Australia Council for the Arts has paid tribute to jazz pianist, composer and bandleader Mike Nock at a celebration with his peers in Sydney on Saturday.

Mr Nock was presented with The Australia Council’s Don Banks Award at a ceremony prior to his gig at the Seymour Centre’s Sound Lounge.

Australia Council Chief Executive Officer Tony Grybowski said Mr Nock had been a popular choice for the award.

Mike Nock continues to influence his peers, delight audiences and inspire the next generation of jazz musicians, Mr Grybowski said.

The Council was delighted to recognise Mike’s extraordinary body of work as a performer, composer, creative collaborator, mentor and ambassador for jazz in Australasia. He is truly a luminary in his field.

Respected bass player Jonathan Zwartz nominated Mr Nock due to his impact on the Australian Jazz scene.

Mike has had enormous success internationally, as a composer and a pianist, having recorded on the most prestigious jazz labels with some of the greatest names in the history of the jazz genre, Mr Zwartz said.

He is a gifted collaborator, working with artists of different artistic disciplines as well as branching out into the classical music sphere.

Mike has been a persistent mentor, encouraging younger musicians by having them play in his ensembles and providing recording and concert opportunities. There is no one more suitable for this award than Mike Nock.

Mr Nock said it was humbling to receive the award, which had energised him and boosted his confidence.

But it also brings with it a sense of responsibility to the music community. They’ve shown they have faith in me and I have to step up to the plate, Mr Nock said.

Mr Nock said jazz often gets overlooked and he described himself as a missionary for jazz.

The music really deserves to be heard so people can make up their own minds, Mr Nock said.

Mr Nock was reluctant to choose a career highlight, saying there had been so many.

This award is one of a list of highlights, but it’s all been great. I’m glad I’m still able to do all this stuff at my age and still be as keen as I ever was, Mr Nock said.

For Mr Nock, there is still so much to do. He has been in discussions about recording a CD, regularly receives commissions for new work and continues to play with his various bands.

The music gives me energy. It’s a means of connecting with people, Mr Nock said.

Many members of his bands have been his students and he said it was important to give back.

It goes along with the idea of being connected and sharing what you know, Mr Nock said.

After the award ceremony Mike and his band performed a 60-minute suite, which he composed through a commission from the Sydney Improvised Music Association (SIMA), with support from the Australia Council.

It was written to mark SIMA’s 30th anniversary and Mr Nock said it reflected the journey he and SIMA had shared.

He first performed the piece last year but last week he was still tinkering with it.

Things are never finished – we’ve got to keep looking at things.


Born in New Zealand in 1940 and now living in Sydney, pianist/composer Mike Nock is one of the acknowledged masters of jazz in Australasia. His reputation rests partly on his imposing international experience which includes:

  • Twenty five years working in the USA with many of the world’s top jazz musicians such as Coleman Hawkins, Yusef Lateef, Dionne Warwick and Michael Brecker.
  • A large catalogue of critically acclaimed, internationally released recordings.
  • Leader of the 1970s seminal jazz-rock group The Fourth Way.
  • A substantial body of original compositions in print and on recordings.


Mike Nock returned to Australia from the US in 1985 after establishing an international reputation through his many tours and large catalogue of recordings.

In 1983 he hosted his own TV series Nock On Jazz and in 1993 was the subject of a TVNZ documentary widely shown in Australasia. From 1996 to 2001 he was music director for Naxos/Jazz.

In 1999 he was the recipient of a two-year Australian Arts Council Fellowship and in 2009 he was inducted into the Australian Jazz Hall of Fame.

In 2003 he was awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit ONZM and his biography Serious Fun the Life and Music of Mike Nock was published in 2010 (Norman Meehan-Victoria University Press).



The Australia Council Don Banks Music Award honours a distinguished artist who has made an outstanding and sustained contribution to music in Australia. It was established to honour Don Banks, an Australian composer, performer and the first Chair of the Music Board.

Recipients must be over 50 years old and nominated for the award. Nominations must demonstrate their importance to the music industry.

Past winners include Kev Carmody (2013), Jon Rose (2012) Belinda Webster (2011) and Warren Fahey (2010).

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