Friday, November 23, 2012

RIP Bruce Morley

Bruce Morley in his back garden, 2008. Photo: Richard Cotman
Reknowned Auckland drummer and percussionist Bruce Morley has passed away, on Thursday 22nd November.

NZ Musician reports that "He had been unwell for an extended period with a recurrent cancer that had severely limited his normal high energy activities. Bruce was widely loved and held in high regard as a writer, drummer, percussionist and vibrant personality, with a quick wit and extensive back catalogue of personal tales and jokes. He will be sorely missed by NZM and numerous fellow musicians."

From NZ Herald, Nov 24: "MORLEY, Bruce Roland. Passed away on November 22, 2012. Loved partner of Sue and father of Matthew, Sam, Joe, Dan, Jesse and Roland and Grandfather of 11. A celebration of his life will be held at the Parnell Tennis Club, Maunsell Road, Parnell at 1pm on Tuesday 27 November 2012. Friends and family welcome. ENSOM Funeral Services Auckland (09) 524-6765."

From NZ Musician profile on Bruce, by Chris O'Connor (Oct/Nov 2006 issue).

"In the past few months Bruce Morley has played at Government House with The Dominion Centenary Concert Band (DCCB); Auckland University with the Prohibition Big Band; the Kings Arms with poet Murray Haddow; the Whitianga Scallop Festival with Tauranga’s Kokomo; Luxembourg Gardens with the Vitamin S Free Improvisation Collective; an art gallery fundraiser for a Warwick Broadhead theatrical extravaganza and the annual Concert Band Festival in Auckland Town Hall.

He has sat in with Caitlin Smith’s drummer-less group at the Rakino Island Jazz Festival; performed in an Arts Festival special in Nelson with Mark Hadlow; played a theatre season of the musical ‘A Funny Thing Happened On The way To The Forum’; and had a solo spot in composer Brigid Bisley’s ‘Waitakere Overture’ with the Waitakere City Orchestra for the opening of the new Civic Centre and Arts Laureate Awards. He has also played a duo with Puddle survivor George Henderson at the Indie Club; and at ‘old-time’ dances as far apart as Kelston and Belmont. Meantime he’s been gigging with the Louis Prima-styled Swing Cats.

Bruce is the ‘foley’ (sound effects) drummer for the touring children’s show ‘The Magic Chicken’, is rehearsing with singer/songwriter Immi Paterson’s new band George and Queen, and is putting together two very different jazz groups: an “absolutely traditional” trio called Mister Jelly Roll with clarinetist Yvette Audain and Mike Ryan on tuba; and the Pole Winners (a tribute to the poll-winning Barney Kessel/Ray Brown/Shelly Manne trio of the ‘60s) with Many Hands’ guitarist Kevin Timm and Auckland Philharmonia bassist Daniel Stabler.

All of which is really a ‘localised’ version of what he did for many years back then; touring New Zealand and Australia with performers such as comedian Spike Milligan, singers like Cilla Black, Tony Christie, Johnny Farnham and Cleo Laine, and most of our own top pop and MOR performers. At age 65, this guy is still busy.

It’s difficult to know where to start, because you don’t seem to have spent any length of time with one person or group - why is that?


Well, I never actually planned that. I came to Auckland from Hastings in the late ‘50s with this vague idea about playing the drums, and by the time I actually got started, far too late at 21, I was already married with a child on the way. I didn’t have time to muck around once I realised what I wanted to do, and all the gigs here were taken by the guys who deserved them - people like Tony Hopkins, Don Branch, Bruce King, Barrie Simpson (who was a great inspiration) - because they could play, and had a few years experience on me.

I took some lessons from Frank Gibson Snr, and eventually went to Sydney in 1964. As I was kinda too old to hook up with rock bands and lout about, I went into the club scene, learned to sight-read music very quickly, started backing acts, and it just went from there. I’m essentially self-taught because I had to be. In retrospect, I’m glad it went that way. I’ve had a huge variety of musical experiences as a freelance musician, and the band business can be pretty fraught. I tell the kids, if you’re gonna commit to a band, make sure it’s the Rolling Stones!...

Covering so many different styles, you must have a variety of favourite players and influences? 


We all probably have a primary inspiration: in Hastings it was Fred Huse, a local legend. I still think Shelly Manne is the greatest of all time, because he never let his intelligence get in the way of his swing, and vice versa. Quite recently I’ve felt a growing affection for Charlie and Ringo.

But times change, and if you keep your ears open there’s always some new guy, and something new to learn, every day. I’m really interested in Terry Bozzio’s solo works, and Thomas Lang was the most impressive player I’ve seen in the 40-odd drum clinics I’ve been to. Locally, I go out and listen a lot, and I’m usually the oldest person in the room. There are some younger guys here who can really play.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

great stuff