Born: August 23, 1955 Primary Instrument: Piano
Alister is one of the most creative and original contemporary jazz pianist/composers in Australia. His wide-ranging talents have led to performances with many musicians across the contemporary music spectrum including Ed Kuepper and The Laughing Clowns, Paul Capsis and The Australian Art Orchestra.
In recent years, he has devoted his energy to writing and performing with his trio - The Alister Spence Trio - with Lloyd Swanton (the Necks) on double bass and Toby Hall (Mike Nock Trio) drums and glockenspiel. This celebrated group has recorded 4 CDs of Alister's original music: Three is a Circle in 2000 (released in Japan in January 2003, on the Earth Spirit Label), Flux in 2003, Mercury in 2006 and fit in 2009, all on Rufus Records, distributed in Australia by Universal Music. Fit was voted in the top 15 jazz /improv releases worldwide for 2009 by The Wire, UK. Mercury was nominated for Best Jazz Album 2007 at the ARIA (Australian recording Industry) Awards and Flux also was nominated for an ARIA in 2004.
The trio has toured internationally in the UK and Canada (2006) and in Japan (2008) including performances at the Montreal Jazz Festival, Vancouver Jazz Festival, Tokyo Jazz Festival and with musicians such as Satoko Fujii, Jim O’Rourke, Michiyo Yagi and Kenichi Matsumoto. In 2009, Alister toured in Europe and the UK, performing at the Vilnius Jazz Festival and club dates with (amongst others) Joseph Williamson (Tobias Delius Quartet) and Tony Buck (the Necks).
In June 2009, the trio were invited by Brian Eno to support Jon Hassell in the Luminous Festival at the Sydney Opera House. . As well, Alister co-leads the internationally acclaimed group Clarion Fracture Zone and is a founding member of Wanderlust and a longstanding member The Australian Art Orchestra (AAO).
Alister’s playing features on more than 30 CDs, many of which have won or been nominated for an ARIA Award. Over the years he has played with many fine musicians including Bernie McGann, Sandy Evans, Chris Abrahams, Dale Barlow, Ruby Hunter and Archie Roach, Tony Buck, Phillip Slater, Ed Kuepper, Paul Capsis, Mark Helias (US), Andy Sheppard (UK), Satoko Fujii (Japan) and Jim O’Rourke. Over the last 20 years, Alister has toured extensively in Europe, Asia and Canada with The Alister Spence Trio, Clarion Fracture Zone, Wanderlust and AAO, and has performed radio broadcasts for ABC (Australia), BBC (UK), and WDR (Germany). His talents as a writer is well recognised with several compositions featuring on Bernie McGann’s 2001 ARIA winning CD Bundeena. He has also been commissioned to write for Wanderlust, The Australian Art Orchestra, and Ten Part Invention with his work featured on Passion (ABC Classics) by the Australian Art Orchestra and all of Wanderlust’s and Clarion Fracture Zones CDs. Alister also composes music for film and theatre. He has collaborated often with film director Ivan Sen. Together they wrote and recorded the soundtrack to Ivan’s first feature film, Beneath Clouds, which was first screened in June 2002. The score for ‘Beneath Clouds’ was nominated for the Best Score at The Film Critics Awards, and the Australian Film Industry Awards 2002. Theatre credits include the sound design for Angela’s Kitchen, featuring Paul Capsis directed by Julian Meyrick (2009) and Winterreise, A Winter’s Journey, directed by Matthew Lutton (2009).
Alister lectures at University of New South Wales in Jazz Performance and Composition.
Awards:Voted in 2009 top 15 jazz/improv releases worldwide. The Wire magazine, UK - fit - Alister Spence Trio (Rufus Records). Nominated for ARIA 2007 Best Australian Jazz Album. 4 star review in Jazzwise Magazine, UK - Mercury - Alister Spence Trio (Rufus Records). Nominated for ARIA 2004 - Flux - Alister Spence Trio (Rufus Records). 2002 Best Score - The Film Critics Awards + Australian Film Industry Awards for Beneath Clouds. Nominated for ARIA 1997, Best Australian Jazz Album - Less Stable Elements - Clarion Fracture Zone (Rufus Records). 1993 ARIA Award for Best Australian Jazz Album - Wanderlust - Wanderlust (Rufus Records). 5 Stars Downbeat Magazine, USA - Zones on Parade - Clarion Fracture Zone (Rufus Records). 1990 ARIA Award for Best Australian Jazz Album - Blue Shift - Clarion Fracture Zone (Rufus Records).
‘Ingenious themes prove fertile sources of improvisation. Spence is definitely a talent deserving wider recognition’ The Wire, UK
‘Utterly compelling’ Jazz Journal UK
’The cutting edge of modern Australia defined’ Sydney Morning Herald
‘It would be no exaggeration to say that Spence’s intellectual taste, and the fact that he doesn’t get caught up in ritual or tradition, highlights an outstanding personality, and that indeed he is fully rivaling the pianists who have brought about the present boom in piano trio music’. Swing Journal, Japan