Jazz musician Graham Bennett.
Jazz musician Graham Bennett.

Bellingen mourns death of jazz great


THE Bellingen community and the much-wider jazz fraternity are mourning the tragic death of well-known jazz musician, Graham Bennett, in a car accident on Friday night.

Mr Bennett was driving into Bellingen on Friday evening from his home in Gleniffer when his car ran off the road, hitting a tree.

He died in Coffs Harbour Base Hospital later that night.

Yesterday stunned friends recalled the huge role Mr Bennett played in the revival of New Orleans jazz in Australia during the 1960s.

"Graham was part of the Melbourne New Orleans Jazz Band, which travelled to Europe and recorded enormous numbers of records during the '60s," fellow-musician and long-time close-friend Brett Iggulden said. "I've known him since I was 16.

"He was one of the finest drummers, especially in the New Orleans style, in the world.

"He was also a legendary surfer down at Torquay and closely connected with the surf lifesaving community at that time."

Twenty-five years ago Mr Bennett, his wife, Val, and their three children, moved to Bellingen.

"He came here as a drummer, a friend, and to be the production manager of Planet Lighting, a position he held for 15 years."

Bellingen Jazz Society president, Mauri Thomas, said Mr Bennett had played with some of the very best . . . and was also 'a bloody good vocalist'.

"A musical high for him was when he played with leading American tenor sax ace, Scott Hamilton, and two Sydney musos ? he blew them away," Mr Thomas said.

The funeral will be held under the trees at Gleniffer Hall this Thursday at 10.30am.

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