In Memoriam: Bob Barnard (1933-2022)
ITG mourns the passing of Australian trumpeter Bob Barnard (1933-2022).
Robert Graeme Barnard was born on 24 November 1933 and grew up in the Melbourne beachside suburb of Mentone. His parents, Kath (piano/bandleader) and Jim (sax/drums/banjo) had a successful dance band that played around Melbourne for many decades. It was always a given that Bob and his older brother Len (1929-2005) would be part of the family band and Len joined as drummer at the age of 11, while Bob would curl up and sleep under the piano.
Trumpet lessons began at 11, and in 1947 at 13, he debuted with the family band. That year, 1947, Len formed his own band, which is when Bob’s career truly began. Little did the brothers know they’d become formative figures in Australian jazz. By 1949 they had a residency at Mentone Life Saving Club, and by the time Len’s band made its first recording – on Bob’s 16th birthday – Bob was already known across Melbourne as a red hot player.
In 1974, he formed his own band with Chris Taperell (piano), John McCarthy (clarinet), John Costelloe (trombone), Wally Wickham (bass) and Lawrie Thompson (drums). The band enjoyed a long residency at the Rocks Push, then Sydney’s premier jazz club. They toured extensively across Australia, before taking the international jazz scene by storm. As a solo artist from the mid-1980s until his retirement about five years ago, Bob toured the world, accompanied by his wife Danielle whom he’d married in 1993, performing and recording with the biggest names in Australian and international jazz. He appeared repeatedly at every national and international jazz festival, often as headline act. The list of festivals he appeared at is staggering. He even had a whole jazz festival named for him, the Bob Barnard Jazz Party, held every year between 1999-2008 in Melbourne. Over his illustrious career he made countless recordings, either under his own name, as sideman, or as guest artist.
Over his life, Bob won many awards, including two Mo awards for Jazz Artist of the Year, the Queen’s Jubilee Medal, and the Jazz Critics Award (twice). He was inducted as a Member in the Order of Australia in 1990 for his considerable contribution to Australian music and ambassadorship of Australian jazz. He was made an honorary life member of the Victorian Jazz Archive in 2008, and in 2010 was inducted into the Australian Bell Jazz Awards Hall of Fame.
In 2012, he wrote and published Bob Barnard’s Jazz Scrapbook: A Pictorial Memoir. Bob mentored thousands of musicians, and was admired across all musical genres. Since his death on 7 May 2022 from complications associated with prostate cancer, there has been an astonishing torrent of tributes from across the globe, people acknowledging his undisputed influence and generosity of spirit. Many musicians have made a point of telling me he always encouraged and complimented them on their playing, even though they themselves were well aware they could never come close to matching him.
Bob is survived by his wife Danielle; his children Loretta, Tony and Adam; grandchildren Beau, Casey, Erin and Cara; great-granddaughter Juniper; and stepsons Marc and Philip Boas and their families.
Note: Barnard's obituary was originally published in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age: https://www.theage.com.au/national/bob-barnard-took-australian-jazz-to-a-global-high-note-20220512-p5aknw.html
A promotional shot of the Bob Barnard Jazz Band in 1979. From left, John Costelloe, Bob Barnard, Lawrie Thompson, John McCarthy, Chris Taperell, Wally Wickham.
(Source: Loretta Barnard, Brian Evans)