“The best jazz swing big band in Perth”
“You guys hit it out of the park last night”

History of the Hills Big Band

by Murray Swain (Founder MD and Life Member)

The Hills Big Band began when well known local music identities, Maurice Bourgault and Daemon Clark, asked me to form a jazz big band from members of their Hills Concert Band which I had joined as a trumpet player that year.

LANDMARK DATES

26th November 2002: Selected players had our first tentative rehearsal at Eastern Hills SHS after Concert Band, and our second rehearsal at Karina Lamont's house in the morning of Saturday 7th December, with our first Mundaring Performing Arts Centre performance that night! On the way to this gig in Sculpture Park, I fashioned the name "Perth Hills Instantaneous Jazz Orchestra (PHiJO). We had a quick repertoire of perhaps six tunes.

The 11 personnel for this, our very first performance were: John Beaton (piano- soon to become Shire President); Greg Coles (bass); Glen Dow (drums); Karina Lamont, Murray Swain, Bradley Haynes and Kim Derriman (trumpets); Laurence Osborne (trombone) and Andrea Foulger, Peter Tate and Daemon Clark (reeds).

Only four of those first performance pioneers are still playing with us, and all four have had the distinction of providing ten years of continuous and dedicated participation. 

31st October 2004: We played at our first Toodyay Jazz Festival with 15 musicians, including a few 'ring ins'. PHiJO performed at the Toodyay Jazz Festival from 2004-2006, and at the Mandurah Jazz Club. The 'Instantaneous' part of our name had been dropped by then.

By September 2007: We were performing six to eight times a year with a fairly steady number of 18 musicians. We were engaged many times by Mundaring Shire for a variety of occasions, such as Trek the Trail, exhibitions and festivals, and we successfully negotiated a grant from the Shire and Lotterywest for equipment, all organised by Peter Tate. We began using a committee structure in 2008 and became an incorporated not-for-profit entity. 

By the end of 2008, our repertoire had grown to some 53 arrangements for our 18 musicians, widening our jazz stylings to include Frank Sinatra, Natalie Cole, Buddy Rich, Bobby Darin and a touch of bebop.

19th September 2010: I stepped down as Music Director. After eight years, I thought it was time for fresh blood in Directorship.

20th November 2010: Committee appointed Geoff Collins as our new MD from a number of applicants. Geoff's wide experience, plus his extraordinary capabilities on trumpet, have boosted our skills, sounds, number of players, our repertoire to 150+ and public concerts.

Geoff initiated us into organising our own public concert performances; First Winter Concert (9th July 2011), a joint concert with the Hills Symphony Orchestra (5th May 2012), the Silk Road Concert (7th July 2012) and our 10th Anniversary Concert (20th October 2012).

Meanwhile, from March 2012, Perth Hills Jazz Orchestra (Inc) decided to perform under the stage name The Hills Big Band, and sport a new logo.

In 2013, The Hills Big Band entered another new era with Kieran Hurley being appointed our new Music Director. Kieran is the newly appointed Director of Music at Guildford Grammar School and brings a wide range of musical knowledge and experience to the band. 

October 2013: The Hills Big Band played at Perth's premier Jazz venue, The Ellington Jazz Club, in Northbridge.

PHIJO (Inc) has had a surprising impact on both its players and communities. Karina's parents gave us our first private party gig in April 2003. Mundaring Shire, Mundaring Arts Centre and Mundaring Performing Arts Society have engaged us countless times and many districts and clients have asked for our services - Darlington, Chidlow, Mandurah, Pinjarra, Toodyay, Rockingham, Midland, Wundowie, Northam, Kalamunda, Northbridge, Canning, Glen Forrest and Guildford.