Widely acclaimed as one Australia's best ever jazz bands, the SFJB made its debut at the 1975 Australian Jazz Convention in Sydney and Tom Baker's hand-picked personnel included some of Australia's leading jazz musicians in its line-up, with:
Tom Baker (Tpt/vocal), Eric Holroyd (Tpt), Paul Furniss (Clt/saxes)
John Bates (Tmb/vocal), Hans Karssemeyer (Pno), Chris Qua (bass)
Dave Robison (bjo) and Len Barnard (Dms/washboard).
The repertoire included many Lu Watters and Turk Murphy standards, as well as numbers by other jazz greats like Clarence Williams, Fletcher Henderson, Freddie Keppard etc.
There were some Australian originals too, like 'Wocka the fish' as played by Frank Johnson's Fabulous Dixielanders in the 1950s - a tune which pays tribute to Johnson's great trombone player, the late Warwick 'Wocka' Dyer.
Tom and the band travelled to Sacramento (CA) in 1978 to play at the magnificent Dixieland Jubilee - a truly great jazz festival where the SFJB got a great reception.
For various reasons, not the least of which was the cost of hiring an eight piece band, and the professional demands of most of the members being committed to other bands, the San Francisco Jazz Band ceased to perform in that format soon afterwards.
Under the leadership of Paul Furniss, who leads the band on saxophone and clarinet, the band has continued to play as a five piece ever since.
Periodic 'Re-union Concerts' of the original 8-piece band - wherever possible - have been staged over the years, and have included the 10th, 15th and 20th anniversaries of the band's foundation.
The 20th anniversary SFJB concert was mounted by the Sydney chapter of the San Francisco Jazz Foundation, and was such a success that quite a number of such concerts have since been promoted by that great organisation.
Two 1997 concerts by the San Francisco Jazz Band at the regular North Sydney venue were recorded by B & W Music (PO Box 24, Dural, NSW 2158, Australia. Phone 612-9561-2763), who have now released a very good CD entitled, 'Dawn Club Revisited'.
Personnel is as per the 1976 band, adding Peter Allen on banjo and substituting Geoff Power on tuba in place of Chris Qua. Thus the band is a nine piece and the rhythm section really romps along!
Two exciting albums of the original band were recorded in the 1970s on the Australian label 'Jazz & Jazz' and they have now been transferred to one CD. Sadly, Tom just missed the release date, but when news of his untimely death came through the record company - Jazz & Jazz - added a tribute to Tom in the cover booklet.
To get this great CD send an email to Jazz & Jazz for full details.
In early 1999 our great friend Hans Karssemeyer - seen alongside - foundation band member and jazz pianist extraordinaire, played a short San Francisco-style tour in Queensland with Tom Baker, Paul Furniss, Eric Holroyd and a great bunch of Queensland musicians. It was a wonderful tour, with some great music and camaraderie, and was made all the more poignant by Hans' sudden death at his home in Queensland shortly after the tour ended. He is sadly missed by all the band members, and by the Australian jazz community as a whole.
Tom's sudden death in Holland during his September 2001 tour with the Swingcats was devastating news to the remaining band members, as it was to the jazz community throughout the world.