Home    Concerts    Recordings   Compositions    Workshops    Publications   Links

Rodney Waterman

Lazy Ade Monsbourgh - Recorder in Ragtime

Ade Monsbourgh died in 2006 at the age of 89 - see obituary from the Sydney Morning Herald.
Click HERE to watch videos of the 2009 Eltham Town Jazz and Blues Heritage Festival where
Rodney paid tribute to Ade - below is one example:

Click HERE to watch on YouTube

Article: Recorders … and all that jazz (by Rodney Waterman)
(Revised Jan 2003 from the original first published in The Recorder  journal of the Victorian Recorder Guild, No.6 June 1987 pp.26-27)

Cover original Swaggie Records LPAde Monsbourgh playing a PAN recorder

Lazy Ade Monsbourgh: recorder in ragtime
Swaggie Records S.1405, LP only, 1985
...now on CD: Bilarm Music BAC16 CD, 11/2002*

As a child I first heard about Ade Monsbourgh when exploring my father's record collection in the 1960s. Amongst albums by Jimmy Shand and George Formby, I came across a 10-inch record with a title that I found amusing—Backroom Jazz with Lazy Ade Monsbourgh (Swaggie S.1004). The record featured three different but related groups—Lazy Ade and his Back Room Boys, Lazy Ade and his Late Hour Boys and the Pixie Roberts Trio. My father, who played the banjo mandolin, had a washboard and he told me how it was often used as a percussive accompaniment to the sort of music that Ade played.

The next I heard of Ade was from recorder maker Fred Morgan in the early 1980s. At Daylesford (Victoria) Fred played me an EP 45” record, issued sometime in the early 'sixties, which included Ade playing the ragtime songs, Hiawatha and Whistling Rufus. I recall being intrigued at such an interesting use of the recorder with the trad-jazz combination of piano, tuba, banjo and washboard. Fred told me about his early associations with Ade as a recorder maker, when both of them worked together in the manufacture of Pan recorders in Melbourne.

My interest was rekindled last year when I read an article in The Recorder (1) about the history of the recorder in Victoria in which Ade's work with Pan recorders was mentioned again. In February 1987 I made the decision to find out more about him, and I wondered if Ade was still alive. Coincidentally, some days after this I noticed an advertisement in Adrian Jackson's jazz column in The Melbourne Age Newspaper’s Entertainment Guide for a Seventieth Birthday tribute to Ade Monsbourgh which would include performances by himself and other musicians—thankfully Ade was alive and well. With great anticipation I went along to the concert at the Richmond Cricket and Football Social Club in Melbourne on Sunday afternoon, February 22, 1987 (2).

I was not disappointed. Ade seemed a young seventy years of age and still played the saxophone, clarinet and recorder with considerable fluency and agility. He played mainly saxophones and clarinet, but to my delight he played two pieces on the soprano recorder—Hiawatha was one of them. Local musicians including Allan Browne (percussion) accompanied him and he also performed a bracket of songs with visiting American pianist, Red Richards.

Ade Monsbourgh has been playing the recorder in jazz and ragtime since the early 1950s. His earliest recordings with recorder were made in 1954. Between 1954 and 1956 the Australian jazz label Swaggie issued twelve tracks with Ade on recorder. In the 1960s they were leased to EMI for release as a 12” LP on the Parlaphone label (Recorder in Ragtime PMEO 9602, Series 2, Mono). Ade also made six additional recordings in 1962 for the W&G Record company that were later acquired by Swaggie for inclusion in their more comprehensive 1985 Lazy Ade Monsbourgh: recorder in ragtime re-issue (3)—reviewed here.

Quite apart from the recorder, Ade is a significant figure in the history of Australian jazz. Neville Stribling (4) has described Ade as being as important an influence on Australian jazz as Louis Armstrong was to international jazz: the true 'Father'. Ade is said to have a unique playing style, being 'hot', original and with a great melodic sense—"His 'ear' for the correct melody line and right chord structures is unique and, coupled with his abstract breathing intervals, he is able to avoid the clichés which are the scourge of most jazz musicians" (5).

His gift for pure inventive melody is obvious in the four entirely original compositions on this album: Hessian Rag, Rainbow Jelly Strut, Pipes of Pan and Piping Hot. The others are more widely known such as Whistling Rufus, Hiawatha, Swiss Roll, Ragtime Dance, all skilfully arranged by Ade.

The melody solo is often a soprano recorder, but the sopranino soars above the descant in a stunningly beautiful and witty second melodic variation in his own Pipes of Pan, and the alto recorder 'waddles' its way through Teddy Bear's Picnic. Ade not only writes wonderfully original melodies but his improvisatory variations and counter-melodies are richly inventive.

The recorders are usually accompanied by the classic piano-banjo-tuba-washboard combination, but there are some colourful diversions when Ade sings a verse of Darktown Strutter's Ball (”Honey you better be ready about half past eight”). Ferdie Rose adds accordion licks in the 1962 version of Hiawatha and Whistling Rufus (giving them an almost Mediterranean air). Ron Toussaint's violin swings on Stephen Foster's Even Stephen and the traditional Turkey in the Straw, while an unacknowledged dog barks through The Whistler and his Dog.

Why the recorder in ragtime? Nevill Sherburne's sleeve notes give us some insight: "Ragtime is the most classical of all jazz forms largely because it was originally conceived in terms of the piano. In this way it lends itself less to variations of individual treatment, and the recorder is similar as an instrument. In addition the fragility and precision of its tone makes it an almost perfect single-voiced instrument for Ragtime". Judging by Ade's long-time and continuing association with the recorder as a player and a maker [Click HERE to read about Ade’s early association with Fred Morgan], he seems simply to have a fascination for the instrument.

At his seventieth birthday party Ade told me that he had also played recorder on an album he made with Shirley Jacobs, the Australian folk singer. I managed to track down this record, called simply Shirley Jacobs (RCA CAMS-l54)—issued in the late 1960s or early 1970s. Ade is acknowledged as musical director and he performs on trumpet, melodica and recorders. He plays lyrical melodies and counter-melodies to Shirley Jacob's voice and guitar. Amongst supporting musicians is Frank Traynor on piano. Ade's natural melodic inventiveness is again apparent, this time in the folk idiom.

Lazy Ade Monsbourgh: recorder in ragtime makes for easy listening; it's plain good fun. It reveals Ade as a significant figure not only in the history of jazz, but also in the revival of recorder playing in Australia this century. That recorders (Pan) were first manufactured in Victoria by Ade and Don 'Pixie' Roberts, both from the traditional jazz world, and not directly as a result of the European Dolmetsch-led early music revival (6) is a startling point in itself. That Fred Morgan then began some time later working with Pan Recorders (1959-69) and eventually went on to become one of the world's best recorder makers is another interesting point. How many of us are aware that those old Pan recorders gathering dust in old chests at home and music cupboards in Victorian schools have such a fascinating history? Ade was also involved in music education, taking his recorders and playing to children during his many visits to schools as a music advisor for a music publishing company (Allans Music).

The recorder in Victoria, Australia, has a uniquely interesting history, and no doubt much more is to be written. Ade Monsbourgh plays an important part in that story. I highly recommend Lazy Ade Monsbourgh: recorder in ragtime both as a unique historical recording and as a delightful collection of fun music - it's worth it just to hear recorder and tuba meld so seamlessly together!

(1) Recorder in Victoria: a 30 year retrospect, Barbara van Ernst and Barbara Praetz, The Recorder No.4, May 1986, pp.25-28
(2) At the time of writing this revised review (22/1/03) Ade is 86yrs old and I am told he performed at the Kyneton Folk Festival (Victoria, Australia) on recorder as recently as last year (2002).
(3)The recently released CD (Bilarm BAC 16-2) has nineteen tracks with an additional Whistling Rufus sung by Smacka Fitzgibbon and Ade on recorder, recorded in 1976.
(4) Neville Stribling, Jazzline, Victorian Jazz Club, Vol. 20. No 1. Autumn 1987 pp.14-15
(5) lbid.
(6) However it was a pair of Dolmetsch alto recorders that Ade brought back to Melbourne after a European tour in the late 1940s with the Graeme Bell Jazz Band which inspired him to manufacture school recorders in Australia.

*Recorder in Ragtime Lazy Ade Monsbourgh has now been released on CD (Nov 2002):
Bill Armstrong Collection
Bilarm Label BAC 16-2
Bilarm Music Pty Ltd, Box 1134 St Kilda South PO, VIC 3182 Australia
Tel 0412 868 986 Fax +61 3 9642 5454
Email: info@bilarm.com.au
Web: www.bilarm.com.au

CD available (including online sales) from:

Jazzology Australia
E-mail: jazzolog@jazzology.com.au
Web: http://www.jazzology.com.au/
Address: PO Box 36,  Stroud,  NSW  2425,  Australia.
Phone: 1300 365 299 - Fax: 61 2 4994 5498

Melbourne Australia:
Mainly Jazz, Records and Books
94 St Kilda Rd, St Kilda (b/w St Kilda Junction and Alma Rd)
Tel +61 3 9534 1173, Fax +61 3 9531 1912

* I have published a more comprehensive review of this CD in the magazine Cinnamon Sticks, The Recorder in Australia and NZ [Vol 3 No.1, May 2003]
** Click HERE to see photos of Rodney's tribute to Ade at the 2007 Eltham Jazz and Blues Heritage Festival

Home   Concerts   Recordings  Compositions    Workshops   Publications   Links