ABC Radio National: Tribute to Serge Ermoll & Elvis Presley

Serge Ermoll Jr in full flight
Serge Ermoll Jr in full flight

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Into the Music this week pays tribute to local jazz pianist Serge Ermoll, who died last October 2010, with a feature that rips open his intense personal and professional life. Also, internationally acclaimed musician and U2 frontman Bono, reading his poetic tribute to his greatest influence, Elvis Presley, as part of an award-winning radio feature.

Australian jazz pianist Serge Ermoll died last year, and to acknowledge his contribution to and life in the Australian jazz scene, Into the Music rebroadcasts this feature, first heard in 2004 on Radio National’s Radio Eye program.

For nearly 40 years, pianist Serge Ermoll was the wild man of Australian jazz. His group Free Kata, formed in the 1970s, ‘ripped open the heart of music aesthetics in Australia’ (John Shand, Sydney Morning Herald, August 2003). Ermoll played with some of the greats of the international jazz scene, such as the trumpet player Dizzy Gillespie; but his desire to ‘be free’ — and a chaotic life — has kept him out on the wild frontier of Australian music making.

With a black belt in karate, and a day job as a private eye, Ermoll was always a ‘character’, but years of wild living and a lifetime without any regular income took their toll, both on Serge Ermoll and those closest to him.

In this program, Serge played the piano and talked about his life, while his daughter, the artist Tatiana Pentes, provided candid commentary on a life spent following a madman around the country — from gig to gig, from all-day sessions in a Chinese restaurant to late nights in dim and dank clubs.

‘A Heart Ripped Open’ is a wild ride — the Free Kata gang still used to get together from time to time, Serge didn’t always turn up sober, if he turned up at all; he got into fights; there were tears and rages. Finally, the program ended at Serge’s 60th birthday party, and the gang partied on.

Presenter: Tatiana Pentes
Producers: Eurydice Aroney and Kirsty Lee
Sound Engineer: Steven Tilley
Broadcast on Radio Eye July 8, 2004, 2006, Into the Music 2011

Serge Ermoll Jr Budokan Karate Black Belt certificate
Serge Ermoll Jr a black belt in Karate

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