Trevor Thwaites


When you realise that performers including singer-songwriter Caitlin Smith, members of Supergroove and Semi Lemon Kola, MC OJ and the Rhythm Slave, Kirsten Morrell (Goldenhorse), and Gabriel White (Floral Clocks) – along with other notables – all took high school music studies at Selwyn College, you might be forgiven for thinking that there must have been something in the water.

Turns out that something is a someone, Dr Trevor Thwaites. He’s an accomplished jazz drummer and composer, a nurturer of young talent and creator/curator of environments for that to happen in, and there’s no shortage of people ready to sing his praises for this work. But when Trevor was growing up, the music curriculum in schools was a far cry from the inspiring environments he would foster later on. 

The Lady is a Tramp performed by Chris Rowlands, Ross Mullins, Jim Langabeer and Trevor Thwaites (2012)
At the Auckland Jazz and Blues Club, 2006. From left: Chris Rowlands (bass), Ross Mullins (piano), Trevor Thwaites (drums), and Jim Langabeer (saxes and flute).
Photo credit: Ross Mullins collection
The Rezidents - Fly To Me (2013)
Record sleeve for Rick Harris - No Nukes b/w Pretty Girl (Ode, 1985)
Back cover, The Coachmen Play It Cool EP picture sleeve (Octagon, 1962)
Photo credit: Trevor Thwaites Collection
Prohibition Big Band playing at the Hamilton Jazz Society (2015)
“In 2021, I was contracted to put together a band to play for a large Australasian corporate conference that, because of Covid restrictions, had to take place in Auckland and different major Australian cities via video link.” Musicians (L-R): Alberto Santarelli (bass), Jenny B (vocals), Trevor Thwaites (drums), Lukas Fritsch (sax), Nate Collings (guitar) and Ben Fernandez (keys).
Photo credit: Trevor Thwaites Collection
“Jenny B arrived in New Zealand in 2016 having been a TV and recording artist in Italy. Jenny did the voices on the original recording of ‘Rhythm of the Night’, although she never joined Corona – the band named on the recording of Jenny’s original track – preferring to stay as a solo artist. Band: Jim Langabeer (flute, saxes), Ben Fernandez (keys), Markus Fritsch (sax), Stu Johnstone (bass) and me on drums.”
Photo credit: Trevor Thwaites Collection
Sing Sing Sing - Fantastic 'Drum off' feat. Dr Trevor Thwaites at the 2023 KBB Music Festival
“In 2015, Peter Thomas, then conductor of the Auckland Symphony Orchestra, commissioned me to write a jazz fanfare for the orchestra as part of a series featuring fanfares by New Zealand composers. Performances were held at the Auckland Town Hall and the Bruce Mason Theatre.”
Photo credit: Trevor Thwaites Collection
Trevor Thwaites: "R&B band in the style of the John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters, as espoused by the early Rolling Stones, in front of my Standard Atlas van in London in 1964, purchased after John Mayall advised me to get a van because “every drummer has to have a van so they can carry the band gear around”. The band and band manager auditioned over 30 drummers in a hall, we drummers waited for our turn outside, each with their own drum kit; I managed to be chosen on the day. A photo shoot followed a few days later. The vocalist (wearing dark jacket and standing next to me) adopted Mick Jagger’s early habit of clutching a pair of maracas in one hand, shaking them in time while singing."
Photo credit: Trevor Thwaites Collection
Jenny B and the Experience Band - Don't Get Around Much Anymore (2019)
“Typed lyrics and handwritten chords for ‘Pretty Girl’, which was on the B-side of ‘No Nukes’, although I had written it a few months earlier. It was also popular with the Selwyn College vocal group through a nice arrangement by Jonathan McKeown-Green.”
Photo credit: Trevor Thwaites Collection
Trevor Thwaites Trio - Tico Tico (2019)
The Coachmen - The Burning Of Atlanta (Octagon, 1962). "The track ‘The Burning of Atlanta’ was popular in the US and had been released in Australia. The engineer had recorded it via short wave radio and my first job was to play along with the crackly “original”. Bernie Allen was hired to play piccolo and the Coachmen did the rest."
“The year 2023 marked the 40th anniversary of the KBB Auckland Secondary Schools Music Festival, which caters for around 4,500 entries a year in Symphony Orchestras, Concert Bands, Chamber Orchestras and Jazz Big Bands. I was Chairperson from 2011 until 2023.”
Photo credit: Trevor Thwaites Collection
“Over time, I have contributed music to musicals: from Children’s The Smurfday Party (script Marilyn Brady) for Intermediate school; Sir Ed: You’re a Legend (Susan Battye); The Nameless Gnome (Jonathan McKeown-Green). This clipping relates to my musical Tangata Toa, for which I wrote both the music and the play for my students at Mangere College. The inspiration was my own experiences of the Howard Morrison Quartet. Ironically, the male lead was Russell Harrison, who went on to have a modest solo career and more recently has been a member of the Modern Māori Quartet, itself a tribute to the Howard Morrison Quartet.”
Photo credit: Trevor Thwaites Collection
The Coachmen in 1961 – Brian Henderson, David Mair, Monty Hine, Trevor Thwaites (drums) – a popular Auckland floor show act. The band had a personal manager and were often contracted by promoter Harry M Miller for national tours. 
Photo credit: Trevor Thwaites Collection
“My concept for this jazz tribute to Auckland was to emulate a Blue Note sound by recording most musicians performing together in order to capture spontaneity, and on occasion overdubbing myself on vibes, marimba, congas, pūrerehua (bull roarer) and slit drum. The tracks range from trio to big band, swing, Latin, Pasifika, Māori, contemporary.”
Photo credit: Trevor Thwaites Collection
The Coachmen - Play It Cool 7" EP picture sleeve (Octagon, 1962). "The Coachmen often did as many as five floor shows on a Saturday night. For example, starting with two shows at the Waiwera Hotel dining room, then in the van to the Dutch Kiwi Restaurant on the Scenic Drive, then in to town to feature at one of Auckland’s busy dance halls, especially those run by promoter Phil Warren, and finally a show in a city night club. I used a portable rig of snare, hi-hat, cymbal and snare drum so that I could get on and off stage swiftly. This cover image also doubled as a promotion for Convair shirts."
Photo credit: Trevor Thwaites Collection
Rick Harris - No Nukes (Ode, 1985), arranged by Trevor Thwaites. "Singer Rick Harris, recently arrived from South Africa, put anti-nuke lyrics to a song he brought to New Zealand with him – a statement against nuclear testing, with the B-side being my song ‘Pretty Girl’. Virtually all the copies were purchased by the crew of the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior for distribution at the Mururoa Atoll protest over French nuclear testing. Sadly, the bombing and sinking of the vessel in Auckland Harbour in July 1985 by French Secret Service agents meant one crew member was killed and the recordings went down with the vessel."
“The trio, in 2022, playing at the banking awards – Ben Fernandez, Alberto Santarelli and Trevor Thwaites.”
Photo credit: Trevor Thwaites Collection
"Four tenor sax players from Selwyn College, where I was head of music, performing at the Ports of Auckland in the early 1990s. From left to right: Ben Holmes, who went on to perform free form sax around Auckland, including with drummer Tony Hopkins’ band. Ben still plays, having added keyboard to his palette. Simon Chan, a brilliant sax player and scholar, Simon really had John Coltrane’s style down convincingly. Nick Atkinson, was founding member of funk rock group Supergroove and also member of the duo Hopetoun Brown, and he is also a well-known radio host. Nick is still busy as a sax player and a master of the soulful rock’n’roll sound. Chris White, heavily into modal jazz at the time, emigrated to England where he became musical director of Van Morrison’s band, and he is still a busy film composer. All four studied with the late Jim Langabeer in the itinerant music scheme at Selwyn College."
Photo credit: Trevor Thwaites Collection
Bridge to Somewhere CD (2011). Cover photo by Trevor Thwaites.
Photo credit: Trevor Thwaites Collection
Rick Harris - Pretty Girl (Ode, 1985), written and arranged by Trevor Thwaites
Jazz nights at Lincoln Green, Henderson. “When the Lincoln Green Hotel and Bar was first opened by the Waitakere Licensing Trust in the late 1980s its management wanted to present a range of music and set out to make the venue stylish (including the banning of jeans in all bars). I was in charge of booking suitable acts, from solo pianists to string quartets, as well as dedicating certain nights to particular genres of music, so the Monday nights were country music and Wednesdays jazz (pictured in poster). ‘Country night’ was packed and a real family affair; meanwhile, jazz musicians appreciated the Wednesday gig, often a dead night for jazz.”
Photo credit: Trevor Thwaites Collection
“A photo taken in 2018 at the first rehearsal of a band performing free jazz in the form of a composition by Harold Anderson, which was inspired by a painting (The Way to Paradise) by Dunedin artist Ewan McDougall. Peter Scholes also conducted a small chamber orchestra as part of the composition.” From left: Tim Dodd (sound), Kingsley Melhuish (trombone, conch shells), Trevor Thwaites (drums), Kim Patterson (trumpet), Harold Anderson (bass), Mike Nock (piano), Heather Bolton (synths), Jim Langabeer (flutes and sax).
Photo credit: Trevor Thwaites Collection
Trivia:

Trevor Thwaites ran a jazz picnic on Rakino Island for six or seven years (people on Rakino couldn’t get to Waiheke for their jazz festival), often featuring Caitlin Smith. Attendance sometimes reached 800 people, many of them arriving from Waiheke on a chartered boat.

Regular AudioCulture contributor and musician Gareth Shute’s father George was in The Prohibition Big Band, playing trombone.

Trevor Thwaites booked music at the Lincoln Green Tavern on Lincoln Road, Henderson. Jazz on Wednesday, a cocktail pianist out in the back bar, and country music on Monday night, the latter becoming a very popular weekly event.

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