By Louise Levy
Dale Barlow, the renowned Australian jazz saxophonist and composer, was born on December 25, 1959, in Sydney, New South Wales. His musical journey began with the piano, but it was his transition to classical flute and clarinet during his teenage years, alongside jazz courses at the New South Wales Conservatorium, that unveiled his true calling.
Music flowed through Dale’s veins, with his father, Bill Barlow, being a respected reed player. In 1979, Dale’s exceptional talent was displayed as he performed with the Australian Youth Orchestra at the prestigious Monterey Jazz Festival, a pivotal moment in his burgeoning career.
In 1982, Barlow embarked on a life-changing journey to the United States, particularly New York, initially for further studies. His remarkable talent swiftly saw him playing and recording with jazz legends like The Cedar Walton Quartet and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, both important training grounds for young jazz musicians.
During his time in the New York scene, Barlow collaborated with luminaries such as Chet Baker, Sonny Rollins, Sonny Stitt, Kenny Barron, and Gil Evans. He also toured the world constantly, performing regularly at major jazz festivals throughout Canada, Europe, Japan, Asia, and the Soviet Union, and recording with many jazz greats.
Barlow also ventured into the world of pop music, working with artists like Bryan Ferry, Style Council, and Mental as Anything!
Following his return to Australia, Barlow received numerous accolades, including Album of the Year, Jazz Performer of the Year, International Artist of the Year, and the prestigious title of Bicentennial Artist of the Year, also earning four Mo Awards, and a Master of Music degree from
A noteworthy chapter in his career involved his collaboration with Paul Grabowsky in the formation of Wizards of Oz, an Australian jazz quartet. The quartet featured Barlow on tenor saxophone, Grabowsky on piano, fellow Necks band members Lloyd Swanton on bass, and Tony Buck on drums. Their acclaimed album Soundtrack, released in 1988, earned the 1989 ARIA Award for Best Jazz Album, cementing its place in Australian jazz history.
Throughout his career, Barlow has continued to create remarkable music, leading his own groups, and participating in various musical projects. With a distinctive appearance, a shaved head, and a hard bop tenor saxophone style, he became a favorite among fellow musicians, and a commercially successful artist. His charismatic presence and musical prowess made him a prominent figure in the jazz world, leading to appearances on television variety and talk shows where he displayed his talent and charm.
A career highlight was the creation of Treat Me Gently, a collaborative recording featuring exceptional musicians, including Barlow, George Coleman Jr. (US), Mark Fitzgibbon, and Sam Anning. This quartet epitomized swing and authenticity, with a mix of original compositions and classic standards, demonstrating the high level of musicianship, excitement, and inspiration in their sound.
In recent years, Barlow has toured as a member of Billy Cobham’s band. He continues to work as a band leader, recording artist, and as a hired soloist, composer, and arranger with numerous other groups. His extraordinary talent and contributions have left an indelible mark on the jazz landscape, making Barlow a true icon on the Australian and international music scene.