Biography

'Spence has that priceless gift of always leaving you wanting more' Jazzwise Magazine UK

Alister is recognized as one of Australia’s most original, distinctive contemporary jazz pianists/composers. With a performing and composing career spanning more than 25 years, his wide-ranging talents have led him to perform with and compose for some of the world’s most respected artists in the areas of contemporary music, improvisation, film and theatre.

In recent years he has devoted his energy to writing and performing with his trio, The Alister Spence Trio with Lloyd Swanton (the Necks) on double bass and Toby Hall (formerly with pianist, Mike Nock) drums and glockenspiel. This celebrated group has recorded six CDs (Rufus Records and Alister Spence Music [ASM]) and has a growing international reputation.

Their most recent CD, Alister Spence Trio: Live (ASM 2015) was recorded live at the Sound Lounge, Sydney in 2015 and received a 4 starr review in Jazzwise Magazine. Far Flung (Rufus Records 2012) also received a 4 star review in Jazz Journal (June 2013) and was listed in Critics Poll 2013 (January 2014). It was also listed in The WIRE 2013 Rewind - Critics' reflections by Andy Hamilton as Album of the year.  fit (Rufus Records 2009) was voted in the top 15 jazz/improv releases worldwide for 2009 by The Wire, UK.  Both Mercury (Rufus Records 2006) and Flux (Rufus Records 2003) received ARIA nominations  (Australian Record Industry Awards) for 2004, 2007.  The trio toured in U.K and Canada in 2006 and Japan in 2008.

Since performing at The Vilnius Jazz Festival 2009, with bassist, Joseph Williamson (Tobias Delius Quartet, Alex Ward) and drummer, Chris Cantillo (Nils Berg Cinemascope, Lena Nyberg), Alister has returned to Europe and the UK on a regular basis to tour with this lineup. Spence/Williamson/Cantillo released their debut CD, Begin (Alister Spence Music) in 2015. It was described as "Brilliant musicianship, masterful playing and imaginative improvisation" by Eyal Hareuveni, Salt Peanuts.

Alister also performs with improvising groups Sensaround - Alister Spence/keyboards, Raymond MacDonald (Scotland)/saxophone and Shoeb Ahmed/samples releasing two CDs Isotropes (2014 HelloOsquare Recordings) and Travelogue (2016 HellOSquare Recordings).; and ch/an/ce - Andrew Fedorich/saxophone, Evan Dorian/drums, Alister Spence/piano.

Since 2008, Alister has collaborated with acclaimed, Japanese pianist/composer Satoko Fujii performing a double bill at Tokyo International Jazz Festival - Alister Spence Trio and Satoko's ensemble Mah Doh Quartet. In 2011, they performed as a duo in Sydney at the Eugene Goosens Hall ABC and in 2015 performed as part of an improvisation concet at Kuhlspot Berlin wiht Magda Mayas, Natsuki Tamura and Andrea Parkins. In 2016, Alister toured in Japan with Sensaround and the Satoko Fujii Orchestra and performed several duo piano concerts with Fujii.

Other collaborations include releasing an improvised duo recording with Scottish saxophonist, Raymond MacDonald, Stepping Between the Shadows (2013 Rufus Records); and Everything Here is Possible (2013 Alister Spence Music) with US pianist Myra Melford, winning the APRA/AMCOS Art Music Award for Excellence in Jazz 2014.

Alister is a founding member of Wanderlust and a long-standing member of The Australian Art Orchestra (AAO). Alister was also co-leader/composer with the internationally acclaimed group Clarion Fracture Zone for 15 years from 1990 – 2005.

Over the years he has played with many fine musicians including Satoko Fujii (Japan), Michiyo Yagi (Japan), Barre Phillips (US), Myra Melford (US), Mark Helias (US), Andy Sheppard (UK), Joe Williamson (SWE), Jim O’Rourke (Japan), Raymond MacDonald (Glasgow), Karraikudi Mani (IND), Bernie McGann, Sandy Evans, Chris Abrahams, Don Burrows, Dale Barlow, Peter O’Mara, Tony Buck, Phillip Slater, Paul Capsis, Archie Roach and Ed Kuepper (The Laughing Clowns).

Alister has toured extensively in Europe, Asia and Canada and has performed radio broadcasts for ABC (Australia), BBC (UK), and WDR (Germany). His playing is featured on more than 40 CDs, many of which have either won or been nominated for Australian Record Industry (ARIA) Awards.

His talents as a composer are well known in Australia. Alister has been commissioned to write for The Australian Art Orchestra and Claire Edwardes/Amy Dixon duo. Alister’s work is also featured on Passion (The Australian Art Orchestra-ABC Classics) on Bernie McGann’s 2001 ARIA winning CD Bundeena.

FILM
Alister also composes music for film and theatre. He has written soundtracks for acclaimed directors Ivan Sen (Beneath Clouds) nominated for the Best Score at The Film Critics Awards, and the Australian Film Industry Awards 2002; Tom Zubrycki (Molly and Mobarek), Allan Collins (Dhakiyarr Versus the King, Spirit Stones) and Tom Murray (Dhakiyarr Versus the King, In My Father’s Country).

THEATRE
Theatre credits include the sound design for Angela’s Kitchen, featuring Paul Capsis directed by Julian Meyrick (2010) and Winterreise, A Winter’s Journey, directed by Matthew Lutton (2011).

Alister is currently completing a PhD at University of New South Wales where he is an Adjunct Senior Lecture in Jazz Performance and Composition.