Alister Spence

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Tunes by Alister Spence

  • Eagle Man
    Swing · 2000-2010 · Medium · Instrumental · F · 4/4
  • Mercury
    Straight · 2000-2010 · Medium · Instrumental · A · 4/4
  • Never Forget
    Swing · 2000-2010 · Medium · Instrumental · 4/4
  • Parnu Beach
    Ballad · 1990-2000 · Hard · Instrumental · F · 4/4
  • Sixteen
    Ballad · 2000-2010 · Easy · Instrumental · Eb · 4/4
  • They May Be Giants
    Swing · 1990-2000 · Easy · Instrumental · G · 4/4
  • Twilight Rain
    Straight · 2000-2010 · Medium · Instrumental · C · 4/4
  • Zee-Bra
    Swing · 2000-2010 · Medium · Instrumental · G · 4/4
  • Maianbar
    Straight · 1990-2000 · Medium · Instrumental · Bb · 4/4
  • Un Nouveau Coup de Pinceau
    Other · 2010-2020 · Medium · Instrumental · 6/4


'Spence has that priceless gift of always leaving you wanting more’ Jazzwise Magazine UK. Alister is recognized as one of the most experienced, creative and original contemporary jazz pianist/composers in Australia. 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 The Alister Spence Trio - Lloyd Swanton (the Necks) on double bass and Toby Hall (Sandy Evans Trio) on drums. This celebrated group has recorded six highly acclaimed CDs (Rufus Records and Alister Spence Music) and has a growing international reputation.

The most recent CD, Alister Spence Trio: Live was recorded live at the Sound Lounge, Sydney in 2015 and received a 4 star 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, Christopher Cantillo (Nils Berg Cinemascope, Lena Nyberg), Alister has returned to Europe and the UK regularly in Europe/UK to perform with this lineup. Spence/ Williamson/Cantillo released their debut album, Begin in 2015 to critical acclaim.

Alister also performs with improvising groups Sensaround - Alister Spence/keyboards, Raymond MacDonald (Scotland)/saxophone and Shoeb Ahmed/samples; and ch/an/ce - Andrew Fedorich/saxophone, Evian Dorian/drums, Alister Spence/piano.

Since 2008, Alister has collaborated with acclaimed Japanese pianist/composer, Satoko Fujii performing a double bill at Tokyo Intl Jazz Festival. In 2011, they performed and recorded as a duo in Sydney at the Eugene Goosens Hall ABC and in 2015 performed as part of an improvisation concert at Kuhlspot Berlin with 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 improvised duo recordings with Scottish saxophonist, Raymond MacDonald, Stepping Between the Shadows (2013); and Everything Here is Possible with US pianist Myra Melford, winning the APRA/AMCOS Art Music Award for Excellence in Jazz 2014.

He 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 performed with many fine musicians: 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); and from Australia - Bernie McGann, Sandy Evans, Chris Abrahams, Don Burrows, Dale Barlow, 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.

Alister also composes music for film and theatre. He has written soundtracks for acclaimed directors, Ivan Sen (Beneath Clouds), 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 credits include the sound design for Angela’s Kitchen, featuring Paul Capsis and Winterreise, A Winter’s Journey, directed by Matthew Lutton.

Alister is currently completing a PhD at NSW University where he is Adjunct Senior Lecturer in Jazz Performance and Composition.


  • Sensaround: Travelogue HellOsquare Recordings
  • Alister Spence Trio: Alister Spence Trio: Live Alister Spence Music 4 star review Jazzwise Magazine UK
  • Spence/Williamson/Cantillo: Begin Alister Spence Music
  • Sensaround: Isotropes HellOsquare Recordings
  • Alister Spence/Myra Melford: Everything Here is Possible Rufus Records Winner APRA/AMCOS Art Music Award for Excellence in Jazz 2014.
  • Alister Spence Trio: Far Flung Rufus Records 4 star review Jazz Journal. Critics Poll 2013 Jazz Journal
  • Alister Spence Trio: fit Rufus Records Voted in 2009 top 15 jazz/improv releases worldwide. The Wire magazine, UK
  • Alister Spence Trio: Mercury Rufus Records Nominated for ARIA 2007 Best Jazz Album, 4 star review in Jazzwise Magazine, UK
  • Alister Spence Trio: Flux Rufus Records Nominated for ARIA Award 2004 Best Jazz Album 
  • Alister Spence Trio: Three is a Circle Rufus Records 
  • Clarion Fracture Zone: Blue Shift 1990 ARIA Award for Best Jazz Album 
  • Rufus Records VeraBra Records, Germany 
  • Clarion Fracture Zone: Zones on Parade Rufus Records 5 Stars Downbeat 
  • Clarion Fracture Zone: What This Love Can Do Rufus Records 
  • Clarion Fracture Zone: Less Stable Elements Rufus Records 
  • Nominated for ARIA 1997 Best Jazz Album 
  • Clarion Fracture Zone: Canticle Rufus Records 
  • Wanderlust: Wanderlust 1993 ARIA Award for Best Jazz Album 
  • Rufus Records, released on EMI Europe 
  • Wanderlust: Border Crossings Rufus Records Laika Records Europe 
  • Wanderlust: Song and Dance Rufus Records 
  • Wanderlust: The Full Bronte Miro Records 
  • Australian Art Orchestra: Into the Fire ABC Records 
  • Australian Art Orchestra: Passion ABC Records 
  • Andrew Robson: on ABC Records Nominated for ARIA 2003 Best Jazz Album 
  • Carl Orr: Seeking Spirit RooArt Records 
  • Jeremy Sawkins: Toys Rufus Records 
  • Alison’s Wonderland: Once Upon a Timelessness New Market Music 
  • Craig Walter’s: First Light Rufus Records 
  • Monica and The Moochers: Too Darn Hot RooArt Records 
  • Monica and The Moochers: Cotton On The Breeze RooArt Records 
  • Mark Taylor: Shakedown Rufus Records



This is jazz at its most violently inventive and sublimely addictive. Give us more.
- Review of the Alister Spence Trio at The Harbourside Brasserie, Sydney. Drum Media
The Alister Spence Trio provide a formidable musical experience…one of the most illuminating, moving musical entities I’ve ever encountered… the three members play so that the melody is always the prime component, never rushing into the music, always allowing the songs space to breathe.
- C Pearce, Drum Media
His piano glistened with personality, vitality and invention
- John Shand Sydney Morning Herald
When I hear a brilliant jazz piano at stretch I think of a sunny morning outside Kyoto. That’s where this very special Trio takes me, and they ought to be heard outside the jazz world.
- John Clare CD Review, Sydney Morning Herald
Expressing a style based on mainstream and integrating free form and new sensations that remind us of Paul Bley, it would be no exaggeration to say that Spence’s intellectual taste, and the fact that he doesn’t get caught up in ritual or tradition, highlights an outstanding personality, and that indeed he is fully rivaling the pianists who have brought about the present boom in piano trio music.
- Swing Journal, Tokyo Japan
‘Spence isn’t capable of writing an uninteresting composition…’
- International Piano
‘Art that allows us to be other than who we are, even for a moment, is invaluable…Mesmerising.’
- Sydney Morning Herald
'Spence has that priceless gift of always leaving you wanting more...He is never less than absorbing.'
- Jazzwise Magazine UK
‘Like the greatest jazz pianist-composers such as Monk and Ellington, Spence’s improvising shows a coherence and imagination that matches his compositional mastery.’
- Andy Hamilton, International Piano
‘Ingenious themes prove fertile sources of improvisation. Spence is definitely a talent deserving wider recognition’
- The Wire, UK
‘Utterly compelling’
- Jazz Journal UK
’The cutting edge of modern Australia defined’
- Sydney Morning Herald