Australian Jazz Museum Acquires Nick Polites’ Iconic Clarinet

by Madonna

Earlier this week, the Australian Jazz Museum officially received possession of the distinctive blue and yellow clarinet that belonged to the late jazz icon Nick Polites OAM (1927-2022). The instrument was generously donated to the museum by Nick’s niece, Angela Lillis.

Nick Polites discovered his passion for jazz at the age of 11 while growing up in Melbourne, inspired by recordings of Louis Armstrong. His love for the genre shaped his entire life, leading him to become a self-taught clarinetist known for his unique style.


By the age of 21, Nick had already established himself as a notable figure on the Melbourne jazz scene. He joined Frank Johnson’s Fabulous Dixielanders in 1951, marking the beginning of a prolific career as both a performer and recording artist. His journey took him to prestigious venues like Preservation Hall in New Orleans, where he shared the stage with jazz legends such as George Lewis.


Throughout his career, Nick Polites played a crucial role in nurturing the jazz community in Melbourne and across Australia. He was instrumental in founding and supporting institutions like the Victorian Jazz Club and the Australian Jazz Convention, which he faithfully attended from its inception in 1946 until shortly before his passing in January 2022 at the age of 94.


Even in his later years, Nick continued to captivate audiences with performances alongside The Louisiana Shakers at Carlton’s Clyde Hotel, a tradition that carries on today. His extensive collection of audio recordings, videos, interviews, and memorabilia now enriches the Australian Jazz Museum’s archives, thanks to a meticulous digitization effort overseen by Collections Manager Mel Blachford OAM.

The acquisition of Nick Polites’ clarinet underscores the museum’s commitment to preserving and celebrating Australia’s jazz heritage for future generations of enthusiasts and researchers alike.


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