Jeff Usher

Location: Brisbane, QLD

Challenge: Blind


Jeff Usher is a Pianist, Composer, Arranger, Blues Singer, Lecturer, Teacher. There are many sides to his long musical career.

As a musician, Jeff specialises in Jazz and Blues, but regularly plays other forms of music such as Rock-n-Roll, Funk, Soul, Latin, Country, Gospel, - and to all of these he brings a wealth of musical understanding and a very personal touch.

Jeff says "I was born in 1957, right in the middle of the emergence of rock-&-roll as a major musical force. Needless to say, I listened to heaps of rock music as a child. I heard so much stuff: Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis Presley, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, and all sorts of other people".

Jeff has been blind since birth. He follows in the long tradition of great blind pianists such as Ray Charles, George Shearing and Stevie Wonder. Like them, he has not allowed his blindness to be an obstacle to his success.

Jeff Usher has several jazz albums to his credit, but in addition to these, in 2005 he released "Blues City", an EPCD album containing five of his best original blues vocal compositions, including Blues City and Waiting for a Train, which have become underground favourites on the Brisbane blues scene.

Jeff has worked with his own groups, such as Jeff Usherís Jazz Unit from 1986-1994, and with Larry Cook and the Blues Masters from 1995-2001, recording two albums with Larryís fabulous outfit.

Currently, Jeff is recording a solo piano blues album. Most recently, he has been working with Herbie Armstrong, the grandson of the legendary Lewis Sachmo Armstrong.

Jeff Usher has made his presence felt at festivals such as Wintersun and the Woodford Folk Festival, and in 2005 and 2006 he headlined at the Awakenings Festival in Horsham, Victoria.

In 2006, Jeff completed a Master of Music Degree from Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University, where he has lectured since 1998. He is one of the few specialist blues piano teachers in Australia, delivering a highly successful blues piano workshop at the 2005-06 Woodford Folk Festival.

In November 2011, Jeff was part of "Re-Writing The Score" a residency collaborating musicians with and without disabilities at Orange Regional Conservatorium. This residency also included other Can-Do Musos members, Andrew Hewitt, Charlie McMahon, and Mike Smith.

Jeff says "My music is all about life as I see it and feel it. My songs are about all the things people are concerned with in their everyday life, and things that burn me up too: love, work, peace, war, other people, my wife, my friends, stuff that everybody can dig. And there is always the idea of God somewhere in the music. There is always the thought that there is a loving God no matter how hateful this world gets, and itís pretty horrible lately. Music is a very profound means of expression. It speaks from deep in your heart, or at least it should, if youíre any sort of composer or player. I am not alone in holding this point of view. It is my understanding that all of the great classical composers saw things that way, and many jazz, blues, rock and other composers of all sorts of music from all around the world from every tradition arrive at these conclusions too. I get excited about playing and writing, and I find teaching very stimulating because more often than not, your pupil will come up with something that you havenít come across before that you need to investigate further. The young cats keep you thinking on your feet, and I enjoy that, just like I enjoy keeping them on theirs. All through this, Iím still playing the Blues. Why not? Iíve payed my dues in this business many times over. Life has always been a challenge for me, if not a struggle. But mixed in with the negatives of the blues is a positive outlook that canít be killed, and thatís why I sing the blues. And when you can play piano like McCoy Tyner and sing like B B King, you should give it all youíve got."

He has also given several very successful performances at the Judith Wright Centre in Brisbane, along with his contemporary jazz combo, Jeff Usher and A Love Supreme Super-band. Besides this, he has a wealth of experience playing solo piano and with pick-up bands across Australia. He has performed overseas, in France (1989), Indonesia (1995), South Africa (1996) and the UK (1998).

Jeff Usher