Allan Zavod with his wife Chris

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A list of some of the Books that mention Allan ZavodTributes to Allan:

Allan Zavod's Obituary by Debbie Joffe Ellis in The Age - Monday, 12th December, 2016:

Young pianist spotted by Duke Ellington went on to play with the superstars of jazz and rock

Article by: Debbie Joffe Ellis;
(adjunct professor of psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University)
Featured in The Age (Melbourne)
December 2016


Pianist, composer
16-10-1947 - 28-11-2016
Charismatic, magnetic and joyful, Allan exuded a captivating and electric vitality

Dr. Allan Zavod was an irreplaceable force of nature.

Some people, a rare few, are trailblazers in this life, through their contributions via their unique talents, through the integrity of their actions, through the goodness they contribute to many in this crazy world, and through the inspiration they are to others.

Allan was such a man. He was a dear and significant friend to me and many others; he contributed immeasurable delight and joie-de-vivre in times shared, and I am grateful to have known him.

Following his brave, relentless and strenuous battle to overcome the brain cancer that was discovered some 17 months prior, Allan passed away at home in Melbourne with his adored wife Chris, beloved son Zak, dear mother Anne and friends around him. Just the way he wanted it.

Handsome, charismatic, magnetic and joyful, Allan exuded a captivating and electric vitality in both his performances and in his everyday life. He was very funny - at times expressing his humour through a flamboyant playful manner, and at other times expressing it through his sharp intellect and wit. He was an engaging and informed conversationalist, and the life and soul of any gathering.

He was a genius in his piano playing and composing. There is no doubt about that.

His talent was well known in Australia from his teen years and onward, through television and concert performances. In 1969 he greatly impressed jazz legend Duke Ellington, who heard him play during a visit to Melbourne. Ellington arranged for Allan to study at the renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston where he became one of the college's youngest-ever professors.

He went on to play with artists including Dizzy Gillespie, Cab Calloway, Frank Zappa, Jean Luc Ponty, George Benson, Sting, Eric Clapton, John Lee, Herbie Hancock, Gary Burton, Billy Cobham, Joe Cocker, Natalie Cole, Australian Crawl, James Morrison, Nigel Kennedy, Kate Ceberano, Judith Durham and many other greats.

He composed music scores for television shows, documentaries, theatre and movies and was the musical director on Australian shows. He performed in comedy shows with the late Robin Williams at the Los Angeles Comedy Store. Allan improvised at the piano while Williams riffed to the music.

In 2009 Allan was awarded a Doctor of Music degree by the University of Melbourne, being one of only five recipients of a doctorate in composition in the history of the university.

I urge readers to read more biographical information about him, and to listen and watch him play on the many YouTube videos that can be found. From his playful jazzy improvisations to his classical performances, including the remarkable Environmental Symphony that he composed, you will witness pure brilliance.

I am sure that if the Gershwin brothers could have heard and seen him play their music, they would have exclaimed in awe that even in their wildest imaginations, they could not have heard, felt, and viewed more brilliant interpretations and delivery of their works than those that Allan presented.

Allan also exhibited genuine kindness, good nature and gentle-heartedness in both affect and action. He was as caring, warm, generous, and respectful to strangers he met as he was to his high-profile friends and colleagues - which included the likes of Richard Branson, Sting, Robin Williams, ambassadors of various countries, Dr. Alan Finkel and many others.

I remember that when he and his wife Chris visited my mother when she was in a rehabilitation home following illness, he soon located the piano in the lounge room there and played many songs to bring cheer to her and the other people present. He did so a number of times after that day.

He worked with many charitable organisations, helping them inform people about important humanitarian causes and doing what he could to raise funds for them; again demonstrating his generous and benevolent nature.

He also touched hears with the magic of his smile that had the power to ignite hope in those who saw him - whether they heard his piano playing or not.

No airs or precociousness were to be seen in Allan, he was as real and authentic as could be. He was a remarkable soul.

Allan was a man of various facets that contributed to his uniqueness and allure. At times he exhibited an open wide-eyed and child-like embrace of live - seeing the wonder and awe of it; at other times he displayed the elegance and courtesy of a fine gentleman; at other times the wildness and passion of a shaman in trance tornadoes through and from him; and often he shared the spiritual wisdom and knowing of an old soul.

Allan loved life and people, and genuinely wanted the best for everyone. Justice was very important to him. When his friends experienced any adversity or pain, he would offer practical suggestions, encouraging words and help in any ways possible. In times of distress or hardship his wise perspective, no-nonsense thoughts and kind empathy helped friends cope better with their adversities.

He had a broad mind, creative and analytic, that could consider precise and minuscule details as easily and sharply as it could envisage a bigger picture of a scenario, dilemma or artistic creation.

I remember the constructive feedback he and Chris would give me after hearing me present lectures, and when he and I worked together to make a relaxation and meditation tape. When they said my work was good, I could happily believe it; when I paid attention to their constructive criticism and acted on it, it make my work better.

As is the case, with many remarkable people, I believe that, despite being appreciated by enormous numbers of people the world over, Allan will likely be appreciated even more after his passing. I believe that as time keeps rolling along, the recent symphony he wrote, along with his other great works, will continue to be listened to by millions, who will feel the deep impact on their minds, hearts, psyches and souls.

Few people change energy in such profound ways that for generations to come their impact continues to be felt and to inspire others. Allan was such a one.

His works will continue to inspire musicians, from the masters in the field to those who are students, and will delight and inspire increasing members of the general public. The seeds he planted and nurtured in students, colleagues and friends, will continue to flourish, and these people whose growth was significantly fuelled by Allan's knowledge, presence and guidance will go on to inspire others.

I, like many others - most of all Chris, Zak and mother Anne - ache with missing him. Thank you, Allan. You made this world better.

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Allan Zavod's Eulogy written and spoken by Dr. Alan Finkel at Zavod's Funeral:

Alan Finkel
4 December 2014


d. 28 November 2016


Twenty years ago I met a man.

A most unusual man.

A musical genius, playful, wild, intellectually powerful, a musical treasure, a legendary composer.

Allan Zavod cut a powerful figure: tall, strong, wild curly black hair. But one thing dominated everything about him - music!

You all knew him well and you will agree with me - Allan oozed music from every pore in his body.

When Allan played, either seated in a concert hall at a Steinway grand piano, or in his sickbed on a toy battery-powered keyboard from Target, Allan filled the room with music that resonated from the walls and through our bodies.

Born in 1947, Allan found music young. Mother Anne gave him the best life growing up that a kid could want. She was ambitious for Allan, today you might call her a Tiger Mum. She took him to his piano lessons and his Eisteddfod competitions - he won them all.

Father Eddie, a superb concert violinist whose repertoire ranged from Gypsy to Classical, took Allan to concerts and symphonies and gave him his musicality. Although Eddie was married to his violin, his passion was Allan.

Allan went to school in Brighton Grammar, and today his photo is in their Hall of Fame.

From there he went to the University of Melbourne Conservatorium on a prestigious Ormond Scholarship, to be classically trained in Rachmaninov and Gershwin.

Discovered by Duke Ellington, Allan was sent to Massachusetts to the acclaimed Berklee College of Music where he graduated and became a music professor.

Little could his tutors have anticipated that in a few years he would be on tour playing keyboard with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.

He spent thirty years in the US performing, recording and touring with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Herby Hancock, Jean-Luc Ponty, Sting, George Benson, comedian Robin Williams, actor Chaim Topol and Australia's James Morrison. He performed for Her Majesty the Queen of England, His Royal Highness Prince Norodom of Cambodia.

But to me Allan's real strength was as a composer. He wrote the scores for over 40 films, including my favourite melody, from the movie The Right Hand Man.

Of all his many awards, the one that brought him most pride was the Doctor of Music in 2009 from the University of Melbourne.

I have to explain. It sounds like a PhD, but it is much more than a PhD, it is much rarer than an Honorary Doctorate. It is awarded for a body of work, in this case composition, of such academic strength that it stands out from other practitioners.

The award to Allan of a Doctor of Music from the University of Melbourne was only the fifth time it was granted since the University was founded in 1853.

Allan was famous as a pioneer of the jazz-classical fusion genre, but I truly believe that there was nothing that Allan could not play, enhance or compose.


As important to Allan as his music, if not more so, was Chris.

You were not an easy catch, Chris, comfortable in your own life as a psychology and English literature student. Before that you were an in-house model for the Myer department store here in Melbourne, and a model in London, America and Canada.

With those credentials it is no surprise that you had a clear vision of your future husband being a diplomat, a lawyer or a doctor. It never occurred to you that a musician could enter your life.

But one sad Father's day shortly after your father died you went to a pub in Melbourne with a girlfriend, and there was Allan with Rastafarian curls bobbing up and down on the piano stool. He spied you, and never bashful he invited you to sit at his table.

You were smitten there and then. So much so that that when you dreamt about Allan you would wake up laughing happily.

But back to America he went, calling you from Sydney, Honolulu, Los Angeles, indeed every stop, and that was before there were mobile phones to make it easy.

He wooed you and took you to the Cannes film festival, where you both stayed in a monastery courtesy of the British film industry. Might I mention here that Zak your son is a French Conception?

Knowing you were pregnant was a shock to you both.

But you and Allan committed to parenthood. You set up home in Sargood Street in Toorak, with an 1858 grand piano from your mother, a piano that still fills the front hall in your current home.

Together, you and Allan created a life back in Australia and a home for Zak.

Chris, I've seen you in action as Allan's business manager, wife, inspiration and carer. You took on each role with ferocious commitment. Allan loved you for everything you are.


Zak, the precocious child, like a male Shirley Temple. Your early years were full of music and you were surrounded by the celebrities in Allan's life.

Lizzie and I watched you grow up, working your way through the vicissitudes of youth. I bounced you on my shoulders at your barmitzvah, so we have a special bond even if sometimes you don't return my phone calls.

You have innate musicality that followed the blood line from Eddie to Allan to you, and it shows in your compositions and performance.

Now you have Rachel and Zosia with whom to share your talent and your love. And with your recently bestowed Master of Teaching you will be able to share that talent more widely and inspire many young people.


Anne, Allan loved you, he always acknowledged you.

You made sure you were the supporter, never the dependent.

Just two weeks ago you told me touching stories of your time living in Allan's flat in Los Angeles, before Chris was on the scene. While Allan travelled on tour, back in the flat you had to deal diplomatically with telephone calls from his girlfriends, spread across the country, who mistakenly thought when you answered the phone that you were the latest competition. A mother's work is never done!

Alan and Allan

Let's fast forward to Wesley College, where Victor Finkel and Zak Zavod bonded, and Lizzie and I became friends with Zak's parents.

A few years later, I went to a school function especially to see Allan give a Master Class to the orchestra, other music students and the music teachers at Wesley. Always theatrical, Allan wore a bright purple suit that shone symbolically alongside his brilliant insights. It was inspiring.

There are three subjects that we all deserve to learn as children. English, the language of philosophy and conversation. Mathematics, the language of Science. And music, the language of creativity. I did well on the first two but not the third. I muse now that if I could have chosen an Allan Zavod as my music teacher things would have been different.

Allan was unfailingly generous. He accompanied Lizzie when she sang at soirees in our home, at the Old Melbourne Inn with Eddie on the violin and on Sunday afternoons at the Montefiore homes. Every concert where Lizzie sang and Allan played brought joy to young and old.

And wow, was he a flirt. At first when I saw Allan flirting with my wife I was miffed. But he flirted with my mum, he flirted with the ladies at the Montefiore homes. To be consistent, with his male friends he was a hugger, a big hugger.

I got a glimpse of Allan's other life about fifteen years ago when I visited him in Phoenix, Arizona, where he was staying alone in the house of Geordie Hormel, heir to the SPAM fortune, back in the days where spam was a kind of food, not unwanted email. Geordie was away and Allan was the only person in the house, with 32 bedrooms, six kitchens, a squash court, and most important a fully equipped sound recording studio where Allan and Geordie could play and compose.

Next morning, a Sunday, Allan's friend George Benson, ultra-famous for such smash hits as Breezin' and The Masquerade, picked us up in his Rolls Royce and took us to his evangelical church to witness a service.

Allan, I shared more than a Church service with you. We ate and drank at restaurants, we reminisced on the John Faine Conversation hour, we jogged the back beaches of Rye and swam the front beaches of Portsea, but most important to me and biggest in my life was the Environmental Symphony.

Sometime around 2008 you decided you wanted to write a major orchestral piece. You had enjoyed an earlier success when you won an international competition to compose a jazz-inspired symphony that was performed by the St Louis Philharmonic Orchestra in New Orleans.

But now you decided you wanted to do something even bigger. And it had to have meaning beyond the music.

We lunched many times, we talked many topics. I suggested that perhaps it could be about the threats and opportunities for our global environment. You were sold, you were on fire, a full symphony in five movements was sprouting in your mind.

But it was not enough. I had to give you a narrative, which I did.

But it was not enough, I had to give you a narration, which I wrote.

But it was not enough, I had to find you a narrator, which I did - I found Richard Branson to record the promotional version.

But it was not enough, I had to give you an outlet, which I did.

Last year I found myself as the Executive Producer for your Environmental Symphony, played by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at Hamer Hall. I learned what it meant to call in the favours, to nourish and to cajole.

It was not me alone, the support for this concert was huge, because it was for you Allan, and because, by your choice, it was a fund raiser for brain cancer research.

Letting me be part of your success is the greatest gift you could have ever given me.

I thank you.

I share my love with you.

Rest in peace.

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Allan Zavod's Eulogy by his son Zak Zavod:

Zak Zavod
4 December 2014

Dad inspired us to be reckless and excited and fun and daring and part of the world

My dad led a remarkable life and was a remarkable man. And that is what we remember today. There is the pain of loosing him. And it runs deep. But there is also the joy of celebration in his life that was. He, in his abundance of love, touched many people, not least of us his family, but also beyond and into the community; here in Australia and forth into the larger world.

His roots started here in Melbourne, studying at "The Con" and playing here joyfully with school friends and music veterans alike. He then travelled for study at Berkeley and landing in the American 70's, immersing himself in slick Jazz and piping hot rock 'n roll. He thrived in the madness and challenge of it all and went on to collaborate and tour with some of the world's musical greats including Jean Luc Ponte, Maynard Furgueson and Frank Zappa. But to speak plainly, I think one of the most significant musical experiences of his life happened relatively recently. Certainly the one I was most privy to. The Melbourne Symphony orchestra performed Dad's Environmental Symphony and I shared first hand in what it meant to him. To share his work with his home city and to have it received in such a way. To have the opportunity to share it with his beloved home community and to have people on their feet cheering and feeling. It was an experience that moved him as he moved others. We stood in the wings as the performance came to an end, as the final bars were played, and as the audience rose to their feet and as the energy in the room cracked and as the smiles on the orchestra members' faces gleamed; and he turned to me and said " know... this is what I've always wanted." I knew at that moment that even though he was aware he might be leaving this world, he also knew he'd done things that he was mighty thrilled to have done, and even though he could have done them for another 100 years, if his time had to be now, he could be at peace with that. And I think we can take his lead on that one.

Dad's family of course was his pride and joy. The gem of seeing him smile in contentment at simply having the family together for a meal; indulging in that most basic and gracious of pleasures; food and chosen company. And well, he chose none to be closer than his family.

My Grandfather Eddy, who took hold of his artistic gene and grew it throughout the generations to Dad, and to me and to my daughter. My father and he bonded especially deeply in grandpa's twilight years where they spent many hours together speaking of the past, and of the future. Healing and sharing. Musically they shared a unique and vibrant bond through their careers and in these later years, dad and grandpa still played together often and dad encouraged him to keep performing all the way through his difficulties with Parkinson's. And so their musical joy kept on flowing.

His darling mother Anne, still here with us today. He was the light of her life, and continues to illuminate it even if now a little dimmed. He spoke often of his memories of a wonderful childhood in which he always felt nurtured and loved. And it was clear that his mother was a beautiful guiding soul to him, who protected him, and celebrated him.

My mum Christine, and dad, were soulmates. It's hard to elaborate on what this meant to them. I perhaps am the one who knows most being their only offspring and having been present for so much of their love-filled lives together. We are all at loss without him. But perhaps no more than his angel partner, my mother. The passion they shared and the love and joy that blossomed between them and stretched its great boughs out over our heads and sheltered me from the dark, and inspired us to be reckless and excited and fun and daring and part of the world. That is quiet now and remains on in our hearts and in my mother. She can now carry that beacon for us. We all will a little. But his joy touched her in a unique way, as did hers touch him. And that is a torch that endures beyond death. For it is eternal.

As for me. There is not a great deal to say really. He is my Dad. He is the man who taught me to love. And I'll miss him, and he knows it. And I feel him with me. And it's ok. And it hurts very badly. But he is the one who taught me not just to love people, who are here, for a time, but that they also must leave. He taught and inspired me to love life, and living. And that is what we are left with. Thank you.

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Just a few of the many tributes that have been posted online since Allan's death on 28th Nov, 2016:

    ~ KATE CEBERANO (Australian Singer, Songwriter, Actor: 29 Nov)
Sadly it seems this will be a year remembered for the crazy talent we have lost! Another bird has flown.... Dear Allan Zavod! So clever, funny and loved. RIP!

    ~ JEAN-LUC PONTY (World Famous French Jazz Violinist and Composer: 29 Nov)
I am so sad to learn about the loss of such a wonderful musician and friend with whom we have shared so many great moments in our youth, both musically and as friends. I am glad that I had at least the opportunity to spend some time with him when I last toured in Australia, although a small consolation.
I share your grief and send all our condolences from me as well as my wife and daughters.

    ~ DR KENJI FUJIMURA (Acting Head of Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music: 30 Nov)
I was just informed of Allan Zavod's passing - this is a significant loss to Australian music and very sad news for all of us here at the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music. Our condolences to Christine and to those closest to him such as you [Brendan O'Brien | Executive Chairman of O'Brien Capital Pty Ltd] and your father.
The [Monash University] Allan Zavod Prize will be a fitting tribute to his legacy - to a giant of Australian music - helping future generations of musicians aspire to the heights achieved by Allan in his music.

    ~ MEGAN CASTRAN (Family Friend - facebook: 28 Nov)
Oh Allan-YOU were AMAZING and gave everyone you knew so much JOY and FUN. You were kind, eccentric, hilarious, a genius and a wonderful friend. Every time we saw you, you brought GREAT energy into the room. It was a privilege to know you and to be there tonight with your family just moments after you passed away. Our family just loves you so VERY much and we will always remember the FABULOUS night you came over with George Benson for a BBQ and a night of music in our home. Go peacefully into a land of beautiful music.

    ~ PETER HEARNE (Australian Singer, Songwritter - facebook: 29 Nov)
"RIP Dr Allan Zavod the man who introduced me to Jazz. When was around 7 or 8 years old my parents had a party for all their show bizzy friends, this was not an uncommon occurrence in our house. Everyone would take turns doing their party piece including Allan's late Father Eddie. Eddie and Allan had called in on the way home from the Sun Aria competition which Allan had won. My parents where both in musical Theatre so I was only really used to that genre of music being played on the the family piano. This brilliant young man, who was very quiet and shy in those days, sat at our piano and played the most amazing music I had ever heard. I was absolutely transfixed my mouth agape, unfortunately the piece came to an end and I asked him what sort of music he was playing? Jazz mate that's Jazz. Thank you Allan for a life well lived and thank you for all the lives you have touched with your brilliance xxx Rest now beautiful soul"