Experimental jazz trio The Necks and Mona Foma artistic director Brian Ritchie were in the winner’s circle at the 2019 Art Music Awards, held Monday night in Sydney.

The Necks, formed in Sydney in 1987 by Chris Abrahams (keys), Tony Buck (drums, guitar) and Lloyd Swanton (bass), become the first band presented with the newly-named Richard Gill Award for distinguished services to Australian music, the night’s top honour.

The accolade, determined by the APRA board of writer and publisher directors, pays tribute to the Necks’ three-decade-long career, during which time they walked “the line between avant-garde, improvisation and minimalism while still paying respect to jazz,” organisers said in a statement.

All told, trophies were handed out for 11 national categories, with Damien Ricketson and Adena Jacobs (vocal / choral work of the year for ‘The Howling Girls’), Joshua Kyle and Andrew Murray (jazz work of the year for ‘Trombone Song Cycle’) and Mary Finsterer (instrumental work of the year for ‘Ignis’) among the winners.

Brian Ritchie
Brian Ritchie

Also on the night, Ritchie, founding bass player with Violent Femmes, who relocated from the U.S. to Hobart in 2007 and two years later curated the first MoFo Festival (short for Museum of Old and New Art: Festival Of Music and Art), took out the Tasmania Award for “excellence by an individual.”

Away from the celebrated fest, Ritchie continues to perform with Violent Femmes, whose most recent album Hotel Last Resort was released last month via PIAS.