Serge Ermoll, son of Sergei Ermolaeff, has talent in his blood. In China, Sergei was a Manchurian born, Russian jazz orchestra leader, and worked as a drummer/musician, building a reputation as one of Shanghai’s more notable orchestra leaders during the 1930’s and 1940’s. While experiencing the onset of the communist revolution in China, Sergei and his wife Xenia (singer/dancer) and son Serge Jr, won passage on the Chan Sha ship migrating to Australia in 1951. From there, Serge was able to grow into the talented role we remember him for today.
For over forty years, jazz pianist Serge Ermoll was renowned for his exceptional skills, constantly pushing boundaries, while defying the marketplaces demands to conform. His group, Free Kata, formed in the 1970s, and “…ripped open the heart of music aesthetics in Australia.” (John Shand, Sydney Morning Herald, August 2003).
Ermoll has played with some of the greats of the international jazz scene. During the recording of more than twenty-nine internationally released albums, and playing on the live circuit across the globe, he has created moments with some of the greatest names in modern jazz.
Visiting the UK in the late sixties, he was invited to fill in for Dudley Moore, when he was invited to Hollywood. A revered musician before finding fame in the latter, Moore never returned to the UK as a regular player. Serge went on to become an integral member of what was the Dudley Moore Trio, with Chris Karen on drums, originally from Melbourne, and Pete Morgan on bass (British) who was also a great vocalist. Serge was playing consistently for the next seven years in the territory as a result. Serge was a regular at the prestigous Ronnie Scotts, to sight one example, during that period.
Other artists of significance Serge has collaborated with include Richie Cole, Lester Bowie, Don Moyee, Phil Woods, Art Pepper, Joe Henderson, Eddie Moore, Herb Ellis, Ray Brown, Sonny Stitt, Jimmy Whitherspoon, Ernestine Anderson, Dizzie Gillespie, Roscoe Mitchell, David Leibman, Odeon Pope, The Art Ensemble Of Chicago, John Scofield, George Cables, Branford Marsalis, Ralph Pena (bass from Clare Fisher’s Band), John Lee (bass from McCoy Tyner’s Band), and many more.
He is remembered for both his talent and his larger-than-life personality. Boasting a 5th Dan black belt in karate, and formerly having a day job as a private detective, Ermoll had always been a character, within and beyond his music. The band name “Free Kata” should have been a hint to karate practitioners about his prowess! When we listen to his excellent tracks, we take a moment to remember him… and if you haven’t heard of him before, then welcome! We hope you enjoyed meeting this incredible figure in Aussie musical history.