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History

In reality, Marmalade Circus is composer/arranger/pianist's Mark Simeon Ferguson's showcase for his quirky, but accessible writing. But over time it has become much more than this as the musical (and general) personalities in the band have been harnessed.


From many years working in Latino and Gospel groups, and from countless hours of private research Ferguson has developed a rhythmic style of writing full of buoyant grooves from
Africa, the Caribbean and the Middle East. 

Marmalade Circus was formed in 1997 as The Mark Ferguson Quintet for a concert for Jazz Co-ordination SA and initially featured Scott Griffiths (alto saxophone), Nick Mulder (trombone), Tim Bowen (bass) and John McDermott (drums). The band was then invited to perform at the Adelaide Festival 1998, as part of the Emerging Artists program (with Mike Stewart on saxes).

Later in 1998, while Ferguson was studying for his Masters degree he began composing for larger ensembles. With expatriate US saxophonist Dusty Cox on side he enlarged his group, renamed it ‘Marmalade Circus' and they played their first gig at the 1998 Glenelg Jazz Festival. Shortly afterwards energetic percussionist Steve Todd joined the band bringing a much stronger latin emphasis to the ensemble, creating a septet.

In 1999 Marmalade Circus broadcast live on ABCFM's Jazz Track. In 2001 they recorded their first independent CD 'Tropical Fruit Chunks' which received very favourable reviews.

In 2001 they were invited to perform their first interstate gigs at the Thredbo and Manly Jazz Festivals by the late jazz promoter John Speight. Following the success of these performances the band were invited to play at the prestigious ‘Jazz in the Domain' concert in the Sydney Festival 2002 (supporting Maria Schneider) to an audience of 80 000. This was shortly followed by a great performance at the Adelaide Fringe, where their show 'Live and Sticky' received a 4-star review.

Between 2002 and 2004 Marmalade Circus only played a handful of gigs as Ferguson dealt with family issues and toured with other bands.

In early 2005 at the encouragement of promoter Con Virlas, Ferguson expanded the group to its current ten-piece size performing their first gig at the East End Jazz Festival. The enlarged band brought a fabulous collection of talent onstage together: Dusty Cox on alto, Chris Soole on tenor, Vashti Tyrell on baritone and young Pat Thiele on trumpet, alongside the regular crew and helped to broaden Ferguson’s writing palette significantly. The new Marmalade Circus were touted as the highlight of the Festival.

In late 2005 Marmalade Circus released an EP '…and then there were ten' to great acclaim from the local jazz community.

Since then Marmalade Circus have performed semi-regularly to packed houses for COMA, JazzSA and in the Adelaide Fringe. In 2009 they are launching their new CD 'Yup and other words of affirmation'.

In recent years the 'Circus' part of Marmalade Circus has developed in songs such as 'Tiny Instruments', 'Tom Tommy Tom' and 'Rambutan' with novelty instruments, band vocals, a little dancing and, to be perfectly frank, more general silliness. But in contrast deeper themes have also been explored with great passion and poignancy in such tunes as the Arabic inspired 'Kief Salaam Fi Zamana'. 

In 2011 the band underwent further changes, cutting back to a 6-piece ensemble and introducing more guest and band vocals. And while there are less people on stage there are more instruments, with accordion, double bass, mbira (thumb piano) and pandeiro coming to the party.