MAURIE Fabrikant, an engineer who became an educator, jazz musician and tax reform advocate, has died from motor neurone disease at his home in Noble Park. He was 72.
Born and raised in Caulfield, his parents, Sura (nee Wittner) and Isidore Fabrikant, both came from an Eastern European background and were prominent members of the Jewish community.
The young Fabrikant and his brother, Harold, trained in classical piano but after hearing jazz music for the first time on a friend's father's collection of long-playing records, he decided "This is for me", and abandoned the classics for jazz. Thus began a lifelong love of traditional jazz.
He attended Wesley College and later received a diploma in mechanical engineering from Caulfield Technical College in 1960. Fabrikant began his career in engineering with Monsanto, and then joined the Government Aircraft Factories at Fishermans Bend, where he designed the undercarriage of the GAF Jindivik pilotless aircraft. However, frustrated with the lack of decent jobs as an engineer, he took up the then new field of computing.
He began his career with computers at Shell Oil Company in the early '60s, before personal computers had been thought of programming was a tedious and exhaustive process then.
He then had a brief stint selling computers for Honeywell, before starting a career in teaching in 1967 as a lecturer in the new information technology department at the (then) Caulfield Institute of Technology. At first he taught computer programming at night, then full-time. As well as teaching programming, Fabrikant developed and produced the annual computerised timetable for the whole school.
In a sabbatical year in 1979, he worked for the Victorian Environmental Protection Agency.
Fabrikant taught, entertained and inspired generations of students with his idiosyncratic style and humour. He would "hold court" with his students frequently at various Caulfield pubs, where all manner of topics were discussed. "G'day, sport. Join us in a beer," was his greeting.
He finished his academic career in 1993 as a senior lecturer at Monash University, where he also helped to revise the university's computer record systems.
Never one to rest on his laurels, he used his retirement funds to buy an embroidery business, where his expertise in management has made Jean McLeod Embroideries a successful family-run enterprise.
His lively interest in tax reform also led him to become active in the Henry George League (later Prosper Australia) and to become its president.
He was also active in the Australian Republican Movement and the Proportional Representation Society.
But Fabrikant was perhaps best known as an excellent jazz pianist and president of the Victorian Jazz Club. In his five years as president, he revitalised the organisation and inspired and recruited many young musicians to trad jazz.
He attended every annual Australian Jazz Convention for more than 50 years, and was involved with many other jazz events, such as the Merimbula Jazz Festival, where he was Jazzman of the Year in 2003.
In addition to his own jazz band, Maurie's Jolly Rollers, Fabrikant played in the Hot Peppers Jazz Band and the Balled Eagles, among others. He toured New Zealand with the Hot Peppers in 2003 and sat with any group in need of a pianist at any festival.
Every jazz musician in Australia either knew him or played with him at some time. He was respected for his skill and enjoyed for his joie de vivre.
A connoisseur of Australian wines, he organised an annual wine-tasting tour of the wineries of the Rutherglen district, and hosted a Sunday evening open house barbecue where friends, former students, musicians and the occasional politician would be fed and entertained. He was always providing accommodation for visiting jazz musicians from other states at his home.
Three days before he died, Fabrikant was guest of honour at a Victorian Jazz Club fund-raising concert that raised more than $10,000 for motor neurone research.
He is survived by his wife, Doreen, children Ruth, Simon and Sue, seven grandchildren, and his brother, Harold.