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Profile:

Alan Littlejohn(s)

 

Alan Littlejohns Charicature

 

© Picture by Nemethy courtesy of Nick Littlejohns

 

Trumpet and flugelhorn player Alan Littlejohns was born Albert John Alan Littlejohns on the 4th January 1928 in Highgate, London.

Alan is frequently billed as Alan ‘Littlejohn’ - his son Nick explains: ‘When he started his first band, it was called ‘Alan Littlejohn’s Jazz Band’ – if he had kept the ‘s’, then it would have been ‘Alan Littlejohns’s Jazz Band’ – a bit of a mouthful! He decided to keep the name Littlejohn after the band eventually broke up’.

Alan Littlejohn with Eric Silk Southern Jazz Band

Alan took up the trumpet in 1946.



He trained as an accountant after the War but also played semi-professionally with bands such as the Blue Note Swingtet and the Galleon Jazz Band.

In 1952, Alan joined Cy Laurie and then a year later moved to play with Eric Silk. He moved to Manchester for eight months and worked with Ron Simpson and the Saints Jazz band in 1954, but then came back to London to work with Eric Silk again.

 


Alan with the Eric Silk Southern Jazz Band
© Picture courtesy of Nick Littlejohns

 

In 1955, Alan took up the residency at Putney Jazz Club and a further residency in Chelsea in 1960. Trombone player Tony Milliner recalled that when Alan led his Putney band he produced a newsletter each week that finished up with:

‘From six musicians and a drummer’

 

 

In 1963, Tony remembered that it was after listening to the Bob Brookmeyer / Clark Terry’s LPs The Power of Positive Swinging, Tonight and Ginger Bread Men that he picked up the phone to Alan and asked: ‘Do you want to form a quintet à la Terry / Brookmeyer?’ The immediate reply was ‘Oh yes!’ and they organised the first rehearsal with Mat Mathewson on piano, Bucky Cowman on bass and Terry Cox on drums.

‘Terry was soon to join Pentangle,’ Tony recalls, ‘and he was replaced by Mal Cutlan, and Bucky Cowan was replaced by Dave Holland. The venues we played were mainly the Tally Ho pub, resident on Wednesday nights; the 100 Club; the Plough, Stockwell; Manchester Sports Guild and the Six Bells in Chelsea.’

 

Tony Milliner with the Ellington Band

 

 

 

Photo © Tony Milliner
L-R: Tony Milliner, Mal Cutlan (hidden) Lew Hooper, Jimmy Hamilton, Dave Holland, Matt Methewson, Alan Littlejohn, Cat Anderson.

 

 

 

 


Tony Milliner continued: ‘Lew Hooper joined the band making it a sextet and we were lucky to have Jim Godbolt who arranged for the band to back Bill Coleman, Peanuts Hucko and Earl Warren and to be the support band for Dave Brubeck at the Festival Hall. Alan and I both had nicknames: Alan was ‘Ginger Cosgrove’ and I was ‘Tom Jam’.

Tony Milliner and Alan Littlejohn with Brubeck Band

 

 

Photo © Tony Milliner
L-R: Tony Milliner, Alan Littlejohn, Dave Brubeck, Earl Warren, Paul Desmond.

 

 

 

In 1963, Alan married Jeannine and in due course his son Nick was born. During the 1960s and 1970s, Alan was working with the Sonny Dee (Stan Daly) Band and the Georgia Jazz Band.


From 1973 to 1978, Alan was a member of Alvin Roy's Band which had a residency at the Prospect of Whitby in London. Fortunately, Alvin has kept some videos of the band playing at London's 100 Club.

Alvin Roy band at the Prospect Of Whitby

 

 

 

 

The Alvin Roy Band at the Prospect of Whitby.

Nobby Williams (double bass), Alvin Roy (clarinet), Alan Littlejohn (trumpet), Martin Guy (drums), Boots Baker (trombone)
© Picture courtesy of Nick Littlejohns

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watch a video of Alan playing 'Stomping At The Savoy' recorded live at the 100 Club in 1986 with Alvin Roy's Jazz band: Alvin Roy, Digby Fairweather, Alan Littlejohn, Danny Padmore, Matt Matthewson, and George Oag.

 

 

 

Alan took trips abroad to play in Spain and Germany, and formed a band that became the resident band at the 100 Club in London’s Oxford Street for a while. In the 1980s Alan played as a full-time professional musician for a short period but was also making guest appearances with the Merseysippi Jazz Band.

 

Alan Littlejohn at 100 Club

 

 

 

 

Alan playing at the 100 Club on
28th November 1992
© Picture courtesy of Nick Littlejohns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From August 1990, Alan worked with Laurie Chescoe’s Good Time Jazz and was playing with Laurie until a month before he died at Barnet in Hertfordshire on the 12th November 1995.

Nick remembers his father as ‘Totally dedicated to his jazz and never happier than when he was on stage performing’.

Tony Milliner remembers that Alan’s favourite trumpet players were Billy Butterfield, and Clifford Brown: ‘and he could play like both of them when needed, although he would say that if he even had a third of the sound that Billy Butterfield produced then he would be a happy man. The other trumpeter Alan admired was Gerry Salisbury who played at Alan's funeral - Alan's favourite song: Bob Haggart's 'What's New' which is featured on the South Rampart Street Parade album by Bob Crosby and his Bobcats.

'Oh, and Alan was a good cook!’ recalled Tony Milliner, 'Actually he was a master cook and his curries were stuff of legend!!'.

Alan Littlejohn circa 1990

Alan circa 1990
© Picture courtesy of Nick Littlejohns

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Do you remember Alan Littlejohn? Contact us with your memories.

 

Stride pianist Neville Dickie tells us this story about Alan.

'I worked with Alan every Sunday evening for about a year in the Gene Allan Band at the 100 Club. I didn't know him all that well, as these were the only occasions we would meet. Everywhere my wife Pat and myself went, our Poodle dog Billy would be there. Chinese food was available at the 100 at that time and Pat and myself used to enjoy their spare ribs and we would put a couple on a separate plate for Billy. One evening during the break, we were tucking into our spare ribs when from nowhere Alan suddenly appeared and tried to grab one of the rib's off Billy's plate. He hadn't reckoned on the ferocity of the small dog. His hand suffered a severe bite. I didn't see any blood, but I did see Alan later in the queue at the Chinese counter, no doubt ordering his own ribs. I heard him mumbling to himself, 'A good job I'm not a pianist!'.'
2011.2

Click here for Neville's website. Click here for a video of Neville playing Pinetop's Boogie Woogie at the 2008 Scott Joplin Festival.

 

Here's another video of Alan with Alvin Roy's Band playing There'll Never Be Another You.

 

 

 

Patricia Preikschat in Germany remembers Alan. (atricia has an art gallery at her house in the small town of Zwingenberg, but there is also a wine bar and a cellar where the occasional jazz concert is staged. Click here for Patricia's website).

"As far as I remember, Alan Littlejohn played for several subsequent summers in Munich, Waldwirtschaft Großhesselohe. Since 1982, this is a jazz location, outdoor, in a wonderful beer-garden a little bit outside of Munich, close to the Isar river."

"I think, the group was called Alan Littlejohn's Quintet (not sextet) for that event, at least it was named after Alan. I met them first in summer 1985, when Boris Becker won in Wimbledon, as the first German and as the youngest player ever. Alan and his band performed a tune with a kind of "programme music" (sounding like tennis ball hits, moving their eyes and body to and fro like following the ball etc.) to ironically honour this win. It was really very funny and, as you can imagine, a big success in that beer-garden. As I appreciate humour, in life and in art, even in jazz, I went to the band in a break and congratulated them for their act. We talked a bit, and finally, my friends and I went out with the band in the same night. During the following days, weeks and even years, this was repeated occasionally."

"Above all, Alan himself was very funny, even after I told him I prefer saxophone to flugelhorn or trumpet. I appreciated also his special "double bind" charm: when I arrived in the beer-garden, they often played "That Sugar Baby O''Mine" for me, but he also told me that he memorised my family name PREIKSCHAT thinking of "pike shit"... When I didn't know the meaning of pike, he drew a perfect silhouette which I recognised immediately. I learned now from your web site that he loved fishing. This explained how he could do this so well."

"Sometimes (and above all in that current financial and economic crisis) I quote Alan saying "If you're having a tough time, have it in luxury". This referred to a job that he had several times in Dubai Sheraton, I think. And this quote fits well in many occasions. Quoting that sentence recently led me to searching for Alan in the web and eventually to finding your home-page."

"I remember Alan as a very enthusiastic musician and as a striking and winning personality with lots of charm and humour. With his elegant Menjou moustache and his good manners, he was a hit in that beer- garden. When he played, he seemed rather tiny behind his flugelhorn, his back and arms bent widely around the instrument. He also had a nice singer's voice, and I liked him very much performing classic jazz songs. He told me about his French wife and their house, his love for food and cooking, and his son. I'm just an old  fan, probably."

 

Gerry Salisbury says:

Alan was probably my best mate for a long time. You remember the three day week period? Well I was out of work but when I was offered my old job back at Trident recording studios, Alan said I could stay with him and at the same time look for a house. While I was staying at his house, Billy Butterfield came to England for a tour and what I did not know was that Billy was a friend of Alan's and always stayed with Alan. You can imagine my excitement - but it was hard work up till four in the morning trying to keep up with Billy and the scotch - then going off to work! The bonus was that Billy asked Alan and myself to play with him on a couple of gigs, the first of which, when the curtains opened, all the trumpet players were there, including Kenny Ball. We got a great kick just nodding to Ken and saying 'Hi, Ken'. The event was a big highlight for me playing with a legend and my good mate Alan.

Somewhere I have a picture of Alan holding up a large pike that he had caught - that was another thing we had in common 'The Piscatorial Art' - fishing. We had a mutual admiration for each other and would meet regularly in jazz clubs when with Len Doughty on valve trombone we would play 'When Your Lover has Gone', a song on which we had worked out our tried and tested harmonies over the years.

As Alan's son has told you, I played at Alan's funeral. It was nerve-racking with once again lots of trumpet players, including Digby Fairweather and Alan Elsdon. The tune was Alan's favourite with a title we did not know until it was explained that it was what we all knew as 'What's New'. Small problem was that Laurie Chescoe's piano player did not know the tune, so with me standing next to the coffin with my dear friend two feet away, lots of trumpet players there, and me not sure if they had got the right chords, I was more than a bit nervous and I can confirm that it is difficult to play with a lump in your throat.
2008.10

 

Colin Clark says: 'I enjoyed reading the article on Alan Littlejohns. I believe I only heard him once, with Laurie Chescoe’s band in Douglas, Isle of Man, close to the end of Alan’s life. They were playing for Manx Jazz Club at the Palace Hotel, and the bandstand was quite a height, with no easier way up than to do it in one big step. To start the second set, Alan carried out this manoeuvre with some difficulty, in full view of the audience, then said over his shoulder “Poor old bugger”, correctly interpreting what we were all thinking. General laughter and warmth. But he played beautifully! I love what you keep doing for jazz'.
2017.9

 

A video of Alan with Alvin Roy's Band again playing The Big Lie at the 100 Club.

 

 

 

© Sandy Brown Jazz 2008 - 2015 with Nick Littlejohns, Tony Milliner and others.

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