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Profile:

Mick Clift

 

 

Mick Clift

 

Mick Clift

Photograph courtesy of Chris Watford

 

In 201, Todd Allen in Canada wrote asking us about jazz trombonist Mick Clift. Mick passed through the Departure Lounge in 2005, but from the correspondence we have received he is still fondly remembered by many other musicians and friends.

 

 

 

David Braidley recalls how he first came across Mick on a 1957 Decca EP by Ken Colyer's Brass Band, where Mick and Mac Duncan were the two trombone players. The album, Marching To New Orleans by Ken Colyer’s Omega Brass Band is still available, second-hand as an LP, or you can sample and download MP3 tracks by clicking here.

Alex Revell says: ‘Mick and I played together in Steve Lane's Famous Southern Stompers in late 1959/1960. Mick then played in my band with Chez Chesterman, Alan Thomas, Geoff Over, Geoff Blackwell, Bob Sinclair and Pam White - a fine singer - handling the vocals.’

 

 

 

 

Ken Ingram's New Syncopators

 

 

David Braidley next heard of Mick ...'Soon after I 'came out of retirement' and started playing again. The band I was with was gradually recruited to Ken Ingram's Society Syncopators: cornet, piano, clarinet, tuba, where they joined Mick in the King Oliver/Morton style band. His last gig with this band was, I think, a recording session for Norman Field's Neovox Cassette label. This must have been in the late '70s. I no longer can find the tape, but I do have a CD copy of a USA radio broadcast, on OKOM in 1979 of 'Our Kind of Music' which reviews the tape and plays some of the tracks.’

 

 

Alex Revell adds: ‘After losing touch with Mick for some years after my own band split up, he sent me a tape of him playing with the Ken Ingram Band. After playing it in the car, my then wife turned to me and said. 'You know, there's no-one plays the trombone like Mickie.' I think that sums him up. But he was a very talented man of many parts. I miss him and Ben (Cohen) more than I can say.’

 

 

Ken Ingram's New Syncopators CD

 

 

 

Tradjazzproductions, an American company, is selling a CD of Ken Ingram’s New Syncopators playing ‘King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band Classics'. The album features the two horn front line of Ken and Chris Mercer; trombonist Mick Clift; clarinettist John Osborne; Roger Catley on piano; George Linder, banjo; Chester Oakley ontuba and drummer Nick Ward. (click here).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listen to Mick Clift playing Drop That Sack with Chris Watford's Hot Five in 1999.

 

 

 

 

 

David Braidley says: ‘Mick left, moving south for the benefit of his wife's health and subsequently I replaced him in Ken's Ken Ingram's New Syncopatorsband, now called Ken Ingram's New Syncopators. As ever with Ken, he broke up the band, and it wasn't until the 1990s that he formed another 'Classic' band, Ken Ingram's Creole Jazzband, which performed up to Ken's death. Incidentally I was simultaneously a long term dep. in his Central City Jazzmen, while Nick Williams recovered from his heart surgery.’

 

Ken Ingram's New Syncopators: Roger Cattley (piano).  Des Hillier (banjo), Nick Ward (drums). Chez Oakley bbs. Dave Lind (clarinet), Ken Ingram (cornet), Chris Mercer (cornet), David Braidley (trombone).

Photograph © David Braidley.

 

 

 

Alex Revell recalls that Mick moved to Cornwall where he started his own band. ‘The last bands that Mick played in were the Ben Cohen Hot Five and Seven, from 1993 until Ben's death in 2002. Mick loved the Hot 5 and 7: 'A dream come true. The best band, by far, I've ever been in,' he was always telling me.’

 

 

Here is a video of Mick Clift, Jon Penn, Geoff Over, Ben Cohen and Alex Revell playing The Georgia Grind at the Keswick Jazz Festival in 1998.

 

 

 

 

 

David Braidley and Mick Clift New Orleans 1992

 

David Braidley next met Mick in 1992 on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. ‘We then played together in Clive Wilson's Camelia Parade Band, parading from Bourbon Street to Jackson Square.  There is a (brief) video and a cassette recording (which isn't lost), plus a front page photograph in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, I'm on the left, Mick on the right.' 

'A couple of days later we were playing at Fritzell's bar on Bourbon Street with Nick Ward, Chris Mercer, Chris Reilley, Roy Kirby, Mick Unthank and others. Again there is a tape of some of this made by Mick's wife.’

 

 

David Braidley (left) and Mick Clift (right) leading the Camelia Brass Band
Picture courtesy of David Braidley.

 

 

 

 

Clarinettist and bandleader Chris Watford writes: '‘I first met Mick Clift under strange circumstances.  Travelling down from Lincolnshire to Swindon to do some railway research, I stopped for a sandwich in a pub, and spotted a copy of Jazz Guide on the bar counter. I saw there was a local band playing at a village pub, so on my way back that evening, I dropped in to listen.  In the interval, I went up to the musicians, and as I had only just started playing clarinet again after a 20-year layoff through a serious illness, I asked who each was, in case I hadn't recognised someone who had once played with me.  None of them would tell me, fearing that, as I was wearing a suit, I might be from the Inland Revenue, or the Performing Mick CliftRights people.  The bald headed trombonist said to me "I don't mind telling you who I am - I'm Mick Clift, and I'm up here for the launch at the 100 Club of Ben Cohen's Hot Five".   That would be in the summer of 1995, and a few months later Mick phoned me up from Cornwall, and asked me to send him copies of local newspapers as he was thinking of moving up to the Kettering area.’

 

Mick Clift at the first public performance  of the Augmented Dallas Dandies, in Swaffham, Norfolk, prior to an 8-session tour to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the classic recordings by King Oliver's Creole Jazzband in 1923.

Photograph courtesy of Chris Watford.

 

‘The first time we played together was at the Oxfam Stomp in Birmingham, the following January (1996). I'd forgotten what he looked like, and when I saw this bald headed old man, I though "He can't be any good, he's so old!" How wrong I was!  We got on well together, and having moved to the Kettering area, he was looking for a band to play with, so he joined my newly-formed Dallas Dandies, and stayed with me until he moved half way to Denmark - Skegness to be precise - at the end of 2000, which effectively forced him to leave my band.'

'During that time, we travelled together in my car to the various gigs all over the country, notching up over 100,000 miles together, so I got to know Mick pretty well.  Quite early on, he annoyed me on one of our journeys, and I said to him "You're a miserable old bastard, aren't you?", and he replied "That's what they called me at work before I retired!"  We got on really well after that, and he became my right-hand-man in the band for the next four years. His musical knowledge was substantial, and he was particularly good at the recorded work of Honoré Dutrey, which helped me when I decided to augment the Dallas Dandies with Mike Daniels on trumpet to do a fortnight's tour of the jazz clubs in a Tribute to mark the 75th anniversary of the recorded sessions by King Oliver's Creole Jazzband in 1998.

 

Mick Clift with the Dallas Dandies

 

Mick Clift with Chris Watford's Dallas Dandies in the middle of Poole Bay, during the Swanage Jazz Festival, late 1990s. Left to Right :- John Arthy (bass); Mick Clift (trombone); Arthur Fryatt (drums-hidden); Brian Craig (trumpet); Chris Watford (clarinet) and Bill Stotesbury (banjo).

Photograph courtesy of Chris Watford.

 

 

 

‘We kept in touch after Mick had retired to Skegness, and having joined a local brass band, he got my band a booking at the local Butlins camp in 2003. This was the last time I played with Mick, and the first time I played with trumpeter Bill Dickens, who had left the remnants of the Chris Blount band the previous summer after his old bandleading friend had passed away.  After the session, Mick and I agreed that Bill's playing was as if we were standing next to Elmer Talbert !  I retired from playing in 2004, but visited Mick occasionally when he was kind enough to copy tapes and CDs for me. A few months before he died, I phoned Mick up, but he was not his usual confident self, so I knew he wasn't well.  I went to his funeral, and was glad to see pianist Jon Penn had come over all the way from North Wales to represent the Ben Cohen Hot Five.’

‘Mick was a real character, and a tremendous help with running my band. Wherever we played, it seemed that someone in the audience knew him. On our way back from a gig, we would chat away to keep me awake at the steering wheel, but he would wait until I had forgotten to turn off the motorway, and then say to me "Weren't you supposed to turn off back there ?", which usually meant a long detour - at 2am in the morning! His great schoolboy friend, Tony Parker, who also took up the Mick Clift with the Dalls Dandiestrombone at the same time as Mick, once told me that Mick turned up one day with a large bag of sweets, and Tony said "Can I have one please?", and Mick retorted " No, 'cos you asked," and proceeded to scoff the lot!   They were great friends, but must have been a right couple of lads as youngsters!’         

 

Richard Taylor sent us this poster of Chris Watford's Dallas

Front row left to right - Mick Clift, Dennis Armstrong, Chris Watford.
Back Row left to right- Dennis Mowatt, Jerry Card, Geoff Over.

 

David Braidley continues: ‘I only met Mick again a few more times back in England, but he was with Chris Watford's Dallas Dandies and his Dixieland Thumpers for quite some time, possibly until  he stopped playing. He was also with the Ben Cohen bands, but these, I think were 'festival only' line ups.’

‘The last time I played with Mick, and probably the last jazz gig he did, was a tribute to Ben at Bude in 2004, with Enrico Tomasso in place of Ben. I say 'last jazz gig,' because when he finally went up to Skegness, Mick joined a local brass/silver band. He delighted in telling me on the 'phone that he had been promoted to making the tea at their rehearsals - typical Mick. Mick was a beautiful trombonist, with a wicked sense of time - particularly in his two bar breaks.’

 

 

We can listen to Mick playing the lovely King Oliver / Bill Johnson tune Just Gone with Chris Watford's Hot Five in 1999. As with Drop That Sack, this recording, courtesy of Chris Watford, is part of a recording by Chris’s Hot Five made live over three successive evenings in February, 1999, at provincial Jazz Clubs at The Hesketh Arms, Southport; The Swan Inn, Chaddesley Corbett, and the Newchapel Working Men’s Club, Stoke-on-Trent. This was the only time the band performed in public featuring legendary trumpeter Mike Daniels with a strictly Louis Armstrong Hot Five line up (although Mike Daniels did work with the full band before and after these sessions). The line up for this recording is: Mike Daniels (trumpet), Chris Watford (clarinet), Mick Clift (trombone), Geoff Over (banjo) and Jon Penn (piano).

 

 

 

 

An entry on The Free Library internet site (click here for the full article) says: 'Back in 1979 trombonist Mick Clift had to leave Ken Ingram's band in Birmingham because his work took him to Cornwall. ... However, no sooner had Mick shaken the Midlands dust off his feet, than the late Ken Colyer asked him to play with his band the following week ... Mick Clift hails originally from Skegness on the east coast and he and his wife have decided to return there for the rest of their retirement. So all I can say with confidence is that Thursday is intended to be a special evening with the Mardi Gras Jazz Band and that Mick's great contribution will be celebrated on that occasion'. (The date of the item is unclear).

Mick eventually died in Skegness, although as yet we don’t have the exact date. Greg Platt remembers going to Mick’s funeral: ‘Lucky to play occasionally with him with John Paddon at Louth, and the odd gig elsewhere’. That funeral was somewhere around 2005. Griff Thomas recalls that Mick died a short time after the passing of Ken Ingram on June 11th 2005(?).

Tony Quinn says 'I was the percussionist in Ken Ingram's band from 1997 to 2002. Ken, of course, died about 6 or 7 years ago. My new band is The New Washboard Syncopators' Here is a video of Tony's New Washboard Syncopators with David Braidley on trombone playing Rent Party Blues:

 

 

 

Tony Parker

 

Mick Clift’s daughter, Helen, adds to Chris Watford’s memories: 'Chris mentions his great friend Tony Parker.  Here are photos of them both in 1947 which makes them 18 or 19 years old - yes - they were that young once!!!'

 

Tony Parker Mick Clift

 

 

'They were great friends, but must have been a right couple of lads as youngsters! Dad always played the guitar and the banjo and later, probably in his 50s, he wanted to join the local amateur orchestra and took up the bassoon, deliberately choosing an unusual and difficult instrument so they were happy to take him on.'

 

 

Mick Clift

 

 

 

 

 

Helen continues: 'I have also found a photo dated Christmas 1954 or 1955  (below) with my Dad playing his trombone but I have no idea who any of the other people are or where it was taken. It might be in Bedfont, Middlesex but the photo could just as likely have been in Skegness.' [Does anyone recognise others in the 1954/1955 photo? Ed.].

 

Mick Clift Christmas

 

 

'There is also a scan of a postcard featuring my Dad in The Jubilee Brass Band at the Bude Jazz festival 1995 when my parents lived in Cornwall. Dad died on March 10th 2007.'

 

 

Mick Clift with the Jubilee Brass Band

 

 

Clarinettist Alex Revell writes after seeing our Profile of trombonist Mick clift.

'I was so pleased to see that Ben (Cohen) is at last having some belated recognition of his great playing, recognised by so many of his fellow musicians. I first met Ben sometime in late 1949 and we played together in a little band which rehearsed in a local school – we were both living in Essex at the time. I knew Chris Barber from meeting him at the 100 Club and asked him to come along to one of our rehearsals. That led to the formation of the first semi-pro Chris Barber Band until Chris turned pro in 1953. Ben and I were firm friends and we stayed in close touch over the years –  he was in one of my bands in the 1950s'.

'We then lost musical touch for a number of years, until we began to see more of each other when we began playing a regular monthly gig together with Colin Kingwell’s Jazz Bandits – a fine band -  at Beaconsfield Jazz Club. We had both remained semi-pros, were now both running small businesses, and we often met at Ben’s factory for long chats. During these, we always said that we should form a band, but we never did, and it wasn’t until I was playing at the Bude Festival in 1992 and the organiser John Minnion, a trumpet player himself, knowing Ben and I were old friends, asked me if I thought Ben would be interested in playing at the festival the following year. I said that I thought he would, especially if he could lead his own band. John said that in that case, ask him to form a band to play the Louis Hot Five tunes as a tribute band to Louis  – promoters  never seem to realise the enormity of what they ask!'

'I subsequently put it to Ben: he jumped at the idea and his Hot Five – and later the Hot Seven, was born. We both knew that there was only one trombone to fit the bill, Mickie Clift, with old friend Geoff Over on banjo and new friend, Jon Penn, on piano. For the Seven, Ben later added Terry McGrath on sousa and the great Nick Ward on drums. The band was an instant success, with both fans and musicians – Ben called it his ‘real band’– and we all had a great time playing the music which had inspired us to try to play jazz in our youth. With forty years of playing under our belts we thought we could do it just a little more justice. Sadly, the band was no more after Ben’s death in 2002, followed by Mickie. I still miss them, both great and inspiring players. (Incidentally, I see in one of the tributes to Mick Clift – well deserved - that Ben’s Hot Five and Seven was a ‘festival only’ band. Not so, we played many gigs other than festivals.)'

'Like Steve Lane another fine, musician, Ben was also a great character. Perhaps it runs in cornet players. To give just one instance: There’s a little more to Laurie’s story of Ben’s falling off the stage at Wavendon. Ben broke his right arm in the fall and had to spend some time in hospital.  At the time, Ben was also leading his own  Hot 5 and he arrived at our next gig with his arm still in plaster. The arm wasn’t in a sling, with the arm at the usual opposition down by the waist, but up high, level with his face. He explained that he had asked the hospital staff to position the plaster like that so that he could reach the valves of his horn. That was typical of Ben who wouldn’t go a single day without playing, on a gig, or to practise'. 
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Dave Dwinell in America writes: 'I just finished reading your article on Mick Clift. I was fortunate enough to have met and become friends with Mick at the Keswick Festival in 1998. How I came to meet Mick and the rest of the Ben Cohen group is quite amazing.

'Someone back in the '70s or '80s gave me a second hand copy of Ken Ingram's Society's Syncopators and I actually thought it was a 1920s band that had been cleaned up. It blew me away. I had been interested in Trad jazz since High School and in the 1980s while living outside NYC set up a jazz society and featured Turk Murphy's band as well as the Salty Dogs and the Red Onions of NYC in concerts. I then set up the Great Atlantic Jazz Band with Charlie Sonnanstine as leader and Bob Greene on piano. Charlie told me while living in Europe years before he played with Sandy Brown. Charlie was the last trombonist with Lu Ben CohenWatters but never recorded with the band.

'Back to Ken Ingram. I eventually found a real cassette of the band and it listed the producer and an address on the cassette. I wrote to the gentleman and asked if there were any more releases of this band or even outtakes. I never received a response. Three years later I received a letter from Ken who said the producer had just given him my letter. He also included a second session live of the band. We became fast friends and exchanged cassettes, etc.'

 

Ben Cohen

 

He introduced me to the Cohen Hot 5 and 7 and I was convinced I had to go to Keswick to hear these two bands live. I became friends with the band members and stayed at Geoff Over's house for a week after the festival and was able to hear Geoff with Bob Dwyer’s group and Mike Daniels band. On my second trip to Geoff’s years later I was thrilled to attend a Steve Lane reunion and heard two female vocalists live that had recorded with Steve. So sorry to hear of Geoff's accident.

I corresponded with Geoff and Mick and Ben for a number of years. I also contacted Steve Lane and received quite a few recordings from him that were not in my collection. I was the fellow who did the show for Okom on Ken Ingram and I also did one on Ben Cohen's Hot 5 and 7. I received permission from the cassette producer and Mrs Ingram to release a CD with Trad jazz whom I have worked with on a number of releases.

Ken actually visited us in NYC and I had him play a few songs with two bands while here, He said it was one of the highlights of his life. Sorry to go on for so long but I will always cherish the times I spent with these wonderful gentlemen. It was a great article you had and brought back some nice memories.

One last thing - I really love the vocal work of Pam White. I have all the Lane's released including the recent CD. Do you know of any other cuts by this really fine vocalist?

[Ed: I have suggested that Dave checks out the albums Remembering Steve Lane (Lake Records) and Steve Lane's Famous Southern Stompers (VJM). Pam can also be heard on YouTube with Steve Lane (click here). Please contact us if you have any other suggestions].
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[Please contact us with any other information or memories you might have of Mick Clift so that we can add them to this Profile]

 

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Steve Lane
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