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Correspondence and Thoughts from Sandy Brown Jazz Readers
(Scroll down for the list of topics)
Here's a film with jazz as part of the storyline that is winning awards and has received 5 'stars' in virtually every review, so how come I was disappointed with it; out of step with everyone else?
In truth, I found it too long, too predictable, despite the twist at the end, and I longed for the wryness of a Woody Allen script. Described in some places as 'a return of the modern musical', La La Land did not move me nor uplift me in the way Sunshine On Leith did, and I did not think it had the imaginative flair of Moulin Rouge. Granted it showed jazz in a good light, although Ryan Gosling's jazz pianist, Sebastian, at one point says he wants to open his own 'proper' club because jazz is dying, and perhaps it has introduced people to the music who would not usually listen to jazz. Granted, too, that I enjoyed the choreography and the occasional song, the occasional scene - it was amusing to see J K Simmons from Whiplash playing a character who did not like jazz! - but it did not send me out of the cinema tap dancing down the mall.
Click here for the trailer.
I am due to go and see it again with friends. What am I missing?
John Westwood sends us this excellent video of a 1953, 29 minute programme from the San Franciso Museum of Art (click here). Some might challenge the claim that George Lewis was the only band at that time playing original New Orleans jazz, but nevertheless the programme is well worth watching and would work well as an introduction to jazz for those who don't know the music.
It is a 'kinescope' recording, originally made in 1953 by filming the picture from a live video monitor. The programme makers say: 'The picture quality - especially sharpness - is much lower than the rest of our footage produced on 16mm film. KPIX-TV and the San Francisco Museum of Art'. Hosted by Dr Lloyd Luckmann with Phil Elwood it 'presents a program in the 'Discovery' series about the history and influence of jazz music in American culture'.
The programme features George Lewis and his Ragtime Jazz Band (who were in residency at San Francisco's Hangover Club) performing five songs: 'Careless Love'; 'Panama Rag'; 'Bugle Boy March'; 'Closer Walk With Thee' and 'Ice Cream'. The footage includes brief interviews with Lewis, and Avery "Kid" Howard, Alcide 'Slow Drag' Pavageau and Joe Watkins are also in the band.
I was intrigued last month when Eddie Sammons mentioned a trumpet player named Albert Hall in his information about singer Marion Williams. I had not heard of the name (other than the London concert building) so Eddie enlightened me and sent a photograph of Albert:
'Albert Hall was one of the founder members of the Eric Delaney Band. He was a very fine trumpeter and often did duets with his peer Bert Courtley. Eric recorded the two on an early Mercury disc by the band – “Sweet Georgia Brown”. When Bert left to form the Courtley-Seymour Band, Albert had Kenny Ball as his new partner.'
'Albert’s real name was Alwyn (possibly Welsh?) but the Albert connotation was probably inevitable. There are a number of “Albert Halls” around and I include a certain building. It is thus not easy to find information about him. He did make a commercial LP for Columbia to display his undoubted technique. It is rather pop orientated. I made a CD of it from Eric Delaney’s copy which I suspect he had as he was probably the drummer on it in addition to his obvious support for the musician he admired.'
'I have a Jazz Club broadcast by Eric in which Albert is featured but, frankly, other than as a session man, not that much exists. He was part ofthe Jack Parnell Big Band and recorded with Jack in 1952/53. He moved to Geraldo again about 1952/3. As Eric was with Geraldo at that time, I suspect Eric induced Albert to join his new band which was just a year away. Albert passed away some years ago.'
Geoff Leonard says:
Just a bit of trivia about trumpeter Albert Hall following on from your
piece last month.
It's almost impossible to verify without official records, but Albert is
listed as playing on the original version of The James Bond Theme in
1962, arranged and conducted by John Barry (click here).
The brass section is believed to have been:
Bert Ezard (trumpet), Albert Hall (trumpet), Ray Davies (trumpet), Leon Calvert (trumpet), Don Lusher (trombone), Wally Smith (trombone), Maurice Pratt (trombone), Jack Quinn (trombone), John Edwards (trombone)
No doubt the other names will stir some memories in jazz circles!
Eddie Samms adds: 'Albert was with Geraldo from late 1952 to mid 1954. He replaced Syd Lawrence and Albert himself was replaced by Stan Reynolds when Eric Delaney pinched Albert for his new band'.
Click here for a Delaney recording featuring Albert with Bert Courtley.
Eddie has also found this nice recording of Albert Hall with Mike Nevard's Jazzmen (click here). It is a bit crackly but displays Albert's talent well - King John 1 (John Dankworth) (Alto Sax),
Don Rendell (Tenor Sax), Albert Hall (Trumpet),
Ralph Dollimore (piano),
Alan Ganley, David Murray (Drums),
Johnny Hawksworth (Bass),
Harry Klein (Baritone Sax).
Brian O'Connor sends us this picture he discovered on the internet of Edith Piaf looking at the injured right hand of Django Reinhardt.
Raymond Root wrote on our Facebook page: ' Very sad to hear that Mike Daniels passed away recently. Back in 1957 I was frog marched into the smoke filled back room of the Star Hotel West Croydon by two friends. Mike Daniels and the Delta band were playing 'Hiawatha Rag' - the Watney's 'Red Barrell' beer flowed steadily, duffle-coated blokes and black-stockinged girls were leaping about in frenzied jiving styles and from then on I became totally hooked on Jazz clubs and the Classic jazz style that Mike and the Delta band performed with such passion! Thank you Mike! RIP'
Keith Wicks has also sent us an obituary link for Mike - click here. Keith adds: 'I quote from the obituary: "The Big Band’s debut, at the 100 Club in London, was widely reported in the music press and the band remained in being for several decades, latterly under other leadership, with its original purpose gradually fading." 'Actually, the Big Band still plays at the Lord Napier, Thornton Heath. A few years ago, it was led by Trevor Swales, who was not keen on Ellington, so that important component was lost. Trevor continued leading the band, in spite of serious illness, until his death. Since Trevor's death, Don Reeve has been the leader. Don has wide experience in the music business, having been arranger for Lena Horne, Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones and Cyril Stapleton. And so, in spite of the band still using the word Delta in its name, it does not include much of the implied jazz in its repertoire. With jazz fans and interest in the music declining, steering the band towards more middle-of-the-road material may have been a sensible commercial decision. But this is no longer a band for jazz enthusiasts to bother with.'
A British Jazz Bibliography
Richard Baker is currently seeking to compile a working bibliography of British Jazz from 1940 onwards focussing particularly (but not exclusively) on all aspects of traditional jazz and concentrating at present on published written material.
He is particularly seeking material about developments in the regions outside London in the period 1940 – 1970. Please send full details to him - by email only at email@example.com.
Richard says: 'This is meant to be a working bibliography for others to share and use. I am not considering publishing it. It would be shared with contributors and via for example the National Jazz Archive at Loughton with whom I am in touch.'
All contributions are very welcome and will be acknowledged.
Roy Headland wrote about reeds player Ron Hockett. Roy said: 'We have been fortunate in Norwich to have the superb reed player, Ron Hockett, living in the area for the past few years. It was with sadness that we bade farewell to Ron and his wife Michelle who returned to the States in early September. He was given a good send off at one of the local golf clubs where Ron was indeed a member for a while but found fitting a busy schedule around golf too difficult. He played regularly at several venues including a memorable session at the now defunct Norwich Jazz Party in a front line with Dan Barrett and Jon-Erik Kelso. Apart from playing at the said golf club many times - sometimes in a trio, other times in a quartet with Ray Simmons (trumpet and flugelhorn), Ron was in demand wherever tasteful but swinging clarinet and sax was called for. Prior to coming to the UK Ron played clarinet with Jim Cullum's band and before that in the White House Band for many years.' Click here for a video of Ron playing Clarinet Marmalade with the Jim Cullum Jazz Band in 2009.
'His favourite story concerned Bill Clinton at the time of the Lewinsky affair. Clinton, who was learning to play tenor sax at the time, was passing the band on the way to a presidential function. He tapped Ron on the arm and said: "If I could play the saxophone as well as you, I wouldn't be President of the United States." We hope Ron and Michelle enjoy their new life in Charlotte, but if things get too hot, we would always welcome them back'. Click here for an informal video of Ron playing Willie The Weeper with the Sole Bay Jazz Band.
This sparked off memories for clarinettist Pete Neighbour who writes: 'Here's one of those 'small world' moments....in your latest missive there's an article referring to the American clarinet/sax player Ron Hockett who had been resident in Norfolk for a few years and is now moving back to the US. By a strange coincidence, I played with Ron on one of his last gigs in the US before he moved to the U.K. Obviously we had a fair bit to chat about as I'd (relatively) recently moved to the US at that time and he was moving to Britain. Now, I read that he is moving to Charlotte - which is only about an 80 minute drive from my home in the US.'
After reading the article on Kenny Ball's Midnight In Moscow (click here), Jon Critchley from the Original Panama Jazz Band wrote: 'Who did the Kenny Ball band arrangement for that and others, such as The Green Leaves of Summer, SukiYaki, etc?' A few days later, Jon tells us he heard the answer in a Claire Teal BBC jazz broadcast: Apparently, Kenny did the arrangements, drawn on his experience with the Sid Phillips’ band. Very clever and simple. Jon adds: 'We (The Original Panama Jazzband) do some of his stuff, like Midnight, Green Leaves, Samantha, but it’s easy to forget, without listening again, just how good that band was, especially with Dave Jones'.
RAF Sundern Cellar Jazz Club 1958
Near FM and Irish Showbands - John Doyle Looks Back
Keswick Jazz Festival
The Quality Of Early Recordings
Miles Ahead Movie
Confessions Of A Jazz Promoter - Annette Keen
George Melly's Bar Bill
Twelve Bar Blues
Remembering Diana Krall
The World Wide Jazz Tape
Clifford Brown / Max Roach Quintet
Mac's Rehearsal Rooms
'Chinese' Jazz Clubs
Ben Webster and Teddy Wilson - Old Folks
Bruce Turner Biography
Colin Thompson - Clarinet
Ken Colyer and Mac Duncan
Colin Symons and Pam Heagren
The Fox and Goose, Ealing
Freddy Randall and Memphis Blues
Donald Maclean And The Life Of Me
Jazz Talks In Buckinghamshire
Louis Armstrong and Kenny Wheeler
Jazz Heritage and Blue Plaques
Harry Miller and Bert Quarmby
Twenty Minute Tunes
Music Sometimes Labelled as 'Jazz'
Drummers - What's Going On?
Peter Mark Butler Proposes a Letter to Radio Stations
Looking Back In Leeds
The Great Lie played by Alvin Roy
Len / Ken Doughty and Alex Welsh
Ian Howarth and Alan Cooper
"Shedding." "Chops." "Rataricious." Sometimes it seems like jazz cats have their own language. Of course, many times those words also end up in other people's mouths: Terms like "hipster," "crib" and "the man" all came from the jazz world more than 70 years ago. You dig?
Here, in this short video from Jazz Night In America on npr music, Bill Tolman and John Westwood share this look at where jazz slang came from, with lots of colourful language along the way (click here).
Brian Stanley writes: RAF Sundern (bei Gutersloh). It was1958. We were allocated a cellar to start a jazz club on camp. I was one of the organisers and assisted in painting it out. No alcohol but we provided refreshments.
We had some useful musicians on camp but no clarinet until, after Christmas, a young lad came back with one he'd received as a present. He could just about get a squeak out of it but they made him stand up there poor chap just squeaking away and more or less unnoticed by the girls we bussed up from Gutersloh. They were intent on having a good time and seemed happy with our band.
I took the picture of the Cellar Jazz Club at the time. It wasn't until I was demobbed, March 1959, that I bought my clarinet in Shaftesbury Avenue, but too late. I missed my chance there.
John Doyle hosts a Sunday morning radio programme on Dublin’s Near FM radio station. In recent months he has been discovering traditional jazz music and including it in the programme. John tells us about it:
I select my records for Sunday morning while flipping through my CDs. I have no advance knowledge of what I’ll play on Sunday morning. My record collection is being permanently shuffled like a deck of cards. Over weeks, I see every CD in my collection.
My style of presentation on radio cured a voice inferiority complex I had since 1965. That year I heard an audio tape of a show I was on. I had acted in two short one-act plays, and some comedy sketches. I considered myself unsuitable for acting and in later decades as radio grew, I had considered myself unsuitable for radio. I was attending a one-year adult media course in the local college during 1999/2000 and I started the radio show by invitation for my interest in music - I would not have approached the station myself. I had an unhappy first three-years talking normally and then I discovered that humour was the solution to my voice problem. Even when I did gain confidence for radio, I was often too shy to give my name.
Near FM is the community station for north-east Dublin. It is about half-talk and half-music and the music programmes are mainly played during the evenings and weekends. It is all voluntary. The music people are enthusiastic for their music and have complete freedom; they have no instructions from management. I think like a person of the fifties and sixties and to me, Dixieland jazz is an important part of the two decades. I also think of music in terms of mid-tempo to up-tempo, I rarely play slow records. I describe my music as simple, happy, and melodic. Happy means fast.
Often on bank holidays, I’ve done one-hour features of one type of music including an hour of Dixieland jazz and for more than a year, individual American labels for the years from 1955 to 1962. I say I only like Dixieland jazz. Once, Palm Sunday 1980, I went to see Irish jazz guitarist Louis Stewart, in a theatre that is now in another use. I was only there for my liking of the guitar. I would not have gone if it were a concert of piano or brass instruments. The musicians with Louis were Jim Doherty on piano, Peter Ainscough on drums, and Dave Fleming on double-bass. I knew these musicians well from television appearances, especially from the talk/interview Late Late Show, hosted by Gay Byrne. The audience was sparse that night; a large pub would have been more suitable. I didn’t understand Louis’ music; it was a bit like hearing the same tune for the whole concert. I could only appreciate the dexterity of his finger work on the neck of his Ibanez guitar, and his plectrum dexterity.
At the interval, I went to the wine and coffee bar located below the stage. The only gap at the counter was beside Louis Stewart. As I stood beside him, I felt intimidated by his international reputation. As a simple person of music, I felt I didn’t have the right to stand in the same room as the man. I was truly intimidated by a man whose music I didn’t understand, nor could appreciate. Adding to that, the theatre didn’t serve coffee on Sunday nights!
[Click here for a video of Louis Stewart with bassist Peter Ind playing Baubles, Bangles and Beads on the Spike Milligan Q7 television show in 1977].
A few years ago on the internet, I saw some 1962 information on Acker Bilk, in the American Billboard Magazine. According to Billboard, BBC television followed the Stranger On The Shore series, with a series called Stranger In The City. Billboard stated that Acker recorded a Dixieland jazz version of Stranger On The Shore, and called it Stranger In The City for the second series. Does anyone remember Stranger In The City?
[The only information we can find about Stranger In the City is here. Ed]
I also remember seeing photographs of The Barbara Thompson Jazz Group, in the British magazine International Recording & Beat Instrumental Monthly. Barbara’s bass guitarist was a guy called Dill Katz. In the eighties too, I saw Dill playing bass guitar on the BBC2 television’s children’s programme Play Away!
I saw Dill many times in Dublin, from New Year’s Eve 1962 to late 1964. He was a member of an English guitar instrumental group called The Fendermen. They arrived in Ireland by my reckoning, October 1962. I recall reading in the dance pages of the Saturday evening papers that The Fendermen were here for a month. Around November, they were contracted as a backing group for an Irish female country music singer, Maisie McDaniel. Maisie and The Fendermen were excellent; to me their music was Country & Shadows. They complimented Maisie’s two Fontana EPs, where she was backed by The Hunters from Cheshunt in London.
In early 1963, the English bass guitarist left and was replaced by a bass guitarist from Dublin, Tony Harris. Tony had the stature and looks of Jet Harris of The Shadows. When they arrived in Ireland in 1962, Dill on rhythm guitar was playing a Hofner Colorama, the 1961 design. Gerry Kent on lead guitar played a Gibson 330. By around April 1963, both Dill and Gerry were playing Fender Stratocasters. The full Fender guitar sound of The Fendermen was fabulous. After eighteen months or more, Maisie and the group parted and the four Fendermen expanded into a seven piece Irish showband, called The Madrid. On the Irish ballroom circuit the band was unusual for having five English musicians. The English trumpet player was unusual too, for having a French horn. The Madrid Showband was short lived, five or six months I reckon. The trumpet and saxophone players left to join The Caroline Showband, a band financed by Radio Caroline. The Irish bass guitarist gave up playing. The drummer went to Germany. The Irish lead singer went back to working on the railway. Dill Katz would have gone back to England. A disheartened lead guitarist Gerry Kent remained in Ireland for a time - months to a year. A great band was decimated. In my more than five years of showbands, I regarded Gerry Kent as the finest instrumental guitarist on the Irish scene.
Irish showbands were versatile, playing many forms of music. Some bands included Dixieland jazz. The widely acknowledged best band for Dixieland was The Capitol Showband, the favourite band of musicians and the second most successful showband. The Capitol played around ten Dixieland pieces over four-hour dances. The Capitol’s style of Dixieland was based on The Dutch Swing College Band.
[Click here for a video of Butch Moore and the Capitol Showband playing New Orleans and Bourbon Street Parade in 1984 - the video shows the way jazz was picked up by rock and roll with the showband playing New Orleans and then playing traditional jazz style for Bourbon Street Parade. Ed].
Irish showbands of the late-fifties and the sixties were permanently fresh. The repertoires of bands had complete changes in three to four months. They changed at record chart speed. Irish dancers expected to hear the latest hits from the charts from showbands. There were exceptions to change but each band had some retained songs that fans wanted to keep hearing, regardless of what was in the charts. Bands were often famous for their few retained songs; each band differed on retained songs. These songs were like hits for individual bands.
In the showband era, more than 600 bands were registered with the Irish Federation of Musicians. In the sixties, Britain had its assortment of instrumental or vocal guitar groups - Ireland had its showbands. On the matter of showbands, the North of Ireland would have been excluded from Britain. Showbands were All-Ireland.
Click here for the Near FM website. Unfortunately John Doyle's programme is not broadcast online.
Brian O'Connor writes about the Keswick Jazz Festival which, after 25 years, is reducing its programme.
Brian said: 'The Keswick Jazz Festival has been an annual event now for approximately 25 years. It caters mainly for the Trad jazz section of the market with a sprinkling of mainstream acts. Possibly therein lies the seed of its demise in its present form, unless a miracle happens. The ever loyal audience for Trad has diminished in numbers due to the the passing of time, and of those remaining, their reluctance to accept a broader outlook coupled with ever increasing costs and sponsorship problems, has led to the whole project becoming unviable. As far as I can judge, to remain a multi-venue festival it needs to broaden its acceptance of other varieties of jazz, diluting but not ignoring the Trad tradition.'
'Then, as always, it needs more sponsorship. For many years there have been regular sponsors, and many thanks to them, but as mentioned before, with increasing costs, lack of funds is always a problem. Finally, as with all jazz festivals, it could do with more publicity in the mainstream way of life. A very uphill task. Although it will be sad if it is not rescued, all is not entirely lost. The Theatre has booked 4 days of jazz gigs next year as a form of mini-festival, and let us hope this proves to be successful. Quite a gamble and they deserve to succeed. The setting in the heart of the Lake District is an ideal place to enjoy the music, and take a holiday. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and wish them well.'
Responding on Facebook, Bob Ironside Hunt says: 'One of the major problems with both Bude and Keswick festivals was that every year they always used the same tired old bands and predictable "special" guests. With only a few exceptions each year the festivals were exactly the same. This isn't a sour grapes thing, because I was a member of one of those tired old bands... and in more recent times in a band that was a "special"... so special were we that we did Keswick EVERY year! It's a shame that there is lack of support etc., as the article says, especially as the festival was organised by a new young promoter this year, with many new faces. (And quite rightly the band I'm in didn't appear for the first time in probably 15 years ).... New bands, new faces. That's what these festivals need. Not wheeling out (sometimes literally) the same old faces whose audience has either snuffed it or can't afford to attend. Would like to add I rule myself out of the new bands/new faces bracket. Unlike many I could mention, I am happy to hand over to someone else younger than me and who has something to say on their horn, or in their arranging. Time for a big change folks. And I look forward to seeing how it pans out... Safe in the knowledge that I will not be involved!'
Harry Davison adds: ' I agree with you Bob. We need new faces new bands and youth if the wonderful sound we all love is going to continue Without them it will just fade away. Support young bands - the future is in their hands - help them all you can so people can continue to listen to the wonderful music for years to come when us old farts have long gone.'
In 2016, news came through that Keswick Jazz Festival was to end. It appears that the Festival has taken on a new lease of life.
Keswick is to be re-named the Keswick Jazz And Blues Festival. The organisers say: 'The first Keswick Jazz Festival happened in 1992. It set out to celebrate the best of British traditional jazz, a style of jazz that evolved when British musicians in the '50s and '60s realised what great music the early jazz musicians of New Orleans had been playing and they set out to emulate this, and develop their own style from it. Over the years the festival’s scope broadened to include other styles of jazz (even edging into folk, blues and rock and roll), but at its heart was the idea that the music should be enlivening and fun to listen to. International musicians have been invited to the festivals over the years and some have become a regular feature of the festival.'
'In 2016, Theatre By The Lake who had been running the festival for some 10 years or so decided that they could no longer do so, and this was the inspiration for the re-launching of the festival as the Keswick Jazz and Blues Festival, programmed in venues around the town. In recent years audiences have enjoyed bands and musicians that are new to the festival, and in recognition of the fact that the history of jazz and blues are closely intertwined, the 2017 Keswick Jazz and Blues Festival will include a few more musicians that err on the blues side of jazz.'
Keswick Jazz And Blues Festival will run from Thursday May 11th to Sunday May 14th – 2017
Click here for more information.
Alan Bond writes in response to a comment we included last month when we reported on new, clear recordings on YouTube of Louis Armstrong's and Duke Ellington's recordings (click here, here, and here). We quoted a report saying: 'Considering the poor quality of most early jazz records, these tracks are a rare treat for any fan of the pioneering New Orleans trumpet master....'
Alan writes: 'I would take you to task on your quote about most early jazz recordings being of poor quality as the word 'early' needs to be qualified. Granted that a lot of the accoustic recordings could have been better when seen from the modern viewpoint but I would say that we should feel ourselves lucky to have such a wealth of early jazz recordings and those from Victor, Columbia, Okeh and Vocalion are pretty good. Robert Parker started a trend in the 1980s when he began digitally re-mastering some of this early stuff and I have to say that regardless of that, most of the vinyl I have has some pretty good quality transfers. Hot and Bothered by the Ellington band is one where I can detect no discernible difference so it is clear that the earlier transfers must have been made from the original masters by CBS and probably those of most of the others. I have a copy of the Columbia 10" LP of the ODJB recordings made in London in 1919 and 1920 and the quality of the recordings is pretty good all round especially considering the recording equipment of the time, state of the art as it was. Gennets and Paramounts are certainly not as good as those previously listed and the output of the Autograph label is pretty poor even by comparison with these two.
As part of an interview with Andrew Collins for the Radio Times, Miles Ahead actor, director, co-writer and producer Don Cheadle said: "He (Miles) was just a very intriguing, enigmatic figure." He told Davis's family, "Everything that Miles said to me as an artist was: 'Go get out there on the edge and figure out how to push yourself over it, or have somebody push you over it and figure it out on the way down.' The film, he therefore insisted, "needs to be gangster. It needs to be hot. It needs to be action. It needs to feel like we're walking around in a Miles Davis composition. So if you find somebody to write that and you get a director, give me a call."
'They quickly realised that no one would make a film that way, so Cheadle found himself wearing multiple hats ... Cheadle has said that casting a white actor was a 'financial imperative', hence his hiring of Ewan McGregor as a fictional Rolling Stone journalist ... He now qualifies this, saying, "I could put parentheses around 'white actor' ; I could say 'international piece of casting', So the 'white actor' could have been Denzel Washington ... they just needed something to let them say, 'I know how to sell that overseas'."
'I ask whether he regrets framing the problem in racial terms and he shakes his head. "It gives us an opportunity to talk about it. It's conflated with #OscarsSo White, it's conflated with the Black Lives Matter movement, it's conflated with f***ing Donald Trump, so I think it's good to have that be a part of the conversation. But let's be clear, it is just a part of the conversation."
The 2016 film about Miles Davis, Miles Ahead, was released in the UK in April to mixed reviews. I respect Mark Kermode's opinion and his review in The Guardian says: 'Having lost his muse and succumbed to years of medicated silence, Davis is rumoured to be on the brink of a comeback. But an attempted interview soon descends into a caper chase of drug deals, shootouts and stolen tapes, interspersed with flashbacks to Davis’s once-inspirational relationship with Frances Taylor (Emayatzy Corinealdi), amid rasping declarations that “it takes a long time to play like yourself”
' .... Like Davis’s music, the film’s structure is modal, with (Don) Cheadle getting the legend’s changing stance spot on, as we slip on a cymbal splash between his incarnations as the sharp-suited epitome of cool and the coke-addled “Howard Hughes of jazz”. (Ewan) McGregor fares less well, saddled with a dopey Kurt Cobain haircut and a dopier storyline that strives to capture the “original gangsta” aspect of Davis’s career, but instead drags it into the realms of Grand Theft Parsons tomfoolery. Still, there are some nice directorial flourishes (a hallucinatory appearance of musicians in a boxing ring), and a neat conceit in which Davis effectively confronts his younger self in the form of rising star Junior (an impressive Keith Stanfield) strikes less of a bum note than you’d expect.'
Aine O'Connor in The Independent is more complimentary: '... far from following traditional biopic rules, the film channels the improv spirit of jazz, or "social music" as Davis preferred to call it, and the blaxploitation movies of the era in which it is set. The official description of the film as "impressionistic" is accurate, and the overall result does leave an impression. Although it doesn't always hit its mark, it's an interesting, well-acted portrait of a moment in an icon's life .... In delivering a piece of Davis's life, the film does give an overall impression of the man and Cheadle, with those amazingly expressive eyes, has clear affection for his subject. McGregor relishes his role as the anything-for-a-story hack and Corinealdi is good in the kind of role that is often written into the background. Anyone looking for a complete life story will be disappointed, but that's what Wikipedia is for. This is a brave and interesting piece of film.'
What do you think?
Ian Maund: I had really wanted to like this film, but it wasn't until the end credits that it confirmed for me why I was disappointed. The great band that was brought together at the end of the film (Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Esperanza Spalding ...) allowed time to be spent on the music and that was largely what I found missing throughout the film. I found the narrative chaotically disjointed and although Don Cheadle must have dug deep into researching Miles the man, I didn't come away feeling I had any convincing understanding of him; OK, there were few moments now and again when it felt real - e.g. the brief discussion at the piano with Junior towards the end.
The background soundtrack was often lost under the dialogue and action, and the scenes where Miles was playing with a band, whether current to the action or retrospective, were far too brief and always cut off to give way to the storyline. In doing so, I think, Don Cheadle missed an opportunity to celebrate the music, sacrificing it for, as others have mentioned, the 'Hollywoodisation' of the film. I think that was too big a sacrifice for what was supposed to be a tribute to the musician. I too would have preferred a straight biography; many people will no doubt come away thinking Miles was all about drugs and shoot-outs.The one scene where Miles is picked up by the police seemed to me to be simply a courtesy nod to squeeze in the racism issue.
Somehow, I think Clint Eastwood did better with Bird, and Searching For Sugarman was better storytelling. Surprisingly, the relationship between Dave (Ewan McGregor) and Miles (Don Cheadle) did work for me although I felt sorry for Ewan at times having to deliver his script. I saw Miles years ago at the Hammersmith Odeon (now Hammersmith Apollo) when my ears were not as accustomed to the music as they are today, sadly I cannot revisit that occasion, and Miles Ahead did not replace it for me.
A clip from the movie of Miles and Gil Evans working on the tune Gone.
Frank Griffith: As far as the Miles film is concerned I completely agree about the “Hollywoodisation” and fiction added to the biopic but Don Cheadle was very clear on this all along the very long process throughout the film’s development. I too, would have preferred a straight bio, but it wasn’t to be, so let's fully appreciate the GREAT MUSIC that ensued as well as employing a cast of scores of great jazz artists as well (sit through the extensive credits). Incredible lineup, including Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, Robert Glasper, etc, so not a bad film at all. My issue with naysayers' reviews of Jazz films is that they show little appreciation for the above points I brought out about how few jazz films ever see the light of day and when they do they are squashed and dissed by negative reviewers.
Ian Maund: I agree with Frank about how few jazz films see the light of day. Perhaps it says something about Hollywood that they have to be compromised.
Sunday Times Culture Magazine 8th May: Film critic Camilla Long writes: 'Miles Ahead - A slick, funny, brilliantly styled biopic, featuring Don Cheadle as the washed-up, burnt-out jazz trumpeter Miles Davis.'
Annette Keen has successfully run the Under Ground Theatre, Eastbourne monthly jazz gigs for approximately fifteen years. Internal politics has finally ended this run. However we rarely hear about what it is like to run a jazz club. Annette tells us:
So this is the scenario: jazz lover with time to spare and good organisational skills, eager to get more involved in the music scene (me), meets small, intimate performance space with great sound potential, an impressive lighting rig, and the willingness to put up the necessary money for jazz gigs. Obviously a marriage made in heaven – so what could possibly go wrong? Well, for fifteen years nothing much did go wrong.
Now anyone who's run a jazz club will testify that it's hard work, not only getting it started but finding an audience and then keeping both going. I was a complete rookie and mostly just followed my gut instincts, booking local bands at first, which worked OK, but then making a huge leap forward with Ian Shaw (and barely sleeping the night before – how much money could I actually lose, and the venue? Would they ever trust me again?). It was a gamble that paid off, Ian was marvellous and did everything he could to get the creaky sound system and speakers right for him, and the venue got the biggest house they'd had in years.
After that I had enough street cred for the venue to give me my head - and the sound system was hastily updated. Audiences grew, the venue started to get a reputation for jazz, everyone was happy.
I had to work on three seasons at any one time:
§ the current season – organising payments, being there on gig nights, looking after the musicians and getting to know the regulars;
§ the next season – writing press releases, resumés on flyers, advertising, establishing contact between musicians and sound engineers;
§ and the following season – deciding who to get, contacting musicians, negotiating deals, juggling dates, drawing up contracts.
Being there on the night was never a chore, always a pleasure. I never met a jazz musician I didn't like, and many of the audience became friends over the years. I had a fantastic team of people to help too, reliable techies who did the best job, volunteers who ran the box office, bar, coffee bar, and front of house - and generally left me free to have a lovely time! And I loved it.
Photograph © Brian O'Connor
After fifteen years a new management team swept into the venue with different ideas and I gave it a year before filing for divorce. Someone else took over as promoter and kept things running sweetly for another two years. Then the new broom swept past again and decreed that no fees were to be paid, only a percentage of door money, which effectively cut out professionals and left the venue with no jazz promoter. And here's the irony: I'm not a promoter now as I don't have a venue.
When I look back on my promoting days it's with great affection for a job well done, and still now a little nugget of regret that it's all over. But I've moved on and into artist management, working with Sue and Neal Richardson, Andy Panayi and now the Paul Richards Trio, and I help out with the admin of Splash Point Jazz Clubs in both Seaford and Brighton. Different challenges and a new 'family' – much like most second marriages.
Sue Richardson from Splash Point tells us: 'Annette is wonderful - I don't know what I'd do without her! Jazz survives on the generosity and passion of people like Annette. We, the musicians, couldn't make our living without them. She loves jazz so shares the passion but understands the weird mentality of musicians from all her promoter work. All that experience means she really understands how different clubs work. She's a gem!
Colin Thompson - Clarinet
Marcus Thompson writes: 'It was great to find some pictures of my father on your site today (see the Marquess of Donegal article - click here). Sadly, my father died in 1985 having suffered from MS for many years. I still have a few records he made in the 1950s, mainly studio demos, but also an album made with Harry Walton called Dreamboat. My mother (still alive and kicking) remembers fondly the club mentioned in the story told by Jack Free on your page.
From Wolfgang Buchhalter in Germany:
Let me utter a couple of late remarks concerning my hero Ken Colyer. I met him and Delphine many years ago, in the early fifties here in H. Unforgettable impressions! Ken was a genius, an extraordinary charismatic person. In my opinion, only two people made a real personal contribution to Jazz i.e. European Jazz History : Ken and Django Reinhard.
By all means in his early years he was a carbon copy of Bunk ... but what a copy! Sometimes he actually was better than him. Same thing with Sammy and early Lewis. There is some mistake about Ken´s pronunciation. He had read a lot and was no fool. It was the southern dialect of the Black (African American) population in New Orleans that he admired and tied to emulate. They laughed: "Man this guy comes from Europe and talks like us." When I was in New Orleans in 1960, Doc Souchon said they took him for a reincarnation of Bunk. I heard every kind of American Music, from Oldtime to Blues to Bluegrass etc. but Ken´s phrasing, timing and dynamic was better than most A.M.stuff.
By the way, one question comes to my mind. Many, many hours did I spend at old Studio 51 watching and listening like in a trance. They were the days of Wheeler, Ward, Duncan, Bastable. I read about all of them, only Mac Duncan who blew that great pumping trombone never is mentioned with a single word. How come?
Can you tell me anything? At this moment I am listening to Ken live in 1972 at the York Art Centre. Man... what a session!! I am 82 but still I dig that. All the best and keep on groovin.
Colin Symons and Pam Heagren
'I was interested to see a mention of the singer Pam Heagren last month (see our page on Steve Lane - click here). I worked with her quite regularly in the early-to-mid '70s in the Colin Symons band,' writes pianist Jamie Evans. 'This picture shows Pam and myself (circa 1973), possibly chatting after doing our regular voice/piano feature, "Crazy 'bout My Baby". I can't speak for Pam but I very much enjoyed those duets, as I am sure did the rest of the band who always seized the opportunity to quench their thirsts at the nearest outlet. Incidentally Pam rarely partook and the pint on the piano lid is mine not hers!
The Symons band was relatively successful and had a broad repertoire which went well beyond the trad/dixieland genre. Although the personnel was not entirely top-level, Colin always used trumpet players of the highest calibre including Alan Wickham, Ray Crane, Geoff Brown and Nick Stevenson.
Jamie Evans and Pam Heagren
Picture courtesy of Jamie Evans
I always got on well with Colin who was an engaging and charming man and not a bad drummer either.
Inevitably we fell out big-time at one point but made up later, I am pleased to say.
I heard many years after I lost touch with him that he had died young and try as I might I can't find any information relating to him. If anyone can add any facts or even hearsay I would love to hear from them.'
Roger Trobridge tells us: 'I recently spent a Wednesday lunchtime with, Julian, the General Manager of the Fox and Goose pub, Hanger Lane, in Ealing. It featured in the Cyril Davies story but it was the location of the Ealing Jazz Club run by Steve Lane with his band the Southern Stompers in the 1950s.
Julian is interested in the musical history of the pub and we had some photos of Cyril and Steve's band playing at the pub. I was there with Colin Kingwell who played trombone in the band at this time. We established that the room where they played had been a skittle alley but has now been replaced by a conference room and the new kitchen.
One of the photos was interesting but we could not pin down where it was. It shows the band at the time and a sign pointing to the club room. It would be good to find out who remembers the club and how the pub was laid out.
The pub has changed a lot and is now a successful hotel/pub next door to Wembley - you can take a tour on their website if you click here.
If anyone remembers the pub and can help Roger and Julian, please contact us. Sadly, Steve Lane passed through the Departure Lounge in August 2015.
Mary Austin writes: 'Just reading this month's magazine and saw request re Freddy Randall and Memphis Blues.
Freddy was a friend of Bunny and me until the end of his life and we spent many happy hours with him when we lived in London and continued the contact after our move to Hampshire and his to Devon. Memphis Blues is on a CD from Lake Records. : LACD123 and was recorded 19 July 1955.' (Click here for more information from Lake Records).
David Gent writes: 'I've only just seen the piece mentioning the sarrusophone, and agree that the Sidney Bechet recording of 'Mandy Make Up Your Mind' is a real blast. The late, lamented John R T Davies also possessed one of these fine instruments and used it on a recording called 'Don't Monkey With It', where he was backed by a band of two cornets, two altos, two trombones, piano and guitar - all played by him and overdubbed using a disc-cutter and a tape recorder. I am not sure if it was commercially released, but some 20 years ago Marshall Cavendish published a part-work called 'Jazz Greats' - there were 80 editions, each with a CD attached, and issue 79 included this track.'
Following one of our quizes about musical instruments used at some time in jazz, David Braidley writes: Enjoyed the October jazz quiz, but disappointed not to find the Sarrusophone in the list. A wonderful, rare, instrument, played by Sidney Bechet on Clarence Williams Blue Five 1924 recording of 'Mandy, Make up Your Mind.'
David is right. You can listen to this brilliant track if you click here in a video that is just as joyful. In December 1924 jazz promotor, pianist and bandleader Clarence Williams decided to choose two of the most promising young musicians to make a recording. Originally from the birthplace of jazz, New Orleans, he asked Louis Armstrong on cornet and Sidney Bechet on soprano saxophone to join him in this recording session.
Bechet, always the creative young man, decided to bring a new instrument, a bass-sarrusaphone, invented in 1856 by Pierre Gautrot to replace the oboe and the bassoon which lacked the power required for outdoor band music. Originally a double reed instrument it was later replaced with a single reed mouthpiece, similar to those used on soprano saxophones. The fingering is like that of a saxophone as well.
In the recording are also Charlie Irvis trombone, Buddy Christian banjo and the vocal is by Clarence's wife Eva Taylor, one of the most succesful singers of that time.
Gerry Lupton writes:
'I run the U3A Jazz Appreciation Group here in Woking, Surrey, on a bi-monthly basis. We are a pretty social lot, with approx 60 members and musical tastes from 'Bunk to Monk' and beyond......last week we even arranged our own 'Riverboat Shuffle' on the back waters of the mighty Thames - not Mississippi! We have just commenced our summer recess, but in the past we have had film shows, quizzes and guest speakers including Jimmy Hastings (who lives locally) and Simon Spillet, who was great!'
'It would be nice if you could include a piece in the magazine about Simon's marvellous, recently published book on his musical hero - Tubby Hayes [The Long Shadow of the Little Giant]. Please forgive if you have already done so, I only started with your May issue.'
'I haven't started putting the winter programme together yet, but I anticipate some more live music (hopefully), but I have difficulty in finding a slot, as our members are always anxious to make their own presentations, usually on a specific jazz theme, e.g. record labels, instruments, 'can women play jazz' (?!!) etc.'
'We have also had owner of our local record shop - YES! we still have one. If you are ever in this part of the world, don't miss a visit to Bens Records in Guildford - stacked floor to ceiling with 2nd hand vinyl and CD's. Quite my favourite shop....'
Donald Maclean writes: 'In the postwar years in Scotland, after demob, I was the BBC's youngest producer. After being promoted to Aeolian Hall in London I produced, among other things, Jazz Club on Light Programme through the 50s and 60s, and after becoming leader of the team of 29 popular-music producers I selfishly kept for myself the production of jazz programmes, even after I moved to TV (where I produced the first "Come Dancing" programmes).
This allowed me, for instance, to bring to London my friend Sandy Brown from Edinburgh and to promote another clarinetist close friend, John Dankworth. (I had been a clarinet student at the Scottish National Academy of Music when recruited by the BBC as a 'Programme Engineer').'
'After 30 years in the Beeb I quit, went to Management College, and joined EMI (in its heyday) where I spent 13 years creating new-media businesses worldwide, retiring as a Deputy Chairman 29 years ago.'
'Jazz is one of the threads in the 17 blogs of my 2009 online memoirs www.the-life-of.me'
In December 2014 we reported on a new album, an anthology of jazz harmonica player, Cyril Davies. Roger Trobridge writes:
'The early days of R&B were covered by the Cyril Davies CD anthology which omitted some trad jazz tracks with Cyril on banjo. Todd and I helped with the original incarnation of this double CD, back in 2007. It was completed, pre-sold and then dropped at the very last second when Universal took over Castle. Our web site (www.cyrildavies.com) provided a lot of the history for the booklet. It is not generally known that two of the early outings for the Cyril Davies and Alexis Korner Blues Inc band was as a support for the late Acker Bilk. The audiences were unsure what to make of them (no waistcoats and bowler hats) and Acker could not remember them when I spoke to him about it a couple of years ago.'
Roger did a broadcast on commuity radio a year ago about
the early days of the British Blues boom.
You can access it on the Cyril Davies website home page - click here. Click here for our page on Harmonica Jazz.
Allan Eves sends us this picture of a bar bill from a George Melly recording session at New Merlin's Caves in Clerkenwell.
Allan says that he found it in an album sleeve for the George Melly LP Son Of Nuts that used to belong to his father. The bill, which is for a total of £704 and is signed by producer Derek Taylor covers two rehearsals and the recording. It includes 87 bottles of wine - giant size, three 18 gallon kegs of beer and various items of food and a fish and chip dinner!
There appears to be no date on the bill, but we think Son Of Nuts, if that was the session, was recorded in 1973.
Allan offered the item for sale on Ebay during December 2014 but thought we might be interested in it.
Alan Jones from Woy Woy in Australia writes: 'I was very interested in the piece about Kenny Clare in your November 2014 edition (part of an article about the National Jazz Archive working with Waltham Forest Borough to erect Blue Plaques for musicians who had lived there). I well remember him playing with the Rabin band at the Strand Lyceum and always went to hear it when I was on leave in London in the early fifties. The story was that, whilst doing his National Service, Kenny also had a regular gig at the Samson and Hercules Ballroom in Norwich with the band led by the singer Dennis Hale. Later, Dennis Hale joined Oscar Rabin and when the band needed a drummer recommended Kenny Clare. He was signed to a three year contract.That’s how I heard it at the time but, of course, I can’t vouch for it personally.'
'I saw Kenny many times after that and got to know him reasonably well. I was doing a summer season at the Palace Ballroom Blackpool when the Dankworth Big Band was at the Winter Gardens for about a month. I was always a great admirer of his work and still have video of the Clarke-Boland Band including the fabulous drum duets with Kenny Clarke.The last time I saw Kenny Clare was here in Sydney, Australia when he was on tour with Cleo Lane and John Dankworth.'
Michael Steinman is an American jazz blogger who has written to us about his 'falling under the spell' of the late trumpeter Spike Mackintosh. Spike, who played with Wally Fawkes Troglodytes, played trumpet on the Sandy Brown album Sandy's Sidemen. Michael has brought together a tremendous amount of information about Spike which you can read about if you click here. Scroll down the page for various recollections that have been sent to Michael and also to hear some of Spike's playing.
Dr Bob Moore has contacted us saying:
'I am a member of the U3A (University of the Third Age) Jazz appreciation section. I now have given four talks to them on each of the following: Louis Armstrong, US swing bands of the 40's, Modern Jazz Quartet and Stan Kenton. I should say that I am not a profession speaker but I have reasonable knowledge of the subject. Now that I have given the talks, it is most probable that they will gather dust in a cupboard but if anyone local to me in High Wycombe is interested, I would be prepared to repeat the talk for free with possible expenses for petrol if far away.'
'The talks mainly simply require a good audio system plus someone to put on the CD's but the Kenton talk does included some excerpts from Youtube on the internet but these could be edited out. If I use the Internet it would require screen plus associated equipment. The talks take about 90 min and the usual format is general background on the artist or group followed by tracks from CD's.'
If anyone would like to take up Bob's offer, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
George Wheeler writes having read our previous article about the doctorjazz.co.uk website that carries a collection of World War I 'draft cards' which include those of many of the famous New Orleans musicians of the time, chief among whom are Louis Armstrong, Johny Dodds, King Oliver and Bunk Johnson along with a host of other familiar names (click here)
George says: 'That was an interesting article about the true date of Louis Armstrong birth. About thirty years ago I read the Armstrong biography by James Lincoln Collier. I seem to remember that in it he claimed there was evidence that Armstrong altered his age entry on his draft papers to avoid military service.'
'I think he started a trend because didn’t Kenny Wheeler move to England from Canada to avoid being called for military service in the Korean War?'
The London Borough of Waltham Forest, located a short distance from the home of the National Jazz Archive in Loughton, Essex, enthusiastically operates a Blue Plaque scheme which celebrates many aspects of local history and cultural heritage. For several years, the National Jazz Archive has been working alongside Waltham Forest to identify the residences of jazz musicians within the Borough which covers Leyton, Leytonstone, Walthamstow and Chingford. The National Jazz Archive reports on the current plan:
In 2013, Waltham Forest arranged for plaques to be placed on houses previously occupied by Sir John Dankworth, one of the finest British jazz musicians and composers whose work is known both by jazz fans and the public at large, and of clarinettist Dave Shepherd who, in his career, has played with Billie Holiday, Gerry Mulligan, Teddy Wilson, founder of the Archive – our own Digby Fairweather, and many other renowned jazz performers. Recently, a plaque was placed on the house in Leyton where trombonist, Jackie Free, spent his first twenty five years and learnt the trombone at the local Boys Brigade. Now, following detailed research, three more jazz musicians with reputations in the UK and around the world have been identified as spending part of their lives residing in Waltham Forest and worthy of Blue Plaque recognition.
Jackie Free Blue Plaque 'unveiling'
Born in Clapton in 1921, Freddy Randall lived in Chingford during the 1980s. Following military service in WWII, Randall joined Freddy Mirfield & His Garbage Men, on trumpet. The Garbage Men included a young John Dankworth and recorded for Decca in 1944. In the late 1940s – early 1950s Freddy lead his own band featuring some of the UK’s finest jazz musicians. The Freddy Randall Sunday sessions at the Cooks Ferry Inn, Edmonton (run for the Cleveland Rhythm Club by Freddy's brother, Harry) has earned a legendary place in British jazz history. In 1956 Randall's was the first British post-war jazz group to tour the United States - in exchange for the Louis Armstrong All-Stars. It is worth noting that it was during this tour of the UK that Leyton born trombonist, Jackie Free, played alongside Louis. In 1958 Randall retired due to ill health and, after several ‘come-backs’, died in 1999.
The next Blue Plaque nominee, Kenny Clare, was born and spent his early years in Leytonstone. Highly regarded by the likes of Buddy Rich, Kenny Clarke and Louie Bellson, Kenny began his playing career in his twenties with the Oscar Rabin band before joining Jack Parnell. For an extended period in the 1950s and early 1960s he was featured with the John Dankworth and Ted Heath bands. In 1963 Kenny began playing drums with the Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland Big Band and by 1967 he was regularly paired with Clarke in what became a two-drummer band for performances, concerts, and at least 15 recordings. The list of singers and musicians that Kenny performed with include some of the jazz greats of the 20th century – Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Cleo Laine, Stephane Grappelli, Johnny Griffin, Harry James and many more. He died in 1984.
The recent sad loss of trumpeter and composer Kenny Wheeler will not affect the plans to unveil a plaque for Kenny as his family have given the go-ahead for a low profile ceremony. Although born in Canada, Kenny made an indelible mark on Britain’s jazz scene, first moving to the UK in 1952 where he lived for over 60 years much of this time in Leytonstone where the plaque will be located. In the Sixties, he played alongside Ronnie Scott, John Dankworth and Tubby Hayes, before making a series of recordings with on albums including Gnu High and Deer Wan in the Seventies. However, for many the Nineties were considered Wheeler’s career peak, when he released influential albums such Music for Large and Small Ensemble and Kayak. In 1997, he received critical acclaim for album Angel Song, which featured Bill Frisell, Dave Holland and Lee Konitz.
More recently, he became the founding patron of the Junior Jazz programme at the Royal Academy of Music and was the focus of a year-long exhibition by the Academy Museum. In a statement when Kenny’s passing was announced, Nick Smart, head of jazz at the Royal Academy of Music, paid tribute and described Wheeler as “one of the great musical innovators of contemporary jazz”. “Kenny was an important and much loved figure to the jazz department here at the Academy… His harmonic palette and singularly recognisable sound will live on in the memory of all who heard him and in the extraordinary legacy of recordings and compositions he leaves behind, inspiring generations to come,”
The National Jazz Archive is delighted and privileged to join with the London Borough of Waltham Forest in recognising and celebrating these much loved jazz musicians who contributed greatly to The Story of British Jazz.
Bandleader Bert Quarmby's daughter Lesley Garbutt writes to say:
'I was so pleased to read about Harry Miller in your web page and wondered if you had found out any more information. Harry was my dad's drummer in the 1950s. Bert Quarmby and his band. Known as 'mad Harry. I have very fond memories of him when we were in Margate in 1956 for the summer season. He always gave me 6d. The way to win any 8 year old's heart. I also remember mum and dad kept in touch with his mum and dad and remember visiting them. Am I right in saying he also worked as Harry Miller and the Millermen? Bert my dad died ten years ago. There is a nice picture of dad's band with Harry on drums if you go to Bert Quarmby big band.' (click here).
Bert Quarmby Band. Taken at The Glen, Bristol 1954. Harry Miller to left of the word 'WHO', Bert Quarmby holding his trombone on the right.
© Lesley Garbutt
We have not heard any more recently about Harry Miller. Originally one of the Photographic Memory picture we received featured Joe Harriott with drummer Harry Miller. We wondered then if anyone knew what had become of Harry. There was a well known bass player also named Harry Miller that some people picked up on, but that was a different Harry. Bunny Austin came up with some other interesting information about 'drummer Harry':-
'Harry Miller (real name Harry Shillingworth) was a very good drummer, playing in the Freddy Randall band from circa 1946 to 1950 when Freddy replaced him with Lennie Hastings. Harry recorded with the Freddy Randall band in June 1948 and again in September 1948 on the old Cleveland Rhythm Club label. Harry also recorded six sides with Freddy on the Tempo label in September 1949.'
Harry Miller (left) with Joe Harriott
Photograph courtesy of Bunny Austin
'In the 1950's Harry Miller ran his own band, and also acted as a band booker. I played for Harry in the Whitechapel area of the east end of London along with my friend Laurie Harris, an alto player. The venues were generally over a type of Burton's clothing stores. Harry's mum and dad used to carry in Harry's drum kit and assemble it on the stage, then when the gig was finished they would dismantle the drum kit and march off! Harry's dad was an accordion player. Sometimes, to liven things up, Harry would fire off his blank cartridge automatic! (Not exactly the way to introduce the band to the citizens of Whitechapel!). Laurie Harris told me half the audience vanished when Harry did his party trick!'
'In the 1960's Harry Miller was a member of the Ferry Boat Jazzmen who played on Sunday lunchtimes at the Cook's Ferry Inn at Edmonton, north London.This band had Nevil Skrimshire on guitar, Harry Miller on drums, Ted Fawcett bass, Alan Wickham trumpet, Dave Jones clarinet, Bert Murray trombone, Pat Mason on piano and Jack Jacobs alto/clarinet. Harry would sing one or two numbers (he was quite a good vocalist).'
'About this time Harry Miller also lead a band on Sunday nights at a rugby club not far from the Ferry. I played at this venue a few times. One night Jimmy Skidmore and Art Elefson turned up to play - they nearly blew the roof off! I lost touch with Harry Miller towards the end of the 1960's, but perhaps there are a few people who can help with later news. I know that Harry has died, quite some years ago, diabetes trouble, but don't have a definite date, but I'm tracking it down.'
If anyone has any other memories of Harry or of Bert Quarmby, please contact us.
Harry Randall writes:
In the 1950s I was a semi-pro bass player. I played mostly with the Joe Morris Quintet in East London. We often went to the Ilford Palace dance hall (part of the Mecca circuit) where we would see some great guest bands. For a while Bert Quarmby was resident band and we got to know all the members of the band. As far as I can remember Bert on trombone; June Robinson, trumpet and vocal; Harry Miller, drums and vocal; Bill Samuels bass, who, incidently used to give me bass lessons. One Sunday whilst our quintet was rehearsing Harry turned up and said to me "This is your chance to turn pro!" He said that Bill had fallen ill with Malaria which he contracted while he was in Malaya with the army and sometimes it re-occurred. As I knew a lot of the arrangements Harry had arranged for me to deputize for Bill. I was with the band for a month or two - it was a great experience.
I recently tried to trace members of the band and what they did subsequently. Leslie Garbutt's news about her father and Harry Miller was very interesting. Does anyone know anything about Bill Samuels - bass? I can't find mention of him anywhere.
Writing on Facebook, pianist Rick Simpson says: 'Sometimes I understand why the public mostly dislike jazz when I see people play a 20 minute long version of a tune (especially an utter dogmeat one like Beatrice/Minority/Solar). It just stops being remotely interesting or musical and I wish everyone would think about this shit. If it's boring for people in the band then it's DEFINITELY boring for anyone who's wandered into a club wondering what jazz is only to see that happening. I just think we need to always consider who we are playing to and never assume that they know what's going on in this music. Never assume that someone can hear choruses, or hear when you're playing out, or that they can tell the difference between a head and soloing or anything like that. I'm not asking anyone to dumb down the music but I think always keeping the audience in mind is crucial and polite.'
John Westwood was taken with a radio programme put out by the BBC about the Twelve Bar Blues and decided to save it. He has given us a link so that you can download if you click here to listen to the 30 minute programme. If you choose 'Open', the programme takes a few minutes (about 2 - 3 mins) to download to the player on your computer (e.g. Media Player).
Including an interview with Chris Barber, the programme pointed out that the twelve bar blues 'is the DNA of popular music. Three chords played in a set sequence over twelve bars. ....
The twelve bar is an American invention. It was originally taken up by rural blues musicians. The first commercial example was W.C. Handy's 'St Louis Blues'. Then it became the staple of the New Orleans jazz repertoire, the big bands, Chicago blues. And in the fifties, just about every other pop song was written around the twelve bar chord sequence. Nick Barraclough has played a few twelve bars in his time. In this programme he talks to bluesologists, a couple of jazzers and a banjo player about why the twelve bar works so well. They illustrate what can be done with this simple sequence and how much fun it can be to mess with it.'
Saxophonist Dave Keen writes from Canada recalling the first time he encountered pianist and vocalist Diana Krall:
Above is a collage I made up years ago (40 at least!) from old jazz mag photos of my heroes. The square looking, young guy with hair, in the middle of the picture playing tenor is me. You’ll note Sandy Brown strategically placed on either side of me. That pic of me was taken at Malasapina College up in Naniamo, about a couple of hours north of Victoria, where I, along with the remaining guys in the quartet at the time (Neil Swainson and John Bartrum ), were auditioning piano players. They had a Jazz program at the college and my piano player at the time, Richard Whitehouse, had left town for greener pastures in the big smoke, Toronto. So I took Neil Swainson and John Bartrum up there with me to help me audition some of the piano players in the college program. None of which, lamentably, could cut the book.
Brian Stovel, a local high school band teacher, brought his kids down to hear the auditions. One of his kids was Diana Krall who was 14 at the time and had no aspirations of being a singer. It was suggested I give her a shot. I called “Dolphin Dance” which to my amazement she nailed; so then I called “Lester Left Town” which she also nailed. I don’t mean just nailed. I mean like Herbie Hancock nailed. There was a sorta audible ensemble gasp. We were all just amazed at how well developed she was as a player and at such a young age. I hired her to play in the band. We had a gig in Victoria at the time. Her parents would bring her down for the gig and then take her back. Regrettably, as with most “jazz” clubs the gig only lasted six weeks and then the club shut down.
So there ya go - there’s my claim ta fame. I hired Diana Krall for her first pro paying jazz gig and of course Neil Swainson, who wasn’t much more than 16 at the time either.
Dave also remembers Ken Colyer:
'Ken was a real character. I remember overhearing a conversation at the bar of the pub just down the road from his club where we’d all dash to on the break ta get a pint ( Youngers Scotch Ale ). Can’t remember the name of the Boozer?? Ken was telling his companion at the bar how ya couldn’t play jazz on the flute???'
Roger Strong in New Zealand writes:
In the late 1960’s I was teaching in a very out of the way place - just me and 17 kids – a ‘sole charge school’ they call it, a one roomed school. I had a tape recorder and in some way which I can no longer quite detail, I came into contact with the WWJT - The World Wide Jazz Tape.
One person I vividly recall because not only were we both on the WWJT, but also because we taped to each other, was a guy named Len Doughty who told me that he had played trombone (as I had). What he didn’t tell me was that he had recorded with the Alex Welsh band and was a friend of Alan Littlejohn. Anyway Len is on the Alex Welsh Lake LACD62 ‘Music of the Mauve Decade’ playing valve trombone and also deputised for Alex on trumpet on the BBC broadcast in 1957 which I have on CD. Len died in the early 1970’s I think. I only knew him from the tapes we exchanged but he seemed a thoroughly nice guy.
The WWJT eventually morphed into a cassette package and then became too much for me as it always seemed to arrive when I had work commitments. We had contributions from the UK –Tony Thomas and others. Finland, Australia, South Africa and Ellington expert John Callanan from the States. John unfortunately died while still a member. Several other kiwis were also members at different times.
Does anyone else remember the WWJT?
Writer and musician Steve Day, who kindly reviews some of the albums we receive, comments on some albums publicised as being 'jazz':
‘Jazz’ is a dangerous word. The great bassist and composer, Charles Mingus, hated the term believing it conjured up a whole racist loop of language and prejudice that black American musicians were shackled to. For a variety of other key players, Duke Ellington, Ornette Coleman, Oscar Peterson, right back to Louis Armstrong and King Oliver, ‘jazz’ remained a useful word, albeit one that could be often thrown around like confetti at an F Scott Fitzgerald party. Given respect jazz music inhabits hallowed ground.
When Courtney Pine formed the Jazz Warriors in the 1980’s the J-word provided some kind of guarantee of purpose, though it did not stop the Art Ensemble of Chicago eschewing such terminology in favour of “Great Black Music: Ancient To The Future”, clearly rooting their music within a historic tradition whilst not denying anyone else access. There is rightly a huge composite of material on this subject. The fact of the matter is the word ‘jazz’ is not to be used lightly. The word comes with a massive history of improvisation in its single syllable. If jazz is a descriptor of the creativity of a giant like Charlie Parker, it also carries the curse of his death as well as the life force that led to his parting.
Whatever else it is or isn’t, jazz is not a pale colour wash description to be added to some publicity for some pretty melodies that have the potential to become soundtrack cinema.
Last month, prompted by a message from Ian Boyter, we have been trying to find out something about American saxophonist Sammy Lee who came over to Scotland some years ago and recorded with the Spirits of Rhythm band.
It is intriguing that we have only been able to find out a small amount of information about him. Born on February 11th, 1911, in Napoleanville, Louisiana, his family moved the 70 miles to New Orleans where at nine, Sammy started playing violin with his uncle, Dave Ross, a blind street guitar player. At fifteen, his teachers at the local music school bought Sammy a saxophone and he was soon playing with the orchestra at the jitney dance hall.
Before long, he was playing alongside bands that included those of Papa Celestin and Henry Allen, Sr, and by the 1930s he had joined Cap'n John Handy's Louisiana Shakers.
He formed his own trio, the Sammy Lee Footwarmers and then journeyed to Los Angeles in the 1950s where he performed frequently with Barney Bigard, Johnny St Cyr, Ed Garland and others.
A very religious man, he was very active in his community trying to interest young people in music and church activities and away from drugs, gangs and crime.
Dave Paxton with Sammy Lee, the Fireman’s Club, Edinburgh, 1982.
© Photograph courtesy of Jeanette Paxton
Ian Boyter says: 'One of the highlights of my music life was recording with Sammy Lee as part of Violet Milne’s ‘Spirits of Rhythm’ in Edinburgh. He was certainly a huge personality who lit up the room. The ladies loved him, and I learned a lot about exuberant sax playing while making the recording with him'.
Sammy Lee recorded about 12 tracks with the Spirits of Rhythm and Ian Boyter will see if he can share them on YouTube.
Please let us know if you remember Sammy Lee. Click here to read a little more about Sammy Lee.
Photographer Brian O'Connor writes to us about Stan Britt:
I’ve known Stan for over 40 years. He was (still just about is) devoted to jazz and writing about it. I attended many interviews with him (Dexter Gordon, Art Blakey, Count Basie, Adelaide Hall, Andre Previn....) and without exception they were amazing. It is a shame that he never quite managed to capitalise on his knowledge, writing, and recorded interviews. He had an incredible interview technique and knowledge of the subject. I have many fond memories of the way he managed to get the interviewees to talk about themselves on a musical level (not gossip).
Stan Britt photograph courtesy of Brian O'Connor
Born in 1936 he has now just about come to the end of the road. After ill health for the past few years, he was finally diagnosed with Alzheimers’ just before Christmas. He is now permanently in a home, and both his long-term and short-term memories are finished. The memory banks are empty. Very sad. Throughout his many years in the business he met and knew many people. The purpose of this message is to let everyone know what has happened. If anyone wishes to know any more they can get in touch with me via my e-mail address (click here). His brother, who is obtaining power of attorney, has given me permission to do this. I think a small tribute would be nice to someone who devoted himself so entirely to jazz (his knowledge of other music was also extensive).
Brian O'connor tells us that sadly, Stan died in March 2014.
Someone help me out here please. On several of the albums I have listened to lately the drummers' cymbals seem to be far too prominent. At first I thought that it might be my imagination, but now I think it is a combination of the drummer and the mixing process.
On an album I feature below (Big Ship by Christoph Stiefel's Inner Language Trio), the piano and bass produce some excellent music but I found the prominence of drummer Kevin Chesham's constant use of cymbals particularly intrusive. He is clearly an accomplished drummer as he uses his whole kit effectively, but on the recording there does seem to be a preponderence of cymbal bashing. At the time of writing, I am not able to find samples of the music online to demonstrate the point, but on one track, The Dance, Christoph Stiefel's piano makes an intriguing entrance and then, about 37 seconds in, Chesham's cymbals seem to take over. It is partially evident on this video of the Trio playing the tune live in 2012 (click here) where the piano introduction is longer and the sound balance a little different.
Don't get me wrong, as a listener I think the cymbals are an integral part of percussion; they can emphasise points in the tune and effectively create an atmospheric background, but when they dominate the music and the other musicians too, it rather leaves me feeling that the drummer is on some sort of ego trip.
Perhaps I have just become over-sensitive to the matter? I should be like to hear what you think (click here).
Boots Baker suggests that people might like to listen to this 1956 recording of the Clifford Brown / Max Roach band at The Continental Restaurant at Norfolk in Virginia with Sonny Rollins on saxophone. The sound quality is not that good, but as an archive recording, it is really worth hearing - Click here. It starts off with It Was Just One Of Those Things - hardly!
Andrew McLean writes from Australia:
'You might be interested to know that Mac's Rehearsal Rooms and later Mac's Rehearsal Club was run by my Uncle Mac and My Aunt Sylvia. Although many years her senior, Mac and Sylvia lived together until his untimely death when he chased a bag-snatcher from the club and suffered a fatal heart attack while giving chase.'
'Sylvia now lives in Australia and although in her late 70s is as sprightly as she was 50 years ago. She is a font of wonderful knowledge and full of anecdotes of the past.'
Mac's Rehearsal Rooms were situated in Great Windmill Street with the Cy Laurie Club in the basement. Click here for our page on the Cy Laurie Club. Please contact us if you can let us have any information about Mac's Rehearsal Rooms.
Jim Manning has written to us about jazz all-nighters - (see page) but goes on to remember some other musicians:
'In other parts of your page on jazz all-nighters you mention Dave Cutting - a really fine, strong trombonist. I sometimes played alongside him in the New Excelsior Brass Band from Woolwich and the Kent area. John Shillitoe was on trumpet with me in 1965 at Friday night sessions at the North Kent Tavern - happy days! The 'Kid' was a splendid exponent of the styles of jazz trumpet played by Kid Howard, Percy Humphrey, Bunk Johnson, Kid Thomas Valentine and Wooden Joe Nicholas. He was also a fine vocalist, particularly on comedy numbers such as The Lancashire Toreador (George Formby).'
Ed: I hadn't come across Wooden Joe Nicholas before Jim's message, but here he is playing Up Jumped The Devil (click here). 'A famous recording made in the Artesian Hall New Orleans in 1945 by Wooden Joe Nicholas (trumpet), Albert Burbank (clarinet), Jim Robinson (trombone), Lawrence Marrero (banjo), Alcide Slow Drag Pavageau (bass), and Baby Dodds (drums). Wooden Joe was the uncle of Albert Nicholas and this recording demonstrates the true New Orleans style.'
In July 2013, following discussion by his Jazzers group. Peter Mark Butler is suggesting a letter to radio stations campaigning for more New Orleans Revivalist jazz to be played. He suggests people send the letter below to their local radio sation.
Dear Local Radio Station,
I sometime wonder if it has passed the attention of radio station controllers that increasing numbers of potential listeners are over 60. Many of us didn’t follow the Beatles or the Stones, because we had already become hooked on jazz. In those days the in thing was traditional jazz. We packed the jazz clubs, followed the bands and danced to their music. Many of us even found our future ‘mates’ at jazz gigs.
Those were the days when Louis Armstrong was still a major artiste and ‘Wonderful World’ and‘Hello Dolly’ were regularly played on radio programmes. We were mesmerised by Acker Bilk’s‘Stranger on The Shore’ and Kenny Ball’s ‘Midnight in Moscow’ and we tapped our feet to many other hits. They made us feel happy and lifted our spirits like other music didn’t. To this day it’s said in the jazz world “If you can’t whistle the tune on the way home, it just ain’t jazz!” We had a vibrant jazz music scene in those days, before over produced ‘pop’ was forced on us.
Sadly, some people think this music is too out of date to play today. It is not. It is still as much alive in our hearts and souls as it was in our youth. Kenny Ball and Terry Lightfoot may no longer be with us, but Keith Ball and Melinda Lightfoot are following in their footsteps. Acker still tours and Chris Barber’s band features some wonderful young jazz musicians. Not only that but a new era of young bands is emerging on both sides of the Atlantic. In the UK we have The Rich Bennett Band, The Adrian Cox Quartet, TJ Johnson, The Brownfield Byrne Quintet, The Fallen Heroes, Dom Pipkin and The Ikos (Dom is Paloma Faith’s pianist and musical director), and in the USA, amongst others, a wonderful new band called Tuba Skinny.
Jazz isn’t dead. It’s vibrant, alive and thrilling. Not only are there significant numbers of us silver haired music lovers who want to hear and enjoy much more traditional jazz played on our local radio stations, there is also an emerging new generation of jazz fans.
As Eric Clapton recently confessed when starring with Wynton Marsalis, “There’s something about jazz and there always will be in my heart that puts it somewhere up there with the gods … it’s refined … sophisticated … and has a lot of humour and depth. It speaks to everybody on the planet.”
So on behalf of jazz fans young and old, might I appeal to you [Radio Whichever Station Controller] to dedicate a fair chunk of time to jazz and satisfy our needs?
In a recent Photographic Memory article Bunny Austin sent us a programme that advertised 'the Bristol Chinese Jazz Club at the Corn Exchange'. We were intrigued and wondered if other had come across Chinese Jazz Clubs.
Chris Duff in Canada writes:
'The reference to the Bristol Chinese Jazz Club brings to mind Bonny Manzi, who ran the Brighton Chinese Jazz Club at the Brighton Aquarium from the late 1950s for a number of years. I frequented this club and enjoyed the music of most of the leading traditional style bands of the era. He had a catch-phraze "chop-chop velly velly good" and promoted crocodile sandwiches. I should make it clear that Bonny Manzi was not Chinese! His name indicates an Italian background, but I can't be sure. His club was hung with Chinese lanterns and burning joss sticks were everywhere. It is possible that Uncle Bonny, as he was known, opened up a club with the same format in Bristol. Can anyone confirm this?' (Please contact us if you know).
Chris Mitchell in Switzerland now writes: 'I was playing with Cyril Preston`s band at this time. We played for Bonnie Manzi (Uncle Bonni) many times in his clubs - Brighton, Crawley and Bristol. The Bristol club was situated in the Corn Exchange building, and just around the corner was a very good cellar selling very good sherry and port. In the interval the band quaffed quite a few Schooners. Bonnie was a good guy, always wearing a boater with upturned brim, à la Bud Flanagan. He paid well but when you played on a percent basis, he seemed to have let the entire nursing staff in for free. Or famously, with Alex Welsh, “There were lots of shadows that gave the impression of more punters.” I last saw him, at an Eel Pie shop that was called 'Manzies', don't know if it was a family thing?
Ron Drakeford recalls: 'We played the venue in Brighton a few times with the Preacher Hood band, and as we had a good following in the Berkshire / Buckinghamshire area, we were invited to be one of the bands to play at the newly opened Chinese Jazz Club in Swindon. I don't recall one in Bristol, but there may have been one later.'
Ralph Mayles writes: 'I was perusing your site today and saw an item about uncle Bonny Manzi and see you were looking for information about him. I didn't know him personally but I was a Mod in the mid '60s in Bristol and used to go to the Corn Exchange and Uncle Bonny did have a Tuesday Chinese Jazz Club Night there, although the music was mainly rhythm and blues. He brought bands like The (English) Birds (Ronnie Wood on guitar); The Steam Packet (Long John Baldry / Rod Stewart / Brian Auger etc.); Cream; John Mayall's Bluesbreakers; / Graham Bond Organisation; Bo Diddley - to name a few. It was the place for up and coming underground R 'n' B artists and was my main hangout '65 till '67 ish. Wednesday was more Pop and I think was run by a guy called Freddy Bannister who did the West of England Rhythm & Blues Festival with Led Zeppelin etc., I believe, and then Knebworth. On Wednesday nights I did see The Byrds; The Walker Brothers; The Beach Boys; Kinks; Small Faces; The Hollies and lots of other bands that had hits in the charts at the time. Friday and Saturday were Records Nights
I didn't know Uncle Bonny's surname was Manzi until I started looking for information about him a few years ago ...
a guy called Lou Manzi is well known in the south for running Clubs although I'm not sure if they are related, but I would assume that with an unusual surname like that they probably were / are ....
Gerald Creed has sent in a picture of this poster saying:
'For about 50 years I have managed to hang on to this poster despite many moves etc. Does this bring back any memories for anyone?'
'I used to go to The Corn Exchange in Bristol for the Tuesday Night Uncle Bonny’s Jazz Club with some of my mates but I don’t remember how I came to have the poster.'
Contact us if you have any ideas about when this poster might be dated. It is interesting how few posters from past times included the year.
Please contact us if you can shed any more light.
Alan Bond writes:
'I remember going to the Bracknell Arts Centre with a friend sometime in the early eighties when the triumvirate of Johnny Parker, Ray Smith and Harry Walton were doing the rounds. I had known Ray from his days with Steve Lane at North Wembley but had only briefly spoken to John prior to this particular session and I remember him having a vast fund of jokes.'
'The music was brilliant, with all three pianists giving marvellous performances with markedly differing styles. I was particularly determined to hear more of Harry Walton and was disappointed to hear not too long after that he had died, apparently of electrocution when he accidentally cut through the lead of his lawn mower. I had hoped that someone, somewhere, might have captured at least a little of his playing on tape or record but I have had no luck at all with finding any. This is about my sum total of knowledge of his work and, hopefully, through your site, I would like to find out a little more and, even better, point us to some recorded works.'
We have discovered that there are recordings available as downloads by the Harry Walton Jazz Band (click here to listen). There are no details except the track listings, so we are not 100% sure that it is the same Harry Walton. The website Discogs advertise a vinyl album (click here) with the same tracks so it is quite possible that this is Harry.
There is also a summary of Harry's career in John Chilton's invaluable Who's Who Of British Jazz book that tells us that Harry was born in 1928, worked with Charlie Galbraith, the Tomasso Brothers, Bobby Mickleburgh, Pete Deuchar, led his own Society Jazz Band and a quartet at the Pizza Express in London. Harry is also mentioned in our profile of trombonist Jack Free (click here).
Bill Brown has responded to Alan Bond's enquiry about Harry Walton:
'I note that a gentleman was asking about pianist Harry Walton. I know that in the fifties he was in Charlie Galbraith's Band then later in that decade led his own band. They made two LPS.
One in June 1957 was on Donegall DON1002
and had the personnel of - Harry (piano/leader), Frank Wilson (trumpet), Jack Free (trombone), Colin Thompson (clarinet), Denis Bamberry (bass), Fred Thompson (drums).
Tunes - South, Since My Best Gal Turned Me Down, Lazy River, Big Butter & Egg Man, St.Louis Blues, Copenhagen, Mammy O' Mine, Dinah, Avalon, I've Got A Feeling I'm Falling,Hindustan, Sidewalk Blues, Alabamy Bound.
The other LP. Titled 'A Tribute To Eddie Condon.' SAGA XID5041. was recorded in September 1958. The personnel as before except for Bob Smith (drums) for Thompson and Ray Whittam (tenor sax) added.
Tunes - When My Dreamboat Comes Home, Bourbon St. Parade, Lullaby Of The Leaves, Some Of Those Days, Stumblin', Down Home Rag, My Honey's Lovin' Arms, Lady Be Good, Rockin' Chair, Easy Living, Squeeze Me, Farewell Blues.
As far as I know neither set has come on CD.
Please contact us if you know of any other of Harry's recorded work.
Trumpeter Sydney Wardman contacted us to ask about Geoff Sowden, and Gerry Salisbury told us that sadly Geoff died in 2004/2005 (Gerry had played Geoff quite a lot near Malaga in Spain).
Thinking of Geoff took Sydney’s mind back to the early days of jazz in Leeds and of Malcolm Duncan who bought his first trombone from Geoff Sowden. Sydney recalls some of the people that he knew in those times:
'Malcolm Duncan was a bit of a maverick - he could do some strange things. He once walked out of an important exam (he was clever and could have easily passed) to hurry home to practise his trombone. There was also the time at school when we were members of the 6th form music group. We met in the teachers’ common room and one of the teachers who led the group was asked by Malcolm if we could form a rhythm club. The scene was like a setting from a Bateman cartoon. We didn’t get one!'
'When Malcolm bought his first trombone from Geoff Sowden, he practised day and night and he seemed to get the hang of it very rapidly. He gigged around Leeds for a while until I suppose he did his National Service. I lost touch with him after that. Next I heard he was playing with Ken Colyer. The jazz fraternity in Leeds was shocked at the manner of his death. (Malcolm took his own life by setting himself alight).'
'Geoff Sowden was a friend, amongst a group of friends and musicians who decided to form a jazz group and called it the Delta Dixielanders. We took part in a Melody Maker competition in around 1947.'
'I remember Geoff telling me he used to practise in the toilets when he was in the Army camp. He had two accidents. He lost his two front teeth in one and damaged his hands in another with a tank door. After he returned from National Service he formed a band called Geoff Sowden and his Chicagoans.'
'Freddy Tomasso was a friend and a wonderful trumpeter – his solos were annotated and written in orchestrations. He had perfect pitch and was a sight reader. When he formed Harry Gold and his Pieces of Eight, he left Leeds for London straight into the studio for a broadcast. The BBC ‘Tristrams’ were panicking as to what would happen when Freddy saw the music for the first time. They need not have bothered, Freddy was magnificent.'
'I knew Ernie Tomasso, he was a consummate musician and brilliant soloist – very Goodmanesque. He was also a sight reader and with perfect pitch.'
'His son Enrico Tomasso is a great trumpet player. He impressed Louis Armstrong when as a child he played for him when Louis visited Leeds.'
(Click here for a video of Enrico Tomasso playing Ain't Misbehavin' with the Harlem Ramblers)
'I also played jazz violin - that’s how I knew Dis Dizley. Dis was a super artist as well as a brilliant guitarist. His portraits were immaculate – photographic in accuracy. He was doubly talented.'
'I once did a gig with Alan Cooper. He was a fine clarinettist almost from the word go. In the early days he had a metal clarinet, a bit of a novelty at the time.'
'An amusing incident happened when Geoff Sowden, Freddy and Ernie Tomasso were rehearsing for a gig and could not get the pianist of their choice. Another pianist, who fancied himself, said he could do it. Unfortunately he was no musician which infuriated Ernie, causing him to fling his clarinet across the room. Geoff said to him: ‘What are you playing? What about the chords?’ ‘They’re all there,’ protested the guy. ‘Yes, but they are in the wrong order!’ (pre-dating the Morcambe and Wise sketch with Andre Previn by about 30 years!).'
'Geoff said to me: ‘If you try all the pianists and this is the only guy left – cancel the gig – he’s a gig ruiner!’
'I always thought that Geoff never got the accolade he deserved. His Jack Teagarden like solos thrilled us all. Mentioning Jack Teagarden, when he came to England he heard Freddy Tomasso and wanted him to go to the States with him, but Union troubles stopped that.'
'There were other trumpet players I was friendly with. Mark Class, who played with Joe Daniels. Terry Heap, who played lead trumpet with Sid Dean in Brighton and who also took up vibes and eventually became MD for Dickie Henderson.'
'Dickie Hawdon was a wonderful trumpet player. I remember when he first started. A clarinet player friend of mine said: ‘Come down to the 101 club (a jazz venue) and listen to this guy – he’s like Louis.’ It was Dickie, and he was very good. He was about 17 at the time (I was 16). He played with the Yorkshire Jazz Band, but his playing got better and better, and as you know, he joined Johnny Dankworth. He was well respected by his peers – Kenny Baker, Kenny Ball, Jimmy Deuchar and many others, but sadly he died recently.'
(Sydney Wardman no longer has his photographs of many of the musicians mentioned in this article - if anyone has photos that we might borrow, please contact us).
Jeff Matthews has been thinking about the difficulties of locating suitable live venues:
'Here's a thought. If all we 'jazzers' looked out for suitable venues for putting on jazz in our own geographical areas and then posted them online, bands could then follow up and we might get some more jazz played. Then all those enthusiastic 'returning' musicians (click here) will get to play, gain experience and improve. Perhaps then 'mentors' will step forward and offer to help build solid jazz muscle in new players from their playing experience.'
Danish trombone player Fessor Lindgreen has written to ask if anyone is able to help him to contact the Jamaican trombone player Rico Rodriguez. Please contact us if you can help.
Wikipedia tells us that Rico Rodriguez was born in Kingston, Jamaica. In 1961, he moved to the UK and started to play in reggae bands here. In the late 1970s, with the arrival of the 2 Tone genre, he played with ska revival bands such as The Specials. One of his most notable performances was on The Specials' song, "A Message to You, Rudy". Rodriguez also led his own outfit, Rico and the Rudies, to yield the albums Blow Your Horn and Brixton Cat. Since 1996, amongst other engagements, he has played with Jools Holland's Rhythm and Blues Orchestra and he also performs at various ska festivals throughout Europe with his own band.
Click here for a video of Rico playing Take Five with the Cool Wise Men in Japan in 2007 - hard not to get up and dance!
Click here for more about Rico Rodriguez. Rico Rodriguez passed away in 2015 - click here for his obituary.
Jim Douglas writes: 'I was born near Edinburgh in 1942 and came into jazz at the back end of Sandy's reign in the West End Cafe in that city. I first met him whilst appearing at a concert with Pete Kerr's Capitol Band in the Usher Hall in the late fifties when he topped the bill with the band he co-ran with Al Fairweather. Later as a member of Alex Welsh's band our paths crossed many times and I like to think I became a good friend of both he and Al. I was delighted to be asked by Sandy to play at his Christmas parties in his home in Hampstead on several occasions with bassist Tony Archer. As you can imagine they were less than sober occasions! In the sixties I played on a cover version of 'Those Were The Days' with Sandy and Bobby Mickleburgh. As a fellow 'Auld Reekian' and musician I considered him a good friend and a wonderful clarinettist.'
When Alex Welsh died, Jim was involved in running a restaurant in Woburn but he kept in touch with Alex's wife Maggie: 'We started seeing each other and eventually married and have a son William. I returned to professional ranks in 1986 to join Digby Fairweather's 'Superkings' and subsequent shows such as 'Let's Do It' with Paul Jones, 'Lady Sings The Blues', Val Wiseman, and 'The Great British Jazzband'. I also toured Germany with an all-star American band led by Bob Haggard, and played the Berne Festival, etc. I was involved in quite a few recordings during this period including three CDs for a Post Office sponsored band - the 'First Class Sounds'.
Jim returned to cooking two years ago in a small pub near Woburn Abbey, but is considering retirement and just playing a few gigs again.
Photograph © Jim Douglas
Eric Jackson tells us that Stu Carter was well know to him when he was playing around the Enfield area. Apparently Stu subsequently moved to the Wirral with his wife Polly and went on to play with the Peninsula Jazz Men, but sadly died after an asthma attack about four to five years ago.
Steve Fletcher writes: 'Do any of your readers know of a fine trumpet player named Stewart Carter who ran a band in the Ponders End district of North London in the early 1950s?' Contact us if you can help.
One of the benefits of the internet is to discover videos of both recorded and live jazz performances. Here's one. Alvin Roy tells us of this video of his band at London's 100 Club in 1986 with Alvin on clarinet, Alan Littlejohn (trumpet), George Oag (guitar), Boots Baker (trombone), Roger Marsden (piano), Mick Hutton (bass) and Colin Seymour (drums).
Click here: for the Alvin Roy Jazz Band playing the Woody Herman number The Great Lie.
Bill Brown in Australia writes:
'In regard to that reference to a session with the Alex Welsh Band minus Alex but with this 'Ken Doughty' on trumpet that Jim Keppie listed. I have a cassette session from November 1957 where Len Doughty deps. on trumpet for a hospitalised Alex. It was a Jazz Club Broadcast compered by that fine Welsh pianist Dill Jones. The personnel of the band were as Jim mentioned - Crimmins, Semple, Hunt, Staunton, and Richardson. The tunes were - Monday Date, Squeeze Me, Japanese Sandman, New Orleans, Swingin' The Blues (minus trumpet), Sentimental Journey, Foolin' Myself (Crimmins feature), and There'll Be Some Changes Made. I've never heard of another 'Doughty' but I could be wrong of course. If there is another such session in existence I'd love to hear it.'
Roger Strong in New Zealand says:
'I have been reading the article on Alan Littlejohn and I thought that I recalled an old friend, Len Doughty, talking about him and sure enough there was Len's name in the article. A very long time ago - I think the late 60s or early 70s, I had a reel-to-reel tape recorder and there was some sort of directory to get in touch with people with similar interests. I got in touch with Len Doughty in the UK and we exchanged many tapes at that time.. Len mentioned several times that he played valve trombone but usually just in passing. However, I have subsequently found that he recorded with the Alex Welsh band on an album they called 'The Roaring Twenties' - just some tracks. I think it may have been re-issued under a different title but I have never been able to lay my hands on it. Does anyone know if it exists?'
Bill Brown replies from Australia: ' I think that Len was involved in the late Sixties with a tape swop circle called World Wide Jazz Tapes run by the late Tony Thomas. I joined this group in 1995 (it is still going). Anyway, Tony mentioned Len's name to me. As far as the Welsh recording is concerned, an album was made in 1959 called 'Music Of The Mauve Decade' It had the then Welsh band plus Len on two tracks: 'Down Among The Sheltering Palms' and 'Bye Bye Blues'. Harry Gold on bass sax was the other guest, also on two tracks. In the Seventies the LP was re-issued as 'The Roaring Twenties'.
Jim Keppie also wrote from Scotland saying he has the same 'The Roaring Twenties' LP and mentions a cassette he has of the 'Ken Doughty Band' with Archie Semple, Roy Crimmins, Fred Hunt, Chris Staunton and Johnny Richardson (? circa 1955). Jim wonders if 'Ken' and 'Len' might be related?
Trombonist Mel Henry remembers Ian Howarth whose departure we noted and follows up Jamie Evans' letter:
'The sad news of Ian Howarth's departure brought back some memories for me of sitting in with the Alan Cooper trio ( with Jamie on piano and Ian on drums) at some awful pub somewhere in Battersea about twenty or more years ago. All kind of strange musos would find their way there - something to do with Alan's flambouyant and eccentric personality I think - I particularly remember a couple of strange evenings with Stanley Adler on cello. I just loved playing with Alan, a really creative guy.'
Jamie Evans says: Drummer Ian Howarth was originally from Lancashire where he played washboard in his school skiffle group and trombone in his school orchestra before taking up the drums. He was an original member of the Vintage Syncopators, one of Red Hayes' Jazz Wizards, and played with and led the Temperence Seven. More recently in the 1990s he played with Alan Cooper's Trio. His friend, the pianist Jamie Evans, sent us the following eulogy presented by Jamie at Ian's funeral in January 2009:
"I played piano with clarinettist Alan Cooper on and off for over 30 years and during the latter part of that time, our drummer was Ian Howarth. I was dubious at first when Cooper suggested we use Ian because, although he was always an engaging and amusing man, I didn’t think a comedy band cum traditional drummer would fit in with our broader small group swing style. I was, of course, totally wrong. Ian turned out to be perfect.
He could turn his hand to most styles, from woodblocks to bebop. Not only that, he was great company and we would often meet for a few pints of real ale even when we had no gigs. “Dr Young’s elixir will soon put you right lad,” (excuse the Wigan accent) he would say toasting me with a glass of Youngs Special Bitter, tweaking his Panama hat (summer) or cloth cap (winter).
Well today is a particularly sad occasion personally. Cooper passed away less than 18 months ago and now, with Ian’s departure, I am sole survivor of what Ian always referred to as “Alan Cooper’s famous trio”. I am not too sure about the “famous” but to have lost two dear friends and great musicians within such a short space of time is a double blow. Ian also counted the late US drummers, Max Roach and Elvin Jones among his friends and he collaborated with a wide range of musicians in the UK, ranging from many New Orleans stalwarts to modernists like Lol Coxhill and Stan Sultzmann. I’ll never forget the look of delight on Ian’s face at one of our gigs when Lol Coxhill and Cooper duetted on the most amazing surrealist, free-form version of A Closer Walk With Thee.
One of Ian’s favourites was Thelonious Monk and for many years now I can’t hear two of the great man’s compositions without thinking of him. On one occasion I unwisely attempted a solo version of In Walked Bud but floundered hopelessly on the middle eight. “Not a bad version of Bud Nearly Walked In“, was Ian’s droll judgement. And at one of our residencies, in the days when pubs closed at 11 o clock, I used to serenade the departing punters with Round Midnight. Ian soon retitled that one to Round Ten Past Eleven. It’s a fond farewell to a loyal friend and, on his day, a superb drummer…"
(From Dave Bowen - December 2008 and Thorbjørn Sjøgren January 2009)
December's Video of the Month continues to interest visitors to the site. Of Ben Webster and Teddy Wilson playing 'Old Folks' we said: 'Unfortunately, we cannot tell you who the bass and drum players are, nor why a tear runs down Ben Webster's cheek as he plays with beautiful sensitivity this tune'.
Thorbjørn Sjøgren from Denmark has written to tell us that the bass player on the clip is Hugo Rasmussen, the drummer is Ole Streenberg and the recording date was 25th September 1970. Reeds player Dave Bowen from Dorset has written to tell us: 'You may be interested in the comment made by the Danish tenor player Jesper Thilo, himself a very fine reeds player who played with Ben in Copenhagen. In an interview for a TV documentary about Webster called 'The Beauty and the Beast', Ben was asked why he sometimes cried when he played. Ben replied, 'Because I play so beautiful'. Thilo thought that was fair comment'. To watch and listen to this clip again click here
(From Ole Fessor Lindgreen - December 2008 and Peter Quinn - January 2009)
Fessor Lindgreen wrote from Denmark asking if anyone knows where he might get a copy of Bruce Turner's biography? Peter Quinn has written from France to say that Bruce's autobiography is called 'Hot Air, Cool Music' and was published in 1984 by Quartet Books Ltd., a member of the Namara Group, 27/29 Goodge Street, London W1P 1FD. The ISBN number is 0-7043-2459-8. (Copies are available to buy online if you type the title and the author into a search engine such as Google).
© Sandy Brown Jazz
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