Pete Batten recalls:
I have one story which may interest Sandy Brown fans. One evening early in September 1958 I was in the Blue Posts at the rear of 100 Oxford St. I bumped into Sandy, whom I knew slightly. We had friends in common and I had also played on the same jazz club bill as his band on one or two occasions. I told him I was feeling fed up because I wanted to apply for a new job, but did not have any decent references because I was only a year out of University. He asked me to give him my address and promised to write me a reference. 2 or 3 days later I got a note from Sandy plus a short but glowing reference typed on the notepaper of his architectural firm. I got the job and began a successful career in Adult Education. Just one example of Sandy – a great musician and a wonderful human being.
Tiffany Oben writes:
I just found you by chance, whilst searching for something completely other. Sandy and Flo lived downstairs from my Grandma. She had a drawing of him on her living room wall playing the clarinet. She remained friends with Flo after he died, for many years. My Grandma Pam was married to the jazz pianist Michael Jefferson. I loved her stories of dancing and music and remember going once to a smokey jazz club I think in Seven Sisters, London, although it must have been after Sandy died.
This month's photographic memory also comes from Johnny Johnstone, pictured below with Sandy Brown. Johnny was twenty in 1957 when Sandy's band played in Nottingham. Johnny says: 'The photograph below is of Sandy and myself taken by Al Fairweather in the dressing room of the Regents Hall, the night they played there. Sandy sent the other photograph to me. It was probably a publicity picture, and the very attractive blonde must remain a mystery as far as I'm concerened. It might be worth asking if anyone can identify her?' utting it in the webpage,and asking the question,as to who she is/was,in the hope that Sandy used it,more than once,and identified her?
Why the picture of Sandy and the blonde was taken in front of a memorial to John Nash is also a mystery. John Nash was an architect responsible for most of the layout of Regency London, but he designed many other buildings in England, Wales and Ireland. This memorial could, presumably, be anywhere.
The other interesting feature is that in this picture, Sandy is holding a bass clarinet, rather than the clarinet he carries in most other pictures. Contact us if you have any ideas.
Sandy's acoustic engineering colleague David Binns subsequently wrote saying:
'I think that I can shed some light on the photo of Sandy with the mystery blond. If my memory serves me right, The memorial to John Nash, is in the portico of All Souls Church, Langham Place, next to the BBC. Sandy was working as their chief Acoustic Architect for the BBC at the time and would have popped out for a publicity? Photo. Being an Architect he would have selected the spot.'
David Stevens writes from Australia. David played piano on the Al Fairweather tune Candy Stripes featured on the 1956 album Sandy's Sidemen.
I was with Sandy's band for a while in the fifties. As you may know, I was featured on one track in the "Sandy's Sidemen" album. I was playing with the band at the time, so I guess that's why Al chose me for the album. I was - and still am - an enormous fan of Sandy's, and am sad that my playing at that time was well below the standard of the rest of the band. Mainly laziness - I just didn't practice. At that time I was a full-time accountant, and at Sandy's request I formed a company for him called Acoustic Designers Ltd. I think it's still in existence. As well as my short time with Sandy, I played with John Haim's Jellyroll Kings, Mick Mulligan's band, Beryl Bryden's Backroom Boys, Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated, and a short time with a little band led by Dickie Hawdon, a great friend. I moved to Australia with my family in 1964, and have played with various Australian bands. Now 87, I still get maybe a couple of gigs a month and do a weekly jazz program on radio.
My radio program is pretty wide- ranging. I've played everything from Oliver's Creole Jazz Band to Ornette Coleman (the latter only once - two people phoned and complained). I have about 200 Ellington LPs and CDs, so several of them get played every week. On piano, Hines was my first love and is still up there, but my Piano Spot on the program has included Cripple Clarence Lofton, Teddy Wilson, Monk, Randy Weston, Jimmy Rowles, Jessica Williams, and a couple of dozen others. I can't recall anything much about the time when I was with Sandy, except that I loved him as a musician and a person, particularly his dry sense of humour. You probably know the story of a concert at which his band was one of several on the bill, and Sandy and some of the band were drinking backstage when an avant garde saxophone player was performing. After some ear-splitting shrieks and honks, someone asked Sandy what he thought. He said quietly "I respect the right of the younger musicians to push out the barriers... but I reserve the right not to f***ing well listen".
Todd Allen interviewed David for Roger Trobridge's 'Cyril Davies' website and you can read the interview and more about David and his memories if you click here.
David Keen in Canada was watching a video about vintage cars on a website www.kidston.com. An interview takes place with Robert Coucher, editor of Octane who was taking a Bugatti along with a Mercedes 300SL Gullwing over to France to meet someone for lunch. The text on the site says: 'Once upon a time, many years ago, in an age before cramped budget airlines or bumper-to-bumper traffic on congested freeways, there was an era when Continental travel promised glamour, adventure even...Of course, practicality usually comes at their expense, but occasionally it’s good to put aside such considerations and take a step back in time.
It's still dark and our two vintage sports cars are spearing through the night, engines humming and ancient headlights showing the way. Robert Coucher and I are tired, hungry and still wearing black tie from the awards dinner the previous evening. France here we come!'
As you reach the 01.01 minutes into the video (click here and play Midnight Express - The Continental Dash Part II), David noticed a photograph on the wall of the channel ferry. 'I did a doubletake 'cos I was pretty sure it was Sandy (Brown) - if you look closely you can see a copy of (his book) the McJazz Manuscripts in his hands - the question is, who's in the picture with him and why is it on the wall of, I assume, the dining room on the Ferry?'.
Coops and Sandy
Photograph courtesy of Jamie Evans
We think the other person in the photograph could be Alan Cooper ('Coops') of the Temperence Seven? (click here for details of the picture we have included above from Jamie Evans from March 2011 on our Photographic Memories page). Why is the photograph on the channel ferry? - now that's a mystery.
Roger Todd wrote to comment on the fact that Sandy Brown had a plate of false teeth that he used to take out when he played clarinet:
'In my experience, you get the higher notes with more pressure and the lower ones with relaxed pressure - that means that both breath pressure and lip pressure and pressure from the upper front teeth. But at the top end you also have to 'hear' the notes you cross-finger and can slide about adjusting the pitch. I would have thought the lack of upper teeth would have made it more difficult. So far, with all my own teeth, I've never had to 'gum' the mouthpiece. I was also interested in the coin burning exercise on reeds - a new one on me. Last year, after many years of experimenting, I found that a new reed is best immersed in a mug of warm water for 24 hours to take the resistence out of it. If it works, then you have a great reed, if it still doesn't work - get another.'
'One of my erstwhile work colleagues - an Ulsterman - was squaring up to a Scot in a Fleet Street bar when he decided to remove his plate. The Scot did likewise - hilarious collapse of two stout, pissed parties. The Ulsterman, Ted Oliver, had previously found fame when Vinnie Jones drew blood by biting his nose - one part he couldn't remove. But it doesn't explain the proliferation of Scots without their two front teeth. Do they lose them through bad dental hygiene or the dreaded Glasgow Kiss?'
Todd Allen has come across a review of the Sandy Brown Band by Ken Colyer on the Ken Colyer website. Apparently Ken reviewed records in the mid-50s for Challenge, a left-wing newspaper, and Todd sends us this excerpt from the Jazz Column about a Big Bill Broonzy concert at the Stoll Theatre in ?1957 where the Sandy Brown Jazzband was also featured:
Big Bill Really Sings the Blues - by Ken Colyer
... Also featured at this concert was the Sandy Brown Jazzband. While some of our Jazzmen prefer to delve back in search of the original Jazz of New Orleans, others look ahead. Some of them lose the feeling of Jazz in their attempts to create “new sounds”. Sandy and his colleagues, however, manage to be original and stimulating while creating ever better and better Jazz.
Much of their repertoire consists of originals by Sandy and trumpet-man Al Fairweather (of whom Satchmo had some nice things to say!). Many Basie numbers get the Brown treatment. Sandy’s highly individual clarinet style makes it doubly important that the front-line be “with him”. It is precisely the sympathy of expression between Sandy, Al Fairweather and Jerry French on trombone which first strikes the listener.
In the rhythm section Diz Dizley’s guitar shines, particularly when he plays brilliant solos with his instrument plugged into an amplifier. Sandy has a principal which stands him in good stead, “To play anything but mediocre Jazz,” he says, “you must disregard what’s generally held to be ‘good taste’ and be prepared to have a go! - rush in where angels fear to tread.”
His professional liking for Spiritual groups such as the original Five Blind Boys is shown on such Brown discs as “Nothin’ Blues” and “Somethin’ Blues”, while his interest in West African music reveals itself in “African Queen”, “Africa Blues” and “Gold Ghana”. A great band with a great future.
To see a copy of the original article click here.
Drew Landles was one of the Edinburgh crowd playing piano in Sandy Brown's band in 1952-1953. Drew passed away in September 2010.
Stu Eaton remembers how:
'Will Redpath, Drew and I shared a well-known and well-used apartment for a couple of years. It belonged to Will and was frequently visited by Brown, Fairweather, Craig, Sandy Currie, Semple, etc. - even probably young Dizzy Jackson. Drew and Will were both from the Borders - Hawick, I think. Drew was an excellent piano player. I remember playing with a band (?his) at a dance at King's Buildings shortly before I came to Canada. Sandy, Will and Drew all attended the Art College, becoming in time successful architects. Sandy and Will then became London based (although they both travelled a lot), while Drew remained in Edinburgh. I don't believe he ever intended to be a full-time musician although he could certainly have.'
Jim Keppie says:
'Drew, Bill Strachan, Donald Murray and I and have met regularly each Wednesday fortnight for some years now when, as part of the Edinburgh Jazz Archive Group (EJAG), we have discussed matters relating to the Group's aims and Drew will be sadly missed.'
Drew's funeral took place on Friday 1st October at Warriston Crematorium, Edinburgh.
Eddie Fowler has brough to our attention an article by Kenny Mathieson as a preview of the 2010 Edinburgh Jazz Festival:
'Typically for jazz, there were two differing schools of thought in Edinburgh in 1950. One looked to the New Orleans jazz of King Oliver, Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton for inspiration, the other to the Chicago school of Eddie Condon, Bix Beiderbecke and Jack Teagarden.
Clarinettist Sandy Brown and the so-called Royal High School Gang lead the New Orleans faction, along with such musicians as trumpeter Al Fairweather and pianist Stan Greig, while the Condon-ites united around the Semple brothers, Archie and John, and trumpeter Alex Welsh.
Mike Hart was allied with the Royal High group. He remembers going to listen regularly to the clarinetist at the Edinburgh Jazz Club in a church hall in Riego Street in Tollcross as a teenager in 1950, and later played drums in Brown's band.
"Riego Street was a grotty church hall where some of us were underage," he recalls, "and we used to have tea and biscuits at the interval while the musicians went across to the pub. There was a much younger audience at that stage – jazz was our music, our pop music if you like.
"I found Sandy very irascible. He was not an easy person to get on with. When he announced the tunes, he would tell Al Fairweather, and Al would turn round and tell us – he seemed to have an aversion to talking to the young whipper-snappers in the rhythm section.'
This is just part of an interesting and longer article - click here to read the full version.
(From Todd Allen, January 2010)
Todd Allen has sent us a short quote from Tony Standish's article 'Muddy Waters in London' from 1957. Todd says that Tony was writing for 'Jazz Journal' at the time and that the quote refers to Chris Barber's set for a Muddy Waters show in 1957:
'They played "Fidgety Feet", "Chimes Blues", "Maryland", "Majorca", the strangely discordant "Golden Striker" and , near the end, a thundering, roaring "Saratoga Swing" that might have penetrated even the calculated deafness of the local disparagers. Americans apart, this ranked with the Omega Brass Band marching in the streets, and some solos by Al Fairweather, Sandy Brown and Tony Coe, as the hottest, most exciting jazz I have heard since arriving in England nearly two years ago.'
Todd says that Tony Standish went on to run Heritage Records and now lives in his native Australia where he still comments on jazz Forums.
(From Franz Hoffman, November 2009)
Franz Hoffman has written to us from Germany to say that he has some recordings that were made when Red Allen came to Britain in the 1960s and played with Sandy's band. They include a session from Westminster Central Hall in January 1964 with Alex Welsh and at a party (this recording apparently sounds as though it has been recorded in a hall); and from the Six Bells in Chelsea in January 1966 (this recording is of rather poor quality). Franz has recordings made by Red Allen with other personnel also. Taking account of the quality, Franz says the recordings with Sandy are mainly of historical worth. If anyone is interested in finding out more, Franz can be contacted at his email address: email@example.com
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
(From Alex Revell, May 2009)
"I remember very well the first time I heard Sandy. I was playing clarinet in the Chris Barber Band and as we did all the King Oliver tunes I had to attempt to play the Johnny Dodds parts. Somebody said to me 'Eh, you're a Dodds fan. Get down and hear this Scotsman, Sandy Brown.' Sandy was visiting London and playing a gig at a club near Leicester Square.
"I went down with my great friend, Ferdie Favager, the banjo player in the Barber band, also a Dodds fan. It's difficult to describe my feelings on hearing that great clarinet playing for the first time. It was one of those seminal moments in one's life. Did one just give up, or practise more and try harder? Later, I used to go straight from work to hear the band rehearsing in Mac's Rehearsal rooms. This was the band that made Everybody Loves Saturday Night, etc. Sandy, Al, John R T ( complete with fez), Alan Thomas, Mo Umanski, Graham Burbidge. I remember being amazed at Sandy's overall talent, let alone his wonderful clarinet playing. He'd say to Alan. 'I want you to play this, Alan', then sit down at the piano and demonstrate. The same with Graham, showing what he wanted from the drums. Talking of Graham. I remember how we all teased him unmercifully when he left Sandy to join the Barber band. With all due respect to Chris, none of us could understand why anyone would leave Sandy to join Chris - apart from the money, of course!
"I've never in my whole life heard a better clarinet player than Sandy - and I've heard a good few. If he wasn't a genius, he was bloody near it. In my book, Sandy and Al were world class musicians, the equal of anybody in the world, then and now. Even in the early 50s, when they were still wearing their influences on their sleeves, they had such a great, authentic sound. A sound we were all then still trying to achieve - the Humph band included - but which Sandy and Al seemed to have without even trying. Great chaps, great music. An inspiration to all who knew and heard them."
(From Fiona Jenkinson - September 2008)
We are pleased to report that Sandy Brown's Boosey and Hawkes clarinet is alive and well and being played by 8 year old Emma Jenkinson in East Yorkshire. Emma's mum, Fiona, told us:
'Sandy gave the clarinet to my father, Alex Burd, who worked with him at Sandy Brown Associates. My parents had bought me a second-hand clarinet, and when Sandy heard that I was interested in learning to play, I believe he said that my clarinet had difficult fingering, and that we would probably be better with this one. I played it for about 3 years and got up to grade 5 with it - I think it was probably about 1972-1975, but I am not sure of the exact time. It is the Boosey and Hawkes 8-10 that was being discussed in the Forum pages. My daughter Emma is just starting to learn and will be having her first proper lesson in September. I am trying to show her that it is exciting to have an old instrument, and really she shouldn't want a shiny new one! - I think your website has convinced her! We are hoping her teacher has heard of Sandy Brown and is suitably impressed!
Photo courtesy of Fiona and Emma Jenkinson - Click on the picture for a larger image.
(From Brian Hills, September 2011)
'There sure was an 8-10 B&H clarinet - I have one! The serial number is 171711 - I read somewhere that the '8-10' model was for export (to where, I wonder?). I use 1010 as my main instrument now, but the 8-10 was great, not quite the wide bore of a 1010. I also acquired a Selmer 'Centred Tone' recently, also wide bore. I would love to try a Leblanc sometime.'
(From John Iggleden, March 2009)
John Iggleden has come across an old B&H catalogue from around the 1950s and writes:
'I read your comments about Sandy Brown with interest and noted the reference to model 8-10. I thought that you might find the enclosed copy of a catalogue interesting. I obtained it around the mid-1950s when I started playing jazz clarinet. Most of my years I have spent playing Leblanc L.L. models, but over the last year or so I have used a 1960s model B&H 1010 and thought that a coincidence with the Sandy Brown history.' John plays every Tuesday evening at the Bolton Arms in Leyburn, roughly between Harrogate and Darlington in the UK's Yorkshire Dales. The photocopy of the catalogue John sent is too large to reproduce it all, but click here for the details of the 8-10 clarinet and the 1950s price list.
From Howard Gabe, Brazil (October 2007)
I used to play clarinet (a little!) and I remember once looking at Sandy Brown's and the part of the reed that entered his mouth was all chewed up and closely resembled the cutting edge of a rough saw blade. I'm sure that helped to produce his unique sound, and it was unique. I just read your 'What's New' page and saw the piece on Tony Milliner. What a nice person he was (still is - Ed), I remember talking briefly with him at the Dancing Slipper, in West Bridgeford, one night. I was at Nottingham University in the early sixties and used to be a regular at the Saturday night jazz sessions there. It was a legendary jazz club back then, and just like the Six Bells on the King's Road, where I saw the Sandy Brown/Al Fairweather band on several occasions - a fairly regular Saturday night spot for that band too, if my memory is serving me well. I also was a fan of Roy Williams, who followed Tony Milliner, and I also enjoyed listening to him during the many years that he was with Alex Welsh; another great band.
From David Keen, Canada (January 2008)
I am a 62 year old ex-pat Brit from London living on Vancouver Island off the west coast of Canada, I have been here since 1970. I met Sandy at the Six Bells in Chelsea in the late sixties. I was a clarinet player myself at the time and a huge fan. I asked him about his clarinet and the set up he used. He generously offered to let me try his horn, which I did, and he was happy to talk at length about what kind of set up he used.
At that time he was using a Leblanc clarinet and a Brillhart Ebolin 6* mouthpiece with, I believe, a medium to medium-soft 2½ Vandoren reed. Apparently the top joint of his Boosey and Hawkes Symphony 1010 clarinet (not 8-10 as stated elsewhere on the Forum) had cracked and was being repaired. The mouthpiece he used with the 1010 was a wooden one made out of rosewood and he had no idea what make it was or what the tip opening was. He told me he acquired the Leblanc to use in the interim while the 1010 was in being repaired, that the Brillhart mouthpiece was 'in the drawer at home', and he just thought he'd give it a try. He liked the set up so much he never did go back to the Boosey or the rosewood mouthpiece. He told me he felt the Leblanc had way more clarity in the upper register and that's why he liked it so much.
There's no mystery with regards to burning off the end of a reed over a coin and certainly not something that was exclusive to Sandy, many reed players used the coin trick in lieu of commercially available reed trimmers. After many hours of use reeds tend to soften up, burning off the tip or trimming off the tip with a reed trimmer tends to restore some of the stiffness. With regard to the Boosey and Hawkes Symphony 8-10, I don't believe there ever was such an animal. Booseys made two pro-model clarinets in those days. An Imperial 926 designed for dance band players. The 926 designation was in reference to the bore diameter in thousandths of an inch. Its bore being .926" in diameter at its largest point. The other model was the Symphony 1010 designed for symphonic/legit players, its bore being 1.010" thousandths of an inch in diameter at its largest point. Bigger bore instruments generally speaking are designed to give a darker sound and to blend better in a section.
I have a huge collection of Sandy's albums; a whole bunch of 45 rpm EPs and probably half a dozen or more of his LPs. I have recently discovered 'Webster Records. Jazz by Mail' (www.jazzbymail.com), a North American based company out of St Louis, Missouri who seem to be reissuing a huge amount of British Jazz on the Fellside and Lake labels including some of Sandy's stuff that I had not seen before.
From Jeff Matthews (May 2007)
(Jeff wrote to us in April asking for information about Sandy's clarinet.)
Thank you very much for the information. I have spoken to John (Latham) and he told me that there was a (Boosey and Hawkes) 8-10 clarinet which was an 'affordable' professional model. Wouldn't it be interesting to know where that clarinet is now?
(Does anyone know what happened to any other of Sandy's clarinets? Please contact us with any information you might have).
From Jeff Matthews (April 2007)
From the first time I heard Sandy Brown play I was knocked out by his sound. I am returning to playing myself now and listening again to Sandy. Is there any information about Sandy's clarinet and mouthpiece set-up? Does anybody publish the music for Go Ghana and African Queen? Are the head arrangements still in existence? I started a band about 2 years ago and I want to add some of these gems from the Sandy Brown portfolio of tunes. Thank you for any information you can give me about Sandy and his playing. What a sad loss to British Jazz - As was Archie Semple. (If anyone can help, please contact us).
[Recollections in the Newsletter during 1999/2000 indicate that Sandy started with a simple Albert System clarinet and changed to a Boehm around 1950. He then moved on to a Boosey and Hawkes 8-10 and by 1971 was also playing a Leblanc. There is debate about the mouthpiece. Although the B&H seemed to have a B&H mouthpiece, apparently clarinet players can 'personalise' their mouthpieces by having the original altered by widening the 'lay' to get more penetration. Sandy did use hard reeds to get extra volume and shrillness and it was remembered that he would burn off the top edge beteen two coins to make them harder still. It should be noted that Sandy had a plate of false teeth that he would take out when he played and this would also have an effect on his tone. Someone else also recalled that he played with his fingers straight. If anyone can help regarding the publishers, please let us know. IM]
(From Alastair Clark - February 2009)
'There's another story that some of your correspondents might be able to help me with. Back in the mid-Fifties, in the Crown Bar in Lothian Street, Edinburgh, where Sandy Brown had weekly sessions before he set off permanently for London, I met up with him and complimented him on a '78' which he and Al Fairweather had made with the band of Humphrey Lyttelton (who famously said he was 'scared' - as he had every right to be - when he first heard Al). The disc was called, I'm pretty sure, 'Four's Company', and the King Oliver-ish marriage of the two trumpets was brilliant. But Sandy (surprise, surprise!) had a bee in his bonnet about the whole thing. He told me that they had cut a much better track, where Al Fairweather - then, of course, nearing the peak of his powers - had totally outshone Lyttelton. "The gulf," said Sandy, and I remember these exact words to this day, "was so big that Humph never agreed to having it released."
Those were his exact words - I, as a teenager, was having my very first conversation with the man who was my local musical hero, and there is no way that I would ever forget these words. In reporting this conversation, I mean no disrespect to Humph, the greatest of guys and a huge admirer of Sandy and Al: there surely could have been all sorts of solid musical reasons for Humph disliking the recording. But if anyone out there knows anything about this missing masterpiece, I hope they will post it to the website.'
(From Alastair Clark - January 2009)
You probably know this already, but Sandy Brown, wearing his acoustic-architect cap, set up an office in South Queensferry, just outside Edinburgh. This office is still functioning under his name, and because I live in this little town I pass it often in the High Street, always looking up to see the marvellous portrait of Sandy playing clarinet, which is hung in a prominent position behind the big window that Sandy put in when he took over what was at one time the South Queensferry cinema. Above the office is a wonderful flat, with a huge patio area overlooking the river Forth and the two bridges, the Forth (railway) bridge and the Forth Road Bridge. I'm sure Sandy would have sat on this patio of a summer evening, dram in hand, and enjoyed the view. I'd simply suggest that any Sandy Brown fans planning a Scottish trip which involves crossing the Forth Road Bridge should stop off first at South Queensferry, at the southern end of the bridge, to visit this place where he worked.
I do remember another thing: Sandy was just about to go on stage in the early Seventies to play with the Charlie McNair Band at the Pitlochry Festival Theatre in Scotland. He knew, of course, that I was a journalist with the main 'quality' broadsheet in Scotland at the time, The Scotsman. We were chatting backstage over a drink, and he suddenly advised me to get out of The Scotsman. I said: 'Why?' and he replied that the future of journalism was in tabloids. They were calling the shots with the public. They were the important thing in journalism. They were what the politicians were interested in. I was still arguing with him as he went out to join Charlie's band and deliver a typically passionate, electrifying performance. But Sandy was right. Today, the tabloids rule. And guess what? Even The Scotsman is now ... tabloid!
(From Tom King, New Zealand, May 2008)
Your website so evokes the great personality of Sandy. I was lucky enough to hear him in 1971 when visiting Britain. It was a Thursday evening in June at the 100 Club, and he was appearing with his fellow proud Scot, George Chisholm. That was a memorable week for me, with Sandy on Thursday, Chris Barber on Friday, a re-formed (but not reformed Temperence Seven on Saturday, and a Riverboat Shuffle on Sunday with Alex Welsh's band and Ken Colyer's. I was recently able to 'score' a second-hand LP copy of Sandy's ' Hair', which our local jazz broadcaster of old (Keith Edmonston, of Shetlandic origin) called the most disgusting cover he had ever seen. My mother is from Glasgow, emigrated with her parenets to Kansas, and must be the only Kiwi alive who heard Bix at a Whiteman concert in Salina, Kansas in 1928.
(From John Cox, April 2008)
John Cox sent us details of a page on the Jazz professional site which gives the text of a discussion in 1963 between Sandy, Harry South and Jimmy Deuchar where they were presented with unidentified recordings and asked to discuss them. Click here to visit the discussion.
(From Jeff Matthews, February 2008)I am interested to know if the Sandy Brown Band used head arrangements when in the recording studio?
From Dizzy Jackson, March 2008
When we did that fabulous fortnight in London in 1953, the band produced an EP with four tunes on it. There was no special arranging and we just played each number as we normally did, trying to keep to the time allowed. Sandy of course always went over the suggested time. The studio was really primitive and I remember having to play behind a screen which separated bass and drums. For some reason, I also had to play standing on a chair with the bass similarly supported - makes it a real problem to swing without falling off the chair, never mind the beat. Of course swing was never a problem playing with Al and Sandy as that pair swung so strongly they could have pulled anyone along with them.
From Ron Rubin, March 2008
About Sandy's arrangements: I'm pretty sure they were all head arrangements, definitely for piano, bass and drums. Tony Milliner might remember whether there were any 'dots' for the front line.
From Tony Milliner, March 2008
My recollection is that some numbers had arrangements and others didn't. There was always a 'talk it through time' with people's features being discussed. I remember an argument at the Dancing Slipper where people kept asking for tunes but we couldn't play them because we didn't have the music - Sandy didn't like people seeing us read music. In the end we did use band parts and put them on the floor to read. 'Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting' and 'Worksong' were certainly written down. I remember Sandy called me an 'enigma' for wanting parts written down!.
From David Corkindale, December 2013
Do you know if the music scores are available for some of the pieces that Sandy played?
I'd love to be able to obtain the music for the original pieces on McJazz particularly. In about 1961 Sandy and the band played for a Durham University jazz club gig and I was in the uni trad band and 'shared the billing' which was a great thrill.I have wanted to play the McJazz pieces ever since and having played in all sorts of music ensembles but not jazz ones since then I have now helped form a trad jazz bandin far off Australia and would love to introduce the McJazz pieces to a new audience here.
From John Latham (Sandy Brown Society), January 2014
I have now dug out the Sandy Brown boxes and been through them. They do not contain any musical scores. There are two very short bits of printed music used in one of Sandy's articles, used to illustrate a point, but they consist of only a few bars and are nothing to do with McJazz. The best and probably the only way to have the McJazz pieces is to set them down from the CDs. Basically, if the pianist or guitarist can pick up the chord sequence by ear, and the trumpeter can pick up the main theme by ear, they have enough to work from. All the rest is up to the individual musicians. Of course, if a note by note score is needed, that will take a lot more time, but I doubt there ever was a note by note score in the first place. Of the many times I saw Sandy play, I never saw him look at a piece of written music. Sandy's genius above all was in his on the spot improvisation. If you listen to the two versions of African Queen that exist, they are quite different.
From Geoff Roberts, June 2014
I read on the Sandy Brown website that Jeff Matthews asked if anybody published the music for Go Ghana and African Queen. I’m asking the same question, having played these numbers many times in Roger Bennett’s Blue Note Jazz Band at the Old Duke, Bristol, latterly at the Undercroft, St.Mary Redcliff. Roger is sadly no longer with us but I now run the Blue Notes. I’ve actually just been given the pad which Roger left but he had his own peculiar method of writing tunes down, not one which I can easily transmit to the present front line members. I can remember him saying to Chris Pearce “These are your clarinet notes” – which Roger would then play for Chris on his soprano! I would dearly like to get hold of the sheet music or head arrangements if available. I have the chords but need trumpet, clarinet & trombone parts. Hope you can help.
Information compiled by Bob Weir for 'Jazz Journal International' included an item in August 2007 where someone vaguely recalled hearing about a privately made LP of Sandy's band at Wood Green Jazz Club in 1955. In JJI for December 2007, Bob summarised further debate about what this LP might have been. John Latham and the Sandy Brown Newsletter suggested it might have been a Ristic label recording with Johnny Picard's Angels from the Fishmonger's Arms; a privately made LP by John R.T. Davies subsequently issued by Lake records as' Cy Laurie Blows Hot', or a Deroy Private 10" LP by the Cambridge University Jazz Band with Sandy and Al Fairweather as guests (not reissued). In the February 2008 edition of JJI, Bob says that he has heard from Tony Gent in Devon that the Deroy LP was produced from his own recording at his 21st birthday party in Cambridge's University Cellars. Tony is suggesting that an enterprising record company could produce an interesting CD of the Cambridge jazz scene.
From Graham Collier, Spain (October 2007)
Graham recalls the occasion when he was in hospital at a time when there were limited visiting hours. Sandy Brown came to visit him. He said," I told them I'd come down from Scotland ... to visit you. But I didn't say when I'd come down from Scotland!"
From Norman Simpson (April 2007)
I keep up a record on most Bristish mainstream/traditional bands, but I have always had difficulty with the line up of Sandy's band between November 1954 and April 1955. Gordon Blundy, Charles Sonnentein, Don Smith and Arthur Fyatt were with him for a short time but I don't know the sequence. Does anyone have any information?
[In the autumn of 1953, Al Fairweather stayed on in London and worked with Cy Laurie whilst the rest of Sandy's band returned to Scotland. Sandy finished his college course and qualification in the autumn of 1954 and then returned to London where he and Al got back together. According to Sandy's discography, he was recording again in late 1954 (unissued tracks) with Al Fairweather, Alan Thomas, Mo Umansky, Don Smith and Arthur Fryatt and then again in April 1955 for which Norman has the information. If anyone can help further, please let us know. IM]
Norrie Thomson and Dizzy Jackson replied:
On his return to Edinburgh to continue his studies, Sandy formed a band using basically the same personnel that he had used prior to going to London. He also founded 'The Stud Club' which was located in the Crown Bar, Lothian Street, Edinburgh (subsequently there was a well known folk music club at the same location). Sandy's band played regularly at the venue as well as getting outside gigs from time to time. According to Dizzy, the band personnel were Alex Welsh (trumpet) -[this was apparently Alex's big break], Bob Craig (trombone), Sandy Brown (clarinet), Al Imrie (banjo), Dizzy Jackson (string bass) and Farrie Forsyth (drums).
Apparently there was no regular pianist with the band but at different times Drew Landels and Pat Paterson played.
The band also went through to Glasgow and made about an hour's worth of music. Tapes of these recordings surfaced a couple of years ago and Dizzy thinks that Paul Adams of Lake Records has them and intends to release them along with the S&Ms.
Johnny Johnstone writes in response to a query about the line up of Sandy Brown's band when they played at the Festival Hall, Kirkby In Ashfield in March 1957. The booklet Band Call had recorded that it would have either been Timmy Mahn or Jack Fallon on bass.
Johnny says: 'I would say it was almost certainly Tim Mahn on double bass, at that time. After Sandy died, they held a celebration concert at The 100 Club, and Stan Greig invited me to play in the band that he assembled, Al Fairweather assembling the other! What an honour that was. My instrument's are clarinet - Sandy being a major reason for taking up the instrument (Archie Semple being the other), and the Tenor Saxophone.'
It is not difficult to justify the claim that Sandy Brown was ' the most original voice to emerge from the post-war British jazz movement' (John Latham in Sandy Brown Discography, Eurojazz Discos No5, April 1997, p.3) for the crucial limitation of British jazz in this period is that it was imitative.
Musicians and bands strove to copy the American artists and were judged by their audiences by how close they came to achieving this. This was true of all the big names of the British post-war jazz movement. Just try thinking of any of them, and you will find it to be true. Except Sandy.
It is true he began by copying Johnny Dodds, but by 1955 he had found his own individual voice. Listen to African Queen (LACD 133). No American clarinetist ever sounded like this, nor did any American band. To prove the point, then listen to Go Ghana, Scales, The Card, Monochrome, Those Blues, Wild Life, Blues From Black Rock, Doctor Blues, I Presume, Ognoliya and Saved By The Blues from McJazz & Friends (LACD 58). His solo on Wild Life is sublime. From his later career, listen to Splanky (Spotlite SPJ901-CD), In The Evening recorded with American Blues pianist Sammy Price in 1969 (Blues For The Bluesicians on the Jazz Colours label) and all the tracks from 1971 on Sandy Brown with the Brian Lemon Trio (HEP CD 2017), especially Eight.
Others imitated, but only Sandy was a true original.
© Sandy Brown Jazz - 2007 - 2016
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