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Jazz Remembered

Bert Courtley


Jane Stobart, Kathy Stobart's neice, suggests we take a moment to listen to trumpeter Bert Courtley.

Jane says that she thinks 'All Night Long (1962) was certainly one of the worst films ever made but fortunately the story took place in a night club and they did at least get the jazz right. This clip features Dave Brubeck backed by four British musicians and offers a rare sight of wonderful Bert Courtley on trumpet. As you will no doubt spot, the editing of Raggy Waltz is nonsensical, showing certain musicians playing, when the soundtrack says otherwise!'



The YouTube video text talks about Dave Brubeck's famous quartet, but clearly that is not who he is playing with here. Readers might be able to help me, but I assume that apart from Bert Courtley, it is Kenny Napper on bass, Allan Ganley, drums and ? Johnny Scott, Bert Courtleysaxophone.

Bert Courtley was born on September 11, 1929 in Moston, Manchester, England as Herbert Courtley. He was married to Kathy Stobart. He died on September 13, 1969 in Croydon, Surrey, England.

Ron Simmonds remembers Bert Courtley in an article held by the National Jazz Archive. In it, Ron says: '... He was a jazz trumpet player, pure and simple and he was happiest standing out the front in a small band, playing what he liked the way he wanted, free from all the restrictions and disciplines of the big combination. He left Tommy (Sampson)’s band and went straight out with a small group got together by a young lady tenor-saxophonist by the Bertrand's Bugle albumname of Kathy Stobart. It must have been a case of love at first sight, I guess, between this tall, beautiful, fair-haired girl  and the fresh-faced, young blonde newcomer. It was enough, anyway, to keep them together when Kathy’s band folded and the two of them joined Vic Lewis’s big band ... Bert did about three years with Ken Mackintosh at Wimbledon Palais and then went on tour with Eric Delaney’s band ...'

'... Bert had one of those sharp, clear sizzling sounds on the trumpet; he would shut his eyes and hunch his shoulders up and play the most beautiful jazz you could imagine. In 1956 he became part of the Jazz Today unit, which toured Britain with Gerry Mulligan’s Quartet and later the Modern Jazz Quartet. Some of his colleagues in Jazz Today were Phil Seamen, Kenny Wheeler, Kenny Napper and Ed Harvey ... Bert made a solo record for Decca called “Bertrand’s Bugle” around this time. Then he was part of the Woody Herman Anglo-American Band, playing alongside Reunald Jones, Nat Adderley and Bill Harris. ...


Listen to Bert and Founder Member from the album The Jazz Committee featuring Bert and Don Rendell. On the YouTube page Neil Yates says: 'Great to hear this. Bert was great. He never even gets a mention now. Sad. I love his laid back timing, beautiful phrases and sound.'




Ron continues: 'Then I left Ted Heath to join Dankworth’s band and Bert suddenly found himself in a totally unexpected situation, one he had never dreamed of: that of sitting in the Heath band playing the extremely demanding lead book.“I wasn’t sure if he’d be able toThe Jazz Committee album make it,” Ted told me one day after Bert had been in the band for a few weeks. “I don’t think he’s ever played lead before. But he knocks me out every night and he’s getting better all the time.” ....


Bert Courtley, Eddie Harvey, Don Rendell, Pete Blannin, John Dougan


'Bert became a studio musician, still keeping up his club dates too, though, until he suddenly became ill, lost some teeth and went through a very rough time indeed trying to get his embouchure back again. If a trumpet player has any trouble with his teeth he ought to realise that no dentist in the world will be able to replace them in anything like the same position without first having at hand an accurately-made impression of the originals. The first set Bert had made gave him so much trouble it was like starting to learn the trumpet all over again and I think this had a big bearing on the general deterioration in his health later on, that eventually led to his death.'

Click here to read the full interesting article by Ron Simmonds.

In 2000, Kathy Stobart gave an interview to Jazz Journal in which she also blamed the pressure of work with the Ted Heath band and Bert's increasing drinking. She said Bert started to feel ill, was taking all sorts of addictive, patent medicines, and finally he had to leave the band. After good pay working with Ted Heath, money became tight and in addition to working as a dep. with Humphrey Lyttelton, Kathy had to take a job as a demonstrator at Bill Lewington's music instrument store. 'The doctor told me that if Bert didn't look after himself he would kill himself. He succeeded!', she said, 'In September 1969 Bert died. It was two days after his 40th birthday.'

Jane Stobart is an artist and printmaker 


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