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Jazz Remembered

 

Kenny Napper

About Time

 

Kenny Napper

 

 

Some years ago, this website received a number of queries about jazz bass player and arranger Kenny Napper.

Alan Jones first wrote from Woy Woy in Australia asking about Kenny: 'For sometime now I have been trying to discover the whereabouts of bassist / arranger Kenny Napper with whom I did National Service in the Royal Signals Band. He then played with Jack Parnell, John Dankworth and the Jazz Couriers, later moving to the Netherlands. I recently acquired a CD entitled ‘A Tribute to Kenny Napper’ which is a bit worrying. Can anyone shed a light on this? '

We found reference to Kenny on a Swiss Radio site that says: 'Kenny served in the Army and after demobilization worked with Jack Parnell (1953-54), after which he freelanced extensively through the 1950s with the top names of British modern jazz including Ronnie Scott, Don Rendell, Alan Clare, Stan Tracey, Tubby Hayes, Tony Kinsey and Tony Crombie. From March 1960 to January 1962 he was with the Ronnie Scott - Jimmy Deuchar Quintet. Subsequently with Johnny Dankworth and Ted Heath in 1965. After this he again worked with Dankworth (1967) and Stan Tracey (1966). Through the 1960s he also worked successfully as arranger and composer writing for films, television and radio. In the early 1970s he worked in Germany and Holland as composer and arranger.'

 

Here is a video of the Tony Kinsey Quintet with Kenny Napper playing Jaffa Daze in 1964 [Les Condon (trumpet);
Peter King (tenor sax); Gordon Beck (piano); Kenny Napper (bass); Tony Kinsey (drums).

 

 

 

 

Eric Wilson from Gold Coast in Australia wrote expressing his interest, saying: 'My interest in Kenny Napper is purely selfish when, as a young aspiring bassist in the '50s, I heard him play and realised how awful my playing was! The other aspect is that we should honour musicians such as Kenny Napper for they were the pioneers of British post war jazz. If I was the mayor of London, I would erect a statue bearing all their names. Yes, their contribution was important culturally and they should never be forgotten'.

 

Here is another 1964 video by The Tony Kinsey Quartet with Annie Ross singing Farmer's Market. It is not clear whether Kenny is playing bass - I shall ask him.

 

 

 

Jeroen de Valk then wrote: 'Kenny was living in Holland during most of the '70s and '80s. He was staff arranger for the 50-piece Metropole Orchestra (a combination of a chamber orchestra and a big band) and working continuously. Often, he also conducted the huge band. He didn’t speak Dutch but most of the people over here speak English fluently and if they don’t, they try hard to learn. He was also teaching ‘harmony at the piano’ for at least two conservatories in Holland, which means he taught non-pianists to play chords at the piano. At a certain point, there was reportedly some vague conflict with the band and he concentrated more and more on teaching.'

 

This video is of the Dutch Concert Big Band playing Victor Schertzinger's Tangerine arranged by Kenny Napper.

 

 

 

 

Kenny Napper is still living in the Netherlands and in 2020 he wrote to us:

'At the age of twelve I was at a school with a thriving music department, two teachers and an orchestra in which I played the violin, alongside my main instrument, the piano. The music of Bach, Mozart and Chopin became the foundation of my musical life and then, as a teenager, I fell in love with Jazz and the Hollywood musicals featuring music by George Gershwin and Jerome Kern amongst others.

Because I have a natural bass ear I became a bass player and after completing my National Service, a freelance musician in London. In the world of Jazz my playing years were an experience in TIME, an adventure in TIME, but when playing written arrangements there were times when what I had to play did not flow, too many notes awkwardly written, all of which played a vital role in my years as a writer.

In 1969 I read a book on music, written by Spanish composer Roberto Gerhard in which I came across the following thought: 'You must remember Music takes place in TIME’, which could be seen as a truism or, bearing in mind that Einstein showed us the true nature of TIME, something to be wondered at.

Reading a book takes place in TIME but the words do not change their meaning according to how quickly or slowly you read them, nor in their meaning coloured by or given significance by TIME. TIME takes place in MUSIC.

On my website is to be found a selection of the best of what I wrote. A few words of explanation: The title ‘The Razzmatazz Me Blues’ is a play on ‘The Jazz Me Blues’ and ‘Sing Me A Choir’ has lyrics based on nursery rhymes.

Click here to listen to Kenny Napper's music on his website.

The word ‘arrangement’ has no fixed meaning and for me it means compound variations, melodic, harmonic and rhythmic, on a given theme. In Jazz you have that thing called Swing, without which it don’t mean a thing, but in all music there should be Flow and Forward Motion. My love for melody is to be found in ‘The Jerome Kern Medley’ played by the Rotterdam Filharmonic, a labour of love indeed.

Celebration’ is the summation of my life in Jazz and Classical Music and in it the pianist improvises on the piece, not on the chords, and the last eight bars of his solo are his version of what he has heard in the piece, that is the spirit of the improvised cadenza of olden times. Wonderful!

My great good fortune has been to have had my music played by so many fine musicians bringing it to life with their vitality and musicality. At the end of ‘The Lady In The Van’, Alan Bennett sits musing at his desk and makes the following observation: ‘You don’t put yourself into your writing, you find yourself there.’ Music to my ears! Whilst I was writing I was only aware of choosing the notes and only later did I realise that I’d been putting my heart and soul into it.

Writing for the Radio was a wonderful way to learn but no way to get heard so now – my website waits you - click here!

Happy Listening!'

 

Kenny Napper

Kenny Napper

 

 

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