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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 have 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.'

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 50's, 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'.

In 2014, Jeroen de Valk 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’ at 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.'

' I studied with him at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, where he stood out because A – he showed up every week (most of the new jazz teachers did not, although they got paid) and B – stimulated creativity. Instead of playing standards, he said I could bring a song of my own each week. He was a real gentleman to me, and couldn’t care less about what the other, very strict teachers might think. Sometimes, he had a hang-over and started explaining how to arrange my recent song for strings and brass. I had to remind him I didn’t have my own private Metropole Orchestra. He never touched a bass during these decades, as far as I know. Around 1990, I lost track of him. I’d love to know what became of him. It seems likely he returned to the UK and retired.'

Please contact us if you can help further.

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