I was born into a family with theatrical connections. Grandfather had been a well known artist on the music-halls, performing with an american quartet called 'The Gothams' with Royal Command Performances in 1906 and 1911 and a career that took him, my Grandmother, and his first born around the capitals of Europe and endless travels throughout the United Kingdom. His eldest daughter Nellie was a lyric soprano in common with Eva, his youngest daughter and my mother. Thomas Lightfoot, one of the middle sons in the family of eight children was for a time manager of 'The Ritz' ballroom in Manchester. Other siblings also had connections with various branches of the entertainment business.
Blow is a copy of a photograph that hung above the piano in my grandparent's house. I lived with them all of my childhood. This copy of the picture was sent to me by a long lost cousin who recently re-discovered me via the Internet. The last occasion I saw it was when I was eighteen years old.
It depicts my grandfather with the other members of ' The Gothams '. Other than my grandfather they were all Amercian citizens and returned to the USA somewhere around 1913-1914. There is a possibility that at least one of them made subsequent careers in the early days of the movie business.
First became aware of jazz in my early teens hearing a recording of 'The Chris Barber Band'. Though I listened to a great deal of music of all kinds on the radio throughout my childhood and by default must have absorbed the music of the many big bands broadcasting during those years. Also a comprehensive memory bank of music-hall numbers my grandfather sang all day long whilst busy in his workshop in the cellar under the house. We also had many visits to the still then exisiting local music-halls, and many 'Pros', the generic term used at that time to describe music-hall artists, used to drift in out of our house and my focus.
Was taught the piano from the age of five -very badly- parents beware of so called teachers! Started to learn Tenor-Horn at school with the school brass band. Then the Euphonium. Was in the RAF for a time and continued to play with brass bands including a short stint on Tuba. The only known photograph, long since lost, shows boots, instrument, and cap, but not much else! Bought a Valve-Trombone, for what particular reason I am not too sure? Much influenced by the New Orleans revival scene. In common with many contemporaries totally fascinated by what we considered to be 'The Jazz Life'. Every possible weekend spent in London doing the Trad Clubs. Ken Colyers. Cy Laurie's all-night sessions. The Skiffle Cellar. Discarded RAF tie and blazer in favour of sandals and baggy sweaters. At this time only very dimly aware of Modern Jazz, the whole jazz music scene at that time imbued with a rancid atmosphere of ' never the twain shall meet'. Saxophone players in particular were regarded by ' The Purists' as being totally beyond redemption. Curious that even with jazz the evidence of history and contemporary happenings can be ignored or just shaped to fit the prejudice and blind preconceptions of the time.
First real band with actual gigs 'The Stonehenge City Jazzmen', made up from RAF guys stationed at RAF Yatesbury in Wiltshire. The cornet player, Tony Pringle, now lives in the USA and runs a very successful band called 'The Black Eagles'. Also worked as a sideman with 'The Ray River Jazzmen' in Swindon.
Free at last from the RAF, straight to London to make a career of 'lying on floors' and living 'the jazz life'. Played with many bands in venues such as: The Nucleus. The Farm. The Bastille. The Skiffle Cellar. Sam Widges. The Left Wing Coffee House. Art school gigs and the like. Had from juke boxes in 'Sam Widges' and 'The Nucleus' my first taste of Clifford Brown, Rollins, Bud Powell, Charlie Parker, Miles.
Was much influenced by the now long forgotten and possibly dead?, Chris Bateson, a trumpet player, and Dave Tomlinson, a saxophone player of considerable talent. Also other faces of that time, John Mumford, Derek Budd, John Baldry, Davy Grahame, a guitarist of massive potential but never fully realized ability, known by many who know nothing of him though his song 'Anji', plus the many other jazz/folk/blues musicians who ligged about the scene during those oh so rich days.
Burning the candle at three ends eventually demands a price and I limped my way home to Manchester and more or less stayed indoors for more than a year. But jazz is a a bit like malaria, once you have it, there it is for life. Played with bands in Manchester, now in a more Mainstream style. Worked with Brian Priestly, piano player, who went on to become, critic, broadcaster, writer of note. Had couple of treasured years with a West Indian Blue Beat band, resident at the 'Nile Club' in Moss Side, and various other combos ranging from the reasonable to the awful. Thus were laid the foundations of my own version of 'The Jazz Life'.
Later bands included 'The Victor Brox Blues Train'. A long association with 'The Jazztette' with many gigs and festivals including Dunkerque and San Sebastian. 'Special Brew' with saxophone player John Taylor. A great band in the year before I left England that included the brilliant Mike Walker on guitar and bass player/composer Ben Crosland. Did a lot of of travelling and got to play in clubs and with musicians all over Europe and during a few visits to the USA.
Belgium has been very kind to me. Sideman with 'Willy Vande Walle' for a number of years both with 'The Jazz Express' and 'The Quintet'. The opportunity to blow with international faces and the many great musicians who live and work in Belgium.
Still love and listen to and to play all kinds of jazz, everything from the earliest to the leading-edge. I have confirmed what I already knew from my life and travels, that jazz is truly is an international language, and that it has enriched my own life both musically and personally.
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