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Friday, 12 February 2010

More of all that jazz

I'm sitting in Montclair New Jersey where I come regularly to see my youngest - and naturally being a boringly boastful parent I'm smug because she just got straight As in her exams.

This success is quite inexplicable as insofar as I recall anything about those far-off medieval days I was only recognised during my learning years first for running away from my Prep School, second for having the school record for the number of canings at my Public school (yes, that is the way it was then), and third for walking out of the university after the end of the first year.

Thus it was that, many years later when was speaking there I was able to start by saying "Nobody is more surprised than I am to be standing here. I am one of the few people who can proudly place after their names the letters BA Manchester, (Failed). What fun!

Nothing to do with jazz, is it? But I did mention first hearing Cleo Laine at school, and I was quite surprised at how many people reacted to my little piece about her late husband, who seems to have been every bit as nice as he seemed.

For me the other two great British jazzmen of that period were Ronnie Scott and Tubby Hayes. Ronnie Scott I met when I was about 17. I still recall the incredible impact of hearing his band's ferociously swinging signature tune, 7/11. It was the first time I heard modern jazz live. The sound was almost but not quite exceeded by the impression left by some of the dirty jokes back stage, and the eye-popping blue gabardine suits with thin, thin red ties they wore.

The other man I thought astonishing was Tubby Hayes - another great, great tenor sax player. I had a few drinks with him in a pub in the back of beyond on the Yorkshire Moors. I've never forgotten one thing he said: "Man, every note I blow has a soul."

What a great attitude. Everyone who writes, paints - does anything, really, should think that way.

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