As you may have guessed I am somewhat of a Jazz fan, the name is a bit of a clue really, so here is what essentially could be called my Jazz origin story
How did I get in the music love child of New Orleans? Well part of it must have been from when I was a young child and my father bought a Bix Beiderbecke album after watching a show called the Beiderbecke Affair which was a comedy drama about a slobbish jazz loving school caretaker and his prim teacher girlfriend and their various misadventures. Although I don’t actively recall hearing the album I guess I must have done at some point as listening to it at a later age I recognised several of the tracks. I also frequented various school band nights as my sister was a flute player and often amongst the line ups at school there was usual a swing band involved. But I think the first time I really got actively into Jazz would have been when I was fifteen and went on a family holiday to Italy which involved being carted around a lot in a coach and to keep me entertained my parents gave me a huge amount of Goon show records to listen to on my walkman. Now this may sound like an odd thing to say but the show had two musical interludes, one by mouth organ player Max Geldray accompanied by the BBC Band under the direction of Wally Stott, and one by a little Jazz group fronted by vocalist and drummer Ray Ellington. I don’t know what it was which clicked with me, as in retrospect the band isn’t that great in comparison, but there was something there, those cats certainly could swing though so I guess the syncopation of the swing rhythms appealed to me.
After that it was a case of finding jazz on the radio which was and still is pretty sparse, although broadcasting at the time Jazz FM could not be picked up in Shropshire so I was more or less reliant on BBC Radio 2 for their jazz programs, namely Big Band Special and the Best of Jazz with Humphrey Lyttelton. Humph was a familiar name to me due to his hosting of the incredibly silly I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue so it was a nice connection though it would be some time before I heard him play.
If the Ray Ellington Quartet planted the seed of interest and the radio was the sun which helped nurture it, it would have been three compilation albums which added the feed and they contained a good range of music and artists including Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Nat King Cole, Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, George Melly and Miles Davis. The first two were more swing and mainstream orientated which was a good hopping on point for a newbie, the last was a bit more challenging with tracks by Oscar Peterson, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderlay thrown into the mix. This collection was the one which first introduced me to John Coltrane with the title track from his Blue Train album and it blew me away with its uncompromising noir-ish tone and feel. So from then one I was pretty much just buying Jazz records but unlike some my collection is varied in styles, so it is not unusual for me to have Acker Bilk, Ornette Coleman, Glenn Miller and Horace Silver on my juke box.
Of course whereas modern Jazz is easily enjoyed at home, I personally feel that Dixieland and Swing are best enjoyed live, so I frequent my local Jazz club virtually every week. Sadly I am the youngest there but that doesn’t bother me as I’m there for the music, though I have made several friends in the years of attendance. This year will also mark my sixth year at the Upton Jazz Festival which is always a joyous affair and is under going something of a change this last few years.
So that is my origin story, I hope you found it informative.