JOINING UP FOR JAZZ
by Gary Heywood-Everett
There used to be a programme on the then Light Programme, the precursor to Radio One, called the Jack Jackson Show. It was on a Saturday I think and used to begin with his signature tune which was Organ Grinder Swing. It was a while before I found that the musician playing it was Jimmy Smith but I knew that I liked it and wanted to find more of his music. Soon I discovered Walk On The Wild Side and through that I was hooked on modern jazz.
I was a mod at the time and the music, with its disdain for the past, fitted right in with everything else. I wanted to know more and soon, with a few friends in Rochdale, I was asking Bradleys Records at the bottom of Yorkshire Street for obscure (but cool) artists, buying Jazz Journal to read about these people and getting the records they reviewed. Soon we were widening our jazz tastes by listening to Dave Brubeck, Jacques Loussier, Art Tatum, Earl Hines and Duke Ellington. It was a random but enjoyable selection.
With one foot still in the Blues and R n B we began to see the connections in the music and when concerts were advertised at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester we bought tickets. There we saw B B King, Duke Ellington (twice), Woody Herman, Ella Fitzgerald, Jazz at the Philharmonic tour (Dizzy Gillespie etc) as well as our favourites at the time, the Modern Jazz Quartet. To our knowledge Manchester had two jazz clubs in the late 1960’s, the Manchester Sports Guild (MSG) which we were thrown out from trying to get in for free, and Club 43 on Amber Street. As soon as we were 18 years of age we became members of Club 43 and felt incredibly grown-up going to a real night spot ! There we saw – close up – Ben Webster, Zoot Simms and Al Cohn, Wardell Gray and Archie Shepp, whilst sitting alongside Georgie Fame in the audience who, like us, was lapping up the music of his idols.
I’ve never lost that initial interest nor the sense of excitement in improvised music from around the world in all its forms. Although some may argue that there are no musical connections, my interests range from Free Jazz to New Orleans, from UK music (what a loss Keith Tippett* was recently to music) to West Coast cool. It is regrettable that there are so few jazz venues and so few musician’s tours these days but Manchester’s Band On The Wall remains and – one hopes – with other small clubs in the North West region will thrive through the energetic participation of a new generation of jazz lovers who might similarly appreciate the art in all jazz styles and schools.
Alongside jazz I’ve been involved in writing about aspects of local history, particularly those of Rochdale. This came about after I’d written a book on an old lido which closed in the nineteen sixties, the Norden Riviera (‘Norden Riviera : Rochdale by the Sea’) and a longer book on the beginnings of the Workers Educational Association’s (WEA) tutorial system which began in Rochdale in 1905. At a presentation to a local history society I was approached by Streetwise magazine to write a short piece about the Norden lido and they liked it so much they invited me to write more. Four years and almost fifty articles later, I’m still doing it !
My intention is to pull all the articles together into a book in the future. There’s no financial benefit in doing these things, simply a desire to bring Rochdale’s colourful past to a wider audience.
On my retirement from university teaching I thought that life was going to be one of reading novels and walks in the park. It hasn’t turned out that way. Instead, I’m doing what I want to do to a timetable of my own choosing. Jazz and local history meet my cultural needs – and I can still walk in a local park and listen to the music I love, so what’s not to like ?
Gary Heywood-Everett (above left)
Editor´s note: Keith Graham Tippett (right) *, alluded to by Gary there, was of course known professionally as Keith Tippett, a British jazz pianist and composer. According to AllMusic, Tippett’s career ´spanned jazz-rock, progressive rock and improvised and contemporary music, as well as modern jazz, for more than half-a-century´. He held ´an unparalleled place in British contemporary music,´ and was known for ´his unique approach to improvisation´. Tippett appeared and recorded in many settings, including a duet with Stan Tracey, duets with his wife Julie Tippetts, solo performances, and as a bandleader, and also appeared on King Crimson albums.
Even Gary´s short introduction has me excited and proud to see him involved in our Harmonies Instead Of Oranges ´festival later in the year and I´m sure he´ll have plenty to share with sidetracks & detours readers in future articles about musicians like The Modern Jazz Quartet. He has already joined forces with Steve Bewick and makes contributions to our correspondent´s Hot Biscuits jazz radio programme.