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UK Jazz Piano Pioneers

Nottingham National Jazz Piano Competition - Judges

1. Dudley Moore

Dudley Stuart John Moore was born in Dagenham, East London on April 19th, 1935. He was taught the piano by his parents when just eight and took up the violin aged eleven. Young Dudley also attended the Guildhall School Of Music every Saturday morning, learning the history and appreciation of music as well as violin lessons. Whilst singing in the choir in his local Dagenham church, he was persuaded to play the church organ and further persuaded to apply for an organ scholarship to study music at University. Dudley was successful, attained the scholarship and entered Oxford University, graduating aged 22 with BA degrees in both Music and Composition from Magdalen College.

After graduation, he left Oxford in 1958 as an accomplished jazz pianist, performing with Johnny Dankworth and touring the US for a year with the Vic Lewis band. Dudley played jazz piano at various locations whilst also appearing in the comedy revue “Beyond The Fringe” with Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller and Alan Bennett. In 1961 Peter Cook bought a former strip joint in Soho and opened The Establishment Club – a cabaret club with Dudley playing jazz in the cellar alongside bassist Pete McGurk and drummer Chris Karan… and so the Dudley Moore Trio was born. Dudley's jazz style was influenced in his teens by his idols Erroll Garner and Oscar Peterson, who inspired him to stretch his style.
Moore died at his New Jersey home on 27/03/02, after the degenerative progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) which plagued the final years of his life led to pneumonia.

2. Terry Shannon   

At a time when few British jazzmen had even a feint whiff of authenticity about them, Terry Shannon stood out, despite being within two thousand miles from New York's Birdland. Like his predecessors, Shannon was a self-taught talent, relying more on what could be gleaned from records than on any academic training. This is all the more surprising when one considers how harmonically erudite his playing was.

Shannon entered the music business with some reluctance, abandoning a good day job to join the quartet of clarinettist Vic Ash and to work on record with musicians such as trumpeter Dizzy Reece and saxophonist Ronnie Scott. One of Shannon's earliest recordings was the 10" Tempo album Dizzy Blows Bird on which he accompanied Dizzy Reece through a programme of numbers associated with Charlie Parker (A New Star). A New Star, Dizzy ReeceThe two takes of Parker's blues Bluebird contain superlative early Shannon; he already displays the virtues that would lead many of Britain's modernists to cite him as their favourite pianist, the grooving sense of time, the assertive but never boisterous accompaniment, and solo lines which snake through the chord changes with a knowing sophistication. Shannon named his favourite pianists as Tommy Flanagan, Horace Silver, Bud Powell and Sonny Clark, and it is possible to hear elements of each of those performers in his work at this time, and also, in the telling economy of his statements and comping, that of John Lewis.

In 1957 Shannon joined the Jazz Couriers led by Ronnie Scott and Tubby Hayes, and it is hard to imagine a better context in which to place his gifts. Like Hayes (who tolerated Shannon's poor sight reading skills because he admired his playing so much), Shannon was a perfect synthesiser of the latest jazz trends from America, and yet he never sounded empty or faceless. His work throughout the four Jazz Couriers albums (available on several reissues) is that of a master pianist, and one can cite his tactful comping on After Tea from The Couriers of Jazz album as an excellent example of his skill as musical prompt, or his solo on The Serpent (now on the CD Some Of My Best Friends Are Blues) as an example of his ability to develop the thread of a solo, or his brief improvisation on My Funny Valentine (again from the The Couriers of Jazz CD) as an example of his re-harmonisation of a hackneyed theme.

Hayes was quick to praise Shannon's contribution to the Couriers music, and when the band split in 1959 Shannon would stay on and spend a further five years working with Tubby's various groups. This work is spread across several albums, including Tubby's Groove (included on The Eighth Wonder), Palladium Jazz Date, Tubbs, Tubbs' Tours and archive issues such as Tribute to Tubbs, Live In London Volume 1 and Volume 2 and Night and Day. Throughout this impressive body of work Shannon emerges as an amazingly consistent performer, unfazed by Hayes' virtuosity, and even, by dint of a canny brain and a subtle technique, able to undercut the nominal star. Blue Hayes from the 1959 Tubby's Groove set is a masterpiece for Shannon, joining the performance on Blues For Tony which he recorded with Jamaican saxophonist Wilton "Bogey" Gaynair the same year (the album Blue Bogey) as evidence of Shannon's genuine ability to play the blues in a convincing and sincere way. Frustratingly, Shannon's career began to falter in the late 1960s, through a combination of the usual jazz vices and bitterness (he was especially cynical about the lack of cohesive rhythm sections on the local scene), and by the end of the decade he was almost invisible on the musical radar. His career since then has been a similarly inconsistent mix of potential comebacks, dissipation and abstraction, and despite the efforts of his one time producer at Tempo, Tony Hall, to get Terry to record again, he has become all but musically silent, an ignominious shame for a musician who was once central to one of the finest jazz groups this country has produced.- Simon Spillett

I just came across this and had to e-mail you
We moved to Grimsby in 1987 and had the great pleasure of having Terry for a neighbour for 5 years.  Having been in group myself and fancying myself as a musician I can't imagine a more pleasurable way to be proved how wrong I was.  I can only say that sitting in his house, listening to him improvise hour after hour was just incredible.  I even got to roadie for him at local gigs and once he persuaded me to accompany him on bass (though in the end I doubt the audience heard me - but he did).  Just as good was that he and his wife would baby sit with our kids,- who all loved them both.  Last heard he was living in Wragby ( a village nearer to Lincoln) and still playing with local bands 
Jazz Eddie - thanks for this contribution from - David Watson

3. Eddie Thompson was one of the few London modernists to successfully steer a profitable course through the middle ground that lay between artistic congruency and overt commercialism. Thompson, like George Shearing, had been blind since childhood, and similarly he shared an ability to put across sophisticated musical concepts in a manner so effortless and fluid that they seemed palatable to a wider audience. Thus Thompson could find himself booked as a variety act or a jazz performer and not have to bend either way to fit the bill. A sadly unavailable trio album, Piano Moods, made in 1959 and released on the Ember label, was an early classic containing an effective cross section of Thompson's musical world, from the sparkling Red Garland-like dancing figures he sprinkled above fast themes, to a more sombre and stoic lyricism that presaged the brooding introspection Bill Evans would come to make his own, as on Thompson's own composition Three For Three Four. At this time Thompson's repertoire contained what must surely qualify as one of the most unusual appropriations of English musical culture into a jazz settings, a jaunty re-arrangement of Flanagan and Allen's Underneath the Arches, a performance which on paper might sound improbable but is actually delightful. Thompson went one better on the now very rare 1958 Vox album London By Night, when he recorded a programme of songs dedicated to the English capital, including such unlikely fare as Passport to Pimlico and London Pride.

London was indeed proud of Thompson's talents, and one of his career highlights was sharing the opening night billing at Ronnie Scott's club in October 1959. For a short time he was the house pianist at the club before realising the ambition that George Shearing had held over a decade earlier when he, too, moved to America. Unlike other émigrés such as Dizzy Reece, Thompson quickly made a practical home for himself, playing a lengthy residency at the famed Hickory House venue in New York City, but by the early 1970s he was back in the United Kingdom. A solo LP recorded live at Ronnie Scott's during this period is long over due for reissue. Indeed Thompson's career is in need of reappraisal, as, up until his death in 1986, he was one of the country's best loved and most assured jazzmen. - Simon Spillett

Having just found, at long last, some reference to that consummate pianist, Eddie Thompson, I would like to offer some additional and, late, information on Eddie's later appearances. He was a regular Thursday night performer at the Anchor Pub in the small West Yorkshire town of Brighouse in the late 70s.He was a long-time friend of the landlord, an ex-jazz flautist whose first name was Rod. He was well known for his seamless performances incorporating jazz standards into a "medley" spot of requests by the audience of around 30 or 40. He also had a short series on BBC TV, recorded at the Leeds studios for BBC Bristol , entitled "It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Don't Have That Swing)", again in the late 70s. In addition, I remember a one night performance by a re-emerging Marion Williams, another performer for whom there appears to be no information.  Dave van de Gevel  Zakynthos  Greece  

As a frequent visitor to the Anchor Inn in Brighouse I often used to hear Eddie at the Thursday sessions. I was also there on the memorable night when Marion Williams sang. Around the same time Eddie was with Marion at a cellar club in Stockport & he also accompanied Bud Freeman there. I think Eddie must have known the chords to every song written in the 20th Century. He had a great sense of humour. I remember one night during his residency at the Shay jazz club in Halifax. There was a lot of noisy chatter from around the bar. Eddie’s response was to play more & more quietly. At last  one of the listeners could stand it no longer & shouted to the bar crowd, ‘Be quiet’. Eddie said, ‘I’m playing as quietly as I can’.  I’m so sorry that I shall never buy him another Glenmorangie
Ken Austin

Thanks to Ken Austin for confirming my shaky memory about Eddie's performances at the Anchor Pub in Brighouse. I did, foolishly, try and test Eddie's knowledge by asking him to play A Night In Tunisia. With a wry smile he came out with the classic "You hum it and I'll play it!".  As for Marion Williams, I did find a reference to her having sung with Dankworth before being supplanted by Cleo Laine. Has anyone any information about the tv series that Eddie recorded which I mentioned before? Nothing on You-Tube so maybe the BBC just erased it, maybe not.  Can Ken clarify the question as to Rod's surname (landlord of the Anchor)? He must have been well known on the circuit at some time as he introduced me to Ronnie Scott and George Chisholm at a concert in Bridlington in the mid 70's.  Dave van de Gevel,Zakynthos,Greece.

The landlord at the Anchor Inn was Rod Marshall who sadly died a few years ago after a long and debilitating illness. He was never really well after his return from Korea with a piece of shrapnel which couldn’t be removed,  He never lost his sense of humour though. I remember once when a customer asked him for a packet of Quavers. Rod said, ‘do you want Quavers or demi-semi Quavers’, ‘I’ll have demi- semi Quavers’, said the customer so Rod put a packet on the bar and smashed them with his fist..

Apart from his residency at the Anchor - Eddie played at various other gigs in the area. He once played a concert on the stage at  Leeds City Hall accompanied by a local bass player. Ken Austin

Marion Williams also sang with the Oscar Rabin band   

4. Dill Jones   

Dill Jones made a permanent move to New York in 1961, following a decade as one of London's most adaptable jazzmen. Jones' wide ranging abilities and enthusiasm are indicative of how the 'mainstream' of the music had a far more practical implication in Britain during this era. Before leaving Britain, Jones had kept pace with all the local bop-based talents - he had played in Tony Kinsey's Trio, played with Joe Harriott, and had also been a key member of the Tommy Whittle quintet - but he had also accompanied Louis Armstrong. In 1961, at the height of the trad boom, Jones cocked a snook at convention and led a band of 'modernists', including clarinettist Vic Ash and trombonist Keith Christie, and billed itself as the Dixieland All-Stars, which horrified audiences and critics alike when it played an all trad programme at London's Flamingo Club. Was this provocation, an extreme case of hitching a ride on a passing bandwagon, or merely an indication of Jones' dislike of pigeon holes? When the band made an LP for Columbia, Jones The Jazz (now as rare hen's teeth), few original copies were sold to an audience then deeply divided by the trad versus modern debacle. Jones made few other recordings as a leader while in Britain. Perhaps his finest was the 1959 EP recorded by the enterprising Denis Preston at Lansdowne studios, Dill Jones Plus Four. Original copies are rarities, but anyone lucky enough to own this record will hear not only Jones' urbane piano style (at the time somewhere between Teddy Wilson, John Lewis and Tommy Flanagan) exercised on themes by Duke Jordan and Sonny Rollins, but also the lyrical eloquence of tenor saxophonist Duncan Lamont.

Upon moving to America, Jones did what he did best, once more befuddling the preconceptions of his critics back home. Having joined the noisy ranks of the Eddie Condon associated circle in New York, he then worked with Jimmy McPartland, Gene Krupa, Bob Wilber and also with the Dukes of Dixieland. He then settled comfortably into one of the best mainstream bands of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the JPJ quartet, co-headed by saxophonist Budd Johnson and drummer Oliver Jackson; this group suffered neglect only because the topsy-turvy world of jazz in that era was not patient enough to hear music that was not political, experimental or plugged in. In 1972, Jones recorded a glorious album for the American Chiaroscuro label, Davenport Blues, a tribute to Bix Beiderbecke which affirmed once more the pianist's total lack of regard for stylistic straight-jackets and which is among his finest recordings. - by Simon Spillett             

5. Stan Tracey

The 1960s also saw the long awaited rise to prominence of Stan Tracey. Although Tracey had been a professional musician since 1943, it had taken him time to find his way inside the inner circle of the British modernists, something borne out of commercial necessity. His early career featured spells with such unlikely acts as the cod-gypsy Melfi Trio, for whom Stan obliging returned to his first instrument, the accordion (an instrument he would play on record with Kenny Baker in the mid-1950s) and by the late 1950s, despite having made valuable playing connections and recordings with Ronnie Scott, Jimmy Deuchar and Victor Feldman, Tracey was still having to earn a commercial crust with the Ted Heath band, wherein his mischievous sense of humour occasionally threatened to derail the temperate mood of blandness.

At a time when British jazz pianists were generally trying for the smooth fluidity of men like Tommy Flanagan, Wynton Kelly and Oscar Peterson, Tracey represented a distinctly knotty alternative, as can be heard on his first album as a leader, Showcase, made in 1958 with Heath band colleagues bassist Johnny Hawksworth and drummer Ronnie Verrell. The results are by no means mature Tracey, for there are still more than trace vestiges of his dance band apprenticeship, but the overall concept is a far different one from merely following a fashionable star and one can readily recognise the Stan Tracey of today in this early effort. Tracey had by then in his own words "boiled it down" to just two major influences, Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk, and the effect these influences had upon him was to make his style stark, rhythmically obtuse but assertive, harmonically dense and without any real recourse to empty technical displays. The iconic album Little Klunk is the perfect early example of Tracey's skills as they stood at the dawn of the 1960s, and features only his own compositions, a trend that the pianist was to follow with unexpected dividends within a few years.

Such an intractable and stubborn stylist might not have seemed the ideal choice for the position of house accompanist, but in 1961 Tracey fell into just such a role at Ronnie Scott's club and over the next seven years there followed an intense period of musical creativity for the pianist, alternating work and recordings with his own quartet and accompanying a bewildering array of visiting American soloists, an experience he once described as being "like Christmas every night." The reaction to Tracey was variable. Some, like Sonny Rollins, Roland Kirk, Jimmy Witherspoon and Zoot Sims were delighted to find a genuine musical personality at the keyboard and not some fawning non-entity; others were not. Saxophonists Lucky Thompson and Don Byas were openly hostile, and Stan Getz had the ego-fuelled nerve to criticise Tracey publicly over the microphone at the club one night; "bollocks," was Tracey's response.

Stan Tracey's Under Milk Wood Jazz SuiteTracey had already found something far more useful to do with his hands than wipe the backsides of the visiting artists at Scott's, but when a sincere musical dialogue commenced he was ready to throw himself in with total commitment. "I don't like accompanying twinkling stars," he said later, and the same lack of unnecessary hype and fashion conscious pandering marked his own choice for regular musical partner when he began to work with tenor saxophonist Bobby Wellins, another genuine improviser with an unshowy gift. The Tracey-Wellins partnership was central to one of the greatest triumphs in British jazz, the 1965 recording Under Milk Wood, the story of which has been documented time and again elsewhere. The follow up album recorded in 1967, With Love From Jazz, has finally been released on CD after years of being an expensive collectors item on vinyl. If it lacks the legendary status of its predecessor, it certainly lacks nothing else. Tracey and Wellins are on peak form, revealing yet another facet of their hand-in-glove pairing on a loosely connected suite of songs about love.

A period in the jazz wilderness followed in the 1970s, as did some not entirely convincing collaborations with musicians from the free jazz scene, but by the 1980s Tracey was back doing what he does best. Indeed, Tracey is currently going through yet another purple patch and the renewed interest in his work heralded by a recent BBC4 documentary on his life and work and by the Jazz Britannia series (although somewhat cynically received by Stan himself) looks as if it will have positive ripples. There are plans to reissue several of his classic albums from the late 1960s and mid-1970s, which include the big band sessions Alice In Jazzland and The Seven Ages of Man, the trio album Perspectives, a collaboration with saxophonist Peter King, Free 'an One, and the much loved album Captain Adventure, featuring another long-term Tracey sidekick, the tenorist Art Themen. There can be little doubt that the renaissance of one of this country's finest jazz talents is both deserved and very welcome. - by Simon Spillett  

6. Lennie Felix      
Piano, b. London, England, d. Dec. 29, 1980. né: Leonard Jacobus Felix. 

I was a close friend of Lennie Felix and when we were together in the Dominican Republic the year he died we left a cassette tape of him singing songs as well as accompanying himself on piano.  We never got that tape back.  I have been sad ever since that I have only 1 or 2 songs, and the last 4 years of his life he sang a lot.  If you know anyone who has any recordings of Lennie Felix singing please let me know.  He was my greatest friend.  Lauren Liefland, San Diego, California              

7. Dave Lee          - any assistance please?             

8. Brian Dee  arrived on the London jazz scene at the tail end of the 1950s and quickly impressed everyone with his adaptation of Wynton Kelly's The Catalyst, Brian Dee Trioapproach (including Kelly himself on a tour opposite the Miles Davis Quintet which Dee made in 1960). This early work can be heard on The Five Of Us, an album recorded for Tempo by the Jazz Five, co-led by saxophonists Vic Ash and Harry Klein, and one of the groups that had sprung up in the wake of the Jazz Couriers. As the years went by, Dee's playing matured, as is evidenced on several recent CDs: Centurion, recorded with his quartet featuring saxophonist Alex Garnett, The Catalyst, a trio session with the redoubtable Dave Green and Clark Tracey, and a stunning recital of Richard Rodgers' songs with the saxophonist Duncan Lamont, Happy Talk. He has also become one of the most respected accompanists on the British jazz scene, working as effectively with vocalists as with instrumentalists. - by Simon Spillett

One of the UK's leading jazz pianists. He first came to prominence with the opening of the Ronnie Scott Club in 1959. His international reputation grew and he toured as a member of The Jazz Five opposite Miles Davis. In 1965 was voted "Melody Maker New Star".  Dee's working experience as an accompanist of world class vocalists is well known. The list of jazz stars that he has worked with is endless and includes recording with Bing Crosby, Johnny Mercer, Peggy Lee and Fred Astaire.  He is still making frequent appearances at Ronnie Scott's and broadcasts regularly on radio with his own trio.

  • The outstanding feature of Dee's performance here, is its fleetness of fingering and cleanness of articulation. Russell Davies, Daily Telegraph

  • Dee's qualities, delicacy, flexibility, wit and ingenuity soon make themselves apparent. Dave Gelly The Observer

  • Brian Dee's Trio was perfect ... amongst the best of our jazz pianists, and probably one of the best accompanists we have ever had.
    Steve Voce Jazz Journal

Eddie Harvey

Eddie Harvey was born in 1925. After studying the piano classically Eddie Harvey took up the trombone and became a prime mover in the post war jazz revival. He became interested in modern jazz in the late 1940’s when he first played with John Dankworth, Ronnie Scott and other like-minded young musicians.

Later he was to work with John Dankworth, both in the famous “Seven” with Cleo Laine and in a number of his Big Bands ,over a period of many years.  He also played with the American bands of Woody Herman, Maynard Ferguson and for many years as a pianist with Humphrey Lyttelton’s band.

Eddie Harvey is also well known as a jazz composer and arranger, having written music for radio, TV, film and theatre over the years. He recently wrote music for Cleo Laine’s album singing with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. This summer his music was heard in a series of programmes for Channel 4 TV.
He has also been involved in education as a tutor at the City Literary Institute, Head of Brass at Haileybury College and Director of the Hertfordshire Youth Jazz Ensemble, as well as free-lance director/tutor for numerous Summer Music courses, schools and PGCE Courses. Eddie Harvey is currently the Head of Jazz Studies at the London College of Music, where he also conducts the LCMM Big Band and Jazztet. These units have appeared with guest artists including John Dankworth, Peter King and John Surman; and have recently performed on the London and Ealing Jazz festivals; and in concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Wembley Conference Centre.  He has been involved as adviser and composer to the Associated Board for many years.


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Last modified: 18/02/2012