I’ve had a passion for music which I can trace back before hearing Jelly Roll Morton and the Red Hot Peppers’ Doctor Jazz in the jazz wave of the 1950’s and 1960’s.
That was enough for me to form at school, along with clarinettist David Mawson, a band in which I played tenor banjo and which we played Doctor Jazz along with several “trad” and New Orleans tunes made popular by Chris Barber and which we’d heard played by any number of bands you could hear around the country at that time and in Croydon near where we lived.
Prior to going to this school, though, around April in 1962, my brother Andrew took me along to the Odeon? in Watford to hear Count Basie and the amazing vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross. We went backstage to speak to Count Basie and, wihout little interruption to his card game he asked us about what we were doing and commented that the band Andrew was playing in - an 18-piece youth rehearsal band at London’s Windmill Theatre - was bigger than his own. I’m pretty sure I hadn’t really understood what I had just experienced, but no doubt it began the cementing of my love of the jazz art form.
Somebody at school, a few years later, chose a Charlie Parker track as the overture music to Becket’s Waiting for Godot. This was a seminal moment: the first time I’d heard Parker’s genius and it completely bowled me over; his sound, his playing, the musical ideas - excited me so much. For some reason I did not immediately buy a Charlie Parker record but a 45RPM EP of Phil Woods which included Like Someone in Love which I just had to keep playing over and over whilst wondering how all that improvising magic worked.