Sunday, February 07, 2010

Death of a Jazzman

Sad news that Sir John Dankworth died last night aged 82.

Johnny Dankworth, as he was better known, was one of the Great British Jazzmen, up there for my money with the Humphrey Lyttleltons, Stan Traceys and Chris Barbers who defined the coolness of swinging Britain in the 1960s every bit as much as the Beatles and Stones.

I am fortunate to have seen Dankworth, primarily a saxophonist but also a fine clarinetist, play a couple of times with his wife, the singer Dame Cleo Laine, but regret never making it to the Stables club that they formed in the 1970s in their own garden. It was after a gig at the Stables last night that Laine announced Dankworth's death to the audience. The show went on, an appropriate tribute to the musicians' musician.

One of the concerts I saw them perform was at the Globe theatre in South London, where Dankworth and Laine performed tracks from their 1964 album Shakespeare: And All That Jazz, which you can listen to here. Performing with them was their son Alec, a fine bassist.

I'm planning to spend this afternoon (while watching Scotland's fruitless attempts to beat France at rugby) checking out some of Dankworth's back catalogue and running through this month's pay cheque on iTunes. The starting point has to be this charming number, Experiments with Mice, a bebop arrangement of the nursery rhyme Three Blind Mice that was a hit single in 1956.

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