|Odds and ends...Denis Rose - Johnny Dankworth Seven - Tony Kinsey - Ron Simmonds...|
Don Rendell remembers Denis Rose (late 1945-47)...|
Undoubtedly, Denis Rose was the most progressive-thinking of all the jazz musicians that I met in those years. He was practically living in Archer Street, as we all were. (In fact, just prior to joining Duncan Whyte I had 13 weeks out of work, which was mainly spent drinking tea all day in Archer Street cafes.) Denis ran a rehearsal band, which met downstairs at the Fullado Club. We did things like the Gillespie arrangements of "That's Earl, Brother" and "Cubano Be, Cubano Bop".
Without having a particularly strong tone on trumpet, Denis had a very thorough understanding of Dizzy's kind of music. And sometimes he'd play songs like "You Go To My Head" and "Embraceable You", which require a very good ear to get the right chords all the way.
I remember him teaching Laurie Morgan, the drummer, simple ways of making tunes sound nice on the piano. Laurie would plonk out, say, "All The Things You Are", with Denis Rose's voicing just using about three fingers to get the essential notes of those chords. In turn, I learned quite a lot from Laurie. There was always some action going on with Denis. There were two clubs in Stepney where music just used to happen. I never knew when it would happen, but, through being down Archer Street with Ronnie Scott, Tony Crombie and Denis it seemed that quite often we'd go off down to Stepney and play in these enormous school halls. Afterwards we'd go round to someone's house and continue. Denis would always be organising it all, by giving us the notes for riffs and so on. Ronnie Scott, too, was fast gaining recognition and prestige, and was acknowledged by all the other musicians. But, somehow, Denis, being a little older, I think' was considered to be the one who could really say what was what.
For a time he was regular with Johnny Claes and his Clae-Pigeons, as was Ronnie. Then he joined the Tito Burns Sextet, which broadcast every Saturday lunchtime on Accordion Club. This became a very amazing band to listen to with Ronnie, Denis, Pete Chilver on guitar, Ray Ellington on drums. I often wonder what the accordion authorities used to think of having such an un-accordion-like sound on their programme. After this, Denis Rose held a job with Jack Amlot's Band at Hammersmith Palais, where he worked afternoons and evenings six days a week. But he was still playing jazz because there were some very good reports of his music.
Other musicians tell me that he is only playing solo piano nowadays. (Extracted from 'A recap of twenty years of British Jazz', written in 1967 by Don Rendell for the Jazz Professional website.)
Don Rendell on the Johnny Dankworth Seven...
Johnny wanted Ronnie Scott to be in the original Dankworth Seven, when he formed it in 1950. But evidently Ronnie had other feelings, or some snag cropped up so Johnny asked me. In organising the group, he was greatly aided by pianist Bill Le Sage, who took a hand in the administration of it.
The trumpet position was filled, briefly, by Leon Calvert and Terry Brown, while we were waiting for Jimmy Deuchar to get his RAF discharge. The remainder of the line-up was Eddie Harvey (trombone), Joe Muddel, soon replaced by Eric Dawson (bass) and Tony Kinsey (drums). In the three years of the Seven's existence only two major personnel changes were made - Eddie Blair for Jimmy Deuchar and Eddie Taylor for Tony Kinsey. The group became very highly rated throughout Europe, as well as being written about in America.
What made the Seven outstanding was, basically, the musical content. Every man was a good jazz player and Johnny himself, of course, is a fine arranger. But, after several months of just playing jazz, he was on the point of packing it all in because the money we were making was really negligible. However, he decided instead to try to widen the field of the Seven. Already we had Marion Williams with us - a tremendous singer. Her tone was beautiful; she sang with such sincerity, and with great jazz feeling. In fact, it was some of the best singing I've ever heard in this country. One session that stays firmly in the memories of Joe Muddel and myself, particularly, we played somewhere near Colchester. She sang "How Deep Is The Ocean", and it was being recorded privately. Really excellent.
Although the Seven had set out to please dancers, we were still doing everything with a jazz feeling. We made many straight jazz sides for Carlo Krahmer's Esquire label, such as "I Hear Music", "The Slider", "Webb City" and "Leon Bismarck", (a nice original of Johnny's). We also had some commercial things released especially when Cleo (Laine) joined.
I've always regarded Johnny as a most exceptionally talented musician. One night he stayed at my place, and we had a commercial-type broadcast the following morning. He got up at about 8 o'clock in the morning and scribbled down a vocal arrangement - first chorus front-line and the backing for the vocalist over tea and toast. And we performed it on the broadcast. He's that type of musician. He always works that way often leaving things to the very last minute. 'A dressing gown and fast car' was Eddie Harvey's neat description of this trait in Johnny.
Without doubt, his writing for the group was responsible for its success. I was listening through the Dankworth Seven recordings the other day and they're beautifully written. It's also interesting to note that there were 'headed' bridges and second themes, as happens in "Webb City" and "The Slider", for instance. Jimmy Deuchar, Eddie Harvey, Bill Le Sage and myself, Eddie Blair, too, when he joined all had a hand in suggesting a different line, or an occasional modulation to get from the first chorus into the second. On listening back, I think there was possibly some influence from the Miles Davis Tentet, as on that "Birth Of The Cool" LP. But, on the other hand, it was not just imitation, merely a matter of liking that kind of music.
There were definite elements in his writing then that you can follow through to the big band. I've done the odd gig with the big band, filling in for Art Ellefson, Danny Moss, or whoever it was, and it's very noticeable to me. I can still feel the Seven here and there all the way through the music. (Extracted from 'A recap of twenty years of British Jazz', written in 1967 by Don Rendell for the Jazz Professional website.)
Tony Kinsey reminisces...
In the late forties I came to London with the pianist Ronnie Ball, who has long since passed away. Ronnie was a wonderful pianist and my best friend - we even had a double wedding as we were that close. After a spell of working in various upmarket nightclubs, which I detested because of the type of music we had to play, I got a job with Ivor Noon's band on the Queen Mary liner doing the New York run. This gave me the opportunity to hear the greatest jazz players of that period at first hand, which was a fantastic revelation. To be able to hear Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Buddy Rich, Kenny Clarke, Max Roach and so many other great players was truly a gift from the Gods. It also gave me the opportunity to study percussion with two marvellous teachers, namely Cozy Cole and Bill West.
After I had made about seventeen trips on the Queen Mary, I left and relocated in London and became a founder member of the Dankworth Seven, which was to become the countries leading jazz group of the period. However, in time I became a little disenchanted touring around with all the long coach trips, so after a two-year spell I left and joined Ronnie Ball's trio at the Fifty-One Club. Ronnie then left to go to the States and I was supposed to follow him but I didn't as I had changed my mind about making this move. Instead, I took over the trio at the Fifty-One Club that included pianist Dill Jones and Stan Wasser and we had groups like the Tony Kinsey Trio with the saxophonist Tommy Whittle who'd left Ted Heath to come and work with us, and we also worked with other great players like the tenor saxophonist Jimmy Skidmore. Then the pianist and vibes player Bill Le Sage left The Dankworth Seven to join me, which is when I formed The Tony Kinsey Trio with alto saxophonist Joe Harriot in 1951. We made a very successful trip to the Paris Salle Pleyel and played at the jazz festival there. Everybody had warned us before we went, saying the French would only boo us because we were English jazz musicians. In fact, it was the other way round - they loved us.
With this group we had an eight-year residency at The Flamingo Club, which was a good base for us, playing there three or four nights a week including the late night session. Over the eight years, the group changed its front line and in all there were about five or six versions of the group. The group disbanded when Bill Le Sage and I decided to go our separate ways, but not through any sort of animosity or anything like that. We just decided eight years was enough and Bill wanted to do his own thing and I wanted to do my own thing, but we did still work together quite often afterwards and remained great friends. (The above is a brief extract from a much longer interview. The full text can be read at Vinylvulture website.)
Ron Simmonds on the big bands...
The great British big bands of the post war years, roughly in order of merit, were Ted Heath, Geraldo, Tommy Sampson, John Dankworth, Jack Parnell, Vic Lewis and Eric Delaney. The personnel of these bands changed constantly. There was so much work around that the musicians could more or less choose the bands in which they wished to play. The longest I ever worked for one man in London was eight years with Jack Parnell. Jack was an extremely gifted musician, and had a startlingly good small band to begin with, containing some of the finest jazz musicians available. The quality dropped somewhat when he started his big band in 1953 and picked up again when he took over the ITV television orchestra from Dennis Ringrowe in 1957, and began using studio musicians.
The British big bands were all clones of the great Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey Orchestras. Very few of them played any of Miller’s music, but they all had the same 4 trumpet, 4 trombone, 5 saxophone, and four rhythm line-up. Most of them had two or three singers, and perhaps a vocal group formed from the ranks of the players. As regards style, this was determined by the people who wrote the arrangements for the bands, and the way the players interpreted their scores.
Ted Heath's library was mostly written by his second alto player, Reg Owen, and later on by the trombonist Johnny Keating. Many years later, when I joined the band, Ted was still playing Reg's arrangements, which were brilliant, clean-cut, and cold as ice. Jack Parnell's big band music was mostly written by mediocre arrangers. A lot of it was written by the band's pianist Norman Stenfalt, who wrote entire scores cramped on to a couple of pages of piano staves. The copyist, usually myself, had to extract the parts as best he could. Norman's scores were pot-boilers. There was no question of exotic chords, counterpoint or voice-crossing. And no style whatsoever. For this reason, with the exception of Jack's drum features, his big band had nothing that could distinguish it from any other. As Jack did not play drums on the regular numbers his own particular style did not come through on them. The arrangements did nothing to help. The best period for Jack was with his first small band, when the trumpeters Jimmy Watson and Jimmy Deuchar wrote most of the scores. That group was the best band Jack ever had, the best small band anyone ever had. Even compared to the best American groups of that period it was sensational.
The first big Vic Lewis band played music written by pianist Ken Thorne, who captured the Kenton sound that Vic wanted ideally. It was a lot of fun playing with Vic, because he treated his band with the enthusiasm of a child with his favourite toy, and fired us all with the same enthusiasm.
The two best road bands I played with in Britain were those of Tommy Sampson and Johnny Dankworth. Dankworth's music, written mainly by himself, was inventive and interesting. John's was the band that played the most out-and-out jazz arrangements, with very few commercial titles, which were nevertheless scored in a jazz manner. Some of the best arrangements of commercials for John were written by Dave Lindup and the bass player Kenny Napper.
The big British bands of the day were of a very high standard, but none of them reached the perfection of any of the best American big bands, the Clarke-Boland band, or the great Peter Herbolzheimer band, with which I later played for ten years in Germany.(The above is a brief extract from a much longer article by trumpeter Ron Simmonds written for the Jazz Professional website.)