|The clubs - More on Club Eleven, the Fullado Club, and The Flamingo...|
The Fullado Club (Don Rendell)...|
The fountainhead of the 'modern' movement in this country is usually said to have been the Club Eleven, which existed in the late 1940s. Actually, though, things started happening a little earlier at a club in Old Compton Street, known then as the Fullado Club, where jazz was played non-stop from 3 p.m. until midnight. Most of the musicians who were associated with the Club Eleven used to play there. The difference being that, at the Fullado, we played only for kicks, not for cash!
I spent most of my spare hours there. I was working with Duncan Whyte's Band at the Astoria, Charing Cross Road, and at the end of the evening I used to go, with guitarist Stan Watson and other friends, down to the Nut House, a night club in Regent Street. Which was where, as a kid of 18, I counted myself extremely lucky to get some chances to play with several great American musi�cians. This was towards the end of the war and Sam Donahue's U.S. Navy Band was in town. Hearing the whole band at the Queensberry All-Services Club was a thrill that is still vivid in my mind, as I'm sure it is also with Jack Parnell, who was sitting next to me that night.
The Donahue men, such as trombonist Dick Le Fave and clarinettist Ralph La Pola, would go around the clubs after the gig when they were in London. I can recall Kenny Baker and Johnny Claes sitting in with excellent fellow-trumpeters like Johnny Best, Frankie Beach, Don Jacoby and Conrad Gozzo. It seemed to me then that the Americans had more fundamental ability to produce sound - probably through more college training in the early stages of learning instruments. The sax players, too, had more power than anyone I knew over here.
Another frequent sitter-in on trumpet was Dennis Rose who I would unhesitatingly name as the guv'nor during that period (around 1945 - 47, that is). He was always around, along with Ronnie Scott, Tommy Whittle, Johnny Dankworth, Hank Shaw, Terry Brown, Dave Goldberg, Tommy Pollard, Lennie Bush, Laurie Morgan, Jack Parnell, Tony Crombie and many others. (Extracted from 'A recap of twenty years of British Jazz', written in 1967 by Don Rendell. The full text can be read at Jazz Professional website.)
Don Rendell remembers Club Eleven...|
A lot of jazz activity was consolidated by the formation of the 'Club Eleven' which was quite a milestone. It was the first regular paid modern jazz gig for London musicians, who ran it themselves. They used Mac's Rehearsal Rooms in Great Windmill Street.
Two groups were featured. One was fronted by Johnny Dankworth, with Leon Calvert on trumpet, Bernie Fenton on piano, Joe Muddel on bass and Laurie Morgan on drums; the other was led by Ronnie Scott, with Hank Shaw on trumpet and the rhythm of Tommy Pollard, Lennie Bush and Tony Crombie. The eleventh man was a non-musician the late Harry Morris, who, being a good businessman, took care of the financial side. When Ronnie Scott left to go on the boats to the States, I was asked to fill the vacancy in the Eleven. It was quite a closed circle that we had at the Club Eleven. I have the feeling that not everyone was very popular if they got up and tried to join in. Just those whose gig it was did the playing with very few exceptions. But the people didn't seem baffled at all by the new music we were playing. It seemed to be so obviously right. What we were hearing on record from Parker, Gillespie, the early Miles Davis, tenor players like Wardell Gray, Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz and Allan Eager - we just fell naturally into it. And the audiences just lapped it up. Through being there, of course, I got to meet Johnny Dankworth... (Extracted from 'A recap of twenty years of British Jazz', written in 1967 by Don Rendell. The full text can be read at Jazz Professional website.)
The Club Eleven and its music provided a base for many offbeat types, and the audience was involved with the music and the way of life that it implied. Little exists in print about what the Eleven was like from this point of view but the following might be of interest:
"The musicians played what they liked as they liked - but it was mostly bebop and a lot more frantic than at Feldman's. There was no requests and no programme. If the music failed to please...well you didn't have to stay. But there were hundreds like myself who liked the music. So we stayed while some left. And the more we stayed the more the Club Eleven crept into the marrow of our bones..."
Raymond Thorp: Viper (WDL Books, London 1960).
The Flamingo Club...
In its February, 1953 issue Jazz Journal ran a report and whole page picture spread on the opening and first months success of the 'Flamingo Club'. These comments have been taken from that report:. On the opening night on August 29th, 1952, 1500 fans queued for hours in the hope of admission. It required 40 policemen to control the crowds. Since then the club has built up an enviable reputation for good jazz in the most comfortable de-luxe surroundings the average jazz fan has ever experienced.
On the music front Kenny Graham reformed his popular Afro-Cubists especially for the club and although he is currently with Jack Parnell band, he appears at the club whenever possible. In the first few months just about every leading British jazz group and musician has appeared here including the Johnny Dankworth Seven, the Parnell All-Stars, The Jimmy Walker Quintet and many others. The very popular Ronnie Scott quintet made it's debut there...
|... and most of the famous American visiting personalities were guests here including Sarah Vaughan.
A recent innovation is the formation of a resident 'Jazz at the Flamingo' unit comprising among others, the alto 'giant' Joe Harriott, former Club Eleven pianist Tommy Pollard and young up and coming stars such as Terry Brown (tp) and Benny Green (baritone). This band has proved so popular....that it will have the honour of appearing at the Palladium with the Ted Heath Band.
The club is owned by father and son team Sam and Jeff Kruger. New to the 'club' game but learning the ropes quickly. Publicity is in the hands of the redoubtable Les Perrin, compering is in the capable hands of Tony Hall, who left Studio '51' after a two and a half year association to work at the Flamingo.
The club is about to start a series of 'Midnight till Dawn' sessions in addition to the usual Sunday night shows from 7.30.
At Jeff Kruger's
"JAZZ AT THE FLAMINGO"
beneath Mapleton Restaurant W.1.
Britain's most comfortable club
SUNDAY (3rd) from 7.30...
Debut of new resident group
TONY CROMBIE QUINTET
RONNIE SCOTT - JOE HARRIOTT
MAJOR HOLLEY - TERRY SHANNON
plus KEITH CHRISTIE QUINTET,
Bob Efford, Arthur Watts, Ed Taylor.
WEDNESDAY (6th) from 7.30...
TONY CROMBIE QUINTET
RONNIE SCOTT - JOE HARRIOTT
U.S.A. piano star:
KEITH CHRISTIE ALL-STARS
Roy Willox, Bill Eyden etc.
Resident compere: Tony Hall
By demand Special offer held over,
MEMBERSHIP ONLY 2/6 instead of 5/-
P.O and S.A.E. to 9 Woodlands,
North Harrow, Middx.
Terry Brown and Joe Harriott (left) and Tommy Pollard (right) at the opening of the new Flamingo Club premises in August, 1952.|
They formed part of the resident Jazz at the Flamingo unit.
|In the December 1955 issue of Jazz Journal writer Keith Goodwin gave a rundown of the London modern jazz club scene and a guide as to what was likely to be on offer over the festive period. It is an interesting snapshot of the time but besides the clubs there would have been many other 'one off' gigs by other top bands...|
The notes below have been based on the opinions of Keith Goodwin and information contained in that article...
Flamingo image (from 1959) provided by Keith Greenhalf
Flamingo Club... The club is situated beneath the Mapleton Restaurant at the junction of Coventry Street and Whitcomb Street, Leicester Square - it functions on Sundays and Wednesdays.
The Tony Kinsey quartet is resident with the brilliant young baritone-saxist Ronnie Ross - the group is the best resident attraction in town.
Frequent visitors are trumpeter Terry Brown and pianist Terry Shannon. Terry Brown, a very underrated musician, blows a sensitive trumpet never resorting to high note pyrotechnics to please the audience. He has a weakness for slow melodic ballads and puts them over in an easy relaxed manner in a style comparable to Clifford Brown. Terry Shannon has an ear for anything by Bud Powell or Horace Silver and is a competent section man and a forceful and interesting soloist.
Vic Ash also makes periodic visits to the club as do Ralph Dollimore, Bob Efford, and Frank Donnison. Leon Calvert, the ex Club Eleven trumpeter had also 'sat-in' recently and it was hoped that his lyrical, flowing trumpet would be heard over the Xmas period.
Studio '51... On Wednesday and Friday evenings Vy Hyland welcomes you to the premises in Great Newport Street, just off Charing Cross Road to listen to the resident group, a promising new "jazz only" unit, who play under the banner of "The New Jazz Group".
This band should do well for it boasts four of our leading instrumentalists. Fronted by baritone-saxist Harry Klein the group includes Allan Ganley (drums), Derek Smith (piano), and former Tony Kinsey bassman Sammy Stokes.
Americana...a regular all night club functioning in the Flamingo premises, which opens its doors at midnight. The element of surprise is always present here, and many famous musicians drop in for a blow at any time through the night.
J.D.C. - Jazz Directions Club...promoted by Brian Harvey meet above a public house called the Cumberland Stores in Beak Street on Thursdays.|
Here are to be found some of the lesser known names in British jazz, among them a remarkable young Brubeckian styled pianist named Colin Bates who plays far better than many of the usual "run-of-the-mill" jazz pianists.
New Downbeat Club... The club meets on Mondays and is to be found at Manor House N4, opposite Manor House tube station.
Almost every week Tubby Hayes and his Orchestra play to an enthusiastic and appreciative audience. This is an exciting band, loud and strong, with drummer Bill Eyden laying down a solid beat. Trumpeter Dickie Hawdon and brilliant pianist-arranger Harry South are given plenty of chance to shine.
Tony Crombie sidemen including trumpeter Jimmy Deuchar, are frequent guest artists at the club.
Johnny Dankworth Club... The club uses the Studio '51 premises in Great Newport Street, just off Charing Cross Road and functions on Tuesday evenings.
Johnny Dankworth opened the club to give his sidemen an opportunity to play improvised jazz. Johnny himself takes full advantage of this opportunity and proves that he is still the best alto-sax player this side of the Atlantic.
Needless to say this is one of the most popular clubs in town.
Florida Club... Jeff Kruger's famous Florida Club, in the Cafe Anglais in Leicester Square opens on Saturday nights. No resident group, but always an impressive bill. Often to be found here are the two Terrys (Brown and Shannon) with their associates Kenny Graham and Don Lawson. Kenny and Terry Brown always play well together, although Kenny's usually excellent tenor-sax work is sometimes marred by exhibitionism.
Pianists Max Harris and Eddie Thompson are often to be found here as are George Chisholm and Joe Muddel and others from the Show Band.
|By 1964 the London jazz club scene was in terminal decline. A letter to Jazz Monthly published in November, 1964 from RW Maas set out the situation. The letter was in response to a claim that the record companies were not recording up and coming, but relatively unknown musicians...|
Surely, in the first instance, it is the function of the jazz clubs to show the recording companies that a particular musician is wanted by the public, and this is a function that the clubs do not seem anxious to accept. To be more correct, the public does not want the jazz clubs to feature little known musicians. In fact the club scene is contracting so much that it appears doubtful whether many people want British jazz at all. Even the National Jazz Federation's own club "The Marquee", has nominally only three days a week devoted to jazz, and as far as the British scene is concerned it only functions on two days, as on sunday's the club premises are frequently loaned to the BBC for their "Jazz 625" recordings of visiting musicians.
Furthermore, to concentrate on the Marquee (merely because this is the club that I most frequently visit and therefore have most experience of), the club seems to prefer to feature regularly groups that have been proved popular, rather than lesser known musicians. The groups which appear most often at the Marquee are the Humphrey Lyttelton Orchestra, the johnny Dankworth Orchestra, the Joe Harriott Quintet and the Ronnie Ross Quartet, all of which have been recorded by commercial companies.
It would be naive, however, to suggest to the NJF that it replace one of it's R&B nights, with an opportunity for lesser known jazz musicians to gain public recognition. Leaving aside the fact that a club can make a profit from an R&B night whereas it is lucky to break even on a jazz session, it ias apparent that few people are prepared to listen to an unknown or little known jazz musician. If proof is needed of this it is only necessary to see what actually happens if the Marquee features an unknown band.
...For example, last July the club featured the winners of the Southern Area Final of the National Amateur Jazz Contest - the Pete Comton Big Band and the New Jazz Orchestra. These two fine bands played to an audience of about fifty people, many of whom seemed to be personal friends of the musicians. The followin week the Dankworth Orchestra appeared on the same stage before an audience of about four hundred. Furthermore, this is not an isolated incident. It is apparent that whenever the Marquee features a little known band, the audience is considerably smaller than that for, say, a Dankworth appearance.
These difficulties are not particular to the Marquee but are faced by all the London jazz clubs. Anyone who visits Ronnie Scott's Club on a Monday, the guest artist's nigh off, and again on some other night, will be aware of the truth of this. Admittedly some fine groups, mainly amateur, are drawing reasonably sized audiences to small "clubs" in suburban public houses, but such clubs cannot be expected to influence the recording companies in the way that the major London clubs can.|
If the clubs, which should be the breeding ground for British jazz musicians, have closed their doors on even some quite well known artists, what opportunities for unknown players?....Should the BBC do something about it? Occasionally BBC Jazz Club featured some of the lesser known groups, but it seems improbable that "It's Jazz" will be able to do the same in view of the small amount of time it can devote to live music.
Unless someone can come up with a way to feature our up and coming musicians the prospects for British jazz are bleak.
In 1965 Ronnie Scott's, by now virtually the only surviving jazz club in central London, moved from it's Gerrard Street premises to a new location in Frith Street. Ronnie kept the Gerrard Street premises and in 1966 opened it as The Old Place, to be a venue for the newer avant garde musicians to play. This was a place for experimenting with so called free music and gave the public a chance to hear the new sounds. In it's early days the place was packed but when the novelty wore off the audience began to dwindle and the club closed in 1968. Ronnie later said: "With the Old Place we lost £100 to £125 a week and when it closed it had a debt of £3,000".
A lot of money in those days. The new music was left without a venue, a situation that it never really recovered from.