|Ron Simmonds remembers Jimmy Deuchar...|
The death of the trumpeter Jimmy Deuchar has brought an end to the saga of
what I used to call The Incredible Five. These were Phil Seamen, Tubby
Hayes, Derek Humble, Ken Wray and Jimmy Deuchar. Jimmy outlived the rest
of them by more than twenty years. The others died far too young.
I first met Jimmy when I joined Jack Parnell’s band in the 1950’s. Jimmy Watson had left due to ill health and Derek Humble recommended me for the job. The other trumpet players in the section were Jimmy Deuchar and Jo Hunter, both brilliant jazz soloists, both with an astounding technique. Between them, the Jimmys, Watson and Deuchar, had written the bulk of the arrangements in the library, and there were some truly terrifying trumpet unisons in there, which all three of them played with a total disregard of the difficulties involved. When I played them, Jimmy Deuchar’s own fierce execution used to drag me along with him. Now and again Jimmy Watson played the odd session with us and then things really used to liven up. Jimmy Deuchar had a way of slowly looking around at me after we'd torn our way through one of those trumpet unisons and giving me what I used to call his heavy grin. "How bad," he would say. I played with Jim Deuchar in lots of bands. Apart from the Ronnie Scott band there were the bands of Jackie Sharpe and Tubby Hayes, which usually contained all the same guys, and often the same arrangements.
Jimmy was forever changing his mouthpiece. While most trumpet players desperately sought the elusive one which would allow them to play louder and higher, Jimmy always changed to a larger size in order to get an even bigger sound. This had the effect of drastically reducing his range to around two octaves. As he was never, ever, required to play any lead parts this didn’t matter in the least.
Tubby Hayes and I had bought a big, heavy tape recorder between us, one of the first that appeared on the market, and we used to lug it around everywhere with us. Vic Lewis had given me some of the original Gerry Mulligan tapes and we listened to them all the time. Jimmy was infatuated with Chet Baker and he stood there listening to those tapes night after night shaking his head. He spoke a lot of another player called Dennis Rose, who played the London clubs, telling me I had to go and hear the man. Jimmy said that he was the greatest jazz soloist he had ever heard.
Jimmy, Derek Humble and Ken Wray later went to work in the Kurt Edelhagen band in the Cologne radio station Westdeutscher Rundfunk. Milo Pavlovic, who was playing first trumpet there at the time, told me that they hit the band like an atom bomb...
...Edelhagen was a strange guy at the best of times, and the three of them probably frightened the life out of him.
While they were there Jimmy and Derek also did the gig with the
Clarke/Boland band. They didn’t stay in Germany too long, but later on
Jimmy came back over to Berlin with Tubby. We made some recordings with
them in the Sender Freies Berlin radio station, when Herb Geller was in
the band, and Joe Harris on drums.
Jimmy wrote a lot of arrangements for the Parnell band. Jack only had a five-piece brass section at the time, and Jimmy wrote everything in open harmony, so that sometimes the trumpets were miles apart. When I asked him about that he seemed to be amazed that there was any other way of doing things. Max Harris had shown him how to do it, and he’d never thought about it any more. I vividly remember one score he wrote for the band, the name of which unfortunately escapes me at the moment. It was a number supposedly representing a carousel, and he’d written the band in 4/4 with the trumpets in 3/4. This is much more difficult to play than it sounds. While we were waltzing away on this hurdy–gurdy effect the rest of the band was thundering along grimly with something entirely different. Every now and again we came together for a brief moment. The result was absolutely delightful. Later on he began writing for the Berlin band, and he could really go to town on that because we had nine brass. No longer committed exclusively to open harmony, he wrote some terrific scores for us.
When we visited the Festival Hall for a concert with that band he came down from Dundee for an Old Pals night out with Milo and me. I never saw him again, but Milo asked me afterwards how it was possible for a Scotsman to have an almost Cockney accent. I’d never thought about it before, but Jimmy did speak like a Londoner, so it was easy to forget he was from the Highlands.
Shortly before Jim died in 1993 I was living in Spain. One day I received a phone call from a Benidorm newspaper office telling me that Jimmy was playing in Alicante and he wanted to see me. The caller added that he had only one leg. I dismissed the call as yet another hoax, only to discover, later on, that he had, indeed, lost a leg a few years previously. That would have been our last meeting and I will never forgive myself for not going to see him that day.
I'm proud to have been Jim's colleague, and, I hope, his friend. Even today, when I'm confronted with a particularly tricky bit of trumpet gymnastics, I think of Jimmy, and just know that he would have sailed through it effortlessly. Then he would turn to me with his heavy grin. "How bad," he would say.
Jimmy Deuchar in conversation 1985...,
|Footnote: One of Jimmy Deuchar's last recordings was in 1979 when he recorded an LP album for the Hep record company in Edinburgh titled The Scots Connection. Jimmy played flugel-horn and the front line was made up with Gary Cox on tenor sax. 20+ years later this LP was reissued as a CD, called Anglo Scottish American Connection and a tribute band, using Jimmy's arrangements, was added to get the original LP up to a decent CD play time. Jimmy had done a lot of arranging as well as being a virtuoso trumpet player and was widely regarded as a huge talent but sadly had the dreaded Celtic self destruct mechanism - alcohol weakness.|
He had also done drugs with Tubby Hayes and the 'gang' in the 1950s and the damage had been done.He did the big band arrangements for the Joe Temperley "Concerto" on CD 2061 (Hep). But by the time it was recorded Jimmy had died, at the age of just 62. He had both legs amputated because his circulation had packed in - not a nice way to go!