|Denis Rose - in his own words...|
I was born in Clerkenwell (E.London, 1922)...my introduction to music though was at school, round about the age of seven or eight. The teacher would point out a note on the wall, and we'd sing it - that's how I picked up relative pitch. Then I started to get acquainted with the piano, and got together with some other kids at school. There was a violinist, a saxophonist, a trumpet player, and we played places including, just once, the Criterion Restaurant in Piccadilly".
"Then, one day, the trumpet player left his trumpet round my house. I looked in the case and there was a beginners tutor, and in the section How to get your first note it said something about 'spit some imaginary tobacco off your tongue into the mouthpiece'. I tried it, got a note and started playing along with records."
"So by the time I was fifteen, I used to go in the local pubs to play and get a few bob. One night I walked into a pub up the street, and saw a big fat fellow sitting at the piano and singing comedy songs. I played something for him, and later on he took me up to the West End to play in a clip joint he was working in. I liked the idea of that and pretty soon I used to go to the West End every night. Well, getting home at four in the morning and trying to get up for work next day didn't work out, and didn't help relations at home, so I left. I moved into a room in town, bought a trumpet, and got a job with Happy Blake's band at the Cuba Club".
"After the Cuba I worked all over the place in day clubs and bottle parties. In the day clubs we used to work from three to six, then seven to eleven, and then go to the bottle parties afterwards".
"I was good friends with Harry Feldman who used to run the Feldman Club. I'd wander in and sit round the back of the stand listening to Carlo (Krahmer) or whoever was playing. Then maybe I'd sit in. Harry would always say to Victor 'take him round the back and give him a nice cup of tea'. Good people. Then I did a long stint at the Jamboree Club, round about 1942 or three...about this time I was playing a lot. But if I wasn't working, I'd get up about nine and go to a shop in the West End, a record shop. The girl behind the counter was very co-operative, and I used to sit in the booth all morning listening to the big bands of the day, Basie, Lunceford and so on. That's where I learned what I know about jazz really".
"At this time, of course, the war was on and I was eventually called up for the army. I was pronounced unfit for active service and posted to a company as bandmaster. We had a little band....not very good, but I did the best I could you know. One Christmas we put on a little show. There were snow sprinklers and we played White Christmas and had them all in tears. Gradually as time went on there was more and more talk about opening up the Second Front. I began to get alarmed - more and more men were disappearing, and I didn't fancy that. So I began skipping more and more parades and finally got on a charge, which I didn't answer. They put me in solitary and that was that..."
(Denis Rose deserted and spent the next few years of his life in semi-hiding from the military police and other authorities. Back on the musical scene, Rose spent some time in the Johnny Claes band at Boston in Lincolnshire. Ronnie Scott also played for a while with the band).
"Johnny? He was a very sharp fellow, and an old friend. He used to come and stay a lot in the early days when I was still with my folks.Then early on he went to the States when that really meant something and met Roy Eldridge. When he came back he played something like Roy but with an original bit of his own. He was a very good jazz player but his jazz was stronger than his technique if you know what I mean".
"After Boston I was bashing the West End again, playing around different clubs and so forth. Ronnie Scott and I and some others used to like to play jazz together, but there weren't many places to play so we used to take rehearsal halls. We used to get fed up with paying for them though, and as people used to come and look in, somebody got the idea of charging admission - and that's how the Club Eleven began I suppose. It was a co-operative venture - myself, Ronnie, Tony Crombie, Tommy Pollard, Johnny Dankworth and a few others. It caused quite a stir, very successful really".
Before the Club 11 a lot of us used to play at the Fallado (or Fullardo) at 6 New Compton Street.We used to call it the Downbeat Club then - that was more or less the forerunner of the Club Eleven. Then when we moved to Mac's Rehearsal Rooms we got a bit more organised....I was getting about a bit then. Just before the club opened I went up to West Bromwich with Cab Kaye's band and while I was away the club opened. I suppose Hank (Shaw) took my place for the time being".
"Then of course I did a lot of work with Tito Burns - on trumpet. He was a very good musician, and we did all the BBC Accordian Club broadcasts together. There's a picture of us with Charles Chilton - he was a big jazz fan in the early days, and was in the RAF somewhere in Singapore. When he came back he met up with Tito again, and that was it. Roy Plomley was another jazz fan who got involved with the club at one time. Every week we used to do some jazz, and there'd be a guest star - Tollefsen or someone - but they didn't get much to do".
"I worked with Tito quite a bit, we did variety tours, on the Stoll circuit, with everything - comedy, music, the lot. Then there were the Sidney Gross Swing Shop concerts. I did one in January 1948 with Cab Kaye, Tony Crombie, Ronnie Scott and some others. I've always been fond of big bands you know, never liked too much making-up and going on and on. So I used to get big bands together sometimes, just for fun. There was one which we used to rehearse downstairs at the old Fallado doing things like Gillespie's That's Earl, brother and Cubana be. But nothing ever lasted for long. I used to knock around the clubs just to listen or have a blow..."
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"I did as I always did....but looking back, the most outstanding experiences playing jazz for me would be the old Carribean club, or the times when somebody would assemble a big star-studded firteen piece band for me and I'd go and rehearse them, and put them on for a couple of one-nighters in the West End or out of town. I remember one I did with Mario Fabrizi. He finished up a comedian, made a lot of money, but he started out as a band boy, carrying the stuff about for Tito. His aunt or someone put up the money for a show in Bognor Regis and I took the boys down in a coach to play....we had a lot of fun. The review in the paper stated that - 'the policy of the boys (in the band) seemed to be to take a popular tune and twist it almost beyond recognition. That was the sort of thing we got all the time. Another time I did a summer show, Tony Crombie was in the band I remember, but I could only stick it for three days - just got brown and came back".
"It would have been soon after this time that the Club Eleven came to an end as the result of a drug raid (April 15th, 1950).The club caused quite a stir while it was going, and more of a stir when it closed - six of us ended up in the dock at Great Marlborough Street, and I was spotted by the Military Police. Since those exciting days I've chosen to lead a quieter life, mainly in pubs and clubs, that sort of thing".
(It was now that Rose began a series of home-made big band recordings, playing all the instruments himself, by multi tracking)
"I had two tape recorders; one was mine the other was Vic Feldman's. First of all I put the piano down, then bass, then a rhythm on old cymbal. After that I'd think up any riffs I could and put them down in four-part on trumpet and saxes. Some fellow gave me an old sax, you see. The trouble was that one of the recorders had a waver and that made tuning difficult....the band sounded like a very distant Gillespie big band playing on a faraway foreign radio station. It reminds me of when I was a kid tuning into the American stations, but it's the out of tuneness that spoils it. When I played the tracks over during the recording, I had these big speakers to boost the sound and the waver wasn't so bad anyway. I learned to play the saxophone in a day or two. It's only a question of learning the chromatic scale, then you've got all your notes and chords. But the waver on the tapes spoils the effects of what I was after. Ronnie had a listen to them once so did Vic Schonfield, but I don't really play them anymore".
"I would not like the freedom of a good recording studio....I'd rather get another machine and do it all myself.Being in a studio, you've got to have people doing this and that for you, and they're working by the hour etc. I prefer to do things in bits and pieces in my own time."
"Occasionally I think about getting a band together and writing, but that's all. Plenty of other people have tried to persusde but I take the day as it comes. I can't get on with what passes for today's music...that avant-garde, all on one chord stuff - that's not jazz as I know it so I stay in my own field".
I don't very often entertain....and by and large I don't believe in living in the past. I've always had periods of disinterest you know, so I take each day as it comes..."
This web page is based on an interview that Denis Rose originally did with the BBC probably either in the late 1950s or early 1960s. It was published in Jazz and Blues magazine early in 1972 when he provided his own tape recording of the original broadcast during a meeting with Dig Fairweather in 1971.
At this time Rose would have been approaching fifty years old and was playing at the Maestro Club in Denman Street. He worked small clubs and pubs playing either solo piano or with a trio, and no longer played trumpet publicily. After the end of Club Eleven in 1950 Rose shunned the limelight although he was not yet thirty years old and despite the efforts of his few champions showed little desire to return to the changed jazz world. He had a genuine disinterest in fame or being in the public eye and had a total inability to drum up interest where none existed. This had led him, in the early 1970s to obscurity although both Ronnie Scott and Johnny Dankworth had rated him as the driving figure in bringing bebop alive in the UK in the late 1940s.
The pictures below are of some of the publicity for Club Eleven...The club promised: the opportunity to relax in an atmosphere of complete informality while continuous music is provided by England's foremost jazz instrumentalists.
The musicians listed are: Johnny Dankworth, Ronnie Scott, Denis Rose, Len Bush, Johnny Rogers, Bernie Fenton, Tommy Pollard, Laurie Morgan, Joe Muddell and Tony Crombie.
Brief biography and discography...