Jazz Professional               



Bookcase Index

A JAZZ JOURNEY - 1925-1994


Ken Rattenbury
Parts 1 2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9/10/11/12/13/14/Conclusion

PART XIV: (1991 - 1993)

. . . "SERIOUS FUN" . . .

BY this time, comfortably reinstated on the jazz merry-go-round; enjoying every second, since being reunited with the sharp end of a lovely new horn, all courtesy of a brand new set of custom-built chobblers; now I come to think of it, slap, bang in the tradition of the reappearance, some fifty years back, of the revered New Orleans pioneer, Bunk Johnson, after years of obscurity. It did feel just like that!

But it was grand to be competing again, and this not a little due to the fine group of jazzmen to whom I had been listening and approving of during those years in the wilderness: known, with well-focused accuracy as SWING PARADE: Mike Turner (reeds), Brian Casson (trombone), Bill Bickerton (piano), Tony Caldicott (drums) and bassist Tony Cave from Stafford. All fine bluesmen, with overt humanity in every note they play and such great, warm company . . . . . . which counts for a lot; couldn't wish for stauncher friends.

And, because of an annoying, progressive eye condition (I suppose that when one is on the brink of one's mid-seventies, there is no total immunity from the vicissitudes engendered by accumulating anno domini - as long as my lip and wind stay good, I can go along with such things!), a defect which seriously interferes with my night driving, their kindness in ferrying le view homme to and from the gigs is selfless and so much appreciated. Mustn't forget either, Joe Lees (clarinet) who joined one of my early bands (in 1955) and was still there at the cataclysmic dental interruption during 1985 and back now, happily often, for some pleasurable diversions from the Dixieland/Duke/mainstream involvements with the Jazz Six.

But before going on to those pleasurable sideswipes at other aspects of the genre, I must surely acknowledge the friendship and musicianship of: Fred Barnsley - bassist of impressive repertoire, expert recording technician, perennial enthusiast, real forward-facing guy; that tasteful, mercurial, technically brilliant pianoman Archie Cotterell; Ted Rowley - bass, longtime colleague from way, way back; (he and I virtually camped out in the studios from about 1948 onwards); Keith Bhyll - wonderfully inventive, harmonically sophisticated pianist; Bobby Johnson - a trombonist of vast experience and delicious melodic sense; Trevor Charlton and Mal Garrett - two percussionists whose reading and interpretative skills cover just about everything (jazz, symphonic, showtime, pit - all one and the same to them); and that tenor sax genius - Trevor Emeny. Talents of world-class proportion in that assembly and it has been a privilege to have played with them all on my travels. There are many more, too; too numerous to mention, all having added to my considerable pleasure over the years.

But I mentioned some "pleasurable diversions" from the bread-and-butter barnstorming. These take the form of composing extended jazz suites inspired by diverse literary works. Two early such works were "The Seven Ages of Man ' and "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner ", two 30 minute scores which were recorded down in London by an all-star personnel (including Kenny Baker, Keith Christie and Tony Kinsey) and now, hoping on a stride or three, into 1992, two more; Under Milk Wood, an edited version of Dylan Thomas' prose/poetry masterpiece, accompanied by The Jazz Four, a carefully contrapuntal chamber group lining up Joe Lees (clarinet), Ted Rowley (bass), Tony Caldicott (percussion) and the perpetrator on muted trumpet.

The narration, thoroughly integrated, rhythmically, with the music, mostly in a subdued bluesy vein, was spoken by Nick Bahnforth (I met him at The Stafford Jazz Society, doing concerts for their dedicated committee), on whose beautiful speaking voice, impeccable diction and histrionic know-how intoned those memorable words with distinction. And Nick's abilities don't stop there - a poet of dramatic impact and descriptive powers of vivid imagery, had written ten Poems of the Sea, a collection called "Sea Scape ": they impressed me greatly, so I set about setting them to jazz, a suite of ten movements and added another fine instrumentalist to the line-up I used in "Under Milk Wood" - guitarist Stan Davis, whose tuneful lines gave us complete 3-part harmony for the front line. Needless to say, Nick spoke his own colourful verses.

I have yet another suite on the stocks as we tumble into 1994, using some of William Shakespeare's wonderful words - extracts from speeches, several of the Sonnets, so there's at least another couple of months wrestling ahead and I'm never happier than when I'm embroiled in taming a problem- child of this nature.

In truth, it's a lonely old life being a writer, take it from me - but with rich personal dividends to accrue on completion, rehearsal and performance. I will be using the same musicians again, maybe a slightly larger band. Archie Cotterell has expressed willingness to participate and that can't be bad!

But mention of all that has brought my modest chronicle almost to here and now. What's next? I dunno, but that's half the charm of being in the jazz music business; it's all blind corners, all infinite possibilities; one must try for a state of no horizons. One last recollection to come, when I may indulge in a little gentle, harmless nostalgia; in fact I definitely will! One thing is certain sure; I've been a very lucky guy with my bits and pieces so far, met some wonderful people, done one or two musical things that don't displease me overmuch. Can't imagine or even contemplate life without all that lovely jazz music.

Recapitulation and Coda next time, then . . . . . . . . .

Copyright Ken Rattenbury © 1994