A British Legend
Alice in Jazzland
Internationally renowned jazz pianist, composer and arranger Stan Tracey is generally regarded nowadays as one of Britain’s greatest living jazz musicians. His career spans forty—four years, and stretches back to the formative days of modem jazz in this country.
Born in London in 1926, he was a totally self-taught professional by the age of sixteen. Stan first came to notice during the ‘fifties when he worked with many top-name bands. Most famous of these was the now legendary Ted Heath Orchestra where he spent two years as a pianist, vibraphonist and arranger.
In 1960 he began a seven-year stint as resident pianist at Ronnie Scott’s Club, playing with almost every visiting US musician, including Ben Webster, Roland Kirk, Stan Getz and Sonny Rollins, who asked: “Does anybody here know how good this guy really is?” During that period Stan formed his own Quartet and Big Band, and in 1965 he reached a wide audience with his “Under Milk Wood,” lyrical settings to Dylan Thomas’ play for voices. The following year he produced another literary-inspired work, “Alice In Jazzland”.
Equally. strong in solo context, as one half of a duo, leader of his own Quartet or larger combinations Sextet, Octet and Big Band Stan brands each with his own distinctive personality while simultaneously spurring other musicians to new heights of excellence.
His originality has been recognised with fourteen commissions, most recently “Genesis”, a work written for his fifteen piece orchestra. Altogether Stan has made thirty–eight records many of which are still available most of them under his own name and featuring his own compositions. He was the subject of a BBC 2 Omnibus programme, which devoted an hour to documenting Stan’s rise to the status of Britain’s most respected jazz musician.
As well as touring throughout Britain and Europe, Stan has taken the Quartet on highly successful tours of Greece, Yugoslavia, the Middle East and South America, sponsored by the British Council. He has played at more than thirty British jazz festivals and guested at twenty–five abroad in such exotic locations as Bombay, Algiers, Belgrade, Cannes, Zurich, Hamburg and the North Sea Jazz Festival.
Stan’ s unswerving commitment to jazz is further demonstrated by his interest in jazz education, and he has taught at the Guildhall School of Music, Goldsmith’s College and the City Literary Institute.
Stan’s popularity is legend. Concerts to celebrate his 30th and 40th anniversaries in jazz at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall were sell–outs, and he has won several Melody Maker polls as pianist, composer and arranger. In 1985 he was voted International Musician of the Year by Jazz Journal International readers, and received the Schlitz Award of 1986 for composition. Official recognition has come too in the form of the BASCA Award for services to the British Music Industry and honorary membership of the Royal Academy of Music: it says something about Stan’ s unique talent that he is the only jazz musician (not to mention the only self–taught one) to have been awarded this coveted accolade. He was also awarded the O.B.E. in December 1986.
But music speaks louder than words, and the sheer professionalism and artistry of this brilliant modem jazz giant remain an unforgettable memory for all those lucky enough to have heard him. Stan Tracey is living proof of the fact that jazz is an international language, and that true genius knows no boundaries.