Jazz Professional               


Ian Hamer ( trumpet/flugelhorn/composer/arranger) was born in Merseyside on 11th September, 1932, the son of Wilf Hamer, and brother of Stuart and George.

In their early years Ian, and both of his brothers, played in the band run by his mother, known as Mrs Wilf Hamer’s Band, in the Grafton Rooms, Liverpool.

Later on he worked with Carl Barriteau, Oscar Rabin, Vic Lewis, the Kirchin Band, Jack Parnell, Roy Kenton, Vic Ash, Eric Delaney, Gracie Cole, David Ede, Tubby Hayes Big Band, Harry South, Ted Heath, Kenny Wheeler, Joe Harriott, Woody Herman's Anglo-American Herd, Thad Jones-Mel Lewis, Mike Gibbs, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Golson, Gary McFarland, Lalo Schifrin, James Last, Barbara Thompson, Peter Herbolzheimer and the Beatles– (hope I haven’t left anyone out!) He led his own successful sextet from the early 1970s until settling in Brighton.

This is an interview conducted entirely by email, so some of the events may be chronologically inaccurate.


Yes, it is Dizzy in the second picture on some railway station in the UK in 1958 when we were doing a Newport Jazz Festival tour for 16 days. I was with the Vic Ash Quintet and we opened the show every night. I also met Clark Terry on that trip and he tried to teach me his  breathing trick. I still can't do it!

About my dirty Martin, I would never have it painted as I am sure it would  ruin it, but my valves are fine, though I did have them re-plated about 20 years ago! 

Jerry van Rooyen had it wrong, I never wrote for Basie. The only American who did record two of my tunes was Paul Gonsalves on an album with Tubby Hayes called 'Just Friends'  at Lansdowne studios (you remember them). 

As regards Cubase I have tried to put an album together with me doing everything, big orks, the lot. I also have an 8 track recorder link to the Atari, but the only problem is that I keep wanting to go back and remix it, as one is never satisfied. The trumpet is the least of the problems. I think the problem with us—we have spent all our lives in recording studios but somebody else was fiddling with the knobs. It's fine having all this gear but you need an  engineer to go with it. 

The most exciting thing I did recently was a Memorial concert for Dick  Morrissey with my London Quintet here at Brighton Jazz Club, with Alan  Skidmore and Jim Mullen (great guitarist as special guest). We all did it for  less money and it raised £330 for the local Martlets Hospice—the gig was steaming!

I was very honoured to be asked, but Dick and I were very closely  associated and played together non-stop in the sixties. 

As regards my big band—it is as all these things are—a labour of love, i.e. giving a bit back for all I’ve had out of music,

I started it 15 years ago: Ian Hamer and the Sussex Youth Jazz Orchestra, but I found the youths came and went too quick, so I dropped the youth bit and it has worked fine ever since. Some rehearsals are a pain in the ass, but somehow the gigs come together, and I am quite  proud of it at times.

I just stand out front and play solos on almost every tune, which is what I wanted to do in the first place. But I did enjoy being a  lead player as well at one time—but not any more! I will ask Tessa to send  you a flyer of the band, so you can see what music we play.

If you want to see a recent picture of me, (bags ‘n' all) look at  www.jazztrumpet.co.uk.  On this website you can hear excerpts of Freddie Hubbard and Lee Morgan!

As regards Jo Hunter—I was going to  lend him your big band memories, but in the end he didn't want them! 

Music Scoring software—I have been using Cubase Score for some time  which does the job, apart from its idea of writing chord symbols. It doesn’t  know what a +chord is or an aug! And if you want to write a sharp11th it has  to do e.g. G7,9,#11, so if I do a Kenny Wheeler chart it is well confused.  Apart from that it is fine. I believe Sibelius or Finale are better, but I don't see any point in spending all that money when Cubase is OK.

I can write a score much quicker, but the copying is a pain in the ass. Anyway I don't have one of those special pens any more, thank God. 

Re your bit about Bill Chase and your trumpet—when I met him he played a Martin Committee. He had bent his the night before doing a TV show here, so he borrowed mine and blew the shit out of it.

If you download the picture you can see mine, complete with rubber band round the third valve slide. I don't need the ring any more. I have been playing it so long now—the low C# is in tune! 

Your Crescendo Archives are amazing! I just found a bit about Harry South having two five-piece brass sections with Derek Watkins, Greg Bowen, Hank Shaw, Kenny Wheels, Les Condon and I,  and I can't even remember it!

I would love to send you a testimonial. Maybe you should write it and email me  as you are much better at putting words together than me.

I am looking forward to having a look at your new magazine. My big band gig went great—we finished the year with Peter’s (Herbolzheimer) Blues In My Shoes, which I am sure you could still play without opening the book!

I also have his Giant Steps, where I don't have to play the high G#, but only fly around  the changes, which is worse. My lead trumpet player is almost but not quite as loud as you could be—but you were the very best there was!

Don Pashley returned your Great Big Bands yesterday and Jo Hunter wants to  borrow it next. I saw him doing his street gig yesterday and he sends his  best to you. I have also spoken to a few trumpet players and they all send their  regards. First of all I rang Eddie Blair—he went to the final Heath gig  and took a bow. I told him I had been in contact with you. He said to tell you your name was mentioned, and sends you his regards. He gave up playing about 5 years ago. He said it was very well attended. I didn't even think of going as I can't stand the music. If I heard Hot Toddy again I would throw up! Anyway, I was not invited, even though I played 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th towards the end. Ted didn't know who was there as we were all so busy in the studios by then!  It didn't really matter—it sounded just the same whoever was there!

Ray Davies (of Button-Down Brass) sends his best. Likewise Pete Winslow. He hasn't got the parking meter anymore—I remember it too! (This refers to the time when Pete was feeding coins into a parking meter in the 1950s and the meter fell off. He took it home, intending to report it and then forgot about it. It was empty. He gave it back later.)

Pete also lives in Brighton. He doesn't play any more but is still building houses and lives in the biggest penthouse in Hove. His pad here is amazing. He had a lampshade made with his Dizzy type trumpet. We went together to Kenny Baker's funeral last December in his big Merc and left my little Honda at home! Wheeler rang yesterday, just back  from somewhere or other. He is away most of the time and does very little in  the UK. Did you hear the brass album we did last year—A Long Time Ago on  ECM? If not I will send you a copy of the CD.

Your idea of a Jazz Online web site is great and I would love to be  involved. Do you need an Agony Aunt? 

I  had a gig with my Tribute to Miles Quintet on Tuesday which was full of  people and a great audience. I don't copy Miles but it is a good gimmick and puts buns on seats!

My next one is with my big band on the19th Dec and the next is a Dick Morrisey Memorial concert on 5 JAN with my London Quintet with Alan Skidmore. Jim Mullen is coming down as a special guest. We are making a  donation to the local Hospise in his memory, so it is sure to be a sell out.  I am becoming quite a draw in my old age!

I have just lent your big band things to Don Pashley, who lives around the corner. I am sure you knew him, and later on I will lend them to Jo Hunter.

I have now finished reading all of your Great Big Bands. I remember with horror those all night bus rides in the fifties! For the last 25 years if I've been on the road it has been in the best hotel with somebody else picking up the bill.  I was pleased to be mentioned in the last bit of Saarbrücken in your memoirs. I still have a copy of the original of that, the one you wrote in Crescendo.

Your bit on Lew Soloff was great. And also the bit about the recording of the Exodus film music, when you got the lead part thrown at you at the last moment. I remember Ronnie Hunt doing the same thing on TV shows when I was sitting on the end and it was a distraction to say the least!

The trumpet player who you’re talking about who couldn’t make it would have been George Taylor. I did some TV shows with Geoff Love and he did the same thing, but Freddy Clayton and I did it all!

The same  happened with Stan Roderick—at the end of a session it was always 'THANK YOU  STAN' until they finally realised it wasn’t Stan at all, and he disappeared out of the studio scene almost overnight!

The other thing I would like to mention was at the beginning of the Udo Lindenberg tour in 1978—Derek Watkins and I shared a room for two nights. We were  probing as the Germans call it. I was tootling on the trumpet and there was a  knock on the door and it was Al Porcino who dropped in to say 'Hello'. He then  picked up my horn to demonstrate Carmine Caruso, (I had already worked with  Jon Faddis and was well into it and still am—Jon showed me!).

Al said 'watch  how my chops don't move between F on the top line and high F. He then  splattered something all over the ceiling and Derek and I fell apart laughing  for five minutes. Another time I was in Munich and I rang him and he said come  over for dinner tonight we are have salmon. I went but that is another story. Is he still around?

Ray Davies had a cancer scare 4 years ago but has had 3 years of  checkups and is OK. We are always in touch as we try to chase royalties from the Top Of The Pops television show which we did for the best part of 20 years. He is  fine.    

Jimmy Watson I saw at a presentation for Tommy McQuater at the Coda Club—the only time I have ever been there—and he looked amazing for 77.

Jo Hunter told me I have a great big sound, like Freddie Hubbard. Jo had great talent. It's a shame he left London 40 years ago and missed out on all that studio work. He would have made a good living from it. I came down to Brighton when it had almost finished, but still do a little bit (Derek Watkins' crumbs!)

I will find out more about Jimmy Watson and let you know.    

Marion and I were in the Algarve two years ago at Playa de Luz—about two  miles from Dougie Robinson, but we didn't know he was living there at the time.  I saw him at Derek Collins's funeral later on. He still owns a house on Kingston Hill and I think lets it out to the German Embassy for a few marks.    

I have never been a mouthpiece freak. When I played with you with Jack Parnell's band I played a Bach 6B, because I wanted to sound like Jimmy Deuchar. Then I did a tour with Dizzy in '58 and he gave me an Al Cass, and then sent me five more with different throats and back-bores. In 1990 I changed to a Giardinelli 10M, given to me by Kenny Wheeler, so that is only three mouthpieces in 42 years.

I am still playing my Martin Committee trumpet which I bought in the Paramount music shop in Shaftesbury avenue in 1960. I still have the Hire Purchase form for £4.86 per week. It  looks like a Monet, or whatever they call them, because it has no lacquer on it  I think it would ruin it if I had it painted. I love it and know where every note is on it—and all the other ones!    

I have downloaded all your big band things and I have read all apart from Saarbrücken, but what I find amazing is that, apart from Sampson, Squads, Leon Roy, and some of the Germans, I also played with all the rest, but we only  really played together with Jack Parnell.  I think when we were younger 4 or 5 years  was a lot of space. For instance: Peter Herbolzheimer’s trumpets when I played with him was Derek Watkins, me, Ack van Rooyen and Kenny Wheeler.     

I have really enjoyed reading your writings—you were always good at that, and were always a shit-hot trumpet player—my inspirational lead player. You showed me the way to be a lead trumpet player and I was a pretty good one, too. Rick Kiefer liked it, so Dave Horler said!    

Bobby Breen was not South African, as you thought, but was born in Jamaica. He was a seaman and I knew him in Liverpool when I was a kid and played with Lou Warburton and Terry Walsh in the Liverpool Jazz Club when I was 16. He sang and played the congas. Also he was with Tubby's first band with me on the road.  

We were talking about Derek Healey the other night. I saw a lot of him in his last year. My eldest daughter lives in Kingston, so we always called in to see Sheila and Derek. I last saw him a week before he died, and he still had a great sense of humour. I think we both came to London the same week and had  wonderful careers.

I did mean it about your lead trumpet playing. It was an inspiration to me even if you were a nasty bastard at the time! I can remember kicking Leon Calvert one time (on stage!) when we did a concert of Tubby's music (and mine) because he had too many whiskeys and messed it up. I also learnt that from you.

Interviewed by Ron Simmonds

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