Friday, November 8, 2013

Colin Richardson Interview Part 2 - The JazzHouse Club 1962

1st published on Hobo Vox / Typepad site 06/15/2009 Visit Colin Richardson's

Colin Richardson - Interview with Trev Teasdel Pt 2 - 

THE JAZZHOUSE CLUB – Blackheath 1962 

In 1962 Colin Richardson co-ran The Jazzhouse Club (at the Green Man Pub) in Blackheath. I
asked Colin to describe the club. 
“The jazz club was held at the Green Man pub in Blackheath every Sunday evening, upstairs in what was euphemistically referred to as the "Banqueting Suite". It was a decent sized room, which originally had a tiny triangular stage across one corner of the room (though this was later enlarged to an oblong area which extended right across one end of the room). The 'house band' was the Ian Bird Quintet... the line-up was usually tenor and baritone saxes, plus rhythm section of piano bass drums, occasionally augmented with a trumpet player. They played 'straight down the line' jazz, mostly by guys like Oliver Nelson, Benny Golson, Miles Davis etc. with arrangements usually by Clive Burrows (the bari player). Every week a different 'star' soloist would be booked...Tubby Hayes, Joe Harriott, Ronnie Scott, Don Rendell, Tommy Whittle...all the current premier league instrumentalists of the day. They all got paid the same fee...£5 (which was about 3 times what the resident musicians took home!) The resident band would play the first half, then, after the break, the 'star' would play, backed by the house rhythm section. Sometimes (depending on the whim of said 'star', the other guys would return for a jam session end to the evening.

The atmosphere was always friendly, the audience usually around the 100 mark, depending on how strong a draw that week's soloist was. There was a bar at the rear of the room, but the audience, though enthusiastic, was always well-behaved and knew their jazz.”

One of the interesting developments at the Jazzhouse was the addition of an R & B night with Manfred Mann before they made the big time. What can you tell us about that?

Manfred first appeared early in 1963, I think, at our second club, which we had just opened at the Hackwood Hotel in Bromley. As far as I recall, he had only recently arrived in the UK (from South Africa) and was essentially a jazz pianist at that point. He had got together with Mike Hugg and they were playing holiday camps as the Mann/Hugg Blues Brothers. He was checking us out for the possibility of a gig there, but nothing much came of it as the new club wasn't a great success and we didn't continue with it.

Next time we saw him, he pitched up at the Jazzhouse one Sunday and told us he had switched to Hammond organ and was playing R&B as Manfred Mann (he probably deemed his real name, Lubowitz, too unwieldy). He suggested that we open a 'rhythm and blues' night, saying that they would play every other Friday for a straight 50% of the door take (such was his confidence that they would draw a good crowd, which turned out to be well-founded). We could then book one of the many other bands playing R&B (like Chris Farlowe or Graham Bond) on the other Fridays. With some trepidation (plus we were admittedly a tad 'snooty' about going downmarket, as we saw it) we agreed to give it a whirl,encouraged by Manfred's assertion that and that we could make a lot of money, which we could use to improve or enhance the jazz nights.

We agreed a date for the opening night...booked a couple of other bands for the 2nd and 4th nights...and set about publicising the new venture.
On the first Friday, I turned up at my usual time of around 7pm...30 minutes prior to opening the doors. Normally, on a Sunday, I would arrive to find maybe 15 or 20 people waiting in an orderly queue. On this occasion as I was approaching the venue, I noticed that there seemed to be a crowd milling around and wondered if there was a problem of some kind. As I got closer, I realised that it was 'our' queue...which stretched from the club entrance on the first floor, down the stairway, out the main entrance and around the block! Around 300+ fans were waiting (with incredible patience, it should be mentioned) to get in. We were, as they say, 'gobsmacked'! The gig was a resounding success and we cleaned up! Not every group did quite as well, but nevertheless, we always made money, whoever was on. As fate would have it, the success of the R&B night, with its much larger crowds, was indirectly the cause of its demise. It happened thus: On Saturday nights at the Green Man, a slightly dubious promoter used to stage what he described as "A Battle of the Bands", when he would assemble a bill of 5 or 6 local 'beat groups' (as they were known then) who would 'compete' for the title of the night's best group. They would 'win' the prize money of about a tenner..the rest got zilch! The promoter, of course, always made a bomb! There were often minor scuffles on these evenings...nothing serious...but one Saturday a fight broke out and a knife was used...enter the 'fuzz', who promptly closed ALL the clubs down..even though we were unconnected and had never had any trouble on our nights. When the landlord told us, we went to the police and pleaded our case. At first they were adamant that no music clubs would be allowed at the pub, but after more pleading and explaining that the Sunday night jazz club had been running for well over a year without any sign of trouble and that furthermore..our jazz audiences rarely numbered much more than 100...they relented and allowed us to continue with the Sunday night jazz club...but NOT the Fridays. So, our venture into the world of 'commercial promotions' came to an end..but , at least we had made a bit of money, which we used to fund the formation of a 'big-band workshop', the brainchild of Clive Burrows, co-leader of the resident quintet. The rehearsal band eventually evolved into the New Jazz Orchestra, which went on to play many concerts, some in collaboration with Colosseum...notably at the Lanchester Arts Festival in 1971...and that leads us neatly on to the next episode.

The idea for putting together a larger band, originated with Clive Burrows, co-leader of the house band. He wanted a kind of 'workshop' where the younger musicians could get experience of sight-reading and ensemble playing, as well as writing arrangements for a bigger line-up. So, we set about finding around 18 guys playing the right combination of instruments, sorted out some interesting and challenging 'charts'..Gil Evans, Oliver Nelson etc. plus one or two own arrangements from Clive and one of the club managers, Les Carter, who played flute...and we were all set.

The first rehearsal was at the Jazzhouse on the November 10th 1963 and I noticed straight away the enthusiasm of everyone who turned up. It was Sunday lunchtime and quite a few of these guys would have been out on gigs the night before, but they were raring to go.

After a few weeks, everything was going well and the guys were starting to talk about playing to an audience. So, we set up the debut performance for Sunday 22nd December at (where else?) the Jazzhouse, with its new larger stage. Billed as the 'Bird-Burrows Big Band (great alliteration, but cumbersome!) it was a roaring success... our usual crowd turned up, plus a whole bunch of new faces, curious to see what it was all about.

This successful debut gave a whole new impetus to the band...rehearsals continued apace and in the New Year, the band members were already asking when the next gig was going to be and 'how about recording it'? I realised at this point, that we had something pretty special here and as everyone seemed to think I was the manager...I decided to start 'managing'.

The next gig we did was was early in 1964 at the Widmore (not 'Wigmore'!) Hall in nearby Bromley as a fundraiser for the 'Freedom From Hunger Campaign'. On this occasion, we had a vocalist...a guy by the name of Duffy Power, who was actually a young up-and-coming 'pop-star' but with a pretty good bluesy voice. I have no recollection of how this came was a 'one off'' and he didn't make any further appearances with the band. I guess his pop career took off or something!

Soon after this Clive Burrows accepted an offer to turn 'pro' with Zoot Money and the Big Roll Band. Ian Bird had already departed some time earlier which meant that the rehearsal band was left rudderless at which point Ian Carr suggested bringing in a budding young composer / arranger Neil Ardley to take over leadership. A new name was also needed and some one came up with a rather grandiose Neoteric Jazz
Orchestra but this was quickly revised to the New Jazz Orchestra. Later that year the NJO won the All England Jazz Contest, the final which was held as part of the Guildford Jazz Festival and were also runners up at the National Amateur Jazz Contest which was held under the auspices of the National Jazz Federation as part of the Richmond Jazz and Blues Festival. Eventually in 1965 the orchestra recorded a live album - Western Reunion which was released on the Decca label. It was surprisingly well received, with Melody Maker making it their 'Album of the Month'!

It's actually still available, but on CD...the original vinyl LP is now a sought after collectors item valued at around £50. Of course...I lost my copy years ago!

Neil Ardley
As to the line up - apart from Ian Carr (trumpet and fluegel horn) who did go on to fame (if not fortune!) as Miles Davis biography. Then there was Jon Hiseman/Tony Reeves etc with Colosseum. Maybe I should also mention Trevor Watts (alto) and Paul Rutherford (trombone) who later became a force in the British avant-garde jazz movement. Neil Ardley (now no longer with us) also has a certain cult following, because of the important albums he made later under his own name ('Symphony of Amaranths', 'Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe', and 'Kaleidoscope of Rainbows') with many of the musicians from the NJO. Other than that, they were all young, relatively inexperienced semi pro musicians...which is why it was so special.
the author of his

The "Jazzhouse" was just one of many such clubs, not just in the London area. Run mostly by enthusiasts (as they rarely made any money putting on modern jazz) many of them operated similar policies to ours...a good-ish resident band of local musicians, with a different 'name' guest musician each week, like Ronnie Scott, Tubby Hayes, Joe Harriott etc. The biggest name we ever booked was Oscar Brown Jnr, for our first anniversary night. With boldness derived from our naivety, we 'doorstepped' him when he was on a visit to the UK. Somehow we heard he was staying in Holland Park with Stanley Myers (pianist/composer/arranger of some note). We offered him double our usual fee (£10!), which he found quite amusing, I think. Then agreed to do it on these terms: Car to pick him up and drive him back..a bottle of decent cognac, the rhythm section to pre-rehearse 3 songs, charts provided by him. He would arrive, perform and leave immediately after....oh, and forget the £10!

It was a great night!

Taking it back to the personal – What were your tastes in Jazz. Who did you admire and why?

I sat and thought about this for a bit, which I haven't done for many years and I was quite surprised to realise that the kind of jazz that I prefer listening to now is still the jazz that I listened to back in the 50s...Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Charlie Mingus, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Gil Evans, John Lewis, Milt Jackson, Errol Garner etc etc...I could go on, as there are many others, but where would I stop? I guess the simple answer is that I was excited by the (then) new jazz...called by some be-bop, which is, I think the term conjured up by Dizzy Gillespie. He and Charlie Parker were probably the two main proponents of the harmonic breakthrough that defined theses new sounds. It changed the whole ballgame, musically speaking and from then on, there was a big divide between these musicians and the old school playing Dixieland or swing. Of course, at that time, because of a protectionist stance by the American union disagreement, you couldn't hear any of these guys live, unless you went to the States (or occasionally Paris, where there was no union block, as there was in the UK). I remember the first bandleader to get round this, was Stan Kenton, when he flew his band over to Southern Ireland and everyone who could afford it, travelled there to hear this incredible music. Ironically, Duke Ellington was allowed to play in England, as he was classified as an 'entertainer', not a musician!! So, the only live jazz I could experience was  seeing bigbands like Jack Parnell or Ted Heath in concert theatres, or go to clubs like the Flamingo to hear guys like Don Rendell, Tubby Hayes, Tommy Whittle etc., who were the 'young turks' of that era. That all changed when the two unions came to an agreement and the ban was lifted..and I got my chance to see some of the musicians I had been listening to on record, live in concert. One such, stands out in my memory..and that was seeing Norman Granz's 'Jazz at the Philharmonic' package at the Gaumont State in Kilburn.. with the Oscar Peterson Trio, Dizzy, Illinois Jacquet and many others. That was some concert!


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