Ray d’Inverno: The Journey of Jazz – 8

Ahead of his 80th Birthday Concert at Turner Sims on Sunday 5 MarchRay d’Inverno takes us on The Journey of Jazz. Delve into the roots of jazz at Turner Sims in this 10-part blog series written by one of Southampton’s best-known musicians.

In the 1970s, when I first became involved with the club, it held regular gigs for a long period at the Joiners Arms pub in St. Mary’s Street…

The Southampton and Campus Jazz Festivals

I have worn many administrative hats in the world of jazz, including being Treasurer and then Chairman for many years of the Southampton Jazz Club (SJC – formerly the Southampton Jazz Society), founder of the Southampton Musicians Cooperative (SMC), founder and Chairman of Southampton Jazz Promotions (SJP), and founder board member and final Chairman of the regional jazz organisation Jazz South. The origins of the SJC go back to the 1940s when it was a record society.

In the 1970s, when I first became involved with the club, it held regular gigs for a long period at the Joiners Arms pub in St. Mary’s Street. With the support of Leisure Services in the Southampton City Council, the bigger jazz gigs and the monthly Jam Session were held at the Solent Suite located under the City Guildhall and, very occasionally, the biggest gigs in the Guildhall itself. SMC concerned itself with Improvised Music, and I ran it for 20 years. The SMC Big Band was an offshoot and I ran that for 10 years, including an infamous 11-day national tour of the band, together with the award winning ‘European Quartet’, and which was preceded by an ITV programme about the band.

Jazz had missed out when the Arts Council was set up, since it had no representative on the original music committee, and consequently received no funding support. However, in 1984 the Arts Council produced a report entitled ‘The Glory Of The Garden’, when a number of regional jazz organisations (RJOs) were set up, including Jazz South. We received grants from Southern Arts and South East Arts to support jazz across 12 counties in the South and South East of the UK. The RJOs achieved a lot in their short existence, but were all eventually closed down essentially to release money for the classical music world.

I think I was the Chairman of SJC when we ran the first Southampton Jazz Festival in 1985. The problem was that the expenditure of the festival was bigger than the annual outlay of the SJC, and so if the festival ended up losing money, then the jazz club would suffer. So, my memory is that the festival split off from the jazz club. Eventually, I set up SJP with an annual grant from the City to promote the annual jazz festival and the bigger jazz gigs which we hosted in the City. The first festival included the bands ‘Paz’, ‘Sphere’, ‘SMC Big Band’, Pete King Quintet, and my band ‘Focus on Sanity’ with Tony Roberts (saxes) and Don Richards (trumpet).

We also ran a local Jazz Competition inspired by the Dunkirk International Jazz Competition, compered by Tim Colwell, and the judges were chaired by Charles Fox, the BBC Radio presenter of ‘Jazz Today’. In 1986, the star band was ‘Loose Tubes’ who performed at the Guildhall. It also included the local band ‘Timepeace’ which had won the competition in 1985. The 1987 festival included two prestigious bands in Barbara Thompson‘s ‘Paraphernalia’, and the Andy Sheppard Quintet which both appeared at the Mountbatten Theatre. But as part of that festival, we had the first ever evening jazz concert at Turner Sims with my suite, ‘Four By Four’. In 1988, the festival included two prestige concerts from ‘Jazz Warriors’, featuring Courtney Pine at the Mayflower and Ian Carr‘s ‘Nucleus’ at the Solent Suite. This festival also included the second evening jazz concert at Turner Sims, with two piano trios led by Simon Purcell and myself.

By 1989, the festival had largely moved to the University using the Hartley Suite (as it was then called) and Turner Sims, as well as the Gantry and the Solent Suite. The featured artist was Andy Sheppard, who appeared both with his sextet and in a duo with improvising pianist Keith Tippett. 1990 proved to be a somewhat strange year, because Leisure Services in the City Council promoted a ‘Jazz in Southampton’ series of events through September, October, and early November, followed by the ‘6th Southampton Jazz Festival’ in late November. I don’t remember why, but the then Southampton City Council’s Special Events Unit produced two separate leaflets. The first (in 3 colours) listed 30 events in all, taking place across the City and describes the season as a ‘taster for Southampton hosting a major Jazz Festival in 1991 focussed on the waterfront’.

The second leaflet (in black and white) lists all the events for the Southampton Jazz Society, the Southampton Musicians’ Cooperative, Southampton Jazz Promotions, and the 6th Southampton Jazz Festival, and these were all based at the University and held either in the John Arlott bar or Turner Sims. The events included my ‘Tribute to Bill Evans’, the David Murray Octet, and the Alan Holdsworth Band. The festival week included concerts from John Taylor and Lee Goodall, Brian Abraham’s ‘District Six’, and the late inclusion of the Jason Rebello Quintet. Looking back at the two overlapping leaflets, it seemed a bit like there were two separate series of events taking part – the first in the ‘City’ and the second in the ‘University’.

In 1991, the City took over and Leisure Services ran the promised week-long event called ‘Jazz Festival on the Waterfront, Southampton’. It mostly consisted of local bands, many of them traditional jazz bands, playing in local venues. However, there was a Festival Marquee on the Town Quay for the last three days, and the groups performing there included John Surman’s Brass Quartet, Dylan Fowler’s Frevo, Paul Young Quartet, Andy Sheppard’s ‘In Co-Motion’, and Ray d’Inverno’s ‘Tonal Centre’. Although there was no separate Southampton Jazz Festival at the University, Turner Sims did promote the Mike Gibbs Band with John Scofield in November, together with a ‘Jazz Weekend’ including the Geri Allen Trio, Louis Sclavis Quartet, Orphy Robinson Sextet, and the Ray d’Inverno Trio.

In 1992, the festival moved back wholly to the University and was now called the ‘Campus Jazz Festival’, and it was organised by SJP. It included the Bobby Wellins Quartet, Elton Dean Quartet, Paul Edmunds Quartet, Andy Moss‘s ‘Within The Word’ and the John Taylor Trio. There was no jazz festival in 1993 because the concert hall was closed in the Autumn season for work on the foyer. However, there were four jazz concerts earlier in the Spring season from the Bill Frisell Band and the Jon Lloyd Quartet in January, ‘London Jazz Composers Orchestra’ in March, and the ‘European Trio’ in May. I discovered after the gig that Bill Frisell is married to a cousin of mine who is a New York visual artist and works under her maiden name of Carole d’Inverno – small world.

In 1994, Turner Sims had John Taylor and Stan Sulzmann together with Ray d’Inverno‘s ‘Tonal Centre’, John Williams ‘New Perspectives’, and the Martin Speake Quartet in the Spring. October saw a CMN (Contemporary Music Network) concert given by Hermeto Pascoal. The second Campus Jazz Festival in November included Keith Tippett’s Mujician Duo, Claire Martin Quintet, Lee Goodall Quartet, Andy Urquhart’s JazzIs and Julian Joseph and The Forum Project.

In January 1995, we had a CMN concert given by the Don Grolnick Group featuring the amazing Brecker Brothers. The Campus Jazz Festival included that year, the Jon Lloyd Quartet, Stan Sulzmann‘s ‘Dangerous Kitchens’, Nikki Yeoh‘s ‘Infinitum’, Django Bates’ ‘Human Chain’, George Russell and the Living Time Orchestra, and the Tina May Band. Even though I was a lecturer in the Mathematics Department, I was lucky enough to be allowed to introduce jazz studies into the undergraduate programme in the Music Department in 1993, and taught in the department for three years. After its introduction, the Music Department appointed the American Jose Bowen to lead jazz studies, and Jose organised an amazing weekend in November 1995 featuring Dave Brubeck and three of his sons. I sang in one of two choirs when we performed his work ‘La Fiesta de la Posada’. Finally, in December Turner Sims held a tenth anniversary concert from the SMC Big Band with guests Chris Biscoe, Don Weller and Lee Goodall.

1996 was very busy on the jazz front, with jazz concerts in both the spring and autumn programmes. Indeed I have a copy of a handout called ‘Jazz News’ produced by the ‘Turner Sims Concert Hall, University of Southampton’, detailing spring jazz events including two CMN concerts. The spring programme included the first CMN concert given by Mike Gibbs Creative Jazz Orchestra, and it was followed by Diane McLoughlin‘s ‘Giant Steppes’, The European Quartet, NYJO, Orlando Consort and the Perfect Houseplants, Andy Sheppard‘s ‘Inclassificable’, John Abercrombie Trio, and the second CMN concert given by the Pete Erskine Trio with John Taylor. The autumn programme included Martin Taylor and the ‘Spirit of Django’, ‘Jazz Jamaica’ with Gary Crosby and the David Murray Big Band. The Campus Jazz Festival included the Mike Westbrook Orchestra, Tommy Smith Sextet, and the South African jazz pianist Mervyn Africa.

However, 1996 was the last Campus Jazz Festival. I think the City tried to run a jazz festival in 1997 but it was not a success and it was not repeated. In the spring of 1997, Turner Sims ran a series under the heading ‘Jazz with Attitude’ and included the Julian Joseph Trio, John Taylor Trio, Kenny Wheeler and the Guildhall Jazz Band, and the Stan Tracey Septet. In the Autumn, another series ran under the heading ‘Jazz +’ and included ‘Jazz Africa’ with Gail Thompson, Andy Sheppard‘s ‘Moving Image’, Jacqui Dankworth‘s ‘Field of Blue’, Billy Jenkins with the Blues Collective, Nikki Yeoh’s Big Band, Tony Roberts Nada, and a duo of Andy Sheppard and Steve Lodder. In November alone, there were three lunchtime concerts given by the Jim Mullen Quartet, Mark Ramsden and Steve Lodder, and Orchestra Mahatma. So, although the jazz festivals were no more, jazz was now firmly established in both Turner Sims spring and autumn programmes, and it has remained that way ever since.

Ray d’Inverno

Read part nine here

Book your tickets for Ray d’Inverno’s 80th Birthday Concert on Sunday 5 March, featuring Ray himself with his quintet Quintessential Groove, his pianist son Mark, a number of special guests – and plenty of cake!

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