DVD, Scenes from a Jazz Life

Celebrating 20 years of Digby Fairweather's Half Dozen.

Zoltans Films, 2004. Running Time 115 Minutes

John Robert Brown

Scenes From A Jazz LifeThose who have followed the post-war history of British mainstream jazz will welcome this DVD. How interesting it is to see clips of Nat Gonella using exactly the same offset embouchure that later caused Digby so many problems, even to the extent that both players blew from the same (right-hand) side of their embouchures. Could it be that Digby fell into this incapacitating habit after seeing Gonella play?

As would be expected, there is much footage of Digby talking to camera about trumpet lessons, his early work as a librarian, Digby's work with Dave Shepherd, Velvet, The Midnite Follies orchestra, Digby's own efforts in establishing the National Jazz Archive (though no mention of other UK jazz archives), the founding of the Association of British Jazz Musicians, and the early years of Dave Lee's Jazz FM. Interviews with Humphrey Lyttelton, Don Lusher and George Melly give more of the story. One is pleased to see film of the tenor saxophonist Jonny Boston (who now has quit the British scene for life in Holland), saxophonist Danny Moss, trombonist Ray Wordsworth, and the much-overlooked Roy Willox. The latter's economy is a lesson for other single-reed players.

Be warned that much of the camera work is shaky and poorly lit, the concert venues scruffy, and the garb of a few of the participants very much come-as-you-are. But as these film clips are in some cases all that remains of these musicians we must be grateful, and - perhaps - learn lessons for the future.

John Robert Brown

Book review: Notes from a Jazz Life

First published in Jazz Journal, 2015. Used by kind permission.
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