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Notes from a Jazz Life

By Digby Fairweather

Northway Publications 2015

Pb, 212 pp. £14.00

ISBN 978-0-9928222-4-8

John Robert Brown

Notes From A Jazz LifeA new edition of Digby Fairweather's reflections, updated to cover the last thirteen years. The anecdotes and memories mostly represent British jazz as seen in the rear view mirror, of course, the players and characters being those professionally encountered by Digby in his jazz life. Thus, there is plenty about Alex Welsh, George Melly, Acker Bilk and even veteran alto saxophonist Roy Willox, the latter (born in 1929) described here affectionately as 'Cannonball Elderly'.

Fascinating walk-on parts are included for Billy Butterfield, Dizzy Gillespie, Wild Bill Davison, the late radio presenter Peter Clayton and various BBC Radio producers who specialised in jazz during Digby's career. Some detail about the National Jazz Archive is also included.

The final chapter tells of the years after 2007, the period when Humphrey Lyttleton, John Dankworth, Kenny Ball and Terry Lightfoot all died. To counter this gloom there is a most pleasing account of Digby's marriage to Gwen, when Digby was sixty-seven years old.

Notes From A Jazz Life is an enjoyable read, and a revealing record of a specific period of British jazz. The honest discussion of Digby's own trumpet-playing difficulties may well provide comfort to other unlucky instrumentalists who suffer embouchure problems.

Illustrations are by Humphrey Lyttleton and Peter Manders. The latter's ink portraits are especially deserving of praise but, strangely, there is no information to be found on the web about Manders' work, which was used over decades in Jazz Journal.

John Robert Brown

DVD review: Scenes from a Jazz Life

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