In the 1960s, when in my late teens, I began to like rhythm & blues music (Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters) then folk blues. Arising from that I began to like blues and boogie woogie piano (eg. Jimmy Yancey) then a pal at work introduced me to Oscar Peterson – the iconic Night Train album. That was it – I was hooked on jazz as a listener and began to go to lots of local gigs – mostly traditional jazz but gradually more modern styles too. I had played guitar as a teenager, Shadows tunes and Chuck Berry style R&B, but then I heard the great jazz guitarist George Barnes – the quartet with Ruby Braff. I loved his playing, went out and bought a cheap jazz guitar and started again from scratch, trying to learn to play like Barnes, playing along with albums mostly. By then I was aged in my late 20s so I left it late to get started.
After two or three years woodshedding some pals told a local jazz musician I played. This musician lived nearby – he was Clem Avery, and he went out of his way to help me get started.
Clem got me some 'sit ins' with local bands including Joe McMullen's Mainstreet Jazzmen, Hughie Aitchison's Cellarmen, Peter Gascoigne's Vieux Carre and Ronnie Young's Jazzmen. The photo right is at the Corner House, Heaton in 1984 - Charlie Carmichael alto sax, Hughie Aitchison tpt, Ronnie McLean tbn, Bill Harper pno and me on guitar (no grey hairs then!).
When Clem was asked to form a new band for a weekly residency at the Golden Lion pub at Winlaton Mill he asked me to be in the band. It was a great jazz haunt – a small cellar room with great atmosphere and usually packed out with jazz fans. That residency lasted seven years – very happy times. It was there I began to sing a few songs too – I don't know how I mustered the nerve to do that. The line up was Chas Coles drms, Johnny Duncan bass, Clem tpt/vcls, Ronnie Mclean tbn and several clarinetists over the years – Danny Dunbar, Eric 'Jonty' Clegg, Bruce Bakewell with me on guitar. I also occasionally depped for guitarist Roy Willis with Peter Gascoigne's Saratoga Jazzmen who had a Sunday evening residency at the Corner House, Heaton. There I met Bill Smith, a lovely, gentle man who played tenor sax with a beautiful tone influenced by the likes of Zoot Sims and Stan Getz. I loved Bill's playing and we became great pals.
In 1984 I happened to meet Pauline Haley who I knew from school days. She explained she had taken on the Black Bull pub at Blaydon and was trying to build up trade and activities there – would I be interested in starting a jazz residency. I mentioned it to Bill Smith and he was enthusiastic so we put a quartet together with Marshall Walker drums and Clem Avery now on double bass. We started in September 1984 and this was the start of Blaydon Jazz Club. The quartet focused on the Great American Songbook and was based around Bill's lovely tenor sax and clarinet playing. Those early years at Blaydon were great with a full house nearly every week and frequent guest players both local and national. You might like to look at the jazz club website and extensive YouTube photo gallery via the home page. My mentor Clem Avery passed away in 2008. You might like to read about him too - see the tribute to him via the home page menu. Our drummer Marshall Walker passed away in 2009 and Bill Smith died in 2015 so now I'm the only survivor of the original quartet.
An honoured guest musician in the early days of the club was George Evans, who had come out of retirement and started playing again. George was internationally famous for his work as a big band leader and arranger, having started his career in the 1930s with Geraldo then moving on to have his own band with, at one stage, arrangements for a nine piece saxophone section. George was an elegant gentleman, a wonderful musician and it was a privilege to have him come and play regularly at Blaydon.
It would also be in the mid 80s a pro guitarist came to the jazz club for a 'sit in'. This was James Birkett who had come up north to head up a jazz diploma course in Newcastle. We quickly struck up a lasting friendship, for some years gigging as a jazz guitar duo. We are still great pals and James regularly plays at our jazz club.
Some years after we started the club the great north east jazz pianist Bill Harper joined us and from about 1998 we had a new quartet based around his great playing. With Pete Stuart on bass, Billy Shield drums and myself on guitar. This quartet enjoyed a very successful period at the club, a weekly residency which only ended when Bill retired and moved to France. Over many years we accompanied many great guest soloists at Blaydon, top UK musicians and some international stars. Some of them came to play many times and it was always a privilege.
After this we moved primarily to a policy of bringing in local guest bands on a monthly basis, a policy which continues to this day. Check out the jazz club's history (photographs + live music) on YouTube. See the link below.
My main jazz activity has been looking after Blaydon Jazz Club but there have been other musical ventures which I greatly enjoyed, among them a trio of trios.
Roly Veitch Trio - for some years I had my own trio with a great Miles Davis/Chet Baker styled trumpeter Noel Dennis and Neil Harland on double bass. We played quite intimate music very much in the Chet style. It was a nice unit and it really suited my way of playing on the electric archtop jazz guitar.
Swing City Trio - another venture was a trio with Hawk style tenor sax player Steve Andrews, a unique player in the pre bop style of tenor saxophone legends such as Coleman Hawkins, Chu Berry, Lester Young, Ben Webster. This was the Swing City Trio with Roy Cansdale on bass and I played 1930s style unamplified acoustic rhythm guitar.
Keith Stephen's Hot Club Trio - around 2005 the late Ron Pollard, who with wife Joyce ran 'Jazz at the Fell' in Gateshead, wanted to put on a Django Reinhardt/Hot Club of France type concert. He asked Django styled guitarist Keith Stephen to put a band together and Keith somehow got my name and asked me to play rhythm guitar. That was the beginnings of Keith's Hot Club Trio, eventually with the vivacious singer Caroline Irwin.
Just now I'm taking a break from gigs. I'm enjoying playing at home though including putting a few videos up on YouTube. I'll get involved with some new ventures when the time feels right.
Top left the original Blaydon Jazz Club Quartet - L to R Marshall Walker, Roly Veitch, Clem Avery, Bill Smith
Top right the quartet with our one of our first guests Digby Fairweather tpt also George Evans tnr sax
Second Row - Jazz Club 4th birthday - L to R James Birkett, Bill Smith, Marshall Walker, Clem Avery, Kelvin Christian, Pauline Haley, Roly Veitch
Third row left - Keith Stephen's Hot Club Trio with Caroline Irwin. L to R Roly Veitch, Keith, Bruce Rollo and Caroline
Third row right - Swing City Trio with guests - L to R Roy Cansdale, Steve Andrews, Kenny Sugawara, Roly Veitch, Colin Aitchison, Dr Joseph Depasquale and Franco Valussi
Fourth Row left - a painting by Yorkshire artist Dave Newbould - L to R Roly Veitch, Neil Harland, Noel Dennis
YouTube - for some examples of jazz I've enjoyed being involved with over the years search my YouTube 'BlaydonAces' channel or use this link and then select PLAYLISTS - Click Here
Updated 8th May 2021
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