Photos below - the original quartet, Marshall Walker drms, Roly gtr/vcls, Clem Avery bass and Bill Smith sax/clnt.
The stuff of legend - landlady Pauline Haley and George Evans, the famous big band leader and arranger.
THE PAULINE YEARS
The jazz club started as an informal weekly pub residency based around the lovely tenor sax playing of Bill Smith who I knew from Peter Gascoigne’s Saratoga Jazz sessions at The Corner House, Heaton. Our desire was to play in the mainstream/swing idiom based on American Songbook repertoire and landlady Pauline Haley at The Black Bull at Blaydon offered us a room. Clem Avery on double bass and Marshall Walker on drums completed the line up. Pauline kept perfect ale which won Camra (campaign for real ale) awards and had built up lots of activities in the pub which all stimulated interest. Our first session was on 13th September 1984. The jazz became an integral part of the pub's success and a period of about seven years ensued during which time the jazz night thrived.
A regular guest was the legendary George Evans. That's George with Pauline in the b/w picture above. He was a wonderful, inspirational person - stylish and elegant as a player and as a person. George had played sax as a teenager at The BBC (when the great Benny Carter came over from America to lead the BBC Dance Orchestra in the mid ‘30s). He was later featured as saxophonist, vocalist and arranger with the Geraldo Orchestra, then led his own band in London before moving north to run the band at Newcastle’s Oxford Galleries. George was known worldwide as a big band leader and arranger. What a privilege it was to have him playing with us at Blaydon.
Bill Smith told me about a guitarist, James Birkett, who had moved north to head up the music diploma course at Newcastle College where Bill did some teaching. I suggested he invited him down and thus started a close friendship and musical association. James is still a regular guest.
Eric & Grace Booth brought their son Paul to sit in. Even at 12/13 years of age it was obvious he had a rare talent. He is now, surely, one of the UK’s finest jazz saxophonists and plays all over the world.
As time went on we brought guest musicians - below are some photos from the sessions.
Around 1991 two unfortunate things happened. Pauline left the pub trade and Bill Smith left to meet his pre-existing commitments with The River City Jazzmen. It marked the end of a golden period. A new management team, Gordon and his wife Mary, took on the pub. To their credit they regarded the jazz night (and other pub activities) as very important and did all they could to support it.
A talented young Charlie Parker disciple, Mark Toomey, joined on alto sax and, aided by the great Billy Harper on piano, the group expanded to a quintet. The club continued to thrive and, with frequent guests, the momentum was not lost. However, in 1998, another new manager came to the pub. I can’t recall his name but from the start he made it obvious that he was not keen on jazz and within a couple of weeks he cancelled the jazz night.
The club moved to a pub in Burnopfield but it didn’t work out – after struggling on for a year we moved back to good old Blaydon – this was in 1999. The new venue was Blaydon House Sports and Social Club who allowed us to use their small lounge for weekly sessions and the bigger concert room for name guests. The club stewards, Shirley and Trevor, gave great support. By now the old group had disbanded and a new quartet became resident, fronted by Billy Harper piano and with Billy Shield drums, Pete Stuart bass and myself on guitar and vocals. Mark Robertson played on drums for quite a while till Bill recovered from an eye op.
In 1999 a tragic event occured. Randolph (Randy) Heads died suddenly, in his sleep. It was one of those totally unexpected events that just shattered everyone. Randy had been a devoted supporter of jazz in general, NE jazz and Blaydon in particular. He was a keen drummer who just loved jazz, it's musicians, the whole thing. He would do anything to help - was a tireless worker for Jazz North East (the funded arts body) and at Blaydon he often fixed guests, provided accomodation and was an absolute a pillar of support. It's fair to say the local jazz scene lost one of it's main supporters and activists and to this day he is greatly missed. A while after his passing the club arranged a charity event (Roy Williams and John Barnes gave their services for free) and the proceeds were shared between two local charities (see photo). Partner Shirley has remained a devout supporter of the club and to this day actively helps out.
BILLY ON SONG
For a purple period of about five years, the great Tyneside jazz pianist Billy Harper absolutely peaked with a constant flow of well known and more obscure American Songbook material. Sometimes he would play a set of all Strayhorn, another time all songs beginning with ‘I’ or maybe songs with ‘love’ in the title. Bill seemed to know every tune. Sometimes his wife Anne (De Vere) would join the band with her own high class vocal interpretations of the great songs. Photos below of the quartet - Billy, subtle drummer Bill Shield, the wonderful bassist Pete Stuart and Roly Veitch.
THE TALL SHIPS AND RIVER FESTIVAL
In the autumn of 2005 the club was given the opportunity to organise a 'journey' themed event, part of this Tyneside Festival. The theme was 'a journey through jazz' and it was a great opportunity to bring different styles together.
The four concerts were - -
1920s New Orleans - Rae Brothers New Orleans Jazz Band
1930s Paris - Keith Stephen's Gypsy Jazz
1950s New York - Mick Shoulder's Blue Note Quintet.
'A journey through the American Songbook' - John Hallam + house rhythm section.
END OF AN ERA
When Bill and Anne decided to retire to Brittany in France in 2005, another great pianist took Bill’s piano chair when Jeremy McMurray agreed to come up from Teesside to play. Bill was a hard act to follow but Jeremy has shown everyone what a great player he is too. Also we began to often feature a local band.
It was at this point the weekly sessions we had held since the very beginning were reduced to one concert a month.
Blaydon House S & C Club closed in 2008 but we were offered a home at Blaydon CIU virtually next door. The steward Alan Harris and Lisa proved loyal supporters of their CIU and no effort was spared on their part to help the jazz club.
25 NOT OUT
We reached our 25th anniversary mid Sept 2009. From September to December we organised a series of concerts - details below.
Thurs Sept 10th - Billy Harper Quartet with guests Frank Brooker (sax/clnt) & Anne DeVere (vcls)
Thurs 17th Sept - Roy Williams (tbn) & John Hallam (sax/clnt) with The BlaydonJazz Quartet
This concert was dedicated to the memory of Randolph(Randy) Heads, pictured right.
Randy was a devout jazz fan and a wonderful supporter of NE jazz, the musicians, etc. He would look after visiting soloists, show them around the area and generally support all local jazz activity. He was a JNE director and adopted Blaydon Jazz Club which he supported in every way possible. Randy died suddenly and totally unexpectedly, in his sleep, on 20th Sept 1999.
He was an absolute gentleman and is greatly missed.
Thurs Oct 8th - Dave Cliff/Geoff Simkins Quartet (Dave gtr, Geoff alto sax)
Thurs Oct 15th - Zoe Gilby/Andy Champion Duo
Thurs Oct 29th - Jon Taylor(sax/flute) & James Birkett(gtr) with The BlaydonJazz Trio
Thurs Nov 12th - Vasilis Xenopoulos (sax) with The Paul Edis Trio
Thurs Dec 10th - Bob Caswell (vcls) with The BlaydonJazz Trio
Thurs Dec 17th - XMas Party incl. buffet - John Barnes (clnt/sax) & Roy Williams (tbn) with The BlaydonJazz Quartet.
Acknowledgement – sincere thanks to Community Foundation (Grass Roots Grants) and Gateshead MBC for financial help/advice with our 25th anniversary events.
Blaydon CIU sadly closed on 31st Jan 2013. Club steward Alan Harris, who had been always so helpful, had been an active member there for over forty years. By a twist of fate the Black Bull Hotel at Blaydon is now tenanted by Carl and Jackie Haley. Carl is former landlady Pauline's younger brother. They immediately offered a home to the jazz club to complement the range of traditional activities at the pub - folk night, quiz night, buskers night, rock & blues club and more. Unfortunately it has necessitated a change from our regular Thursdays to a once a month Sunday evening session - its the only night of the week the room is not already in use! So the club is now back at the venue where it all started back on the 13th September 1984. Below are some photos (more to be added) of some of the musicians who have played at the club since we went back.
On 21st September 2014 the club's monthly concert completed thirty years of jazz as it all started on 13th September 1984. The band put together for this special occasion was Mark Toomey alto sax, Noel Dennis tpt/flgl, Jeremy McMurray pno, Neil Harland bass, David Francis drms and Roly Veitch gtr. A mega-raffle, nibbles at the tables and a phone call from legendary landlady Pauline in France all combined to make it a memorable evening. Below are a couple of photos. One of the ensemble and one of Roly's 'thank you' speech. So many people to thank for supporting us all these years!
Below are photos taken at various monthly concerts held since our 30th anniversary in September 2014. More are being added as the months go by.
OUR JAZZ MUSICIAN GUESTS
Below is a list of our guest players who travelled from beyond the north east, over the years (in alphabetical order).
Some have been to the club many times. (apologies if I’ve missed you out.)
Bruce Adams, Colin Aitchison, Lennart Anderssen, Steve Andrews, Kenny Baker, Alan Barnes, John Barnes, Paul Booth, Asha Brewer, Frank Brooker,
Roy Cansdale, Janusz Carmello, Ben Castle, Dave Challis, George Chisholm (tpt), Kelvin Christian, Dave Cliff, Crazy Rhythm, John Crocker, Gordon Cruikshank, Fiona Duncan, Alan Elsdon, George Evans, Digby Fairweather, John Hallam, Paul Hares, Peter Jacobsen, Dick Lee, Phil Lee, Bob Ludlam, Pascal Michot, Red Pellini, Mike Piggott, Gary Potter, Ronnie Rae, Neville Sarony, Geoff Simpkin, Kenny Sugawara, Jon Taylor, Bruce Turner, Franco Valussi, Tim Whitehead, Tommy Whittle, Roy Williams, Al Wood, Vasilis Xenopoulos.
Plus many local guest players too numerous to list.
Acknowledgement - some of the photos above are shown with kind permission of Eddie Carson, Lance Liddle and other club supporters - thank you. For more on Blaydon Jazz Club and a fantastic archive of the NE jazz scene do visit Lance's amazing Blog 'Bebop Spoken Here' - see Links.
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