Traditional Jazz in the North West
I also learned to play banjo and guitar - self taught (much to the ear-ache of my family!). Over the years I've been a Jazz Historian and writer as well as a player. It's driven some folk crazy especially when correcting people's announcements about the origin of a tune. I've been told by some musicians and fans that, It doesn't matter if the tune is called Sugarfoot Stomp or Dippermouth Blues," to which my response is, "If you'd written a tune and missed out on the due royalties how would you feel?" Some times their answer has been, "Oh I see what you mean". But oftentimes, "Who cares?
I've earned a living as a full-time musician
since 1986, having played in a variety of local semi-pro bands in East Anglia
and London since the early 1970s whilst working by day in the international
electronics industry. We moved back to my roots in Stockport in 2002, having
found an Edwardian house which needed a lot of TLC, but had character. 15 years
on we now have the house that we always wanted, with character and
But l digress.. Some time ago Jill and I finally met Ray and Jenny Knight face to face at the late Johnny Rodgers' funeral. We had been aware of their videoing activities at Pete Lay's jazz festivals, having watched many of their films on YouTube under the wonderful title of 'Harvey Does Jazz. We got talking and Jenny, out of the blue, suddenly said there's got to be jazz "Oop North" outside of the festival circuit. She was absolutely right. There have always been so called Territory bands' in the UK as well as in the USA. These bands operated on a local basis with perhaps the odd trip out of their hometown but essentially they played within a locally defined area, and they weren't really known or recognised outside their local patch. It's a great pity that many bands weren't recognised for their musical abilities, which in some cases, were the equal of, if not better than, some of the name bands. However, one thing led to another and we (the terrible trio of Jenny, Ray and I) decided to turn our hands to documentary making detailing the history of the music in the North West.
There have been documentaries on Traditional UK jazz over the years, from 'Smokey Dives' and 'Whatever Happened To Bill Brunskill- both from George Melly to the BBC-4 sponsored Trad Jazz Britannia. BBC 2 TV had their 'Jazz Week' in 1987, which featured some Traditional and Mainstream music, together with Bebop. One highlight was The Lowest Of The Low' about bass saxophones that included a tour of the Paris Selmer factory and a band of 12 UK bass saxophonists with a rhythm section playing at the Prince of Orange in Rotherhithe (another long gone venue). Buddy Bolden's Children - the late Humphrey Lyttelton's re-creation of what he and others thought that the Buddy Bolden band sounded like was also aired that January week. They were excellent, but they were very London centred
Ray and Jenny came up to the Manchester area for a two-week 'working holiday' in May, 2017. Our plan was fairly simple. Prior to their visit, as "their man on the ground' I contacted a variety of local bandleaders with residencies to obtain agreement to their being videoed. Approvals gained meant moving on to phase two - the drafting of a rough shooting script and timetable based on dates and locations. Our prime objective was to record their current activities coupled with some the band's history. I also researched bands that had been on the local scene, but are no longer with us. With the assistance of many good folk I dug deep to find old photographs of venues and bands. Whilst doing this research I was writing a main voice-over script using the previous TV documentaries as a format - photographs, film and interviews spliced together. The estimable Paul Adams of Lake Records was also a help, letting us use some of his historic re-released recordings from the 1950s as part of the background music in the voice-over. During their time up here Ray and Jenny videoed six current working bands at their residencies for a whole evening each. Ray was the main camera operator, with Jenny operating a second camera and also working as a mobile videographer during the intervals whilst she and l interviewed band members and jazz fans at the clubs. We also hired a hotel meeting room for a few hours one Tuesday morning to record reminiscences from various fans, musicians, promoters and the super Fred Burnett who runs the wonderful website www.jazznorthwest.co.uk. Each bandleader was sent a DVD of their band's evening activities with a request to review the content and to decide which two tunes represented their band at its best. They also had a full right of veto. Having had their responses we then had to select extracts from their favourite tunes to insert into the finished documentary. Perhaps the most time consuming job was editing - looking at the interviews and extracting portions that related to the historical aspect of the music in the territory and then sequencing them into a relevant timeline. After recording the voice-over from my script I swear that I will never laugh out-takes from the famous ever again. I still can't believe that I made so many bloopers! Four months of editing, swearing and many re-writes resulted in 'The Road To Southport Pier - A Jazz Odyssey 2017", which made its debut in the 'Rayk jazz' site on YouTube in October, 2017
Of course, there are dissenters who argued that their bands or past activities hadn't been featured and also that the film was too Manchester-centric. We listened - and the next chapter was to concentrate on Chester, Liverpool and the Wirral. This time we recorded seven bands in a variety of settings and styles. Two and a half weeks in Chester, Liverpool, Maghull Neston and Widnes saw us clocking up the miles and listening to some totally different music. Our methodology was pretty much as before, but with the benefit of hindsight I believe that we were a lot sharper in our approach this time out. During the shooting I had a number of phone calls along the lines of Why aren't you videoing my xyz band?" My response was measured and polite - there's no point in upsetting people. However, if a band doesn't have a residency or a series of public performances then they cannot be considered as part of the regular scene. In fact, one very fine working band in the area declined to be videoed as they "didn't want to be seen on You Tube." The old adage, "You can some please some of the people some of the time" sprang to mind. I must point out at this stage that our efforts are a labour of love for the music and the musicians - we don't make a penny from it!
As I write, our second production is in the editing stage. We have been approached by bands in other areas with a view to a third and maybe fourth production. We will go ahead, but there are time limitations - I still play and Ray and Jenny other commitments. Lancaster and Cumbria may feature, and the North East, with its rich heritage could well be filmed. And there again there's Edinburgh. We have also been approached to film memories of some of the bands from the 70s in the South East. It's almost like painting the Forth Bridge, BUT - watch this space!
Videos by Ray & Jenny Knight aka Rayk Jazz
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