A truly amazing musician
Died peacefully 3rd Feb 2007
sorry to have to tell you that Derek Brown has just rung me to pass on the news
that Frank Fonseca passed away this morning. Frank began his musical career in
Shanghai and Hong Kong, where he lived until the 1970s. The most amazing thing
about Frank was that he only had one complete arm, and I've seen him play and it
was absolutely amazing to watch him.. He could outplay many other guitarists.
His daughter-in-law Suzanne is also well known to the jazz fraternity as a
trombonist. Our thoughts are with them all at this sad time.
Just wanted to let you all know that Frank died yesterday morning. We found out not long after his 80th birthday in November that he had cancer, but his decline was very rapid and thankfully relatively painless.
4th Feb 2007
Obituary which has gone in the Bury Times,
Manchester Evening News and South China Morning Post!
FONSECA (FRANK) - On February 3, 2007, peacefully
in hospital, Francisco Xavier, of Bury but a true citizen of the world, aged 80
years. Dearly loved Husband of Barbara, much loved Father of Jeremy and Candice,
loving Father-in-Law of Suzanne and Paul and dear Avo of Harry and Danilo.
Service and committal at Rochdale Crematorium on Friday February 16 at 11.50am
followed by a Celebration of Frank's life (location to follow). Family flowers
only please but if desired donations may be sent to Cancer Research UK, c/o S.
Wellens and Sons, 121 Long St, Middleton, Manchester, M24 6DL to whom all inqs
may be made. Tel 0161 643 2677
Thank you for telling me about Frank Fonseca's very sad passing. Julie Flynn just told me minutes before I opened your e-mail. We were good buddies during the 70s and up to the 80s, when I was still on the Manchester Jazz scene, before my 12-year absence in Cheltenham and Leeds, respectively. Frank and I did many gigs together in his quartets and quintets, many of which included two other late and sadly missed friends - Pete Taylor the bassist and drummer Bob Jones. The last time I played with Frank (and Suzanne) was in his Jazz Bandits at a pub in the Eccles area, where they played quite regularly. I was there as a dep' for the great Wally Davis. Frank stopped playing not long ago. I had no idea that he had Cancer, though; Suzanne did tell me that he had been poorly.
I agree entirely with what you say about Frank's playing, considering his handicap - which he seldom moaned about. He sang too!
He played the chords with his right hand palm-downwards. The guitar was, therefore, strung in reverse order, meaning that - to
add to all of his other troubles - he was playing every chord upside-down, with the guitar lying (or
slung) horizontally - as you would play a Hawaiian guitar. With his other half arm (the left),
he plucked the strings, using the end of that half-arm, which had a natural attachment which suited Frank's purpose admirably, as he could make it act as a plectrum. The guitar was slung higher on his right-hand side to compensate for the shortness of that arm. He
should have had an MBE just for that! He won't be forgotten in my book, I can assure you!
The man was a genius. apart from his musical abilities, Frank was a great multi-linguist;. he spoke Spanish, Portuguese (he and I often had long chats in Portuguese when we were in the Panama J/B together, and during some phone calls too. He had also mastered two Chinese dialects, as well as having excellent English. Few people will know that he also worked locally in the Chinese Community as an Interpreter for several years. He was a very knowledgeable man all-round, which you have to be for interpreting. Finally, he was an amazing pictorial artist. Some of his paintings done using an incredible "spotting" technique often reminded me of the great Impressionists: Degas, Renoir, etc. He was in that sort of vein, artistically. He was also a marvellous cook; I've sampled his cuisine, much of it was based on Portuguese dishes (he was
half-Portuguese/half-Chinese) and came from a diplomatic background, his family being from Macao. We have lost a highly talented, kind-hearted and lovable human being - a friend to hundreds. May God grant his soul eternal rest.
Frank's widow is called Barbara; a lovely lady, and they were devoted to each other. Suzanne is married to Frank and Barbara's son Jeremy. They have two children as far as I can recall. I seem to remember that Jeremy had a sister. All three generations must be missing Frank tremendously; he was a great family man, as husband, father and grandfather. My heart goes out to all of them. I'm sure I'm not alone in my sentiments. The whole Jazz community here knew and appreciated Frank very much.
Local pianist/composer/bandleader, Alan Hare, who was posted to Hong Kong between 1959 and 63 as a Chartered Surveyor in the Colonial Service, knew Frank from musical circles there. Frank was quite famous out there. I would like to convey Alan's sympathies too, here, as he isn't on the Internet.
If you intend to do something, well do it now!!!.
I played Bass Guitar alongside Frank Fonseca in the Manchester area in the 1970s and
1980s. He always named his bands with "Hot" names such as "The Embers" I never found out why. He amazed me with his technique. For those who never had the opportunity to see him, I describe, the best I can,
HIS method of playing guitar.
His left arm finished at the elbow. He played an old Gretch cello style guitar which he told me was given to him by a G. I. on his travels. The guitar was tuned in the conventional way for a right handed player. He attached the guitar strap to the tail piece and the other end to the neck near the nut. He then placed the strap over his head which supported the guitar in a horizontal position similar to a
Hawaiian style. He would then pick out the melody or chords with a plectrum attached by adhesive tape to his left elbow bone and finger the chord shapes, melody notes with his right hand. His knowledge of tunes and chords was endless. Whilst on a gig at
Dobcross, I asked him how he learnt to play in such a way. His reply was, "There is more than one way to skin a cat"
I opened this dedication to Frank with "If you intend doing something, do it" because it is 20 years since I worked with Frank. I moved to the Blackpool area and had recently planned to see him again. Sadly that will not now be possible. We have lost another great musician and
Gerry & Margaret Clayton
9th Feb 2007
CREMATORIUM PACKED FOR FRANK FONSECA'S FUNERAL
- LIFE HISTORY CELEBRATION - 16 FEBRUARY 2007
Around 200 people (family, friends, Jazz people, acquaintances) crowded in and around Rochdale's little Crematorium Chapel today - 16th February 2007. A Humanist style send-off was expertly and very tastefully read out by Sue Davis, alto-saxist Wally Davis's wife. Sue gave all present a very full, at times amusing and always interesting, eulogy to the Great Man we all loved. Sue opened up at the Chapel the beginning of a series of revelations about Frank's tremendously multi-faceted life and career, very effectively building us up to what we were to be treated to later at Ramsbottom Civic Hall, with a filmed backdrop which illustrated specific highlights of Frank's life. This was a story in itself, which certainly merits further comment below.
"Jones" - one of Frank's favourite tunes, was played - as the Crematorium ceremony began. It was quietly, beautifully and respectfully played by Paul Medina (double bass), Wally Davis (alto sax.) and Suzanne Fonseca, Frank's and Barbara's daughter-in-law (trombone). As the ceremony drew to a close, and we inwardly said our last goodbyes to Frank's physical presence, a very clever piece of multi-tracking by Frank himself, that lovely old Latin-American bolero, "Ramona" (another favourite of Frank's) was played to the mourners. He played rhythm guitar, lead guitar, bass, violin, piano, drums, etc., himself, as well as singing in at least a three-part harmony. At first I thought that this was a band he had played in when he was in Hong Kong in the 1960s. His son Jeremy told me later about the multi-tracking. It was so perfect, it was hard to believe. Incidentally, it was all in the original Spanish.
At Ramsbottom Civic Hall, not only were we treated to a superb repast of food especially cooked á la typical Frank Fonseca gourmet fashion at the Liverpool Restaurant now run by Frank's daughter Candice and her partner Paul, all looking really delicious and extremely tasty, but we also found out all about Frank's hitherto hidden family background and his many so far unrevealed achievements. Apparently, the memorabilia we saw on the screen, individually described in an extremely amusing and interesting and often very funny way, by Frank's daughter Candice, had only been discovered days after Frank died. Candice should have been a comedienne; she is naturally funny, and several times she had us all in stitches with her well-timed quips and
innuendos. The stills on the screen showed Frank's early years with several members of his family, in Shanghai, Hong-Kong and several pictures of him playing violin. Not even Barbara nor the children were aware until recently that Frank had been declared a 'child prodigy' on violin at the age of eight! There were pictures of his many travels in the Far East, and of bands in which he had played in Hong Kong. Candice apologised for her long drawn out celebration of her father's life, but it certainly was never for one second boring. Jeremy followed his sister Candice - instantly doubting if he could "... follow that! ..." - using the theme of cars that the family had acquired over the decades, and illustrating these as they came up on the screen.
Jeremy is in Automotive Development as an Engineer. Among several models of cars that the family had, through the years, two had caught fire, so they had their own amusing history, well illustrated and explained by Jeremy, as attributable to his Dad. There were some very interesting photographs of Frank in jeeps during World War Two, when he was befriended by US Air Force and Army Air Force personnel at South Pacific wartime bases. As a young teenager he was allowed to be photographed sitting astride aircraft, riding jeeps. He had always wanted to be an Aeronautical Engineer; he had a passion for aircraft, but his father had not been keen on the idea. The photographs were the nearest he got to fulfilling this dream. Frank's mastery of many 'impossible' tasks - for a one-and-a-half-armed man - and of many occupational subjects, including his expertise at cooking, playing several musical instruments, not only the guitar, was explained by both Jeremy and Candice as being due to their grandfather insisting that Frank should tackle his
handicap head-on. It was a trait that he developed and stuck to like glue through the remainder of his life. "Nothing is unachievable", seems to have been Frank's life-long motto. What an example to us all. Suzanne, seeing that time was running short, briefly thanked everyone for attending the ceremony and the reception, and Candice's partner Paul, gave us his own opinion about his father-in-law when he first began to court Candice as a young student. Needless to say, everything was favourable. He hinted that he feared Barbara more than Frank. But, of course, he has the same regard for both. Barbara is a really kind and
lovable lady; so later he realised that fears had been misplaced. Paul adroitly announced and described the meals that were to be served next, courtesy of his and Candice's restaurant in Liverpool, for which they had stuck closely to Frank's original but - measurement-free recipes. They were lip-smacking meals, indeed, whatever the measure, and I remember Frank's meals of this type. I would say that they got the recipes spot-on! Being part-Spanish, I preferred one dish with generous helpings of braised beef and Spanish Chorizo de Cantimpalo. Olé!, all bathed in a beautiful sauce.
Barry Aldous, very efficiently as usual, organised the Jazz side of the proceedings; selecting who played with whom. We were treated to some great Jazz, starting with a re-creation of the sound of Frank's Jazz Bandits at the Drop-Inn at Monton, Eccles, with Wally Davis (alto sax), Suzanne Fonseca (trombone), Derek Brown (bass) who also sang Frank's additional favourite song "I'm glad there is you" at a crucial part of the Crematorium ceremony, and John Gordon (guitar). Shortly afterwards, Barry called ex-Radio London DJ Ed "Stewpot" Stewart to the stage, to sing an amusing but brief set of lyrics to Duke Ellington's "Don't get around much any more" [the well known '... mopped it up with my toothbrush ... don't clean my teeth much any more ...' variant, but cleaned up!!!]. There was also a female vocalist - mentioned below. After this, it was "open house" for any sitters-in. Paul Medina, who provided his own bass - that others might also play it! - gave way to Gordon Rankin, Derek Brown and John Muskett. Mike Burns and Doug Whaley both played beautifully and from the heart, as usual, with myself - playing like a useless muppet (tenor/flute/soprano). Maurice Gavin, Noel Broadgate and John Gordon provided most of the swinging chord-backing and Dave Moore took on all the drumming workload, but was ably assisted - also throughout the session - by Harry and Danilo Fonseca, Jeremy and Suzanne's percussion-orientated children. Dave's wife Hillary egged us all on from the wings.
Barry Aldous played magnificently throughout the session on clarinet; I know that he is a true traditionalist, but I have never heard Barry play so well - in a true Chicago style - and even frequently reminiscent of the "King of Swing" himself - Benny Goodman. There were two wonderful female vocalists. I didn't catch the name of the first, as I prepared my instruments downstairs, but she had a powerful, yet really Jazzy, voice and great pitching. I have since been told that she is Shirley Williams, ex-Drop-Inn and ex-Cotton City J/B (at De la Salle Rugby Club). Barry, Noel, Maurice Gavin, Dave (and 2 wee
drumming Fonsecas), John Muskett/Gordon Rankin/Paul Medina, John Gordon (fed and wined by Cathy), Doug and
Mike Burns (in relays and sometimes together) and myself had the pleasure of backing the ever-exuberant Julie Flynn - my life-long friend - who had been forced to sing despite having a severe cold and sore throat. Like the trooper that she always is, she braved it and did neither herself, us nor her audience, any harm. Her stage-dancing gets better by the minute. We had a little dance together; but I told her to "put me down"! Paul Bamford, Julie's partner, decided not to play his guitar.
Our old friends Mike Reddin (guitar), Tony Dunleavy (trombone with the Teds, and his good lady) were present but, sadly, I didn't see or hear them play. Mrs Aldous was there too, doing
an excellent supporting job. Tony Smith, who was at the Crematorium, and who I had expected to blow
his trumpet, must have gone off to a gig. Our loss. If I have forgotten anyone. I can only apologise for that, as well as my inability to play well. Frank would have been proud to see this throng celebrating his life and many achievements; according to Frank's wishes, a good time was had by all, thanks to the efforts of his lovely family and his many friends worldwide. A lady came all the way from Canada; another two were from Hong Kong. Wherever you may be, Frank, we already miss you and you will always be in our thoughts and prayers.
Saludos do teu velho amigo.
Frank’s for the jazzy memories
reproduced from The Rossendale Free Press
JAZZ players performed a special tribute gig in memory of one of
Ramsbottom's most talented guitarists.
Frank Fonseca, 80, died on 3 February after losing his battle against cancer. Born In Shanghai in 1926, Frank moved to England in 1974. During the last 30 years he continually played jazz in the North West with the original Panama Band, Quiet Fire and Jazz Bandits.
He often played with the Jazz Bandits at the Grant Arms jazz night in Ramsbottom and also performed at the Rhythm Station jazz nights over the years.
His fellow band mates and family decided to stage a special
concert at Ramsbottom Civic Hall to celebrate his life in music
BBC Radio DJ Ed ‘Stu Pot’ Stuart attended the event and shared memories of
his great friend and former flat-mate. Frank’s daughter Candice said "He was very well known in the jazz circuits. He played the guitar despite only having his left arm to
the elbow. He was a bit of a one off.’
Frank’s musical skills developed when he was taught to
play the piano and violin at home by his father — becoming. a violin child prodigy winning a
million votes on a radio show competition.
Over the years, he taught himself how
to play the keyboard, string bass and percussion but his main love was the guitar.
Music runs in the family and his son
Jeremy and his wife Suzanne play the trombone.
Apart from music, Frank was also an accomplished artist and had a number of exhibitions locally including scenes of Holcombe Hill and Clarence Park.
Paying tribute to Frank, his friend Barry Aldous said: I admired him for what he could do. He was doing things. in the 1960s that people are doing today like multi-tracking.’
Frank’s family have sent a of his work to the BBC in London and hope they will broadcast some of the tracks in his memory.
looking up old friends and I came across Franks name, what a
coincidence. I was talking about him just last week to this guy from
Macau and I said I had played in the CHENG PENG THEATRE IN Macau.
He was amazed that I should know, I think it was 1965. The
band was Frank on guitar, Narding Aristoranos Tenor, Eddie
Mainwaring on bass, (better known as Stewpot!i), and I was on
percussion and drums, can't remember the piano player. I did a lot
of work with Frank on many different types of gigs. An old pal in
Manchester, Roy Davenport, who sadly died, said Frank was in
Manchester. I would have loved to have seen him, but running about
all over the place things just get lost till I saw his name! I
did quite a lot of session work in Hong Kong thanks to Eddie who was
a presenter on Commercial Radio. A good friend and admirer of