Remembering Alan Stevens
Harry became a Director of Hereward Radio in the south Midlands and he happened to run a jazz programme on that station. Alan Stevens also presented an excellent Jazz programme on GMR Radio - then called Radio Manchester with John Featherstone. Alan Stevens played tuba with the Smokey City Stompers - I have a 12" 78 on the Addison Label (Hime and Addison - record shop on John Dalton Street). John Featherstone played piano with The Southside Jazzmen, The Jazz Aces, George Jackson Jazzmen and Mike Martin Hot 7 also called (Mike Pembrokes Hot 7, Big Petes Lecherous 7, The Alley Orchestra) - we changed the name frequently for tax reasons! Sadly Ted, Jack, Harry & John are no longer with us but I'm sure they are all comparing notes on some of the fabulous musicians at the Jazz Club In The Sky. -
From an item sent in by the late Mart Rodger
I thought I would find some mentions of Maurice Pike's early bands from Alan Stevens's "Jazz Roundabout" articles in the Manchester Evening News, which I have, as I inherited his scrap books. Or, at least, his early involvement in putting bands together, or joining others for experience. All articles are scrupulously dated. But, having checked right up to the end of 1960 so far, from as far back as the suggested 1952, which is also when Alan Stevens started to write for the M. E. N., as either "Jack Florin" or in his own name, or "Stephen Lane", in the M. E. Chronicle, and when many of the well known local bands were just forming,
Of course, in the early days of any of us on the Manchester Jazz scene, little would be officially known about individual musicians or bands until we started being 'noticed' by "Jack Florin" in his above articles, or by "Dave Duke" (Doug Ennefer), in the "Chron" or the Stockport Advertiser, or got flagged in one of Alan's famous "solo spot" images. Steve Voce also wrote about us from time to time. Alan Stevens's 'discoveries' usually entailed an appointment with the 'Features' editors and official Press photographers at the old M. E. N. offices on the corner of Cross St. in those days, besides impromptu visits by Alan or other critics to the clubs. Two or three years might have passed before we reached that stage of Jazz "Nirvana" and 'recognition at last'. Really brilliant rising stars were always spotted quickly, and there were always references to the pioneers of the Manchester Jazz Revival of 1942 (earlier than Graeme Bell's London effort, as it all started up here by Harry Giltrap, when he set up the Delta Rhythm Kings in 1942 and the Smoky City Stompers a few years later, with the help of clarinettist/vocalist Eric Lister). Derek Atkins, Barry Schumm, Merton Kaufman, Merton Cahm and Ken Wray, were among the first wave of the Revival. In the second wave, we find: Joe Palin, Roy Williams, Johnny Barnes, Keith Pendlebury, Doug Whaley, Sheila Collier, Gordon Robinson, Alan Hare, Des Hopkins, Moe Green, John Mayall (and his father, Murray Mayall), Mart Rodger, Randy Colville, Dave Mott, Allan Dent, Eric Welch, Dave Browning and a handful of others, were very soon noticed. The rest of us, including Maurice and people like me, would have to wait until we were worth noticing.
From am item sent in by the late Joe Silmon
29th April 2020
Mark Stevens writes - "I am Alan's son."
My dad was a renowned jazz critic and well known for his articles in the Manchester Evening News, Melody Maker, Crescendo and many LP cover notes. He played sousaphone in Manchester's first trad band and also in a spin off band called The Tassle Alley Washboard Beaters. He co founded the Sid Lawrence Appreciation Society with a friend called Bob Marr from Bristol. He used to take me as a young teenager to the many concerts and appearances by famous musicians such as Oscar Peterson, Earl Hines, Stefan Grapelli, Maynard Ferguson, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Buddy Rich, Dave Brubeck, Peggy Lee and Louis Armstrong to name a few all at local Manchester venues and the Free Trade Hall.
I was also lucky enough to have piano lessons from Alan Hare who taught me about chord shapes and progressions and John Featherstone who taught me stride piano style. It was thanks to my Dad's LP collection that I taught myself boogie woogie by playing along with the likes of Meade Lux Lewis, Jimmy Yancey and Pinetops Smith mostly in the key of C.
During my fledgling jazz piano career l played a few gigs with Joe Silmon, l seem to recall that his baritone sax was almost as tall as he was! I tended to steer away from playing mainstream jazz and ended up on the cabaret circuit for a few years. I remember Dad coming to a concert he reviewed for the MEN. I was playing piano in a band backing The Bachelors. Also on the bill was a girl group called Cool Breeze. Dad's review began...... Normally I wouldn't cross the street to see this act, but having a parental interest l felt duty bound to. Representing the glamour aspect was a female vocal group named Cool Breeze. May l suggest a change of name to The Hurricanes might be more appropriate together with the recommendation that the audience bring their own ear plugs. Joe, by the way was a great player, very melodic and equally at home on all the saxes, clarinet and flute.
Howard Murray writes -
"Jack Florin" had a regular item in the Manchester Evening News. It was called Solo Spot and usually featured a Jazz Musician from the Manchester Jazz circuit. I was eventually invited (must have been running out of names!) I really felt that I'd made it.... about 21.. I still a have a glossy copy of the photo. Alan Stevens had an office somewhere in Mc/r where he interviewed and photographed me but I've no idea where it was. I didn't know Manchester then and hardly now!!! I bumped into him from time to time at jazz venues. I think that Solo Spot or something similar was taken over by Chris Lee, whom I never met. Lots of water gone under since then and HOW. That was when you had to go early to get in most venues. Black Lion, Thatched House, Bodega, MSG and many others now forgotten, by me at least
Mark Stevens -
First of all it's great to hear from musicians (and normal people!) about my Dad, Alan Stevens. He didn't have an office and worked mainly from home in Edgeley, Stockport. I can only think that your photo and interview where undertaken at either the MEN offices or Radio Manchester on Oxford Street. You may remember he produced the programme Jazz A'Plenty with John Featherstone, a local jazz pianist (with whom l had a few lessons with learning stride piano). I recall a few other popular venues l tagged along with my Dad to... The Warren Bulkeley in Stockport, The Bamboo Club in Hazel Grove, Free Trade Hall in Manchester and the Davenport Theatre in Stockport to name a few. Thanks to my Dad l met the likes of Oscar Peterson, Stephan Grapelli, Dave Brubeck, Louis Armstrong, Syd Lawrence, Erroll Garner, Ella Fitzgerald and many more jazz greats. I remember going to the MSG to see Maynard Ferguson and his Orchestra and we were practically sitting on each others shoulders. The atmosphere was always electric. Two other names that were well known in our household were Humphrey Lyttleton (well known trumpeter and critic) and Steve Race another well known jazz broadcaster.
Another well known name is Terry Brunt trombonist extraordinaire and wearer of florid scarves who is still playing. He has played with a number of bands, Tame Valley Stompers, Golden River City Jazz Band and the Jazz Gentlemen to name three. I mention his name because as a young teenager he invited me to play Sunday League football in his team called Ladybrook Lads. We were never going to challenge the likes of Man City, but Terry was an uncompromising centre half who always used to apologise to the opposing players if he tackled them. At that time (circa 1968) l had no idea of his musical talents. It wasn't until many years later that l found out.... .. from my Dad!
I also remember Gordon Robinson giving me regular lifts in his red clapped out Triumph Spitfire to watch the Alan Hare Big Band in Didsbury on Monday nights. Gordon of course played with Alan's band. He always got me home in time to watch Elliot Ness and the Untouchables on ITV.
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