Ken Colyer

Kenneth Colyer (18 March 1928 – 8 February 1988) was an English jazz trumpeter, cornetist and composer who was devoted to New Orleans Jazz. His band was also well-known for its skiffle interludes. Although he was born in Great Yarmouth, he grew up in Soho and joined his church choir. His jazz records were lost when his older brother Bill (1922-1909) left to join World War II. This influenced Ken Colyer. At 17 he joined the Merchant Navy and travelled the globe, hearing famous jazz musicians in New York City and Montreal. Colyer was a member of various bands in the UK and joined the Crane River Jazz Band (CRJB), which included Ben Marshall, Sonny Morris and Pat Hawes. On 14 July 1951, the band performed at the Royal Festival Hall in the presence HRH Princess Elizabeth. The Christie Brothers’ Stompers was formed when parts of the group were merged with Keith Christie and Ian Christie. Colyer joined the Merchant Navy and jumped ship at Mobile, Alabama. He then traveled to New Orleans where he performed with George Lewis’ idols. Colyer was offered the position of lead trumpeter for a tour but was detained by authorities and deported. Colyer was invited by the Chris Barber Band to play the trumpet. He formed the first Ken Colyer’s Jazzmen line-up: Monty Sunshine (born Ron Arthur Bowden 22 February 1928, Fulham (London), Lonnie Donegan, and Jim Bray (born James Michael Bray 24 April 1927 in Richmond, Surrey). In 1953, they recorded their first Storyville recordings. Colyer and the rest of the group parted ways in 1954. Each claimed that they had fired the other. Bernard “Acker”, Bilk, clarinet, was the next band to form in the mid-1950s. Colyer formed a band with Mac Duncan (trombone), Ian Wheeler on clarinet, Johnny Bastable (banjo), Ron Ward and Colin Bowden (drums). Later Ray Foxley joined the group as pianist. The band remained together until the 1960s, when Colyer’s new front-line included, at different times, Sammy Rimington (clarinet), Tony Pyke (clarinet), Graham Stewart (trombone), Bill Cole and Malc Murphy respectively (drums). NME, a British music magazine, reported in January 1963 that Alexandra Palace was the site of the largest trad-jazz event ever held in Britain. This event featured George Melly and Diz Disley as well as Acker Bilk, Chris Barber (Chris Barber), Alex Welsh, Monty Sunshine and Bob Wallis. Colyer decided to quit leading a band in 1972 after suffering from stomach cancer. As his “Chosen Six”, Johnny Bastable (banjoist) continued to lead the band, while John Shillito (trumpet) joined. Colyer went on with his solo career until the 1980s. He was also associated with Chris Blount’s New Orleans Jazz Band at times. Some of his live recordings were later put on CD (KCTCD5). In his final years, he moved to the south of France. Lake Records was founded by Colyer’s albums being reissued (from the Decca catalog). The current catalogue includes most of Colyer’s best recordings. Ray Smith and Mike Pointon compiled a biography called “Goin’ home” in 2010. In May 2011, the House of Commons Jazz Society awarded it an award. One year after Colyer’s passing, a group of friends, family, and musicians met at the London School of Economics in order to create the Ken Colyer Trust. The original goal was to publish his autobiography “When Dreams are in the Dust”. It supported jazz musicians for 25 years and encouraged new musicians. Other interested parties are continuing this work. A memorial plaque was sponsored by the trust at the location of Studio 51, a jazz club at 11-12 Great Newport Street near Leicester Square. Humphrey Lyttelton and Julian Davies unveiled it on April 18, 1995. Colyer was revered by jazz fans from New Orleans, including those who called him “The Guvnor”. Some critics, especially those who favored more modern styles, tended to mock his playing. Humphrey Lyttelton strongly disagreed. He was sometimes viewed as a musical Luddite at times. However, this was a misinterpretation. Ken once stated that he would love to have Joe Harriott join his band. His approach to jazz is very different from Miles Davis, who changed his settings and styles over time. Ken, on the other hand, remained focused on a single musical goal and pursued it relentlessly. From Wikipedia

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