26 September 2022

Musical Memories

Most of us have musical memories, associations of particular pieces of music with specific events or times in their lives. I’ve loved Jazz for over 60 years now. I have a vivid memory from when I was in my last year at school, or a bit later, so about 18-20 years old. BBC radio used to have a jazz programme early on a Saturday evening. It didn’t play recordings, but session recordings made by the BBC of various musicians.

On this particular Saturday, the music was by a British musician, called Bruce Turner, probably with his Jump Band. What sticks in my mind was the incredibly rich, creamy tone he produced from his saxophone. My memory though is that this was curly soprano sax, not the alto he is described as playing in his Wikipedia entry. An online search suggests he did take up the soprano, late in his career, but without giving a date. It’s possible of course that my memory is faulty. I’m pretty sure of the date, because I saw him live in 1967. Whenever the broadcast was, I can remember standing by the huge valve radio, about to go out, but entranced by the sound.

Bruce Turner on alto saxophone
Bruce Turner on alto saxophone

I saw him live in Birmingham, about 1967. He was playing at a pub called The Salutation Inn, on Snow Hill, which had live jazz every Friday night. The usual band was called the Artesian Hall Stompers, very much trad jazz in style. Bruce Turner could fit in well with this style, but I can’t remember if he was playing with the resident band or his own. This was a very convenient location for me, since I lived directly across the road at the time! The picture at the top is the Salutation somewhere around that time.

This recording is from about the same time as my memory, but filmed at the Antibes Jazz Festival.

Another memory from about the same time is listening to the Bill Russo Jazz Orchestra also on BBC. Russo apparently worked for the BBC between 1962 and 1965. This time I was listening in my bedroom. I remember in particular a very atmospheric arrangement of the song Autumn Leaves. I can’t find that particular song, but here is the Bill Russo Quintet from 1961.

A final memory, again from the BBC, the same radio, the same bedroom. This was a composition by Kenny Graham called ‘The Labours of Hercules.’ This had been commissioned by the BBC, but had only one broadcast and apparently has never been heard again. Graham was apparently an admirer of Duke Ellington, so it isn’t surprising that I remember this performance.

This is an earlier recording of his called Moondog and Suncat Suites, which includes versions of compositions by Moondog and some of Graham’s own pieces.

As a bonus, here’s an album from Moondog. My memories of his music come from one of the Rock Machine samplers but that’s another time.

What musical memories do you have? Share them in the comments below.

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