The Darktown Strutters

Jazz as it should be played

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News and Engagements 2019


Watch this space - more engagements to be added as soon as they are confirmed.

If anyone has phone footage of the band, we’d love to see it - many thanks

August 3     Cutcombe Fete, Wheddon Cross, (Nr Dunster) TA24 7DR   Time: 1.30 - 4.30 pm

August 4     Porlock Fair, Recreation Ground, Parsons Street, Porlock        Ta24 8QJ. Time: pm, TBA

August 16   Allerford Fair (nr Porlock) Time: TBA

Obituary

Geoff Nichols

A major figure with the South West music scene until only months before his death on June 9th 2019 aged 86, Geoff Nichols is remembered as a world class trumpeter and one of the most profound influences in the development of British Jazz.

In the very beginning of the post-war “Trad Boom” and alongside contemporaries like Humphrey Lyttleton, Acker Bilk and Sandy Brown, Geoff pioneered the movement that turned trad jazz into a distinctive progressive genre with a wide ranging repertoire.

Lyttelton hailed Geoff as one of the finest trumpeters of his generation and Acker, a close friend, regularly tempted him with offers to join the Bilk band. But by then, Geoff was leading the Bristol-based Avon Cities Jazz Band, which enjoyed national and international acclaim for over 50 years. The band packed venues like the London Festival Hall and Royal Albert Hall, recorded for major labels, backed American jazz luminaries such as Charlie Shavers, Bud Freeman and Buddy Tate, cruised to New York in the QE2 and left Manhatten convinced that Englishmen could play jazz.

But Geoff’s heart was in the West Country. Born in Bristol, he married his childhood sweetheart Mary, an artist and fashion designer. As well as a hectic musical life, he had a parallel career as a schoolteacher, lecturer and shopkeeper. Alongside the Avon Cities, Geoff ran the four-piece Good Vibes in which he featured as a virtuoso vibraphone player, and starred with the jump jive Blue Notes band.

From 2001, Geoff and Mary had a holiday cottage in Roadwater before retiring to Minehead in 2011. Determined to keep playing, Geoff became leader and musical director of the local newly-formed Darktown Strutters jazz band, coaching and improving the group until the progressive deterioration of an earlier heart bypass eventually defeated his ambition to play every gig.

The Darktown Strutters agree that if you were looking for fulsome praise or even approval, Geoff wasn’t your man. “Adequate” was usually the ultimate accolade. His family describe him as funny and exacting, charming and sceptical, a thinker, a reader and a generous doubter. To generations of jazzmen, who learned from, and were influenced by, his dazzling talent, he was simply the best.

At his funeral they said goodbye in the only way they knew. As the cortege passed, a band of musicians, some having played alongside Geoff for half a century, began the classic New Orleans funeral march “Didn’t He Ramble”. On the coffin, as it went by, Geoff’s golden trumpet glistened in the sun.


Tony James

(Taken from the West Somerset Free Press July 12 2019)