Originally published on 25 January 2011 at http://www.digyorkshire.com/HighlightDetails.aspx?Article=1094
Stan Tracey is possibly Britain’s finest jazz pianist, reflected in his honorary title ‘The Godfather of British Jazz’. His unique style, influenced by Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk, is recognised in the jazz world as being a major influence on modern jazz piano.
Tracey was the resident pianist at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London from 1959 to 1966. Working at the legendary venue meant he accompanied many high-profile artists from the US, including Sonny Rollins, Ben Webster, Roland Kirk, Dexter Gordon, Freddie Hubbard, Zoot Sims and Al Cohn. In 1965, he recorded his best-known work, Under Milk Wood, and a year later worked on producing the soundtrack for the Michael Caine film Alfie.
After leaving Ronnie Scott’s, the following few years were a tough time for Tracey. In 1970, under pressure from his local unemployment office, he almost applied for a job as postman – until his wife, Jackie, stopped him. A former press officer at Decca Records, she helped to set up the Musician’s Action Group to lobby for better funding for musicians, and took over Stan’s promotions. His fortunes began to improve throughout the Seventies, and in 1986 he received an OBE for his services to British jazz. In 2007, he was made a CBE.
The Stan Tracey Quartet will be appearing at Seven Arts in Chapel Allerton on Thursday 10th February. The line-up features tenor saxophonist Bobby Wellins, Andy Cleyndert on double bass, and Stan’s son Clark Tracey on drums. There’s a local connection too – he’ll be playing a grand piano provided by Besbrode pianos of Leeds.