Well good friends all, it doesn’t seem possible but it is actually 40 years since DIGBY’S HALF-DOZEN played their first-ever London job at the legendary 100 Club, 100 Oxford Street opposite the great Alex Welsh and his band! Alex was already a friend whom I’d met a year or so previously at the Fox and Hounds Haywards Heath, but the chance to play as his support at a major venue was the kind of chance that no newly-established Essex band could have hoped for in their wildest dreams. Still, up we went, and thanks to a lucky night – plus the ever-generous support of Alex himself – we went down well too! The date was July 23rd 1971!
The band back then consisted of five good friends from Essex but a year or so later came to a halt – its junior leader (i.e.me!) having run out of his one and only arranging idea!!And it wasn’t until 1995 – and a further quarter-century of playing all over the British jazz scene as a fulltime professional – that the same leader (minus a great deal of his hair but now rather better equipped as a leader-arranger!) returned to his original thought and re-formed his Half Dozen; a band to play every kind of jazz that was committed and true to itself but which followed Louis Armstrong’s old tenet:’Man, you don’t pose – never!!’.
This time the founder members were Julian Marc Stringle (clarinet/reeds) Malcolm Earle Smith (trombone) Craig Milverton (piano) Len Skeat (double-bass) and Bobby Worth (drums) and the band’s first album ‘Twelve Feet Off The Ground’ in 1998 featured all these great musicians. But within a few years – and after a few changes – the band line-up had stabilized to the group as it plays in 2010: Digby (trumpet-cornet/vocals) Julian Marc (reeds/vocals) Chris Gower (trombone) Craig (piano/keyboards/vocals) Dominic Ashworth (guitar/vocals) Len Skeat or Al Swainger (bass) and Nick Millward (drums). It was this group that toured and recorded with George Melly (2003-7)Paul Jones (2007-present) and – briefly – with soul-diva P.P. Arnold (2010).
But it was towards the end of the year that our collective family suddenly realized that it was -at least in historic terms – heading for its fortieth anniversary! And having along the way amassed a huge library of music that was (hopefully) accessible, fun and true to its traditions, we thought it was time to go out on ourr own for our ’40th Anniversary Tour!’ all on our own!
So that’s what we’re doing. Over the months to come look out for news of our year-long tour! Marvellous! Already we’re headlining at the Harlow Jazz Festival (April 22-25) the Mundesley Festival (with Helen Baden, Wednesday August 3rd) and the Bridgnorth Jazz Festival for dear friend Tim Lord (Friday October 28th) and there are lots more dates coming in every week so keep an eye on the gig-sheet too. (By the way that we’re also at Ronnie Scott’s on December 6-7th with good friend Paul Jones – so it would be GREAT to see you there!)……..
And one more reminder, by the way, to keep tuning into UK JAZZ RADIO! This 24-hour jazz station is making AMAZING strides with new presenters and shows coming onto the schedules every week! Our newest arrivals include Tina May, Dave Gelly, Simon Spillett and many more – and my own ‘Best of Jazz’ goes out every Saturday from 7 to 9pm; again at ‘Parky-time’, 11am-1pm Sundays and regularly throughout the week thereafter. So keep listening – and do tell all your friends about this fantastic new station. If you’ve yet to tune in, just log on to ukjazzradio.com and click on ‘Listen now’!And there you are!
Talk soon and love to all,