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Famous Like Me > Composer > D > John Dankworth

Profile of John Dankworth on Famous Like Me

Name: John Dankworth  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 20th September 1927
Place of Birth: London, England, UK
Profession: Composer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia

Born in London, England, in 1927, John Dankworth was brought up in a musical environment amongst a family of musicians. He had violin and piano lessons before settling eventually on the clarinet at the age of 16, after hearing a record of the Benny Goodman Quartet. Soon after that, inspired by Johnny Hodges, he added the alto saxophone to his armoury.

After a spell at London’s Royal Academy of Music, and another in the army, he began an illustrious career on the British jazz scene, being voted Musician of the Year in 1949. During that year he attended the Paris Jazz Festival and played with alto-sax giant Charlie “Yardbird” Parker. Parker’s comments about Dankworth led to the engagement of the young British jazzman for a short tour of Sweden with the legendary soprano-saxist Sidney Bechet.

In 1950 Dankworth, from the very start a prolific jazz composer and orchestrator, formed a small group known as the Dankworth Seven as a vehicle for his writing activities as well as a showcase for several young jazz soloists, including himself (alto sax), Jimmy Deuchar (trumpet), Eddie Harvey (trombone), Don Rendell (tenor sax), Tony Kinsey (drums), Bill le Sage (piano), and Eric Dawson (bass). After three successful years, the Seven made way for a big band in 1953. The band was soon earning plaudits from critics worldwide and was invited to the 1959 Newport Jazz Festival. The New York Times critic said of this appearance “.... Mr. Dankworth’s group .... showed the underlying merit that made big bands successful many years ago - the swinging drive, the harmonic colour and the support in depth for soloists that is possible when a disciplined, imaginatively directed band has worked together for a long time. This English group has a flowing, unforced, rhythmic drive that has virtually disappeared from American bands.” The band went on to perform at New York’s Birdland jazz club, and shortly afterwards shared the stage with the Duke Ellington band (which at that time included Clark Terry, Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney, Paul Gonsalves and Jimmy Hamilton) for a number of concerts. Dankworth’s band also performed at a jazz event at New York’s Lewisohn stadium where Louis Armstrong joined them for a set.

During the ensuing years Dankworth’s friendship with Ellingtonian trumpet-player Clark Terry led to Clark being a featured soloist on Dankworth’s 1964 album The Zodiac Variations, together with Bob Brookmeyer, Zoot Sims, Phil Woods, Lucky Thompson and other guests. Other Dankworth recordings during this period featured many other respected jazz names. Some were full-time members of the Dankworth band at one time or another, like Kenny Wheeler, Peter King, Mike Gibbs and Tony Coe, while others were occasional participants such as Dave Holland, John McLaughlin and Tubby Hayes.

In 1961 Dankworth’s recording of Galt MacDermot’s African Waltz reached the British charts and remained there for several months. American altoist Cannonball Adderley sought and received Dankworth’s permission to record the arrangement for the US market and had a minor hit as a result. The piece was also “covered” in recorded versions by 39 other bands worldwide.

During this active period of recording, the Dankworth band nevertheless found time for frequent live appearances and radio shows, including tours in Britain and Europe with Nat King Cole, Sarah Vaughan and Gerry Mulligan, and concerts and radio performances with Lionel Hampton and Ella Fitzgerald.

Dankworth’s friendship with Duke Ellington continued until the latter’s death in 1974. Since then John has recorded an album of symphonic arrangements of many Ellington tunes featuring another Ellingtonian, trumpet soloist Barry Lee Hall. Dankworth has also retained his Ellington links by performing with the Ellington Orchestra under the direction of Duke’s son, Mercer. Further symphonic albums include one with the late Dizzy Gillespie and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.

Other Jazz musicians with whom John Dankworth has performed include George Shearing, Toots Thielemans, Benny Goodman, Herbie Hancock, Hank Jones, Tadd Dameron, Slam Stewart, Oscar Peterson - the list is almost endless.

John Dankworth’s active jazz life, which of course also includes many appearances and recordings with his wife, singer Cleo Laine, shows no signs of abating. He remains a dominant force on the British jazz scene and a known and respected figure by jazz-lovers all over the world.

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article John Dankworth