came to me like a butterfly alighting on my shoulder, but jazz came up
and grabbed me by the throat. I could pick out little tunes and make up
melodies from age two, but I must have been about three when I first
heard the “roundabout” music. We were visiting my grandmother’s home,
and after the singalong someone put a record on the gramophone. I was
fascinated, and jumped on to a chair to look inside the polished wooden
box on legs. Inside was a little dog (His Master’s Voice) which circled
round and round as the music played. I got dizzier and dizzier, and
clapped for more at the end. The other side of the record set me
dancing, and I realize now it was jazz. Hazy recollection tells me it
was a big band, perhaps Artie Shaw or Benny Goodman. All I knew was that
it was different from any other music I had ever heard.
was four, my mother took me to see the film The Wizard of Oz.
Apparently I came home and played Somewhere Over the Rainbow by
ear. That sounded like jazz to me too. From my mother and grandmother’s
collection, I knew that “sheet” music was different from a newspaper,
and that pianists looked at it when they played. So next trip to town
from Holland Park, I begged my mother to buy the “sky” music. I can
still see the cover, and I would spend hours pretending to read the
music and improvising my way through this beautiful ballad.
Hand in hand with my (hated) music lessons and mastering classical
pieces, I played as much jazz as I could, from hearing ragtime and
boogie on the radio, or from transcriptions of Fats, Duke or Art Tatum.
That indefinable “something” about jazz had me in its grip, and I was
hooked forever, with a passion.