February 2023 Posts Page >>>
April 2023 Posts
WestbrookJazz Notice Board
If the page is showing
incorrectly you may need to press
Control+R, Command+R or Control+F5
February 2023 Posts Page >>>
The WestbrookJazz Moving Picture Show has moved here
Remembering John and Margery Styles, founder members of Smith’s Academy.
24 April 2023
Graham Ruff who, with his wife Nohline, was one of the most long-standing, loyal supporters of the Westbrook Band and a valued friend. Graham died suddenly in March. Mike Westbrook writes:
06.08.41 to 29.03 23
As a wise friend once observed “Friendships made through music are special”. Certainly passion for jazz was the foundation of our friendship with Graham and Nohline. That was all it needed. It doesn’t matter that even after several decades we still knew hardly knew anything more about each other’s lives. It’s a relationship based simply on the pure enjoyment of playing, listening to and talking about Jazz.
For as long as I can remember the Ruffs have been familiar faces at gigs. If it was a grand occasion in a big festival they’d be there. If it was a sparsely attended gig in some obscure, farflung pub venue they were equally likely to turn up. They have followed the band’s musical and geographical travels over the years and shared in our travails and triumphs. In company with those friends and supporters in many countries who have stayed with us, they have been as much a part of the band’s story as the musicians themselves.
Graham was a man who enjoyed all the good things of life, Jazz being high on the list. Generous and outgoing, his was a strong presence at any gathering. In Graham we musicians knew we had a friend, someone in our corner. Someone we’d want to please, to give our best for and not to disappoint. A smile from Graham at the end of the gig was a sure sign we’d got it right. And a chat at the bar afterwards, or over a late night meal with Nohline and Graham was always full of affection laced with humour and hope.
We send our sympathies to Nohline. Graham has been taken too soon. We’ll miss him. There should have been many more gigs,- there will be for us, but there will always be a Graham-sized gap in the house. Whenever the band is together on stage he will be remembered in the music with gratitude and love.
For more than twenty years Graham regularly contributed articles to the band newsletter, The Smith’s Academy Informer, in the course of which he chronicled most of the main projects. Here we re-print his account of a Duke Ellington Weekend with The Uncommon Orchestra in Devon on April 28th and 29th 2012.
TWO FOR THE DUKE
The lovely old Victorian style college that has become Hannah’s at Seale Hayne is hidden on a hillside just outside Newton Abbott. Could this be the real Smith’s Academy?
It still looked impressive in the grey damp of a Devon spring. We were however warmly greeted by friendly and efficient staff who took us to our overnight accommodation in old student rooms (not the height of luxury but perfectly adequate). A trust runs Hannah’s mainly as a resource dedicated to adults, children and their families living with disabilities. In support of this are the artist workshops, galleries excellent bistro and music events.
The Saturday evening concert was held in the music room appropriately for Westbrook fans known as the Yellow Room. A packed house heard the 19 piece big band perform a large array of assorted charts from the Duke and Strayhorn plus, amongst others, works by Chris McGregor, Harold Arlen and of course Mike Westbrook.
Ellington’s music rightfully was headlined throughout including superb versions of Jones, Something to Live For, Tulip or Turnip and I Got it bad and that ain’t good. However the versions of Caravan conjuring up the vision of Lawrence of Arabia appearing on the horizon, a tour de force from Gary Bayley on Johnny Come Lately and Kate Westbrook and Lou Gare joining forces on Lush Life were perhaps the highlights. There were other gems also, the appropriate Stormy Weather, Mike and Kate’s lovely Brazilian Love Songs and a South African tinged piece from Chris McGregor. The evening ended with prolonged rapturous applause for the entire band and the many great solos we had heard.
Sunday dawned even wetter and greyer with the wind howling round the quad. We spent a long time over breakfast chatting to Sergio from Northern Italy, another Westbrook fan. We decided to look at the coast at Torquay and Paignton but the wind, rain and tumultuous sea soon sent us back inland.
If Saturday’s concert was great, Sunday’s was simply magnificent. This performance of On Duke’s Birthday showed just how much effort in rehearsal and commitment the band had put in as well as Mike having to adapt it for a much larger ensemble with different instrumentation. This suite is definitely one of Westbrook’s masterpieces. Another full house was treated to some great music. While it may be unfair to pick out any of the soloists as all played wonderfully, I must mention the glorious cello of Siri Frost, the elegant bass of Marcus Vergette and the driving force of Coach York at the drums. There were also the written duets between various instruments and the interchange of brass and saxes. The format followed that of the original recording but in a somewhat extended and revised version. Having returned home and revisited the original vinyl I think the new score is even better. Mike dedicated these concerts to the memory of two of the original band Tony Marsh and Danilo Terenzi.He also said it had long been his wish to perform this actually on Duke’s Birthday. It was an absolutely triumphant tribute and the Duke would have been proud of him.
Jazz fans everywhere really should hear this. Maybe someone will have the funds to tour or record this again.
Thanks to all for a memorable weekend.
Smith’s Academy Informer No 92 July 2012