Magazine article IAJRC Journal

Goin' Home: The Uncompromising Life and Music of Ken Colyer

Magazine article IAJRC Journal

Goin' Home: The Uncompromising Life and Music of Ken Colyer

Article excerpt

Goin' Home: The Uncompromising Life and Music of Ken Colyer By Mike Pointon and Ray Smith The Ken Colyer Trust, 2010; 368pp, paper £22 (UK), £26 (Europe), £30 (elsewhere) Via : The KCT, 63, Rydal Gardens, Whiton, Middlesex, TW3 2JJ ketrust@blueyonder.co.uk

This extremely handsome book reminds me very much of Traveling Blues - The Life and Music of Tommy Ladnier (reviewed in the Journal issue for March, 2010) - both in the quality of its production and in its size - also in its weight! Two exceptional jazz biographies in 12 months!

Both books are copiously illustrated, in colour and in black and white. The big difference is that in the present case the narrative is told in the words of countless British jazz musicians (the cream of the crop) including the late Ken Colyer himself. They have been skilfully woven together by the two editors, a trombonist and a pianist, both of whom knew Ken and played with him on many occasions. The quality of the production is due to Ken's nephew, Martin Colyer, who is a magazine designer by trade and who has worked for many national publications.

It is a warts and all story. If you are familiar with the emergence of the revivalist jazz movement that flowered in Britain in the late 1940s and flourished in the 1950s you will know that trumpet player Ken Colyer played a pivotal role. Hearing Bunk Johnson and his colleagues was a revelation to us all. In Ken's case he was resolved to meet these musicians and again became a merchant seaman in order to get to America and travel to New Orleans. He outstayed his visitor's visa and ended up in the Parish Prison. Excerpts from his letters to his brother Bill in London were printed as they arrived in The Melody Maker and read like a fairy tale. Now they are published in full for the first time.

Upon his return he was lionised and played with a series of bands - the Crane River Jazz Band, the Christie Brothers Stompers, and so on, here described in great detail. …

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