Everybody else can now share my pleasure in listening to 60 years of Alan Skidmore making wonderful music. The 6 CD Box set previewed at the Cafe Oto gig is now available from Mark Wastell’s Confront Recordings. You can get it HERE.
And what value is is too. A base price of £32 (you can pay more if you like) means that each CD is only a fiver. And each CD contains incredibly generous tracks of largely unpublished material plus one or two favourites from Alan’s albums over the years. Add to this a 20-page informative booklet by Richard Williams charting Skid’s life and music and it’s a truly outstanding package.
One October morning in 1969 Alan Skidmore arrived at Lansdowne Studios to record an album of new compositions by his friend Stan Tracey. Alan was fairly newly arrived on the jazz scene having served his Blues Apprenticeship with John Mayall and Alexis Korner but he knew Stan from listening to him as house pianist as Ronnie Scott’s Club after popping round there between his sets at The Talk of the Town.
Stan’s earlier Jazz Suite inspired by Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood has been a huge success and today’s material was Stan’s take on the Shakespearian theme from Jacques speech in As You Like It. The sixteen-piece Stan Tracey Big Band recorded eight tracks that were released in September 1970 as The Seven Ages of Man on Columbia Records. It did well but over the years fell out of print.
Jump forward to 2020 and Stan’s son Clark Tracey has produced a digitally remastered version of this session and one recorded with a quartet a month before as a double CD Wisdom in the Wings. Released in January 2021 it presents a fascinating opportunity to revisit some early Tracey material.
Alan has a solo on the first track ‘All the Worlds a Stage’ described as ‘ferocious’ by sleeve note writer Simon Spillett. Both CDs are well worth a listen with superb sound quality in this reissue. You can buy them from Resteamed Records as CDs or downloads and from other suppliers.
Over his long career Alan collaborated with Stan Tracey in a number of formats: with the Big Band, an Octet and a tour in which they performed piano and saxophone duets which they took to the Edinburgh Jazz Festival.
Skid celebrates his birthday on 21 April and this year’s prize presents from his wife Kay and granddaughter Naima are proudly featured on Easter Sunday. Elvin Jones is Skid’s next jazz hero after John Coltrane and to wear him proudly on his chest is a real privilege. He also got to play with Elvin on several occasions so the connection is really meaningful.
Family is also important to Alan and to be given a “Greatest Grandad in the World” cap by Naima was an added pleasure.
Nothing for it now but to head off to the pub for a celebratory pint.
In 1987 Alan Skidmore was honoured to be invited to play at the Fairfield Halls in Croydon at a John Coltrane memorial concert on the same bill as McCoy Tyner, Freddie Hubbard and Elvin Jones who were regulars in Coltrane’s various groups. That concert celebrated his music 20 years after his death.
Then on 17 July 2017 Alan Skidmore joined the Paul Dunmall Sun Ship Quartet at Café Oto in Dalston, London in a special concert to commemorate on the day of the 50th anniversary of John Coltrane’s passing.
The evening was recorded and a CD featuring the performances from that evening has just been released on Mark Wastell’s Confront Recordings Core label. In addition to the Paul Dunmall and Alan Skidmore sets there is an opening piece from a newly formed trio of Danish flautist Julie Kjaer, Ståle Liavik Solberg a percussionist from Norway and Mark Wastell also on percussion. This trio also joins the Dunmall/Skidmore ensemble for a finale of Coltrane’s Ascension after all the songs from Sun Ship have been performed. This whole double CD set makes for a great listen and a fitting commemoration of Coltrane’s unique jazz legacy.
And on 17 July 2019 Alan will again return to Café Oto with his own quartet: Steve Melling at the piano, Andy Cleyndert on the double bass and Miles Levin at the drums with saxophonist Ed Jones making a special guest appearance. It will without doubt be another night to remember with the presence of John Coltrane inspiring the performances. You’d better book early.
In what is billed as the Saxophone Summit, Alan Skidmore will join alto and soprano saxophonist Tineke Postma and alto player Benjamin Herman in a series of concerts in the Netherlands during late February and early March. Alan is delighted to be reunited with the pianist Rein de Graaff’s superb trio with Marius Beets on bass and Eric Ineke on drums with whom he has enjoyed many gigs over the years. The two young saxophone partners in this series are also highly accomplished performers.
Tineke Postma studied at the Amsterdam Conservatory and the Manhattan School of Music in New York. She has played with Greg Osby, Geri Allen, Scott Colley and Terri Lyne Carrington and has released six CDs to date. In 2015 she was awarded the Boy Edgar Prize the top award for jazz musicians in the Netherlands.
In a similar pathway Benjamin Herman studied at Hilversum Conservatory before going to the Manhattan School of Music. His musical career has involved founding the New Cool Collective an eight-piece band with soul, jazz and Latin influences. He is also a recipient of the Boy Edgar Prize in 2003 and has some 20 albums with the New Cool Collective and a similar number as leader of a variety of small groups.
Others will be added as they are announced but these are bound to be memorable concerts with Alan’s brilliant tenor playing added to two talented younger players and a trio that has backed Alan on numerous occasions. There’s no better excuse for a quick trip to Amsterdam and/or one of the Netherlands’ hidden gems the wonderful city of Utrecht.