Kitty Grime / Tony Hall...
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Kitty Grime / Tony Hall / Rik Gunnell / Bix Curtis
Kitty Grime

Mary (Kitty) Grime was born in Derby on January 21st, 1930. After University and teaching she drifted into the metropolitan bohemia of 1950s Soho. The first time jazz fans read the byline of Kitty Grime was in the 1950s, on concert programmes and sleeve notes for Esquire records, where she worked for Carlo Krahmer. Krahmer was a former drummer and co-founder of the label and she was one of several employees who went on to musical careers. She was one of the few women to write about jazz
It was in early 1950s Soho that she found jazz, and joined the circle around modernists Ronnie Scott and Johnny Dankworth and she became a regular at Studio 51 in Great Newport Street. Consumed by bebop, she became a wry and witty observer of the scene.
Although Grime sang, played piano and wrote amusing lyrics, she was discouraged from a deeper involvement by attitudes of the time. Record company publicity was an alternative, and after Esquire, she joined Decca in 1959. She was an early enthusiast for the free form of Jamaican alto saxophonist Joe Harriott.
With Val Wilmer she collaborated on Jazz at Ronnie Scott's, examining what it means to play jazz. Her Jazz Voices (1983) followed, an inside view of singing through the words of practitioners, including Jon Hendricks, Annie Ross and Ray Ellington. She died from cancer on August 10th, 2007.

(Adapted from an obituary written by Val Wilmer for "The Guardian" newspaper in 2007).
Tony Hall
During the 1950s Tony Hall produced many of the classic Tempo recording sessions that became virtually the only recorded legacy of Britain's great modern jazz musicians of the time. These included Ronnie Scott, Tubby Hayes (individually and as the Jazz Couriers, Victor Feldman, Jimmy Deuchar and West Indian Dizzy Reece.
He was then an A&R man for Decca, a publicist, producer, nightclub MC at The Flamingo jazz club and general man about jazz in Soho.
He did about 20 recording sessions for Tempo and has always said that he never earned a penny out of them. Musicians were paid union rates but there was never money to hire studios for rehearsal time - he just met the musicians in clubs and suggested sessions and possible dates. Often the musicians were not that enthusiastic, Hall feels that some of them had an inferiority complex about being compared with the leading Americans.
He worked hard to record Tubby Hayes and managed to get a session with Tubby, Dizzy Reece, Donald Byrd, Terry Shannon and Art Taylor released by the Blue Note label which led to Dizzy Reece making a couple more records in the US and moving there permanently.
A long lost recording date by the Tubby Hayes Quartet that Hall produced in 1959 has just been released for the first time in 2011. Tony Hall, now 83, is still alive and anybody who still enjoys the British modern jazz from the 1950s must be grateful to him for recording the music when nobody else was interested. (Aug 2011) more...

Rick Gunnell
Club owner and entrepreneur Rik Gunnell was born in Germany in 1931. His father was English and worked for a shipping company but his mother was German and in 1937 the family came to London. Following National Service in the Royal Army Pay corps he worked as a book-keeper at the Smithfield meat market in central London, spending his nights as a bouncer at Studio 51, a modern jazz club.
This led, in 1952, to his first operation, the 2-Way Jazz Club, where, in a period when the two jazz factions - modern and traditional - were opposed, he presented modernist Johnny Dankworth's Seven opposite traditionalists Mick Mulligan and George Melly. Later that year, he opened the Blue Room, featuring modernists such as the newly arrived Jamaican saxophonist Joe Harriott. But Gunnell soon ran out of money and vanished. On re-emerging, he announced that he had been in Paris where he had taken fights in order to eat. Such behaviour set the pattern for a life in which good music, good times and booze coexisted with fantasy and lost opportunities.
It was when he met Tony Harris, manager at Leicester Square's Mapleton hotel, that Gunnell successfully harnessed the potential audience for jazz. In 1955, with American fashion and style all the rage, the venue became an all-nighter called Club Americana. Ten shillings admittance bought jazz and a three-course meal - tomato soup, chicken'n'chips and ice cream.
They were not the premises' only music promoters - Sam Kruger and his son Jeff had started the Flamingo there, but Gunnell pushed them out to open extra nights as Club M.
With African-American servicemen based then in Britain - and limited social outlets available to them - the Mapleton became their weekend port-of-call. Caribbean and African settlers of the Windrush generation frequented the club, too, as did villains, attracting adverse attention from the press and led to coverage of a kind the club did not need.
Gunnell now owned other clubs - the Star in Wardour Street and Club Basie in Charing Cross Road, where, amazingly, veteran Dixieland trumpeter Nat Gonella shared the bill with Ronnie Scott. In 1958, adverse publicity forced Harris and Gunnell from the Mapleton. The Krugers had moved their Jazz at the Flamingo to Wardour Street and Harris and Gunnell headed there. They made peace with the Krugers and launched the Friday and Saturday AllNighter. The music was a mixture, but while musicians such as Brian Auger, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker played modern jazz, by the end of 1961 the twist was in vogue. In 1962, the Gunnells auditioned the young Georgie Fame, and the rest is history as Fames' Blue Flames became the Flamingo's most popular draw. When the Flamingo closed in 1967, Rik took over the Bag O'Nails in Kingly Street.

He moved to the US in 1968 but things did not work out and eventually, after a spell in Australia, opened a small bar in Austria. He died in June, 2007.

(Adapted from an obituary written by Val Wilmer for "The Guardian" newspaper in 2007).

Bix Curtis
Most people who remember Bix Curtis recall him as compere at Studio 51, a role he occupied from 1952 to 1956.
He was one of those fast talking, ubiquitous figures who turned up all over the place, in various capacities, in the London jazz world of the 1950's. He was passionate about modern jazz and realised he had a talent for organisation and promotion. During 1956/7 he was connected with the Star Club in Wardour Street, and Rik Gunnells's Club Basie, where he was MC at the Tavistock Restaurant, 18 Charing Cross Road. He was one of the first to try and get round the Musician Union rules forbidding US star players the opportunity to play in the UK and as early as 1949 he was fined for bringing Coleman Hawkins and Kenny Clarke to play in London.

In 1952 he formed what he claimed was Britains' equivalent to Norman Granz' Jazz at the Philharmonic. This was a touring group of top musician's, packaged together in various combinations, to play at venues around the UK. Known as Jazz at the Prom the first shows included Jimmy Skidmore, Tommy Whittle, Bert Courtley and other top names. By 1956 the package was known as Jazz from London and had an impressive musical line which included Ronnie Scott, Tubby Hayes, Harry Klein, Vic Ash, Don Rendell, Hank Shaw, Bert Courtley, Keith Christie, Tommy Whittle and many others. Not all played at every concert but the shows were advertised as Jazz from London - a Modern All-Star Presentation - "Music with Excitement". With "Tenor battles" and "Drum duels" the shows were an instant hit although ultimately the jazz decline in the early 1960s saw the end of them. More...

A taste of the music can be heard on a long deleted World Record Club LP recorded live some time in the mid/late 1950s. This is impossible to find now but a recent release (2012) by the Acrobat label contains a live recording compered by Bix himself. Simon Spillett's excellent booklet with the CD reveals that the disk contains Tubby Hayes' first recorded vibes solos, after he had been playing the instrument for just two months.

Details of the recordings are shown on the right...

Photograps below show Bix Curtis sometime in the 1950s (left) and during the1940s (right)... (They have come from the personal collection of Tony Middleton...)

Discographical detail below is not listed in Lord's Jazz Discography and has been taken from Jazz Journal which published the results of work undertaken by Bernard Shirley, Tony Middleton and Pete Lay. The information on the label is incomplete and misleading....
Bix Curtis Jazz Group - July 28th, 1956 (Jazz from Club Basie - World Record Club R46)
Keith Christie (tb), Tommy Whittle (ts), Dill Jones (p), Lennie Bush (b), Tommy Jones (d).
Lady Be Good.
Derek Smith (p), Sammy Stokes (b), Allan Ganley (d).
Ronnie Scott (ts), Harry Klein (bs), Derek Smith (p), Sammy Stokes (b), Allan Ganley (d).
Autumn Leaves.
Cliff Lawrence (vcl), Vic Ash (cl), Dill Jones (p), Lennie Bush (b), Tommy Jones (d).
Thou Swell.
Dill Jones (p), Lennie Bush (b), Tommy Jones (d).
Same Old Blues.
Vic Ash (cl), Bob Efford (ts), Dill Jones (p), Lennie Bush (b), Tommy Jones (d).
Crazy Rhythm.
Cliff Lawrence (vcl), Vic Ash (cl), Dill Jones (p), Lennie Bush (b), Tommy Jones (d).
My Heart Stood Still.
Hank Shaw (tp), Keith Bird (ts), Derek Smith (p), Sammy Stokes (b), Allan Ganley (d).
Leon Calvert (tp), Harry Klein (bs), Derek Smith (p), Sammy Stokes (b), Allan Ganley (d).

Bix Curtis' Jazz from London - c1957 (Jazz from London 1957 - (Acrobat)
Bert Courtley, Hank Shaw (tp), Ken Wray (bs-tpt), Vic Ash (cl), Tubby Hayes (ts,vib), Jimmy Skidmore (ts), Dill Jones (p), Lennie Bush (b), Bill Eyden (d).
Blue 'n' Boogie*.
Vic Ash (cl), Dill Jones (p), Lennie Bush (b), Bill Eyden (d).
Cocktails For Two*.
Bert Courtley (tp), Ken Wray (bs-tpt), Tubby Hayes (vib), Dill Jones (p), Lennie Bush (b), Bill Eyden (d).
Salute To The Bandbox*.
Ken Wray (bs-tpt), Dill Jones (p), Lennie Bush (b), Bill Eyden (d).
Hank Shaw (tp), Vic Ash (cl), Jimmy Skidmore (ts), Dill Jones (p), Lennie Bush (b), Bill Eyden (d).
Night In Tunisia*.
Bert Courtley, Tubby Hayes (ts,vib), Dill Jones (p), Lennie Bush (b), Bill Eyden (d).
Birks Works*.
Dill Jones (p), Lennie Bush (b), Bill Eyden (d).
Viper Drag*.
Tubby Hayes (ts) Jimmy Skidmore (ts), Dill Jones (p), Lennie Bush (b), Bill Eyden (d).
(*Acrobat CD - Jazz from London 1957)

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