Bass player Brian 'Spike' Heatley was born in 1933 into a music loving family, growing up in Muswell Hill, London. He tells his story in his own words:
"In 1954/55 I toured in the big bands of Harry Leader and Harry Bence, in 1956/57 I worked in the Alan Ross Quintet in the Palace Hotel , Karachi in W Pakistan. On my return in Aug '57 I worked in various trios, eg. Dill Jones when we accompanied such greats as Dinah Washington, Helen Merrill and Stefan Grapelli etc. Then, Eddie Thompson, Chuck Gates in their trios leading to Vic Ash`s sextet in `58 and went to USA with him. 1959 saw me joining the Jazz Couriers for the last few months of their existence during which time we played the Vienna Jazz Festival. The group broke up as Ronnie was planning his club and Tubby chose to work as a quartet. I stayed for a short time and was replaced by Jeff Clyne whom I had replaced in the Couriers and Ronnie wanted me to play at his new club in Gerrard St. with my old friend Eddie Thompson, which is where John Dankworth heard me and eventually asked me to join his big band, which I did (in 1960)".
"When I left John after a couple of years I struggled to make a living because people thought I was too busy, but eventually I toured with Kenny Bakers big band on a big show with the Four Freshmen Danny Williams and my old friend Matt Monro whom I had known since semi-pro days and when we were together with Harry Leader when he sang under the name of Al Jordan".
"In the 1960s, I had the trio with Brian Lemon and John Marshall accompanying Salena Jones (a very special singer) in Ronnie's opposite the Francy Boland/Kenny Clarke orch.for 2 weeks, then we were held over for another month opposite the Bill Evans Trio. wow!! I worked with Salena again in the late 80s with my quartet of the time (Alan Barnes etc.) But it was clashing with the Great guitars/Barney Kessel trio/Oliver Jones trio and so on, so we parted company, still good friends though".
From the late 1960s Spike was with the Bebop Presevation Society, a group originally set up by Bill Le Sage to keep the old bebop music alive. By this time modern jazz had moved on and bebop was becoming a forgotten sound. The group made three superb albums and Spike remembers:
"When Tubbs had been ill and had an operation on his heart, Bill LeSage invited him to play with our band "Bebop Preservation Society" with Peter King, Hank Shaw, Martin Drew and myself, just for a couple of months so he could recuperate whilst playing and not have to do too much. We did a few gigs and then went into Ronnie Scott's (the new place). Towards the end of the first week, Tubbs` enthusiasm and competitive spirit saw him playing more and more because Peter and Hank were at the top of their game. It was wonderful and Tubby eventually felt strong enough to do other things but in fact he wasn`t. He left us and did his own thing which consequently proved too much for his heart and sadly he died on the operating table having another valve replaced. We all miss him because, in my opinion, there is no better British player in that style, no disrespect intended to anyone".
Bebop Presevation Society...
Spike has continued to record great jazz to this day, releasing four stylish CDs under his leadership through the 2000s in the company of Danny Moss, Roy Williams, John Horler, Alan Barnes, Art Themen and others.
Full details are shown below and all are available direct from Spike via:
or via Facebook:
"When I moved out of London in `76 I gradually did less and less with Bill (Le Sage) although we remained good friends and so I started to do more of my "own thing" so to speak. I was doing a lot of studio work which of course subsidised my jazz playing and started to compose and work with various groups as required".
"I worked and lived in Holland for about 6 months working with the American show "Bubbling Brown Sugar" which was a gas because it was classy music, very jazzy with good singers / dancers, Colin Purbrook was the MD. When I came back to England I formed a quintet with Jimmy Hastings and Dave Bishop on saxes/flute, John Horler piano and a fantastic drummer from Harwich, namely Kevin Harris. When I came to London to do gigs he decided to stay in his day job as he had a young family to bring up".
"Around 1984 I worked regularly with the "Great Guitars", Charlie Byrd and my great friend Barney Kessel, Herb Ellis was the 3rd member eventually being replaced by another great friend, namely Martin Taylor. This led to working with Oliver Jones, a wonderful player, at the same time I formed a new group with Alan Barnes, John Horler and another great drummer, Malcolm Mortimore".
"I recorded a CD with this quartet called "One for Clifford and another one for Tubby", subsequently, I have made two more CDs since living in France, made in England with English musicians, "The Other Side of the Coin" and "Zurich Express" which is dedicated to the memory of Bill LeSage. This is the quartet I`ve used for 6 years, sadly disbanded, temporarily I hope, due to the serious illness of my friend and vibist, Jim Lawless".
"I have a site on Myspace which people may care to have a look sometime".
Through the 1960s and '70s Spike played regularly with Ronnie Ross and Bill Le Sage. With Le Sage he was a regular member of the Bebop Presevation Society and his solo work can be heard to good effect on the three LPs this group recorded. From the 1980s he freelanced, often in Europe and in 1991 moved permanently to France to wind down. For five years he continued to play a bit and improve his golf handicap. A visit from guitarist Martin Taylor around 2001 resulted in Spike picking up his bass again and at the time of writing is still playing.
Spike played with many star jazzmen and the discographies on this website of Vic Ash, Tony Coe, John Dankworth, The Emcee 5, Tubby Hayes, Bebop Preservation Society, Harold McNair and Ronnie Scott will make a good start to investigating Spike's recorded work...
Spike was the first bassist to play at the newly opened Ronnie Scott's in 1959 alongside Eddie Thompson and Stan Roberts. He was the bass player with the Jazz Couriers for the last three months of their existence but never recorded with them.
Around this time Spike, then working at the Blue Lagoon with Dill Jones began to work with top US singers Helen Merrill, Dinah Washington, Abbey Lincoln and then Monica Zetturland. In the 1960s Marion McPartland came to the UK and worked with Spike and Ronnie Stephenson. She was very complimentary saying "They are just great. They really swing, listen hard and don't get in the way and are very quick. We rehearsed twelve tunes and everything went off very well, no hassle and no problem with keys. They read well, I did a couple of my own things and Spike read them much better than the average stateside bass player".
Spike accompanied Mary Lou Williams in London in 1969 and she said "With the bass player in particular, I need to talk over parts and rehearse for a few days. We had one short rehearsal, I was lucky to have Spike, a very good bass player, but if I'd been working with Oscar Pettiford we would have needed a week beforehand to get really together".
In the late 1960s Spike worked with Charlie Shavers, Jay McShann and Teddy Wilson at the Hammersmith Odeon. He later toured with Teddy Wilson for six weeks.
He came back from France to the UK in 2013 for a series of memorable gigs around London with his trio and tenor sax player Art Themen.
Originally recorded in 1989, but not released then, these recording were re-mastered and issued for the first time in 2004...
Spike Heatley Quartet - c1989 (One for Clifford...and another one for Tubby - Renella Records CD)
Alan Barnes (ts,as,cl), John Horler (p), Spike Heatley (b), Malcolm Mortimer (d).
Hot Heights/One For Clifford/When Spring Comes Around/(Meet) The Flinstones (2 takes)/Spike Island Special/Tubby/Song For My Children/The Ringer.
(Renella CD - One for Clifford...and another one for Tubby)
This is the first album Spike made on returning to the music scene and features seven of his own compositions including two beautiful ballads...
Spike Heatley with Roy Williams and Danny Moss - c2002 (The other side of the coin - Renella Records CD)
Roy Williams (tb), Danny Moss (ts), Dave Newton (p), Mick Hanson (g), Spike Heatley (b), Malcolm Mortimer (d).
Ramsey By-Pass/Little Victor/Walking Down/Into Somewhere/Spike Island Special/It Was Always You/Mr M. and Mr B./A Song For My Children/The Ringer/Just Another Dream/A Cheerful Little Earful/Home Bass.
(Renella CD - The other side of the coin)
A CD dedicated to the memory of Bill Le Sage. As you would expect from a group that has played together for a number of years the music is polished and very skillful...
Spike Heatley Quartet - c2006 (Zurich Express - Renella Records CD)
Jim Lawless (vibes), Andy Williams (g), Spike Heatley (b), Malcolm Mortimer (d).
Ranjana/4th Parallel/Bond Street/Fishin'/Pickles/Bill's Idea/Spritley/2-part Invention No4...Dance To the Lady/Callam/Mix It/The Green Mountains/Kansas City/La Tristesse d'Automne/the Zurich Express.
(Renella CD - Zurich Express)
A live recording from Fleece Jazz in May 2014. Art Themen is added to Spike's regular trio...
Spike Heatley Trio with Art Themen - May, 2014 (Live at Fleece Jazz - May 2014 - Renella Records CD)
Art Themen (ts,ss), Andy Williams (g), Spike Heatley (b), Malcolm Mortimer (d).
Royal Blue/Surrey With The Fringe On Top/Spritely Latin/Waiting For David/Just Another Day/Cielito Lindo/Ranjana/Pale Shadows/Pulling Strings/Tears For Miss Kenny/Knock Down Ginger/St. Vincent/Cool Winds.
(Renella CD - the Spike Heatley trio with Art Themen - Live at Fleece Jazz May 2014)