Thursday, May 24, 2012
one more once
Nothing controversial here.
Byron Jones was a one-off. The kind of bloke who made me look tall. A genuine Big Band enthusiast - so much so he formed his own, and kept it running for, oh, thirty years. Give or take. He knew what he liked (Stan Kenton. Anything by Stan Kenton.) And what he didn't. (Glenn Miller. Everything by Glenn Miller.)
Though for the past few years, Malcolm Jenkins softened old Byron up, and his band played some excellent Miller arrangements... I think Byron even secretly enjoyed them. Sometimes...
He loved that band. He loved it when it would up & swing & punch you in the gut. When it would get a Basie number just right. When a soloist would find the groove - Jeff Salter, Gareth Roberts, Gethin Liddington, Emily Beck. You'd see him purr.
Like all true Big Band leaders, he never quite liked singers, which was my association with the band (I was also a failed pianist with them - one rehearsal was all I got). Though Henry, the wonderful Henry Newman, was a lifelong friend, and forgiven many things for the glories of that tone of his.
Byron would typically introduce a song with an anecdote, a witticism, a cryptic comment. And then hum a few bars that gave him the tempo. Regulars would know what was coming from those little vocalisings. Flight of the Foo Birds always has Byron's voice on it whenever I hear it; and I can hear it now.
George Wilson got me a gig with Byron. George was Byron's drummer for many years, and an unfailing support to Byron and Merle, who is much in our thoughts today. There are very many that will miss this wonderful man - and his music, his humour, his occasional obstinacy and strange ways, his very personal taste and his championing of a musical form that needs champions like this. Running a Big Band is hard work. Byron made it seem like anyone could do it. That's a master at work, that is, right there.
Now he's with the angels. Humming a few bars. Counting them in. And they're swinging...