SIMON SPILLETT / Brian O’Connor: The National Jazz Archive

Out resident jazz expert Tony Andrews writes …..

It was a typical winters day on the 11th February, the type of day where wanting to leave the comfort of home could have been a real effort. Fortunately I had been invited to attend a double event at The National Jazz Archive in Loughton, Essex which was more than enough of an incentive to wrap up warm and set off for The Official Home of British Jazz.

As with most British Institutions, they need funding and this afternoon concert was to do exactly that and raise funds to continue their important work in preserving the documentation and the whole fabric of British Jazz. The Concert which featured The Simon Spillett Quartet was very apt as Simon is not only one of the finest tenor sax player this country has ever heard but he is also the official historian for Tubby Hayes.

Simon has written a book about Tubby Hayes and I recommend getting a copy; it thoroughly well written and engaging.

Anyone who has heard Tubby or actually saw him perform back in the 60s will know how influential and talented he was before departing this world far too young. Simon put together a quartet including two offsprings of established British jazz dynasties with Alec Dankworth on double bass and Clark Tracey on drums.

The essential last member of the quartet was sensational pianist John Critchinson who was playing better than I have ever heard him. He’s a veteran of The British Jazz scene. With such talent on the same stage the event had to generate some musical fireworks ….. and it did!

The capacity audience were completely enthralled with the standard of musicianship as indeed was I.

The person sitting next to me was the talented jazz photographer Brian O'Connor who was inspired to take many photographs to his usual high standard. The second part of this event was the official launch & book signing of Brian's new book Images of Jazz. The concert featured eight numbers ranged from some very up-tempo to haunting ballads; all with a hint of Tubby Hayes - but without losing any of Simon's own creative style.

To pick my favourite numbers is difficult but I loved Weaver of Dreams, Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most and a tune I was not familiar with by J.J. Johnson called Lament. As I have already stated the music was so well played and exciting in a way that transported me as if in a time warp back to the 1960s in Ronnie Scott's or other London jazz clubs of that era.

During the interval Brian O'Connor sold many of his book Images of Jazz and spent time chatting with the audience and signing his book. It was my birthday two days after and I got a copy as a present from my wife. I am a photographer myself and I bow to Brian's artistic and technical talents.

As anyone who has attempted to take photographs during a jazz concert will only to well know that the minimalist lighting combined with the enthusiastic movement of a musician in full swing can be very daunting and bordering on impossible. How Brian has managed to create so many images over such a long period going back to the early 70s is an inspiration.

I have gone through the book trying desperately to find a favourite image and given up. My advice is try and get a copy before the limited edition runs out of print.

I honestly believe Brian is the most prolific and talented Jazz Photographer this country has ever produced and he is so modest when you meet him. The whole afternoon was incredibly special to me with Simon Spillett creating his magic and Brian capturing the images so well. I believe the spirit of Tubby Hayes was with us watching over the proceedings knowing his history is in such good hands with Simon.

Why not look out for future National Jazz Archive Events and come along to help raising funds and just to have a great time.