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Digby Fairweather Notes From A Jazz Life

Digby Fairweather Notes From A Jazz Life

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Cornetist Digby Fairweather has become one of the leading figures on the British jazz scene, both as a bandleader and sideman in other leader’s bands, and as a writer and broadcaster, as well as being the founder and director of the charity Jazz Centre UK in Southend, aimed at promoting, preserving and celebrating the culture of jazz. As a cornetist, his style embraces many strands of jazz, being influenced by the likes of Nat Gonella, Louis Armstrong, Ruby Braff, Billy Butterfield, Bobby Hackett, and Red Nichols. This 33-track 2-CD set is a retrospective of his career to date, compiled by Digby himself, and with substantial booklet notes written by him.

It comprises recordings from across his career, from his studio debut in 1971 through to 2012, and features recordings with a host of the top names in British jazz, including of course several by bands he has led under the names of Digby’s Half Dozen and Digby’s Fairweather Friends. Among the artists with whom Digby performs in this set are John Barnes, Roy Williams, Ron Russell, Keith Ingham, Fred Hunt, Chris Ellis, Brian Lemon, Pete Strange, Lennie Hastings, Stan Barker, Danny Moss, Martin Litton, George Melly and Wild Bill Davison. It’s a musical overview of a significant career selected by the artist himself, and providing not only a showcase for his talents, but an entertaining insight into the British jazz scene across four decades.


“You’d expect the founder of the National Jazz Archive and the Jazz Centre UK to be a thoughtful guide to his own career as a cornetist, and so it proves here. As a snapshot of an undervalued division of the British jazz scene, his compilation covers an impressive amount of ground, featuring cameos from distinguished players such as Keith Ingham and a nod to the impresario Alan Bates, of the Candid label.” –  Clive Davis (The Sunday Times, 19 April, 2020)

“Thirty three tracks, more or less in chronological order, chart Fairweather’s career to date beginning in 1971 at the Red Lion in Margaretting, Essex and ending with a 2012 studio date celebrating the music of Delius which the self-effacing cornetist describes as a ‘well-meaning tribute to the composer’. Along the way Fairweather, together with some of Britain’s finest musicians, plays some great jazz. This Acrobat release reminds the listener of the long list of marvellous musicians who plied their trade in Britain’s pubs, clubs and concert halls. In his liner notes accompanying the CD Fairweather acknowledges his fellow musicians’ contribution to the music, frequently referring to them as ‘my good friend’ or ‘my great friend’. Those friends, some of them life-long friends, include the pianists Stan Barker, Fred Hunt, Brian Lemon, Martin Litton and Johnny Parker - that’s quite a roll call! To this day Fairweather counts them as friends and continues to gig with some of them. Notes From A Jazz Life chronicles Digby Fairweather’s half century on the jazz scene. Let’s hope volume two is in the pipeline.”  –  Russell Corbett (Jazz Rag Winter 2020)

“What wins me over are the gorgeous duets with pianist Stan Barker from 1984, with lilting reads of But Beautiful, Mean To Me and Nancy (With The Laughing Face) with Digby dressed to the nines in ‘less is more’ all throughout. Of course, if you want some rapid fire notes, Fairwether’s Half Dozen in 2003 along with guitarist Dominic Ashworth sears through Runnin’ Wild and goes cruising with Danny Moss’ Quintet on a 1981 Fine and Dandy. His career didn’t get traction the US, but don’t let that dissuade you from discovering the best thing this side of Bobby Hackett.”   –  George W. Harris (Jazz Weekly March 2020)

“The sleeve notes and photographs alone cover 27 pages, revealing that, if anyone ever lived a jazz life, it’s him. This album finds Digby sauntering down Memory Lane or, more accurately, swinging down Mainstream Avenue, in the fast company of certified heavyweights. While their music was designed to entertain, it was left to later generations to discover that they’d created imperishable art whose echoes reverberate throughout this retrospective collection. Two CDs containing the highlights of one man’s musical life. At any price, this must be the bargain of the year.” –  Leonard Weinreich (London Jazz News, June, 2020)

“This CD is an autobiographical retrospective of the recording career of the renowned British jazz cornetist, Digby Fairweather. The fist tracks on CD1, dates from one of his earliest dates and was recorded on a cassette tape – but still sounding remarkably good. You may note that Digby was apt to put a lot (and I mean a lot, both notes and energy) into his playing: not a criticism but something experience taught him to ration in later years. By track three [One, Two, Button Your Shoe – 1975] Dig is playing alongside Alex Welsh alumni, John Barnes and Roy Williams. This would surely feel like he had found his spiritual home and he is certainly not overshadowed by his colleagues. The quality is unerringly class. These mid-70s tracks were outstanding… of course, a retrospective like this has so many threads running through it, the obvious common thread being Digby and his own taste in music. It’s an obvious thing to say, but like-minded players tend to migrate together and generally enjoy sharing their common predilections: the result here is to give the listener a never-ending stream of wonderful music… This whole project was, for me, total joy. I suspect I will be able to say, at this early juncture, it will be one of my favourite releases of 2020, An outstanding release.” –  Barry Clare (Just Jazz, May 2020)

“Blessed is the 74-year-old musician who is encouraged to compile a career retrospective, write a detailed autobiographical essay, and lives to tell the tale. This is exactly what happens here over the course of this double-CD dip into Digby’s plentiful discography. Its comprehensive 33 tracks encompass a great variety of performing formats and highlights his growing maturity as a player. Aside from his more public roles as jazz broadcaster and writer, founder of the National Jazz Archive and now, instigator of the UK Jazz Centre, Digby – always something of a jazz eclectic – has never been slow to reimagine his ways to play. His groups as arraigned here may vary in size from duos and quartets to medium-size combos but at their roots there’s still his breezy take on the classic Chicago cornet style. Digby’s early recorded efforts span earthy traditionalism as well as nascent swing, his style invariably fulsome yet clear-eyed… More recent performances by the still-active and tightly swinging Half Dozen are included, as is a single example of their collaboration with George Melly. So, milestones aplenty, great players alongside, contentment and overall, a sense of a spirited jazz journey well-travelled with, doubtless, plenty more surprises to come.” **** –  Peter Vacher (Jazzwise, May 2020)

“In deserved recognition of Digby’s talent and achievements, Acrobat invited him to compile a selection of his own favourite recordings, with written commentary. This musical autobiography shares its title with that of his memoirs, published back in 2002. A skilled author, with considerable experience of writing and radio presentation of jazz, Digby recalls, in substantial and enjoyable detail, the course and development of his career in a wide-ranging selection of recordings spanning 1971-2012. He writes with characteristic enthusiasm, and with generous appreciation, of the numerous talented British jazz musicians whose contributions add to the appeal of this release. The word “notes” in the title neatly covers Digby’s prowess with both pen and trumpet-cornet... With his past educational projects and current work at the Jazz Archive and Jazz Centre UK, Digby has given a lot back to British jazz. He well deserves this tribute to his own outstanding contributions throughout a busy and productive career.” **** –   Hugh Rainey (Jazz Journal, April 2020)

“This is a welcome retrospective of the many and varied phases of the career of one of Britain's most enduring and influential jazzmen. Apart from his role as a musician he has of course been a prime mover behind the scenes, founding the National Jazz Archive and being the CEO of the Jazz Centre in Southend, an invaluable resource for the jazz fan. Truly a man of many parts who has probably done more to foster and promote interest in jazz in the UK than most. Long may he continue - although now in his early 70s his enthusiasm and passion for the cause remains undimmed. As to the music, this double CD is a chronological romp that takes us through his various associations over the years while demonstrating his musical prowess on the cornet on a wide ranging repertoire from the standards to jazz classics… Naturally, Digby wrote the liner notes for this project, so as well as being an entertaining and enjoyable listening experience, it's a good read as well!”  –  Gerry Stonestreet  (In Tune, May 2020)

“I have been listening to and watching jazz for more years than I care to remember. A singular presence on the British jazz scene has been Digby Fairweather and seeing that he is in the band that you are listening to or watching is akin to putting on that favourite sweater, it is a comfortable feeling and you know you will entertained, not be let down and will leave with a smile on your face. This innovative record label (Acrobat Music) has conspired with Digby to give him the opportunity to produce an ‘autobiographical retrospective of the recording career of the renowned British jazz cornetist’, and it does just what it says on the tin.  Digby has done himself and us proud with his selections; recordings from 1971 through to 2012 are selected from duos to larger ensembles both live and in the studio and are a delight. Digby’s choices are interesting and varied, the duos with Keith Ingham, Stan Barker and Fred Hunt are glorious, and the tracks with ‘Velvet’ are new to me and equally glorious. All in all it is a real cornucopia of Digby’s work over the past 40+ years and a sheer joy from start to finish. Digby has written the liner notes himself (some 15 pages out of a hefty 28 page booklet) and they are very comprehensive and interesting and detail the periods in Digby’s life when the tracks were recorded. The title of his essay is ‘The Story So Far’, long may that story continue! ”  –  Clive Fleckner (Jazzviews March 2020)

Disc 1
Track Title Artist
1 Medley: Sleepy Time Gal, Yacht Club Swing Dig's Half Dozen (1970)
2 There'll Be Some Changes Made Digby Fairweather with 'Jazz Legend'
3 One Two, Button Your Shoe Digby Fairweather with the Barnes-Williams Jazz Band
4 My Hero Digby Fairweather with Ron Russell's Jazz Band
5 Sweet Substitute Digby Fairweather with Keith Ingham
6 Happy Go Lucky You (And Broken-Hearted Me) Digby Fairweather with Ron Russell's Jazz Band
7 Havin' Fun Digby Fairweather with Fred Hunt
8 It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing) Digby Fairweather with 'Velvet'
9 Isn't she lovely Digby Fairweather with 'Velvet'
10 I Found A New Baby Digby Fairweather with 'Velvet'
11 She's Funny That Way Digby Fairweather and Friends
12 Jeepers Creepers Digby Fairweather and Friends with Chris Ellis
13 Looking At You Digby Fairweather with Brian Lemon
14 Strutting With Some Barbecue Digby Fairweather & Pete Strange with The Lennie Hastings Trio
15 She's Just My Size Digby Fairweather with 'Fairweather Friends'
16 But Beautiful Digby Fairweather & Stan Barker
17 Mean To Me Digby Fairweather & Stan Barker
Disc 2
Track Title Artist
1 Nancy (With The Laughing Face Digby Fairweather & Stan Barker
2 Fine And Dandy Digby Fairweather/Danny Moss Quintet
3 Samba D'Orfeu Digby Fairweather/Danny Moss Quintet
4 That Rhythm Man Digby Fairweather's New Georgians
5 Bessie Couldn't Help It Digby Fairweather's New Georgians
6 Please Don't Talk About Me When Im Gone Digby Fairweather and Friends with Chris Ellis
7 Old Man Harlem Digby Fairweather, John Barnes & Martin Litton with Fairweather's Friends
8 Imagination Digby Fairweather & The First Class Sounds
9 Letter Fellow Get Some Sleep Digby Fairweather & The First Class Sounds
10 Margie Digby Fairweather and The Best of British Jazz
11 It's A Pity To Say Goodnight Digby Fairweather's Half Dozen
12 My Heart And I Digby Fairweather's Half Dozen with George Melly
13 When My Ship Comes In Digby Fairweather's Half Dozen
14 Runnin' Wild Digby Fairweather's Half Dozen
15 Summer Evening Digby Fairweather and Friends
16 Sleigh Ride, Florida Flare-Up Digby Fairweather and Friends
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    Digby Fairweather
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    February 2020
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