The amazing jazz pianist Stan Tracey plays at the Rose Theatre this Saturday

I saw the Stan Tracey Quartet play an amazing outdoor concert in Hong Kong about 10 years ago. It was a fantastic concert and yet only a sprinkling of people were there, lounging about on the grass, quite enjoying the music, but not exactly jumping to their feet with applause. I, on the other hand, was beside myself with excitement and rushed round to the back of the stage after the concert to tell Stan just how brilliant he was. He looked a bit bemused - I suspect he'd been told that before. I am still a huge fan of his, and am amazed at his stamina, still performing regularly at the age of 85. How exciting to see he is playing at Kingston this Saturday.

Stan was born in Kings College Hospital, Denmark Hill, London in 1926 and grew up an only child in Tooting in South London. Unwilling to be evacuated at the outbreak of war, his education came to an end at the age of 12 and he kept his mother company while his father worked in a West End Club. As his household had no radio or gramophone, his musical input came from listening to his neighbour’s radio from the bottom of the stairs and his mother's 'black note' efforts on their upright piano. He fell in love with a shiny accordion in a nearby shop and Stan's musical career began, soon being adept enough to enter local talent competitions. He didn’t take up the piano until 1944, at the ripe old age of 18, inspired by the boogie-woogie giants Albert Ammons and Meade Lux Lewis.

Having successfully avoided the authorities for two years, Stan was eventually called up in 1945 and enlisted in the RAF. When he left the RAF in 1948 he went to work in London and came across Ronnie Scott and Laurie Morgan who steered him towards taking up jazz full time.

Throughout his career Stan Tracey has been a prolific composer, writing over twenty commissions and the music for forty of his own albums. His first major work ‘Under Milk Wood’ inspired by Dylan Thomas’ radio play of the same title, is widely recognised as a masterpiece. He has composed a number of suites for big bands, as well as works for his octet, sextet, and quartet. 

Stan's wife Jackie passed away suddenly this year, shortly before the release of 'Senior Moment' which Stan was to dedicate to her. On the official website there is a dedication to her which says: “No words here can describe the influence she had on Stan's music over the years. She will be missed by many.”

 

Stan Tracey plays at the Rose Theatre Kingston this Saturday, November 12th at 7.30pm. The concert features his supercharged Octet, plus duo/trio sets from latest release Soundcheck. Described by The Guardian as his ‘best collection in years’, Soundcheck marks yet another milestone in Tracey’s brilliantly imaginative career as a jazz musician. 

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