This book is a fascinating read and well worth the cover price of £16.95, because it includes a CD of 7 previously unreleased examples of Dick’s playing, with bands that cover a large spectrum of jazz and blues. The book shows Dick to be a well educated and highly intelligent individual, equally at home in Blues, Jazz and Contemporary Music bands.
In the semi-pro world where I played during the same period, it was the guys who could not hack the Jazz or Dance Band scene that formed the blues bands. The London scene must have been very different however, Dick and his contemporaries would have been capable of holding their own in any scene.
The life and times of musicians in any touring band are always interesting and Dick’s tales of his adventures, musical and otherwise, with The Graham Bond Organisation, Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, John Mayall’s Bluesbrakers and Jon Hiseman’s Colosseum make for a most interesting read.
Dick’s commentaries on his life and times are frank and detailed, but interestingly although he opens up to his readers on some matters, there is a reserve that somehow prevents the reader from getting a real measure of Dick until the whole of the book has been read. Whether this is intentional or it just happened that way I don’t know.
I have known other very highly talented musicians who have difficulty in coping with those things that us mere mortals find easy, one who springs directly to mind and may have been known to Dick was Brian Gray Brian was an enormously talented saxophone player but he struggled to make a living and eventually gave the business up. Dick on the other hand has ploughed on but always had to live from hand to mouth.
Pete Grant’s part of the book attempts to analyse why this should have happened to someone as talented as Dick. His conclusion that the public are never sure whether he is in the blues world or the contemporary music world is probably correct. Before the UK public hand over their money, they want to be more certain of what they are going to get. The fact that a very large sector of the public prefer the Tenor playing of Stan Getz and Zoot Sims to that of John Coltrane, may also be a contributing factor.
The clearest insight into Dick that we get is where he writes about racism and proves quite rightly in my opinion that there can be no alternative but to classify people as those we like and those we don’t, colour race and creed have nothing to do with it. Having said that however people like people like themselves! (by Don Mather) (*)
And here´s this very rare CD (“not for sale seperately from the book”). Maybe I will scan this book later ..
And this is not onyl a very rare CD, bit a great tribute to one of he finest Bristish Jazz musicians ever: Mister Dick Heckstall-Smith.
Listen and enjoy !
01. The Deluxe Blues Band: Heatwave (McGrath/Heckstall-Smith) 4.10
02. Dick Heckstall-Smith: Aquamarine (1) (Heckstall-Smith) 10.46
03. Jon T-Bone Taylor’s Bop Brothers: Try (Green/Plotel) 5.13
04. Dick Heckstall-Smith: Il Collingdale (1) (Heckstall-Smith) 20.26
05. The Hamburg Blues Band: Woza Nasu (2) (Heckstall-Smith) 16.14
06. The Wentus Blues Band: Looking Back (3) (unknown) 4.38
07. The Graham Bond Organisation: Only Sixteen (4) (Bond) 3.20
(1): previously unreleased live recording, Newcastle, 1991 (Heckstall-Smith)
(2): previously unreleased live recording, Flensburg/Germany, 2002
(3): previously unreleased live recording, Helsinki/Finland, 2002
(4): previously unreleased live recording, Broadcat, 1965
(*) Don Mather plays Tenor Sax and Clarinet and runs a Big Band and a Quartet and Quintet in Coventry, he was for five years Chairman of the Coventry Jazz Festival Committee, during which time the festival joined the big league. Don is a member of the Musicians Union and a Coventry Branch Committee man. His jazz tastes are catholic, but he confesses to be sometimes bemused by some so called ‘contemporary jazz’.