Jazzman Eddie keeps ’em on the note

Stars flock to play in Granada’s Bandstand

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From the TVTimes for week commencing 6 December 1959

TOP stars of London’s jazz clubs will be seen on Thursday in Granada’s Bandstand. They are the Tony Kinsey Quartet, tenor sax player Ronnie Scott, and pianist Eddie Thompson.

Ronnie Scott recently embarked on a venture that is binding these musicians, and others who have appeared in Bandstand, even closer together: he opened his own jazz club. The Kinsey Quartet have played there and Eddie Thompson is more-or-less the resident pianist.

A man plays piano with a dog at his feet
Eddie Thompson with his guide-dog, Max

Eddie Thompson was born blind in 1925. At a Wandsworth school for the blind, he played a few piano duets with George Shearing, who emigrated to America.

“I think we usually played Let’s Have A Basin Full of Fun in G flat — the first key I learnt. They tried to stop me playing jazz at school because they said it was degrading. But my mother bought me records and soon I was collecting early Basies, Shaws, Goodmans and Ellingtons,” Eddie told me.

“So I grew up with the idea of playing jazz for a living. But at another school for the blind, I was trained to be a piano tuner and repairer, a job which has stood me in good stead because some club pianos are appalling. After leaving school I nearly starved for a year, tuning a few pianos, trying to get a job as a musician. Then for six months I landed a regular job as a solo pianist touring as one of Brian Michie’s discoveries.

“After that I did various jobs, including working as a Dixieland pianist with Freddy Randall’s band. Went to the States as part of an exchange scheme for the Louis Armstrong All Stars, who toured Britain.

“America was gruelling — we were put in a rock ’n’ roll show — but very interesting. A year later I went again with Tommy Whittle’s band. I had a marvellous time — even stayed a week with the great pianist Thelonius Monk.”

Three pictures of men
Denis Wilson, Bill LeSage and Tony Kinsey

These days, Eddie is spending his spare time learning to play the saxophone, which he may eventually play professionally. He can read Braille music, but seldom needs to because, like most blind musicians, he has developed an exceptional memory.

He only needs to hear a piece of music once or twice to be able to play it.

Kinsey’s quartet have appeared in earlier Bandstands, but this time Tony will have a different saxophonist.

“Kathleen Stobart used to play tenor with us, but now she has three children and she has had to leave to look after them.” said Tony. “Now, we’ve got Alan Branscombe on alto. The others are Bill LeSage on vibraphone and Joe Muddell on bass.”

Drummer Kinsey told me he has recently moved to a house at Sunbury-on-Thames “where I can play all I want”.

Pianist Denis Wilson’s Trio will also be appearing in the programme. Wilson, who has often broadcast and arranges accompaniments for “pop” songs, says his music has “wide popular appeal and enough ingenuity, I hope, to appeal to musicians.”

The other member of the trio are Frank Clarke (bass) and Alan Ganley drums.

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