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Book: The Godfather of British Jazz

Chapter: Preface

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.28039


This is the first book about the life of jazz pianist and composer Stan Tracey CBE (1926-2013). Drawn largely from his personal diaries and some of his many interviews, his son Clark Tracey pieces together what made the late Stan Tracey a unique character in jazz music. Stan's wit and wisdom also come shining through in abundance in this long overdue account of one of the UK's most important jazz musicians.

In a career that spanned 70 years, Stan Tracey recalls his earliest memories in war torn London and his first experiences of hearing jazz. As a teenager, he joined ENSA and the RAF Gang Show and for the next three years played at more venues than many musicians do in a lifetime. Once demobbed, Stan befriends pianist Eddie Thomson, vibist and drummer Victor Feldman and clarinettist Vic Ash and begins his career in music. He toured with Kenny Baker's band and the Kirchin Band before joining the Ted Heath Orchestra, then began recording under his own name. He was asked by Ronnie Scott to be the house pianist at Scott's new club, where Stan's legendary status grew for the next six years. He accompanied giants of American jazz such as Stan Getz, Sonny Rollins, Roland Kirk, Dexter Gordon, Freddie Hubbard and many others. During this period he wrote and recorded the seminal album Under Milk Wood, which to this day remains his best selling work. Stan left Ronnie's club following a drug addiction and in the 1970s found himself penniless. His wife Jackie employed her skill in the music business as an A&R from previous years and began presenting concerts to keep Stan afloat, as he formed new musical friendships in the free/improvised idiom at that time, such as Mike Osborne and Keith Tippett. Commissions for suites emerged and Stan's writing skills found an outlet again through the formation of his various groups that were to last for nearly 30 years. Stan's achievements and awards are ample and in many cases unique. Recipient of an OBE and a CBE, Stan also received several lifetime achievement awards and in his last year became the first recipient of the Ivor Novello Jazz Award.

Chapter Contributors

  • Clark Tracey ( - ctracey) 'Musician'