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ANDREW MAYNE

THE RONNIE SCOTT QUARTET. 1963: THE RETURN DATE

As an intro there's a couple of knowing, bad jokes,

Including what I learnt later was a revamping

of your Standard one about drummers: "What do you want

to be when you grow up?" Etcetera. Then you beat off

Into "I'm Sick and Tired of Waking up Tired and Sick".

Smoke from a cigarette niched near the base of your tenor

zig-zags up, begging for a black and white photograph.

Stan Tracey is treddling grandiloquently in huge

winkle-pickers while stomping chords some of which carry

to me like milk bottle crates jangled in school corridors.

Phil Seamen, well stuck into the part of the holy fool,

drools over hIs drum-kit with a heavy-lidded,

fixated, upward-sideways leer; he looks ecstatic

and so beautifully ill, a stick-insect on the loose.

And the bass player? Sorry, there must sometimes be

a questlon mark in the personnel of memory.

Yet one horn stiff rides emphatically over any gaps.

it was a set of images I fell in love with

at first, anyway. What did Iwant to be..?

I dreamt of my hands spanning a tenor's tone-holes

fingers making the minimum of movement, clicking

quickly over complex changes but always with

supreme control. I could finger any idea

hair-triggered In my fecund, innovative head.

In fact, I never showed more than a threadbare talent

on the clarinet, finally giving it up when

I realised that my improvisations would always

be predictable re-hashes of greater ones.

Yet even now I can't pass a tenor saxophone

In the window of a music shop without ogling

the instrument I never graduated to.

Even merely resting on Its stand, a tenor horn

somehow always manages to look heroic.

I suppose I bore the kids today when I tell them

that this music that they do not know has a depth

to pull you by the scruff behind any mere facade.

That night initiated a quest... but constantly

I'll return to my choice quartet of tenor masters:

Hawkins, Lester Young, Rollins and Coltrane.

I catalogued my collection over last Whitsun

something I suppose you do when you're turning fifty:

I own three thousand, four hundred and twenty seven

separate recorded items on vinyl, tape and C.D.

Though - I guess you can predict this next modulation

I'd gladly trade nine-tenths of my whole jazz collection

(you'd agree to retaining some tenors out of loyalty)

to be re-entering your club, back in 1963.