Born: September 20, 1927 | Died: February 6, 2010 Primary Instrument: Saxophone
Sir John Phillip William Dankworth, known in his early career as Johnny Dankworth, was an English jazz composer, saxophonist and clarinetist. He was the husband of jazz singer Cleo Laine.
Born in Woodford, Essex, he grew up, within a family of musicians, in Walthamstow in its suburb of Highams Park and attended Sir George Monoux Grammar School in Walthamstow. He had violin and piano lessons before settling eventually on the clarinet at the age of 16, after hearing a record of the Benny Goodman Quartet. Soon afterwards, inspired by Johnny Hodges, he learned to play the alto saxophone.
After studying at London’s Royal Academy of Music (where his jazz interests were frowned upon) and then national service in the army, he began a career on the British jazz scene. In 1949 he attended the Paris Jazz Festival and played with Charlie Parker. Parker's comments about Dankworth led to the engagement of the young British jazzman for a short tour of Sweden with the soprano-saxophonist Sidney Bechet. Dankworth was voted Musician of the Year in 1949.
In 1950, Dankworth formed a small group, the Dankworth Seven, as a vehicle for his writing activities as well as a showcase for several young jazz players, including himself (alto sax), Jimmy Deuchar (trumpet), Eddie Harvey (trombone), Don Rendell (tenor sax), Bill Le Sage (piano), Eric Dawson (bass) and Tony Kinsey (drums). After three successful years, the group was wound up, although it re-formed for several reunions over the years. Dankworth formed his big band in 1953.
The band was soon earning plaudits from the critics and was invited to the 1959 Newport Jazz Festival. The New York Times critic said of this appearance ... Mr. Dankworth’s group ... showed the underlying merit that made big bands successful many years ago - the swinging drive, the harmonic colour and the support in depth for soloists that is possible when a disciplined, imaginatively directed band has worked together for a long time. This English group has a flowing, unforced, rhythmic drive that has virtually disappeared from American bands.
The band performed at the Birdland jazz club in New York and shortly afterwards shared the stage with the Duke Ellington Orchestra for a number of concerts. Dankworth’s band also performed at a jazz event at New York’s Lewisohn stadium where Louis Armstrong joined them for a set. By now, Cleo Laine's singing was a regular feature of Dankworth's recordings and public appearances and they married in 1958.
Beginning that year, Dankworth started a second career as a popular composer of film and television scores (often credited as Johnny Dankworth). Among his best-known credits are the original themes for two famous British TV programmes, The Avengers (used from 1961 to 1964) and Tomorrow's World, plus the scores for the 1966 films Modesty Blaise and Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment.
In 1961, Dankworth’s recording of Galt MacDermot’s African Waltz reached the British charts and remained there for several months. American altoist Cannonball Adderley sought and received Dankworth’s permission to record the arrangement and had a minor hit in the US as a result. The piece was also covered by many other groups.
Dankworth’s friendship with trumpeter Clark Terry led to Terry being a featured soloist on Dankworth’s 1964 album The Zodiac Variations, together with Bob Brookmeyer, Zoot Sims, Phil Woods, Lucky Thompson and other guests. Other Dankworth recordings during this period featured many other respected jazz names. Some were full-time members of the Dankworth band at one time or another, like Tony Coe, Mike Gibbs, Peter King, Dudley Moore, John Taylor and Kenny Wheeler, while others such as Dave Holland, John McLaughlin, Tubby Hayes and Dick Morrissey were occasional participants.
During this active period of recording, the Dankworth band nevertheless found time for frequent live appearances and radio shows, including tours in Britain and Europe with Nat King Cole, Sarah Vaughan and Gerry Mulligan, and concerts and radio performances with Lionel Hampton and Ella Fitzgerald.
Dankworth’s friendship with Duke Ellington continued until the latter’s death in 1974. He recorded an album of symphonic arrangements of many Ellington tunes featuring another Ellingtonian trumpet soloist Barry Lee Hall. Dankworth also retained his Ellington links by performing with the Ellington Orchestra under the direction of Duke’s son, Mercer Ellington.
Dankworth recorded various symphonic albums with Dizzy Gillespie and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and others. Other jazz musicians with whom Dankworth performed include George Shearing, Toots Thielemans, Benny Goodman, Herbie Hancock, Hank Jones, Tadd Dameron, Slam Stewart, and Oscar Peterson.
From 1984 to 1986, Dankworth was professor of music at Gresham College, London, giving free public lectures. He always had an enthusiasm for jazz education, for many years running the Allmusic summer schools at The Stables in Wavendon, a theatre created by he and his wife in their back garden.
He appeared with Craig David on Later with Jools Holland on BBC Two. He set up his own record label, Qnotes, in 2003, to reissue some of his old recordings as well as new ones. They include a number with Julian Lloyd Webber, Dudley Moore and members of his family.
Dankworth and Laine's two children are both jazz musicians: Alec Dankworth is a bassist who is also a member of his father's band, and Jacqui Dankworth is a singer.
John Dankworth was made a Knight Bachelor in the 2006 New Year's Honours List.
Sir John remained an active composer into later life, and he wrote a jazz violin concerto for soloist Christian Garrick to play. This work had its world premier in Nottingham on 1 March 2008 in partnership with the Nottingham Youth Orchestra.
In October 2009 at the end of a US tour with his wife, Sir John was taken ill. The couple cancelled a number of UK concert dates for the following month. Dankworth did return to the concert stage for just one solo at the London Jazz Festival at the Royal Festival Hall, London, in December 2009. He played his sax from a wheelchair. He also played at John & Cleo's Christmas Show on the 17 December at The Stables in Wavendon.
1948 - Ladybird/Mop Mop w/Victor Feldman Quartet Esquire
Johnny Dankworth Quartet
1949 - Lover Man/Bremavin Esquire
1949 - Body and Soul/Second Eleven w/Johnny Dankworth Quartet Esquire
Johnny Dankworth Seven (singles)
1950 - Lightly, Politely/Marmaduke Jazz Parade
1950 - Strike Up The Band / Little Benny Jazz Parade
1950 - Sam's Song/Haunted Ballroom Esquire
1950 - Seven Not Out/Cherokee Esquire
1950 - Get Happy/Perhaps Esquire
1950 - Don't Blame Me/Lament & Wild Dance Esquire
1951 - Stardust/Marching Through Georgia Esquire
1951 - Blue Moon/So In Love Esquire
1951 - The Slider/I Hear Music Esquire
1951 - Leon Bismark/Webb City Esquire
1951 - Lush Life/Mr & Mississippi Esquire
1951 - Allen's Alley/Strictly Confidential Esquire
1951 - It's No Sin/Wedding Of Painted Doll Esquire
1951 - Stomping At The Savoy/MYOB Esquire
1952 - Very Thought Of You/Got You Under My Skin Esquire
1952 - Bopscotch/Our Delight Esquire
1953 - Two Ticks/Moonflowers Parlophone
1953 - Honeysuckle Rose/Swinging Parlophone
1953 - Easy Living/I Get A Kick Out of You Parlophone
1954 - Runnin' Wild/Ooph-e-dooph Parlophone
Johnny Dankworth and his Orchestra (singles)
1954 - 'S Wonderful/Younger Every Day Parlophone
1954 - The Slider/Talk Parlophone
1954 - My Buddy/The Jerky Thing Parlophone
1954 - Ain't Misbehavin'/I Got It Bad Parlophone
1954 - I Got Rhythm/I Know You're Mine Parlophone
1956 - Experiments With Mice/Applecake Parlophone
1961 - African Waltz/Moanin' Columbia
1979 - Telford's Change/Serenade for Strings BBC Records
John Dankworth and his Orchestra
1958 - England's Ambassador of Jazz Roulette
1959 - Bundle from Britain Top Rank
1962 - Big Band Sound of Johnny Dankworth Roulette
1962 - Dankworth & The London Philharmonic Orchestra Society
1963 - What The Dickens Fontana
1964 - Zodiac Variations Fontana
1964 - From Seven On EMI
1967 - The Million Dollar Collection Fontana
1967 - John Dankworth and His Music Fontana
1969 - Windmill Tilter Fontana
1972 - Full Circle Philips
1973 - Lifeline Philips
1974 - Movies and Me RCA
1979 - Octavius Sepia
1979 - Kite Flight Sepia
1980 - Starburst Grosvenor
1981 - Prelude To A Kiss Sepia
1982 - Fair Oak Fusions Sepia
1983 - Metro Sepia
1986 - Bop at Club II Esquire
1986 - Get Happy (reissue of 1950-1952) Esquire
1986 - Symphonic Fusions Pickwick
1986 - Crossing Over The Bridge (USA release) MCA Classic
1986 - Innovations Pickwick
1986 - Misty (USA Release) MCA Classic
1986 - Echoes of Harlem Pro Jazz
1989 - Jazzin' The Pops Pro Jazz
1989 - The Vintage Years Sepia
1989 - Dizzy Gillespie - The Symphony Session Pro Jazz
1990 - Live at Ronnie's Sepia
1991 - The Johnny Dankworth Years Roulette
2004 - Fair Oak Fusions (reissue of 1982) Qnote
2004 - Metro (reissue of 1983) Qnote
The Alec and John Dankworth Generation Big Band
1994 - Nebchuadnezzar RSJH
1995 - Rhythm Changes RSJH
The John Dankworth Quintet
1998 - Moon Valley AB:CDs
2003 - JD5 Qnote
The Vintage Years (Sepia, 1953–59)
The Roulette Years (Roulette, 1961) with Danny Moss, Peter King
Moon Valley (Audio, 1998) with John Horler, Malcolm Greese, Allan Ganley JD5 (QNT, 2002/03)
Feature film soundtracks
1958 : We Are the Lambeth Boys
1960 : The Criminal
1960 : Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
1963 : The Servant
1965 : Scruggs
1965 : Darling
1965 : Return from the Ashes
1965 : Sands of the Kalahari
1966 : Morgan!
1966 : Modesty Blaise
1966 : The Idol
1967 : Accident
1967 : Le Dernier safari (The Last Safari)
1967 : Fathom
1968 : Salt and Pepper
1968 : The Other People
1968 : The Magus
1970 : The Last Grenade
1970 : The Engagement
1970 : Perfect Friday
1971 : 10 Rillington Place
1974 : Pianorama
1975 : The Kingfisher Caper
2000 : Kiss Kiss (Bang Bang)
2000 : Gangster No. 1
1993 : Money for Nothing
1971 : The World of Survival
1961 : Survival
1961 : Chapeau melon et bottes de cuir
1961 : The Avengers
1959 : The Voodoo Factor
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