For six years, Eddie Harvey, now in his 84th year, has been filling a rucksack with CDs, and cycled from his home in St. Margaret’s to Richmond Adult College, to teach a Monday afternoon adult class in the history of jazz.
There is probably nobody in Britain better qualified to teach this course, Because Harvey is part of the history which he so deftly illuminates. He played with both the Maynard Ferguson and Woody Herman bands, had long associations with both Humphrey Lyttelton and John Dankworth, and wrote and arranged for both the Ellington and Goodman orchestras.
As former Head of Jazz at the Guildhall school Scott Stroman told me:
“What is remarkable about Eddie is that having produced music at the highest level nationally and internationally, he has chosen to go into the classroom. And he can teach at any level. He is happy to make his material fit the needs of anyone, from beginners to postgraduate conservatoire students.”
These attributes earned Harvey the distinction in 2005 of being the first recipient of Jazz Educator of the Year at the Parliamentary Jazz Awards.
The class I attended was near the end of the academic year, and the first hour was talking through the influence of Bill Evans and John Coltrane.
Harvey clarifies the development of the music with an exemplary lightness of touch, and good humour. The tracks he plays for the students are a varied programme, a deliberately balanced diet of light and heavy, and of light and shade. He has a mission to explain, to familiarize, and he covers a lot of ground.
By the latter end of today’s class, the very different colours of electronic instruments were to the fore, with selections from Weather Report and Donald Fagen. The class was sent happily on its way at the end of the class with the irresistibly joyful sound of “Walk Between Raindrops” from Donald Fagen’s CD Nightfly ringing in its ears.
Harvey will start his seventh course in September. Richmond Adult Community College is less than a minute’s walk from Richmond station (South West Trains/ Overground/ District Line.) Details will be available from the Richmond Adult College website or from course leader Dave Jones (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Declaration of Interest: I am a Governor of Richmond Adult Community College, and a member of its Curriculum Quality and Standards Committee, both roles unremunerated. The views expressed in this article are entirely my own.