Clarinettist/bandleader DAVE SHEPHERD has played alongside Billie Holiday, Teddy Wilson, Bud Freeman, Yank Lawson, Ruby Braff, Wild Bill Davison., Barney Kessel and Gerry Mulligan. He also ran the Pizza Express All-Stars for more than 20 years.In anticipation of his fundraising gig in Loughton in aid of the National Jazz Archive, Digby Fairweather interviewed him:
LondonJazz News: When did you form the Quintet?
Dave Shepherd: I think it was in l954 but the lineup was different to now of course. But we were picked up by the BBC very quickly and during the l960s/70s were on nearly every week!
LJN: What was the inspiration?
DS: Well really Benny Goodman’s small groups. I loved Benny best of all and later on I toured with his pianist Teddy Wilson and we became great friends.
LJN: That must have be a special time?
DS: Yes it was. Jack Higgins who was my agent for over fifty years first put us together and I remember I went to Ronnie Scott’s for the audition. Teddy was the prefect gentleman. He just said ‘What do you know’ and we took it from there! After that we toured all over Europe and made a lot of albums together too for Alan Bates’ Black Lion label. One of them was recorded live at the Montreux Festival I remember and it’s still about.
LJN: By that time you had the name of ‘Britain’s Benny Goodman’?
DS: Yes, for better or worse, I did – although I like a lot of other clarinet players too. I can do a great Pee Wee Russell if you want! But I did do a lot of Goodman-based albums starting with ‘Salute’ in l954 and three or four more from the l960s-80s; for Alan Bates, Rediffusion, Souvenir – several labels.
LJN: What was Teddy Wilson like?
DS: Very charming, quite reserved. He used to stay with me at my home in Theydon Bois and made great friends with our cats. And on one of the first evenings he asked if he could have a drink. I don’t drink – never have – but found a bottle of gin and a tumbler! When the gin got near the top of the glass I said ‘How’s that Teddy?’. And he said ‘Dave – that’s coming along just fine!’. My old friend the late Brian Lemon was there too.
LJN: Who’s in the Quintet now?
DS: Well Roger Nobes for years – to my mind the greatest vibraharpist in Britain. Brian Lemon was with me too for years of course but now I use Nick Dawson or John Pearce where I can – both fantastic musicians! Then there’s bassist Len Skeat and Stan Bourke on drums – two more regulars and both great friends and colleagues for years now. I think Paul Morgan – another great player – may be playing bass this time though.
LJN: I gather you’re playing for nothing for the National Jazz Archive?
DS: Yes, I’m funding the concert – and happy to do so. It’s a great cause and over the last few years there’s been some intensive fundraising in between grants from the HLF. I guested with the ‘Great British Jazz Band’ on one fundraiser last Autumn and it’s good to be back with my own band.
LJN: And the date?
DS: It’s Saturday April 11th in the afternoon starting at 1.30 at Loughton Methodist Church. It’s a beautiful hall and the nearest tube is Loughton. I gather there’s a few tickets left too……call David Nathan the Archivist for tickets: 020 8502 8988. I think he works mornings most weekdays – except Thursdays.
LJN: Thank you Dave
DS: And thank you too…….