INTERVIEW: Peter Ind (90th birthday celebration at the 606 Club, 26 July)

Peter Ind at the 606 in 2015
Photo credit: Gary Wolff

The 90th Birthday of a true legend of British jazz, bassist and former club prorietor PETER IND, falls on 20 July. Six days later, on Thursday 26 July, he will be celebrating it in a London club with which he has a unique connection, the 606, and with musicians and friends. Steve Rubie of the 606 interviewed Peter Ind, looked back over his truly remarkable career and looked forward with him to both the birthday and the celebration gig:

Steve Rubie: You will be at the 606 Club on Thursday 26 July when we look forward to celebrating  your 90th Birthday. That’s remarkable! What’s planned for the evening?

Peter Ind: I see it as reminiscing really about jazz development and what that looks like, looking back at 90 years old, both musically and in conversation.

What I would like to do is to talk with Gary Crosby who is an old friend and student. Have always remained friends. Hoping to play a little, at 90 I have to take breathers. There will be some jazz and poetry from myself and Peter Marinker, as well as music from a variety of special guests and jazz musicians I have known over the years, from around the World.

SR: You have a history with the 606 Club, tell us more about that from your side…

PI: Steve, I remember that you always used to come over early to the Bass Clef before the 606 club started in the evening – that was a compliment. It was also good to be alongside and chat with another jazz club owner. And I have known the 606 since its early days when it was a small venue in the King’s Road – and played there with all sorts of people, including a historic reunion gig with Lee Konitz alongside the superb drummer Rod Youngs – a night of New York remembrances. It is remarkable that the club is still going after all these years.

I have always admired your invincible positivity about the music. You and the club have not received the recognition or publicity you have deserved. Inevitably, the publicity in the jazz world has centred on Ronnie’s but we both know what it takes to be a club owner.

We have always enjoyed coming in here – for a start we could park around here and it was always the place we could call in on our way to Twickenham from an event in the centre of London. We have seen many memorable performances – Ian Shaw and Lianne Carroll in a piano duet was one of the things always to remember.

SR: A number of musicians, including Iain Ballamy, David Preston, Yaz Fentazi and the Young Warriors (directed by Gary Crosby) will be playing. How did you come to know them?

PI: Initially I came to know most of the younger generation of jazz musicians through the clubs I owned and ran in the ’80s and ’90s in Hoxton – The Bass Clef and Tenor Clef clubs. Like Iain Ballamy – when he was playing alongside such musicians as the Argüelles brothers and Django Bates. Dave Preston I met when we played and recorded at Abbey Road with Ian Shaw.

I have always loved eastern music – in New York I played with an Armenian Band – Chick Ganimian’s band – in fact I had my only hit record in the charts with one of our albums – Come With Me To The Casbah. And I used to go over to Jordan when my wife Sue was working there, and began playing with an oud player. So, when she had a rug exhibition at Goldsmith’s I played at that with Yaz Fentazi and we have played gigs periodically. Gary Crosby came to me for a lesson as a young guy with dreadlocks and we have done various gigs over the years – my 85th at Ronnie Scott’s and my masterclass with some of the Young Warriors stand out as examples. So really these are musicians from throughout my life in jazz.

SR: You are well known for running the Bass Clef music venue in East London in the 1980s. For those people who unfortunately weren’t in London at that time to see it for themselves, can you describe what it was like?

PI: You know I went out to New York many times before I went to live there in the ’50s, working as a musician on the Queen Mary (July 1949 to May 1951) and so had the opportunity to see the incredible jazz scene in NY at that time – all the clubs on 52nd street – the Three Deuces, the Orchid Room, Birdland – and elsewhere with so many musicians – Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Max Roach, Bud Powell, Erroll Garner, Coleman Hawkins – just playing all over the place. I loved that scene and mirrored Bass Clef on those clubs – it was downstairs in the basement – informal, comfortable, with reasonably priced beer – and I also wanted it to have really good food – a vegetarian selection as well. It was all about the music – we had Latin American and Afro Caribbean nights each week – with a crowded dance floor – a fantastic range of live improvisational music from high energy young players and with a lot of US renowned musicians like Kenny Barron and Duke Jordan coming over to play. For ten years it was incredibly popular with crowds snaking around the corner to get in. The area was very rough then but we certainly lifted the area up. At that time, we were the first venue there. With recording studios as well.

SR: There is a quote (attributed to Norman Jay MBE) that described the atmosphere at the Bass Clef and the Tenor Clef as “like being in your bedroom with your friends around”. Did it feel that way to you?

PI: Norman Jay was more accurate than he knew – I had a flat above the club – but few entered there. In another way he was also right – all younger musicians used to call in to hear what was going on, some like the Smiths, Mark Almond and Nigel Kennedy were around the studios or rehearsing. It was, as I said, comfortable and informal – nothing glitzy or interior designed in the way later clubs were. For me it was always the music – and affordable food, beer and music so that many people could enjoy it.

SR: In the early 1950s you studied with one of the most striking educationalists of that decade, the pianist Lennie Tristano. What was particular about Lennie’s teaching and what do you think students of today could learn from it

PI: I have talked and written a lot about Lennie Tristano – in fact I wrote a book about him (Jazz Visions – Lennie Tristano and His Legacy, Equinox, 2007). He was probably the first one that believed that jazz could be taught. He was an amazing character – a blind piano player that commanded great respect and played incredible improvisations. It is the strangest thing to me that he is so unacknowledged now. His patience and thoroughness in learning tunes in all keys particularly stands out in my mind.

SR: As well as Lennie you’ve played with some of the most iconic musicians in jazz, including the likes of Lee Konitz, Billie Holliday, Buddy Rich, Roy Eldridge and Warne Marsh(!) In retrospect, looking back based upon your observations, are there specific qualities that all truly great musicians share, and if so what are they?

PI: Intensity – they commit to their playing 150%.

SR: You’ve continued to remain engaged with the jazz scene through the decades (though you are a painter and author as well)! What do you think about the current generation of players coming out of the conservatoires?

PI: You know we watch various programmes and music competitions. There is such pressure – I admire young musicians who focus on sincerity when there are so many pressures for exhibitionism. You know I played alongside Charlie Parker and a very young Miles Davis in the New York loft scene – at that time Miles was just a young guy – he was so different. While Dizzy and Bird were so fired up he was so relaxed by really interesting play. Sad to see what happened later. I have seen various young musicians coming through – my advice is always try not to worry if you don’t get the success you feel you deserve. It is the music that is important. And remember that those taken up as sellable successful musicians maybe don’t explore what they could do in jazz. And that is sad. I have watched various of the young musicians that cut their teeth in the Bass Clef come through as jazz names – that has been good to see. And we have seen some incredible young musicians coming through, They seldom get side-tracked but keep their sincerity in the music – and their energy. It’s all about the energy!

Interview produced with thanks to Laura Thorne, Marketing Manager at the 606.

LINK: Peter Ind 90th birthday celebration at the 606 Club 

Categories: Features/Interviews

6 replies »

  1. I recall being in the Tenor Clef (the one upstairs), little knowing it was the last night before they closed, courtesy of HMRC. Peter announced that, then: “and we're going to play our asses off!”. They did.

  2. Congratulations on 90 years of music making, teaching, running a great club, encouraging young musicians, managing the Wave record label, philosophical enquiry, painting, hospitality, building projects, collecting ceramics from the Roman London period onward, book writing, friendships, fun and laughter.

  3. Excellent interview Steve – I worked as a recording engineer at Wave, also recording Bass Clef sessions for broadcast. I admired Peter Ind’s immense ability to feature and perform with the best international jazz talent, creating a generation of new audiences for jazz. Congratulations Peter!

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