TRIBUTE: Brian Peerless (1939-2018)

Brian Peerless at Wavendon in 2013
Photo credit: Peter Vacher
Peter Vacher writes:

The sudden death of Brian Peerless shocked and saddened his many friends and associates in the UK jazz world and beyond. Brian was a constant presence on the wider jazz scene, his friendships cemented over many years, many first prompted by his time as one of the weekend team at Dobell’s, the legendary jazz record shop on London’s Charing X Road, and then furthered as he began to organise tours for visiting US mainstream musicians.

Brian organised tours, helped jazz clubs and festivals create programmes and saw to it that all the necessary paperwork for visiting stars was safely and quietly dealt with. Although fully committed to his work as a lecturer and administrator at the University of Middlesex, Brian found time to set up a circuit of playing locations and thus was able to encourage players like Kenny Davern, Warren Vache and, most notably, Scott Hamilton to spend extended periods in the UK.

Brian became an adviser to the Brecon Jazz Festival and would regularly put together special groups for the festival involving US stars like Davern, Ken Peplowski, Marty Grosz, John Bunch and Jake Hanna, always teaming them with the finest UK musicians. Over the years, Brian must have arranged literally hundreds of gigs for these US visitors and their British companions

He also recruited the US visitors for Tom Baron’s Blackpool Jazz Parties and when Tom decided to pull back, Brian with Ann and Jerry Browns created the Norwich Jazz Parties, carrying both the financial and programming responsibility and incidentally, allowing a whole array of great artists to appear before British audiences. I can recall the presence of Annie Ross with pianist Tardo Hammer in support one year and rare appearances by the great tenor-saxophonist Houston Person and trumpeter Joe Wilder. When the club scene here dwindled and it was no longer possible to sustain extended tours, Brian concentrated on arranging bookings for Hamilton, now resident himself in Europe, and was also instrumental in arranging the regular visits of the popular pianist Rosanno Sportiello.

Brian’s principal interests might be best described as pre-bop mainstream, his youthful tastes forged by the Chicago style and Condon-ite schools. He knew their recordings inside and out and was a mine of information on all aspects of their music and much else. In his younger years he played drums and had a band for a while with another friend, the late saxophonist Clive Pryke. I never heard him play but I can recall, as many others will, that his enthusiasm for jazz and its practitioners never dimmed.

Ever helpful, Brian was an engaging presence, always upbeat, a cheerful companion and a generous friend. He knew everyone and everyone knew him. His death aged 79 on Friday, November 16 at his new home in Daventry will leave a huge hole in our wider jazz world. Our sympathies go out to his wife Valerie.

Brian Peerless’ funeral will be held in Rugby on Tuesday 11 December 2018. More details on request.

Categories: News

2 replies »

  1. Very sad indeed. Brian was a lovely man, modest and easy going who made a great contribution to the jazz scene. Full of anecdotes and a deep knowledge of jazz, it was always a pleasure to see him, chat and have a drink, in times past at The Avenue (round from Dobells), The Two Brewers in Monmouth Street and at our annual reunions when members of the West End jazz fraternity would meet. He’ll be sorely missed.

  2. I've only just heard about Brian's death and am very saddened. Your obituary certainly rings true with me. My time with Brian was spent mainly at the Norwich Jazz Parties, where I was the sound engineer, though we’d met many times before that at Jazz Caravan events in Cambridge. He was a warm and understanding man with a keen appreciation of his musician friends and the characters that make up the mainstream jazz scene. He surely played an important part in the UK jazz world, and will be remembered for his generosity and sense of humour. RIP Brian!

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