We are sad to hear of the death yesterday of alto saxophonist Roy Willox at the age of 90. Roy was involved in countless studio and big band sessions. Colleagues remember his dry humour, his liking for musical order, but also his qualities as jazz improviser.
His Discogs entry (LINK) extends to no fewer than 156 pages. Yes, that says a hundred and fifty-six pages.
He was known in UK big band circles by the nickname which trumpet hero Derek Watkins invented for him:
I have one abiding personal musical memory: I don’t think I ever knew how a sax section could sound from within, until the day that Roy came and sat in for a gig with us in the Stan Reynolds Band in Ealing/Perivale. He was, as ever, playing lead alto and had come to support Stan, his old colleague from the Ted Heath band. The transformation he affected on us from having that strong presence leading, the way we were all encouraged/forced to join him, to play the lines he was playing. It was a lesson, it was a lift to our playing and to our spirits. I can still feel it, and remain grateful and immensely privileged to been, just once, in a sax section led by Roy Willox.
The following biography (unchecked) is from the Henry Bebop site (LINK- also has discography)
Roy Willox was born into a musical family in Welwyn, Hertfordshire in 1929. He had a brief spell with Johnny Claes in 1945 and then with other name bands before joining Ted Heath from September, 1950 through to August 1955 and about this time he worked in the jazz clubs in a group with Keith Christie. Work with Jack Parnell and other name bands followed with extensive freelance work including TV, radio and the theatre. On the jazz scene he was in Harry South’s band during the 1960s and 1970s and returned to the Heath band for dates in the 1960s and 1970s.
He is a fluent player of all the saxophones as well as clarinet and flute. His main instrument is alto sax where his sound and style has been descibed as “similar to Lee Konitz”. He was in demand through the 1960s for many jazz big band dates, notably with Harry South and Tubby Hayes.
He played throughout the 1990s and 2000s, first with The Ted Heath Band, (then led by Don Lusher), and in Lusher’s own big band until it’s last concert in 2007. He played in the Ted Heath bands farewell concert at the Royal Festival Hall, London in 2000.