Jazz Tributes to Bob Blizzard

Jazz needs strong and persuasive advocates in the right places who can make a difference, and former MP Bob Blizzard, who died from cancer on 5 May 2022 at the age of 71 was a genuine fan and supporter and an effective presence. He was also a friend and supporter of LJN, and we as a team will always be grateful for his encouragement, support and understanding. We asked friends in the UK jazz community to remember him and to pay tribute to a genuinely benign influence on our scene. Our sincerest sympathies to Jane:

Bob Blizzard at a Parliamentary Jazz Awards ceremony.
Photo credit Roger Thomas

Darius & Cathy Brubeck: Bob Blizzard became a friend very soon after we settled in the UK. He and Jane showed up at our gigs and through him we met some significant jazz supporters and were also invited to APPJAG awards events. He was fun to be with and always enthusiastic and helpful. Bob invited The Darius Brubeck Quartet to participate in the major ‘Jazz for Labour’ concert that kicked off the 2015 general election campaign and this concert brought together an effervescent mix of artists, politicians and activists, bridging generations with young and old pros in all these fields and presenting an artistic and national diversity one wouldn’t normally see on the same stage. This was Bob Blizzard’s vision of a better Britain come to life. The audience was hyped but also reflective and the scene backstage at the Barbican was just as engaging as the show out front. It isn’t easy to define ‘the jazz community’ but events like ‘Jazz for Labour’ reveal it exists, and it is with real sadness that we acknowledge Bob’s passing. He was delightfully visionary, and we are very fortunate to have known him.

Ian Shaw: To be in the company of the charismatic, passionate and hugely loved Bob Blizzard was, for many, an inspiration. I was lucky to meet Bob, through the musician, painter and jazz promoter Gill Alexander. Her gig at her barn on the Norfolk/Suffolk border was a gift to musicians. It was further enhanced by Bob’s unfailing support. Whether talking music – or the ever-complex world of political will (and the subsequent lack of it), spending time with The Blizz has been one of those things that, for me – making a life as a musician and a lifelong Labour supporter – was a joy.

Bob was a pioneer. He was the first Labour MP elected to serve his beloved Waveney. Most of our friends in jazz knew that his passion extended to footy, animal welfare, renewable energies – the list is long – and Bob’s commitment to the APPGs is legendary. His role in The Parliamentary Jazz Awards was pivotal.

My condolences go to his family, his many friends from the many Bobworlds – and his brilliant soul-mate and life-partner for fifteen years, the animal welfare and environmental campaigner, Dr Jane Evans.

‘I have learnt that all you give is all you get’ is a lyric from ‘Here’s To Life’ and was a Blizz fave. 

Well, Bob. You certainly gave it all you got. And you made a difference. And that’s what politics can offer, in good hands. You cared. Our funny old world of jazz constituents was richer for your care and I will miss you hugely. 

For Jane. With all my love, Ian Shaw.

John Etheridge: I first met Bob Blizzard ( then an MP) at the Parliamentary Jazz Awards in the mid noughties . He was so enthusiastic and upbeat about music and of course pioneered (with Ken Clarke and John Prescott) that particular ceremony . I met him at many gigs in the East Anglia region and in London .I remember one event at Gill Alexander’s Jazz Angles (held in her converted barn) where as well as digging the music he was ‘whipping “ the Labour MPs by text -enjoying both activities in typical Bob manner .

Another memory was him introducing the Zappatistas at the Pizza Express, during the Phone Hacking scandal ,when he perceptively commented on how the spooky entity emerging from underground on the Hot Rats’ cover resembled Rebekkah Brooks ( then at the heart of the controversy ).It’s actually quite close!

He was a guiding light at the Lowestoft Festival . He booked us with the Soft Machine and this year he arranged for me to play in the Festival with Chris Garrick .In the last few years he seemed increasingly unwell ,but in his inimitable way he remained cheerful and positive . When I last spoke to him ( over the Festival booking) ,he even intimated, without any self-pity ,that he might not be there to see us perform . When I think of him ,I’m remembering someone of tremendous energy , affability and boundless enthusiasm for everything he did , great company .A man who made you feel better about life .’

Christine Allen: Bob and I met when Bob was an MP and Secretary of APPJAG – the All-Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group. We rarely discussed politics although I expect many of our opinions were very similar. His love of jazz led him to create the prestigious Parliamentary Jazz Awards which in its day was a great highlight of the jazz year held on the terrace at the Palace of Westminster. With his clear enthusiasm for jazz and organisational ability, I, as trustee, was delighted to see him take the chair of Jazz Services. From 2010-2013 he restructured the organisation, kept meetings to the point, tried to modernise. Later as co-trustee of the National Youth Jazz Collective he led the development board organising fundraising events and assisting me with the development of our website. Bob was a do-er who got stuff done and was very generous with his time. Bob was also a very compassionate person who loved nature and had great respect for the other creatures with whom he shared this planet. I for one will miss him greatly. My thoughts are with his family and especially his partner Jane who took such great care of him right to the end.

Steve Rubie: I first met Bob in the early 2000’s and was immediately struck by both his enthusiasm for and knowledge of Jazz in all it’s forms. A genuinely kind and decent man I got to know him well and it was always a pleasure to sit and talk to him about his day job (we shared much in the way of political ideals, he was one of the few labour MP’s to resign from government and vote against the Iraq war), his travels in South America (he loved both the countries of South America and their music) and of course jazz in all it’s forms. Passionate about his many interests, from animal welfare to local constituency issues I always looked forward to our meetings. A founder of the Parliamentary Jazz Awards (of which the 606 Club was honoured to win Best venue in it’s early years) Bob’s enthusiasm and support for the Club was hugely appreciated and warmly given. Sadly, after Bob lost his seat we saw less of him, but kept in touch and as it was always a joy to see him on the increasingly rare occasions he made it to London. A man of warmth, caring and integrity he will be greatly missed.

LINKS: Times obituary

Jazzwise obituary

NYJC Fundraiser on 24 May – Bob was a trustee and supporter

Bob Blizzard, born 31 May 1950. Died May 5, 2022.

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