We are sad to hear of the passing of drummer Trevor Tomkins at the age of 81. In recent years he has been an inspiring, enlivening teacher for generations of jazz musicians at Guildhall School, and the instigator/ promoter of one of the weekly musician-led gigs which are a cornerstone of the London scene, at various venues in the Isleworth area.
His playing career is well summarised in the biography below. Sympathies to family, friends and Guildhall colleagues and students past and present. Tribute to follow.
LINK: Biography of Trevor Tomkins
I am glad to report an update to the biography linked above, which is that there is now a double-CD recording of Henry Lowther’s Quaternity, Never Never Land, featuring Tomkins on drums, available from the Jazz in Britain label.
Trevor was a genuine inspiration and one of the most supportive musicians on the planet. I first met him at Wavendon in 1984 as a newby tutor and he gave me huge support. He became a bedrock of the Guildhall jazz course, teaching and inspiring several generations of great players from a wealth of experience and with deep thought and lively humour. He was always there for anyone whe needed him and will be hugely missed. I hope he’s mixing it up with the best of them in heaven.
A great drummer and teacher who helped so many young drummers develop their skills and their careers, Trevor had an endless fund of jokes and stories which he readily shared with his fellow musicians.
Sad to hear about the passing of Trevor, he was a tasty drummer, not in the powerhouse way of a Ginger Baker or John Marshall, but solid. I used to see him every now again playing in the pubs of Isleworth with the likes of Jeff Clyne, Art Themen & Henry Lowther.
Art Themen: Much has and will be written about Trevor‘s inspirational teaching ability, musicality and incomparable CV. Perhaps less is known about his indefatigable energy in keeping jazz alive in West London. He took over the reins from Phil Bates in Isleworth, and, despite many setbacks continued his search for a suitable venue. He finally succeeded in putting the Milford Arms on the map, where the landlady Natalie is very much on our side. The gig has become an important part of the jazz calendar and, of course in his memory, the music will continue.
Although this is a very sad time it would not be inappropriate, given Trevor’s irrepressible sense of humour, to introduce a note of levity: I was honoured to be his friend and musical compadre for many decades, in particular as part of Michael Garrick’s quintet which included Norma Winstone, Dave Green and Henry Lowther – ‘The old firm’. We all had nicknames, and Trevor, whose task was to cram as many of us as possible plus drums and bass into his minivan, assumed the moniker of a fictional long-distance lorry driver: ‘Nobby Headlights’.
I’m also mindful of performing a pious work with a full choir singing the rather devout text: “Behold a Pale Horse”. Knowing what was coming, we had great difficulty controlling ourselves on stage as, with almost inevitable predictability, Trevor behind the choir would silently mouth the words: “Behold a Pale Ale!”
May you long flam and paradiddle up there Trevor. RIP.
Very sad news. Trevor was a significant musician in British jazz, and a major presence in music education. He taught not only generations of drummers (including me) but imparted rhythmic wisdom to other instrumentalists too. Also one of those indomitable people who kept working for longer than really seemed possible, in spite of illness.
Mike Westbrook recalls the time when Trevor was the first drummer in his Brass Band in this appreciation on Westbrookjazz. https://www.westbrookjazz.co.uk/smithsboard/Sept2022.shtml
I have so many happy memories of the weekly gigs at The Red Lion in Isleworth that he both organised and played on and which featured the cream of the London jazz scene. I invariably went home from those gigs on the highest of highs with any lingering Monday blues completely swept aside. He’ll be sorely missed.
Trevor let me play on his kit with the Richmond Youth Big Band when I was a young fella at the Parkshot Centre circa 1986 – he was so generous and friendly and gave some great drumming advice. His kit/cymbals sounded brilliant too.
Trevor taught the drums in my school in the 90’s for a short period and during that time, he inspired so many pupils to want to become musicians when they left.