This week marks an anniversary: the first jazz gig – indeed, the first any gig – I went to was fifty years ago: 21st October 1971.
I mean, maybe, just maybe, my father had taken me to a gig before, but if he did, I don’t remember.
But fifty years ago, he took and my brother to see Duke Ellington and, of course, his orchestra. I must admit I don’t remember much about it, and what I do remember could be wrong – it was a while ago, after all.
The gig was at the Hammersmith Odeon (and it will always be the Hammersmith Odeon), where I went a very many times after that. We sat in the balcony, looking down on the stage.
In the interval, my father took us to the pub across the road – the Six Bells, it was called (according to the internet), long since demolished to make way for the Hammersmith flyover – and introduced us to members of the band. I’ve no idea who he introduced us to – those I thought he had turn out either to have not been playing or, unfortunately, dead. I can’t imagine what they thought of having two young kids pushed at them to say hello, whoever it was.
(Edit: it has been pointed out the the Six Bells pub was demolished several years before this gig. Still, there was definitely a pub over the road, to which we were taken. Pubs were different back then – they didn’t mind kids getting in without ID…)
Of the music, I have only one clear memory: Paul Gonsalves standing alone in a pool of light playing a a heartfelt solo.
Still, maybe that’s enough.
And the internet can fill in lots of gaps. The show was recorded by the BBC, so the online Ellington discography has a full list of what was played. (I’d assumed the number featuring Paul Gonsalves must have been Diminuendo and Crescendo In Blue. Except that they didn’t play that!) The discography also lists everyone who played that night.
The National Jazz Archive has a viewable copy of programme too.
And an image search shows this picture by the inestimable David Redfern.