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Back to Crescendo 1962 July



Pages 16-17 of Crescendo, July 1962, Vol.1, No.1, featuring an interview with bandleader Jack Parnell.

Image Details

Catalogue Reference Number
Creator Tony Brown [ed]
Date Made 1962
Item Format Journal
Title or Caption I'm really only a mildly frustrated drummer.

This text has been generated by computer from the image and may contain typographical and/or grammatical errors.

Above: the trumpets (L to R): Basil Jones, Tommy McQuater, Bobby Pratt, Derrick Abbott; trombones—Jackie Armstrong, Maurice Pratt, Jimmy Wilson and—depping for Don Lusher—Bill Geldard.
Below: Parnell, Dave Goldberg, Bill Le Sage on vibes and Lennie Bush.
“Any musician worth his salt will see the moral here. Nerves are natural. The keyed-up feeling produces its own result.”
Being keyed up is an inevitable part of playing for television anyway. For a Saturday show, final decisions on musical content are often made as late as Thursday evening. Arrangers burn the midnight oil, working against the clock.
Musicians are expected to be note perfect on strange scores by the second run-through.
And for All That Jazz they have to jump and sight-read at one and the same time. The rhythmic pulse, fortunately, is laid down by Parnell himself on drums, Norman Stenfalt at the piano, Dave Goldberg on guitar and Lennie Bush on bass. continued overleaf
concludes Jack Parnell, surveying current activities
Jack Parnell (above) dons “cans" to conduct for TV and welcomes All That Jazz for the chance of drumming with his band.
His pride—the woodwind and sax team (below), with, left to right, Bob Adams, Douggie Robinson, Bob Bums, Frank Reidy and Phil Goody.
A FAMOUS British bandleader once listened to a Billy May recording. ^ He shook his head sadly. “We could never match that. But let’s be realistic. Fabulous brass—but he’s using the best lead trumpet players in the world. If I could use four Kenny Bakers, my section would give them a run for their money. Just the same, it’s just a studio band. He could never persuade them to tour.”
The logic is irrefutable. And the same logic applies to Jack Parnell’s orchestra, which challenges critical ears on a wide variety of TV music chores.
The personnel varies slightly from session to session, the quality of that personnel remains unchanged. We looked in for an All That Jazz run-through. Trumpets: Tommy McQuater, Derrick Abbott, Bobby Pratt and Basil Jones—all first-class leads in their own right and all, to borrow a phrase, concentrating on their freelance activities in Town.
The trumpets share the lead. Don Lusher normally plays lead trombone. He was on holiday.
But there to make the number up was the solid Bill Geldard and looking along the trombone line one noted with confidence the presence of Jimmy Wilson, Maurice Pratt and Jackie Armstrong.
“Jackie,” says Parnell with blatant relish, “is the best bass trombonist in • the business. The arrangers love him.” f Jackie, one gathers, can belt out the pedal notes. “He could lead from the t bottom,” adds Jack. “Nelson Riddle scores make great use of the bass trombone and the sound is highly popular among the arranging fraternity.”
The thought occurs that Jackie Armstrong, a nifty jazz soloist in the immediate post-war years, seemed at one point to sink without a trace.
“He had dental trouble,” fills in Parnell. “It affected his embouchure and confidence for a time. But now . . .”
Most of the Parnell pride, however, is centered in his reeds. Bob Burns, Douggie Robinson, Frank Reidy, Bob Adams and Phil Goody are all tremendously experienced saxophonists. Yet their strength in the Parnell organisation rests on their doubling prowess. Phil is available on flute and clarinet, besides baritone. Frank Reidy lays down his * tenor to pick up oboe, clarinet, bass £ clarinet or contra-bass clarinet as the occasion demands—a fantastic tax on J embouchure. Douggie Robinson plays flute, as well as clarinet and alto. Bob Burns plays lead alto and soprano as well as a great deal of clarinet. Second tenor man Bob Adams is equally deft on clarinet and bass clarinet.
“It’s a fine woodwind team by any standards,” says Parnell. “They’re used as a section all over the place. A couple play for the LSO and three of them are in the Symphonia, I believe. And as for Frank Reidy’s contra-bass clarinet, he’s one of the only two in the whole of the country.”
As the occasion demands, we said. Very frequently it does. The Parnell
band recently completed a TV series called All Kinds Of Music. A three-hour band call had to embrace Tchaikovsky, ballet, operatic excerpts—as well as lighter items.
“Versatility, lack of rehearsal time, unfamiliarity with classical pieces aren’t alibi material,” comments one Parnell musician. “The Mozart lover isn’t thinking in terms of a passable performance from musicians better versed in the jazz or big band idioms. Whatever we play has to be up to accepted standards. A fair proportion of umpteen million viewers are familiar with whatever we tackle.”
Jack Parnell finds his own position just as exacting. It might fairly be said that he accepted the job without realising fully what it entailed. After the first couple of sessions, he was virtually in despair.
“I used to go home and pray—yes, literally. There was so much that I didn’t know and there was never enough time to sort things out. I didn’t have the musical knowledge. In desperation, I went to my old RAF bandmaster, George Malcolm, and pleaded with him to teach me. Conducting at first but then I started studying piano again. I hadn’t touched it since I was eleven.
“George is a wonderful musician. He plays organ and harpsichord, composes. Frighteningly brilliant. I’d always been interested in all sorts of music. There’s quite a musical tradition in the Parnell family. I discovered Bach. Perfect music.
“I was learning like mad. Odd things. George told me how nervous he was during a performance. So full of selfdoubts that practically every time, he felt that he just couldn’t go on, his playing seemed so bad. One day, he was doing a recital on the Third programme and the misery didn’t happen. He found himself listening to what he was playing, enjoying it.
“He was so tickled that he ’phoned a musician friend and asked for his opinion. ‘To be perfectly frank,’ said the friend. ‘I’ve never heard your playing so dull and lifeless.’
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