Pages 14-15 of Crescendo, November 1962, Vol.1, No.4. Page 14 features an article in which Steve Race bemoans the mania for ranking musicians by ability in polls in the music press. Page 15 is given over to an advert for Dallas musical instruments.
|Catalogue Reference Number|
|Creator||Tony Brown [ed], Steve Race|
|Title or Caption||A slight case of publicity.|
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As far as Iâm concerned the whole poll idea is cockeyed, and the sooner our jazz periodicals own up to the fact and stop feeding them to their readers the better. Or would they like Crescendo (which I trust has no poll plans) to retaliate, and run a periodicals poll ? We might discover that Melody Maker is only half as good as The Nursing Mirror.
Having thrown around so many poll-winning names in the first part of this article, I would be less than fair if I didnât throw around at this point a few more that ought to figure in the polls but donât. Next time the jazz fans of this country are casting around for ideas in the flute or alto poll, how about Roy Willox, for one ?
Another extraordinary omission: with so many obscure (and often inaudible) bass players hitting the poll heights, why does no-one seem to remember Frank Clarke ? As a jazz trombonist Gib Wallace could eat many of the pump players who pepper the polls. There are so many musicians who play great, unsung jazzâTerry Walsh, Dick Katz, Derek Collins, Joe Mudele.
Even in the Combo section one finds omissions, for example, the EmCee Five, whose recent EP was in my view one of the best small group records of its year. But though the EmCee Five makes records it doesnât make headlines; and because itâs a provincial group one seldom if ever hears it on the national radio networks.
And so the polls go on, year after year, making the big names bigger and the small names smaller. This year Jet Harris is the greatest living guitarist: next yearâwho knows ?âit may be Segoviaâs turn.
A slight case of publicity
by STEVE RACE
Bobby Pratt: half as good as Shake Keene ?
A FEW years after the war 1 went to Bedford to appear at a jazz club. The meeting took place in the upstairs room of a pub, and having arrived early I went into the bar for a drink first.
The girl behind the counter was talking to a couple of local people. âWeâve got a guest artist upstairs tonightâ, she told them. âHeâs the third best pianist in Britain.â
Very gratifying. I almost choked over my Cydrax. But it puzzled me, all the same. The third best pianist ? Who were the other two ? Rawitz and Landauer ? Dennis Matthews and
Semprini ? Kay Cavendish and
Moiseiwitch ? What made her say I was the 3rd best, rather than the 25th best, or for that matter the 3,000th best ?
Then I tumbled to it: the little darling had been reading the musical press. I had recently been voted third in a jazz magazine poll, and that automatically made me the third best pianist in the country.
I suppose only a musician knows how crazy this poll business is. Take Freddie Ballerini. He played excellent jazz violin for years, but suddenly one day out of the blue he became âthe best jazz violinist in Britain.â Maybe he did a bit of extra practice. Freddie still plays
excellent jazz, Iâm sure, but he wasnât mentioned in this yearâs poll. Better get out that Grappelly Tutor, Freddie.
By 1962 poll reckoning, youâll be interested to learn, George Melly is the second best singer in the country. But Bobby Pratt is only half as good as Shake Keene. Ben Weedon is twice as good as Judd Proctor, but only half as good as Diz Disley.
If you prefer to take percentages, rather than placings, as an indication of talent, you learn that Tubby Hayes is 60 times better on tenor than he is on alto, which is interesting when you reflect that on record not one jazz fan in a hundred could tell you which instrument he was playing.
The truth is simple, of course, and hardly needs saying in such a magazine as this: it depends on the amount of publicity you have received over the year. Roy Plummer proved that when he was voted two places lower than Tommy Steele, whose guitar solos he had ghosted throughout Tommyâs rise to fame.
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