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light as a leaf..
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by Tommy Hodges
BRITISH JAZZ ORGANIST ALAN HAVEN, OF WHOM I HAD READ in Crescendo but never heard, lived up to his plaudits while doing a month on the late shift at the Thunderbird lounge.
I didn’t get to talk with him because I’m also working in the wee small hours and invariably had to rush back to my own gig at the Silver Slipper.
Brian Gladwell’s item on the Nitwits in the January issue brings to mind that this famous group of musical comedians is currently the star turn in the ‘Lido de Paris’ extravaganza at the Stardust Hotel. I believe this is their third appearance in Las Vegas and Syd Flood’s moustache is one >of the best known tourist attractions on the Strip!
Las Vegas trombonist Carl Fontana is rejoining the Woody Herman Herd for its European tour and I can’t emphasize enough how important I think it is for all trombonists, British and otherwise, to hear this neglected master of the instrument. If it is at all possible, I beg Pete King or some other far-sighted jazz entrepreneur to spirit him away, if only for a few hours, provide the best rhythm section available and I guarantee a musical experience that will not easily be forgotten, especially for ’bone men. Incidentally, it has been my unfortunate experience to take Carl’s place in a number of bands in Las Vegas and I’m just about getting used to being on the wrong end of the inevitable comparisons . . , talk about being damned by faint praise! Sal Nistico is also slated to rejoin the Herd for the tour.
Oriental revues have long been a rather boring feature of Las Vegas night-life, so it was particularly gratifying when the much-heralded ‘Tokyo by Night’ closed after a few weak performances at the Riviera and the management hastily summoned Sarah Vaughan backed by the excellent Bob James Trio to fill in. Needless to say, the Riviera lounge is swingin’ again.
The Four Freshmen followed the afore-mentioned Alan Haven into the Thunderbird and, along with Sue Raney, maintained their usual high standards. It is not generally known that these young veterans play a wide range of instruments and play them extremely well, too, which makes the job of the accompanying musicians so much easier and more enjoyable. The same can be said for Buddy Greco, currently at the Sands Lounge, who plays too little piano in his otherwise impeccable vocal act. The Sands, incidentally, which is just now recovering from the fantastic business created by the Sinatra-Basie package, intends to top it by bringing in ‘the thin singer’ and Dean Martin together in the Copa Room and concurrently feature Count Basie in the Celebrity Lounge. Conservative estimates are that this triple-threat blockbuster, scheduled for late April to coincide with the hundred-thousand-dollar Tournament of Champions golf classic at the Dessert Inn, will set the Sands back a similar figure . . . per week!
Talking about money, the Tropicana recently enquired as to the price of the Tijuana Brass, a seven-piece mariachi group who have enjoyed some recording success this past year. Answer: twenty-five thousand dollars per week! At least the music is an improvement on beat and rock ’n’ roll . . . who knows, maybe music will come back.
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Solo spot
Alan Stevens
Many of the tv shows that emanate from the Granada studios in Manchester have Derek Hilton as the keyman. Yet he is hardly ever seen on our screens.
But he is well and truly in the picture, for as resident staff pianist for Granada he has played, written and arranged the music for hundreds of programmes, including such ‘hit’ ones as Spot the Tune, Shadow Squad, Junior Criss Cross Quiz, Cinema, People and Places, and The Man in Room 17.
It was sheer chance that gave Derek his present job. The Regional Schools of Music, where Derek was teaching piano, singing, arranging and theory, were asked to provide a pianist for the Press reception to mark the opening of independent television in the North.
Derek played and so impressed Granada executives that he was offered the job as staff pianist.
Sandy-haired Derek, a 13-stone six-footer, was born 37 years ago in Manchester. Whilst I was still in short pants my father forced me to take piano lessons, recalls Derek. (Eventually, I realised he had my best interests at heart, and as soon as I could really play I actually enjoyed practising.)
After six years of lessons Derek found he got more kick out of dance music than the classics. So his father refused to pay for any more lessons.
Then Derek joined a teenage sextet— on accordion. (They already had a
pianist) says Derek. During the next two years the group, which changed its name every fortnight, entered several talent contests and, eventually, won a prize of £1. You could say that Derek's first paid job was worth 3s. 4d.
During service in the Forces he was pianist for an Army concert party. Later, he was transferred to Stars in Battle-dress which at that time included Terry-Thomas and Harry Secombe.
Upon demob, he turned pro. and played with palais bands in Manchester and Birmingham before trying his luck in London. Times were hard—he even slept out on the Thames embankment. Later, he returned to Birmingham and then for several years he played in hotel bands at Torquay, Redcar, Aberdeen, Jersey and Newquay.
Finally, he decided to settle down with his family in Manchester and find a settled occupation. Musical prospects were grim, so he took a job as a shop assistant until he became a music teacher.
More recently, he had his own trio at Mr. Smith’s, one of Manchester’s newest night-clubs, but pressure of TV work forced him to quit the cabaret world.
Currently, he is busy writing music for forthcoming TV shows and leading his own sextet who are backing singer Susan Maugham.
Derek is modest and softly-spoken, the sort of guy you would expect to be often seen and seldom heard. But, despite his TV commitments, Derek is very seldom seen but definitely often heard.
Above is the Carlton ‘BIG BEAT’ one of the many outfits inspired by top drum men.
See them at your local music store or write for full colour Carlton Drum brochure to:—
You’ll not only get a BETTER SOUND—but a NEW ‘PACK AWAY’ time-saving feature with Carlton Outfits
screwless-press-down height adjustment feature for rapid ‘Set-up & Take-down’ of stands, spurs and cymbal holders.
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