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As Jazz At The Bell gradually became more popular, the landlord, the late Tom Young, handed over the organisation of jazz presentations to Brian Benton a local musician and jazz fan.
I discovered The Bell and volunteered to be Brian's assistant and we later put together a small committee and called ourselves "Herts Jazz". The Club opened every Sunday evening.
We introduced Club membership, door admission, ticket sales, a newsletter, live recordings and our aim was to encourage a discerning and listening audience.
The Bell soon acquired the reputation as a major out-
We booked not only the greats of British modern jazz –Tubby Hayes, Ronnie Scott, Peter King, Dick Morrissey. Stan Tracey, Tony Coe, Jimmy Skidmore, Alan Skidmore, Bill le Sage, Stan Robinson, Roy Budd and many many more – but also many visiting American artists.
So, this tiny club in North Hertfordshire played host to such world famous names
as : Sonny Stitt, Al Cohn, James Moody, Mark Murphy, Eddie “ Lockjaw “ Davis, Jimmy
Witherspoon, Art Farmer, Joe Locke, Tal Farlow, Herb Geller, Bill Perkins, Charles
McPherson, Clifford Jarvis, Jean Toussaint, Benny Golson and many many others. It
was truly amazing. They all provided us with unforgettable evenings of great jazz
The third part of our mission statement was to promote the amazing emerging young British jazz musicians a lot of whom had emerged from the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, Loose Tubes etc. We were the among the very first to showcase such players as :Clark Tracey, Guy Barker, Mark Nightingale, Tommy Smith, Gerard Presencer, Alan Barnes, David Newton, Wayne Batchelor, Django Bates, Chris Hunter, Dave O’Higgins, Cleveland Watkiss, the Arguelles Brothers etc etc etc .
We went from strength to strength and had a large membership. Our membership expanded due to our policy of booking a wide range of big bands, small groups, trios and singers. Brian also booked bands like Paz, Blind Alley, Cayenne etc that appealed to some of our regulars but also to a large set of younger members we had acquired due to this policy.
We also started up other Jazz clubs in Hertfordshire -
Brian worked hard to book the best players and set standards. We started on time, he did the announcements, the interval and the end of the evening were strictly adhered to. We aimed to present jazz in a club atmosphere.
They say all good things come to an end and we were very sad when, in the mid 80's,
we had to move from the legendary Bell -
We moved to The Fountain in Welwyn Garden City for a few years but in 1991 were invited to hold our weekly Sunday sessions at the Panshanger Golf Complex, just outside WGC. The venue was much smarter with air conditioning and was more spacious (although some of us secretly preferred the atmosphere at The Bell).
I took over the booking of the musicians at Panshanger and Watford for a few years
and we always aimed to present known names mixed with visiting overseas stars and
new British talent. The long-
Clark Tracey stepped up to the plate in 2009 to revive the club. Since moving to Campus West in 2010, membership and attendances have increased significantly as we continue the club's tradition of showcasing the best in British jazz.
Extract from an article by Tony May first published in Feb 2010
It all started... ...back in the late sixties when the landlord of The Bell in Codicote
...Not long afterwards the distinguished tenor saxophonist Jimmy Skidmore moved to Codicote and got involved in the jazz there and formed a regular band. Jimmy was a household name in the jazz world as he had played in the world famous Humphrey Lyttelton Band and was able to attract many famous players to play with him at The Bell. Great luck for the jazz fans of Hertfordshire! Jim's Quartet included pianist Ian Pearce and Peter Blannin, double bass, both of whom played at our venues ever since.
The Herts Jazz story
|Herts Jazz Film Festival 2016|