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Sir John Dankworth

20 September 1927 - 6 February 2010

Sir John Dankworth
Sir John Dankworth

What a friend, what a hero, what a musician, what an inspiration to me and other musicians that aspired to his inspiration.

In my formative years I saved pennies to make the train journey to London from Sussex to hear him play with his big band in the early Ronnie Scott club. I was allowed in because all they served was soft drinks. John had a "hit" on the BBC radio with Galt McDermott's "African Waltz" and Oliver Nelson's "Hoedown".

Young John Dankworth
Young John Dankworth

You must understand that jazz records back then in England, sometimes took two weeks to order. Listening to John and Cleo in the late 50's was a matter of staying glued to the radio. Apart from train journeys from Sussex to London and the radio - that's how I got to hear my favorite music.

You'll have to believe it when I write that to be invited to play with John and Cleo in 1971 at their home for a BBC recording, along with the great guitarist John Williams, induced me to panic.

I was introduced to their children, Alec and Jacqui who were just learning to walk. They are master musicians now.


Sir John Dankworth
& Dame Cleo Laine

I have some great memories of John taking an soprano solo on a piece from "Tarkus" at The Stables. I followed through on piano, and he announced me! ME?

After, that show, I got back on the train and floated.


My prayers go out to Cleo. She was and always will be devoted to John.

Alec and Jaqui, my sympathies and condolences. Hold on to each other. Your Dad will always be with you.


With Great Respect,

Keith Emerson

"TARKUS" (arr. James Pearson)
Sir John Dankworth on Soprano Sax,
Keith Emerson on Piano

with John Dankworth Orchestra
"Live From The Stables" 2002


Last update: 08 Feb 2010
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