The Roaring 20s: A Tribute to Keith Nichols, 25th September 2021

Earlier this year the global traditional jazz community suffered a sudden and incalculable loss when the great multi-instrumentalist, arranger and historian Keith Nichols died of Covid-19, at the age of only 75. For decades Keith had been one of the world’s foremost practitioners, teachers, evengelists, and guiding gurus of all things pertaining to the older forms of Jazz, from Ragtime to Swing. As well as a stellar playing career (including working with Bing Crosby) he’d also been responsible for nurturing several generations of younger musicians around the globe, ushering us towards the good stuff, and establishing the International Jazz Party as a kind of symposium where everyone could get together. I’m incredibly lucky to be able number myself among those fortunate few who had the chance to learn from the great man first hand; on and off stage and also in the little attic studio of his 1930s house in East London. As well as being a professor of Jazz history and an elite-level player of several instuments, Keith was also a great showman and hilariously funny raconteur, whose appearance would immediately have an audience sitting up straight and, usually, in stitches.

Why am I writing about Keith, today of all days? Well, because in a couple of weeks there is a fantastic Jazz Repertory Co. concert taking place at Cadogan Hall in London (sorry, London-centric post, I know) celebrating the high points of 1920s Jazz, which Keith was heavily involved in planning and curating. Despite his tragic passing, the concert is still going ahead – but will now form a tribute to his memory, with longstanding colleagues and collaborators (Enrico Tomasso, Alistair Allan, Richard Pite, Spats Langham and many others) being joined by a number of Keith’s former protégés including Michael McQuaid and David Horniblow. It’s a great honour to have been offered the drum chair alongside these modern titans of the music, and I’m full of excitement at the prospect of doing my very best to honour all our Heroes in performing this wonderful music we love – most of all dear old Keith, to whom I owe so much.

So, British readers – join us! London’s Cadogan Hall on Saturday 25th September. It’s going to be a terrific evening of the hottest jazz imaginable – in Keith’s own words, ‘It’ll be syncopation gone mad!’

Tickets can be found here

There’s also an article in London Jazz News giving much more detail all about the concert, which you can read here

And just seeing as I’ve talked about him so much, for those of you who never saw the man, here’s a bit of classic Keith.