Great Brit Jazz bassist Coleridge Goode dies aged 100

The cult of the bandleader is so strong in jazz that sidemen inevitably become footnotes. But Jamaican double bassist Coleridge George Emerson Goode, who has passed away just a month short of his 101st birthday, is worthy of a headline by dint of a career that is one of the most eventful in post-war British and European jazz. He is the link between the legendary continental swing masters Stephané Grappelli and Django Reinhardt and West Indian innovator Joe Harriott, and his contribution to the music of the latter resonates to this day in the work of many contemporary artists who pride themselves on originality and individuality.

Goode’s rich, full tone, flawless timekeeping, effective swing and, above all, his ability to supply the appropriate nuance and flourish to the more challenging abstractions of a piece, particularly Harriott’s, assure his place in history. The son of one of the key champions of classical music in Jamaica, Goode was weaned on European composers but fell under the spell of big band music when studying at Glasgow University in the 1930s. He forwent his cello for a double bass and rapidly made his way on the London jazz scene from the 1940s onwards, playing with the likes of Johnny Claes, Dick Katz, Lauderic Caton, Ray Ellington and George Shearing before joining Harriott’s band in the late 1950s. Goode’s performance on Freeform, a key album in the evolution of modern jazz towards the avant-garde is superb, and his subsequent work with another seminal figure in British jazz, composer and pianist Michael Garrick, in the 1960s and 70s is also memorable.

Goode carried on gigging regularly thereafter and in the early noughties he was still playing a weekly jam session at the King’s Head in Crouch End with fellow stalwarts Laurie Morgan and Iggy Quail. By that time he was approaching 90 years old. Goode’s unstinting dedication to jazz was matched only by an enormously gracious and generous spirit, which endeared him to musicians who came into his orbit. Gary Crosby considered him a mentor while countless other young players valued him for the many pearls of wisdom he imparted. The 100th birthday celebration that Crosby staged for Goode at last year’s London Jazz Festival was a jumpingly joyous affair whose cast of contributors – from Elaine Delmar to Omar Puente via Denys Baptiste – said much about the vast span of Goode’s career and the richness of his legacy. He was an accompanist who wholly warranted the spotlight.


– Kevin Le Gendre    

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