John Jack – 1933-2017

John Jack was one of those figures who seem to have always been on the London jazz scene, and it's hard to imagine it without him. Right up to his death he was a regular, with long-standing partner, Shirley (pictured above left with John, middle, and Jack Docherty, right), at the Vortex, where a tribute was recently given to him. Many of his close friends and colleagues attended to celebrate his life and contribution to the music, and John's friend of many years, Mike Westbrook, gave a solo piano performance dedicated to him. In response, John addressed the gathering, showing he had not lost any of his wit and sharpness, but also his warmth towards the people and the music in which he had spent his life.

Born on 25 May 1933 in Barnes, his interest in music came from his mother, an occasional singer in nightclub bands, and he bought his first 78s around 1947/8 from Shepherds Bush Market – Jelly Roll Morton's 'Dr.Jazz' and Pinetop Smith's 'Jumpsteady Blues' on Brunswick. John did National Service in the Army before embarking upon what might be described as a 'bohemian' existence in the 1950s. He painted, wrote, played in a skiffle group, trombone in a trad band (his regard for Bunk Johnson extended throughout his life), and travelled, at one point living in Paris and mixing with Beats such as Allen Ginsberg.

He worked as a salesman for several jazz labels in the late 1950s/early 60s: Colin Pomeroy's Jazz Collector, Emil Shallit's Melodisc, Doug Dobell's 77 Records and Carlo Krahmer's Esquire, and at Dobells Jazz Shop in London. Then came a turning point in British jazz when Ronnie Scott opened his new club in Frith Street, and John was asked by Pete King to run the Old Place in Gerrard Street, putting on the new generation of improvisers.

"It was a stroke of great fortune," he later recalled. "Pete said: 'Here John, you've got a club. You look after it. You get on with it. Here are the keys. Do what you want with it'. And they paid the rent and we got on with it. Not many people get that kind of luck."

He had it for its last 18 months, often assisted by his brother Roger, and it saw some of the most exciting players to come out of the jazz scene, including the South Africans who were based in London and with whom he forged a strong and lasting relationship, especially Dudu Pukwana, Harry Miller and his wife, Hazel. From that emerged the Jazz Centre Society, with a committee which initially included John, Charles Fox, Brian Blain and John Fordham. At first based at the 100 Club, it expanded to the Country Club and other venues. He also wrote a regular jazz column for Sounds.

Soon after, John formed Cadillac Music, starting with a Mike Westbrook release in 1973, on, as he described it, "the day VAT broke out" and it soon expanded to include the distribution of numerous independent labels. In the mid 1970s he worked from the basement of Collets Jazz Shop (later Ray's) in Shaftesbury Avenue, and Cadillac releases included those by George Lewis, Bruce Turner, Stan Tracey, the Christie Brothers Stompers, Bobby Wellins, Dudu Pukwana, Mike Osborne, Joe Harriott, Trevor Watts' Moiré Music, Ken Colyer & the Crane River Jazz Band, The Jazz Doctors (Billy Bang & Frank Lowe) and David Murray; it reflected John's wide appreciation of jazz styles, the constant factors for John being "improvisation, honest expression of emotion and creativity". Visitors to the basement ranged from Willem Breuker to Prince Buster, and although he was known for his explosive outbursts, it disguised John's generous and hospitable nature.

He finally wound down the distribution side in 2009 but kept Cadillac going. In his final few moments he was with Hazel Miller and friend/associate Mike Gavin listening to, appropriately, Bunk Johnson's 'A Closer Walk With Thee'. John joined Bunk on Thursday 7 September.

– Matthew Wright

Photo courtesy Mike Gavin

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website

If you do not change browser settings, you consent to continue. Learn more

I understand

Breaking News

Hugh Masekela (04/04/1939 – 23/01/2018)

Hugh Masekela (04/04/1939 – 23/01/2018)

As South Africa continues its development in the post-apartheid era...

Read More.....
South Coast Jazz Festival Crests The Big Wave

South Coast Jazz Festival Crests The Big…

  Now in its fourth year, the South Coast Jazz Festival...

Read More.....
Julian Lage brings Appalachian jazz apocalypse to Pizza Express

Julian Lage brings Appalachian jazz apoc…

Perhaps it's a canny coincidence that's there's a tune on...

Read More.....
Marlene Verplanck 1933-2018

Marlene Verplanck 1933-2018

  On stage, Marlene Verplanck stood quite still, diminutive and always...

Read More.....
Sons of Kemet burn at New York’s Winter Jazzfest

Sons of Kemet burn at New York’s Winter …

Winter Jazzfest is a big deal in New York City...

Read More.....
Alexander Hawkins/Elaine Mitchener Quartet captivate at Kings Place

Alexander Hawkins/Elaine Mitchener Quart…

The conventions of a jazz performance are so well established...

Read More.....
Baptiste Curates Capital Coltrane Day

Baptiste Curates Capital Coltrane Day

Award-winning saxophonist and Jazzwise 2017 end-of-year-chart podium-maker Denys Baptiste curates...

Read More.....
Bill Frisell/Thomas Morgan, Andy Sheppard, Nigel Kennedy and Roller Trio added to Cheltenham Jazz Festival line-up

Bill Frisell/Thomas Morgan, Andy Sheppar…

Things are hotting up for this year's 22nd edition of...

Read More.....
Cloudmakers Five make it rain with new album and tour

Cloudmakers Five make it rain with new a…

Vibrant vibes-led group Cloudmakers – the long-running trio featuring vibes...

Read More.....
Scottish saxophonist Helena Kay wins Peter Whittingham Award

Scottish saxophonist Helena Kay wins Pet…

Emerging Scottish saxophonist/bandleader Helena Kay (pictured) has been announced as...

Read More.....
Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy talks about Classic Album Sunday sessions at Jazz Café

Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy talks about Class…

Camden Town's revamped Jazz Cafe presents series of album playbacks...

Read More.....
Pharoah Sanders Flips Lids Alongside Vilnius Fest's International Cast (Mama Jazz Report Pt.2)

Pharoah Sanders Flips Lids Alongside Vil…

Vilnius Mama Jazz is the younger sibling of the three-decades-old Vilnius...

Read More.....
Impulse! Records signs Sons Of Kemet and Shabaka & The Ancestors

Impulse! Records signs Sons Of Kemet and…

British saxophonist and bandleader Shabaka Hutchings and two of the...

Read More.....
Roswell Rudd 17/11/35 – 21/12/17

Roswell Rudd 17/11/35 – 21/12/17

Trombonist Roswell Rudd, who lost his battle with cancer at...

Read More.....
Gilles Peterson presents new generation of UK jazz on We Out Here

Gilles Peterson presents new generation …

The current wave of young UK jazz is showcased on...

Read More.....
Liudas Mockūnas Leads Lithuanian Charge At Vilnius' Mother Of All Jazz Fest (Mama Jazz Report Pt.1)

Liudas Mockūnas Leads Lithuanian Charge …

The absolute highlight of the Vilnius Mama Jazz festival was a...

Read More.....
Jazzwise wishes you all Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Jazzwise wishes you all Merry Christmas …

Jazzwise daily news will return January 2018. Wishing all our readers...

Read More.....
John Critchinson 1934 – 2017

John Critchinson 1934 – 2017

If popularity could be measured in monetary terms, then John...

Read More.....
Kurt Elling and Tommy Smith make midwinter magic with the SNJO

Kurt Elling and Tommy Smith make midwint…

There's a case for Christmas concerts staged in venerable Scottish...

Read More.....
Binker & Moses Captivate With Calypso-Influenced Improv At Helsinki's We Jazz

Binker & Moses Captivate With Calyps…

As Finland celebrates its centenary as an independent state this...

Read More.....
Sunny Murray 1937 – 2017

Sunny Murray 1937 – 2017

  Drummer Sunny Murray, who passed away on 7 December, will...

Read More.....
Fifth edition of Jazz FM Awards to take place on International Jazz Day in 2018

Fifth edition of Jazz FM Awards to take …

The Jazz FM Awards will return in 2018 at Shoreditch...

Read More.....
Theo Croker Cracks Corker At Jazz Jantar, Gdańsk

Theo Croker Cracks Corker At Jazz Jantar…

Jazz Jantar is one of the less well-known Polish festivals...

Read More.....
Diplomatic Don: Kurt Elling Crosses Borders In St. Petersburg

Diplomatic Don: Kurt Elling Crosses Bord…

Being an American jazz singer in St. Petersburg is a...

Read More.....
Columbia/Legacy’s Bootleg Series continues with Vol.6 Miles Davis & John Coltrane - The Final Tour

Columbia/Legacy’s Bootleg Series continu…

The widely acclaimed Miles Davis Bootleg Series issues its sixth...

Read More.....
Trumpeter Eric Vloeimans Goes Dutch at Pizza Express Jazz Club

Trumpeter Eric Vloeimans Goes Dutch at P…

Award-winning Dutch trumpeter Eric Vloeimans (above) is set to play...

Read More.....
Headliners Huff-N-Puff As Tomeka Reid Shines At Jazztopad

Headliners Huff-N-Puff As Tomeka Reid Sh…

  This 14th edition of the nine-day Jazztopad festival in Wroclaw...

Read More.....
Braxton Cracks On With Harp-Heavy OTO Residency

Braxton Cracks On With Harp-Heavy OTO Re…

Celebrated saxophonist and composer Anthony Braxton brings his semi-scripted gamut...

Read More.....
Vula Viel, Nérija and Sloth Racket engage at Elgar Room

Vula Viel, Nérija and Sloth Racket engag…

The Royal Albert Hall's highly accommodating venue-within-a-venue the Elgar Room...

Read More.....
Ben Riley 17/07/33 – 18/11/17

Ben Riley 17/07/33 – 18/11/17

This year's Thelonious Monk centenary events have rightly focused on...

Read More.....
George Avakian 15/3/1919 – 22/11/2017

George Avakian 15/3/1919 – 22/11/2017

  There never was a jazz record producer more important than...

Read More.....
Haino Hands On The Benjamins

Haino Hands On The Benjamins

Japanese ultra-shaman Keiji Haino has hooked up with US sludge-metal...

Read More.....
Bill Frisell, Franco D'Andrea feat. Han Bennink and the Italian new wave signal JAZZMI's ambition

Bill Frisell, Franco D'Andrea feat. Han …

 Milan's new jazz festival is inspired by London and it's...

Read More.....
Sun Ra Arkestra, Maceo Parker and Interchange Dectet gather for Gateshead 2018

Sun Ra Arkestra, Maceo Parker and Interc…

The line-up for next year's Gateshead International Jazz Festival, which...

Read More.....
Donny McCaslin, Dinosaur and Jason Moran added to Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2018 programme

Donny McCaslin, Dinosaur and Jason Moran…

The first names have been announced for the 22nd edition...

Read More.....
Mike Stern trips back to top form at Ronnie Scott’s

Mike Stern trips back to top form at Ron…

"Awesome!'' "That's great!" "Thank you so much". Mike Stern's bonhomie...

Read More.....

Subcribe To Jazzwise

Advertisement

Call 0800 137201 to subscribe or click here to email the subscriptions team

Get in touch

Jazzwise Magazine,
St. Judes Church,
Dulwich Road, 
Herne Hill,
London, SE24 0PD.

0208 677 0012

Latest Tweets

@CabinFloorEso cheers
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
@CabinFloorEso man, I want that new album...
Follow Us - @Jazzwise

Newsletter

Sign up to the Jazzwise monthly E-Newsletter

 

© 2016 MA Business & Leisure Ltd registered in England and Wales number 02923699 Registered office: Jesses Farm, Snow Hill, Dinton, Salisbury, SP3 5HN . Designed By SE24 MEDIA