Stan Tracey - Standard Time

Stan Tracey, after a period of some neglect, is now justifiably regarded as one of the UK’s greatest jazz musicians past or present. As he turns 80 this month Duncan Heining looks back on Tracey’s career with the man himself and talks to some of his musical colleagues over the years including Michael Garrick, Guy Barker and Keith Tippett. Michael Horovitz , who has collaborated with Stan ever since New Departures in the 1960s, has written a new poem to mark Stan’s birthday Stan Tracey - Standard Time
It’s hard to credit but Stan started playing professionally during World War II and by the early 1950s was already an important figure on the blossoming London Jazz scene. Stan will celebrate his birthday on 30 December, his eightieth, as always at The Bull’s Head pub in Barnes, though perhaps this year with more friends and well-wishers than usual. And there’s no doubt we’ll be toasting one of the greats.

So, what’s happening gig-wise to mark the event? The bluff, short answer from Stan is that it’s “business as usual” in his eightieth year on the planet. “Well, we’ve just done a special performance of Under Milk Wood with Bobby Wellins in Dorking (at the Yehudi Menuhin Centre) and we’ve got a concert at the Barbican for the London Jazz Festival in November. Apart from that, there’s nothing really connected to my birthday. I’m just doing gigs that I would normally do.”

Actually, there have been one or two things going on, and in the offing, that could mark the year with a little more of a flourish. But then 64 years in the jazz business can discourage optimism. By the time you read this, Stan will have done four nights at Dean Street’s Pizza Express as part of this year’s LJF with a quintet featuring the excellent Guy Barker on trumpet and Dutch altoist Benjamin Herman, with whom Stan recently recorded. And as Guy reminds me, when we spoke about Stan, his big band played Brecon this year and he took a sextet with Guy, altoist Pete King and tenorist Don Weller to Italy this summer.
What’s more, Stan may be touring early next year. “People have applied on my behalf for a grant to tour a big band around February. We’re waiting to hear if the grant is OK’d and if it is we’ll be doing about nine dates.”

I ask whether that will be through the Contemporary Music Network. The question provokes a typically dry response. “No, I don’t have the correct passport for that –  ‘British passport holders at the next one down!’ It’s called ‘Grants For The Arts’, is the one I’ve applied for. We should know by Christmas.”

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