[Dixielandjazz] Fwd: Harry Gold
David W. Littlefield
dwlit at cpcug.org
Fri Dec 2 07:40:13 PST 2005
>From another list.
>A prolific bandleader, musician and arranger, he was at the heart of the
>jazz world for more than 70 years
>Thursday November 17, 2005
>The bass saxophone, an Alice In Wonderland instrument that looks like a
>hookah for giants, is the kind of musical folly you might expect even
>normally proportioned musicians to avoid, let alone one who struggled to
>reach 5ft 2in in his socks. Yet for Harry Gold, the East End saxophonist who
>heard the Original Dixieland Jazz Band - the first jazz musicians ever to
>make a record - in person, became one of the most popular figures of the
>postwar Dixieland revival and was still touring well into his 90s, the bass
>sax was the instrument of choice.
>Perhaps as a diminutive individual, Gold, who has died aged 98, liked its
>big, cavernous sound and spectacular presence on a stage - the cartoonist
>Trog even depicted him standing on a chair to play it. But if Gold had a
>passion for an instrument that has mostly belonged to jazz's jauntiest, most
>carefree age - when a brass band feel still clung to much of the music, and
>the double-bass had not yet come into its own - he was also a musician of
>considerable sophistication who played several saxophones, and with a grasp
>of theory rare for Dixielanders.
>He was a skilled arranger, a quality that lent distinctiveness to his own
>bands and those of others, as well as providing him with a fallback income
>in difficult years. He was also a tenacious campaigner for jazz recognition,
>inside and outside the music business. In the 1940s, he was one of a small
>group of jazz musicians to shift the Musicians' Union policy over pay rates
>away from its classical bias. He loved playing all his life, and relished
>any opportunity at any age.
>He was born Harry Goldberg, to a Romanian mother, Hetty Schulman, and a
>German father, Sam Goldberg. The family had first emigrated to England, but
>lived briefly in Dundrum, County Dublin, which is where Harry was born, the
>eldest of six children. His father was a tailor who loved music, often
>sewing while sitting cross-legged on a table to gain better proximity to the
>gaslight, and singing arias and popular music-hall songs. He also played the
>piano by ear, and sang with a remarkably wide range, which Gold always cited
>as his first introduction to music.
>Shortly before the outbreak of the first world war, the family moved to
>Leystonstone, and then to the East End. The headteacher of the local Berners
>Street school was a music-lover whose principal interest in his pupils was
>whether or not they could sing in tune. Gold was thus fascinated by music by
>his early teens, and when he was 14 - by then out of school and working all
>the overtime he could in his father's business - he bought an alto
>He also persuaded his father to take him to hear the Original Dixieland Jazz
>Band during their long residency at the Hammersmith Palais in 1919. Gold
>recalled that he did not understand what they were doing, but that the
>music's energy had such an effect on him it made up his mind to become a
>musician there and then.
>He learned the saxophone, the clarinet and the oboe under Louis Kimmel, a
>professor at the London College of Music, and the relationship was fruitful
>for five years until Gold began to experiment with the jazz saxophone sounds
>he heard on the radio.
>He responded to an advertisement in the local paper, placed by a then
>unknown violinist called Joe Loss. After unsteady beginnings with a pianist
>who could only play on the black keys, the group improved to become the
>Magnetic Dance Band. Gold's relationship with Loss would continue down the
>years. Gold also formed the Florentine Dance Band with Polish guitarist Ivor
>Mairants, and gave up his day job at Christmas 1923 - a two-week residency
>at the Palais de Dance, Rochester, was sufficient incentive - never to take
>Joining a cooperative band that came to be called the Metronomes, Gold also
>began to flower as an arranger, using Kimmel's meticulous instruction, and
>continuing to attend music college. He spent almost three years with the
>Metronomes (marrying his first wife, Annie, during this period) and, while
>doing a job in the West End, heard American musician Fred Elizalde's band,
>featuring the formidable bass saxophonist Adrian Rollini.
>Gold bought his first bass sax from Rollini, a battered instrument that had
>fallen out of a car, and which he had to spend a fortune on putting right.
>With Mairants and trumpeter Les Lambert, Gold also formed a vocal trio, the
>Cubs - he liked the vocal music of the Boswell Sisters and Bing Crosby's
>Rhythm Boys - and when the American bandleader Roy Fox heard the three
>singing at the Princes restaurant, Piccadilly, he invited them to join him.
>Gold would remark that his socialist convictions were reinforced by
>comparing his own background with the wealth of the clientele at Fox's gigs,
>at such venues as the Cafe de Paris, where the regulars included the Duke
>and Duchess of Kent and the Prince of Wales. But he enjoyed touring with
>Fox's band, and the conviviality of musicians' lives on the road. He would
>frequently find himself on the same bill as comedians like Max Wall, or the
>eccentric tapdance trio Wilson, Keppel and Betty.
>But, in 1936, Gold and Mairants parted company with Fox, in a dispute over
>contracts and pay - the experience led Gold to become an active trade
>unionist, devoted to extending Musicians' Union policy (primarily geared to
>orchestral and theatre players) to include jazz musicians as well. In 1938,
>touring in the north, he also met his second wife Peggy, a jazz fan and
>member of the Bradford Rhythm Club.
>Having been rejected for active service on fitness grounds, Gold did not see
>combat during the second world war, though he did have periods of labouring
>work. In between those breaks, from spring 1939 to 1942, he played with the
>Latvian-born bandleader Oscar Rabin. The band was good, but needed more
>variety to broaden its appeal, and so Gold offered Rabin a band within a
>band - this was the group that came to be known as Harry Gold's Pieces of
>Eight and that worked in a broadly Dixieland jazz style, with various
>line-ups, until its leader's last years.
>During the latter stages of the war, Gold worked for two of the most popular
>British dance bands, Geraldo's and Bert Ambrose's. He also began to find
>more work for the Pieces of Eight, and also freelanced as an arranger for
>the BBC, on occasion collaborating with the young Norrie Paramor, later to
>become a producer of early 1960s pop hits for Cliff Richard, Frank Ifield,
>Helen Shapiro and Billy Fury. In Paris with the services entertainment
>troupe, Ensa, on the day the war ended, Gold was one of a group of musicians
>asked to broadcast to a home audience from the grounds of the British
>embassy, with the sound of the celebrations behind them.
>In December 1945, the Piece of Eight recorded for the first time, and began
>regularly appearing on the BBC's Music While You Work radio show, an
>experiment to see if Dixieland jazz could work on a predominantly
>light-music repertoire. By now, Gold's saxophonist brother Laurie was in the
>line-up as well.
>The group also almost became one of the earliest British bands to perform on
>television when the Alexandra Palace broadcasting station went on air again
>in 1946. Their number was pulled because the producer refused to allow
>Gold's black trombonist, Geoff Love, and the band's white singer, Jane Lee,
>to perform a duet together on television. The group's status and popularity
>was, however, unaffected - one of their public admirers was the
>singer-songwriter Hoagy Carmichael, who warmly commended the Pieces when
>they accompanied him on tour in 1948.
>With Love, Paramor, and his brother Laurie, Gold expanded his activities
>into freelancing, arranging services, and, for a brief period, general
>theatrical management, before more powerful operators squeezed them out.
>Gold's determination to negotiate fair deals also ran him into difficulties
>with a new broom in BBC Variety radio, his regular employers as an arranger.
>In one particularly heated discussion between the saxophonist and the new
>producer, Gold found himself being frankly asked: "Are you a red?"
>In 1955, Gold turned the band over to Laurie, in order to stay at home more
>often with his family, and concentrate on session jobs and office work for a
>Soho music publisher. He also began playing in a classical saxophone quartet
>and worked at EMI as a staff arranger, with his son David.
>But when EMI retired an indignant Gold on age grounds in the 1970s, he was
>ready to start performing all over again. He found much pleasure in
>cornetist Richard Sudhalter's band, formed to celebrate the music of Bix
>Beiderbecke and Paul Whiteman - with Gold relishing the bass-sax parts
>originally played by his old model Adrian Rollini. In 1977, he re-formed the
>Pieces of Eight with a new line-up, and the band toured again into the
>1980s, often in eastern Europe.
>Though he wound it up again after internal arguments, he regularly returned
>to performing - frequently at his London local, the Yorkshire Grey, in
>Clerkenwell - and recovered an interest in live work to fill the gap left by
>the death of Peggy, his partner of half a century. In 1998, he played in
>California, Connecticut, New York and at the Cork festival. "Have sax, will
>travel," Gold would say. He was as open to doing that in his 90s as he had
>His autobiography, Gold, Doubloons and Pieces of Eight (co-written with
>Roger Cotterrell) appeared in 2000. He is survived by Morton and Leslie, the
>twin boys from his first marriage, and by Andrew and David, the sons of his
>7 Harry Gold, jazz musician, born February 26 1907; died November 13 2005
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