“Chris plays a good, hot trumpet, no frills, no fuss, with attack and invention.”
Nevil Skrimshire, Editor , Jazz Journal International
The Cardiff Jazz Festival was launched in 1974 that grew in to the Welsh Jazz Festival and under the leadership of Jed Williams when he became the Director of the Welsh Jazz Society in 1981 it became the Brecon Jazz Festival
“The Cardiff-based Chris Hodgkins Band accomplished the challenging task of accompanying Wild Bill Davison with trombonist Bob Tunnicliffe and pianist Eric Herbert turning out immaculate solos. It is as Wild Bill said ‘a hell of a good band.” Paul Keel, South Wales Echo, 15th September 1976
Tate ……exploited the full range of the tenor, keeping a good tone in the upper register and a satin , whispering effect in the lower. In Tangerine and Sunday he punched out chorus after chorus of rhythmic invention, never once seeming lost or uninspired. The polished Chris Hodgkins Band provided as always, confident, sensitive support for their guest with Dave “Father” Green putting in some fine solo work, especially with In A Mellow Tone.” Paul Keel, South Wales Echo, 23rd November 1976
“Last night’s session at Chapter Arts Centre with the Cardiff based Chris Hodgkins Band was one of pure enjoyment for both audience and musicians. Kathy Stobart has played with the band several times before and it showed in the ease with which the band knitted together. The addition of second tenor player, Mike Ludlow rounded off the line up of Chris Hodgkins, Bob Tunnicliffe (trombone),Dave Greensmith (bass), Eric Herbert (piano) and Jed Williams (drums). Kathy’s playing alternates between good , belting swing and moments of spine-tingling sensitivity. Her solo -My Ship – on soprano sax was particularly haunting, the sort of stuff that compels you to hang onto every note. Another high spot came with a duet of Kathy and Mike Ludlow on Bernie’s Tune, their different touches providing a good foil for each other. There was some fine work from the Chris Hodgkins Band who are fast building a big reputation for themselves and there were some original arrangements for the band from bassist Dave Greensmith particularly on Robbins’ Nest and Splanky.” Frances Toyne South Wales Echo, 12th May 1977
“There are few people who combine the attributes of of talented, sensitive musician and astute, efficient and successful organiser. Chris has impressed me in both these roles over the years when I have enjoyed working with him.” Humphrey Lyttelton
Welsh Jazz Society
The Welsh Jazz Society was registered as a charity on the 17th November 1978.
Humphrey Lyttelton agreed to be president of the Welsh Jazz Society and a rallying cry to members written by Humph on 12th January 1979 was sent to the membership. Please see the link below to the letter of Humph agreeing to be the president and his letter to the members:
Humph can be heard here in terrific form with Joe Temperley and Tony Coe playing an original Humph composition that was arranged for a promotional EP for Summer County margarine: Swinging on the Gate
The charitable objects of the Welsh Jazz Society were to promote, maintain, improve and advance education by encouraging and fostering the understanding, knowledge, appreciation and development of jazz and its associated forms of music and to formulate and establish schemes to promote these objectives.
Dill Jones had agreed to be an Honorary Patron in letter to Chris Hodgkins on 6th August 1978. The letter can be accessed via the link below: Letter from Dill Jones agreeing to be Honorary Patron of the Welsh Jazz Society on August 6th 1978 A rare chance to see and hear Dill Jones in concert with fellow Welsh musicians,Lionel Davies on double bass and Greg Evans on drums: Dill Jones in concert
The Welsh Jazz Society promoted regular concerts the first of which was Benny Waters at Tito’s Club on Monday 6th November 1978 supported by the Russ Jones Trio featuring John Ham on Trumpet and the Chris Hodgkins Band.
The first tours featured the Ronnie Scott Quintet, Digby Fairweather, Red Rodney and Kathy Stobart.
Susan da Costa
Susan da Costa steered Humphrey Lyttelton’s life as a trumpet player and band leader for the greater part of his sixty-year career. Susan was his close friend, confidant and manager. Susan started life as Humphrey’s secretary and soon gravitated to that of his personal manager on his 15 date tour of the USA in September 1959 that featured Humph’s Octet, the Ronnie Ross Jazz Makers, Thelonious Monk Quartet, Anita O’Day and the George Shearing Big Band. Susan recounts that it was her “Baptism of fire” as a manager which is a heroic understatement. A detailed account can be found in Humph’s book, Take It From The Top in the chapter titled Coals to Newcastle.
As the organiser of the Welsh Jazz Festival and then the Director of the Welsh Jazz Society with Humphrey Lyttelton as the Honorary President, it was always a pleasure to work with Susan. She was always on the ball with an immediate response by letter or invariably by phone and if Humphrey had a spare date in Wales we were the first to know. It would be fair to say that Humph’s undoubted achievements and his busy, not to say, hectic schedule were underpinned by Susan’s organisational and administrative abilities. Susan runs Humph’s record label Calligraph Records and can be contacted at http://www.calligraph-records.co.uk/
On October 20th 2019 the Jazz Centre UK was officially opened and amongst a wealth of artifacts, memorabilia, books, magazines and Archives it houses the Humphrey Lyttelton collection. Susan attended and the photo to the left is of Susan sitting at Humph’s roll top desk.
In January 2008, as a result of a three year review of a number of ACW funded organisations, the Arts Council of Wales wrote to the Welsh Jazz Society giving six months notice of its intention to withdraw Revenue funding. The letter stated that from the evidence gathered, the weight of the Society’s activity was towards being a promoter of jazz events rather than a provider of services to the jazz music sector and that it was not operating as effectively as it could in its role as a promoter. The review concluded that the Welsh Jazz Society did not address Arts Council of Wales strategic priorities and there was no clear rationale for supporting it. The Society questioned as to why the Arts Council of Wales had not previously drawn attention to any alleged lapses in service provision to the jazz music sector or provided any evidence of ineffectiveness as a promoter. The Arts Council of Wales was unable or unwilling to provide this evidence to the Society. In April the appeal was turned down and the Welsh Jazz Society made a complaint to the Public Service Ombudsman.The appeal was upheld and the Arts Council of Wales had to issue an apology. Full details are available at: http://www.complaintsinwonderland.co.uk/2012/11/arts-council-of-wales-withdraws-its-funding-for-the-welsh-jazz-society/
Chris Hodgkins, a trustee and a founder of the Welsh Jazz Society, said that the: “The Actions of the ACW display all the hallmarks of a dysfunctional organisation at large which is notable for a complete lack of planning and commitment of resources to jazz activity throughout Wales. The National Assembly of Wales would perform an invaluable service to the taxpayer in Wales if it conducted a thorough review of the operational effectiveness and efficiency of the ACW. The organisations corporate plan is straight out of Alice in Wonderland, with an executive pay policy that appears to have come from the Royal Bank of Scotland”. Full details are available here : http://www.complaintsinwonderland.co.uk/2012/12/welsh-jazz-society-complaint-upheld-arts-council-of-wales-issues-an-apology/
“In Chris Hodgkins’s concert at the Gibbs Club there were a few vestiges of that frustrated amateur who dragged his trumpet around Cardiff bars 10 years ago drumming up local enthusiasm for jazz. He still swings of course, but in several years of playing professionally in Britain and Europe he has learned to channel his original raw energy, acquiring a versatility of style, a lot more technique and, above all a very expansive use of tone and dynamics….The menu may have been standard but it was spiced with a great deal of tonal experimentation as Hodgkins bent and flattened notes, growled soulfully into the mouthpiece and juggled with a variety of mutes (including a beret with origami cut outs). In Funk Dumplin’s he showed himself quiet capable of the brilliant arpeggios of bop but the appeal of his style lies not in virtuosity but in the steamy emotion generated by his relaxed, bluesy improvisations. Harry Edison’s Sweet Cakes was a delight, as, keeping in the lower register of the trumpet, Hodgkins growled sensuously into a Harmon mute, gradually building a passionate and menacing improvisation until it drowned out the apathetic chatter of the crowd. A chance visit by Digby Fairweather transformed the concert into something quite extraordinary. For three numbers in the final set, cornet and trumpet duelled playing marvelous, intricate passages in duet, throwing phrases challengingly from one to another, each trying to out do the others solo. Fairweather’s brilliant tone and technical bravura was complimented perfectly by Hodgkins’s more soulful musicality, and with no mean contribution from the excellent Bob Jones Trio, they treated those few of left in the Gibbs Club to one of the most exciting displays of trumpet playing ever heard in Cardiff.” Robin Lyons, South Wales Echo, 28th July 1983
Campaigns – The Case For Better Investment and Jazz on a Shoe String
In November 1993 Jazz Services published, Jazz – The Case For Better Investment. The full document can be seen at: http://www.chrishodgkins.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/CaseForBetterInvestmentInJazz-Nov93.pdf
Sir John Dankworth commented on the draft on the 19th October 1993
John Dankworth, Humphrey Lyttelton and Martin Speake at the Jazz on a Shoe String Campaign House of Commons June 1995 (photo credit: Adrian Macintosh). Humph and Duke Ellington
Brecon Jazz Festival 2003 – “By rushing about between events I managed to catch Chris Hodgkins’ Trio, with Max Brittain, guitar, and John Ferguson, double bass. Hodgkins is known to most professional musicians as the indefatigable Director of Jazz Services. Here he treats us to pleasant mainstream trumpet playing on “I’m Confessin’”, “Taking A Chance On Love”, “Good Morning Heartache”, “Just Friends”, “Struttin With Some Barbecue” and “Too Late Now”. Chris has a nice line in endearingly waggish wit. With but little extra polish, his mordantly funny compering skills could feature more at British jazz events.” John Robert Brown, Jazz Review, October 2003
“Dr Johnson’s House sits quietly behind the bustle of Fleet Street like a haven of calm, just the place for the live premier of Chris Hodgkins Quartet’s set of themes, co-written with Eddie Harvey, linked to events in Boswell’s Life of Johnson. Anchored by Alison Rayner’s purposeful bass lines, with guitarist Max Brittain and the saxophonist Diane McLoughlin alongside trumpeter Hodgkins, this was chamber jazz, tuneful and clever, with light-touch narration by actress Susan Sheridan. Performing on high in the garret, alongside memento’s from the likes of David Garrick and Boswell himself, the audience close at hand, the quartet was jaunty and solemn by turn, each player interlocking craftily, with McLoughlin holding the reins while Hodgkins let rip. Tailor made for the literary festival circuit, this project deserves to do well.” Peter Vacher, Jazz UK, December/January 2010/11.
Jazz and Dr Johnson at Scarborough Literature Festival
“Jazz and Dr Johnson This event was part of the Scarborough Literature Festival and proved an interesting link between jazz and literature. The evening consisted of movements from a jazz suite interspersed with readings by the actress Susan Sheridan, who had tailored various anecdotes and quotes from James Boswell’s journal that chronicled Johnson’s life.
Susan Sheridan read her parts in a conversational manner, employing a slight Scots accent for James Boswell and giving a slightly booming quality for Johnson’s ponderous tones. If her voice sounded familiar, this may be from hearing her on Radio Four, or on several audio books. She has also voiced cartoon characters on TV and played a character in the Walt Disney film The Black Cauldron. The jazz was ably played by The Chris Hodgkins Quartet. Chris had co-written the suite with Eddie Harvey with the exception of two movements, one by accomplished guitarist Max Brittain, and the other by saxophonist Diane McLoughlin. Without piano or drums, the music had an ‘open’, fleet and lively quality, revealing the double bass to be the pivotal driver of the group. Alison Rayner’s bass playing was strong and interesting throughout. Despite the eighteenth century source of the readings, the music was very much of the moment. We heard a bluesy number on which Chris Hodgkins used a plunger mute to great effect, several tunes were given a lithe, bouncy tempo and the final surprise was a calypso. Whether there was enough jazz for the jazz fans, or enough Dr Johnson for his fans, the audience seemed very pleased either way.”
Dick Armstrong, 6th April 2011.
Chris Hodgkins and Matt Anderson live at Scarborough Jazz
“Providing a link to the Scarborough Literature Festival is now a well-established event for Scarborough Jazz, and this year involved contributions from the local Poetry Workshop. The poets seemed a straightforward, good natured group, with not one languid consumptive among them, or any eccentric clothing: I’d secretly hoped for long strings of beads tangled in crocheted shawls – at least among the men. We were treated to a well-chosen set of poems, many of them jazz related………..
Musically the evening began with two numbers from the Mike Gordon Trio. These ate into the time available for readings and excluded the two guest musicians booked for the gig. However the first number by the full band, Blue Monk, was excellent, with Matt Anderson’s persuasive and assured sax and Chris Hodgkin’s muted trumpet in wonderfully bluesy mode. Now fully warmed up, the band stopped while two poems were read. In fact, we didn’t get two consecutive musical numbers, despite several times hearing two or even three consecutive poems. Was it a case of the poetry interrupting the jazz or the other way round? The jazz we did get was very good, with a feature for each front liner. Chris Hodgkins took the seldom played Black Butterfly and reminded us of what a lovely tune it is, while Matt chose It Could Happen To You which show-cased his beautiful sound. It proved an interesting evening with something for everyone.”
Dick Armstrong, 4th April 2012
Chris Hodgkins, Dave Price and Erika Lyons at Severn Jazz 3rd February 2017
“Jazz of any kind is rarely to everyone’s taste. Even those who are not musicians know what they like and more to the point they usually know what they don’t like. But it’s usually the new and the different that causes divisions. I do know that our trio on Friday split the room with almost a fifty-fifty not quite sure to really enjoyable. I’m not sure why because no one on the performing end was trying to pretend they were doing something different. This was straight ahead, down to earth jazz with some real foot tappers included in the programme.
I do feel that you got what it said on the tin. A trio of trumpet, keyboard and bass all of whom I thought were very adaptable and able to conjure up a number of moods as a trio.
Chris Hodgkins led on trumpet. He has a long pedigree of playing and then he spent nearly thirty years championing jazz as Director of Jazz Services. It was his first visit to Severn Jazz. On keyboards, Dave Price also made his first visit to Severn Jazz. Dave is a regular on the Hereford and Mid and South Wales scene as is bassist Erika Lyons who completed the group. And Erika has played here a number of times.
The evening consisted of a programme of jazz that no one could have failed to recognise and judging by the expressions on the faces of the audience, everyone did.
I did feel this trio had the ability to conjure up atmosphere from some different periods of jazz and judging by their CD ‘Back In Your Own Backyard,’ which I thought was delightful, they did both in the studio and on their Friday visit.” Severn Jazz Club Reviews
Ian Mann enjoys the music of pianist Lenore Raphael with friends Wayne Wilkinson (guitar), Chris Hodgkins (trumpet) & Alison Rayne (bass). He also takes a look at her latest album “Pizza Express Live”
Lenore Raphael and Friends, Neuadd Theatr, Christ College, Brecon, 07/11/2017.
“Brecon Jazz Club’s November session saw a change of location with a temporary move to the Neuadd Theatr at Christ College. Also known as the Memorial Hall the Theatr is a comfortable, modern performance space with banked seating that has sometimes been used as a venue at the annual Brecon Jazz Festival.
More importantly the venue has its own grand piano, a particularly significant factor when the visiting headliner is the American pianist Lenore Raphael who was playing the first date of a short UK tour leading an Anglo-American group featuring US guitarist Wayne Wilkinson and British musicians Chris Hodgkins (trumpet) and Alison Rayner (double bass).
Brecon Jazz Club’s Lynne Gornall had first seen Raphael perform some six years ago at the Bull’s Head in Barnes and had been determined to bring her to Brecon ever since. Thus tonight’s performance represented the fulfilment of a long held ambition.
The trio of Raphael, Wilkinson and Hodgkins were launching the album “At Pizza Express Live”, a recording of their 2016 EFG London Jazz Festival performance at the famous Dean Street venue. With Rayner now in tow they will be returning to the venue for a lunchtime show on November 11th 2017, part of this year’s Festival.
Inspired by Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Hank Jones, Tommy Flanagan and others Raphael is a pianist in the mainstream tradition with the recent “Pizza Express Live” representing her eleventh album release as a leader. She tours internationally and is a regular and popular visitor to the UK. She is also an acclaimed jazz educator with a number of teaching posts in the US and was due to host a master class for the students of Christ College on the morning following this event.
Tonight’s performance focussed almost exclusively on the standards repertoire with most of the tunes being readily familiar to the knowledgeable jazz audience at this well attended and keenly anticipated event. Versions of several of the pieces that were played can also be heard on the “Pizza Express Live” CD.
Anyone who feared that this drummer-less ‘chamber jazz’ quartet might prove to be rather bloodless would have been pleasantly surprised. This proved to be a surprisingly vibrant and rhythmic ensemble with Raphael’s left hand piano figures, Rayner’s supple but propulsive bass lines and Wilkinson’s expert comping providing plenty of forward motion. In a highly democratic ensemble solos were distributed evenly around the group with newcomer Rayner enjoying several moments to shine. She probably played more solos here than she does with her own excellent quintet, which visited for a memorable performance at BJC’s regular venue The Muse in June 2017.
Review here; http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/alison-rayner-quintet-arq-brecon-jazz-club-the-muse-arts-centre-brecon-13-0/
Tonight’s performance began with Harry Warren’s tune “September In The Rain”, the piece that also opens the “Pizza Express Live” album. Following a brief solo piano introduction Hodgkins stated the theme on muted trumpet prior to the opening solo from the fleet fingered Wilkinson on guitar as Hodgkins shouted encouraging approval. Raphael’s comping allied to Rayner’s sturdy bass lines gave the music considerable rhythmic drive as Hodgkins switched to the open horn for his solo, followed in turn by Raphael and Rayner in this well balanced and democratic unit.
Sticking to the album running order we next heard the ballad “Talk Of The Town” with Hodgkins stating the theme on blues infused trumpet as Wilkinson’s skilful guitar comping approximated a brushed drum groove. Further solos came from Wilkinson, Raphael and Hodgkins on a ballad performance that actually generated a surprising amount of heat.
Varying from the CD running order a relaxed “Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams” offered solos from Raphael, Hodgkins and Wilkinson, the order of the solos also differing from the recorded version.
Acting as MC Hodgkins referred to the “band within a band” tradition as typified by Artie Shaw’s Grammercy 5 and the Benny Goodman Trio. Tonight’s “band within a band” proved to be Wilkinson playing solo guitar on a delightful – and incredibly dexterous- version of the song “The Boy Next Door” in a Wilkinson arrangement inspired by the former Goodman guitarist Johnny Smith.
I was highly impressed by this first sighting of Wilkinson, Raphael’s regular guitarist and an accomplished band leader and composer in his own right. Hailing from Colorado Springs, CO he is a busy and versatile musician with around half a dozen recordings as a leader to his credit ranging from mainstream to fusion. A skilled and tasteful accompanist in the Freddie Green style he’s also a fluent and agile soloist whose slippery bebop inspired runs and sophisticated chording proved to be a source of constant delight. The man’s fingers are practically prehensile. Among Wilkinson’s recordings are a duo album with Raphael titled “Strings Attached”. Raphael has also recorded a duo album with the acclaimed guitarist Howard Alden, himself a frequent visitor to Brecon Jazz Festival in days of yore. To these ears Alden and Wilkinson, fine players both, seem to share many musical characteristics.
Hodgkins and Rayner then ushered in the Gershwin brothers composition “But Not For Me” with subsequent solos coming from guitar, piano and trumpet.
Hoagy Carmichael’s “Georgia On My Mind” is one of the hoariest items in the jazz canon but Raphael’s solo piano performance of the old chestnut breathed fresh life into it. This was a sophisticated interpretation full of rhythmic and harmonic interest, gently swinging and with a delicate blues sheen. The piece appears as a solo performance on the “Pizza Express” album too.
From the musical “Guys and Dolls” Frank Loesser’s “I’ve Never Been In Love Before” saw the quartet moving away from the album repertoire on a piece featuring solos from Hodgkins, Raphael and Wilkinson.
The version of “Alone Together” that graces the “Pizza Express Live” album is a sparkling, spirited, gently swinging dialogue between Raphael and Wilkinson. With the addition of Rayner at the bass the piece shone even more brightly with Rayner adding extra depth to the solos by Raphael and Wilkinson before contributing to a thrilling series of tripartite exchanges towards the close of the piece.
A lengthy first half lasting approximately seventy minutes concluded with a breezy, good natured interpretation of “ I Only Have Eyes For You”, thus ensuring that the set was bookended by two Harry Warren / Al Dubin songs. Solos here came from Wilkinson, Hodgkkins and Raphael.
The second set was introduced by the Mayor of Brecon who coined the phrase “nimblicity” to describe and praise the work of the quartet on keys, frets, strings and valves. “Is that a word?” he mused. “It is now!” we affirmed. It seemed to sum up the quartet’s collective skills perfectly – and wouldn’t it just make a perfect title for a Charlie Parker inspired bebop composition?
A splendidly swinging “Taking A Chance On Love” kicked off the second half with solos from Wilkinson, Hodgson and Raphael plus a round of scintillating exchanges between all the members of the group, these incorporating a succinct bass solo from Rayner.
“Just Friends” followed, played by the trio of Raphael, Wilkinson and Rayner as Hodgkins sat out. Introduced by a passage of unaccompanied guitar followed by a more orthodox solo from Wilkinson the piece also included features for both Raphael and Rayner.
Christ College had bought fully into tonight’s concert with several members of the student body in the audience and with the College’s Head of Music Jonathan Ling also in attendance. With Raphael due to conduct a master class the following day and with both Raphael and Rayner having a strong commitment to the cause of jazz education it was appropriate that one of the students, the young alto saxophonist Peter Bowen should join the trio for a version of “My Foolish Things”. Bowen’s cool alto tone was reminiscent of Paul Desmond as he and the trio delivered a fluently elegant interpretation of the song to heartfelt applause from the audience. Well done Peter, a name to watch for in the future perhaps?
The length of the first set entailed that the second had to be severely truncated and all too soon we had reached the final number. This was the Raphael original “Blues for O.P.”, dedicated to the late, great Oscar Peterson. This proved to be a real evening’s highlight, a splendidly swinging, gospel imbued blues that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a classic Blue Note record. Raphael soloed expansively in the trio format before Hodgkins returned to deliver an ebullient trumpet solo. He was followed by Wilikinson and finally Rayner as the latter stepped out of her anchoring role.
Lynne Gornall was able to tempt the quartet back for a brief encore of “Pennies From Heaven” with solos from Wilkinson, Hodgkins and Raphael.
This was an excellent evening of music making that was warmly appreciated by a reassuringly substantial audience. The only real quibble was that the two sets were not of equal length, but nobody could really complain about value for money overall, the early start of 7.30 ensured that we still heard a lot of good music.
The addition of Alison Rayner, who also plays in Hodgkin’s own trio alongside guitarist Max Brittain, is definitely a success. She adds a rhythmic depth and variety to the music and frees up the front line soloists while also making the most of her own soloing opportunities. I’ve got a lot of time for Rayner’s playing and she’s a most positive addition to the ranks.
My thanks to Chris Hodgkins for speaking with me (and for buying me and my mate a pint) at half time and to Wayne Wilkinson for providing me with a review copy of his latest album “Yours Yours Yours” which I intend to take a look at shortly. I also treated myself to a copy of Wayne’s earlier album “Full Circle” from 2007, a release that puts a greater emphasis on his own writing and does so with considerable success. There’s some great guitar playing too and it’s an album that’s well worth hearing.
In the meantime the current live album from this same venue is recommended listening.” Ian Mann, The Jazzmann, 8th November 2017
Chris Hodgkins at the Wellington, Birmingham International Jazz Festival 22nd July 2017
“For many years better known as the man in charge of Jazz Services, Chris Hodgkins’ credentials as a melodic mainstream trumpeter have been increasingly evident since his retirement from that post.” The Jazz Rag, Spring 2018