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Showing posts with label Peewee Russell. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Peewee Russell. Show all posts

Saturday, 6 June 2015

"Which one is Acker Bilk?"

In the mid-1980s Acker and his band were playing at a civic reception in the splendid surroundings of the Glasgow City Chambers. I was there as guest of of a director of my company who had some of the unwordly traits of a High Court judge when it came to popular culture. As we danced with our partners past the bandstand where Acker, resplendent in bowler and waistcoat, was playing "Stranger on the Shore", my colleague looked up, then said to me in a loud voice "Which one is Acker Bilk?"

Acker, who could display a merciless and mordant wit on such occasions, was constrained by the clarinet in his mouth, but he looked down with an expression that defied description but said everything, eyebrows raised so far that he almost knocked his bowler hat off.

Acker was a genuine original, as a player and as a human being. The closest parallel to him for me was the American clarinettist Peewee Russell, who played in the same jazz tradition with a unique tone, and had the same ability to cross musical boundaries and elicit respect from musicians of different generations and musical styles. I close with Acker's response to a query on what he thought of Andrew Lloyd Webber - "Superstar? Jesus Christ ..."