Trumpeter and bandleader Kenny Ball died in the early hours of this morning in hospital where he was being treated for pneumonia. He was 82, and was still performing until three weeks ago.
Radio 3’s Alyn Shipton says:
“With his ready grin, mop-haired appearance and upbeat singing and playing, Kenny Ball was one of the most extrovert and cheery figures in British entertainment. His chart-topping hits of the 1960s brought jazz to a huge audience, and he was a dazzlingly accomplished trumpeter, with one of the most developed techniques in jazz. Amid the bravura cadenzas were subtleties that passed many of his audience by, such as playing complex solos in unison with his clarinettist, and his high note range seemed so effortless that he made light of its difficulty. Britain has lost one its most charismatic bandleaders, and a figurehead of the “trad” movement. ” (LondonJazz: RIP Kenny Ball)
Kenneth Daniel Ball, 22nd May 1930, Ilford, Essex, died 7th March 2013
Ball was born in Ilford, Essex. He began his career as a semi-professional sideman in bands, whilst also working as a salesman and for an advertising agency. He played the trumpet in bands led by Charlie Galbraith, Sid Phillips, Eric Delaney and Terry Lightfoot before forming his own trad jazz band in 1958. His dixieland band was at the forefront of the early 1960s UK jazz revival.
In 1961 their recording of Cole Porter’s ‘Samantha’ became a hit, and in March 1962 they reached No. 2 on both the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and the UK Singles Chart, with “Midnight in Moscow”. The record sold over one million copies, earning gold disc status. Further hits ensued, including a version of ‘March of the Siamese Children’ from ‘The King and I’, which topped the pop music magazine, New Musical Express chart in March that year, and such was their popularity in the UK that Ball was featured, alongside Cliff Richard, Brenda Lee, Joe Brown, Craig Douglas and Frank Ifield, on the cover of the New Musical Express in July 1962, although in the U.S. they remained a ‘one-hit wonder’.
In January 1963, New Musical Express reported that the biggest trad jazz event to be staged in Britain had taken place at Alexandra Palace. The event included George Melly, Diz Disley, Acker Bilk, Chris Barber, Alex Welsh, Ken Colyer, Monty Sunshine, Bob Wallis, Bruce Turner, Mick Mulligan and Ball. The same year, Ball became the first British jazzman to become an honorary citizen of New Orleans, and appeared in the 1963 film Live It Up!, featuring Gene Vincent.
In 1968 the band appeared with Louis Armstrong during his last European tour. Ball later appeared on BBC Television’s highly rated review of the sixties music scene Pop Go The Sixties, performing “Midnight In Moscow” with his Jazzmen on the show broadcast on BBC 1, on January 1, 1970, and his continued success was aided by guest appearances on every edition of the first six series of the BBC’s Morecambe and Wise Show. He later claimed that the peak of his career was when Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen played at the reception for the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana. (wikipedia.org)