When I was around 15 I felt the urge to play a clarinet. So I did a paper round – no, two paper rounds – and saved up enough to buy my first second-hand clarinet. It cost me £12, as I recall. I loved it, learned to play by ear, and thought that was enough.
A couple of years later, still a spotty schoolboy, my interest in jazz developed to the point where I used to go to concerts – MJQ, Sonny Stitt, Ronnie Ross etc. And then one night I went to a Johnny Dankworth Orchestra concert, I think in Edinburgh’s Usher Hall. Seeing Johnny play alto sax with such power, fluidity and grace made me want to play it too, so I saved up again and bought a second-hand alto, which I still have. So thank you Johnny.
My other memories of that night are: that his piano player was Dudley Moore – a wonderful pianist; and that the audience was so thin on the ground that Johnny asked those of us in the Upper Circle – the cheap seats – to come down to the stalls. Thanks again Johnny.