Sir John Philip William Dankworth

Sir John Philip William Dankworth

Birth
Essex, England
Death 6 Feb 2010 (aged 82)
London, City of London, Greater London, England
Burial Milton Keynes, Milton Keynes Borough, Buckinghamshire, England
Memorial ID 47707573 · View Source
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Musician. A saxophonist, he was one of Britain's best known jazz performers and composers for nearly 60 years. Raised by a musical family in Walthamstow, Essex, he studied piano and violin from early childhood. In his mid-teens, inspired by records of Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, he took up the clarinet and started his own amateur ensemble before being accepted into the Royal Academy of Music in 1944. There he began playing the alto saxophone, though he had to make a secret of his new instrument as it was not considered "proper" in classical circles. Following graduation he did his National Service in a Royal Army dance band, toured Scandanavia, and was a musician on the famed RMS Queen Mary. One benefit of his shipboard job was the layover time in New York, which allowed him to hear and perform with Charlie Parker and other greats of the era. After earning praise at the 1949 Paris Jazz festival, he formed the Dankworth Seven in 1950 but disbanded three years later to start his own big band. Having met singer Cleo Laine in 1950, he made her a steady part of his shows and married her in 1958. (Thereafter, virtually all of Dame Cleo's songs were Dankworth's arrangements). During the 1950s he also began a working relationship with Duke Ellington which was to continue until the great pianist's death in 1974, and he toured or held concerts with, among others, Nat King Cole, Sarah Vaughn, Lionel Hampton, and Ella Fitzgerald. The decade also saw him have two major hits, "Experiments With Mice" (a theme and variation on "Three Blind Mice"), and "African Waltz". In 1959, Sir John appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival, and also started a 'second career' as a composer for film and television (in which he was billed as "Johnny Dankworth"). He wrote the themes for the British series "The Avengers" and "Tomorrow's World", as well as for a number of movies. Always willing to pass on his knowledge, Dankworth began teaching at the Royal Academy of Music in 1969; he was professor at Gresham College from 1984 to 1986, and for many years partnered with Dame Cleo in a summer school program they called The Stables in Wavendon. Never really forgetting his classical training, he composed a piano concerto, a string quartet, and some smaller pieces, and cut an album of symphonic variations with the Rochester Philharmonic; he even served as a "pops" conductor with the London and San Francisco Symphonic Orchestras. His recordings were many, including the 1963 "What the Dickens", 1964's "The Zodiac Variations" (with Clark Terry), and "Lifeline" (1974). Dankworth was appointed Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 1974 and knighted in 2006. Though ill for his final few months, he continued performing until close to the end of his life.

Bio by: Bob Hufford


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Bob Hufford
  • Added: 7 Feb 2010
  • Find A Grave Memorial 47707573
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Sir John Philip William Dankworth (20 Sep 1927–6 Feb 2010), Find A Grave Memorial no. 47707573, citing Crownhill Cemetery and Crematorium, Milton Keynes, Milton Keynes Borough, Buckinghamshire, England ; Maintained by Find A Grave .