Did you feel in the eighties there was meant to be this jazz renaissance?
I shudder every time I hear that because every time I hear that jazz is coming back into popularity I know the phone isn't going to ring. As a matter of fact when there's a recession I work a whole lot more than when jazz is coming back.. umm I was defeated by the last recession or the current recession. I think everybody was. Yeah I think it's a thing that journalists like to say but I don't know what the basis is for the saying that, what information they're privy to that I'm not.
Maybe it's a question of the jazz musician as a 'maker'. That always appealed to you... maybe it's a romantic view but maybe the media have a romantic view.
Or be they not.
Maybe when there's a jazz Renaissance it's the image that comes back in.
Yeah, yeah.. god bless them for being interested but there's a lot of wrong ideas floating about with regards to what it's like being a jazz musician.
You had your 40th concert. Did you feel that things were straightening out. Because you had these commissions coming in nice and steady. The quartets steady and you had Clark playing and Steams going OK.
I was more happy about my situation at that time... yeah I was working quite a bit and writing. I enjoyed the music I was playing, the guys I was working with although I have to say I've always enjoyed the musicians I've worked with but um.. everything was cozy at that time.
What was that 1985?
yeah it had been around a couple of years before that. I enjoyed working with those young guys. They've got good knowledge of the music they're playing. They know the history of the music.. they listen to it, they're technically better equipped than most of the guys were of similar ages.. contemporaries they had possibly a better knowledge of the harmonies and because a lot of them work in studios they can read anything. Like Nigel Hitchcock, Gerard (Presencer), Guy Barker.
Guy Barker and Jamie Talbot.
Jamie yeah.. they can read anything but they're also excellent players with a good understanding of the music and whatever I put up whether it be big band or octet or sextet I never have to say I want this to be like that or that phrase to be like that because they just play it first time how I want it and you know that's fine with me.
Stan explains the difficult events that followed. (player below)
1986 brought royal recognition to Stan's contributions to British jazz when he was awarded the OBE.
I've been fortunate in the last few years to have good pianos.. mostly. But I've played my bad piano dues over and over again. Something I hear people say "What did you get the OBE for?,.. What did the Queen say?"... and I say "she pinned the medal on my lapel and said this is for all those duff pianos you had to play Stanley". That's what I like to think. I can't think of any other reason for getting it.
Above and beyond the call.
Yep. But I'd sooner play a really bad piano than play electric. It's touch is different, everything is different. A lot of my technique has been formed through constant playing on bad pianos.. like the percussive thing. You can't play sweetly on a bad piano and as I say during the past few years I've been getting good pianos I'm discovering a whole world of sound that I was never able to access before and I really regret not having had that opportunity of growing pianistically.. y'know had I had good pianos I'd be able to draw more sound out than I'm currently able to.. I feel I'm still learning how to do that. You get a good piano and you realise there's a whole lot in there which is available and once you acquire the ability to pull it out, all sorts of shades and colours you just can't get with a bad piano. You either go wallop or you give up. you can't sweet time a bad piano. you can a beautiful grand. You can get very romantic and quiet and sweet about the whole thing. You do that on a bad piano.. it's quite interesting. It certainly doesn't work.
You just sort of disappear I imagine.
Yeah.. I mean I don't know how to explain it. I have done just for the exercise tried to play really quietly and sweetly on a bad piano. It sounds ridiculous. They only know one language.. you have to be very firm, get it by the scruff of the neck and say this is where we're going and this is what you've got to do. It's the only language they understand.
Stan's 1980's recordings.
We Still Love You Madly - Stan Tracey Orchestra. 1988.
Genesis. - Stan Tracey Orchestra. 1987.
Stan Tracey Plays Duke Ellington. 1986.
Hexad - Live At Ronnie Scott's - Stan Tracey Octet. 1985.
Now - Stan Tracey Quartet/Sextet/Octet. 1985.
The Poets Suite - Stan Tracey Quartet. 1984.
The Crompton Suite - Stan Tracey Sextet. 1981.
South East Assignment - Stan Tracey Quartet 1980.
Hexad and Genesis are available as downloads from Give Me Jazz