Miles Davis, Count Basie, Benny Golson – and now Geoffrey, the IT consultant from Brentwood, Essex. He, too, was playing the legendary Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in Soho, London.
No matter that Geoffrey Millett’s rendition of “House of the Rising Sun” was – by his own admission - only just recognisable. On 11 July, all could be forgiven. Because 11 July was the first Ronnie Scott’s musical-instruments amnesty.
Mr Millett, aged 66, was bidding farewell to his Yamaha guitar, a birthday present from his late father, the jazz-loving Reverend Hugh Millett.
Along with about 120 other instruments donated, the guitar will find a new life with the Music Fund and Sistema England charities. They will be played in Britain and the developing world by children who might otherwise have been unable to afford a chance to make music.
Mr Millett’s father, who in the early 1960s trained for the priesthood by day and visited jazz clubs by night, would have been “chuffed to bits” to see his son’s brief moment in the spotlight.
But even better, said Mr Millett, “some youngster out there might get the chance to play my old guitar and have their life enriched by music”.
The Yamaha became surplus to requirements after Mr Millett inherited his father’s prized Gibson acoustic guitar. And when it came to practising enough to become a guitar virtuoso, “life intervened”.
“The Yamaha guitar stood untouched in our living room for years. I didn’t realise just how dusty the case was until I got it out into the sunlight.”
That was a familiar story at the event.
Jeremy Waxman, 56, the headmaster of Kingsbury High School in Brent, north London, walked into the club with a dusty case and a confession. The case had moved with him from house to house, occupying cupboard after cupboard, for 40 years. And in all that time it had never been opened and the clarinet inside had never been played.
“My parents got it for me when I was 12,” he said. “As well as funding my lessons, they paid for leasing the clarinet, which, after five years, you could keep. I felt I owed it to them to stick with it until I got the instrument, in 1975.
“After that, I didn’t play it but didn’t have the heart to throw it away. It’s lovely to think it will be played by someone with more enthusiasm.
“As a boy in the school orchestra, I didn’t play,” the headmaster admitted, “I mimed.”
Simon Cooke, 58, the managing director of Ronnie Scott’s, surveyed the growing treasure hoard.
BB King: Career in pictures
BB King: Career in pictures
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BB King gestures during his first performance at the Marciac Jazz festival, southwestern France, 1997
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B.B. King performs for hundreds at The Moore Theatre in Seattle, 2014
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BB King arrives on stage to perform US President Barack Obama lit the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse in Washington, 2010
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(L-R) Musicians The Edge, B.B. King, and Bono perform onstage during the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz honoring B.B. King event held at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, 2008
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B.B. King performs at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center, in Salisbury, 2007
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B.B. King signs copies of his new book 'The B.B. King Treasures' at Barnes & Noble in New York City, 2005
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(L-R) B.B. King, Sam Haskell and Mary Haskell blow out candles on King's 80th birthday cake at the home of Sam and Mary Haskell in Encino, California, 2005 Funds raised from the event went towards the forthcoming B.B. King Museum in Indianola, Mississippi
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B.B. King (C), Steve Tyler (L) and Joe Perry (R) laugh as they present the Grammy for Best Rap Album during the 46th Annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, 2004
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BB King and Samuel L. Jackson at the 'Carousel of Hope Ball 2002' to benefit childhood diabetes, hosted by Barbara and Marvin Davis, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, 2002
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B.B. King poses with his Grammy Awards at the 43rd Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, 2001. King won for Best Traditional Blues Album, 'Riding with the King', and Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals for the album entitled 'Is You Is, Or Is You Ain't'
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US President George Bush (R) and First Lady Barbara Bush (C) present the National Medal of Arts to blues musician B.B. King at the white House, 1990
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B.B. King performs at the Nice Jazz Festiva, 1985
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B.B. King and an accompanist perform during the opening of the 1980 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival
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B B King pewrforms on stage at an outdoor concert, 1979
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Portrait of the legendary blues singer, songwriter and guitarist B B King, second cousin of Bukka White, 1969
Everything was there, from a great uncle’s battered 1920s banjo to the donation from pop star Sam Smith: a violin that was played by a member of the backing orchestra during his 2015 Brit Awards performance.
So, too, was Mr Cooke’s own saxophone, bought when he was a student and destined to spend decades lurking in his attic.
“You get a sax,” explained Mr Cooke, a man now on the business, rather than playing, side of music. “You think it’ll help pull the birds. Then you discover that, musically, you are historically average.”
But then you realise you can hold a musical-instrument amnesty at one of the most loved venues in the world. And that you can watch an IT consultant from Essex realise a jazz lover’s dream, grin contentedly and enjoy his view of the bigger picture.
“Playing this place is fantastic,” said Mr Millett. “But knowing that some kid will now get the chance to play this guitar is an even bigger deal than playing Ronnie Scott’s.”Reuse content