Hank Shaw

Matchless Bebop trumpeter
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The Independent Online

Henry Shalofsky (Hank Shaw), trumpeter and bandleader: born London 23 June 1926; married 1962 Jennifer Pearce (one son, one daughter); died Ramsgate, Kent 26 October 2006.

Hank Shaw was one of the first of the British players to absorb the new jazz style of the Forties, and when he got to grips with it became the best Bebop trumpeter in Europe. He was matchless for the fire of his playing, and for his tone and agile and inventive ideas.

One of Shaw's admirers was the main innovator of the whole Bebop movement, the trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, and it was not surprising that the two became close friends for the rest of Gillespie's life (he died in 1993). Shaw used to drive Gillespie around London whenever the American visited the city. Answering the telephone one day Jennifer, Shaw's wife, was alarmed to find an agitated Gillespie at the other end.

"Has he died?" asked Gillespie. "I've been in London for two days and I haven't heard from him."

Another American encounter for Shaw was with Sammy Davis Jnr. Davis had been to England to make a best-forgotten film called Salt and Pepper (1968) where, having been called upon to play the role of a musician, he had literally blown his own trumpet. After Davis had gone the film company decided that the trumpet playing wasn't good enough. They called in Shaw to dub his own playing on top of Davis's. Meeting him some years later, Shaw told Davis what had happened. Davis became enraged because he had thought his trumpet playing was rather good.

Because most musicians had been called into the Services, Shaw's accomplished playing was in much demand during the Second World War years and as a result he led his first group, a dance band working under Teddy Foster's name, when he was 15 in 1942. In those early years he also worked in the bands of Jack Jackson and, in 1945, Oscar Rabin.

On a visit to Canada in 1947 he played with Oscar Peterson and Maynard Ferguson. Back in London he became, in December 1948, a founder member of the legendary Club Eleven and the following year joined the big band led by Vic Lewis to play "progressive" jazz. His first tour in Europe was with the singer Cab Kaye in December 1950 and January 1951. He then returned to dance bands for a couple of years until he finally joined Jack Parnell (1953-54) and it was with Parnell that he made his first recordings.

Eventual ructions within the Parnell band meant that many of those in its jazz contingent left. One of the ex- members was Ronnie Scott, and Shaw, by then a member of the coterie that included Scott, Tubby Hayes and Joe Temperley, joined, staying for two years. He played after that for Tony Crombie and, in spring 1957, with another lifelong friend, the tenor player Don Rendell. It was particularly fitting that Shaw should partner the altoist Joe Harriott from 1958 to 1960 since Harriott was rightly revered as the finest original player produced in Europe after the advent of Charlie Parker.

After a brief stay with bands in Yorkshire Shaw returned to London to work for the drummer Tony Kinsey. From the 1960s onwards he worked as a freelance, his accomplished playing getting him much studio work while he had a residency with his quartet during this period at London's 100 Club. Jobs with Harry South and Kenny Wheeler in the middle Sixties led him to Stan Tracey and then work with the American singer Jon Hendricks in 1969.

Some of his most potent playing was reserved for the pianist Bill Le Sage's quintet, the Bebop Preservation Society, with which Shaw played from 1971 to 1975. The band toured with the American trumpeter Red Rodney in December 1974 and it was obvious that Shaw outclassed Rodney, a prime mover in Bebop since his days with the Charlie Parker Quintet. Hard living on Rodney's part may have accounted for this.

Always in demand, Shaw later graced the trumpet sections of the Tubby Hayes, Harry South and John Dankworth big bands and worked regularly from the Seventies to the Nineties in the John Burch Octet. He continued to lead a quartet until ill-health ended his career in the Nineties.

Steve Voce