Obituary: Shake Keane

Ellsworth McGranahan "Shake" Keane, trumpet and flugelhorn player: born St Vincent, West Indies 30 May 1927; married three times (three sons); died Bergen, Norway 11 October 1997.

"I like the tie," said Shake Keane. "Thank you," I said. It was the mid-Sixties and we were at the Manchester Sports Guild, an unlikely establishment, where the sport came in the form of subsidised beer and visiting American jazz musicians. Keane was playing trumpet there with Joe Harriott's quintet.

"I collect peoples' ties," said Keane. "It's a good way of remembering them. Would you swap yours for mine?" Looking at the drab and shapeless affair round his neck I wasn't enthusiastic about the proposition. But it did imply that one of the best trumpet players in the country wanted to remember me. I unknotted the tie and gave it to him and he gave me his. I reflected that I should be grateful that Keane hadn't collected trousers, or jackets.

Keane came from a family of seven, all of whom were taught music by their father. He became a teacher in his native island of St Vincent and it was there that he was given the nickname "Shake", because of his interest in poetry and particularly the writings of Shakespeare. He came to London University in 1952 to study literature and at once slipped into the nucleus of West Indian jazz musicians who were based here.

He joined Joe Harriott's quintet in 1960. Harriott had reached a level of stable improvising in free-form jazz. He composed little themes, beautifully phrased, which served as the point of departure for his musicians to improvise solos. While Harriott himself reverted often to a set of cliches in his playing, Keane was able to construct a mellow and imaginative flow of ideas that created its own form.

He took a year's leave from Harriott in 1962 to complete his studies at the London School of Economics. The writer Alun Morgan, often a judge at inter-university jazz band competitions, recalls his amazement at hearing wonderful, mature trumpet-playing bursting from a band made up of Keane and some hapless teenagers. As a mature student (he was 35), Keane was entitled to compete.

An assiduous brandy drink-er, he was never without a bottle in his pocket. "Had he taken proper care of himself," says the composer / pianist Michael Garrick, "trumpeters like Wynton Marsalis and Kenny Wheeler would have had to watch out. Shake was as good and he played a wider range of music. He had a fine intellect and a fertile mind."

What acclaim Keane received was generally in partnership with Garrick or Harriott, but musicians recognised that he and his countryman Harry Beckett were unmatched, in Europe at least, for their lyrical, imaginative trumpet-playing. Keane joined with enthusiasm the controversial poetry-and-jazz presentations that Garrick espoused, staying with the composer for several years.

In the early Sixties he also took on studio work, so that his mellow flugelhorn was heard as the background to many television commercials. Demand burgeoned and he left Britain for German radio studios. There, between 1965 and 1972, he worked mainly for the orchestra leader Kurt Edelhagen, seeking relief from the enormous pressure of the studios with jazz gigs in the Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland band.

"I'm totally played out," Keane told Garrick when he returned from Germany. He returned to St Vincent, where he joined in local politics and rose swiftly to become Government Minister of the Arts. In 1980 he worked in New York as a cultural attache for the island. When the government changed he went back home to teaching.

Later he went back to New York without a visa and lived and worked undercover for some years. In 1989 the American government extended an amnesty to illegal immigrants and Keane became an official resident. That same year he returned to England to tour with the Joe Harriott Memorial Quintet, in which Garrick played the piano and the alto saxophonist Martin Hathaway took the role of Harriott, who had died in 1973. Also in 1989, Keane and Garrick were filmed playing at the Royal Academy for the BBC television series Music of the World.

Keane returned to New York and earned a dwindling living from his literary activities. Each year, he took part in a poetry festival in Bergen, Norway, as a guest reader and musician. On one of his visits he had all his teeth removed, and this more or less ended his professional career as a brass player.

- Steve Voce

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Arts and Entertainment
British author Howard Jacobson has been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Louis van Gaal watches over Nani
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
transfersColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Private Client Solicitor - Gloucestershire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - We are makin...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Support Developer

£50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A unique and rare opport...

Insight Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k – North London

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum plus 23 days holiday and pension scheme: Clearwater ...

People Change Manager

£260 - £325 per day: Progressive Recruitment: IT Trainer: E-Commerce Experienc...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn