Richard Hawdon: Jazz trumpeter and bandleader
Saturday 01 August 2009
I'd like to be a jolly extrovert," said Dickie Hawdon. "I look as miserable as sin on the stand, even when I'm having a ball." Despite the lack of "showbiz" panache, Hawdon went on to be one of the most accomplished musicians to grace British jazz. "I might do better if I could jolly about a bit, but I'm sure that if you force it, that shows too, so I do as little as possible."
Hawdon began his playing career in the traditional style and rose to be a valued soloist in the more sophisticated bands of John Dankworth and Tubby Hayes. He went on from that to eventually become an eminent teacher at the Leeds College of Music.
Hawdon was invariably ahead of the game, probably because he was originally taught to play the cello, with everything after that coming easily to him. After switching to trumpet, the first band he joined, in 1949, was called the Twin City Washboard Beaters, which soon mutated into the Yorkshire Jazz Band. Hawdon's trumpet idol throughout the rest of his life was Louis Armstrong, but he was also influenced by the trumpeter Clifford Brown and, like Brown, he achieved an incredibly smooth articulation.
Moving to London in 1951, Hawdon formed his own band, and later that year, played in the Chris Barber band. He worked for a time on the jazz record counter of the International Bookshop on Charing Cross Road.
As the "trad" revival began he found himself replacing Ken Colyer in the Christie Brothers Stompers, where he played from 1952 to 1953. The two brothers had both left Humphrey Lyttelton's band, and the paths of Hawdon and Keith Christie were to cross later when both became outstanding figures in the modern jazz field.
Hawdon made his switch when he joined the quintet of the tenor saxophonist Don Rendell in May 1954. The band included another saxophonist, Ronnie Ross, and achieved a particularly mellow sound when Hawdon switched from trumpet to flugelhorn.
He joined Tubby Hayes' group in February 1955 as trumpeter and arranger, his early training on the cello enabling him to write high-quality scores with ease. Tubby Hayes hadn't yet reached the height of his fame and times on his cross-country tours were hard, with the band often playing dates to about 20 paying customers. The first big band Hawdon joined was that led by Basil and Ivor Kirchin. He was there for seven months before joining John Dankworth's big band.
His long stay with Dankworth began in March 1957 and he was one of the outstanding soloists in that band, rising eventually to become lead trumpeter in the months before he left finally in May 1963. He wrote many distinguished pieces for the band and appeared on some of Dankworth's finest records, recording his compositions "Cool Kate" and "One for Janet", dedicated to his two daughters. On a television broadcast, with Duke Ellington sitting before the band listening, Hawdon played a beautiful trumpet solo on Ellington's composition "Mood Indigo". Ellington afterwards asked Dankworth for a copy of the arrangement.
In a brief hiatus from Dankworth, Hawdon returned to traditional jazz with Terry Lightfoot. He rejoined Dankworth for the final time in January 1963. In the middle of that year he began playing at London nightclubs, and he was in the pit band at the Prince of Wales theatre for a year.
When he moved back to Yorkshire he took on the role of musical director at the Batley variety club, an unlikely setting for appearances by some of the biggest acts in the world. In an amazing piece of luck, the top of the bill in his first month was Louis Armstrong.
Hawdon stayed at Batley for a year until in 1968 he moved into full-time musical education, taking a teaching post at the Leeds College of Music. He was appointed head of the Light Music department there in 1972.
In his later years he played most often as a bassist in local jazz groups. He led his own quintet throughout the Eighties and retired from full-time college work in 1993.
Richard Hawdon, trumpeter, bandleader, teacher: born Leeds 27 August 1927; married Barbara Moran 1950 (one son, two daughters); died Leeds 24 June 2009.
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