Obituary: Chris Pyne

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The Independent Online
Norman Christopher Pyne, trombonist: born Bridlington 14 February 1939; married (two daughters); died London 12 April 1995.

Although not the most ubiquitous British trombone player, Chris Pyne was certainly one of the best. Frank Sinatra insisted that he played trombone on all the singer's European tours between 1970 and 1983 and Pyne became the trombonist most in demand in the London studios.

Chris and his brother Mick were taught piano by their father at their home in Bridlington. Mick Pyne went on to become one of the best British jazz pianists, whilst Chris switched to trombone (the fact that he was self-taught makes his achievement all the more notable) and joined an RAF band to further his studies. This was a momentous step, because while in the service he met and worked with John Stevens, Paul Rutherford and Trevor Watts, all to become significant musicians in the jazz avant-garde. They became Chris Pyne's lifelong friends. Perhaps it was their influence that placed Pyne at the head of the jazz avant-garde in Britain.

But before that he cut out a place in mainstream jazz. He came to London in 1963 and worked first with the band of drummer Fat John Cox and then joined blues singer Alexis Korner. He joined Humphrey Lyttelton in 1966 and, with Tony Coe and Eddie Harvey, helped to develop a new style for Lyttelton's group.

This was a period when Lyttelton made a few recordings and, remarkably, since he stayed until 1970, Pyne appears on only one of the trumpeter's albums. It was, however, an exceptionally good one, and featured the American trumpeter Buck Clayton. But during the period with Lyttelton Pyne made recordings with John Dankworth and Ronnie Scott which displayed his more radical thinking. He also worked with powerful bands like those led by Tubby Hayes and Maynard Ferguson.

He continued to play while working in the commercial recording studios, where he accompanied Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Dizzy Gillespie and Sarah Vaughan as well as Sinatra. He was much in demand for modern jazz groups, and played a fundamental role in the various orchestras led by Mike Gibbs and John Dankworth.

When the great resurgence of the fortunes of the pianist and bandleader Stan Tracey happened in the Eighties, Pyne was on hand and became a key element in both Tracey's small and larger bands. His recordings for other leaders during this period were legion, and he worked with Philly Joe Jones, John Surman, Kenny Wheeler, John Taylor, Gordon Beck and Charlie Watts among many others.

His illness over the past few years deprived British jazz trombone of one of its greatest exponents and most colourful and effective soloists.