Ian Hamer

Jazz trumpeter of great muscle

Thursday 07 September 2006 00:00 BST

Ian Hamer, trumpeter, composer and bandleader: born Liverpool 11 September 1932; married 1957 Veronica Spinks (one son, two daughters; marriage dissolved), 1988 Marion Stedman; died Brighton 3 September 2006.

The music of Tubby Hayes, at its peak in the 1960s, is regarded as the acme of British jazz. Ian Hamer was one of its prime movers. He featured on many of Hayes's albums and his achievements paralleled those of another of Hayes's trumpet associates, the great Jimmy Deuchar. Hamer and Deuchar were both, like Hayes, masterful composers and arrangers.

Hamer's blistering arrangement of "Night in Tunisia" for Hayes is a triumph of scoring for big band. It's certainly one of the best ever re-workings of the piece, combining lucid beauty and great power, and features on the recently reissued 1966 100 Per Cent Proof, possibly the most effective of all Hayes's albums. Hamer wrote the piece to feature his own muted trumpet, Hayes's flute and the powerhouse drumming of Ronnie Stephenson.

It is difficult to understand why Hamer didn't get the acclaim that he deserved so well, for he was an imaginative writer and a trumpet soloist of great muscle, respected by giants like Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis.

Hamer worked regularly in the band of another trumpeter, Kenny Wheeler, who is at the same time one of the finest and one of the shyest exponents of the instrument. Wheeler and Hamer were travelling through an airport somewhere in Europe when Hamer nudged Wheeler and said, "There's Miles Davis! I know him. Let's go and say hello." Wheeler, already frightened, knew of Davis's reputation for being unapproachable and abrasive and trailed timidly behind as Hamer approached the great man.

"Hey, Miles! Ian Hamer. Remember? I want you to meet Kenny Wheeler, the greatest trumpet player in the world."

Davis looked over at Wheeler. "Yeah, I heard of you, Kenny. How you doing, Ian?" Which, for Wheeler, was like winning the Premiership and the FA Cup in the same season.

Apart from his jazz vocation, Hamer was a master craftsman, at the top of his career in demand to play with the most eminent performers of popular music. He played on the Beatles' "Got to Get You into My Life" session and backed Bing Crosby, Tom Jones, Dusty Springfield, Shirley Bassey, Barbra Streisand, James Last and Matt Munro amongst many others. He played lead trumpet on the BBC's Top of the Pops for more than 20 years.

His jazz pedigree was equally impressive, including, as well as Wheeler and Hayes, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Woody Herman, Mike Gibbs, Stan Tracey, Benny Golson, Lalo Schifrin, Gary McFarland, Thad Jones and Mel Lewis.

Hamer and his brothers Stuart and George began their musical careers at the Grafton Ballroom in Liverpool in the band run by their mother, Mary Daly Hamer, and known as Mrs Wilf Hamer's Band. After National Service in the RAF he first joined Carl Barriteau's band and then, in 1954, Oscar Rabin. After that he was a jazz soloist in the Vic Lewis big band and in the group led by the Kirchin Brothers. He was with Tubby Hayes from 1955 to 1956, beginning a close association that was to last until Hayes's death in 1973.

The Sixties saw him with Eric Delaney, Jack Parnell, John Dankworth, Harry South, Joe Harriott, Kenny Wheeler, Mike Gibbs, Woody Herman's Anglo-American Herd, Barbara Thompson, the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis band and Ted Heath. He was not a lover of the Ted Heath band's music. "If I heard 'Hot Toddy' again I would throw up," he wrote to a friend.

Hamer was most proud of his sextet, which played during the Sixties and Seventies and featured variously Tubby Hayes, Dick Morrisey, Alan Skidmore and Harry South playing mostly from the cornucopia of Hamer's compositions. A double album, Acropolis, recorded by the original sextets, appeared for the first time earlier this year. Hamer was amused to make his record début as a leader at the age of 73.

Retired to Brighton almost 20 years ago, he established Ian Hamer and the Sussex Youth Jazz Orchestra. "I found the youths came and went too quick," he said, "so I dropped the youth bit and it has worked fine ever since."

Steve Voce

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