Desert island jazz

Stan Kenton publicity shot 1951The BBC has been broadcasting the radio programme Desert Island Discs for 70 years. As I type (29 January 2012), the 70th anniversary programme is being broadcast in which Sir David Attenborough is choosing his favourite discs and various other items, while answering questions about his life and tastes.

In celebration of this anniversary the BBC has put online details of all the guests who have taken part - including Stan Kenton in a 1956 broadcast. What do you suppose Stan (pictured) would have chosen as his eight discs? Some surprises here I'm sure.

Unfortunately the programme is not one of those available for listening - so we can't hear Stan's rationale.

The Desert Island Discs website offers the facility to search by castaway name and by the records, books, authors and luxury items chosen by castaways since 1942. Some 1000 programmes are available for download.

Typing "jazz" in the DID search box reveals many other jazz personalities, including Woody Herman and John Dankworth (two different visits, many years apart), Stephane Grappelli (with a reverse negative photo, making him appear as a left-handed player), Earl Hines, Dave Brubeck, and, in a minority at the more modern end of the spectrum, Karl Jenkins (2006), Courtney Pine (2001) and John Surman (1984).

Among castaways who chose jazz were Janet Street-Porter (MJQ, Cortege), Sir Christopher Meyer (Jelly Roll Morton's Red Hot Peppers, Doctor Jazz), Rabbi Hugo Gryn (Kid Ory's Creole Jazz Band, St Louis Blues) and Andrew Neil (Miles Davis, Concierto de Aranjuez).

Individual jazz players were chosen with varying frequency, as follows: Louis Armstrong (135 appearances, but including Hello Dolly and Wonderful World), Ella Fitzgerald (127), Billie Holiday (64), Charlie Parker (19), Stan Getz (13), Humphrey Lyttelton (11), Keith Jarrett (8), John Coltrane (7), Coleman Hawkins (6), Weather Report (4), Ornette Coleman (3), John McLaughlin (1), Cecil Taylor (0), Albert Ayler (0) and Evan Parker (0).

Snooker player Steve Davis, often remarked as an unlikely jazz specialist, didn't pot anything by his favourites, the great French jazz-rockers Magma, but did include Magma's founder Christian Vander as well as Earl Klugh, Gentle Giant and two by George Duke.

Neither the jazz trombonist Steve Davis (Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie et al) nor the jazz drummer Steve Davis (Lynne Arriale Trio et al) nor the jazz bassist Steve Davis (John Coltrane, Chuck Mangione) appeared among anyone's choices.

Gordon Sapsed
(with additional material by Mark Gilbert)


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