News from the National Jazz Archive
Newsletter 3, April/May 2021

Archive reopens

We’re delighted that the Archive has been open again for staff and volunteers since 15 March.

We are now able to receive visitors again, but by appointment only, due to restrictions on the number of people allowed at any one time. If you would like to visit the Archive, please contact our research archivist David Nathan – phone 020 8502 4701 during opening hours, or email 

Jazz book sale

Our latest book sale leaflet is now available, with more than 60 books on offer. The themes this month are: Encyclopedias and reference books; Masters, giants and kings; Introductions to jazz; Classic / collectable books on jazz; Storyville Books; Blues; and, thanks to Geoff Barton’s donation, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.

The books come from the generous gifts and legacy donations by Geoff Barton, Michael Brocking, Nick Cottis, Les Dunnett, Pam and Tony Elliott, Tony Farsky, Graham Langley, Jill Lince, Chris Lowe, Jon Oliver, Richard Pite, David Sharpe and John Sturgess, to whom we are very grateful. 

We have only one copy of many of them, so email quickly to check that the books you want are still available! Please note that postage costs have been increased slightly to reflect higher Royal Mail charges.. 

Darius Brubeck Quartet – 18 September

As announced last month, the Archive’s first fundraising concert this year is planned for 18 September, with the Darius Brubeck Quartet celebrating the music of Dave Brubeck. With Darius on piano will be Dave O’Higgins on sax, Matt Ridley on bass and Wesley Gibbens on drums. The group were scheduled to play for us last April so we are delighted to welcome them again, after such a difficult time.

The event will be held strictly in accordance with Government guidance and regulations. Further details will be available soon. 

The definitive history of jazz in Britain 

Many of you will already be following this wonderful series, currently being broadcast on Jazz FM. It began on 4 April and will run from 9 to 10pm every Sunday night until 6 June.

The series is hosted by award-winning BBC journalist and presenter Clive Myrie, who cites jazz music as one of his passions in life. Each week he explores a decade, from the 1920s to the present day, with archive audio, reconstructions, and expert insight from a ‘who’s who’ of guests. 

Among these guests are several people closely associated with the Archive, including trustees Catherine Tackley and Tim Wall, our founder patrons Digby Fairweather, patrons John Altman and Val Wilmer, and ambassador Adrian Cox.

Visit the Jazz FM website to listen to the whole series of 'The Definitive History of Jazz in Britain'.

The Archive is delighted to have been able to support the series by making available the British Jazz Timeline from our website, written by Roger Cotterrell and Digby Fairweather. 

Thank you – recent donations to the Archive

We are most grateful for the many books, journals, photos and other materials that have been donated in recent months. Because the Archive has been closed due to coronavirus it has not been possible to compile a full listing, but a summary of recent donations and enquiries has been compiled.

The John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins Collection

The Archive is excited to be able to display online a collection of photographs by John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins (1937–2015), who was an iconic leader of the 1960s counter-culture movement.

Hoppy, a jazz fan and social activist, captures this fast-moving period in a series of evocative images. Artists such as Cleo Laine and John Dankworth (shown above in 1962), Dave Brubeck, Thelonious Monk and Ray Charles are documented alongside images of CND demonstrations, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Allen Ginsberg and fellow beat poets, and the newly-arrived Beatles and Rolling Stones.

In her tribute to Hopkins, photographer, writer and National Jazz Archive patron, Val Wilmer, credits Hopkins with introducing her to avant-garde jazz icons such as Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp, Cecil Taylor and Sun Ra.

The Hoppy Hopkins collection is a rich resource for those researching or simply interested in this pivotal moment in history.

The National Jazz Archive is most grateful to the trustees of the John Hopkins Archive and the ElliottHalls Gallery, Amsterdam for granting permission to display his work.

Progress report on work at the Archive

Our volunteer coordinator Angela Davies writes about the continuing work by our great team of volunteers. 

We currently have 11 active volunteers. Due to the lockdown closure since December, they have been unable to continue with some of their hands-on tasks, although our remote-working volunteers have continued to make good progress. With the re-opening of the Archive on 15 March and the gradual return of some volunteers, we have been able to resume our on-site projects.
If you'd like to find out more about volunteering at the Archive, contact Angela, on

(The photo of NJA volunteers, staff and trustees was taken at the Archive in July 2019, when normal working was possible.)

Rabbit Records – update on donations

Since 2007, Rabbit Records has been working with the National Jazz Archive to help people to donate or dispose of their collections of vinyl records and CDs. We are most grateful to Scott Nicol of Rabbit Records for his continuing help and support, and to everyone who has donated records and CDs. In the last three months, over £725 has been received by the Archive from sales of records and CDs. 

If you would like your collection to be sold to support the Archive then Rabbit Records can facilitate the sale, with a proportion of the proceeds passed on to benefit the work and development of the Archive.

Rabbit Records are happy to discuss and handle collections large and small, from a couple of boxes up to major collections. Arrangements can be made for collection from your home or office. To discuss your requirements simply contact Scott Nicol at Rabbit Records on 07710 794896 or e-mail

Keith Nichols
(13 February 1945–20 January 2021) 

Keith was born and lived in Ilford, Essex his entire life. And what a life! His love for jazz began at an early age and he was also an award-winning accordionist when he was 15. During the 1970s, Keith had formed several bands, including New Sedalia and the London Ragtime Orchestra. 

He was a true ‘renaissance man’ of classical jazz – an arranger, a multi-instrumentalist as a player of the piano, trombone, reeds, and on occasions, the accordion. After graduating from the Guildhall School of Music, he turned professional, and toured for seven years with the jazz-comedy band, the Levity Lancers, in which he played piano, trombone and tuba.

Rightly, Keith Nichols is considered to be one of the foremost authorities on classic jazz and ragtime, specialising in the piano styles of, in particular, Scott Joplin, James P Johnson, Fats Waller and Duke Ellington. 

The writer’s first experience of Keith’s ‘jazz magic’, was a concert in 1975 of the New Paul Whiteman Orchestra at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London. Having secured Whiteman’s original scores from the library of Williams College, Massachusetts, a group of like-minded British musicians came together to re-create the best of them from 1927–30, when Bix Beiderbecke was with the band. Keith’s main contribution was in the trombone section, vocalising as one of the Rhythm Boys and a stand-out performance on piano of Bix’s composition ‘Candlelights’. 

A video recorded in 1974 of the New Paul Whiteman Orchestra captured the dreamlike quality of those golden days of the 1920s. Look out for Harry Gold playing the Adrian Rollini bass sax part.

In later years, Keith went on to form the Midnite Follies Orchestra, the Keith Nichols Ragtime Orchestra, the Cotton Club Orchestra and the Blue Devils. Apart from playing gigs and festivals across the UK, he toured extensively in France, USA, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland and Egypt. In the 2014 he led the Keith Nichols New Paul Whiteman Orchestra at Whitley Bay. By recruiting many younger musicians, Keith was still bringing his joy and passion for the jazz of the 1920s to audiences of the 21st century.

Keith was a regular part of Richard Pite’s Jazz Repertory Company, lending his musical skills whenever required. Richard, his close friend and colleague, wrote of him:

“What Keith always conveyed was the sheer pleasure of making music, and the many responses to his passing from fellow musicians and from his many admirers make it abundantly clear that this supremely gifted musician was a much loved and greatly respected master of his craft.”

You can read a transcript on the NJA website of Mark Cotgrove interviewing Keith in 2013 as part of the Jazz in Essex project.

Les Dunnett

The Archive is most grateful to Alan Dunnett and family for donating their father Les’ jazz CDs, books and 78s to the Archive after he died in January. Some of the books have been kept to fill in gaps in our collection, while the others are being sold to raise funds for the Archive, and being passed on to other jazz lovers. Alan has written this portrait of his father Les.

“My dad Leslie (Les) Dunnett was born in 1921 in Chiswick, the youngest of five siblings. He was reportedly greatly spoilt by his three sisters. A small claim to fame is that his father, my grandfather Alfred, was a friend of Arthur Waugh – father of the more famous Evelyn Waugh. I discovered a number of books in my father’s collection with hand-written dedications from the elder Waugh to my grandfather. This includes a poignant note in a copy of Waugh’s book ‘One Man’s Road’ to my grandmother, Winifred, from Christmas 1931 recalling happier times. My grandfather had died in September of that year following a road accident. My dad was, of course, only 10 at the time. 

After leaving school he took up an engineering apprenticeship at Heston Aerodrome (later subsumed into Heathrow) where he worked until 1951. During WWII the aerodrome was bombed more than once. The roof was blown off my dad’s hangar during a raid, leaving him to work on in the open air.

During the later 1930s he seems to have acquired his life-long love of jazz, avidly buying American imports. He also learnt drumming and played in local bands. Unsurprisingly his main hero was Gene Krupa. His small, rather battered, set of drums has been given to someone from Wimbledon for his 14-year-old son who is learning to play.

His other youthful interests were racing cycling and, later, art, including amateur painting. He switched careers in the 1950s, initially working in retail, selling TVs and radios, but then establishing a successful in-house printing and publicity operation for his employer. 

Following retirement, he continued to listen to jazz on an almost daily basis, to see live jazz in local venues and a couple of times at the Lyme Regis festival. He remained very interested in many areas of life: for example, on his 80th birthday my wife and I took him on the Millennium Wheel, along to the Tate Modern, then a Thai dinner followed by a live jazz set. He was still dancing to the music at that age. He remained fit and alert until very late in life, despite the death of his second wife in 2013, but his health declined late last year resulting in hospitalisation. He seemed to rally, but acquired Covid-19 which was too much for him to fight. 

At his funeral we played:
–    Just a closer walk with thee' by the Treme Brass Band  
–    ‘Take 5’ by the Dave Brubeck Quartet 
–    ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’ by Benny Goodman with, of course, Gene Krupa  

There were reports of foot-tapping sounds coming from within the coffin, if you believe that sort of thing.”


Tomorrow's Warriors celebrate their 30th anniversary

Congratulations to Tomorrow's Warriors for their fantastic achievements over the past 30 years,

Co-founded in 1991 by NJA patron Gary Crosby OBE – a member of the all-black collective Jazz Warriors in the 1980s – and agent-manager Janine Irons MBE, Tomorrow’s Warriors provides young people, particularly young people of colour and girls, with free musical training, regardless of their economic background. 

Community organisations are often vital in developing artists from marginalised backgrounds. The non-profit Tomorrow’s Warriors, with partnerships across the country, is the most visible and – with over 60 awards and a wealth of feted graduates – the most successful.

“In three decades, Tomorrow’s Warriors has helped over 10,000 young musicians aged between 11 and 25,” says Irons. “We’re a black-led organisation but we don’t just champion black excellence. We address under-representation in the industry by diversifying who is onstage and who is coming to see them.”

Spike Wells

A wonderful variety of recordings is available on drummer and priest Spike Wells’ website, most from Spike’s personal archive of private recordings, which he is adding to regularly. 
Among the musicians included are Bob Brookmeyer, Mike Carr, Liane Carroll, Teddy Edwards, Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon, Joe Harriott, Tubby Hayes, Peter King, Chris Laurence, Ron Matthewson, Charles McPherson, Dick Morrissey, Colin Purbrook, Mick Pyne, Daryl Runswick, Gwilym Simcock, Stan Sulzmann, John Taylor, Don Weller, Bobby Wellins … and many more!

A marvellous resource.

Jazz in Britain 

This not-for-profit organisation aims to ‘collect, curate, preserve, celebrate and promote the legacy of British jazz musicians’, including off-air and other recordings of British jazz performances.

Jazz in Britain publishes books, releases vinyl, CDs and downloads, working in partnership with musicians and their families. The source material comes either from musicians’ own archives, or from the collections of fans who preserved copies of off-air recordings. Recordings are only used with the approval of the musicians or their families and subject to appropriate copyright clearance and royalty payments.

Interest is sought from anyone who has recordings that could be contributed to the archive, and from musicians (or their families/estates) who are willing to contribute material from their own archives.

Musicians featured on the releases so far include Ray Russell, Mike Gibbs, Neil Ardley, Ian Carr, Mike Taylor and Tubby Hayes. Four books have been published, about Barbara Thompson, Jon Hiseman, Harry Beckett and British progressive jazz during the cold war. 

Jazz in Britain also incorporates the British Jazz Sound Archive, which is building information about BBC jazz programmes, including Jazz Workshop, Jazz in Britain, Jazz Club, Jazz on 3, Sounds of Jazz and many more. This is a work in progress and does not link to audio files but includes information on over 600 sessions.

Drums in the twenties

This fine online resource, with information about drums, drummers and drumming in the 1920s, has been created by Nicholas D Ball, a jazz drummer/percussionist living in London, who specialises in the drumming styles of the early part of the last century, in particular the hot jazz of the 1920s. He contributed to ‘The definitive history of jazz in Britain’ series being broadcast on Jazz FM and featured above.

The site has more than 30 fascinating essays and features, including lots of musical examples, grouped in three categories:

Heroes – profiles of the most important, influential and interesting players, overviews of their careers up to 1930, along with some tall stories and a bit of musical analysis.
Instruments – articles about Nick’s own adventures and misadventures with period drums, cymbals, ’traps and other equipment.
Library – literature, interviews, transcriptions and other resources.

Today is International Jazz Day!

International Jazz Day is an International Day declared by UNESCO in 2011 to ‘highlight jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people in all corners of the globe’. It is celebrated annually on 30 April with hundreds of events and activities around the world.
The National Jazz Archive was founded by trumpeter Digby Fairweather in 1988 and is supported by Essex County Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
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