John Jack – 1933-2017

John Jack was one of those figures who seem to have always been on the London jazz scene, and it's hard to imagine it without him. Right up to his death he was a regular, with long-standing partner, Shirley (pictured above left with John, middle, and Jack Docherty, right), at the Vortex, where a tribute was recently given to him. Many of his close friends and colleagues attended to celebrate his life and contribution to the music, and John's friend of many years, Mike Westbrook, gave a solo piano performance dedicated to him. In response, John addressed the gathering, showing he had not lost any of his wit and sharpness, but also his warmth towards the people and the music in which he had spent his life.

Born on 25 May 1933 in Barnes, his interest in music came from his mother, an occasional singer in nightclub bands, and he bought his first 78s around 1947/8 from Shepherds Bush Market – Jelly Roll Morton's 'Dr.Jazz' and Pinetop Smith's 'Jumpsteady Blues' on Brunswick. John did National Service in the Army before embarking upon what might be described as a 'bohemian' existence in the 1950s. He painted, wrote, played in a skiffle group, trombone in a trad band (his regard for Bunk Johnson extended throughout his life), and travelled, at one point living in Paris and mixing with Beats such as Allen Ginsberg.

He worked as a salesman for several jazz labels in the late 1950s/early 60s: Colin Pomeroy's Jazz Collector, Emil Shallit's Melodisc, Doug Dobell's 77 Records and Carlo Krahmer's Esquire, and at Dobells Jazz Shop in London. Then came a turning point in British jazz when Ronnie Scott opened his new club in Frith Street, and John was asked by Pete King to run the Old Place in Gerrard Street, putting on the new generation of improvisers.

"It was a stroke of great fortune," he later recalled. "Pete said: 'Here John, you've got a club. You look after it. You get on with it. Here are the keys. Do what you want with it'. And they paid the rent and we got on with it. Not many people get that kind of luck."

He had it for its last 18 months, often assisted by his brother Roger, and it saw some of the most exciting players to come out of the jazz scene, including the South Africans who were based in London and with whom he forged a strong and lasting relationship, especially Dudu Pukwana, Harry Miller and his wife, Hazel. From that emerged the Jazz Centre Society, with a committee which initially included John, Charles Fox, Brian Blain and John Fordham. At first based at the 100 Club, it expanded to the Country Club and other venues. He also wrote a regular jazz column for Sounds.

Soon after, John formed Cadillac Music, starting with a Mike Westbrook release in 1973, on, as he described it, "the day VAT broke out" and it soon expanded to include the distribution of numerous independent labels. In the mid 1970s he worked from the basement of Collets Jazz Shop (later Ray's) in Shaftesbury Avenue, and Cadillac releases included those by George Lewis, Bruce Turner, Stan Tracey, the Christie Brothers Stompers, Bobby Wellins, Dudu Pukwana, Mike Osborne, Joe Harriott, Trevor Watts' Moiré Music, Ken Colyer & the Crane River Jazz Band, The Jazz Doctors (Billy Bang & Frank Lowe) and David Murray; it reflected John's wide appreciation of jazz styles, the constant factors for John being "improvisation, honest expression of emotion and creativity". Visitors to the basement ranged from Willem Breuker to Prince Buster, and although he was known for his explosive outbursts, it disguised John's generous and hospitable nature.

He finally wound down the distribution side in 2009 but kept Cadillac going. In his final few moments he was with Hazel Miller and friend/associate Mike Gavin listening to, appropriately, Bunk Johnson's 'A Closer Walk With Thee'. John joined Bunk on Thursday 7 September.

– Matthew Wright

Photo courtesy Mike Gavin

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website

If you do not change browser settings, you consent to continue. Learn more

I understand

Breaking News

Dave Holland and Evan Parker line-up for Vortex Fundraiser ahead of new album

Dave Holland and Evan Parker line-up for…

Two of British jazz's biggest names – former Miles Davis...

Read More.....
Get The Blessing’s ‘Bristopolis’, Dame Evelyn Glennie and Pee Wee Ellis for Bristol Jazz & Blues Fest

Get The Blessing’s ‘Bristopolis’, Dame E…

The programme for the sixth edition of the Bristol Jazz...

Read More.....
Courtney Pine, Zara McFarlane and Evan Parker added to full Cheltenham Jazz Fest line-up

Courtney Pine, Zara McFarlane and Evan P…

The full programme has been revealed for this year's edition...

Read More.....
Daring Dutch drummers Han Bennink and Joost Lijbaart for UK dates

Daring Dutch drummers Han Bennink and Jo…

Heavyweight Dutch jazz bands Quartet NL and Under the Surface...

Read More.....
GoGo Penguin bring the beats to the Roundhouse

GoGo Penguin bring the beats to the Roun…

GoGo Penguin, the Blue Note-signed Manchester piano trio whose fusion...

Read More.....
Sugimoto Activity Surge: Studio News and UK Dates

Sugimoto Activity Surge: Studio News and…

Phantasm of fragmentary restraint, Japanese guitarist Taku Sugimoto, jostles with...

Read More.....
Vula Viel electrify Elgar Room

Vula Viel electrify Elgar Room

What do Swaledale in North Yorkshire and Western Ghana have...

Read More.....
Courtney Pine heads-up Jazz For Labour in Leatherhead

Courtney Pine heads-up Jazz For Labour i…

Having blown up a storm at the inaugural 2015 Jazz...

Read More.....
Andrew McCormack's Graviton Hit The Ground Running At Ronnie's

Andrew McCormack's Graviton Hit The Grou…

  The acoustic at Soho's iconic venue changes quite considerably according...

Read More.....
Jaimie Branch, Moor Mother and Jeff Parker Among the Acts at Austin's Sonic Transmissions Fest

Jaimie Branch, Moor Mother and Jeff Park…

  Texan Templars of outlier audio releases, Astral Spirits, have combined...

Read More.....
Zakir Hussain Crosscurrents, Parliament-Funkadelic, Tony Allen, Moses Boyd and Nubya Garcia announced for Love Supreme

Zakir Hussain Crosscurrents, Parliament-…

The first tranche of names to appear across the Love...

Read More.....
Saxophonist Roberts Braves The Outlands

Saxophonist Roberts Braves The Outlands

US saxophonist and composer Matana Roberts, arguably best known for...

Read More.....
Helena Kay leads Women In Jazz celebration at 100 Club

Helena Kay leads Women In Jazz celebrati…

Ella, Nina, Billie, Dee Dee – figures so distinguished that...

Read More.....
Alex Hitchcock/Tom Barford Quartet's Twin Tenor Frontline Fires At The Verdict

Alex Hitchcock/Tom Barford Quartet's Twi…

The twin tenors tradition has a long history, stretching back...

Read More.....
Award-winning bassist Gary Crosby OBE recovering following a stroke

Award-winning bassist Gary Crosby OBE re…

Jazzwise received this statement from Trudy Lister of Tomorrow's Warriors...

Read More.....
Clark Tracey and Brotherhood of Breath - The Music Of Chris McGregor Among The Manifold Delights At South Coast Jazz Fest

Clark Tracey and Brotherhood of Breath -…

Last week saw the highly successful South Coast Jazz Festival...

Read More.....
Caine Sprouts Chamber Music Chomps At Ambitious Brussels Fest

Caine Sprouts Chamber Music Chomps At Am…

  One of the Brussels Jazz Festival's best gigs came three days...

Read More.....
Nubya Garcia, Maisha and Triforce surf new wave of UK jazz at We Out Here album launch

Nubya Garcia, Maisha and Triforce surf n…

Like all the best creative scenes, London's emergent and youthful...

Read More.....
Høiby And Kinch Lead Brits Charge At Brussels Jazz Fest

Høiby And Kinch Lead Brits Charge At Bru…

There were three dominant artist groupings during the Brussels Jazz Festival...

Read More.....
Video Premiere: Fire! Take Hold With 'The Hands'

Video Premiere: Fire! Take Hold With 'Th…

Check out Martin Malm’s psychotropic Brakhage-influenced flicks for ‘The Hands’...

Read More.....
Earth, Wind & Fire confirmed for Love Supreme Jazz Festival 2018

Earth, Wind & Fire confirmed for Lov…

The organisers of this year's sixth edition of the Love...

Read More.....
Simon H Fell: Raggedy And Rhapsodic At Kings Place

Simon H Fell: Raggedy And Rhapsodic At K…

The image that graces the souvenir booklet of Kings Place's...

Read More.....
Theon Cross and Shirley Tetteh join Courtney Pine for Inner City Ensemble

Theon Cross and Shirley Tetteh join Cour…

Following the announcement that multi-award winning saxophonist and composer Courtney...

Read More.....
Paul Towndrow presents Charlie Parker with Strings for Glasgow concert series

Paul Towndrow presents Charlie Parker wi…

Fresh interpretations of the landmark Charlie Parker with Strings recordings...

Read More.....
Hugh Masekela (04/04/1939 – 23/01/2018)

Hugh Masekela (04/04/1939 – 23/01/2018)

As South Africa continues its development in the post-apartheid era...

Read More.....
South Coast Jazz Festival Crests The Big Wave

South Coast Jazz Festival Crests The Big…

  Now in its fourth year, the South Coast Jazz Festival...

Read More.....
Julian Lage brings Appalachian jazz apocalypse to Pizza Express

Julian Lage brings Appalachian jazz apoc…

Perhaps it's a canny coincidence that's there's a tune on...

Read More.....
Marlene Verplanck 1933-2018

Marlene Verplanck 1933-2018

  On stage, Marlene Verplanck stood quite still, diminutive and always...

Read More.....
Sons of Kemet burn at New York’s Winter Jazzfest

Sons of Kemet burn at New York’s Winter …

Winter Jazzfest is a big deal in New York City...

Read More.....
Alexander Hawkins/Elaine Mitchener Quartet captivate at Kings Place

Alexander Hawkins/Elaine Mitchener Quart…

The conventions of a jazz performance are so well established...

Read More.....
Baptiste Curates Capital Coltrane Day

Baptiste Curates Capital Coltrane Day

Award-winning saxophonist and Jazzwise 2017 end-of-year-chart podium-maker Denys Baptiste curates...

Read More.....
Bill Frisell/Thomas Morgan, Andy Sheppard, Nigel Kennedy and Roller Trio added to Cheltenham Jazz Festival line-up

Bill Frisell/Thomas Morgan, Andy Sheppar…

Things are hotting up for this year's 22nd edition of...

Read More.....
Cloudmakers Five make it rain with new album and tour

Cloudmakers Five make it rain with new a…

Vibrant vibes-led group Cloudmakers – the long-running trio featuring vibes...

Read More.....
Scottish saxophonist Helena Kay wins Peter Whittingham Award

Scottish saxophonist Helena Kay wins Pet…

Emerging Scottish saxophonist/bandleader Helena Kay (pictured) has been announced as...

Read More.....
Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy talks about Classic Album Sunday sessions at Jazz Café

Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy talks about Class…

Camden Town's revamped Jazz Cafe presents series of album playbacks...

Read More.....


Subcribe To Jazzwise

Advertisement

Call 0800 137201 to subscribe or click here to email the subscriptions team

Get in touch

Jazzwise Magazine,
St. Judes Church,
Dulwich Road, 
Herne Hill,
London, SE24 0PD.

0208 677 0012

Latest Tweets

Thinking of you high priestess, happy birthday Nina Simone @jazzfm @vortexjazz @EZHMAG @KirkdaleBooks… https://t.co/fq0ilQ3BbU
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
Many happy returns Craig Taborn @ECMRecords @ProperJazz @Tzadik_label @screwgub @impulselabel https://t.co/kNs3EDDmwj
Follow Us - @Jazzwise

Newsletter

Sign up to the Jazzwise monthly E-Newsletter

 

© 2016 MA Business & Leisure Ltd registered in England and Wales number 02923699 Registered office: Jesses Farm, Snow Hill, Dinton, Salisbury, SP3 5HN . Designed By SE24 MEDIA