Tuesday, February 09, 2010

JOHNNY DANKWORTH: Sir John Dies at 82

At the time of his death, he was Sir John Dankworth, a legend in Great Britain. But for most of his life, (September 20, 1927-February 6, 2010) he was "Johnny Dankworth," the cool alto saxophone player who helmed the Dankworth Seven, swung at Birdland and the Newport Jazz Festival, and even charted with an instrumental, "African Waltz" in 1961. He also wrote the original "Avengers" theme (when Honor Blackman was starring) and of course was married to singer Cleo Laine. They were still touring in October of 2009 when John's health began to fail. He played his sax while sitting in a wheelchair at the London Jazz Festival in December, one of his last public appearances.

In addition to his many jazz albums, you'll find plenty of soundtracks with Dankworth's name on them. Though perhaps not as well known in this field as the usual suspects, from Jerry Goldsmith to John Williams and back, he scored an impressive number of films, including "The Servant" (1963), "Darling" (1965), "Morgan!" (1966), "Modesty Blaise" (1966), "Accident" (1967), "Fathom" (1967), "Salt and Pepper" (1968), "The Magus" (1968), "The Engagement" (1970), "Perfect Friday" (1970), "10 Rillington Place" (1971), "The Kingfisher Caper" (1975) and "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" (2000).

In America, Dankworth's most popular single was "African Waltz," on the Roulette label. The piece was composed by Galt MacDermott (yes, the guy who wrote the Broadway musical "Hair") and it received Grammy awards for Best Instrumental Theme and Best Original Jazz Composition in 1961. It was the same year that Peter Nero was voted "Best New Artist," and Grammies also went to Jack Jones (for "Lollipops and Roses") and Lambert, Hendricks and Ross (for "High Flying.") PS, there were lyrics to "African Waltz," but nobody was too thrilled with them. Donna Loren performed them on an episode of "Shindig." Let's just say the Dankworth version is the classic.Danke, John.


1 comment:

The Digital Gramophone Company said...

We have written and released a retrospective to Sir Johnny. If you would like to know more see this link