Kenny Graham

There were many sad things about the death of Kenny Graham in 1997, one of the minor tragedies being that it ended his reports, previously issued at a clip of one per decade, on what "the millionaire Beatles" were up to. Graham's caustic, alternately amusing and reactionary short essays were just one facet of his creativity, expressed on a selection of woodwind instruments until health issues forced him to concentrate on composing and arranging. Graham was also a progressive jazz bandleader on the British jazz scene, introducing his own take on Afro-Cuban jazz as early as 1950 with Kenny Graham's Afro-Cubists. The latter outfit's stylistic experiments were eventually too much for the public at large, whose abandonment of jazz as a popular music was one of Graham's pet peeves. He came up on the dance band scene, working with popular bandleaders such as Ambrose, but had no patience for the self-contained electric rock & roll combos who would lure the dancers away.

Graham's first instrument was banjo, supposedly putty in his hands at the tender age of five. From there he went to a combination of tenor saxophone, clarinet, and flute, while also doing some choir singing. As a player, his main period of activity was the '50s. After his hospitalization in 1958, he began working on charts for bandleaders such as Ted Heath and was also involved as music director for sessions by famed blues performers Big Bill Broonzy and Josh White. The British MGM label released an LP of Graham's own music entitled Moondog and Suncat Suites, sometimes mistaken for a Cat Stevens effort. Many of Graham's essays are available on a website under his name. ~ Eugene Chadbourne

    London, England
  • BORN
    19 July 1924

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