Son leads anniversary tribute to jazz great Sir John Dankworth

Warriors Dance Festival, Milton Keynes Bowl 24.07.10
Warriors Dance Festival, Milton Keynes Bowl 24.07.10

IT’S almost a year since one of Britain’s best-known jazz musicians, composers and commentators Sir John Dankworth died at the King Edward VII hospital in central London.

As a special tribute to the great man the Million Dollar Big Band led by his son Alec Dankworth will play at Berkhamsted Jazz next Sunday.

The large ensemble was formed to perform The Million Dollar Collection – a suite written by John in 1967 and inspired by a collection of paintings by artists including Avercamp, Klee, Greaves, Modigliani, Bosch, Picasso and Hogarth.

Next weekend will see a rare performance of the suite in its entirety.

The Band will also perform some of John’s standards, and the president of Berkhamsted Jazz Michael Garrick MBE will add music he recorded with John for the Open University, together with his requiem Why Cry?

At 17 John won a place at the Royal Academy of Music and in 1949 was voted British Musician of the Year.

Inspired by the legend Charlie Parker, he took up the saxophone and in 1950, as well as meeting his wife Dame Cleo Laine he formed the Dankworth Seven - which became one of Britain’s leading modern jazz groups.

This was followed by his big band in 1953 which he led for 20 years as well as composing for films, television and children’s concerts.

He and Dame Cleo founded the All Music Plan at their home in Wavendon in 1969 with the aim of helping people broaden their views about music through performance and musical education. It’s developed into the Stables Arts Centre, one of Britain’s liveliest venues.

Sir John was knighted for services to jazz in 2006.

Michael Garrick said: “John’s self imposed workload was incredible. He really was a superman and an enormously canny operator, drawing in high profile people into his take on music - which was far wider than the jazz label. By this means he promoted other musicians’ careers, including my own and my son Christian’s. He was sorely needed - and consequently sorely missed.”

The Million Dollar Big Band led by Alec Dankworth will perform at the Civic Centre, High Street, Berkhamsted on Sunday, February 6, 7.30pm.

Call 01442 824173 – Monday to Friday from 9am to 6pm – to secure one of the few remaining tickets, or email