Tuesday 28 March 2017

Stan Greig

Jazz pianist and drummer, he was associated with the most prominent jazz line-ups of the last 50 years

Stan Greig, who died on November 18 aged 82, was, as both pianist and drummer, a fixture in some of the best-loved British jazz line-ups of the last 50 years – playing behind Humphrey Lyttelton, Acker Bilk and George Melly among others.

Stanley Mackay Greig was born near Edinburgh, on August 12, 1930. His father tuned and repaired pianos, and played drums. While a pupil at the Royal High School, Edinburgh, Greig fell in with a cabal of schoolboy jazz fanatics, including the clarinettist Sandy Brown and trumpeter Al Fairweather. They formed a band, devoted to the classic jazz of the 1920s, with Greig playing piano. He found, however, that the instruments he was expected to play were so decrepit that he borrowed his father's drums and played them instead.

He took up his father's trade and worked with him – with a break for National Service in the Royal Engineers – until the age of 24. By this time his reputation as a drummer had grown, and he moved to London to join Ken Colyer's band. A fellow recruit was the clarinettist Bernard "Acker" Bilk.

From Colyer, Greig moved in 1955 to Humphrey Lyttelton's band. At that very moment the Suez crisis occurred and he was recalled to the army. Between 1957 and 1962 he was a regular at recording sessions led by Sandy Brown, Al Fairweather or both. They constituted one of the most creative partnerships in jazz of the period.

In 1960, at the beginning of the "Trad Boom", Greig joined Acker Bilk's Paramount Jazz Band, as pianist. For the next eight years he toured endlessly. At the end of this even the enthusiastic Greig felt the need for change and, for a time, he ran a coffee shop at Potter's Bar, north London.

When he returned to music, from the 1970s onwards, there were fewer bands around. He briefly formed a band with the clarinettist Dave Shepherd and played in the trio of bassist Johnny Hawksworth.

He returned for a while to piano tuning, which he found surprisingly enjoyable because of the people he met. He even tuned Mick Jagger's piano. At the same time, between 1975 and 1985, he formed and led the London Jazz Big Band, a 15-piece orchestra including many prominent players.

From 1977 to 1980, Greig played piano with John Chilton's Feetwarmers, accompanying George Melly, then led his own Boogie-Woogie Band and toured Europe. In 1985 he rejoined Humphrey Lyttelton, remaining for almost 10 years, until ill-health forced his retirement.

Stan Greig was married and divorced twice. He is survived by both wives, and two daughters and one son from his first marriage.

Sunday Independent

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