British jazz musician John Dankworth dies aged 82

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

File photo of John Dankworth.

British jazz musician Sir John Dankworth, said to be "one of the totemic figures of British jazz" and "the first major jazz musician" by Jazzwise magazine, died at the age of 82 in the King Edward VII Hospital in London, England on Saturday after being hospitalised with an undisclosed illness for the last few months. His family and his agent made the confirmation of the obituary.

He was born in Essex on 1927 to a family of musicians. He started playing the clarinet after being musically influenced by Benny Goodman. During the 1950s, he became an active jazz artist with his group, the Dankworth Seven. While auditioning for singers for the group in 1950, he met Dame Cleo Laine, who later became his wife.

Dankworth, who had been working in the British jazz music industry for over 60 years, was the musical director to other famous jazz musicians such as Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole and Charlie Parker. He was also the composer of the theme music for television programmes The Avengers and Tomorrow's World, as well as writing the music score for 1966 film Modesty Blaise. Johnny Dankworth, as he was often known by, was appointed CBE in 1974 and was knighted in 2006 - to become Sir John Dankworth - for his services to music. One of the last performances from John Dankworth was at the London Jazz Festival in November 2009, where he played the saxophone while sitting in a wheelchair. Dankworth also had two children - Jacqui, his daughter and Alec, his son. Both are now jazz musicians.

Sir John Dankworth - a great man and one of our finest musicians and composers has died. Rest in peace sir.

Jamie Cullum

Singer Dame Cleo Laine, John Dankworth's wife, also announced his death during a concert inside a music venue in Buckinghamshire which she and John founded near to their residence, having established the Wavendon Allmusic Plan in 1969. The concert was to celebrate the venue's 40th anniversary. A statement that was released from the music venue said: "The Stables is greatly saddened by the news that one of its Founders & Life Presidents, Sir John Dankworth CBE has passed away on the day that The Stables celebrated its 40th birthday." In a statement, Jim Murtha, Dankworth's agent, said that "[t]he all-star concert, featuring numerous British stars of stage, screen and recordings, became a tribute to John." Stephen Clarke, who is the chairman of the charity supporting The Stables released a statement which said that "[i]t is a fitting tribute that on the day of Sir John's death that we celebrated on stage...with some of the many artists who have performed with Sir John."

Speaking from New York in the United States, Jim Murtha stated to the BBC: "For British jazz and jazz around the world, I believe John has become such an international figure, particularly since he became Sir John Dankworth a few years ago." A message placed on the Twitter page of present day jazz musician Jamie Cullum said: "Sir John Dankworth - a great man and one of our finest musicians and composers has died. Rest in peace sir."


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