A great musical salute to Sir John, one year on

Jacqui Dankworth
Jacqui Dankworth

ON Saturday, February 6, 2010 Dame Cleo Laine and her family performed at the 40th Anniversary Gala Concert in support of The Stables at Wavendon.

Cleo – who founded the venue with her husband, son Alec and daughter Jacqui wowed the audience.

Then they moved us to tears when they announced the death of Cleo’s husband and their father, Sir John Dankworth.

John had hoped to perform at the show, but passed away at a hospital in London mere hours before the curtain rose on the performance.

It was a celebration and a mourning, a memorable, emotional evening that will stay with everyone who was present and was frankly amazed by the strength of a family united in grief but determined that the show would go on.

On Sunday, February 6, 2011 the family reunited once again – in memory of John on the one year anniversary of his passing.

Performing under the Jazz Matters banner, the Sunday sessions that John set up (“It was his last baby,” Cleo has said), the show was an intimate gathering of The JD5 and an audience united in their love for the man, his music and the music that he liked.

The show started with one of John’s most famous of compositions, the theme for Tomorrow’s World.

“It probably paid for mine and Jacqui’s schooling,” said Alec with a smile before the band broke into the instantly recognisable number.

Pianist John Horler, trombonist Mark Nightingale, drummer Jim Hart and saxophonist Andy Panayi put on an show of taut, exceptional playability. But then it couldn’t be any other way with these fellas.

Horler’s Royal Blues gets a look in, and Duke Ellington compositions are delivered before the sold-out audience packed tightly into Stage 2.

Nightingale’s composition Here Comes Rosie is one jolly mover among several which are squeezed into the lunchtime programme.

There are also a couple of special vocals brought to the mix – the first from daughter Jacqui who delivers It Happens Quietly, and the second from the formidable Dame Cleo with He Was Beautiful.

Privately, there will most probably have been tears and pain.

But publically?

Dame Cleo was her fabulous self – full of wit and banter, and to use her own words, a bit perky.

Clearly, the love for John would’ve packed out the larger Jim Marshall auditorium time and again.

But those that weren’t in the snug for the event undoubtedly had their own moments of remembrance for the man without whom the Stables wouldn’t even exist and countless musicians wouldn’t have been inspired.

A special show, by a fabulous band for an inimitable man.