Richard Leach's 7 Stars of Jazz

Richard Leach's 7 Stars of Jazz has a style reminiscent of the Alex Welsh Band, which, from the mid 1950's to the early 1980's, was Britain's foremost Chicago/Dixieland style jazz band.

When asked, many people have said that the Roy Williams - John Barnes era of the Alex Welsh band is their favourite listening. Richard is no exception and the Classic Concert recorded in Dresden during 1971 remains his personal favourite. With the perfect eclectic mix of Chicago, Swing and Dixieland plus a hint of Vaudeville, the band doesn't just play jazz it entertains the audience. It is impossible not to be swept along with the atmosphere.

This then is the basis of Richard Leach's 7 Stars of Jazz, not to be a direct ‘tribute’ band to Alex Welsh but a band that plays with a similar energy and skill plus the ability to entertain an audience with a variety of musical styles.

After touring Europe and the UK as Pete Allen's trombonist for six years, the 7 Stars of Jazz was a new venture for Richard Leach and joining him are some of the most experienced jazz musicians around. The front line is completed by Chris Pearce who shows his versatility on the reed instruments and, for many years, was a fixture on the Bristol jazz scene with The Blue Note Jazzband, and trumpeter Gary Wood, one of the rising stars of the British jazz scene.

The rhythm section or ‘engine room’ comprises Ian Riley, an accomplished pianist, the versatile and understated Ian Parry on banjo as well as guitar and double bassist John Fellows. Stylish drummer Graham Smith, ex leader of The Jazz Allsorts, provides the drive at the back and completes the line up.

The Band

GaryWoodGary Wood started playing the cornet at the age of 8 with his local brass band, however it wasn't until he left school that he took a real interest in music. He quickly developed a taste for jazz and swing music, joining his first band in 1986. Gary has built a solid reputation as a trumpeter and vocalist and now works as a busy, freelance musician appearing with bands in a variety of jazz & swing styles. Gary has performed at festivals in the UK and Europe and has played with many top musicians such as Alan Barnes, John Dankworth and Roy Williams.

Gary also runs his own successful quartet and has released his debut CD 'Evening Standards'.

He joined Richard Leach's 7 Stars of Jazz at the beginning of 2015.

Chris Pearce first studied music at Liverpool Cathedral where he was a member of the choir for 5 years. After moving to Welwyn Garden City with his family he heard his first jazz at the local jazz club, where he was lucky enough to see Ken Colyer, Sandy Brown, the Christie Bros. and Mick Mulligan with George Melly.
He took up the clarinet at this time and after moving to Gloucestershire teamed up with a few local boys to form a band. Soon afterwards he was asked to join the Riverside Jazzmen in Bath with whom he remained for 15 years. During this time he played alongside many legends of jazz including Earl Hines, Buck Clayton, Willie “The Lion” Smith and Joe Harriot, not forgetting an all night drinking and blowing session with the Alex Welsh band.

In 1976 he became a member of the Bluenote Jazz band, based in Bristol, and over the next 28 years enjoyed playing with visiting musicians such as Bud Freeman, Buddy Tate, Wild Bill Davison, Ruby Braff and Peanuts Hucko.

Following the sad death of his close friend and leader of the Bluenotes, Roger Bennet, Chris decided to seek pastures new, joining the Antique Six in the autumn of 2006 and the 7 Stars of Jazz early in 2007
Ian Riley graduated from Leeds College of music after studying Jazz piano; trumpet and composition were second studies with a strong link to music technology. Work on board a cruise liner in the Mediterranean and then a long stint playing at Alton Towers both in Show bands and pop bands in small venues and to crowds of thirty five thousand people, Along side this came the delights of Pantomime at the Theatre Royal in Stoke on Trent where Ian Played keyboards and was then Musical director. The Moscow State Circus was the next venture with Ian acting both as musical director and arranger, this included work on Blue Peter Specials, the Big Breakfast and The Royal Variety Show. Work since has included a European tour with ‘Twentieth century musicals’, working on many amateur musicals and the wonderful delights of teaching the piano.

Ian has been Musical Director for: - Linda Nolan, JimmyTarbuck, and Kenny Lynch.

Big band music, Salsa, Blues, Soul and Jazz music have also played a large part in Ian’s musical life.

Jazz has always been Ian’s favourate music to perform so he is especially delighted to have joined Richard Leach’s 7 Stars of Jazz.

Ian Parry's musical education began at school, where he studied violin. Later he taught himself guitar and played in skiffle bands and folk groups whilst adding banjo to his list of instruments.
At University he first encountered Jazz music, that being the popular music there at the time. However there were many very good guitar players available but only a small number of bands. A friend then offered a lesson on a double bass, on the basis that the strings were tuned the same as the bottom four strings of a that should be easy then! The very next evening Ian played his first gig on double bass, learning as he went.

Ian has since played in many bands of differing styles, on bass, guitar and banjo, firstly in his 'native' Middlesex and more recently in his 'adopted' Midlands, where, incidently, he was born. Ian joined the 7 Stars of Jazz in August 2010 initially helping out on double bass.
John Fellows formed a band called ‘The San Jacinta’, while still in his teens, playing New Orleans clarinet around Worcester, Gloucester, and Hereford, bass players were scares but clarinet players were plentiful so John bought a bass and it was love at first sight. Two years later he was asked to join ‘The Perdido Street’ run by Duncan Swift who later took John on tour with Digby Fairweather and Roy Williams. As well as playing spots with Alex Welsh and his band, jobbing with Ken Colyer, John was a regular in bands put together by John Richards to back touring American soloists as well as many top Brits such as Humphrey Lyttelton, George Chisholm and Joe Harriett. Duncan formed ‘The New Delta Band’ and introduced John to Jimmy Blanton, a bassist with ‘Duke Ellington’ his melodic style influences the way John plays to this day. Then with a young family to raise, a business to run, and no time for jazz, John went twenty years without playing a note, until 1998. When he joined Rod Chambers for two years, John Burnett three years, Denise Lawrence two years, Pete Allen touring Europe for four years, during which time he studied the sousaphone and now plays both on a regular basis with various bands including ‘George Huxley’s All Stars’, ‘Reeds United’ and Jeremy Huggett's Dart Valley Stompers'..
Graham Smith a Brummie by birth, started playing drums at the age of 14 in his father’s dance band until his early 20’s when he ceased playing to pursue a career in banking. Two decades later he bought his young son Russell, also now a very competent drummer, a drum kit and found himself responding to the need for a drummer with the Warwickshire based Pete Harris Jazz Band and borrowing his son’s kit!

In 1993, together with his pianist father, he formed the popular Jazz Allsorts.

Early retirement from the bank in 1999 gave Graham the opportunity to pursue his musical ambitions and to join The Antique Six Jazzband. He became a full member of The 7 Stars Of Jazz in early 2006.

In pursuit of expanding his style and interest in jazz genres he also performs with Kevin Grenfell & Richard Leach Slide by Slide as well as deputising with an increasing number of bands around the country and performing with a growing list of jazz stars from home and abroad.