7 Stars of Jazz
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.
(click on an image for a short biog)
John HallamClarinet, Saxophones
Jim DouglasGuitar, Banjo
John started playing the clarinet & saxophone in his early teens, and jointly with Mickey Cooke, formed the Blue Lotus Jazz Band, which went onto play at the Royal Albert Hall and the 100 Club.
During the seventies and eighties he played with the Smoky City Jazz Band – the premier Manchester Band at the time, which toured many European Festivals.
Since then he has worked for many years as a freelance professional musician, playing with some of the finest musicians from both sides of the Atlantic – Clark Terry, Benny Carter, Al Grey, Allan Vaché & Randy Sandke being just a few.
His work has covered recordings for radio, television and film. Also jazz workshops and projects for education.
Gary 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 first joined Richard Leach’s 7 Stars of Jazz at the beginning of 2015.
Guitar/banjo player Jim Douglas was born in the village of Gifford near Edinburgh in May 1942. He showed an early talent for music when he took up violin at the age of seven and drums shortly after. The violin was soon discarded but he went on to feature in the local Boys’ Brigade Pipe band as lead drummer. It was at school however that he met and formed a jazz band with clarinettist /bagpiper Pete Kerr. It was his interest firstly in ‘Skiffle’ and later jazz that led to Jim acquiring a guitar and banjo at the age of fifteen.
Their first band ‘The Hidden Town Dixie-landers’ went from strength to strength and after a change of name and winning the Carroll Levis’ Discoveries competition, the band turned professional to fulfil an engagement in Germany as the ‘Capitol Jazz Band,’
In May of 1961 Jim joined the ‘Clyde Valley Stompers’ just after his nineteenth Birthday. During this time the band had a successful hit with a jazz version of ‘Peter and the Wolf’. Financial discontent led to the whole band leaving and in 1963, after a period of re-establishment, Jim started playing on occasional gigs with The Alex Welsh Band. After officially joining he band in 1964 he was to remain with it almost to the end of its existence when Alex died in 1982. During this eighteen years or so The Alex Welsh Band became one of the most popular outfits in the British Isles and was asked to accompany many American Jazz Legend visitors to these shores. They included: Henry ‘Red’ Allen; Earl Hines; Wild Bill Davison; Bud Freeman; Ruby Braff and many more. Several historic recordings of these sessions have been found, digitally re-recorded and issued. In 1968 the Band was invited and appeared at the famous Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island.
After a period of retirement in which Jim cooked for a living, he returned to Jazz to become a ‘freelance’ musician answering the requests of many fine band-leaders such as Keith Smith, Digby Fairweather, Dave
Shepherd, Pete Allen and John Petters to play with them in shows like ‘Lady Sings the Blues’, Let’s Do it, and outfits like the Great British Jazz Band, the ‘First Class Sounds’ and Ed Polcer’s Tribute to Eddie Condon on a tour in Germany.
In 1993 Jim won the British Jazz Award on guitar. As well as being known as the most recorded jazz guitarist in Britain, Jim has written and self-published two semi-biographical books relating some of the more unforgettable, amusing and nostalgic memories of an event-packed life in Jazz. They are both available from Amazon.co.uk.