Sir John Dankworth (1927- 2010)
Born into a musical family in London in 1927, John began violin and piano lessons at an early age but it was hearing a Benny Goodman record at the age of sixteen which led him to take up the clarinet. At seventeen he entered the Royal Academy of Music, and that was followed by a spell in the army.
It was the inspiration of John Hodges which made him turn to the alto saxophone and this interest was reinforced by his admiration for the great Charlie Parker with whom he played at the Paris Jazz Festival in 1949. At that time John was voted Britain's Musician of the Year and his career as a jazz muscian was well on its way. In 1950 he started a small group known as the Dankworth Seven which became a successful vehicle not only for his ability on the alto sax, but also for his skills as a composer and arranger, as well as being a showcase for several aspiring and talented jazz musicians of the day.
In 1953 he moved on to found a large jazz orchestra or 'big band' which soon earned the applause of both public and critics alike. His band made popular records, including two big hits- 'Experiments with Mice' and 'African Waltz.'
He is the husband of jazz singer Dame Cleo Laine; they married in 1958 and have two children who are both musicians: Alec Dankworth, a bassist, is also a member of his father's band, and Jacqui Dankworth is a singer.