Coleridge Goode: 100 Not Out!

Duncan Heining By

Sign in to view read count
To celebrate the 100th birthday of Jamaican-born bassist Coleridge Goode, All About Jazz publishes Duncan Heining's 2012 interview with Goode. A remarkable man and musician, the bassist connects aspects of British jazz from the 1930s through the war years and on through the fifties, sixties and seventies. He played with Caribbean-born and black British jazz pioneers like guitarists Lauderic Caton and Laurie Deniz, with violinist Stephane Grappelli and bandleaders Tito Burns and Johnny Claes. His most significant and innovative work in jazz came first with Jamaican altoist Joe Harriott, then with pianist Michael Garrick and later with the Joe Harriott-John Mayer Indo-Jazz Fusions. Astonishingly, Goode was still playing bass at a regular pub gig in North London until a couple of years ago.

All About Jazz: To begin with, Coleridge, could you tell me how you came to the UK?

Coleridge Goode: Well, I came to the UK in 1934 to study at Glasgow University. In Jamaica, you couldn't earn a living as a musician and my father was an important figure in Jamaica. Electricity had just come into Jamaica, so I went to Glasgow to study electrical engineering. My father was a musician and he was in correspondence with the Head of Music at the University, Dr. Whittaker. He had a famous choir. I went first of all to get the entry qualifications but I also played violin and obtained my LRSM [Licentiate of the Royal Schools of Music]. When I got into the university, I got in to the orchestra and lead the second violins. My professor in Electrical Engineering was my deputy. There were one or two Africans at the University but very few black people. One thing I remember very well was when I first came -before I even got into university—I was invited to climb Ben Lomond. There was snow and ice which I had never seen before. Of course, I had never felt cold like that.

AAJ: When did you come to London?

CG: In all, I came down in late 1940/41.

AAJ: And when and how did jazz come interest your life?

CG: I'd never heard jazz before because my father was strictly a classical musician and he wouldn't have jazz in the house. So, I was hearing jazz for the first time on the radio when I came here. I was hearing some interesting things and thought it would be nice to play that. One of the things I noticed that there were very few only two or three violinists who played jazz and I found that if you're a classically trained violinist you play things in a certain way, which is quite different from the way you play jazz and there weren't any really great classical violinists I could hear playing jazz. The only person I could hear was Stéphane [Grappelli] and so I thought it must be difficult. You have to change everything you've learnt. So, I thought I have always loved the bass line in music and I've always been and still am a great lover of the music of Bach. It occurred to me when I heard Count Basie's bassist the way he played different lines in his playing which were contrary to what most of the bass players at the time were playing -not the tonic dominant thing but moving lines. That appealed to me. I thought I could put in Bach movements into the jazz and I had decided that I wanted to play jazz and I had to be successful and mustn't fail. So, I practised and practised. I used to practice eight hours a day. There was a bassist Bob Smith from Newcastle. He was the only one I saw amongst all the bass players up there playing jazz who seemed to me to play correctly. I could see him fingering correctly. So, I got in touch with him and asked if he could advise me as to what books are best. So, he told me and I got the books and started to learn the bass.

AAJ: So, you came to London in 1941?

CG: Yes, I came to London in 1941. I was here during blitz. What happened was how I started I decided to come down and survey the scene and try and fix up something or other and I went into a place where Dick Katz was on piano playing solo and I asked him if he knew of anybody who was looking for a bassist and he put me onto someone and I was offered a job. Then a certain musician who I had seen in Glasgow he came into the club and sat at the bar and was obviously interested in what we were doing and at the end he came over and said to me, 'I'm forming a band and would you like to play with me?' and that was a permanent invitation. So, I went back to Glasgow. Then I played with Johnny Claes, who was Belgian, he had the best small band in town at a restaurant in London at the Embassy Club. All the best jazz musicians went through this band. We played for dancing in the restaurant but it was jazz with a vocalist and so on. Lauderic Caton [from Trinidad] was on guitar. It was very exciting and at night after playing at the club -we used to call them day clubs in those days -we went on and played at a night club.

AAJ: I believe you also played with Stéphane Grappelli.

I played BBC broadcasts with Stéphane Grappelli. He was working in a club and the pianist was George Shearing. He was in that band. We did broadcasts together. Some were at Decca and some at Abbey Road.

AAJ: So, did you have another job at that time or...

CG: No, I have always worked as a professional musician. The next progression was the Caribbean Club Trio which was Lauderic and Dick [Katz] and myself. I was recording some film music with Stéphane and his group and in the group was Ray Ellington on drums. This was long before The Goon Show and during the recording I said to Ray -he became quite famous as a jazz singer, he had a programme and so on -so I said to Ray, 'We've got a trio that's at the Caribbean Club. I feel it would be a good idea if you got together with us and we formed a group.' Our little trio was well-known at the time. So, he agreed and I said, 'I must consult my other two fellows.' And, of course, they agreed and so we got together and upstairs from the club was an American chap who was a dance teacher and who was a friend of Ray and that was where we used to rehearse and this dance teacher suggested that the group should be called the Ray Ellington Quartet because he had the bigger name as a draw.

AAJ: Where was the club?

CG: In Denman Street. The Ray Ellington Quartet was very successful. We were able to make a living.

AAJ: How long did that group last?

CG: I left in 1951. We had a job in Milan. Myself and the guitarist Laurie Deniz -we agreed to meet in Milan—I always drove everywhere. Myself and Laurie, we had his car and set off to drive to Milan. On the way, the car went over a huge bump and crushed the brake line. So, when I went to put my foot on the brake going down a hill, nothing happened. We managed to stop the car using the gears and got it repaired but it had also had independent front suspension and had broken that as well. It was quite a journey. The car was fully loaded and I had my wife and one year old daughter with me. Eventually, we got to the meeting place and there was no sign of Ray or Dick Katz. I called them and they were still in Calais and they weren't allowed through because Dick who was German actually hadn't got a visa or something. So, that put an end to that gig. So, there we were no money and we were in a very tricky situation. My wife could speak enough Italian to explain things and someone lent us some money to get back. I was really furious about that. So, I gave my notice straight away. The last thing I did with the quartet was the recording for the very first Goon Show—the pilot. The I went to... so, that ended that band for me. I was with Tito Burns, then I got together with Lauderic and another guitarist and a pianist and formed a quartet. My bass got damaged somehow and I had a cello and so I played that as a bass. We did odd jobs but didn't make hardly any money.

AAJ: How did you first meet Joe Harriott?

CG: Meet Joe? I joined Tito Burns and one of the first gigs I did with Tito was a concert at St. Pancras Town Hall. We were the main band and in the interval this other band came on and in it was a saxophonist who was playing terrific stuff in the style of Charlie Parker and we had never heard that before. They were a band from Jamaica and the name Joe Harriott came up. I didn't actually meet him then but the impression he made was very solid indeed. I was doing things at a club in London with Alan George Clare and he was playing in a club and I used to play quite a lot with Alan. I was actually playing in a club with Alan when this saxophonist, a black guy, came in and sat in with us. Who was it? It was Joe, Joe Harriott. I was playing with Alan and Bobby Orr and he joined us and when we had finished he said, 'I'm thinking of forming my own band. Would you like to join us? So, that was how it all started and, of course, he asked Bobby as well.

AAJ: When was that?

CG: About '58. Pat Smythe was later. Joe asked a trumpet player, who was a bebop man. A funny little fellow.

AAJ: Going back to that time, the level of everyday racism must have been very open and obvious. People thought it okay to be quite openly racist.

CG: Oh yes, it was very strong. If you've got any kind of decent upbringing you learn how to deal with these sort of things. Although you feel personally at times hurt, you know what you ought to do and how you ought to deal with things like that. So, I was able to come through it but I knew very well that it existed and personally there were various incidents. But, as I said, one has to deal with it and get on with your life. I wanted to play music and I could only do it here. It was suggested many times that I should go to America and I said, no way would I go that country under the circumstances that existed. I would probably get killed or something because I couldn't put up with what those guys had to put up with. That was unbelievable what happened to people there. Certain places you couldn't go in and other places you had to go through the back door. That wasn't for me.
About Coleridge Goode
Articles | Calendar | Discography | Photos | More...


Jazz Near London
Events Guide | Venue Guide | Get App | More...

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.