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Coleridge Goode: 100 Not Out!

Duncan Heining By

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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.

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