ERIC SCRIVEN (1926-2014)


By: Joe A A Silmon-Monerri 14th October 2014

At a time when, unfortunately, far too many of our old friends and colleagues are dying, I was informed by Bill Birch, author of "Keeper Of The Flame", that Eric Scriven, not a local musician as such, but one of the Scene's most ardent and dedicated Jazz promoters, sadly died on 13th October 2014, of bone-cancer, after suffering from this disease for several months. He was eighty-eight.

Bill Birch’s book is about the Manchester Modern Jazz Scene, 1946-72. Bill, who will be eighty himself next birthday, has given me his kind permission, personally, to quote where necessary, from his above great book. I shall do that sparingly, as I have sources of my own that I will use shortly to tell you about Eric Scriven in as much detail as I can muster about his indispensable involvement. For a far better personal account of Eric’s life and times, however, and as a microcosm of his book’s overall intention, I would urge everyone to consult Bill Birch's massive, highly informative and beautifully illustrated book. Bill had greater and more frequent contact than I had with Eric Scriven, and as an ex-Jazz bassist and seasoned journalist, his erudition sets a far higher and more skilled benchmark than my humble renderings will. 
Everyone knows - I think - that Harry Giltrap and Eric Lister were the earliest pioneers of the Manchester 1940s Jazz Revival, and they were possibly the men who started the Revival off all over Britain. Harry himself certainly set up the Delta Rhythm Kings as early as 1942, Eric Lister resuming his involvement locally after the end of the War. Another well known Jazz appreciator, Jack Gregory, would soon become heavily involved in the next band to be set up, the Smoky City Stompers. But he was more so, at first, with Derek Atkins Dixielanders. This was the first local band to be set up for live performances at the Clarendon, following every Jazz record recital. Jack, along with Ted Roberts (pianist/organist) and Alan Hare, both DAD bandsmen later and Derek “Mo” Mosedale (clarinet), soon to be part of the Bluenote Jazz Band, formed the committee governing the Manchester Dixieland Jazz Club based at the Edinburgh Hall, Moss Side, founded in c. 1947-1948, following record sessions and recitals at Frascatti’s, Oxford Road. Jack Gregory, the kingpin and mouthpiece of the later Clarendon Hotel activities (recitals/live sessions) at the South Lancashire Rhythm Club, subsequently renamed ‘The Manchester Jazz Club’, forerunner of today’s Manchester Jazz Society, stuck to the Traditional medium, until the Pop craze hit Manchester in the 1960s and most promoters found more lucrative pickings in that medium, though not necessarily Jack, I hasten to add. Meanwhile, Eric Scriven had acquired other tastes besides Traditional Jazz, later rigidly sticking to promoting Modern Jazz only, never wavering from that course right up to the end of his beloved Club 43, in the mid-1970s, the demise of which he lamented in serialised articles in Alice Garnett’s “Jazz Times” in a later decade. However, although crestfallen, he continued his activities indirectly as a promoter.

Nevertheless, Eric Scriven's contribution, from day-1 of his involvement, was gargantuan. He came into the local Jazz fraternity, after being exposed to the music that permeated the airwaves during wartime, wafted over embattled seas and the occasional safe anchorage abroad. He was hooked! It was, at that time (1946), mostly what we came to know as Traditional Jazz, but then in a purely American style, or a mixture of several styles, that sometimes arrived via US Forces personnel, as the records were purchasable through the PX at most bases. This was not British “Trad”; that label and genre interpretation was yet to come. Many of the big wartime 'musicals' in the cinemas blatantly promoted War Bonds during the mid-40s. They attracted some of the finest artists and stars of the period, from several parts of the Allied territories. There were wonderful big-bands such as those of Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Harry James, Glenn Miller, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Woody Hermann, Arty Shaw, as well as small Jazz combos run be Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, Bob Crosby’s Bobcats, Jack Teagarden and great singing stars and wonderful close-harmony groups of the day. Eric needed to be involved in making others join in the fun. Therefore, that is what he set out to do locally, with a vengeance!
Early sessions were at Frascatti's Restaurant, in All Saints, then nearest to the Refuge Insurance Building and Roadhouse's Bakery. Like Jack Gregory, Eric Scriven had also started out as an appreciator of Traditional and Dixieland styles by 1946. Therefore, he was one of the early pioneers, but, as we have seen, not the earliest! Nevertheless, he played a significant role over the following three decades in attracting to Manchester not only the cream of British Jazz, but also many foreign counterparts from the land of Jazz – the USA - on which I shall expand later. Back in 1948, however, Eric set up Club 24 at the Grove Inn, in Fairfield, arranging for Thursday sessions starting at 7:30 p.m. Between 1948 and 1949, the policy was ‘Bop’ Dixieland’, ‘Swing’. This club had had its origins at 24 Port Street, off Piccadilly and Newton Street (the building exists to this day). As Bill Birch rightly suggests, and proves both pictorially and textually in his book, during the mid-1940s, someone else was also highly instrumental in setting up an active interest in Rebop and its later counterparts, Bebop and Bop. Dancer Tony Stuart, please see Bill’s book for the finer detail, was attracting large numbers of US servicemen from Burtonwood, Warrington, in specially laid on coaches – who also frequented the “Band On The Wall” on Swan Street, with equal regularity. They poured into his newly acquired Astoria Club on Plymouth Grove, where Derek Atkins also played in a dance-band and in Dixieland outfits. The emphasis in the mid-40s was Bop.

Tony Stuart’s influence on the local Jazz appreciation element must, therefore, also be borne in mind, despite the fact that this would always be a much more commercially viable sphere than the world in which purists and other Jazzers were to have their being, in some seedy little spit-and-sawdust venues. That was the big difference at the time between the authentic promoters of Jazz for Jazz’s sake, and entrepreneurial ventures. Stuart had put Modern Jazz on the scene on a commercial scale. The other promoters were doing it all out of their love for whatever style they followed. Running concurrently, there was the Creole Jazz Club, established c. 1949-50. The address is not to hand. However, the personnel in the Club’s subsequent band was as follows, from a club card formerly in the possession of Derek Atkins: [only initials and surnames given]: B. Connell (tpt); G. Braithwaite (tbn). V. McClung (clt), D. Fisher (pno); G. Hardman (gtr); D. Statham (drs); “Mr” Statham (bjo); V. Gill (vocal). Clearly, from the personnel listed here, and their instrumentation, this was no Bebop club. Unfortunately, as each player is only listed by initials, the only musician I can identify from this list, is Bob Connell (tpt), later in 1949 a member of the Saints Jazz Band.

By 1950, the Reno Club was set up. Thanks to another elaborate club card provided by the late Derek Atkins, we are able to see its infrastructure, and it involved Eric Scriven. This club had had a former name [not known], but it was now renamed in honour of its new President, Mr Jim Reno, proprietor of Reno’s Music Shop on Oxford Street, and then facing the Palace Theatre, the lower level of this prime location is now a Sainsbury’s corner store. Eric Scriven played a role in running this club, that in time would attract musicians from London for Sunday sessions. Jim Reno donated several musical instruments, to start the ball rolling. The club had a resident Jazz outfit that now consisted of all Bop Jazz-based performers. The membership card shows the following:

Hon. President: James Reno Eric Scriven William Carroll The Johnny Brown Bop Group

 Group Personnel:
J Brown (tpt);  J Evans (a/sx);  E Burnett (pno);  L Dawson (dms); V Sowers (d/bs)

(Johnny Brown, Johnny Evans, Eric Burnett, Les Dawson, Vic. Sowers)

All of the above musicians are not only referred to in the text, but also photographically – and very clearly – in Bill Birch’s book. It was Derek Atkins’s club card that identified the surnames, while Bill’s book assisted me in identifying their forenames. So, my thanks for both forms of clarification.

I remember Jim Reno – who sold me my first Simple System clarinet knowing that with a # (sharp) sign stamped on the upper joint, it would never be in tune with dance-band low pitch instruments – he told me about Johnny Dankworth making regular visits to the Reno Club, and bringing great sidemen with him. I’ll bet none of them had been duped into buying permanently out-of-tune instruments!!! I believe that those sessions were wonderful. As I bought that clarinet in approximately 1954 (then a mere lad of seventeen), those great sessions must have been running for at least five years, whereby we can pinpoint the year when the sessions started - 1949. Eric had played a leading role in securing bookings for national and international entertainers, during this time. He would go on doing so at his own venues.

Eric Scriven’s Club 43, was established on 2nd December 1951. It had been named after its location at 43 Port Street, just up the road from its former counterpart venue at number 24. But it was destined never to be the club’s permanent address. Yet, it’s name and fame would reach almost immortality, for the institution that it became, meant that it would operate successfully at any subsequent location. Maybe not on the scale of Tony Stuart’s thriving business at the Astoria, on Plymouth Grove, but certainly as far as local and international talent was concerned, the calibre of visiting or local musicians would always be high. Many great local Modernists cut their teeth at the Club 43 sessions, particularly at the Clarendon, when it became yet another temporary venue. It was there, that the great Joe Palin achieved fame almost overnight, especially when backing London-based and American Jazz stars. Joe was one example of a leading local traditional musician who realised the limitations of traditional styles. He took up French horn in the Army and the nature of the club allowed him to expand his horizons when, after demobilisation, he returned to the Club. Harry Klein (baritone sax.), Ken Wray (tbn/v/tbn), Merton Cahm (reeds) and others, had all been traditionalists to begin with.

All of these musicians saw a restriction-free way ahead in the more liberal make-up of Modern Jazz. Ken Wray had been a founder member of Harry Giltrap’s Delta Rhythm Kings. And, what a “bopper” he turned out to be!!! For my money, Joe Palin’s adaptability to any style or approach – gained largely at the Club 43 – at whichever venue Eric and later Ernie Garside chose for its operation, was the highest degree that any musician ever achieved on the local scene. Yet, Joe chose to stay ‘local’. Any visiting pro’ from London or America knew they could rely on Joe Palin’s precision and mastery of his craft, to get them through the most demanding Modern or Progressive Jazz pieces. Equally proficient, however, were every bassist and drummer hired along with Joe. There was a standard below which a Club 43 musician would never be allowed to fall. Be it Joe Palin, Eric Ferguson, Johnny Rotherham, Rollie Westwood or Leo McManus, on piano, and bassists such as Tony Crofts, Paul Bridge, Ian Taylor, and drummers such as Bob Turner, Dave Edwards, Ken Leyland, Nigel Cretney, etc., nobody ever played an inferior session.

Ernie Garside was Eric’s right-hand man in running Club 43, for ever since I can recall. Together, they were instrumental in booking very big names from London and the USA. In Eric’s own words from the May/June 1995 edition of “Jazz Times” (Editor/Distributor: Alice Garnett), in his article “CLUB 43 – THE END OF AN ERA” he states, regarding the 1950s:
‘Stroll through the City at night, and you could enjoy a drink in places like the Bodega, Thatched House, Wheatsheaf Hotel and the Sports Guild and catch the Saints Jazz Band, Apex Jazz Band, Smoky City Stompers, Derek Atkins Dixielanders, plus many of the top British groups of the day … And through all this, the Club 43 at the Clarendon Hotel in the 50s, was the home of the modernists, featuring resident groups like the Trond Svennevig Quintet, Ken Wray/Bobby Wellins Quintet with Doris Steele and the Buddy Featherstonehough Quartet. The resident rhythm section was led by Joe Palin and Eric Ferguson, who backed all the top British modernists of the time – Ronnie Scott, Tubby Hayes, Kathy Stobart, Don Rendell, Ronnie Ross, Bert Courtley et al, and when funds allowed London-based groups, such as the Joe Harriot Quintet, featuring Phil Seaman, were the attractions…’

The 60s and parts of the 70s were even more interesting for Eric’s Club 43, and for the Modernist-inclined local Jazz fans in general. However, a compulsory purchase order because of the eventual demolition and reconstruction of the area surrounding the Clarendon to make way for the Mancunian Way between 1963 and ’64 meant the death knell for the Clarendon, and the Club 43 venue was now in limbo. However, British and American musicians’ unions suppressed the earlier ban on American performers taking up work in Britain. This meant that, despite a lay-off of about a year while Eric and Ernie (not Morecambe and Wise) looked for a suitable replacement venue, Club 43 might yet have a reprieve and book in some great Jazz giants. They re-located temporarily to the Manchester Sports Guild. Eric states in his above article: ‘After about a twelve-month sabbatical, when Ernie Garside took over the Club 43 promotions, relocated to the Sports Guild, I was offered the Capriccio Club in Amber Street [near Balloon Street and Victoria Station]; Ernie and I joined forces, bought the lease and changed the name to Club 43 – the rest is history. During the 60s, the Club became famous all over the world, rivalling the Ronnie Scott Club as Britain’s No. 1 Jazz Club… Some of the American artists who visited the Club included: Sonny Rollins, Ben Webster, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Stitt, Johnny Griffin, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, Hank Mobley, Art Farmer, Carmel Jones, Yusef Lateef, Max Roach Quintet, Archie Shepp Quintet and the Maynard Ferguson Orchestra …’

Ernie Garside, who also played trumpet, went on to join Maynard Ferguson’s trumpet section for a while in the late 60s, while the great bandleader spent a brief period away from his native Canada with his family in Heaton Chapel, during which time he set up student bands and put them on the road. After Club 43 finally ceased to operate in the 1970s, Ernie also became Maynard’s Manager and Eric Scriven travelled abroad for a while to drown his sorrows. The late John Malloch and his widow Eunice, a regular lecturer at the Manchester Jazz Society, used to manage the ‘door’ during all the Club 43 operations. They went on to run similar sessions at the Warren Bulkeley Hotel, in Stockport, run then by “Pirate” Jim Jacobs, which was, if I recall correctly, a 6-night-a-week job, with blind pianist Eddie Thompson at weekends during the mid-late 70s. The late Eddie was accompanied by the late Pete Taylor (d/bs) and Pete Staples (dms). Eddie had played solo piano on some of the early sessions of Club 24 and Club 43, in 1950-51. Eunice and John performed similar duties at the Birch Hall sessions at Lees, Oldham during the same period and into the 1980s. Eric conveyed his thanks to them for their assiduous dedication to duty, which was, I think voluntary, at the end of the article in the “Jazz Times” of May/June 1995.

Eric Scriven ended the above-quoted article with the following quotation by Hank Mobley, the last guest who performed at this memorable venue:  “Club 43is one of the best Jazz clubs I have ever played in”

It was, as Eric stated, ‘the end of an era’, but it was a truly worthwhile era for all musicians who performed at the Club 43, for the fans, and something that Manchester can be really proud of, as the best of the best of worldwide Jazz passed through its portals at one time or another.

On behalf of the local Jazz Community and myself, with the kind permission of and its Webmaster, Fred Burnett, I wish to extend our joint condolences to the Scriven Family at this very sad time.  

Joe A A Silmon-Monerri ("Joe Silmon")

16/10/14 -

Sorry to hear about the death of Eric Scriven. I first met Scriv in the '60's and what a character. What he did for jazz in M/cr. was amazing. I still remember the sense of disbelief that I could hear Max Roach, Sonny Rollins etc. a 10 min. drive from my house. The night Archie Shepp appeared Eric was going round the club telling everyone in his usual shy, retiring manner what a load of ---- the music was. After the gig we went on a tour of the shebeens in Moss Side and Eric and Archie were the best of pals. In his forties Eric moved to L.A. and I remember him telling me about a club he visited. After a few drinks he spotted a very small man and promptly sat the man on his knee and went into a ventriloquist act ! Needless to say he landed on the sidewalk almost immediately. " I never got my leather jacket back " he said. We need more Erics in the world not less.

Moe Green.

18/10/14 -

Sad news about Eric Scriven. I spent many happy nights at Club 43.mostly at Amber Street listening to the fantastic musicians that performed there. Sometimes the place was packed. but other times the attendance was sparse but it didn't seem to bother Eric too much as long as the music was great. which it always was. I well remember the Archie Shepp gig that Moe Green mentioned and seeing Eric shaking his head and wondering what the heck was going on in his Jazz Club! I sat at my table and thought " This is Jazz History in the making". About 25 years ago I spent a week in Los Angeles visiting a friend. and as I knew Eric had moved there I phoned him and suggested a night out. I picked him up at his apartment and we hit the Jazz spots together. starting with Alphonses where the Sam Most Quartet were playing. then on to a place round the corner called the Money Tree where a fine piano trio led by Vicky Van Epps was playing. We ended up at the famous Dontes in Toluca Lake to catch the Bill Berry/Jack Nimitz Quintet. At Alphonses. Eric introduced me to the great New Orleans drummer Earl Palmer and also Monty Budwig the bass player. While we were at Dontes. Bill Berry pointed out that his old boss Woody Herman together with his daughter had just walked in and Eric said to me "Lets go and say Hello" which is what we did. When Eric came back to the UK we often ran into each other at various Jazz venues and also at funerals and he always had some great stories to tell me. Anyway, so long Eric ( a great Mingus tune) and thanks for all the great music you presented.--

Mike Farmer

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