Joe Palin subsequently passed away on 18th Sept 2007


Obituary by Mike Butler which appeared in The Guardian


Joe Palin, who has died aged 73, was the best bebop pianist to come out of Manchester, though adept in every style, and a backbone of the the city's jazz scene. Two records in a modest discography illustrate contrasting sides of his playing. Don Rendell with the Joe Palin Trio Live at the AvGarde Gallery Manchester (Spotlite), documents a 1973 concert. Palin's forceful intensity overcomes a battered piano and the imperfect sound: playing McCoy Tyner to Rendell's Coltrane, Palin holds nothing back. Whereas Give Us a Stomper Kid, recorded in 1988 by Mart Rodger Manchester Jazz, finds Palin in urbane mood, decorating Rodger's Dixieland jazz with poised Harlem stride. 


Born in Manchester to a non-musical family - his father was managing director of a timber company - Palin attended Chorlton grammar school, where he developed a passion for boogie woogie exponents Meade Lux Lewis and Albert Ammons, and the rather more subtle Teddy Wilson. In 1950 he helped found the Zenith Six, one of Manchester's all-time great trad bands: John Barnes, Humphrey Lyttelton's faithful lieutenant, was a fellow member. National service called in 1953, and Palin joined the band of the 16th Lancers, where he was given a French horn, a suitable marching instrument, to learn in double quick time.


Demobbed in 1956, he became the house pianist of Club 43, playing with variLondon artists, among them Tubby Hayes, Ronnie Scott and Don Rendell, during the club's tenure at the Clarendon hotel. Demolished during construction of the Mancunian Way, the Clarendon's site is now occupied by a flyover on Oxford Road. Club 43 moved to Amber Street, Shude Hill, where Palin played with a veritable Who's Who of American stars, including Sonny Stitt, Johnny Griffin, Art Farmer, Al Cohn and Zoot Sims. 


Palin's duties as (a sometimes absent) director of the family business, and his own disinclination to travel, meant that his reputation was mainly confined to the north-west. He had no regrets about turning down an invite to join the Johnny Dankworth Orchestra in 1959. When Canadian trumpeter Maynard Ferguson settled in Manchester in 1967, and agent/entrepreneur Ernie Garside was tasked to form a big band for him, Palin was first choice for the piano. He stayed less than a year. 


However, he lasted with the well-travelled Mart Rodger Manchester Jazz from its inception in 1984 until 1992, when the band's globetrotting ways began to clash with his day job as a teacher at Leeds College of Music. The band played the Cottbus Music Festival in 1986. Rodger cherishes the memory of Palin playing Prelude to a Kiss at the hotel during a break. The bandleader was reduced to tears by the beauty of Joe's piano. He is survived by his former wife, Sue, and children Anthony, Ruth and Miriam.

Tribute evening at

Didsbury Cricket Club 16th July 2007

Contribution by Joe Silmon


It was an evening intended to draw everyone's attention to the life work of a man we all respect and love. The event certainly achieved its goal. There were approximately 110 people packed into the fairly small room at Didsbury Cricket Club, where the Joe Palin Get Well/Tribute event was held  16 July 2007 . But it was a wonderful night of non-stop, exciting Jazz which, in special honour of Joe Palin's favourite genre, was kept throughout in a Mainstream vein. Ron Johnson assured me that he had read out saxist Merton Cahm's message from Tel Aviv over the microphone system. Unfortunately, I got there just a bit too late to hear it - only by about 10 minutes. I was very much looking forward to a sit-in session and meeting up with many old friends and fans - not necessarily of my music! And I wasn't disappointed. It was a great evening and a great success - plus of course another milestone in Local Jazz History, especially at a time when audiences are small! That, perhaps, is indicative of Joe's standing in the local Jazz Community and the esteem in which he is still held about sixty years after his first gig on the Manchester Jazz Scene.  


Roy Williams (trombone) and John Barnes (reeds)
Photos Geoff Brooks


Both John Barnes and Roy Williams understandably arrived a little late from other far-off gigs; Roy the latest, but the Chris Holmes Trio had already started the proceedings with some excellent Jazz. Meanwhile, Wally Houser - who I knew from the late 50s from gigs and wild parties - came in on alto sax. and played some wonderful music both with John Barnes and the trio at the beginning, and later with other groupings. Mr. Barnes kicked off on excellent form on baritone sax. and some wonderful Goodmanish clarinet. We were treated to superb drumming by Jimmy Scaife. The pianist was Chris Holmes himself, who is fantastic and essentially a modernist nowadays; he has backed many national and international stars over decades. The bassist was John McCormick; what a player!!!  


Before, and after John, we heard the excellent Ken Marley on bass. Bruce Mitchell (drummer) and Frank Toms - who I last played with when he depped in the Zenith Six at the Black Lion exactly 40 years ago - were there. Frank played in the group that I sat in with on 16th July (I was on tenor and soprano, not on long enough to get warmed up, but I think it was o.k.). I was sorry not to have heard the great Bruce play. The group I played with consisted of Frank (a great modernist piano player - very busy on the London scene), John McCormick (bass); Moe Green (drums - playing brilliantly - and a great listener as always), Jeff Lewis (trombone) and me. I "forced myself" to stay on with Frank, John and Moe. Stuart O'Connor (trumpet) took the place of Jeff Lewis. We played about four tunes, starting with Juan Tizol's "Perdido". By the time we finished, Roy Williams arrived and was soon playing as relaxed and as excellently as ever. You could hear a pin drop! Julius Hasford, another old friend and a marvellous tenor saxist, whom I would have loved to have heard, sadly didn't sit in, but we did have our first chat in at least 45 years, as I did with Frank earlier.  


Des Hopkins arrived from Ireland with trombonist Doug O'Brien, especially for the event. It was a pity that they didn't get a chance to sit in - after coming all that way at considerable expense.  Saxist Stuart "Scotty" Scott and Alan Yates managed to find seats, lucky lads! Three friends: Vocalist Ann, with May Taylor and Mary (a fine pianist) were looking beautiful. Eric Brierley (trombone) and Margie were "anchored at the Bar". Also present were: Mart and Janet Rodger and Colin and Linda Smith, from Manchester Jazz, Bob Ascough and Stuart Wren (fellow banjoists and very old friends of mine, swapping clarinettist jokes, no doubt!!!). Eternal friends, trombonist Derek Galloway & his lovely wife Trisha, Dave Lunt (bass – not only a great musician but a fantastic and a highly specialised and successful pictorial artist), John and Eunice Mallock (pillars of the local Jazz community - who were present from Clarendon Club 43 days in the 50s, running admin. and 'the door'), George Galway (a superb multi-reedman, who didn't play!!! - our loss), Steve Brown (piano - an ex-Leeds College of Music student of Joe Palin's from the late 1990s), were all present along with countless supportive fans. Bill Birch told me that there were no less than FOURTEEN members of John Barnes's family in attendance; how about that for a contribution! The remaining list is too long for for the space available - and my memory isn't what it used to ........... [that's it!] ......... be.   


Ron Johnson (bs), Chris Holmes (pno), Roy Williams (tbn),
John Barnes (bari-sax), Jim Scaif (dms). [photo Bill Birch]

John McCormick (bs), Frank Toms (pno), Joe Silmon (sax), Jeff
Lewis (tbn), Moe Green (out of picture - dms). [photo Bill Birch]


 John Barnes and Roy Williams, made various superb eulogies to Joe Palin and his gargantuan contribution to Jazz in Manchester [not forgetting Leeds College of Music] over the decades, and they kept us amused with their jokes and anecdotal interplay. The two have a very special comedic rapport which makes this sort of entertainment look so easy, and you can tell by their "gestures" [private joke between them] and facial expressions how much fun it is for them, too. It is a special warmth for their 'home ground' which is inherent in anything this impish, great pair do when visiting us. It's from the heart! Bless 'em. Their presence was crucial for the occasion, we couldn't have done it without them. Thanks boys!  


There was an excellent display of photographs. There were 16 double-A3-size boards, with 27 photographs, in all, of Modern Jazz players dating from the early days of Club 43, expertly prepared by Bill Birch, a fellow Jazz Historian, and an outstanding photographer, who is writing about the Modern Jazz element of the local Jazz Scene over a period of about twenty-five years, while I’m covering 1919-1990s and all styles; but Bill – a seasoned journalist - is a far better writer than yours truly. All photographs show Joe, but many other modernists he worked with are also featured - from those times - including the early sideman Robbie Robinson, the American airman from Burtonwood (drums - still playing, I believe, in the USA ). I searched in vain for one showing Merton Cahm, in a shot that included bassist Trond Svennevig, active on the Manchester Jazz Scene in the early-mid 1950s, but Bill Birch assures me that he was in one picture. However, "Mr Club 43" himself, Eric Scriven, was in some, of course. Tubby Hayes, Ronnie Scott, Ronnie Ross, Alan Branscombe, Ken Wray and many other then London-based musicians who were - over a couple of decades - backed by the incredible and ubiquitous Joe Palin, were also on show in this fantastic display. Joe's daughter Myriam was physically present too - a lovely young lady who was with every good reason rather sad, but very appreciative of the purpose of the event and the presence of so many there, in support of her much respected Dad. Myriam said that her Dad "... couldn't believe that all these people were doing this for him ...", such is this great man's modest nature. There was a journalist from "Crescendo" Mag., Bernard McAlinden, who will no doubt be writing something about the evening, and drummer Barry Worthington was doing a video of the whole event, which I believe has turned out fine (but which will show up all of my musical mistakes!!!). No matter, it was a great night and highly profitable for the cause (see Ron's message below, dated 18th July 2007 ).  


Wally Houser shares a joke with John Barnes [photo Geoff Brooks]

Chris Holmes (pno), Ken Marley (bs), Roy Williams (tbn),
Jimmy Scaife (dms)  [photo - Bill Birch]

  The stars were, without doubt, John Barnes and Roy Williams, with the backing of the equally stellar and fabulous Chris Holmes Trio. A special mention must be made to the presence of Alan Hare (pianist/big-bandleader/ trombonist/composer) and Rod Hopton (trombone). Both are veterans from the local Jazz scene since the very late 1940s. Many local musicians played in Alan's big-bands in the late 1950s-2000s, and Rod was a member of several early bands too, including the Saints, from which another veteran, Reg. Kenworthy (bass) was also present at the Tribute. Reg. was a dance-band pianist who took up bass to play with the Saints in the 1950s. 


I now leave space for a message from Ron Johnson, spilling the beans about the amount raised. So I say my good-byes now, and thanks on behalf of Joe, as well as Sue Palin, Myriam and the whole Palin family, and my own personal thanks, to all of you who gave your services and such tremendous support, especially to all the musicians and fans, for this memorable Tribute. I also thank Webmaster Fred Burnett for his generosity in providing website space for this long article and Bill Birch's accompanying photographs, and Bill Birch himself for his superb and seemingly endless photographic and textual display about Joe Palin’s long and illustrious career, not forgetting Ron Johnson for his efficiency in the organising and Barry Worthington for the video-work.


For now, may God bless and keep all of you, and yours, my friends.   



Ron Johnson writes :- 


For me it was as good as it gets, both musically and emotionally. It was not billed as a fund raiser, but I am delighted to say that I called on Joe [Palin] today and presented him with a cheque for a tad below £1000. Considering that we paid £1 per head for the room plus ads., piano tuning, stationery, hotel, etc., mission accomplished". My thanks to everyone involved, especially Roy Williams, John Barnes [and family!], the Chris Holmes Trio, Frank Toms, Ken Marley, John McCormick, Wally Houser, Jimmy Scaife, Moe Green and other supporting musicians, Fred Burnett and Bill Birch, all who attended and everyone who helped make the event such a roaring success."


Copy of the letter sent to Bill Birch by Miriam (née Palin - Joe's daughter)

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