Santa Fe Syncopators

Hi Fred,

What a great site! As you may recall I found out about Jazz North West through my long standing friend Simon Jones, who mentioned it to me when passing on the sad news about Bill Williams. Since then I have been wading through all the postings, debates and features.

All this has rekindled a desire within me to get playing some jazz again and earlier this week I dug out my old directory of musicians and made some phone calls. I spoke to most of the original members of my band The Santa Fe Syncopators and all of them to a man were keen to get blowing again. So, with all this new found enthusiasm and after almost a decade of silence a phoenix may well rise from the ashes and all because of your website!

This photograph is of the Syncopators playing at the Whitewater Hotel in the summer of 1996. The line up L-R Mike McLachlan, Charlie Walcom, Phil Yates, Bryan Cunliffe, Paul Marks, Tony Ormesher and Simon Jones.

The second photograph taken at the Albert in Southport in 1997 shows L-R Simon Jones and Bix Roscoe.

I was very interested reading the articles on the Southport jazz scene. I too remember a lively scene in the town in the late 80s and early 90s and became a part of it myself during the 90s.

My first introduction to traditional jazz came at the Hesketh Arms in January 1987 when I went along quite by chance to find an all day jazz fest in full swing. The day of jazz had been organised by the then landlord Dave Everatt. It was mid evening before I got there to see the Merseysippi Jazz Band and The Chicago Teddy Bears. So inspired was I that the following morning I went to the local music shop and bought a trumpet.

During the months that followed I recall going to see Al McDowells Wirrorleans at The Railway in Tithebarn Street Liverpool, where I was introduced to Phil Yates, Roy Swift and the late Alan Jackson (cornet). Alan lived in Southport at that time and was most helpful in teaching me the rudiments of the instrument. He had an enormous collection of recordings, sheet music and chords which he freely shared with me. We remained good friends until his untimely death in (I think) 1993.

I remember the Monday sessions of the Alt River Band at the Marine Club (what a dive!). Tuesday nights could be spent at the Southport Arts Centre Bar or the Brooklyn Caravan Club. Wednesdays were spent at the Hesketh Arms. If I wasn't at the Railway on a Thursday then I would travel to the Eagle and Child in Upton to listen to the Panama Jazz Band where I became friends with the late Bill Williams who managed to eventually persuade me to sit in with the band. Friday nights were spent in the plush surroundings of the Royal Clifton Hotel listening to the Dobbs Gutter Band. On the weekends I don't recall any regular venues but there would be plenty of one off gigs particularly in the holiday season. Jazz pretty much every night of the week, that's how it was back then.

Reading the other postings I recognise a lot of the names of the musicians from that time and indeed in later years I would come to share the stand with many of them. I'm sure many of them will remember me, invariably the youngest person in the place, a skinny kid with a mop of hair which (along with all these venues) has now sadly all gone!

Other names that I might be able to add include drummer Bryan Cunliffe who told me that he used to play with the River Alt when they played at the Crown. Dennis Kirkpatrick was also largely involved in the Southport scene and was someone I would gig with in the future. Could "the man who made love to his double bass" mentioned in Linda Wilde's posting be none other than the late Don Gee?

Eventually all the venues turned their back on jazz and by the mid nineties there was only the Hesketh Arms left. However, in 1997 for the first six months of the year my band The Santa Fe Syncopators enjoyed a regular Thursday night residency at The Albert. The band at that time comprised of me on trumpet, Simon Jones on Trombone and occasionally Sousaphone, Phil Yates and Gerry Owens shared the clarinet duties with reedman Howard Murray being a regular dep, Mike McLachlan was our pianist, Charlie Walcom on bass, Jason Higgins Banjo and Bryan Cunliffe or John Shevill on drums. The sessions were reasonably popular and we were surprised and disappointed when the management called a halt to our performances.

Several people have written about the late great Bix Roscoe the multi instrumentalist and vocalist who was "more nutty than a fruit cake". Dear old Bix was no stranger to us and was a regular member of the audience at the Albert during our sessions there in 1997. Phil Yates has summed him up absolutely perfectly in his posting. I recall Bix coming along one night with his trombone and a complete set of band charts for his composition Trombone Sauerkraut written and arranged under the alias "Otto Weinmann". Despite our reservations he insisted we add it to the night's set list. Unfortunately (or should that read fortunately) our efforts on the multi themed rag were never committed to tape. However, I have recently unearthed some recordings from that era made by a lady called Pat who was a regular in the audience. On a recent trip to Cumbria I nearly crashed the car when listening to us playing "So Do I". Bix unexpectedly and almost certainly uninvited sang the entire chorus in German! Happy times indeed.

Ironically the only regular traditional jazz venue now left in Southport is the Albert. (now at The Shrimper in 2013)

Paul Marks

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