A relaxed, welcoming environment


Nigel Smith

Nigel Smith - I’m part of the Archive’s Wednesday volunteer team working on scanning and retouching the vast Brian Foskett photo collection. The collection is being put online gradually so the public can see it and we’ve already licensed some of the images which brings income into the Archive. 

There’s so much vitality in the shots, often capturing magical, fleeting moments in smoke-filled clubs. I’m a semi-retired graphic designer so when I was asked to take on the additional role of designing posters, ads, flyers etc it was a dream project (except for the lack of pay). 

I volunteer because I think investing time in preserving jazz heritage is not only important to our history but also prepares fertile ground for new, exciting music to appear.

The Archive is a relaxed, welcoming environment. We seem to spend more time talking about football and food than jazz but when we do get round to music David Nathan always pulls an entertaining anecdote out of his encyclopaedic memory.

Growing up, my Dad had many jazz records (Cleo Laine, Benny Goodman, Django Reinhardt, Acker Bilk, Erroll Garner). They got me interested but I quickly realised my tastes were a little more avant-garde (the Coltranes, Miles, Pharoah Sanders). He called my music “atonal, honking and wailing” and I’d call his “dinner party, chat show jazz”. We compromised over a mutual love of his Oscar Peterson records. 

I started learning the guitar around 1978. My tastes included prog, punk and hard rock, so not surprisingly I became fascinated with John McLaughlin’s breakneck soloing. I had a video of his 'Meeting of the Spirits' that I would try to play along with. I could match the speed but only if I missed 98% of the right notes. 

I got swept along with the resurgence of jazz in the 80s. I loved the early Branford Marsalis albums, exciting British youngsters like Courtney Pine and Andy Sheppard, and anything on ECM.

By the early 90s I’d seen Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, Jan Garbarek, Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock and others in big venues but best of all was seeing Dewey Redman countless times in small London clubs.

You can’t beat the feeling of being a few feet away from a tenor and drums locked in an epic quest.


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