It took an obituary by John Latham, keeper of the flame with his Sandy Brown Newsletter, and reprinted in the current Jazz Journal, to alert me to the fact that that the jazz pianist and drummer, Stan Greig, died November last at the age of 82.
Stan’s playing days started early, when, still at school in Edinburgh, he teamed up with Sandy Brown and Al Fairweather, later joining them – and Alex Welsh – as part of the Scottish jazz ‘brain drain’ to London. Established, he held down either the drum chair or piano stool with most of the major British traditional/mainstream bands of the 50s, 60s and 70s: Colyer, Bilk, Brown, Lyttelton. He also worked, in various permutations, as a blues and boogie pianist of great facility and understanding.
For me, however, as for the many who crowded out the 100 Club in Oxford Street during the 10 magnificent years of their existence, it was as the leader and convenor of the London Jazz Big Band that I will most fondly remember him. I’ve written about that ensemble before - a marvellous contingent of players, most of whose work was done in smaller aggregations, coming together in the hospitable but fairly knocked-about surroundings of the club to play the music of Ellington, Basie, Mingus and others, its driving ensembles giving way to a succession of thrilling solos, most often powered by the magnificent drumming of Lennie Hastings – and, on one memorable occasion – by the late master of the tympani and toupee, Eric Delaney. 10 wonderful years and they never toured, sadly never recorded.
I last saw Stan Greig some few years ago when, along with producer John Goudie, I was at the 100 Club to record an interview with the club’s manager for a programme about the Alex Welsh Band we were making for BBC Radio 4. It was around 11.00 in the morning and, aside from ourselves, the club was deserted; half way through the interview, a short, grey-haired man came in, nodded briefly towards where we were sitting and went over to the piano. It was Stan Greig, following, as he had continued to do for most of his life, his father’s occupation of piano tuner, there to do his best with the notorious 100 Club piano.
There is a tribute concert to the memory of Stan Greig at the 100 Club on Wednesday, 30th January, between 11.30am and 3.00pm.