Stan Tracey (born 1926) is one of the most influential composers and pianists in British jazz. Born in London, his earliest professional experience was at 16 performing for factory workers during World War Two on accordion. By the time he enlisted in the RAF in 1945 Tracey had switched to piano and vibraphone. Meeting Ronnie Scott and drummer Laurie Morgan in 1948 introduced him to the London jazz scene. His debut recording for Eddie Thompson in 1951 introduced him to Tubby Hayes and the same year he signed up for 'Geraldo's Navy', the orchestra which many modern jazz musicians in the UK (including Scott and Morgan) used an excuse to visit New York and hear Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. It was hear that he also heard Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk in person, both to become life-long influences on Tracey. He was busy throughout the 1950s alternating between the small groups of Kenny Baker, Victor Feldman and Ronnie Scott, and the dance bands of Ted Heath and Roy Fox. Tracey was house pianist at Ronnie Scott's from 1959 until 1966 - this would give him experience of working with US jazz giants like Ben Webster, Roland Kirk, Wes Montgomery, Stan Getz, Zoot Sims and Sonny Rollins. In 1962 he formed his own band with Bobby Wellins, Laurie Morgan and Jeff Clyne and they recorded and performed with jazz-poet Michael Horovitz's 'New Departures' in recordings which in some ways would pre-sage his seminal 1965 album ‘Under Milk Wood’ - regularly cited as the most influential album in British jazz. In the years following his departure from Ronnie Scott's, he wrote and recorded the soundtrack of 'Alfie' with Sonny Rollins, continued to perform and record with Ben Webster and Zoot Sims, and formed his own trio with Dave Green and Bryan Spring. In 1973, the Queen Elizabeth Hall hosted its first ever jazz concert - a celebration of Stan Tracey's 30 years in jazz. Tracey's Octet was formed in 1974 and this continues to be one of his most prominent recording and touring groups. Among the notable personnel who have appeared in his bands are Tony Coe, Peter King, Don Weller, John Surman, Mike Osborne, Art Themen, Kenny Wheeler, Clark Tracey and Gerard Presencer. He has continued to compose and lead bands since the 1980s, touring South America and the Middle East for the British Council, and working in duo settings with regular collaborators like Horovitz and fellow pianist Keith Tippett. Since 2002, Tracey has returned to trio settings with son Clark Tracey on drums and Andrew Cleyndert on bass. In 2008, he was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the Queen’s New Years Honours List.
Find Out More
Under Milk Wood (Resteamed 2006)
The Return Of Captain Adventure (TentoTen 2006)
Portraits Plus (Blue Note 1992)