Author's Interview with Peter Crumpton

Author's Interview with Peter Crumpton

Although my name is Peter Crumpton, I had a professional musical name of Peter Comton. I had a big band that issued a recording on Doug Dobell’s 77 label. I also made an EP for Doug with Bob Wallis’s band with Acker Bilk and Ginger Baker under my proper name Peter Crumpton. They thought I was going to take my tenor saxophone to that session. I didn’t, I took my baritone because that’s what I played all the time and what I thought they wanted. When I got there, they were shocked as they didn’t really want a baritone, they wanted a tenor.

I was in Paris with my first wife on honeymoon, it must have been 1958 or 59, and was planning to do an article on people in the clubs. The first person we saw was Don Byas. He was lovely to interview. The next day he cut us dead because we were white, and he was talking to a crowd of black people. We were walking along the street, and I saw trombonist Quentin Jackson. I stopped him and told him who I was, and that I was looking for Quincy Jones’s rehearsal room. He said: ‘Oh, come with me. Come with me.’ That was where he was going luckily. Quincy said: ‘Listen to the band and then we’ll have a chat.’ I talked to Benny Bailey lead trumpeter, Phil Woods alto saxophonist and Shib Shihab trombonist and then Quincy himself.

My wife had been talking to Quentin Jackson about rhythm sections in Paris. We’d got to the end of the conversation when Quincy Jones came up. He said: ‘What was all that about? Drummers?’ I said ‘Yes, we were talking about the difference between Paris and London and the way the rhythm section operates.’ He said: ‘Oh yes, quite right. I was talking to Ronnie Scott very recently about Phil Seamen.’ I said: ‘Oh, why?’ He said: ‘I really think that Phil Seamen is the best drummer in Europe at the moment, in fact, probably in the world. He’s quite extraordinary, he listens, he backs soloists exactly right and he’s wonderful.

I said: ‘Have you played with him much?’ He said: ‘Well, I’m not playing as much trumpet now as I should perhaps. I saw Phil down at Ronnie’s.’ He didn’t say who Phil was playing with. Quincy continued: ‘I listened to a whole set and then talked to Ronnie during the interval. Then I went back by myself to listen to Phil’s second set, and I thought he was wonderful. I would have loved to have had Phil in this Big Band of mine.' The one I was there listening to. Quincy said: ‘But Ronnie said really, Phil is fantastic, but he has days off and I knew then just what he meant. I raised my eyebrows and said, drugs? Ronnie said Yeah. Yeah. We don’t talk about the word, but you know what I mean. If there had been a chance, you’d have been listening to Phil here this afternoon.’

The whole band was there. It pre-dated the Clarke-Boland Big Band. It had four trumpets, three trombones, a French horn, piano, bass, drums, Les Spam on guitar who doubled on flute, two altos, two tenors and a baritone sax.

Copyright – Peter Dawn

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