Arriving the morning of Saturday 28th January at The Jazz Centre, your editor was introduced to Rod Brown, drummer in the Ted Beament Quartet, that day's live music performers. The name, if not the face, rang a bell.
Rod is a decades long veteran of the UK and European jazz scenes. As well as with Ted Beament, Robert Fowler and Alec Dankworth, the other three members of the band that day, he has free-lanced with just about every prominent jazz musician in Britain, performed in West End pit bands, in pantomime, on TV, on multiple recording sessions, and toured with the Herb Miller Orchestra.
But it was when Digby revealed that Rod had been the very last pupil of Britain's greatest ever jazz drummer, Phil Seamen, that I remembered where I'd seen his name before. Rod has multiple mentions in the recently published biography of Phil Seamen, which I had recently finished reading. Peter Dawn's book chronicles the relationship between pupil and master in some detail, the good, the bad and the downright surreal. Rod went on to perform immaculately that afternoon, musically and sartorially.
From Peter Dawn's biography, Rod Brown recalls an incident in 1972 at the 100 Club in London’s Oxford Street: "I didn’t start playing drums until I was almost sixteen. I struggled along for a couple of years learning from books and records, trying to make progress myself. I then discovered jazz and became aware of Phil. I will never forget the Friday night I went to The Plough in Stockwell and Phil was playing. It was a life changing moment. I can still see him now. He had a check shirt on. It completely turned my head around because most of the drummers in jazz that I’d listened to, had what I call : ‘A very highly tuned kit.’ Both the British and American jazz drummers tuned their kit like that. But Phil had a very deep, big open sound. That was the thing that really hit me. It was total! Also, he had incredible charisma. I didn’t talk to him that first night, but I was totally in awe of him.”
Ronnie Scott once hailed Phil Seamen as ‘Britain’s Greatest Jazz Drummer’ a man who achieved cult status during his lifetime and inspired generations of jazz and rock musicians including Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones and Ginger Baker of Cream. Phil is also described as a Percussion Genius and a Legendary Rebel and Born Raver in a remarkable new book written and published by author Peter Dawn. Hailing from Phil’s hometown of Burton on Trent, Peter has spent over a decade researching the drummer’s incredible life story, interviewing dozens of friends, fans and fellow musicians. The result is a 752 page biography packed with memories and anecdotes, all accompanied by a fascinating history of the thriving British jazz and popular music scene during the post-War years. With meticulous attention to detail the book is illustrated with historic photographs, catalogues a selection of Phil’s recordings and even shows the drum exercises he used to teach pupils that included Ginger Baker.