Sid Phillips; A Vastly Underrated Influence on British Jazz

(I am most grateful to the British Big Band Database for supplying me with the following information)



Sid Phillips. born: June 14, 1907, London, England; died: May 25, 1973, England
In-Theme: "Clarinet Cadenza" (music Sid Phillips)
Out-Theme: "Hors D'oeuvres"
Clarinet, Alto Sax, Piano, Composer, Arranger, Conductor
né: Isador Simon
The liner notes from Sid's album "Hor D'oeuvres" states:
“Sid Phillips grew up in London's East End with his three brothers and four sisters. While still at school he and his elder brothers Harry (trumpet) and Ralph (banjo), all self-taught musicians, used to practise their instruments at the end of their garden because their mother chased them out of the house when they made 'all that noise.'”
However, their neighbours loved 'that noise' and dozens of them stood in the street outside listening, tapping their feet and clapping.

Sid Phillips at the peak of his fame

Sid Phillips was one of those rare British jazz artists who also became famous in much of Europe. His personal musicianship was superb and he also demanded this standard from his players, yet he is strangely rarely mentioned as a major British jazz leader and influence.

Such was the start of 'The Riviera Five'. It was with this group, augmented in 1923 by Sid Kreeger (piano) and Joe Badis (drums), that Sid first toured on the continent and by 1927, now renamed 'The Melodians' they were favourites in most fashionable European cities.
(Note: David Comer's "Hors d'Oeuvres" album was the first post war 78 rpm to be awarded a Golden Record for selling a million.copies. )

From about 1925, Sid performed mainly in Europe where he made recordings in three countries, and learned five languages, -a skill that would later help England during World War II. When the Melodians disbanded he became an arranger for the Lawrence Wright music publishing company. Listen now to Sid Phillips and his Melodians playing "Blue Again", (531 kb), back in 1930- vocalist unknown.

From 1933 thru 1937, he was a prominent member (saxophone) of the popular Ambrose Orchestra. Some of his more memorable arrangements for Ambrose included “Caravan”, “Deep Henderson”, and the Ambrose Orchestra theme “Hors D'oeuvres” (music by David Comer), which Sid later adopted as the 'Out-Theme' for his own orchestra. (The 'In-Theme' was his own composition Clarinet Cadenza.) All this while, many of his own compositions were becoming quite well known, including “Night Ride”, “Streamline Strut”, “Hullabaloo”, “An Amazon Goes A-Wooin”, “B'Wanga”, “Message From Mars”, “Early Morning Blues”, “Mister Reynard's Nightmare”, “Night Ride”, “Plain Jane”, and “Cotton Pickers' Congregation”. (Sid may have composed another 100 or 200 tunes (not all released). During the late thirties he freelanced and wrote arrangements and tunes for many British Bands.

In 1938, he travelled to the U.S. meeting with some well known leaders including Paul Whiteman, and recorded some big band sides. With WWII imminent, Sid spurned offers to remain in the U.S., and returned to London, England. In 1940, he was called into London's wartime “Specials” police, and soon after was called into the RAF, where his command of languages earned him a commission in the intelligence branch.

In 1945, after World War II ended (in Europe), Sid was de-mobilized and formed his Dixieland Jazz band which became Princess Margaret's favorite, and on several occasions in the 1950s, played the annual Windsor Castle Christmas Ball at her request. The band made frequent broadcasts on the BBC netwworks, and throughout Great Britain, he became known as “England's King of the Clarinet”, while making about 200 records for HMV.

It is interesting to note that trumpeter Kenny Ball, later a successful bandleader in his own right, was originally trained by Sid while playing in his band.
Though world famous for the clarinet Sid also loved the piano which he would often play as a 'special' during a concert. (“Kitten on the Keys” was one of his favorites.). Few folks now recall that he was also an accomplished boxer - a strange hobby for a musician who must protect his hands. He also loved to play Cricket.

In 1973 while playing his beloved cricket, Sid suffered a heart attack was rushed to the local Chertsey hospital where he died a few days later, - just three weeks before his 66th birthday.

Sid's 1952 orchestra (then resident at London's Astor Club) had:
Leader/Arranger/Clarinet: Sid Phillips
Saxes: George Bayton, Cyril Glover
Trumpet: Cyril Ellls
Trombone: Bob Lloyd
Piano: Harry Kahn
Bass: Ralph Phillips
Drums: Michael Nicholson
Vocals: Denny Dennis.



These notes on Syd Phillips were kindly supplied by Mr. John Pope (b: Sept. 18, 1928, London, Eng. UK). Served RAF 1946-'49. Became newspicture librarian with Planet New/United Press International 1953-'65. Freelance news and picture gathering untuil joining editorial staff of The Daily Telegraph in London 1966 as caption writer/sub editor. Deputised for Art Editor and night picture editor. Editor Great Western Echo (railway) magazine 1961-65, edited Sid Phillips (Jazz band) News 1953-2001. Founder editor Fanfare (military bands) magazine 1968- 1987. Contributor to books on London theatre, evacuation in wartime England, short stories. Devised, co-produced on London's South Bank a massed military bands charity gala 1977. Recreated Sid Phillips band Queen Elizabeth Hall 1983. Editor in chief Swing (Jazz) News publication 2002. (Mr. Pope currently, 2002, resides on the South coast of England.)



Thanks again to the British Big Bands Database

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