What was he like as a teacher? A very hard taskmaster.
to praise if you had done the work but would become angry if
you were lazy. He did shout at me once or twice but only
because I had not done my practice. The lessons took place
his flat and he charged me £3 a lesson - supposed to be an
hour but as we progressed it could go on for up to three hours
but he never charged me more. Afterwards, we would have a
cup of tea and a joint! He was not teaching me improvisation.
I was in the early stages of learning music, but he always
encouraged me to experiment.
How much did I learn from Ronnie? I guess you could say I
learnt most of the major keys from him. But one thing that I
did learn was a very big tone. When I came back to Australia
in early 1974, I virtually didn`t touch the horn for several
years. However, when I took up the sax again I still had the
book "The Saxophone Method" by Otto Langey which I had
used with Ronnie. But more importantly I remembered a set
of exercises that he had taught me for dexterity and for tone. I
remember a musician friend hearing me doing these exercises
once and he commented "No wonder you get around that
horn so well!" Many people commented on my tone. I
overheard an audience member telling his friend at a gig I
was playing, "I came in and heard this great big tone and
when I looked at the band there was this little guy making it!"
That was Ronnie`s legacy to me.
By the way - yes, we did play together during lessons.
Langey book often has two lines and Ronnie played the
He did speak occasionally of his time in the Grenadier
Guards. I`m sure he used the army to get a thorough musical
education at Kneller Hall which was the army music
academy. He said that there was a group of them who were
always trying to get away on the weekend to try the jazz thing.
He seemed to be fairly busy. There were always sessions to be
done or rehearsals of his own. He did a lot of work with Bill
Le Sage and trombonist Keith Christie. I don`t remember any
of the rhythm sections.
Instruments: He played a Selmer baritone with a Berg
Larssen mouthpiece. He had altered the lay slightly and used
Vandoren number 3 reeds. I still have a Berg Larssen tenor
mouthpiece that he sold me. He said number 3 reeds were not
too hard but strong enough for good tone. He played alto,
tenor and baritone saxes, flute, alto flute, clarinet and bass
clarinet when I knew him.
Did he say anything about taking up the baritone? He told me
that he was in a band with Don Rendell - two tenors of course
- and that Don suggested that one of them should get a
baritone so as to vary the sound. He said that he would and
that he was virtually hooked from the beginning. Of course,
he spoke very highly of Gerry Mulligan and he did write some
liner notes for a Mulligan record released in the UK.
Some time in 1973 he took his band Eight to One to Europe
record an album for MPS. He played me the demo tape when
he got back. I remember "Its a Big Wide Wonderful World",
which he had previously recorded with Allan Ganley and also
a new composition for flute called "Blue is the Game. I don`t
know what happened to those sessions. MPS recorded the
Kenny Clarke - Francy Boland band so Ronnie was pretty
pleased that they had offered him a recording. He was also
part of the studio band CCS (Consolidated Consciousness
Society) which was a vehicle for the vocals of Alexis Korner.
There was an album and a single "The Band Played Boogie.
But, you know, he knew that he was a very good player and
was proud of it. He said to me once "If anybody asks you if
you`re good, tell them yes, that you`re very good. There are a
lot of people in this business who are jealous of success any
only want to bring you down".