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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Farewell Friend. Roly Veitch Pays Tribute to Clem Avery.

I've just heard that Clem Avery passed away after a battle with lung cancer. He was 75.
The expression 'a gentle giant' seems to have been invented for Clem; a lovely, caring man with great integrity. A wise, gentle approach to life and a lovely dry sense of humour.
Clem was well read, had a deep knowledge of many things, not just music. He had an open mind to all forms of music - was a pro player/reader - studied music full time and among other things, held down a long term club residency (on bass) backing 'acts' etc.
He has been a very significant figure on the local scene over a long, distinguished career in jazz.
He started playing in the early 50s and soon formed his own band. Played at all the top local venue - New Orleans Club etc. Was part of that huge surge of interest in earlier forms of jazz that happened through the 50s in the wake of Humph etc.
I got to know Clem from going to some sessions in the mid 70s - when he found out I was trying to get into playing jazz he got me my first sit ins, took me regularly to The Main Street Jazzmen sessions in the mid to late 70s (at Heaton's Corner House) where Clem played bass, not his usual trumpet. Clem started a new band at The Golden Lion, Winlaton Mill - around 1977. Ronnie Mclean on tbn, Danny Dunbar clt, Clem tpt, Johnny Duncan bass, Chas Coles dms, myself on gtr. We had 7 very happy years there.
When we started at Blaydon in 1984 Clem came in on double bass with Marshall Walker on dms and Bill Smith tnr. 14 happy years at The Black Bull!
I've kept in touch since - he lived close by. Clem's jazz career had a huge renaissance in recent years when he joined Rae Brothers N O Jazz Band. Their gentle, unselfish, authentic version of early ensemble style New Orleans jazz has been a delight to jazz audiences at festivals etc all over the UK and beyond. I think the band suited Clem and he was ideal for them. They were, and still are, hugely popular and for good reason.
Clem was a unique and very special character - the local jazz scene has lost a much loved player/ambassador.
Roly Veitch
(A more detailed look at Clem's life can be seen on Roly's own website click here to view the ongoing project - Lance)


Lance said...

You've put in words, Roly, what I know a lot of people feel.

Anonymous said...

This is Kate (Clems Grandaughter). I just wanted to say thanks so much for being so kind and saying such nice things about my Grandpa, it really means alot.


Pauline said...

I no longer live in the UK and was very saddened to receive a call from my Mum with the sad news about Clem.
I very much enjoyed the Thursday night jazz sessions at the Black Bull and Clem must have enjoyed the pub too as he came to treat it as his local, well respected by all. We got to know his family too.
Thanks Roly for saying what we all feel.

ex landlady of the Black Bull

Anonymous said...

Clem was a very nice guy, and played a fine trumpet lead. Don't really need much more for an epitaph......

Anonymous said...

Clem was truly one of the few "gentlemen "of jazz. I knew him from the late 50's and worked with him in various outfits on many occasions over the last 50 years or so, both on trumpet & latterly on bass.The Sunday morning sessions at the City Vaults with the Ronnie Young band were the stuff of legends- the mix of musicians was extremely eclectic, including Charlie Carmichael & Eric Gamblin, both also sadly deceased. Although Clem's real love was "purist" N.O jazz( he was extremely knowledgeable on the subject),he could hold his own on bass, playing in dixieland,mainstream & bebop without a problem.
He was a staunch defender of the banjo in jazz, much to my dismay, although I once recall him having to concede defeat to the arguement
when the late Ronnie McLean suggested to him that perhaps the banjo was not the most accommmodating instrument on which to play that most beautiful of ballads,"LAURA"
He was a very sound musician with a good "ear", a fine sense of humour & in all the years that I knew him, I never ever saw him lose his cool or say a wrong word about anyone.
He was one of the nicest guys to be around & will be greatly missed
by all who had the pleasure of knowing him.

Bill & Anne Harper

Anonymous said...

Hi Lance,
Yes Roly mailed us a while ago and we were waiting sadly for the announcement.
Many happy nights at the Black Bull with Clem manfully getting his head around my arrangements.
Bill has blogged on your Bebop site but I wanted to add my own thoughts--Clem was a really decent and lovely man and took the trouble to give us a copy of ,of all things, a tape by none other than........Frank Crummit--he of the Prune song. His interests were truly eclectic and he will be sorely missed. Our thoughts are with his family.

Kind Regards
Anne De Vere

Anonymous said...

Attended Clems humanist funeral on Friday. Almost every north east jazz musician was there to play their respects to one of our all time greats. Every spectrum of musician was their from Mighty Joe Young to Clive Grey, Jim Birkett through to Mike Durham - to name but a few. Roly gave a heart felt eulogy about Clems music.

A humanist family friend also spoke about Clem. He spoke about his interests in life and memories started to flow back for me. I knew I had something in common with Clem - we both had the same style car when we started motoring, a Vauxhall Viva. He kept his going for 30 or more years. A sign of the man - he had great stamina

Friends in jazz


Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear the news of the death of Clem Avery. As you know Lance, Clem did go back along way, when my father Hughie Aitchison and he used to play on the Tyneside Jazz scene in the 1950's, and of course those great years when I was a boy taken by my dad to forth banks New Orleans Jazz Club in the 1960's, to hear and meet all of these great characters on the jazz scene at that time. I myself did go through a music course with Clem at The College of Arts And Technology in Newcastle in the early 1970's. He was always a warm and gentle man, and a very knowledgeable musician. It was just a couple of years ago that I took my wife, Jeannie, over to see and meet him playing with the Rae Brothers, and after all the years since I had last seen him he was still the same warm and talkative Clem. I'm sure he will be very much missed on the local jazz scene, many thanks Lance for keeping me up to date...

Colin Atchison
Hong Kong

Anonymous said...

a lovely lovely man,many,many happy memories of gigs and social times,
bill and enid walton

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