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Sunday, November 29, 2009


It’s no exaggeration to say that jazz in the region has lost an absolutely pivotal figure with the sudden death of Jazz North East Secretary Chris Yates. Chris was on his way to the Profound Sound Trio’s gig at Gateshead Old Town Hall last Thursday when he suffered what seems to have been a massive heart attack, from which he never recovered. Although he had not been in the best of health over the past year or so, this was totally unexpected, and the news has come as a terrible shock to his family and to his countless friends. Chris joined the committee of Jazz North East in 1973, becoming its Secretary later the same year, and in the 35 years since then he remained the region’s foremost organiser of and advocate for jazz through times when the music was booming, and times when every other promoter regarded it as commercial suicide. There can hardly be a single significant jazz musician in the UK who didn’t get a booking from him at one time or another, and a whole host of international stars were also brought to Tyneside through his efforts. From veterans like Earl Hines to today's stars like Ken Vandermark, everybody knew and respected Chris. I haven’t the slightest doubt that the remaining members of the Jazz North East committee will want to organise some kind of tribute to Chris, and that there are musicians up and down the country who will want to be associated with this. In the meanwhile, I know that I speak for huge numbers of people when I express my condolences to his wife Laura and his children, and say “Thanks Chris, jazz everywhere owes you an immense debt of gratitude”.
Paul Bream.


Mike Durham said...

I first met Chris when I returned to the Uk in 1983 after ten years or so working overseas. When I told him I wanted to start a band, he very kindly put me in touch with some like-minded individuals; when we thought we were ready to appear in public, Chris was generous with advice on venues, gig fees and so on; over the next twenty-six years or so, as I continued with the band and subsequently also took up the promotion of traditional jazz, he was unfailingly helpful with advice, publicity and encouragement. In the last few years, we worked together on the Arts Council's Jazz Strategy Group for the North East, and I was continually reminded of Chris' broad appreciation for and in-depth knowledge of jazz styles that ranged across virtually the whole spectrum. As promoter, educator, writer, critic, facilitator and all-round force for good in furthering the jazz cause in this region and further afield, he will be greatly missed, but leaves us a rich and varied heritage by which to remember him.

Mike Durham

Roly said...

Very sad news. Just echoing Mike's comments I would like to say Chris was always totally supportive of our jazz activity at Blaydon - for example he would phone regularly for details and ensure events were put in the listings and he was always so helpful and encouraging. Chris has worked tirelessly for the benefit of jazz music.

Russell said...

Hi Lance

I first met Chris when I went along to a Jazz North East concert at the Corner House. He gave me a warm welcome and I became a regular at JNE gigs. I soon learned that Chris was a walking encyclopedia of the history of jazz. He was, quite simply, a very nice man.


Mike Jamieson said...

I first met Chris in the late 1970s after I succumbed to pressure from my features editor to write a new jazz column - not because I knew much about the music but because I was the only journalist on the Evening Chronicle who liked jazz.

Someone suggested I start by meeting Chris Yates and he provided me with topics for the first column - the then pivotal role of the Corner House, Heaton, and the impressive amount of jazz talent in the region.

At that early stage I was able to keep tapping into his immense knowledge of jazz to help with the necessary rapid expansion of my own.

For the next 17 years of the column, which soon included blues, he was one of the key contributors and I always like him, not only for his passion for the music, but as a genuine and concerned person.
Aware of the importance of pre-publicity for Jazz North East promotions he would almost invariably include in his letters to me the description in capital letters: A VERY SPECIAL EVENT, usually underlined more than once. And, of course, all the big names he presented were special.

Soon after I first met him someone told me, perhaps he himself, that after arriving in the North-East from elsewhere he complained to Jazz North East about something they'd done or hadn't done. All right, he was told, why not join us and ensure that we operate to your satisfaction. So he did.

As well as his key role in Jazz North East presentations and in the commissioning of works by, as I recall, Stan Tracey and Ian Carr, Chris regularly lectured on jazz. Only recently a friend who attended a series of his talks told me how impressed he was and how useful they had been.

Mike Jamieson

Unknown said...

I can only echo all of the sentiments left in the previous four comments. My own appreciation can be found here:

It only scratches the surface and barely does him justice, but what else is there to say?

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