Lionel Grigson’s book, Betty Carter at Ronnie Scott’s circa 1990

Lionel Grigson's book, Betty Carter at Ronnie Scott's circa 1990

I met Lionel Grigson in 1986. He was a gentle, beautiful maverick at the Guildhall School of Music in London. He gave me my very first jazz lesson, along with his book “A Jazz Chord Book”.

He laid out jazz chord changes in this very efficient way, although I had a long way to go before I could ever use this book the way he intended. These days, I have something similar on my phone using iReal Pro, but I doubt there was much work like Lionel’s going on in the 1980s.

Tonight, on an evening in my home in the time of Coronavirus or COVID-19, I am at my piano going though the yellowed pages of his beloved book. It has travelled with me back and forth through London, France, Singapore, Malaysia and now Australia.

Lionel was full of mirth, sometimes shocking my young mind with his casual irreverence. He was so gentle and so generous with his knowledge and life. Some 34 years later, I’m thinking of you, Lionel.

For All We Know

Ray Charles and Betty Carter sang the famous version of “For All We Know”. I saw Betty Carter at Ronnie Scott’s in Soho in the 1ate eighties or early nineties. I didn’t know that song yet and can’t remember if she sang it that night. I do remember that she was fierce. Ms. Carter had a baby-faced Italian double bass player in her band who was clearly so stoked to be on that gig. She pushed him to his limit, growling into his ear during his solos and he dripped beads of sweat under the pressure. I recall it clearly in my mind and I bet he never forgot that night. I wish I knew his name!

Anybody out there who saw Betty Carter at Ronnie Scott’s in London, circa 1990? Who were the musos in her band?

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