St Albans-based jazz legend Stan Tracey dies aged 86

Pianist Stan Tracey is playing the Herts Jazz Festival 2012

Pianist Stan Tracey is playing the Herts Jazz Festival 2012 - Credit: Archant

Jazz great Stan Tracey, who lived in St Albans, has died at the age of 86 after a long battle with illness.

His death, which was announced on the official Stan Tracey Appreciation Facebook Page, comes after he recently celebrated 70 years as a professional jazz pianist and composer.

He had strong links with the Herts Jazz Club of which he was a patron. He had been due to perform there at the beginning of this month but ill health meant he was unable to play and Steve Melling took his place.

Stephen Hyde, publicity manager of the club, said this week: “Herts Jazz Club was privileged to have Stan as its patron. He played here two or three times a year and also at our annual Herts Jazz Festival.

“I know all of our members and regulars felt honoured and very lucky to witness and listen to a true master. Stan will be sorely missed.”

Locally, a group called Fansofstan was set up when St Albans Arts, the original promoter of Stan’s annual gig in the city, was forced to withdraw. Fansofstan took over the arrangements for his showpieces, the last of which was held in the Maltings Arts Theatre this summer.

Marion Hammant of Fansofstan described Stan as, “a god – a man with his enormous talents and reserved public demeanour couldn’t be anything else.”

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She recalled first meeting him in the foyer at Wavendon and how she and her late husband got to know him better over the years. When the chance came to set up Fansofstan with an annual gig at the Maltings Arts Theatre, it was just down the road from his home in Batchwood View.

Marion said how much she had enjoyed the trios with Stan’s son Clark and Andy Cleyndert and his many suites, particularly the last, The Flying Pig based on his father’s experiences in World War One, an earlier work Captain Adventure and his ever-popular Under Milk Wood.

She added: “Stan, we shall miss you and your music. We were so lucky to have you with us for so long. Do hope you’re beating the hell out of some celestial Yamaha Grand up in the heavens. And no doubt you would have some ironic comment to make about that.”

Stan was born in Denmark Hill in South London in 1926 and taught himself to play the piano/accordion, going on to win several talent competitions.

His long career took in working aboard transatlantic liners and in America in the mid-fifties but his big break came when Ronnie Scott opened his jazz club in Soho and Stan became its house pianist for seven years.

His best-known composition was Under Milk Wood, his 1965 suite based on Dylan Thomas’s radio play, which was acclaimed as a jazz landmark.

Stan received a CBE in the 2008 New Year Honours List and received the first Ivor Novello award for jazz in 2012.