Johnny Dankworth and Cleo Lane are celebrity musical names that featured highly throughout my early years. Part of the popular arts establishment and hardly ever off the telly, Dankworth and Lane were known and loved for their contributions to mainstream modern jazz, and also variety show light entertainment.
And now Johnny is no more.
Essex boy Dankworth was a composer as well as player, and while the traditional style of jazz with which he and Lane were associated failed to light my cultural fire (I was more inspired by northern European jazz-folk), I could always appreciate Dankworth’s skill as a writer, and his beautifully lyrical alto sax playing. Dankworth managed to make saxophony seem effortless. It isn’t, with the higher-pitched members of the saxophone family requiring constant, active and often difficult control of intonation and dynamics. They are inherently unstable wind instruments.
Johnny Dankworth will be missed.