Dave Trigwell: A Personal Reflection by Mark Edwards
“When you’re young and you play with someone new… and together, for the first time for both of you, you find yourself floating and realise that the music is not about YOU anymore, it’s about life, love, fear, a search for freedom and happiness. That was my first experience with Dave.” – Django Bates.
Exactly a week ago, I awoke to the crushing news that my friend, Dave, had passed away.
A wonderful human being, masterful drummer and all round musician, an outside thinker, lurking in the hinterlands of conventionality, in his music and life.
I relate to Django’s sentiment above. I clearly remember my own first experience; a summer Sunday evening, mid-Eighties, in the Bristol pub in Tunbridge Wells, a crowded mecca for under age lager drinkers. I went to see ‘Karma’ – the group formed by Dave and his virtuosic guitarist brother Bonx. It was one of those moments we have all had, as musicians – I stood utterly transfixed by the music, and particularly by the elegant magic of Dave’s flow and touch, creating impressionistic pictures in sound. I had never seen anything like this, especially close up. A door had been opened and life would never be quite the same.
Emboldened by several pints of Stella, I approached Dave after the gig, and after our chat he so generously gave me his number and offered to get together for a ‘blow’. Dave was already one of the leading lights on the contemporary London jazz Scene; working with Django Bates, Tim Whitehead, Simon Purcell, Ian Carr and Iain Ballamy to name but a few, both in the UK and Europe, so I have no idea why he was so kind and encouraging to an 18 year old pianist he had never met or heard – but that was Dave, and I am so grateful for the 35 years of friendship, fun, musical adventures and hundreds of gigs which ensued from that meeting.
Above: James Osler, Dave Trigwell, Mark Edwards, Julian Nicholas, Imogen Ryall, Terry Pack. Photo by Lisa Wormsley.
Dave kind of exploded into your life. It was like a penny dropping – ‘So this is how seriously we are supposed to take music’. I had never encountered anyone with the dedication to, and respect for music which he embodied. It was a spiritual thing. Daytimes were for practise or rehearsal, evenings were gigs, and then you went back somewhere to listen to records, drink, and talk about it all until dawn. If you phoned Dave during the day, you would invariably hear the tick of a metronome in the background as he picked up – always practising. He told me he would walk around town with a metronome playing on headphones to improve his time. It worked! Anyone fortunate enough to hear him or even better, play with him, would attest to his incredible floating feel and luscious groove. So quiet and yet authoritative. On his signature red Gretsch kit, he would go to another place and take you with him.
Dave also had a unique and mischievous sense of humour. I have spent many tearful hours reminiscing this week, about the time we had together, and most of it was full of laughter.
All of us who knew him have our own cherished ‘Dave’ stories. He told me of an impromptu raid he conducted on a packed morning rush hour train with powered water pistols, wet suits, indignant commuters, and sodden pages of the FT flying about the carriage.
Or a late night walk around his local area, completely naked; ‘just to see what it felt like’.
I remember crying with laughter as he told me that after a party (at which some hallucinogenics may have been present) he had decided that his car boot would be a good place for a kip, but inadvertently locked himself in, and had to be released by a rather confused milkman who responded to the banging coming from the vehicle.
Or once after a rather boozy lunch, and to be clear, no food was consumed; he decided it would be fun to show me around the Scientology ‘Castle’ just outside East Grinstead (Dave had a brief encounter with the cult during the 80s). We managed a good look around and were buying a sandwich in the canteen when a couple of naval uniformed ‘Sea Org’ devotees curtly marched us off the premises. As fellow friend and bandmate Terry Pack said to me this week; ‘Dave had a way of leading you in and out of trouble, both on and off the stand ‘- and it was always so much fun.
Any gig with Dave was an absolute treat you looked forward to. He had a totally original approach, and instantly recognisable sound. His impeccable groove and taste, witty and always complimentary interjections, delivered with a rare delicateness and sensitivity, which lead to the moniker ‘the Human Sparrow’, made him so easy and joyous to play with.
It was an honour to play with Dave in the band ‘The Cloggz’ for 5 years, they were some of the most enjoyable shows I have ever done; his eclectic vocabulary and eccentricity was so perfectly suited to it. His playing was such a big part of defining the sound of the group, as it was with so many ensembles he worked with.
As well as the aforementioned musicians, Dave facilitated so much great music with the likes of Liane Carroll, Julian Nicholas, Nadia Baki, Herbie Flowers, Hazel O’Connor, Terry Callier, and countless other artists – alongside his own creative projects such as the fabled psychedelic duo ‘The Wrong Knees’, and writing and producing several musical plays for youth theatre. He loved working with kids, and always had time and an encouraging word for aspiring musicians who would approach him after a gig, just like me all those years ago.
I so wish Dave could have seen some of the tributes which have appeared on social media this week. He was a deeply humble and self questioning man, who genuinely had no idea how much he enriched the lives of so many people, and how loved he was. That makes me sad.
There is too much to say, these are just a few personal memories and reflections on the life of a true ‘one off’.
For all of us who knew and worked with Dave, we already miss him greatly, and mourn the loss of more opportunities to make music and hang out together, and forward deepest condolences to Nadia, and Dave’s family. I loved him dearly.