Tell us about your upbringing.
“I was born in Tunbridge Wells in 1951, and grew up mainly in Epsom. We lived on the Downs, in a golf club, and there was a grand piano in the members' room that I loved to sit at when the place was closed. There was no music played at home, only stuff on the radio – like Liberace and Billy Cotton!”
How did you get into jazz?
“How did I get into jazz? Good question! Osmosis. You know, you pick things up…and respond to stuff that moves you, and jazz did that. I remember stuff like 'Bluesette', and 'Take 5', and loved the feel that it gave me.”
Tell us about the different courses that you've been doing and what you've gotten out of them.
“The first course I did was at Chichester, about ten years ago, when Adrian Kendon was there. I took my son Jo Stout along and we did the course together. I just loved being immersed in a jazz-learning environment. Then I did a year at Middlesex University – but it was a bad time for me (my middle son son had died the previous year), and I felt too insecure to continue. However, unlike me, my son Jo DID complete his studies at Middlesex (!), and is now based in London, gigging a lot, and in the process of forming a new band. His previous band, 'Mercurial' – with Paul Whitten, Dave Cottrell and Martin Weightman – did some lovely stuff, including original compositions.”
“Since Middlesex I have done summer schools, and have attended jazz workshops. But really the big turning point for me was joining Brighton Jazz School last year. It was brilliant to be thrown in at the deep end – I had the opportunity to play every week at the Verdict in Brighton, accompanying a wide range of musicians and having to learn a lot of material I would never have looked at otherwise. I've taken time off from BJS – but am looking forward to starting again in January. I was so impressed by their end-of-term concert, and am really looking forward to being a part of it again, playing with new people, and learning from them. It's a rich environment for sure.”
How do you see your playing developing in the future?
“I love playing with other musicians – I spent a very happy week at Buddhafield this year, playing with Charlie Anderson and some other BJS alumni. I get together regularly with Dave Hill, we're developing some lovely stuff together, and really helping one another. I also get together with a couple of local jazz singers who come to my house to rehearse regularly. I feel It's a rather wonderful jazz journey I'm on. It's something I've waited a very long time to get started on (I'm now 62, but in jazz years, that's nothing!). I'm excited about the future. I just see me getting better as a musician, learning from other people, and creating opportunities.”
“Oh, just wanted to add – when I'm feeling down – fed up/anxious or whatever – just sitting at the piano and going through a tune can totally change all of that. The more I do it, the better it becomes. I can find myself really getting into analysing a piece – recognising intervals, taking a piece into another key, and the host of other stuff you can do. And the worries have gone! Give me 'Dr Jazz' any day!”
Q&A Interview conducted by Charlie Anderson.
Photo: Jenny Wilcox [left] with Marion Stout Wilson Mitchell.