📚 The Library

📚 The Library

In memoriam Len Skeat

In 2005, when I left the Fapy Lafertin Quintet to start my own career, I was listening to Grappelli’s “Live at the Queen Elizabeth Hall”. It was on a Black Lion LP with a certain Len Skeat on bass.

I liked what I heard as it reminded me of my favourite bassist Ray Brown (check him out with the Oscar Peterson Trio!) and for me, this was a level up from Grappelli’s other bass players before and after.

Google helped out and I found out Len was alive and still playing on the English jazz circuit as an ‘éminence grise’. As I had just been offered a try-out gig at a London club as an audition for a tour, I got in touch with him through a friend of a friend to see if I could get him interested in joining me if things went well.

We chatted on the phone for 2 hours that first time, and quickly became friends – he helped organise my first solo album The Grappelli Tribute with guitar, piano and bass and I got the tour, on which he joined me.

Over the next few years, we played many concerts at clubs and festivals and my third album, Swingin’ the Classics, led to a festival in Garmisch Partenkirchen (Germany) where we played for the grandson of Richard Strauss. But that’s a story for another time!

Meanwhile, I’d started touring in Scotland with Roy and Nigel as the “Tim Kliphuis Trio” which was musically a very different thing – less traditional and much more musically challenging for me with its mix of classical, folk and jazz. So gradually I got to see Len less and less, but we stayed in touch until the day he passed away last March, at the age of 84.

Len told me many stories of his years with Grappelli, some of which I’ll be sharing with you here – and also of his favourite colleagues, bassist Ray Brown, saxophone giant Ben Webster and singer Peggy Lee. I thank him for his generosity and great musicianship.

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