IAN HAMER

11th September 1932 - 3rd September 2006

Ian Hamer

The following notes have been pieced together from various obituaries and websites.

Ian was born in Liverpool and his first professional gig was at the Grafton Ballroom with a band led by his mother, Mary Daly Hamer, or Mrs Wilf Hamer as she called herself. His brothers, George (clarinet) and Stuart (trumpet and drums) were also in the band. While doing national service in the RAF, he managed to get himself posted back to Merseyside where he could continue playing in the band.

He then moved south and joined Carl Barriteau's band before joining Oscar Rabin in 1954. Following on from this he worked in the big bands of Vic Lewis and Ivor and Basil Kirchin.

From the 1960's onwards, he played in the bands of Jack Parnell, Eric Delaney, Vic Ash, Grace Kole, Harry South, John Dankworth, Mike Gibbs, Barbara Thompson, Ted Heath, James Last, the Woody Herman's Anglo-American Herd, the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra, and Kenny Wheeler's Band. He also played with Benny Golson, Paul Gonsalves, Clark Terry, Gary McFarland, Lalo Schiffin, Peter Herbolzheimer, and a host of others. He was good friends with Dizzy Gillespie and also knew Miles Davis.

In the mid 1950's, he joined Tubby Hayes's Octet and later played lead trumpet in Tubby Hayes's Big Band, which he rated as the best big band ever. His own arrangements and originals were a mainstay of the band. His own sextet, which he led in the 1960's and 70's and which performed a lot of his own tunes, featured at different times: Tubby Hayes, Dick Morrissey, Keith Christie, Alan Skidmore, Harry South, Alan Branscombe, Gordon Beck, Kenny Napper, Ron Matthiewson, Daryl Runswick, Bill Eyden, and Spike Wells - with whom he worked on and off for many years right up to the present time. A CD of the various sextet personnel entitled Acropolis, which was released only in 2005, received great acclaim and he was very proud of the reviews it received.

He was also a highly sought-after session musician for many years and wrote the arrangement on the spot for the Beatle's tune "Got to get you into my life". For 20 years, he was a member of the Top of the Pops session band.

Kenny Wheeler regarded him very highly and he played on nearly all of the big band recordings and live gigs. The last two of which were at Bull's Head, Barnes and shortly afterwards at the Appleby Festival on 28th July 2006.

He moved to Brighton in the 1980's and occasionally performed at the Brighton Jazz Club with his sextet - Alan Skidmore or Kelvin Christiane, Mark Nightingale, Terry Seabrook, Chris Lawrence or Adrian Kendon and Spike Wells or sometimes, Ron Parry.

His other preoccupation in Brighton was the Sussex Jazz Orchestra. This is what Ian once wrote about it:

As regards my big band - it is as all these things are - a labour of love, i.e. giving a bit back for all I've had out of music: Ian Hamer and the Sussex Youth Jazz Orchestra, but I found the youths came and went too quick, so I dropped the youth bit and it has worked fine ever since. Some rehearsals are a pain in the ass, but somehow the gigs come together, and I am quite proud of it at times. I just stand out front and play solos on almost every tune, which is what I wanted to do in the first place. But I did enjoy being a lead player as well at one time - but not any more!

A live recording of Ian playing one of my tunes, Winter Sunshine, which he liked a lot and hoped I would dedicate to him can be heard on the  big band  page. Bear in mind that it was recorded live at a venue in Brighton on someone's minidisc, so excuse the quality of the recording. Nevertheless, Ian's playing which could be very tender at times is wonderful.

As well as being a prolific writer and a superb trumpet player, Ian should be remembered as someone who inspired a lot of young people, giving them valuable experience in playing in a big band, and stirring up their interests in jazz. Many past (and some present) members of the band have gone on to music college and several have become professional musicians. The contribution he played in this respect was immense and something he will be remembered for.

Here is an old video clip of the Tubby Hayes band at Ronnie Scotts Club in London, with Ian - the second trumpet player from the left. The guitar player is Louis Stewart. The opening tune is Blues for Pipkins, followed by an introduction by Ronnie Scott and then the band plays The Inner Splurge.

return to Sussex Jazz Orchestra page