Paul Rigby recalls working alongside the controversial Canadian jazz trumpet player Maynard Ferguson, jazz and cabaret singer Selena Jones and the great British pianist and vocalist Georgie Fame, writes Tony Dewhurst.
Back then, the Lancashire lad was a young man and like most hopefuls, stared wide eyed as that rich stage experience became a powerful reference point in his life.
I’m certainly very proud to be part of the Ribble Valley Jazz Festival and volunteers like Geoff Jackson and Sue Lightbown, the chairwoman, have done so much to develop this marvellous event and create a lively jazz and blues communityPaul Rigby
“To be close to those artists, some of them very demanding, perfectionists really, showed me how hard I’d need to work to succeed,” said Rigby, the founder of the Northern Jazz Orchestra and who will be one of the two musicians in residence at next month’s Ribble Valley Jazz Festival.
“I spent 10 years touring the world with the Wigan Jazz Orchestra and it was like a giant door swinging open in terms of what I learned musically and about life.”
For a drummer and teacher so talented, and a man with so much personal drive, it perhaps comes as a surprise that he became disillusioned with his intended career early on.
“A music teacher at Blackburn College told me that I’d never make it as a musician, and I used that as a massive spur,” he added.
“I was a bit rebellious, but I’ve always had that fierce drive to succeed.”
Paul was always surrounded by music at home, his father Allan – a band leader for many years – remains a constant in his busy life as Paul juggles his countless roles as an experienced regional director of music, and band leader with several big bands.
Rigby junior will be directing performances from two of his local bands at the festival, Ribble Valley Jazz Collective and Blufunk Syndicate, featuring his 86-year-old father on trombone.
He will also be introducing a new trio to the Emporium Wine Bar on the festival’s opening evening, on April 28th.
And certainly what will prove to be one of the festival highlights, will see the Arun Ghosh Sextet collaborating with PJ Rigby’s Blackburn with Darwen Big Band on May Day.
Ghosh, and big band members under Rigby’s direction, have been commissioned to compose new music to be presented by the Big Band before Arun Ghosh’s concert.
A day earlier, Paul Rigby’s Jazz Jam will join The Hackney Colliery Band and the Blufunk Syndicate on an explosive Saturday night bill at St Michael and St John’s Social Centre.
While on Bank Holiday Monday, the Northern Orchestra and the Sparkle Sisters will deliver a salute to Glen Miller and the Dance Bands.
It promises to be a nostalgic afternoon evoking many memories of life and events from the 40s and 50s with Paul J. Rigby and the orchestra playing all the classics like In the Mood.
A former president of the Ribble Valley Jazz Festival, Paul’s influences remain as wide-ranging as his hectic weekly schedule.
From Maynard Ferguson, who was constantly updating and modernizing big band jazz in the 60s and 70s with pop, rock and disco material in his repertoire, to Stan Kenton.
“Stan was way ahead of his time, but so many people have helped me along the way,” said Paul.
“Also, my drum tutor, Eric Hammond, and Alan Tomlinson, the musical director of the Lancashire Youth Jazz Orchestra, who died last year.
“Alan was a remarkable man, a real gentleman, and a person who provided so much musical inspiration for so many young people.
“I’m certainly very proud to be part of the Ribble Valley Jazz Festival and volunteers like Geoff Jackson and Sue Lightbown, the chairwoman, have done so much to develop this marvellous event and create a lively jazz and blues community.”
The 2016 Ribble Valley Jazz Festival runs from April 28th to May 2nd.
Tickets available from 01200 421599 or www.thegrandvenue.co.uk