Petworth Festival will remember the late, great Dudley Moore

Coming to Petworth
Coming to Petworth

There was just something about the character of Dudley Moore that appealed to people. Musician Chris Ingham is discovering that Dudley’s music gets exactly the same response.

The Chris Ingham Quartet brings The Jazz of Dudley Moore to the 2019 Petworth Festival (Wednesday July 24, 7.30pm Champs Hill, RH20 1LY), a gig which has long since sold out (to join the waiting list, telephone the box office on 01798 344576).

Comic actor Dudley Moore (1935-2002) was not only one of the UK’s most dazzling and swinging jazz pianists but also a composer of wit and depth, Chris argues. As a musician Dudley rose to prominence in appearances and recordings with the Johnny Dankworth Orchestra as well as leading an outstanding trio of his own in clubs and concert halls across the country and then on TV.

Pianist Chris will be recreating his legacy with a top group of collaborators, Paul Higgs (trumpet), Geoff Gascoigne (double bass) and George Double (drums).

“Dudley had an immense personal charm. He was adored by his audience but equally by his fellow professionals, whether actors or musicians. People just loved him. It was just that incredible charisma and magnetism he had about him. Where does that come from? I don’t know. But if you think about his ability to make people laugh, like a lot of people who make people laugh, it was rooted in childhood pain. A lot of comedians developed their comedic skill to deflect the attention of bullies, and that was the case with him. But although he adored making people laugh, I think because of its roots in pain, I think his relationship with that aspect of his talent became more complicated in his life, just as his relationship with Peter Cook became more complicated. And I think if he had spent more time with his music, he would have been in a better place. I suspect the music fulfilled him more. From a selfish point of view, I think we missed out on an awful lot of great Dudley music simply because he became a great Hollywood star, and you can understand that… if you have got the choice between continuing as an underpaid musician on the British jazz scene and becoming a Hollywood star, which would you choose!”

Before the Hollywood stardom, however, Dudley contributed soundtracks to the films Bedazzled and 30 Is A Dangerous Age. He also collaborated with choreographer Gillian Lynne on three or four dance shows.

Chris now sees it as his mission to bring that music and Dudley’s other music to a wider audience. Chris and his quartet brought out a CD of Dudley’s jazz a couple of years ago: “I think the music is very expressive of Dudley’s personality. On immediate hearing, as I would imagine meeting Dudley would be, it is very colourful and witty and charming and likeable. His pieces are full of frothy melody and clever and slightly surprising twists. There is something about them. There is a great joy about them, but as the same time there is in some of them also a very persuasive melancholy. Dudley suffered from melancholy all his life, and that comes across in some of the pieces that we have been able to unearth.”

The result is the CD, a collection of pieces which, as Chris says, have been “bizarrely and almost criminally underplayed” down the years: “All we can do is just keep spreading the word!”

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