DUDLEY MOORE. CBE. 1935-2002.
It was with great sorrow that I have learned of the very sad and premature passing of actor, comedian and pianist Dudley Moore at the age of 66.
For me, his early and tragic death is almost a personal loss, for it was the superb jazz played by The Dudley Moore Trio that inspired me to become a successful jazz musician myself. He was also the last of my four musical heroes to pass on, the other three being pianists Horst Jankowski and Roy Budd – and Rolling Stones Guitarist Brian Jones.
Dudley died at his home in New Jersey on 27th March 2002 after a long struggle with a brain disease. He passed away in no pain, surrounded by family and friends after contracting pneumonia as a complication of progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare and incurable disorder similar to Parkinson’s disease. He will be missed tremendously.
Although I never met Dudley, my love of his music (I know every note of his jazz trio recordings backwards) meant that somehow he was like a distant friend and consequently, there will always be a special place in my heart for him.
In the early sixties, like many of my generation, I was a dedicated fan of The Rolling Stones and in particular their founder and guitarist Brian Jones, whose international fan club I was later to run.
As well as the fantastic pop music that was being produced in the sixties, British television was also way out in front and at its very best, in contrast with the endless soap operas, game shows, repeats and audience participation programmes that are churned out today under the name of entertainment.
One of the sixties programmes that particularly caught my eye was the B.B.C’s “Not Only but Also” series which starred the famous comedy duo Peter Cook and Dudley Moore and which featured the superb jazz of the Dudley Moore Trio, with Chris Karan on drums and the late great Pete McGurk on bass.
I purchased and listened intensely to the trios first two excellent LP’s “Genuine Dud” and “The Other Side of The Dudley Moore Trio”. Such was my excitement at hearing this amazing music, that soon, listening to it just wasn’t enough anymore, I felt that I really wanted to be a part of it all. So I went out and bought myself a second hand double bass, moved up to London to study jazz and within two years went fully professional and played with some of the biggest names in British jazz.
So then, in short I owe so much to Dudley Moore in that his wonderful music inspired my own successful career in jazz music.
Some more excellent albums were to follow such as “30 is a Dangerous Age Cynthia – The Music of Dudley Moore” and “Bedazzled” the soundtrack from the film of the same name, with all compositions by Dudley Moore (Both recently re-released on CD.) I have requested that the beautifully wistful track “Cornfield” from this album be played at my own funeral because it is so beautiful and very poignant.
Although all of the trios recordings are excellent, in my humble opinion, the very best jazz album made by The Dudley Moore Trio is the classy “Today” recorded on the Atlantic label in Australia in 1971. This was an impromptu, spur of the moment recording made in the middle of the night, where by chance, the music really ‘happened’. This is pure earthy jazz that really gets ‘right down in there!’
Of all the albums that Dudley recorded one is particularly outstanding in that it is so very personal. It is the CD “Songs Without Words”. These tracks were laid down with persistent and endless encouragement from Dudley’s then wife Brogan Lane.
With typical modesty, Dudley just didn’t feel that he was ready to record a solo album. The project filled him with ‘abject fear’. But as things turned out thank heavens that he did.
The CD “Songs Without Words” contains some of the deepest, saddest, heartfelt and most moving recordings that Dudley ever made. On listening to them, one is almost moved to tears as the music clearly gives an insight, into what must have been going on in his tormented soul. Ironically, despite being the recipient of mass adulation, the stark loneliness that he must have felt is so very apparent. These tracks are straight from the heart, he has without doubt bared his soul here, and even Dudley admitted that these melodies which he himself wrote, haunted him!
Although I was obviously very happy for Dudley Moore when he went off across the Atlantic and achieved fame and fortune as a Hollywood celebrity and an unlikely ‘sex thimble’, it was also very sad indeed to watch his marriage problems and subsequent divorces, not to mention the tragic death of his partner Peter Cook and finally, his own deteriorating health.
Although we were only too aware that he was gravely ill, it didn’t however lessen the shock when we finally learned that he had passed on and that he was no longer there to make us laugh and that those beautiful hands would never touch a piano keyboard ever again.
In short, we have lost a very great talent in the passing of the amazing Mr Dudley Moore, who came from humble beginnings as a small Dagenham schoolboy with a clubfoot, to a meteoric rise to award winning Hollywood stardom. Dudley Moore, despite a considerable number of disadvantages, achieved something which many of us can only dream about.
May God bless his soul for the laughter, the music, the joy and delight that he gave to millions of people all over the world!
Phil Kent – August 2018.