Acker Bilk’s back in ReadingBy Phil Creighton
June 10, 2011
There are a few acts that need little introduction and jazz legend Acker Bilk is one of them.
The clarinettist, who shot to fame nearly 50 years ago when Strangers on the Shore was released, is making a return trip to Reading for a brand-new show.
Appearing with his Paramount Jazz Band, the internationally renowned star is a seasoned visitor to the town.
Between 1964 and 1972, John Boddy ran the Reading Jazz Club at the Olympia Ballroom and then in the Shop Hotel. Acker joined other jazz legends including Ken Colyer, Chris Barber, Kenny Ball, Monty Sunshine, as well as Blues artistes such Champion Jack Dupree at the club.
Now, John is back promoting a new series of jazz concerts which will run in The Hexagon, starting with Acker’s show on Sunday.
“It’s great to be presenting top name jazz artistes in Reading again,” John says. “It has been 40 years since I ran the Reading Jazz Club, but I’m looking forward to a great night of world-class jazz, and maybe I’ll see some familiar faces in the Audience from the old jazz club.”
Acker is looking forward to returning to Reading.
“Oh yeah, oh yeah, I like Reading, it’s good,” says the 82-year-old star from his Somerset home.
“I enjoy playing in The Hexagon.”
One of the hallmarks of jazz is the improvised solos – and this is something that Acker loves.
“It keeps it fresh, yeah, that’s what I enjoy about it,” he reveals.
“It comes out naturally, I couldn’t do the same again twice anyway – I couldn’t remember how it was.”
This is handy when having to perform Strangers On The Shore on a regular basis for 50 years. The song was such a hit that it even went to the moon with the 1969 Apollo 10 mission and it regularly crops up in films.
“I just play it different every time, you know, no problem,” he says.
And while most 80-year-olds could be forgiven for wanting to put their feet up, Acker is determined to keep going for a while longer.
“I shuffle about a bit and I get around and I quite enjoy myself, so why not carry on?” he says. “I quite enjoy it. I enjoy the band and the crack. It’s good fun. Oh, and the music – I love the music.”
Acker intends to stick to the jazz he’s known and loved for more than five decades.
“I’ve got to play solo, of course, and there’s a lot of stuff that’s good, you know what I mean?” he says.
“I just really enjoy playing, being with the band, playing with the band. That’s been my life really.
“They’ve been really good friends.”
And Acker knows why you should visit The Hexagon on Sunday to see his show.
“Come along and hear some old-fashioned jazz – well, not old fashioned but some proper jazz I suppose.”
Acker Bilk and his Paramount Jazz Band perform at The Hexagon Sunday, June 12. Call 0118 960 6060 or visit www.readingarts.com