Farewell Keith Nichols
Updated: Jan 25
This week should have been a holiday for me and my wife. She has to take the holiday, so we’ve spent the week at home, enjoying a few walks and cycle rides in the area and enjoying time at home together. It was my nephew's 21st birthday on Wednesday so we went for a cycle ride together and stopped for a takeaway lunch together, sitting out in the cold.
Following up from last week’s post, I had assumed that now that I’ve been trained to vaccinate, I’ve had my vaccine, I’ve filled in all the forms, sent a CV, proof of address, contact details of two referees, passed a telephone interview, passed all the on-line training modules, emailed and spoken to various people from the recruitment agency dealing with my contract I would be ready to start vaccinating. The centre are desperate for more people, the country and the world are desperate to get the vaccine rolled out as quick as possible, but it seems the only thing holding me up is the red tape of the recruitment process. It’s very frustrating, and makes me angry and sad, particularly when I have just heard one more musician and friend has died from Covid.
Keith Nichols adored ‘classic jazz’ - jazz of the 1910’s to 1940’s, and was an authority on it. He had a huge library of transcriptions he had made over his lifetime, and he loved to encourage others and share his knowledge. He was a brilliant pianist and trombone player, as well as several other instruments, but what really made him stand out above everyone else as a musician was his ability to lead a band and put on a concert: He had an endless supply of anecdotes, songs and interesting stories he could call on, and a cheeky sense of humour, so that by the end of a concert everyone present, musicians and audience, all felt part of a unique and special occasion. Keith had worked with many great international musicians over his lifetime, and nobody wanted to disappoint him musically. As a result we all upped our game in his band - we wanted to perform the music with as much energy and passion that the musicians had when they first performed it all those years ago. Everyone that knew and worked with Keith loved him, and he made the world a better place. Hundreds of people across the UK and the world are so sad that he has died. He was taken to hospital for a much delayed operation that could no longer be delayed. While there he contracted Covid and died yesterday. He was 75.
I first heard of Keith in my 20's before my first tentative steps into the professional jazz world. I sat in the front row of audiences at festivals I was playing at and wondered if one day I'd play in his band. I then met him as an educator, introducing the music of Duke Ellington and Paul Whiteman to students at Trinity College of Music. One year I was booked to play double bass and sousaphone in a band that included him at Bude Jazz Festival. This was a very intimidating experience but I was told I did a good job. Over the years we got to know each other better, so that in the last few years I was delighted to be called to play in bands of his on trombone, and on occasions bass and sousaphone. More recently still we'd exchange Christmas cards.
This has brought a sombre end to the week, but I’ve continued to work on my ‘Voodoo Wiggle’ song, recorded trombone parts for Dom Pipkin’s album that he’s working on, cooked and practiced my instruments.