Monday, 31 March 2014

Ray's Jazz Shop

There I am, looking in the window, already having spent a packet by the looks of it. Also trying to look like...James Dean or a young Chet Baker (I had a quiff, of sorts), crossed with Marlon in Streetcar, minus the looks, ruggedness etc. It was the early-80s. A lot of us had quiffs 'cause The Face told us it was hip - ha-ha.

Ray's Jazz Shop was where I gained my only worthwhile education. James Blood Ulmer reckoned Jazz was the teacher, well, teaching me Jazz was Glyn Callingham, who worked the counter alongside Ray. I knew a few names when I started going there, but he gave me my higher education. Sometimes he'd turn up at The Wag's Monday night Jazz session. He was too cool to dance though, unlike us, possessed by bongo or Blakey-fuelled rhythms and those swinging horn riffs. 

People love to mythologise their past, places, gigs etc, but Ray's was truly legendary. It still exists as part of Foyles book shop on Charing Cross Road, but I haven't been there much. Back then it was on Shaftsbury Avenue in Covent Garden. Free drummer legend John Stevens might walk in...or Tommy Chase, though you never saw them together, and if you did, there would be someone keeping them from knocking the hell out of each other.

You could smoke in there too, as weird as that now seems. Glyn and Ray were always lighting up - well, it was Jazz, wasn't it? Smoke...The Jazz Messengers blasting out of the speakers...yes, another world.

Here's one big tune from those days...


  1. That is such a great photo, Robin. It really should be in a book!

  2. Yes, but what kind of book I can't imagine.


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