Memories of Robin Jones (Latin Underground - 3rd November)
4 November 2019
Often affectionately referred to as the “Godfather of British Latin music” Robin Jones was truly one of the great performers on the international Latin scene. On Sunday 3 November at 1:30pm, the Club will present a special afternoon concert in honour of Robin, who passed away earlier this year. Among those appearing will be Nick Walker (saxophone, clarinet & flute) and Chris Kibble (piano), both of whom played with Robin in various iterations, most recently with his Latin Sextet who were frequently heard at the Six. We asked Nick and Chris to share their memories of Robin with us, as they have kindly done below....
Memories of Robin Jones : By Nick Walker
I first met Robin sometime in the 70’s. Sam Catchlove had organised a workshop somewhere and then couldn’t make the gig himself. Enter Robin Jones – I’d never met anyone who looked or sounded like this man – like a pirate from a 1950’s B movie. Somehow I must have impressed him as sometime later I was depping for Don Rendell in Jazz Turbo which was a pretty full-on band with Robin driving things forward from the kit. I think I was one of many musicians that he took under his wing – if he believed you had potential he would stick by you and nurture you.
Some years later when Paul Honey and I formed Corner Pocket and needed some exotic percussion there really was only one person …. Again this was a full-on band , but I’ll never forget we used to open the 2nd set with Robin coaxing the most extraordinary sounds from an assortment of latin percussion instruments – berimbau etc – which held the audience spellbound , the effect maximised by his facial contortions. This is where the first of many Robin impersonators emerged – Mike Bradley was certainly above average, but many years later Adam Riley produced ‘East Walk Talk ‘ which is a masterpiece, parodying various incidents in Robin’s career with a voice indistinguishable from the original!
When Robin asked me to join King Salsa he needed me to play flute, which, as my playing was very basic, I was reluctant to do, especially in a horn section with Steve Waterman, Dennis Rollins and co. So I said naively “don’t worry, I’ve got a C Melody saxophone so I can play all the flute parts on that “He must have thought I was an idiot but once again he stuck with me – and I stuck with the flute – something I will always thank Robin for.
Finally there was Latin Underground. Here was a chance to write some music for a terrific band and Robin was very keen for me to do so. Many happy memories here – his band intro was always amusing – Gerry Hunt, the heartbeat of the band, Chris Kibble, Latin Royalty, Nick Walker plays baritone, soprano, flute ….in fact this man can blow anything…….followed by the Jones chuckle. Then there was “Nick’s got some cd’s…..he’d be very happy to take you – I mean take your money”. This was all well and good but at the Ealing Jazz Festival it was my wife who was in charge of the cds so Robin came out with the same spiel about her……
One of the few times I saw Robin stopped in his tracks was one night at the 606 when a lady came up to him at half-time and asked “where exactly do you come from?” As this was something I’d wanted to know for years ( but thought it extremely uncool to ask) I listened closely. After a short pause the pirate grin emerged and he said “oh ……i’m from all over“.
Thanks Robin – it’s been a ball .
Nick Walker, October 2019
Memories of Robin Jones : By Chris Kibble
Robin Jones - right from his early days in India behind the drum kit backing his mother on piano, on to England, Latin music in its many forms was his passion. He toured the world with pop and jazz line ups and was often in the recording studio on sessions playing congas, and even tambourine on Elton John’s 'Tumbleweed Connection' in 1970. In the early 70’s two Latin jazz albums under his own name were released :“El Maja” and “Denja”.
Robin was involved with the London School of Samba playing carnival many times. He had a jazz quartet with Alan Broadbent, Roland Lacey and Esmond Selwyn in1982. King Salsa was formed in the mid 80’s as a powerful 13 piece salsa band and probably Robin’s greatest musical love, playing the first Malta jazz festival 1991 and many other festivals around Europe and UK. In the early 90’s the band were popular on the then very busy London Latin scene playing Ronnie Scott’s, The Wag Club, 100 Club and The Bass Clef. King Salsa released three albums “Chango “Ache” and “Sabroso Mambo”.
“Atlas”, “Mojito,” and most recently “Seven Stops to Heaven” are three albums released by Robin’s Latin Jazz Sextet which he set up in 1996 and which became a popular regular band at the 606 Club.
Robin played with many visiting American jazz artists on drums and percussion. Early 90’s he played kit with the British tenor player Don Rendell in a quintet with Steve Waterman on trumpet, Mario Castronari bass and Chris Kibble on piano. Countless percussionists have studied with Robin over the years including Snowboy, who became an early member of King Salsa. To quote Robin my friend, band leader/employer since1988, “There isn’t enough of the real Latin music played, and if people can’t hear it, how can they say they know about it? I just want do what little I can to bring it to them".
I last played with Robin late last year with Derek Nash, still passionate and playing the congas with energy. It was through luck on my part that I first met Robin when I was starting out, trying to learn about Latin music in relation to the piano and it became a privilege to work with him, meeting some of the Latin greats Charlie Palmieri, Tito Puente & Celia Cruz. A lot of fun was also had along with the music!
Thanks for the music, Robin, and not forgetting the jokes he was so fond of telling!
Chris Kibble, October 2019