Don Weller (musician)
|Birth name||Donald Arthur Albert Weller|
|Born||19 December 1940|
Thornton Heath, Croydon, England
|Died||30 May 2020 (aged 79)|
Croydon, Surrey, England
|Genres||Jazz, post bop, rock|
|Instruments||Tenor saxophone, clarinet|
Don Weller began learning clarinet at the age of 14, and was classically educated on it for four or five years, and played the solo part in Mozart's Clarinet Concerto at Croydon Town Hall aged 15. He began playing in Dixieland bands around the Croydon area, but later switched to tenor saxophone and played in Kathy Stobart's rehearsal band.
During the 1970s, his jazz-rock group Major Surgery played a regular weekly gig at a Croydon pub, the Dog & Bull. The band played Weller's compositions on the album released as "The First Cut". This was followed by a quartet with drummer Bryan Spring. At the same time he worked regularly with pianist Stan Tracey, and also with Harry Beckett and in a quintet with Art Themen. Renowned for his versatility, he has played with artists such as Alan Price, Tina May and Charlie Hearnshaw.
Weller played saxophone on the 1973 album Allright on the Night by British hard rock band Tucky Buzzard. He appears as lead sax (with Tower of Power backing him on horns) on the instrumental track "Nascimento" of Cat Stevens' 1978 LP Back To Earth. He also played on the Alex Harvey album The Mafia Stole My Guitar released in 1979 delivering the solo on the track Wait For Me Mama and writing Don's Delight.
In 1981, he stood in for Michael Brecker when the Gil Evans Orchestra played at the Bracknell Jazz Festival, subsequently touring the UK and recording with one of the band's trumpeters, Hannibal Marvin Peterson, added on to the Weller–Spring Quartet. He also played and recorded with Evans' British Orchestra in 1983. Also in the 1980s, together with his friend and fellow tenor sax Dick Morrissey, Weller was a regular member of Rocket 88, the boogie-woogie fun band set up by Ian "Stu" Stewart and Bob Hall, appearing on the band's only album.
Weller was described as a "first choice for TV and film soundtracks". He played the saxophone solo on David Bowie's theme song for the film Absolute Beginners (1986). He also contributed to the jazz club movie Stormy Monday (1988). In 1995, he was commissioned by the Appleby Jazz Festival organiser Neil Ferber to write The "Pennine Suite" for a jazz big band which was premiered at the 1995 Appleby festival and released on CD the following year. Since then the band has regularly appeared at other jazz festivals. A later commission from Appleby Jazz was for his 'Electric Jazz Octet'.
Personal life and death
Weller had a triple heart bypass operation in 2012, after which his enthusiasm for playing never fully returned. His account of "We'll Be Together Again" at fellow musician Bobby Wellins' funeral in late 2016 was, in saxophonist Art Themen’s words, “incredibly moving and eerily prescient”. It has been said that Weller "made jazz richer, wittier and more warmly invigorating." He died in his home town of Croydon in Surrey on 30 May 2020 aged 79. He is survived by his son, Mark, and daughter, Katie.
- Commit No Nuisance (Affinity, 1979)
- Live (33 Records, 1997)
- Cannonball with Alan Barnes (ASC, 2000)
- The Way You're Going to Look Tomorrow Morning (Trio, 2003)
- Nine Songs (Trio, 2007)
With Alan Price
- Alan Price (Jet, 1977)
- Alan Stuart Octet (BBC 1978)
- Lucky Day (Jet, 1979)
- Travellin' Man (Trojan, 1986)
- Liberty (Ariola, 1989)
With East of Eden
- Here We Go Again... (EMI, 1976)
- It's the Climate (Harvest, 1978)
- Silver Park (Harvest/EMI, 1978)
With Tina May
- Never Let Me Go (33 Records, 1992)
- Fun (33 Records, 1993)
- It Ain't Necessarily So (33 Records, 1994)
- Time Will Tell (33 Records, 1995)
With Stan Tracey
- The Bracknell Connection (Steam, 1976)
- Salisbury Suite (Steam, 1978)
- Stan Tracey Now (Steam, 1983)
- Play Duke, Monk & Bird (Emanem, 1988)
- Portraits Plus (Blue Note, 1992)
- Live at the QEH (Blue Note, 1994)
- Harry Beckett, Still Happy (My Only Desire, 2016)
- David Bowie, Absolute Beginners (Virgin, 1986)
- Tucky Buzzard, Allright On the Night (Purple, 1973)
- Al Casey, Al Casey Remembers King Curtis (JSP, 1985)
- Hugh Cornwell, Wolf (Virgin, 1988)
- King Curtis, Live In New York (JSP, 2008)
- Gil Evans, The British Orchestra (Mole, 1983)
- The Firm, The Firm (Atlantic, 1985)
- Flowered Up, Weekender (Heavenly/Columbia, 1992)
- Michael Garrick, You've Changed (Hep, 1981)
- Alex Harvey, The New Band the Mafia Stole My Guitar (RCA Victor, 1979)
- Dick Heckstall-Smith, Celtic Steppes (33 Records, 1995)
- Mike Heron, Mike Heron (Casablanca, 1979)
- Nicky James, Nicky James (Philips, 1971)
- Hannibal Lokumbe, Poem Song (Mole, 1981)
- Meal Ticket, Three Times a Day (Logo/EMI, 1977)
- Mick Pyne, A Little Blue (Miles Music, 1988)
- Jim Richardson, 2 Plus 2 (Actone, 2010)
- Rocket 88, Rocket 88 (Atlantic, 1981)
- Cat Stevens, Back to Earth (A&M, 1978)
- Charlie Watts, Live at Fulham Town Hall (CBS, 1986)
- Alun Morgan, sleeve notes for the Don Weller Spring Quartet (sic), Commit No Nuisance (Yes to Jazz 10048).
- Morgan, sleeve notes for Commit No Nuisance; Ian Carr, Digby Fairweather & Brian Priestley, Jazz: The Essential Companion (London: Paladin, 1988), p. 531, for the Mozart – though playing this in public after only a year’s tuition would be quite a feat.
- Morgan’s sleeve notes for Commit No Nuisance say, 'The change to tenor came about largely through the influence of John Coltrane and his Blue Train LP; from then on he became an avid listener to the New York-based tenors then being recorded by the Blue Note and Prestige companies. Hank Mobley, and probably most of all, Dexter Gordon, became his heroes.' But Brian Blain, 'Onward Flows the Don', in Jazz UK, 53 (September/October 2003), p. 15, quotes Weller as saying, 'My first tenor heroes were Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins and Sonny Rollins.'
- 'Inspired by Kathy Stobart, he took up tenor sax and played in her rehearsal band': Carr, Fairweather & Priestley, Jazz, p. 531.
- Malcolm Mills, Don Weller's Major Surgery, The Last Music Company
- Tucky Buzzard LP Allright on the Night. Retrieved 22 September 2013.
- Carr, Fairweather & Priestley, Jazz, p. 389.
- Sleeve notes for Gil Evans, The British Orchestra (Mole 8).
- Green, Michael (19 November 2013). "International line-up for Mold jazz concert". The Chester Chronicle. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
- Jeffery, Alex (12 January 2016). "The Pranny Genius Of David Bowie". musicOMH. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
- "The Don Weller Big Band Live". Amazon.co.uk. 19 December 2008. Retrieved 8 August 2020.
- "Don Weller – 19/12/1940 - 30/5/2020". Jazzwise.com. Retrieved 8 August 2020.
- Don Weller Obituary Theguardian.com Retrieved 27 June 2020