Lionel Grigson

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Lionel Grigson
Lionel Jermyn Grigson

(1942-02-12)12 February 1942
Died14 June 1994(1994-06-14) (aged 52)
London, England
EducationDartington Hall School
Alma materKing's College, Cambridge
Occupation(s)Jazz pianist, composer, writer, educator
Known forProfessor of Harmony and Improvisation at Guildhall School of Music (1983–93)
ChildrenHannah Grigson
ParentGeoffrey Grigson (father)
RelativesCass Grigson (grandson)

Lionel Grigson (12 February 1942 – 14 June 1994) was an English jazz pianist, cornettist, trumpeter, composer, writer and teacher, who in the 1980s started the jazz course at the Guildhall School of Music.[1] As Simon Purcell wrote in The Independent, "Whether he inspired or inflamed, Grigson's energies often acted as a catalyst and his interest in, and support for, young jazz musicians contributed significantly to the growth and consolidation of jazz education in Britain....Within the context of a leading international conservatoire, the Guildhall School of Music, in London, Grigson did much to demonstrate and explain the underlying principles common to jazz, classical and indeed all music, and as a result produced a generation of jazz educators possessing a thorough grounding in an area where much educational work is left to chance."[2] Among his published books are Practical Jazz (1988), Jazz from Scratch (1991) and A Jazz Chord Book, as well as studies on the music of Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong and Thelonious Monk.

The only son of poet and critic Geoffrey Grigson, Lionel Grigson died in London at the age of 52, leaving behind his only child, his daughter Hannah Grigson.

Early life and education[edit]

Lionel Jermyn Grigson was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire,[3] to poet and critic Geoffrey Grigson (1905–85) and his second wife Berta Emma Kunert[4] (1916–2001).[5] Named after one of his father's brothers who was killed aged 19 in World War I,[6][7][8][9] Lionel was educated at Dartington Hall School[10] and at King's College, Cambridge (where he contributed writings on jazz to the university magazine Granta[11] under the editorship of Alexis Lykiard).[12] Grigson's first wife was the publisher Margaret Busby, co-founder of Allison & Busby.[13][14]

Music career[edit]

Grigson began playing jazz at the age of 12[15] at school at Dartington.[16] During the early 1960s, he was co-leader of the award-winning Cambridge University Jazz Band[17] that included Art Themen (who has acknowledged Grigson's "off-the-wall" influence,[18][19] saying of him: "He kind of sprang from the womb knowing the rudiments of bebop"),[11] Dave Gelly, John Hart and Jonathan Lynn.[20][21][22] As Spike Wells has written, "by 1962, the undergraduate modern jazz scene revolved around Lionel Grigson."[23] Reporting on the finals of the Inter-University Jazz Contest in March 1962 at Queen Mary College, John Merrydown wrote: "But, as last year, the absolutely stand-out musicianship and judges' choice came from Cambridge, Dave Gelly, Art Themen (tenors), Lionel Grigson (a sensitive trumpet player, who only needs a little more projection) and John Hart (bass). For conviction and control this group left the rest standing."[24] Grigson's university contemporary John Cameron has written of being part of the Cambridge "town" rhythm section: "Then there were players like Lionel Grigson, John Hart and Johnny Lynn and they were the 'university' rhythm section and tended to be a bit cerebral and played more like a Bill Evans-type rhythm section, whereas we used to play more like a Charles Mingus rhythm section."[25] In a 1963 short drama film called Duet, Grigson is credited as a performer in the Music Department, alongside, Brian Gascoigne, John Hart and Jonathan Lynn.[26][27]

Grigson was a member of the New Jazz Orchestra (which was active from 1963 to 1970) – "a fresh and adventurous big band whose personnel includes several college jazzmen. Notable among these are conductor/ arranger Neil Ardley (Bristol), tenor-saxist Dave Gelly and pianist Lionel Grigson (both from Cambridge), trumpet players Ian Carr (Durham) and Mike Phlllipson (Nottingham), and, from the London music colleges, altoist Barbara Thompson and trombonist Paul Rutherford. Another ex-Cambridge man, John Hart, is the usual dep. for regular bassist Tony Reeves. The band, which includes french horn, tuba and flute in its lineup, has been enthusiastically received at the Marquee Club and at various South London venues, including the Green Man at Blackheath."[28]

In the later 1960s Grigson was resident at The Troubadour coffee house in Old Brompton Road, London, with a regular Sunday afternoon gig[29] – his quintet, in which he played piano, featured Chris Bateson (trumpet), Pete Burden or Paul Zec (alto), Spike Wells or Joe Oliver (drums) and John Hart or David "Happy" Williams (bass)[30] – and led his own jazz groups with musicians including John Hart (bass), Pete Burden (1941–2016)[31][32] and Paul Zec (altos), Art Themen and Bobby Wellins (tenors), Spike Wells (drums), Dave Gelly, Mick Pyne and many others. In Alexis Lykiard's recollection, "Lionel, John Hart and Philly Joe Jones comprised one of the most exciting rhythm sections I shall ever hear."[33] In 1969 the Lionel Grigson-Pete Burden quintet[34][35] included Tony Levin on drums and Daryl Runswick on bass.[36] Musician and songwriter Tom Norris was among younger musicians who also performed with Grigson.

Grigson was in the original line-up of the jazz rock/fusion group If (alongside saxophonists Dick Morrissey and Dave Quincy, guitarist Terry Smith, Spike Wells on drums, and Daryl Runswick on bass),[37] and a composition on their second album, If 2 (1970), is by Busby/Grigson.[38]

During the early 1970s, Grigson led a multi-ethnic "Afro-Latin-Jazz group" called Ujamaa,[21] "combining straight jazz with African, calypso, Latin and funk elements",[15] the band's line-ups variously including Art Themen, Harry Beckett, John Mumford (trombone), Pete Burden, Paul Zec, Phil Lee, Alan Jackson, Paul Whitten (bass), and singer Jeanette Tavernier, among others.[39] In 1980, Grigson was house pianist at Brighton Jazz Club; in 1981, he was appointed for a term as jazz musician in residence at King's College, Cambridge;[40][41] and from 1984 to 1987 he was musical director of Ziggy's Jazz Club, a launching ground for new talent in British jazz,[21] at a Sunday-night jam downstairs at The Albany in London's Great Portland Street.[42] Grigson also played with some of the most notable international musicians in jazz, including Freddie Hubbard, Philly Joe Jones, Johnny Griffin and Kenny Clarke.[21]


Grigson was for ten years (1983–93) Professor of Harmony and Improvisation at London's Guildhall School of Music and taught on the school's Postgraduate Diploma Course in Jazz.[2][21][43] Many notable musicians studied at the Guildhall School under Grigson's tenure there, including Rowland Sutherland,[44] Huw Warren,[45] Steve Williamson,[46] Courtney Pine, Jason Rebello, Gerard Presencer, Phil Bent, Mornington Lockett, Cleveland Watkiss,[47] Tom Norris and others.[15][48]

Cleveland Watkiss has recalled his introduction to the jazz course initiated by Grigson: "He was the head of this academy at the Guildhall... and they were recruiting and looking for kids to join. At that time you could get grants and stuff like that. Anyway I went for the audition and I remember Lionel Grigson saying to me after I did the audition, 'We need people like you here!' That was my introduction to the Guildhall. He said that to me, 'We need people like you in here!' I was like, 'Okay.' So anyway, I’m in the Guildhall – Alan Weeks is in the Guildhall, Michael Martin’s is in the Guildhall, Winston Clifford’s in the Guildhall, Jason Rebello’s in the Guildhall, Julie Dennis in the Guildhall, Frances Knight, Paul Hunt… The whole army of young musicians starting to come to the Guildhall. Lionel Grigson just created a space and said, 'Brothers, come on! We need you in here!' So Monday morning you’d go to the Guildhall and you’d stand in the foyer – blacker than black! I don’t think the Guildhall has ever been so 'blacked' out before or since. We’re talking mid-eighties.... Everyone came to the Guildhall, because we were all there, it was like a meeting place."[49]

Grigson invited other musicians to coach on his course, including American saxophonist Jean Toussaint in 1987.[50]


Grigson was the author of a number of publications, including A Jazz Chord Book (first published in 1981, and since twice reprinted),[51] Practical Jazz (1988), Jazz from Scratch (1991), as well as studies of the music of Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong and Thelonious Monk. Grigson's A Thelonious s Monk: Study Album is listed among 224 books in the library of David Byrne.[52]


  • 1965: Western Reunion[53] - New Jazz Orchestra (14 March 1965 - Decca LK4690):[54] Neil Ardley; Bob Leaper, Mike Phillipson, and Tony Dudley on trumpets; Ian Carr on trumpet and flugelhorn; Mick Palmer on French horn; John Mumford and Paul Rutherford on trombones; Peter Harvey on bass trombone; Dick Hart on tuba; Les Carter on flutes; Trevor Watts on alto sax and flute; Barbara Thompson on alto sax; Dave Gelly and Tom Harris on tenor saxophones; Sebastian Freudenberg on baritone sax; Mike Barrett on piano; Tony Reeves on bass; Jon Hiseman on drums; and Lionel Grigson on piano and arranger of track 5, "If You Could See Me Now".[55]
  • 1973: Grigson's group Ujamaa issued a 7-inch single, on the A-side of which was the Grigson/Busby composition "Add Up the Score", featuring singer Jeanette Tavernier and guitarist Jocelyn Pitchen, and on the B-side "Ten-Bar Grit".[56][57]


  • A Jazz Chord Book: Over 350 Standard and Original Sequences (1981; Jazzwise, 3rd edition 1995)[58]
  • Wonders of the World (foreword by Cliff Michelmore; Newnes, 1985)[59]
  • Practical Jazz: A Step-by-step Guide to Harmony and Improvisation (London: Stainer & Bell, 1988; ISBN 978-0852496688)
  • A Charlie Parker Study Album (Novello, 1989); ISBN 978-0853601401
  • Jazz from Scratch: How to improvise on great jazz classics (with a foreword by Miles Kington; London: Faber, 1991; ISBN 978-0571511945)
  • A Louis Armstrong Study Album (Novello, 1992; ISBN 978-0853601500)
  • A Thelonious Monk Study Album (Novello, 1993)

Further reading[edit]

  • Dave Gelly, "On the Other Hand" ("Dave Gelly is prompted to recall Lionel Grigson’s particularities and the youthful optimism of the London Jazz Orchestra"), Jazz Journal, Vol. 65, No. 8, August 2012, p. 8.


  1. ^ Jan Ponsford recalls: "Lionel insisted everyone who taught on the course there, or any part of it, was referred to as Professor, and given the same status as the classical educators there. I was amused when a small pay cheque arrived, for some teaching I'd done for said course, addressed to Professor J. Ponsford. Respectable at last!" From "...And On Free Improv", Rainlore's World, 1 March 2013.
  2. ^ a b Simon Purcell, "Obituary: Lionel Grigson", The Independent, 4 July 1994.
  3. ^ "Lionel Jermyn Grigson", Gritquoy Forum.
  4. ^ Biography of Geoffrey Grigson at
  5. ^ Julian Symons, "Grigson, Geoffrey Edward Harvey (1905–1985)", rev. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2009. Retrieved 1 February 2015.
  6. ^ "Lionel Henry Shuckforth Grigson, Lives of the First World War"
  7. ^ Jeremy Archer, "One Family's Sacrifice - The Story of the Seven Sons of Canon and Mrs William Shuckforth Grigson", The Keep Military Museum, Dorchester, Dorset.
  8. ^ "Grigson, Lionel Henry Shuckforth - Second Lieutenant, 3rd Bn. attd. 1st Bn., Devonshire Regiment", who died on 9 May 1917 aged 19. Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais, France. Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
  9. ^ "New prize in mathematics", New College News (Oxford University), No. 31, November 2014, p. 4.
  10. ^ David Gribble, A Parents' Guide to Progressive Education, Dorling Kindersley, 1985, p. 17.
  11. ^ a b Dave Gelly, "On the Other Hand", Jazz Journal, Vol. 65, No. 8, August 2012, p. 8.
  12. ^ Alexis Lykiard, "Granta Days" Archived 26 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine,, September 2009.
  13. ^ Margaret Busby, "Clive Allison obituary", The Guardian, 3 August 2011.
  14. ^ Aida Edemariam, "Margaret Busby: how Britain's first black female publisher revolutionised literature – and never gave up", The Guardian, 22 October 2020.
  15. ^ a b c Paul Zec, "Obituary: Lionel Grigson", The Guardian, 22 June 1994.
  16. ^ Charles "Baz" Bazalgette, "Foxhole Reminiscences", April 1999. Letters & Memories - Dartington Hall School, 1926 ~ 1987.
  17. ^ Trevor Bannister, Jazz at Reading University 1951 – 1984, March 2019, pp. 6, 42.
  18. ^ Trevor Bannister, "Jazz in Reading pays tribute to Art Themen", Jazz in Reading, May 2019.
  19. ^ Jack Kenny, "Art Themen at 80", Jazz Views, February 2020.
  20. ^ "About Dave Gelly", MTV Artists
  21. ^ a b c d e Biographical notes, Lionel Grigson, 15 Jazz Originals, 1987.
  22. ^ Michael E. Wright, "About", ABC Jazz.
  23. ^ Spike Wells, "THE VARSITY DRAG episode one", 14 March 2019.
  24. ^ "John Merrydown, behind The Jazz Scene", Jazz News, Vol. 6, No. 11, 14 March 1962, p. 5. Digitalized at National Jazz Archive
  25. ^ John Cameron interview, The Marquee Club website. Archived 25 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
  26. ^ "Duet (1963)", IMDb.
  27. ^ "Duet (1963)" – directed by Andrew Castle, featuring Brian Gascoigne / Lionel Grigson / John Hart. BFI.
  28. ^ Roger Eames, "Youth Jazz", Crescendo, January 1965, p. 23. National Jazz Archive.
  29. ^ The Daryl Runswick Quartet 1973.
  30. ^ Spike Wells, "From 'Happy' Williams to Cedar Walton", 17 December 2018.
  31. ^ Marcus Weeks, "Obituary: Pete Burden – 4th April 1941 – 27th December 2016", Hastings Independent, 18 January 2017.
  32. ^ Christopher Hoggins, "Pete Burden: talented and generous jazzman", Hastings Online Times, 22 January 2017.
  33. ^ Alexis Lykiard, "Jazz from scratch: Obituary of Lionel Grigson", The Guardian, 22 June 1994, p. 45.
  34. ^ "The Snowdrop Jazz Night, Lewes", Sussex Jazz Magazine, 1 September 2015.
  35. ^ Tony Frost, "In memory of Pete Burden | Tributes to Pete Burden", Hastings Online Times.
  36. ^ John Chilton, Who's Who of British Jazz, Continuum International Publishing Group, 2004. ISBN 0-8264-7234-6, ISBN 978-0-8264-7234-2
  37. ^ If biography, Dinosaurdays.
  38. ^ If 2 review by Easy Livin, 9 June 2011: "'Shadows and Echoes' was co-written by Lionel Grigson with his then partner Margaret Busby. The late Grigson was well known during the early jazz/fusion scene, and was in fact a member of If prior to the recording of their first album. The songs focuses [sic] on the band's softer, lighter side, featuring flute and a fine vocal." Prog Archives.
  39. ^ Jak Kilby photos of "Lionel Grigson Quintet (also known as Ujamaa)", London, 2 June 1981. Filename: ARP1257582, ArenaPAL; "Jeanette Tavernier, the singer with the Lionel Grigson Quintet (also known as Ujamaa), London, UK; 3 June 1981". Filename: ARP1257509, ArenaPAL.
  40. ^ John Hibbs, "King's appoint a resident jazz musician", Cambridge Evening News, 25 September 1981, p. 24.
  41. ^ "Grigson's farewell", Cambriddge Evening News, 11 March 1982, p.13.
  42. ^ "Ziggy's Beat", The Wire, February 1985, p. 3.
  43. ^ Lionel Grigson (1985). "Harmony + Improvisation = Jazz: Notes & thoughts on teaching jazz at the Guildhall School of Music", British Journal of Music Education, 2, pp. 187–94.
  44. ^ Michael J Edwards, "Rowland Sutherland Pt.1" (interview), UK Vibe, 19 January 2015.
  45. ^ John Chilton, Who's Who of British Jazz, p. 375.
  46. ^ Michael J. Edwards, "Steve Williamson Pt.1" (interview), UK Vibe, 26 November 2014: "...the great Lionel Grigson was my teacher, he's passed on now. Lionel Grigson is the person who, more than anyone else was instrumental in my being in the Guildhall; because I was getting piano lessons from him, I used to go to his house. He was a professor of music and he said, 'You’ve got something, you should get into the Guildhall and you may have to stand in front of the panel and audition.'"
  47. ^ Donovan Thomas, "Cleveland Watkiss And Music (A Love Affair)" Archived 4 February 2013 at, The Weekly World Digest, 26 November 2012.
  48. ^ Tom Norris biography Archived 20 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  49. ^ Michael J. Edwards, "Cleveland Watkiss Pt.1" (interview), UK Vibe, 30 December 2016.
  50. ^ Biography, Jean Toussaint website.
  51. ^ "A jazz chord book: [chord progressions for over 350 jazz standards & originals". WorldCat.
  52. ^ "(Credit: David Byrne Facebook) David Byrne reveals 224 books about music found in his own personal library", Far Out Magazine, 13 September 2019.
  53. ^ Review: New Jazz Orchestra "Western Reunion—London 1965", Gramophone, September 1965. Retrieved 24 September 2012, p. 106.
  54. ^ Ian Carr discography, British modern jazz.
  55. ^ "New Jazz Orchestra, The – Western Reunion London 1965", Discogs.
  56. ^ "Record Details: Ujamaa", 45cat.
  57. ^ "UJAMAA - Add Up The Score - UKUA 001 - 1973 - UK Jazz Funk Soul Rarity - Lionel Grigson Quintet". YouTube.
  58. ^ Lionel Grigson: A Jazz Chord Book (Jazzwise, 3rd Edition, 1995). Jazzwise, Archived 18 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  59. ^ A five-star review by Kenton Hambrick of Wonders of the World at reveals: "Lionel Grigson was my very good friend for nearly twenty years.... On one occasion, I noticed a copy of Wonders of the World on his coffee table and idly began leafing through it.... [T]he glowing descriptions of the Grand Canyon and other North American locations caught my eye. Not til I put it down did I realise that I was in the presence of the esteemed author, who I knew had never set foot in the USA. Under cross examination, Lionel admitted that he'd never been to any of the exotic places featured in Wonders of the World. In fact, Lionel's travel research consisted entirely of riding a London bus to the Fulham public library each day for a couple months. We had a laugh. Wonders of the World is still my favorite travel book."

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