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Joe Mudele

A pioneer of modern jazz in Britain, Joe Mudele went on to become one of the most sought-after session musicians in the recording world.

After leaving school at the age of 14, he earned his first wage as a singing pageboy at a cinema. Before taking up music as a career, he was also employed as a drayman’s boy with a brewery and as an apprentice tiler with a builder.

In his spare time, he played a range of stringed instruments in a group made up of his friends. After buying an old double bass from a bicycle shop, he was soon playing it in a number of local bands.

During the Second World War, he served with the RAF and, on being discharged, he took lessons in playing the bass. In 1946, he began playing professionally and soon became a member of the Tito Burns Sextet, which was in the forefront of a new form of jazz known as bebop. In time, Ronnie Scott and Johnny Dankworth joined the band.

In 1949, Scott, Dankworth, Mudele and other musicians formed the Club Eleven, which staged bebop sessions in a rented basement in Soho. The following year, the Johnny Dankworth Seven emerged, which – although eventually successful – had to struggle at first.

Mudele, however, could not afford to wait for public acclaim. With a wife and young daughter to support, he went to work at the Coconut Grove, a West End nightclub.

Over the following few years, he toured Britain with such stars as Judy Garland, Sophie Tucker and Hoagy Carmichael and appeared in the first modern jazz concert at the Festival Hall. During the 1950s and the 1960s, there was a growing demand for recorded music and Mudele played in countless sessions supporting musicians as diverse as Mantovani, Cilla Black and the Big Ben Banjo Band.

Read a review of the Dankworth Big Band at the Barbican here.

Joe Mudele, who was born on September 30 1920, died on March 7, aged 93.

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