British jazz legend Sir John Dankworth died from age-related illness at the King Edward VII Hospital here on Saturday. He was 82.
Sir John, a saxophonist and prolific composer, worked with world famous jazz exponents Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald to name a few, over a career spanning more than half a century.
His death was announced by his jazz singer wife, Dame Cleo Laine, during a star-studded concert marking the 40th anniversary of “The Stables”, the entertainment venue they set up together at their Buckinghamshire home.
Better known as Johnny Dankworth before he was knighted in 2006, Sir John started his own jazz orchestra in the 1950s, The Telegraph reports.
He wrote the theme tune for TV shows The Avengers and Tomorrow’s World, and films including Modesty Blaise, The Servant and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.
Sir John was born in Woodford, Essex, in 1927 and showed early proficiency on the clarinet.
After falling in love with the music of legendary US saxophonist Charlie Parker, he took up the same instrument.
He won a place at the Royal Academy of Music aged 17, and after a short spell in the Army, was voted British Musician of the Year in 1949.
Sir John met his wife in 1950 while auditioning singers for his band, the Dankworth Seven. They married in 1958.
That decade also saw him tour the United States with his jazz orchestra, sharing the bill with the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
He worked with directors like Karel Reisz, Sir Peter Hall, John Schlesinger, Joseph Losey and Henry Hathaway.
In 1985 Sir John founded the London Symphony Orchestra’’s Summer Pops, continuing to work with it as artistic director until 1990.
In October last year he was taken ill at the end of a US tour with his wife.