GP interview - The GP jazz saxophonist

GP Dr Laurie Jacobs plays saxophone, opened a jazz club and has released CDs of his music.

Music has played a big part in my life, from a young age.

When we moved to the Muswell Hill area, in north London, in 1959, my local primary school had a box at the Royal Festival Hall in central London and I regularly attended concerts there on Saturdays.

When I started at secondary school in 1961, I grabbed the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument and the clarinet was my first choice. My parents found the £20 we needed to buy one and in those days, the lessons were free in the lunch hour.

Learning about jazz

I was very fortunate that the clarinet teacher was Leslie Evans (sadly recently deceased), who at that time, was one of the very best jazz teachers and educators around.

He was a brilliant clarinettist, saxophonist and big band leader, and I had the great good fortune to learn from him with regular lessons right up to the sixth form.

When I turned 17, I bought my first tenor saxophone and it was a relatively easy step up to play this instrument. With my tuition grounded in jazz studies and having access to seeing some of the very best jazz musicians at Ronnie Scott's in Soho, central London, I became well and truly hooked on jazz and started building up a jazz vinyl collection.

From 1968, I studied medicine at Edinburgh, and formed my first band at university in the early 1970s. Living in halls or digs, it was difficult to practise and I was luckily allowed access to the small concert hall next to the Usher Hall - where I could make as much noise as I wanted.

Qualifying meant working one in two on call for a couple of years, so I had little or no opportunity to play and it was only when my family and I moved to Barnstaple, north Devon, for my general practice training that I managed to find a little more time to practise. I joined the North Devon Big Band.

My family and I moved to Peterborough in 1979, where I secured a partnership in the city centre. I am entering my 35th year at the practice this month.

In the early 1980s, I became one of the founding members of the Peterborough Big Band and in our heyday, we played at Pizza on the Park, Hyde Park, central London, and the BBC Jazz Society.

During this time, I also formed a small jazz band and started playing alto and soprano saxophone, as well as tenor sax.

With little live jazz in the area, I decided to open a jazz club in 1992 and the Peterborough Jazz Club was born. The club has been established for many years now, as one of the top jazz venues for British and international artists.

Club concerts

There have been many highlights at the club - Ronnie Scott played at the first concert and we have been able to feature many great players visiting from the US. I've got to know many jazz musicians really well through booking the bands.

The venue, the Great Northern Hotel Peterborough, has been the club's home since 1992, a record among provincial jazz clubs for having the same venue for so long.

As well as running the club, I have also played in my own small groups, varying from duos to sextets, playing mainstream/modern jazz in a variety of venues, with some of the highlights being Dean Street Pizza Express, Soho Jazz Festival, in central London, and Trinity College May Ball, Cambridge. I have recorded three CDs, the first in 2003 entitled Midnight Voyage (the title refers to on-call visits after midnight). This was recorded at Robinson College, Cambridge. Then I had a 10-year gap until 2013, when I released two CDs, the first a studio duo recording, Double Standards, with long-time friend and gifted guitarist John Pini.

Live recordings

The third album, Full Steam Ahead, was a highlight for me as it was a live recording with some of the very best musicians in the UK - Dick Pearce on trumpet, John Critchinson playing the piano, Arnie Somogyi on bass and Dave Barry playing the drums.

One thing I have done recently, with the agreement of the practice and the BMA, is to sell the Double Standards CD at the surgery, with all proceeds going to the local hospice appeal (Sue Ryder, Thorpe Hall). So far, more than £400 has been raised. In addition, Double Standards and Full Steam Ahead are available on Amazon, with all sales of Double Standards also going to the hospice appeal.

A few patients come to the jazz club, so occasionally at the end of a consultation, there might be a brief discussion about what's coming on at the club. If I'm playing at a gig and since the CDs have been sold at the surgery, patients have become more aware of my jazz interest.

My jazz life has given me some fabulous times, both listening and playing, and I must thank my wife, Ann, for her encouragement and support with everything to do with the jazz club and my playing over the years.

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