First jazz band – String Swing

String Swing at Strawberry Fair – 1984?

Soon after leaving college, after spending far too much of my final year obsessively practising guitar – and still completely fired up by Django’s music – I came back to Cambridge, put an ad in the paper and started up a band called “String Swing”. The regular members were myself and Bruce Cameron on guitars, and Tom Ling on violin. Bruce sang as well. We had a roster of double bass players which soon came to include Dave Olney.

Technically we were a little rough and ready, but we were young and up for it, we had the spirit of the Hot Club style and some great repertoire, and people liked it a lot. We busked, got lots of college gigs including May Balls and suchlike, had regular pub residencies at the Cambridge Arms and The Alma for a couple of years, and played at an awful lot of parties and weddings.

As time went by, the band evolved. Bruce got increasingly interested in singing, and to much amazement, initial skepticism and then grudging admiration he started to learn saxophone from scratch (he became a very accomplished player, and still does gigs around Cambridge with his band Jazz Ambience).

I got interested in violin again (which was actually my “real” instrument – the one I had lessons on as a child) and started trying to sound like Stephane Grappelly as well as trying to sound like Django Reinhardt.

Dave Olney introduced us to his partner Lynne, who started playing bass with us regularly and later became a lynchpin of The Usual Suspects.

And my day job (in TEFL) started to take me abroad – at which point I seem to remember that Grant Baynham first appeared on the scene, first as a stand-in and then starting to play with the band more regularly.