Chas Burchell

b. Charles Burchell, 30 October 1925, London, England, d. 3 June 1986. Originally a George Formby fan, Burchell began to learn the ukelele, then guitar, before hearing an Artie Shaw record that inspired…
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Artist Biography

b. Charles Burchell, 30 October 1925, London, England, d. 3 June 1986. Originally a George Formby fan, Burchell began to learn the ukelele, then guitar, before hearing an Artie Shaw record that inspired him to take up the clarinet and play jazz. Switching to alto saxophone, he started his own quintet in 1943, then tried tenor saxophone before he was drafted into the Royal Air Force. Transferred to the army in 1944, he played in Greece with the British Divisional Band and, following his discharge in 1947, worked in London with the Toni Antone big band. In 1949 he gave up full-time musicianship and worked in a factory so that he would not have to perform music he did not like in order to make a living: ‘All my playing is playing for love, ’ he told writer Victor Schonfield in 1978. A disciple of Lennie Tristano and a devoted admirer of Warne Marsh, Burchell continued to play part-time, leading his own quintet for more than 20 years, guesting with distinguished visitors such as Clark Terry, Emily Remler and Nathan Davis, and recording for Peter Ind’s Wave label, as well as playing with Ind in the group that supported Tristano on his only UK concert, at Harrogate in 1968. A wonderfully supple, lyrical tenor saxophonist whose unpredictable twists and turns of phrase recall the style of his idol Marsh, Burchell died of a heart attack in 1986. He remains, in the words of his friend and musical associate, journalist Mike Hennessey, ‘one of the great unsung heroes of British jazz’.