Richard Hawdon was one of the premier trumpeters to emerge during the golden age of British jazz, and remains most admired for his six-year tenure with the John Dankworth Orchestra. Born in Leeds on August 27, 1927, Hawdon first studied cello before moving to trumpet in his mid-teens -- after a stint with the Yorkshire Jazz Band, he relocated to London in 1951, signing on with Chris Barber's famed New Orleans Jazz Band. Hawdon replaced trumpeter Ken Colyer in the Christie Brothers Stompers in 1952, remaining with the group for close to two years. While his Louis Armstrong-inspired approach earned favor among traditional jazz purists, he also developed a more complex, modern sensibility influenced by Clifford Brown, shuttling seamlessly between the trad and modern idioms over the course of his career.
Hawdon first unleashed his bop-inspired ambitions in 1954 as a member of Don Rendell's progressive jazz group, continuing in an 18-month stint as trumpeter and arranger with Tubby Hayes. Hawdon joined his first big band in mid-1956, catching on with Basil and Ivor Kirchin for about seven months -- from there, he joined Dankworth in March 1957, entering the longest and most rewarding collaboration of his career. In addition to myriad recordings for the Parlophone label, Hawdon accompanied Dankworth at the 1959 Newport Jazz Festival, where the group performed with Louis Armstrong. They also teamed with the Duke Ellington Orchestra for a weeklong concert series at New Jersey's St John's Music Circus. Hawdon also wrote and arranged a number of Dankworth staples, including "Cool Kate" and "One for Janet," songs penned for his two daughters. During periods of inactivity with the Dankworth group, Hawdon freelanced for bandleaders including Sid Phillips, Harry Gold, Oscar Rabin, and Terry Lightfoot, and backed singers like Tony Bennett and Eartha Kitt during a stint with the house band at the London cabaret Talk of the Town.
As jazz fell out of fashion in the wake of rock & roll's ascendance, Hawdon relocated to Yorkshire in 1967 to lead the Batley Variety Club's house band. A year later, he was invited to develop a jazz course at the new City of Leeds College of Music, and was named head of the school's Light Music Department in 1972. Hawdon built a formidable program in the two decades to follow, tapping his vast network of connections across the jazz world to bring in myriad luminaries as guest professors and speakers. Hawdon also led his own jazz quintet throughout the 1980s, and after retiring from academia in 1993 he turned his attention to the bass, playing in a series of local groups. He died June 24, 2009.