b. Ronald Aspery, 9 June 1946, Middlesbrough, Yorkshire, England, d. 10 December 2003, Saltdean, Sussex, England. Aspery’s parents were avid ballroom-dancers and while still a child he became fascinated by the saxophones he heard in touring dance bands. Taking up the alto saxophone, he was first taught by local band leader Jimmy Carr. At 12 he was an able saxophonist and woodwind player, and had begun composing. He became a member of the Middlesbrough municipal jazz orchestra, and while still in his early teens played professionally with Carr. In his mid-teens he was heard by a member of Eric Delaney’s band who recommended him to the drummer/leader. Meanwhile, bass player Colin Hodgkinson was working with a band at the Starlight Club in Redcar and the two met up and quickly established musical rapport. Although Hodgkinson was self-taught, Aspery managed to get him into the Delaney band after helping him learn to sight-read. While playing a long summer season with Delaney in Bournemouth in 1969, Aspery and Hodgkinson began spending some of their spare time improvising as a duo and writing original music. A little later, in London, Aspery played with various dance bands and also as a session musician while Hodgkinson became a member of Alexis Korner’s group. In the early 70s, deciding to develop their duo concept, the two men returned to the north of England where, in Redcar, they encountered drummer Tony Hicks and soon the new trio, which they named Back Door, was playing regularly at the Lion Inn, Blakey Ridge, on the North Yorkshire moors. By the mid-70s, however, interest in the band waned and in 1976 Back Door folded.
Aspery continued playing, arranging and composing music, in particular for television and radio shows and also in the jingle mills. Among shows on which he worked are Baywatch, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Friends, The Simpsons, and Sesame Street, while his film work included The Spy Who Loved Me, McVicar and Natural Born Killers. Aspery also played many concerts as a member of guitarist John Williams’ crossover band Sky, was with the Nord Deutsche Rundfunk orchestra, and was in Gil Evans’ band at the 1974 Montreux International Jazz Festival. Throughout later years, Aspery played on numerous sessions and became active as a composer of music industry library tunes. In March 2003, Aspery returned to the Lion Inn for a two-night engagement with Back Door. A gifted alto saxophonist, keyboard player and composer, Aspery was the driving force behind this remarkable 70s fusion trio that was one of the UK’s most original jazz groups. Enthusiastic and with a great sense of the lyrical aspects of music, Aspery was an adventurous musician who was never afraid to experiment and who readily transmitted his eager enthusiasm to fellow performers and fans alike.