b. Alan Richard James Skidmore, 21 April 1942, Kingston-on-Thames, London, England. ‘Skid’ plays soprano and tenor saxophones, flutes and drums. He is the son of Jimmy Skidmore, who gave him a discarded tenor that Alan ignored until he was about 15. At that time he decided to teach himself to play. A muscular and versatile player himself, the musicians he particularly admires include Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, Michael Brecker, Ronnie Scott, Andy Sheppard and, above all, John Coltrane. Skidmore began playing professionally in 1958, and did various commercial engagements, including tours with comedian Tony Hancock and singer Matt Monro and five years in the house band at London’s Talk Of The Town nightclub.
In 1961 he made the first of many appearances on BBC Radio’s Jazz Club, and also met his idol, Coltrane. In the following years Skidmore worked with numerous important and/or successful bands, including Eric Delaney, where he replaced his father when Jimmy decided to leave (in 1963), Alexis Korner (1964), John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers (1964), Ronnie Scott (1965), Georgie Fame And The Blue Flames (1970), Mike Westbrook (1970-71), Mike Gibbs (1970-71), and Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood Of Breath (1971). In 1969, he formed his own quintet (Kenny Wheeler, Tony Oxley, John Taylor and Harry Miller), with which he won the best soloist and best band awards at the Montreux International Jazz Festival and gained a scholarship to Berklee College Of Music, although he did not take this up.
In 1973, he co-founded S.O.S., probably the first all-saxophone band, with Mike Osborne and John Surman. He has subsequently formed various small groups of his own, including El Skid (co-led with Elton Dean), SOH, and Tenor Tonic, and has worked with the George Gruntz Concert Band, the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine, the Charlie Watts Orchestra, Stan Tracey, Mose Allison, Van Morrison, Georgie Fame again, and with the West German Radio Band as featured soloist from 1981-84. In April 1991, he was reunited with Surman when they played as a duo at a benefit for Osborne. In 2002 he was once again blowing some magnificent saxophone for Georgie Fame And The Blue Flames. Unquestionably one of the best jazz saxophonists Britain has ever produced.