Les Gilbert

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British mainstream jazz and dance band veteran Les Gilbert should not be mistaken for the composer and engineer of the same name from Australia who hit the big time with field recordings of native birds.…
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British mainstream jazz and dance band veteran Les Gilbert should not be mistaken for the composer and engineer of the same name from Australia who hit the big time with field recordings of native birds. Gilbert's own discographical flock would be the recordings of bandleader Ted Heath, including many fine Decca sides cut in the years immediately following the end of the Second World War.

Gilbert's highly musical family includes a piano-tinkling daddy and a brother who blasted trumpet. Somehow this mix first suggested the addition of a violin, which Gilbert started bowing when he was eight years old. At 15 he moved to reeds, yet in the early '30s played gigs as a jazz violinist. Following a move to London, the shape of his instrument case began to change. It was an alto sax he carried to a regular stint at the Picadilly Hotel in the mid-'30s. He continued in the reed section of several different bands and in the orchestra of the BBC prior to getting put into uniform.

The opportunities available to Heath come peacetime were enough to keep Gilbert very busy -- including radio broadcasts, television, and touring as well as the aforementioned recordings. Since 2001 a series of Heath albums have been reissued, such as Pop Hits from the Classics. Gilbert's discography also includes some delightful results of a trip to the U.K. by tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins in the '40s. Gilbert's own style on alto saxophone and clarinet moved from the Johnny Hodges approach of those years to Lee Konitz infecting his improvisational thought process in ensuing decades.