b. Philip William Seamen, 28 August 1928, Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England, d. 13 October 1972, London, England. Seamen first attracted attention when he played drums with post-war British dance bands, including those led by Nat Gonella and Joe Loss. By the early 50s he was a key figure in the nascent London bop scene, working with Ronnie Scott, Tubby Hayes, Joe Harriott and other leading musicians. Later in the decade he recorded with Stan Tracey, on Little Klunk (1959) and the following year with Harriott, on the saxophonist’s Free Form. In the early 60s Seamen tried his hand in blues bands, including those of Georgie Fame and Alexis Korner. In the late 60s he was back with Scott but also played in rock bands, including Air Force which was led by one of his students, Ginger Baker.
The range of Seamen’s musical interests is apparent from the company he kept, and he brought to everything he did enormous enthusiasm and vitality. His dynamic playing enhanced countless club and pub sessions in and around London, a handful being captured on record. Sadly, for all his skills, Seamen’s career and ultimately his life were blighted by drug addiction. Seamen’s virtuosity was remarkable: his work with Harriott was noteworthy for the manner in which he adapted to free jazz, and he coped admirably with the very different demands required by his performances in rock and blues bands. Despite such performances, however, it is a bop drummer that he made his most notable mark on the British jazz scene.