Rupert Nurse

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b. Rupert Theophilus Nurse, 26 December 1910, Port Of Spain, Trinidad, West Indies, d. 18 March 2001, Arima, Trinidad, West Indies. Nurse spent part of his childhood in Trinidad and part in Venezuela.…
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b. Rupert Theophilus Nurse, 26 December 1910, Port Of Spain, Trinidad, West Indies, d. 18 March 2001, Arima, Trinidad, West Indies. Nurse spent part of his childhood in Trinidad and part in Venezuela. After leaving school, he spent a few years working as a teacher on the neighbouring island of Tobago and also working in industry. Meanwhile, he had been assiduously teaching himself to play piano, saxophone and bass. He also took a correspondence course in arranging. With Guyanese saxophonist Wally Stewart he formed a big band, playing American dance music and swing.

During World War II, Nurse played for American servicemen and when hostilities ended he joined many other West Indians and emigrated to the UK. He settled in London, playing bass at the Antilles Club, a favourite meeting place for West Indian and jazz musicians. Among the many musicians with whom he played, in some instances touring the UK and Europe, were pianist Winifred Atwell, guitarist Fitzroy Coleman, trumpeters Leslie ‘Jiver’ Hutchinson and Peter Joachim, and singer Cab Kaye. In the 50s calypso music enjoyed popularity not only with London’s expanding population of Caribbean immigrants but also with the wider British audience. Nurse, who had previously arranged the form for his big band back home, was well placed to take advantage of this and in particular arranged the calypsos of a childhood friend, Lord Kitchener. He led the house band for Melodisc Records, a label that released many strong-selling records of calypso music with Nurse’s arrangements proving a significant factor in their popularity with non-Caribbean buyers. The 50s also saw Nurse leading a band at London clubs such as the Sunset, in Carnaby Street, and the Sugar Hill, in St James’, and also at many hotels and restaurants. Among visiting musicians with whom he performed during this period was Mary Lou Williams. Constantly mixing with jazz musicians, Nurse helped bridge the two forms of music that were his principal loves. In addition to performing, Nurse also taught, working on at both into the 90s. Even after retiring back to Trinidad, he continued to write arrangements.