The legend Kenny Ball
Are you familiar with English jazz musician Kenny Ball? His legacy as a musician is one that lives on. He headed up the band that reflected his own name, Kenny Ball and His Jazzmen. Today, he is widely regarded as one of the most gifted jazz musicians of all-time.
A Desire to Create Music
Ball was born in Ilford, Essex in May of 1930. Up until the age of 14, his life was like that of many of the young boys in the area. It was then that he decided to leave school and take a job at an advertising agency. He knew deep in his heart that this was not a career path that truly spoke to him. That being said, it was the path that was available at the time. He needed the money, so he took it. While he wasn’t exactly excited to take on the job at the advertising agency, it did have one benefit that he didn’t expect. It paid enough that he was able to cover his expenses, with money left over. In order to satisfy his creative side, he decided to use that extra money to take trumpet lessons. This was a decision that would ultimately change his life. One has to wonder if there was some compass inside of him, guiding him to something that was beyond the tedious tasks he faced daily at the advertising agency. Perhaps he had a feeling that the lessons he was about to embark on would change his life in ways that even he couldn’t have imagined. Whether he realised it or not, his life would never be the same. It wouldn’t be long until the job at the agency was little more than a distant memory.
Honing His Craft
It would take nine years before he would have enough experience to stand on his own two feet as a professional musician, but that didn’t stop him from playing with various bands on the side from the time he was 15 or so until he went professional in 1953, at the age of 23 (https://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/999f298728f34b2fb5628286eac40eaf). The entire time he had been playing with those bands on the side, he was practicing night and day, honing his craft. At the same time, he was also maintaining his position as a salesman at the agency. For the most part, he kept this job because he needed the money to pay the bills and keep the lights on. However, the job never took away from his passion to play music. Even when he should have probably been in bed sleeping, he couldn’t resist the urge to play. The music made him feel alive. He would later clarify that even in the earliest days of playing, he knew that it was something he wanted to do as a career. It involved two things that he absolutely loved- creating something in a musical sense and sharing the pieces he’d created with the rest of the world.
Creating His Own Band
Ball played with some of the most notable musicians of their time from 1953 to 1958, when he formed his own band. Those individuals included Terry Lightfoot, Eric Delaney, Charlie Galbraith and Sid Phillips (https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-21700146). After his band was formed in 1958, they quickly rose to stardom. In fact, the band was one of the frontrunners of the jazz revival movement that occurred throughout the UK in the early 1960s. In short, it took a very small amount of time for the band to become a staple among fans of the genre. At times, they were even popular enough that they transcended the genre itself, as they had pieces such as “Midnight to Moscow” that sold more than one million copies. The band also performed their own rendition of a Cole Porter favourite, “Samantha,” which hit No. 2 on the charts.
A Legacy of Excellence
Ball was an active musician up until the time of his death. Over the years, he and his band recorded no less than 26 albums. There were an additional five compilation albums that were also recorded (https://archive.org/details/bookofgoldendisc00murr/page/131/mode/2up). As a direct result, the outstanding legacy Ball created with his music will live on for generations. It’s a fine legacy indeed, one quite befitting a man with music in his soul who simply wanted to share it with the world.