A swift return to the first Resnick story, the opening section of which is reprinted in the previous blog … and here comes the ending. Don’t worry if you still have the whole thing to read and want to avoid spoiling the denouement, the final surprise. There is no surprise. “They’re all dying, Charlie,” is how the story begins and that’s how it ends. How most stories end, I suppose.
The maitre d’ at Ronnie Scott’s had trouble seating Resnick because he was stubbornly on his own; finally he slipped him into one of the raised tables at the side, next to a woman who was drinking copious amounts of mineral water and doing her knitting. Spike Robinson was on the stand, stooped and somewhat fragile- looking, Ed Silver’s contemporary, more or less. A little bit of Stan Getz, a lot of Lester Young, Robinson himself had been one of Resnick’s favourite tenor players for quite a while. There was an album of Gershwin tunes that found its way on to the record player an awful lot.
Now Resnick are spaghetti and measured out his beer and listened as Robinson took the tune of ‘I Should Care’ between his teeth and worried at it like a terrier with a favourite ball. At the end of the number, he stepped back to the microphone.”I’d like to dedicate this final tune of the set to the memory of Ed Silver, a very fine jazz musician who this week passed away. Charlie Parker’s ‘Now’s the Time’.
And when it was over and the musicians had departed backstage and Ronnie Scott himself was standing there encouraging the applause – “Spike Robinson, ladies and gentlemen, Spike Robinson”- Resnick blew his nose and raised his glass and continued to sit there with the tears drying on his face. Seven minutes past eleven, near as made no difference.
That Gershwin album – The Gershwin Collection – was used as background in a number of scenes in the television version of the first Resnick novel, Lonely Hearts, one of the two in which Tom Wilkinson played Charlie. [And before you start asking, neither Lonely Hearts nor Rough Treatment are commercially available and the BBC have no plans, apparently, to repeat them. Please don’t ask me why because I don’t know.]
Towards the end of the 1990s, I booked the 100 Club in London’s Oxford Street for a Slow Dancer Press publication party and booked Spike Robinson as the evening’s featured guest, sitting in with the Nottingham-based band, Second Nature, in place of their leader, Mel Thorpe. And so came to pass one of my proudest moments, when I got to climb up on stage, take the microphone, and say, “Spike Robinson, ladies and gentlemen, Spike Robinson.”
Spike Robinson died of a heart attack just a few years later, at the age of 71.
My friend Tony Burns, whose band played opposite Second Nature on that occasion, died in 2013 at the age of 72.
“They’re all dying, Charlie.”
2 thoughts on “Now’s the Time … Again”
Mel Thorpe was in the first jazz group I ever saw live, around 1962 at the Riverside jazz club in the Town Arms on Trent Bridge: Thorpe and John Marshall (tenors), Tommy Saville (piano), Geoff Pearson (bass), Les Shaw (drums). A very fine little band, then doing stuff like “Big P” and “Sack o’ Woe”.
Interesting. I first saw Mel in a band – maybe the same one – playing R&B slanted stuff for dancing at the Boat Club down by the Trent; that would have been early to mid-60s, when I was first living in Nottingham and teaching in a secondary modern in Heanor. I borrowed the scene for the flashback in ‘Wasted Years’, chapter 1, in which Resnick meets his to-be wife, Eileen. It wasn’t until we filmed the first Resnick for TV in ’92 that I began reading poetry with them – this after they’d appeared in a scene in the filming. I think they were called the Midland Jazz Quartet then – Mel, Geoff, Les and Richard Hallam at the piano.