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Len Argent RIP

 
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MangoTango



Joined: 08 Sep 2008
Posts: 307
Location: UK

PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2009 1:39 pm    Post subject: Len Argent RIP Reply with quote

It is with much sadness that I have to mention the recent passing away of Len Argent. His name won't be familiar to anyone across the Atlantic and probably not even to many of those on this side of the pond; but Len was a well-known and respected jazz guitarist on the British scene from the 1950's onwards. He played in Edmundo Ros' bands, the Joe Loss Orchestra, various BBC ensembles, the pit Band at the Talk Of The Town (playing for the likes of Sinatra) and sessions. He was also my first proper guitar teacher after years of teaching myself and steered me away from my "cowboy chords" and into the beginnings of jazz guitar.

I remember many Monday evenings sitting in his front room, him strumming away on a beaten-up old archtop of indeterminate origin and smiling with pure delight when I actually got my head and fingers around "Tangerine" or somesuch. "Now you're cooking, my son!" he'd exclaim - and then play something that would leave me gobsmacked and realising how far I still had to go. His wife Jean would appear during my lessons with the best cup of tea that you ever tasted and I'd walk out feeling good about my playing.

He had a wealth of experience and knowledge, and many stories to tell. Once he played me a tape that he'd been given by the bassist Len Skeat, who had asked him "Now what do you think of this bloke? without naming the guitarist on the tape. Len A had expressed his approval and admiration without being able to guess the guy's identity - "obviously American, attacks the note well and good lines - who is it?" "It's you, you silly ***", came the reply. It had been a tape of some studio thing from the early 60's. When I heard it, even though some of the ensemble stuff sounded a little stilted, the guitar was fantastic and sounded fresh as a daisy.

He had a 335 that he'd bought in 1963. I played it once - massively heavy strings, one control knob missing, another replaced with something very non-original - but a real working musician's axe. I couldn't get on with it; but then he took it back and made it sing, like the craftsman's instrument that it obviously was.

He could be a little cantankerous at times (we had a falling out when I was going through a bad time after losing the last members of my immediate family in quick succession and not in the mood for what was meant to be constructive criticism) but had a very generous heart and was a good family man.

My greatest regret is that he won't be around tomorrow night to hear my first proper jazz gig in my own right with a quartet that I started. I'd have loved to have been able to share the highs and lows of it, let him know that all the work that we did had borne fruit. And now he's gone. Although he stopped teaching me a while ago, there'll still be a lot of what he taught me in what Im going to play.

I realise that I'm being sentimental, but I'd love to think of him sitting up there on a cloud, archtop harp in hand, hopefully watching with approval.

"Now you're cooking, my son!"
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It's like an act of murder; you play with intent to commit something" - Duke Ellington
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M



Joined: 02 Jan 2009
Posts: 331
Location: Northern VA (USA)

PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2009 3:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Beautiful tribute, Mango. Thanks for sharing your memories with us.
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jazzerchick



Joined: 31 Oct 2006
Posts: 968
Location: SanAntonio , Tx

PostPosted: Fri Jun 12, 2009 5:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry to hear about his passing. Lost my first mentor a few yrs ago.
Wish he was still around. Hopefully we keep them alive in our playing.
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trotsky



Joined: 24 May 2007
Posts: 438
Location: Sarnia Ontario Canada

PostPosted: Sat Jun 13, 2009 2:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very nice sentiments.
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MangoTango



Joined: 08 Sep 2008
Posts: 307
Location: UK

PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2009 2:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks all, just wanted to say that stuff for the record. If we don't remember people that matter to us, then they will be forgotten or unknown to others. And even if it's just a moment of your time to read this, the name lives on.
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It's like an act of murder; you play with intent to commit something" - Duke Ellington
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