Jazz trumpeter Kenny Ball, who famously hit the Top 10 pop charts in the early 1960s with a stream of ‘trad jazz’ flavoured hits such as ‘Midnight in Moscow’, ‘March of the Siamese Children’ and ‘The Green Leaves of Summer’, has died in hospital while being treated for pneumonia.
Still performing at the start of this year, Ball’s long career stretches back to the early 1950s when he became a professional jazz trumpeter. He formed his group, Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen in 1958, during the ‘trad jazz’ revival boom, and went on to have hits on the Pye Jazz label, including ‘Midnight in Moscow’ (Spotify link), which peaked at No. 2 in the UK charts in November 1961. He later charted with a cover version of The Beatles’ ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’.
Throughout his career he often appeared on the same billing as the bands of clarinettist Acker Bilk and trombonist Chris Barber, earning them the nickname the ‘Three B’s’. And in1963 he became the first British jazzman to become an honorary citizen of New Orleans.
His TV appearances included The Morecombe and Wise Show, where his band notably performed ‘Old Man Moe is Dead’ and in the mid-1970s they took up a resident fixture on BBC TV’s Saturday Night at the Mill.
The trumpeter’s popularity led to him performing at the Royal Wedding reception of Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1981, where the band received a slice of royal wedding cake. In 1998 Ball performed at the BBC Proms in the Park and in 2011 his outstanding career was celebrated with an award from the National Jazz Archive.