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Colin Purbrook 1936 - 1999

Grand Vizier of Piano

A cutting from Bill Swaffer

A cutting from "The Guardian" February 1999

COLIN PURBROOK, who has died aged 63, was a piano accompanist to many American jazz musicians touring Britain. His impeccable musical taste and harmonic skills complemented their performances, and he provided solos of the highest quality. His style contained elements of Art Tatum and Wynton Kelly, with a touch and intensity sometimes reminiscent of Bill Evans.

Best known for small-group work, he was also a fine composer and arranger who acted as musical director for theatrical shows, and as a multi-instrumentalist could play bass, trumpet, trombone and clarinet.

A professional pianist's son, Purbrook was born in Seaford, Sussex. He took up the piano at the age of six, and the trombone and bass while at Fitzwiliam College, Cambridge. He then joined Sandy Brown's band as a bassist, switching to piano with a later version of the group. Brown called him "the grand vizier of parties" in his memoirs, in honour of the ramshackle bottle-party atmosphere of his West Hampstead house.

Purbrook alternated with ease between mainstream and modern jazz. He was with the Allan Ganley - Ronnie Ross Jazzmakers in the early 1960s, as well as the Ronnie Scott - Jimmy Deuchar Quintet and Kenny Ball traditionalists. In 1961 he worked alongside Charlie Mingus on the score of the film All Night Long. He went on to lead a quintet with Tony Coe, and toured with Tubby Hayes and Kenny Baker.

In 1963 Purbrook led the accompanying trio for the ground-breaking satirical show Beyond The Fringe, also playing bass with pianist Dudley Moore's trio for a while.

Later shows included Bubbling Brown Sugar and the black vaudeville creation One Mo' Time. More recently he worked on Lady Day, a tribute to Billy Holiday. In the 1970s he led an all-star octet with the legendary Phil Seaman on drums.

Purbrook had set up a recording studio at his home and was skilled in operating it; sadly his own recordings were relatively few. However, a recent trio CD and Bobby Wellins's Billie Holiday tribute album were outstanding.

Purbrook is survived by his former wife Maureen, who cared for him in his last illness, their son Jason and by a brother.