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The Jazz FM Awards 2013: Meet the Nominees: Django Bates – Cutting Edge Award for Jazz Innovation

Django was born in a house near New Beckenham Station where a ropy, semitone flat D’Almaine Piano was the most fascinating toy in the house.  Growing up, many family friends and vagrants passed through the home and many were artists or musicians who gave Django music lessons.  A few were unknown to the Bates family, and it was a mystery what they were doing in the house at all. Django’s mother encouraged him to attend weird old folks’ houses for lessons on trumpet, piano, violin and guitar whilst his father played eccentric music from all genres at him from babyhood onwards.  On leaving school in 1977, Django attended Morley College FTYM for two years.  In 1979, he left the Royal College of Music after two weeks as the pianos had signs on them saying, “Not to be used for the playing of Jazz music”.  Luckily he already had some teaching work at a school for reluctant Catholics, and a Friday night residency at the Waterside Theatre in Rotherhithe.  In this romantic building, Jonny Edgecombe ran a jazz club at which Django and friends would provide the support act for John Stevens, Harry Beckett, John Taylor, Stan Tracey, Dudu Pukwana and many more great improvisers. “It was an education in how to make one’s music personal, and how to present it to drunk Dockland dwellers without being lynched”, recalls Django. As a result of this regular gig, Django was invited to play and tour with Dudu Pukwana’s Zila for several years.