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Stars of British Jazz

Meet The Band

The 'Stars of British Jazz' was born from a ‘joining of forces’ of some of the best of the old and new musicians on the British jazz scene today. All are highly respected musicians in their own right and play together with great affinity and verve.


Mike Cotton

Mike Cotton - Trumpet, Cornet, Harmonica

Mike, born in North London, started playing the trumpet in 1957. After working with amateur bands, in 1961 he turned professional and formed the 'Mike Cotton Jazzmen', later to become 'The Mike Cotton Sound' which led to a change of musical direction leaning towards R&B. During this time his band also accompanied many famous names in the world of ‘pop’ including Gene Pitney, Stevie Wonder and The Four Tops. In the late sixties Mike yet again changed identity and formed a soul band called ‘Satisfaction’, before returning to jazz and reforming the Mike Cotton Jazzmen. which he successfully ran until 1971. For the next two years Mike toured the USA with the leading rock band, 'The Kinks', then in April 1973 he became a regular member of the internationally famous 'Mr. Acker Bilk and the Paramount Jazzband'. He was with Acker for 18 years up until June 1991.

Mike has also played with many international touring musicians including:- Peanuts Hucko, Wild Bill Davison, George Masso, Kenny Davern, Yank Lawson, Dick Wellstood, Bud Freeman & Bob Barnard. He has also made several appearances with the ‘John Benson All-Stars’ between 2002-4 but is now enjoying life as a freelance musician and playing regularly with Andy Coopers ‘Euro Top 8’.


Colin Wood

Colin Wood – Piano ( Acker Bilk & His Paramount Jazz Band 1977 to the present )

Colin was born in London during WW2 and was moved to Wells, Somerset in 1950. Despite opposition, he learned to play a bit of boogie & jazz. Colin played locally and in Bristol while still at school and went to Durham University to study maths (if you could do sciences or maths in those days, you did, "to help the cold war weapons race" apparently). He spent most of his time at university playing piano & keyboards with college jazz and rock bands.

Colin moved to London to seek "fame & fortune" - (ha!) and eventually found work scrubbing floors, operating office machines and playing with Bill Nile's Delta Jazz Band, Monty Sunshine, John Benson and playing on many rock sessions with the likes of David Bowie, Cat Stevens, Uriah Heep, The Swinging Blue Jeans, The Yardbirds and many others (mostly too embarrassing to mention - but they paid well!).

He became disillusioned with music scene and taught maths to engineers at Twickenham from 1970 & played local semi-pro gigs.

Colin rejoined the music business in 1977, (a long story!) and joined Acker Bilk in September of that year. Since then, (while playing with Acker throughout), found time to play with Wild Bill Davison, George Masso, Billy Butterfield, Kenny Davern, Ken Peplowski, Bob Barnard etc. and most British mainstreamers & also with Ray Warleigh, Lol Coxhill, Jim Mullen, Henry Lowther, John Stevens, Dick Morrissey, etc., etc.


John Benson

John Benson – Double Bass / Voc. ( Kenny Ball & His Jazzmen 1977 to 2002 )

Originally from North London, John now lives in Suffolk, close to the charming resort of Southwold. John's interest in music was initiated by his elder brother during the early fifties jazz revival period. Having experimented with all kinds of popular music in the late fifties and early sixties, the fascination of jazz returned and he purchased his first double bass in 1965. Soon he formed his own jazz trio and played in various venues predominantly in the London area whilst working during the day for the Daily Telegraph in Fleet Street.

Turning his attention to music professionally in the mid seventies, John had brief spells with the 'Brian Knight Blues by Six Band' and the 'Monty Sunshine Jazz Band', before being asked to become a member of the world renowned 'Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen' in 1977. During 25 years touring the world with Kenny's band, he made regular TV appearances, radio broadcasts, royal command performances and a wealth of recordings. These years also involved accompanying and playing alongside many of the world’s top jazz artistes such as Kenny Baker, Bob Barnard, Acker Bilk, George Chisholm, John Dankworth, Wild Bill Davison, Peanuts Hucko, Humphrey Lyttelton, George Melly, Jimmy Skidmore, Martin Taylor etc.

In more recent years, John has been concentrating on promoting his own band and also in making various guest appearances. Although still being involved with the dixieland scene, he is now indulging in his love of the music of the swing era. This largely involves the music of the great American popular composers of the early 20th century; Gershwin, Porter, Ellington, Carmichael etc. and he has recently produced and recorded a CD to this effect.

John also runs a guest house with his wife Margaret, close to the lovely seaside town of Southwold, Suffolk. www.bramptondog.co.uk


Zoltan Sagi

Zoltan Sagi - Clarinet & Saxes (Ex Big Chris Barber Band)

Born in Hungary, Zoltan attended the Guild-hall School of Music studying clarinet with Robert Earle and later Frank Allen (CBSO) at Warwick University. He is completely self taught on saxophone drawing much inspiration particularly from Johnny Hodges, Cannonball Adderley and Stan Getz.

Zoltan spent his early professional playing career in dance bands and in the New Orleans jazz genre performing at festivals both here and abroad. After this came a period of success in the field of music education becoming both a Director of Music and a county music service manager.

A return to professional playing saw a 2 1/2 year stint with Chris Barber touring the world extensively. He has made numerous C.D's, and other recordings as a freelance session musician and has also appeared with such musicians as Earl Warren (ex Count Basie), Benny Waters, Kenny Davern, Bob Wilber, Humphrey Lyttleton, Roy Williams, Bruce Turner, Marty Grosz, Digby Fairweather, Duncan Swift, Bruce Adams, Greg Abate (ex Ray Charles) etc. Other past bands have included Harlem, Swing Syndicate, and The Charleston Chasers. Zoltan has also appeared with the Pasadena Roof Orchestra. Zoltan's web site: www.zoltansagi.co.uk


Graham Woodhouse

Graham Woodhouse – Trombone / Voc. ( Pete Allen Jazz Band 2004 to 2010 )

Graham Woodhouse started learning music aged eleven, playing on a battered old school trombone. With a lot of encouragement from his parents Beryl and Arnold, Graham passed the “Royal Schools of Music” Grade 8 exam with distinction at the age of seventeen.

Graham developed a keen interest in all varieties of music, particularly jazz and was encouraged by local musicians in his home city of Derby to sit-in with them on a regular basis. During this time he got to accompany many jazz greats such as Wild Bill Davison, Yank Lawson, Roy Williams, John Barnes, Earl Warren, Kenny Davern, George Masso etc. Graham was also greatly influenced by the energy of the British style of traditional jazz artists such as Kenny Ball, Chris Barber, Acker Bilk and Alex Welsh, Pete Allen, whilst trying to emulate the truly great trombone styling of the likes of J. J. Johnson, Kai Winding, Frank Rosolino, Carl Fontana etc.

During the nineteen nineties, Graham gained much experience playing commercial music on cruise ships, backing Las Vegas style revue shows and accompanying the star acts that would come on to the ship. During this time Graham accompanied many stars such as Petula Clark, Neil Sedaka, Vic Damone, Al Martino and many more. Since returning to Britain, Graham has worked in various jazz and soul bands. In 2004, Graham was asked to join the renowned 'Pete Allen Jazz Band' with which he stayed until 2010.

To date, Graham has released two solo albums, “Gettin’ Sentimental” (2004) and "Swing 'n' Slide" (2010). Graham's web site: www.grahamwoodhouse.com


Richie Burns

Richie Burns – Drums ( Pete Allen Jazz Band 2003 to 2010 )

Richie’s interest in drums began from about the time he could walk and was given his first drum kit at the age of six.

After leaving School, Richie worked with various pop, cabaret and comedy show bands playing summer seasons at Butlins and Pontins Holiday Camps. During this time, he worked with various top artists such as Bradley Walsh, Michael Barrymore, Cannon and Ball, Susan Mourn, Lynn Paul, Ruby Murray, Ken Peplowski, Maggie Reeday and Craig Milverton. Richie has also played on BBC Pebble Mill, MTV and Radio 2 shows.

As both his parents were Jazz enthusiasts, Richie was greatly influenced by the ‘three B’s’ (Ball, Barber and Bilk). This is where his love of Jazz started. In 1996, Richie received a phone call from his close friend Ron Bowden, from the Kenny Ball Band. Ron asked him to deputise for him with Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen at various venues across the UK, whilst he played with his old bandleader, Chris Barber, during his 40th anniversary concerts.

Richie was also a huge follower of his idols Buddy Rich, Louis Bellson, Ed Thigpen and Dennis Chambers.

As of 2014, Richie is an official endorser of Pellwood Drumsticks.