Malcolm Jarvis composed the 20 minute Bastille Concerto in 1946. Malcolm – also known as ‘Shorty’ – was serving a 10-year prison sentence for burglary with his friend Malcolm Little, later to become civil rights activist Malcolm X. Shorty and Malcolm remained friends until the latter’s assassination in 1965.
Shorty passed on the score to his son Clifford who achieved status as one of the most ferocious drummers of the era. He played on many important jazz recordings in the 60’s and 70’s and toured extensively with the band-leader and cosmologist Sun Ra.
However in 1984 after falling out with Sun Ra, Clifford arrived in London. At this time there was a jazz boom in the UK as a new generation of young Afro-Caribbean musicians emerged on the scene.“He was like a hot coal dropped out of the sky from New York” is how one musician described him. Clifford toured and taught many of musicians including Courtney Pine during his time here. He also helped start up the infamous Uncle Sam’s jazz night in Hackney which still runs today.
In 1989 Clifford unexpectedly re-united with his son Steven who was now living in London. Steven’s grandmother, the famous Jazz baroness, Panonica Rothschild, had raised Steven in New York after Clifford had separated from his mother. A chance reunion in a London jazz club however seems to have inspired Clifford to start reworking his own father’s lost masterpiece. Clifford called on the talents of Loz Speyer a trumpet player whom he had taught at Pyramid Arts in Hackney. Together they looked to update the original essentially classical piece, which also owed much to Gershwin and Ellington.
When Shorty died Clifford seemed to have further impetus to get the piece performed. They recorded some sparse workouts on piano and drums but Clifford sadly died in 1999. Now, Loz has begun assembling an orchestra in London most of whom have associations with Clifford Jarvis to begin realising this historical piece. Rehearsals are under way and a filmed concert is planned for 2018-19. It will capture the revolutionary ambition and positive nature of the music and bring to life Shorty’s original vision.