Dudley Moore wasn't just a truly original comedian and star of stage, television and the Hollywood screen, he was also a successful classical musician and highly accomplished jazz pianist and composer.
Though this programme will focus on Dudley's musical career, the comedy will inevitably creep in. With Dudley everyone and everything was fair game and his wicked sense of humour permeated nearly all that he did. His jazz concerts were sparkling musical affairs and stomach-heavingly funny. And yet he was a complex, often introverted, who suffered keenly from a physical disability that had blighted his early years.
Dudley couldn't stay serious for very long but the jokes betrayed deep insecurities and disappointment with himself. Appearing on the Parkinson show in 1980, Dudley - who had performed heavyweight piano concerti on stages as prestigious as Carnegie Hall; presented television series alongside legendary conductors Georg Solti and Michael Tilson Thomas; who had released over a dozen jazz albums; and was a consummate arranger and composer of songs, jazz numbers, ballets and film scores - revealed that he felt afraid of music.
Much of his jazz music was deeply emotional and exquisitely played. And yet his live performances were often riotously ribald - a contrast at the heart of Dudley's character. He was a romantic, falling passionately in love many, many times - the four wives were just the tip of the iceberg! And yet he also proclaimed the delights of the "meaningful one-night stand". An attractive man anyway, his success in so many fields of entertainment drew hordes of statuesque women and his life became a mix of glorious physical and romantic delight, alternating with painful separations.
This whole sense of dichotomy, of not being able to reconcile elements in his life, ran through everything Dudley did. Great success yet terrible self-doubt. A huge need for love coupled with a need for solitude. The freedom of jazz contrasted with the discipline of classical. A consuming love of music and yet an almost casual disregard for it, helped by the fact that the talent seemed to flow naturally from his fingers with little need to practise.
His jazz career had begun whilst he was still at Oxford University, on an organ scholarship, and it was there he became an accomplished jazz pianist and composer and began working with artists like John Dankworth and Cleo Laine. His great influences were Oscar Peterson and Errol Garner and it is true to say that Dudley became a highly respected jazz pianist with much of the skill and artistry of both those performers.
His early recordings included My Blue Heaven, Poova Nova, Take Your Time, Indiana, Sooz Blooz, Bauble, Bangles and Beads and Autumn Leaves. The trio performed regularly on TV, made numerous recordings and had a long-running residency at Peter Cook's London nightclub, The Establishment. But it was the comedy revue, Beyond the Fringe, that really launched his stage career alongside Cook, Alan Bennett.and Jonathan Miller.
After success in the West End, and on Broadway, there was no turning back. For all that, Dudley's jazz trio was a constant in his life from the late 1950s to the early 90s. There were two tours in Australia, two albums recorded down under and even a hit single, Song for Suzy. The final trio tour came after the major Hollywood successes like Ten and Arthur were behind Dudley, and the acting roles were drying up, but Progressive Supranuclear Palsy put an end to his playing and eventually his life.
Guy Barker presents and the programme includes contributions from the Dudley Moore Trio musicians Chris Karan, Pete Morgan and Barbara Moore (no relation); Dame Cleo Laine, Keith Emerson, Dudley's music teacher Peter Cork, friend and colleague Francis Megahy, Kenny G, Brogan Lane, choreographer Gillian Lynne, friend Peter Bellwood, jazz pianist Geoff Eales and Radio 2's own jazz presenter Jamie Cullum.
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