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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 July 2006, 16:33 GMT 17:33 UK
Obituary: Don Lusher
Don Lusher
Trombonist par excellence: Don Lusher
Trombonist Don Lusher was one of the great stalwarts of British jazz and big-band music.

Most notably, he played for almost 10 years with the Ted Heath Orchestra when the band was the biggest draw on the music scene in the 1950s.

Later he formed his own group, The Don Lusher Big Band in 1980, in which he had five saxophonists, four trumpeters, four fellow trombonists and piano, bass and drums in the rhythm section.

Until just a few months ago, they would play tribute concerts to the great age of the big-bands.

Don Lusher was at home in different genres including big-bands, jazz and swing. He would play in the orchestras that backed Frank Sinatra on many of his European tours.

Yet, jazz was an unlikely career for a child brought up in a Salvation Army family in Peterborough, a family that didn't smoke, drink or swear.

He learnt to play trombone when he was six in order to join his father and grandfather in the Peterborough Salvation Army Band.

Listening to the big bands of the time on the radio inspired him, and it was after hearing the British band Geraldo, featuring Ted Heath on trombone, while he was serving as a conscript in the army during World War II, that Don Lusher determined on a musical career.

Don Lusher
Maestro: Don Lusher took over the Ted Heath Orchestra
"I was completely overawed by the sound and by the sheer professionalism of everybody connected with it," he recalled.

He took part in the D-Day invasion and, after being de-mobbed, played with the bands of Joe Daniels, Lou Preager, Maurice Winnick, The Squadronaires, Jack Parnell, Geraldo and Ted Heath.

In his years with Heath, he made several world tours and five to the United States where he was influenced by Tommy Dorsey, Dick Nash and Will Bradley.

In fact, the band was more successful there than in Britain.

On one occasion in Alabama in 1956, when the Ted Heath Band were backing Nat King Cole, he looked on as two members of the Ku Klux Klan came from the audience and attacked the singer on the stage, injuring his face.

Band leader

Not only did he develop musically with Ted Heath particularly in the way arrangements would be written to showcase particular musical strengths, he also learned about stage presence.

Heath said to him shortly before Lusher left the band, "One day I would like to see you have your own band because you understand what it's all about."

Indeed, Don Lusher went on to lead the Heath Band but only after its founder's death in 1969.

Don Lusher
Familiar face: Don Lusher in full flight
As the big-band sound declined in popularity, Don Lusher turned increasingly to jazz, and became a member of the Best of British Jazz in the 1970s.

Its first performances included Gordon Langford's Rhapsody for Trombone at the Royal Albert Hall.

That same year saw him premiere Gordon Carr's Concerto for Trombone at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall, and in 1990, he performed Scot Stroman's Concertine for Trombone, Strings and Percussion at Lichfield Cathedral.

Don Lusher was a much sought after session player, was twice president of the British Trombone Society, and his Don Lusher Trombone Prize was awarded, for more than 30 years, in BBC Radio 2's National Big Band competition. He was a regular presenter on Radio 2 jazz and big-band programmes.

In 2003 Don Lusher was awarded an OBE for services to the music industry.

Jazz trombonist Don Lusher dies
05 Jul 06 |  Entertainment

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