Great Guitars – Via Calcutta

In 1942  ,  two young, self taught jazz guitarists , arrived in Calcutta from  Burma, the eastern most outpost of what was British India.  Fleeing on foot, barely ahead  of the Japanese, were part of Reuben Solomon’s Jive Boy’ of the hottest bands in Rangoon.

Rangoon 1940 - LR Paul Ferraz sb, Reuben Solomon cl, Dean Wong vcl, Cedric West gtr, Ike Isaacs gtr

Cedric West’s talents got him quickly hired by Teddy Weatherford and was soon recognized as the leading jazz guitarist in Calcutta.  He appears on many Teddy Weatherford sides.  Cedric West went to England in 1947 and went on to become a respected session man, recording with Nelson Riddle, Quincy Jones and Elmer Bernstein. He was a close friend of Joe Pass. He went on to hold down the guitar chair in the BBC jazz band and is described by Mike Edmonds as “he was a master bebop player and played with his thumb like Wes”.  His daughter Jenny Legget has been generous with providing lots of information about him which will appear in a future post dedicated to Cedric West.

Ike Isaacs went from Calcutta to Mussoorie and played in a hotel there until he left for England on  a scholarship around the same time as Cedric.  Ike was also self taught. Described as a master technician, Ike Isaacs was the dominant guitarist in English jazz until the mid-1970s.  Ike is featured in the list of the great jazz guitarists. He played with all the greats, including a 2 year world tour with Stephane Grapelli. This documentary from Spiros Mavrengelos documentary includes a rare clip of Ike and Grapelli together.  Listen to his story and his masterful playing.  

For the last fifteen years of his life Ike lived and taught in Sydney and became a much loved member of the Sydney jazz community.

Quite a story for two selftaught young men who passed through Calcutta and benefitted from the jazz culture of the time ..and proved to the world that jazz musicians from the subcontinent could be worldclass !   Aptly, many years later, Cedric West released an album titled “West meets East”.

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