Following the recent death of Wanstead resident and jazz drummer Clive Fenner – who founded the East Side Jazz Club – Robert Maitland explains how he and fellow musicians will keep his legacy alive
Clive Fenner was a popular, respected and well-liked figure on the Wanstead scene and many local people, as well as those from far-off places, have remarked on the sad news of his passing away on 28 April following a two-year battle with cancer. We have lost a warm personality in our neighbourhood and beyond.
Clive was born in Writtle, Essex in 1949. He went to teacher training college in Walsall and later went on to complete a Masters in Philosophy. Clive moved to Wanstead after marrying and taught Philosophy of Education at Havering College for 15 years.
Clive worked hard at being a jazz drummer, educator and promoter. He founded the East Side Jazz Club in Leytonstone with Martin Hathaway in 1994, featuring the cream of British jazz musicians. To name but a few that have passed through the club’s doors: Kenny Wheeler, Peter King, John Etheridge, Ian Carr, Michael Garrick, Alan Barnes, Jason Yarde, Zoe Rahman and the John Altman Big Band. The club has been running successfully on a Tuesday night for 25 years now. There cannot be many jazz clubs able to boast of such longevity. It has always been run as a non-profit making concern, affording access to a wide audience. His inspiration provided a top-flight jazz club in east London, a feature that had been absent for a long time in the area.
The year after setting up the jazz club, Clive founded the International French Jazz Summer School, where professional and amateur jazz players alike could receive and give tuition in a very relaxed atmosphere, including a young Jamie Cullum.
In 2001, Clive embarked on a venture further afield. He started the Cuban Music School where jazz musicians could learn and experience Cuban music first-hand in Old Havana. Musicians from Buena Vista Social Club, Sierra Maestra, Omar Puente and others tutored musicians that had been attracted globally to this event, creating a rich mix of cultures.
In 2012, Clive recorded his first CD Get It to good reviews, featuring his quartet Martin Hathaway, Geoff Gascoyne and Mark Ridout. A second CD followed in 2016 with the addition of Jim Watson on piano.
Clive Fenner’s contribution has provided a rich source of education and enjoyment to so many musicians and jazz enthusiasts, not only in east London but to others in the UK and abroad. Many notable tributes to his influence have been received in response to his passing. It is only fitting, and it is what he would have liked, that his legacy is maintained. A group of volunteers are therefore determined to keep the East Side Jazz Club running, hopefully for another 25 years.