RIP Roger Magraw
It was with great sadness that I learned today of the death of Roger Magraw, a brilliant academic whose expertise in jazz and French history was greatly appreciated by all who were fortunate enough to meet him, or, in my case, secure his participation in a conference.
Given our shared passion for jazz, Roger Magraw and I hit it off almost instantly when we met in the office of Dr Roger Fagge at the University of Warwick in 2012. I recall him mentioning a performance of Derek Bailey, which was memorable if only for the uninvited appearance of a wild dog, who, according to Roger, burst unexpectedly into the concert hall yet seemed to add to, rather than spoil, the sounds being made by Bailey and his long-time collaborator Han Bennink.
Roger Magraw was one of the presenters at our event, Race in the Americas Seminar Series #3: The Impact of Race on Music, which took place only six months ago at the University of Sunderland, on Friday 8th May 2014. His presentation on black jazz musicians in Paris in the mid-twentieth century was intriguing and fascinating, and it pained me to have to cut his presentation short, as I and the rest of the attendees and participants could have listened to him for hours. Adunni Adams (the other half of the Race in the Americas group) and myself had the honour of travelling up to Sunderland with Roger on the train from Birmingham New Street. During the journey to the conference (and the journey back), we learned a great deal about Roger's fascinating life. We learned of the girl who broke his heart as a young man, leaving him in tears at one of the stations we passed through. We learned of his opinions on jazz publications, and heard many stories of the hundreds (or thousands?) of jazz concerts which he had attended throughout his long and fascinating life. We learned of the surprising number of heart attacks which he had managed to survive, which he attributed to 'too many full English breakfasts'. We also got to hear his views on a wide range of subjects while he made witty remarks and munched on a home-made pate baguette which he had brought along for the journey.
At the Sunderland conference, Adunni Adams very wisely videotaped all of the presentations. This means that Roger's presentation - presumably one of the last he ever gave - has been preserved. We hope to upload this presentation on our website (www.raceintheamericas.com) in the near future, not only as a tribute to Roger but also as a means of introducing his research to anyone with an interest in jazz who was not fortunate enough to hear him speak in person. In addition to the picture shown above, there are several other photographs of Roger in his element at the conference, and these are available on Twitter - just search for #ritamusic and you will find him there. Alternatively, you will find all of these tweets at www.raceintheamericas.com under the 'past events' tab.
Adunni and I wish to extend our condolences to Roger's friends and family. We know that he will be just as fondly remembered by everyone else who met him.