Roger returns to the Heathfield with his Armada Jazz Band
- Credit: Contributed
Roger Marks and his Armada Jazz Band had been performing at the Heathfield Inn in Honiton regularly for 16 years when the Covid 19 pandemic brought them to a standstill.
Now, at last, they’re coming back! They will play at the Heathfield, in Walnut Road, EX14 2UG, at lunchtime - 12pm to 2.30pm - on the last Tuesday of each month, starting on July 27, government restrictions permitting.
Admission to enjoy the jazz will be free. If required, lunch can be booked by ringing 01404 45321.
Roger was born in Tenby, Wales, in 1947 and moved with his family to Honiton as a young boy.
As a 14-year-old he was spotted whistling on his way to school by Honiton Town Brass Band leader Don Connett, who encouraged him to take up the trombone, and the band provided him with one to get him started.
The first working jazz band that Roger played in was the Exeter-based Tuxedo Jazz Band in 1967. This band was to evolve into the Happy Landings Jazz Band, which was resident at the Palk Arms, Torquay for several years.
The other band that contributed to the talented young player’s development was the Climax Jazz Band from Plymouth – but Roger’s life-changing opportunity arose when he moved to Plymouth and turned professional with the Rod Mason Band in October 1977.
He handed in his notice as a building inspector for Plymouth City Council and hit the road.
Even at that time the Rod Mason Band toured Europe extensively. There were regular television appearances, such as on BBC’s Pebble Mill at One, and spots on Dutch and German TV. Roger featured on several LPs, including one cut at the famous North Sea Jazz Festival at The Hague.
But after three years with Rod Mason Roger left to concentrate on being a dad with his young family.
He got a job with South Hams District Council but the jazz was never far from his life.
In 1981 he joined the Teign Valley Stompers, making more albums and TV appearances, and then, three years later, he formed the Plymouth-based Armada Jazz Band.
In 1988 Roger formed The Roger Marks Quartet – trombone, piano, bass guitar and drums/vocals – reflecting a growing interest in the music of Cole Porter, Rogers and Hart, and Gershwin.
Further albums followed, and broadcasts, including a BBC Radio 2 Jazz Parade programme. Roger was able to feature international stars as guests, among them Bruce Turner on alto saxophone and clarinet, with whom he developed a strong rapport. He recorded Crazy Rhythm with Bruce and this received rave reviews.
In 1992 Roger relaunched his Armada Jazz Band, to the delight of traditional jazz fans. The Armada has enjoyed success ever since on the jazz club and festival circuit, and has issued a steady stream of recordings.
In 1997 the Armada broadcast a session for BBC Radio 3’s Jazz Notes and Roger received a citation from the City of Plymouth for his outstanding contribution to the arts.
Numerous personnel changes have followed as band members have retired, and some, sadly, have died.
In September 2006 Roger was invited to appear with the British All-Stars band at Lichfield, which prompted him to put together a studio group under the banner of Roger Marks and his Mainstreamers, featuring clarinettist Julian Marc Stringle, pianist Craig Milverton and others.
In November 2009, Roger suffered a minor heart attack. It came as a shock to him because he had prided himself on staying fit. But he said that triple heart bypass surgery had left him feeling like a 30-year-old again.
A charity concert, organised to benefit the British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research, took place in June 2010, performed by the specially formed Survivors Jazz Band – nicknamed Stars with Scars. Today, Roger remains as busy as he wants to be, it seems. He has played on cruise ships, issued a DVD that chronicles his amazing musical career and helped create a Tribute to Trad Jazz stage show by the Pedigree Jazz Band in 2013. The band, jointly led by Roger and Chris Walker, enjoyed great success on the club and festival circuit, issuing three CDs before Roger left at the end of 2015 to concentrate on his Cornish Armada band once more. He also made several guest appearances with good friend Pete Allen and his jazz band. This in turn led to the formation of yet another band ¬ – the Pete Allen/Roger Marks Elite Jazzmen.