Dave Plews

Dave Plews is credited as a trumpet player on 4 tracks on the Eurythmics album Be Yourself Tonight. He also contributed to some of Daves collabrations including Don't Come Around Here No More with Tom Petty.

Dave Plews passed away when he was only 42 years old. Dave Plews took over the lead trumpet chair in my Orchestra around 1980, one of a wave of young musicians, starting with Chris Hunter, who joined us at that time. Others included Phil Todd and Guy Barker. The writing of THE CORTEGE led to the re-formation of my larger ensemble after a gap of several years. In that gap my attitude to composition had changed. The result was, for me, a new kind of big band. Based around the regular Brass Band it included associates from that short-lived but significant collaboration with Henry Cow, 'The Orkestra'. Also involved were established jazz soloists, classical players, and colleagues from the jazz/rock days of Solid Gold Cadillac. The new arrivals had a great impact on the orchestra. They certainly gave an edge to the music - none more so than Dave Plews, who gathered this disparate ensemble together as only a great lead trumpeter can. Still only in his early twenties, Dave had all the natural authority and musicianship to fulfil his demanding role, combined with a sunny personality, a total lack of pretension, and a wicked sense of humour. This was one of the Orchestra's halcyon periods, with European jazz festivals, a CMN tour, a double album - even a BBCtv documentary. Dave was with us when, in 1984, we travelled to Vitrolles, near Marseilles, for what was to prove the Orchestra's last complete performance of THE CORTEGE. The next day he went on with us to Santarcangelo with a 12-piece band for performances of ON DUKE'S BIRTHDAY and a reduced version of THE CORTEGE. For these we were joined from Rome by Danilo Terenzi, a musician who, like Dave, was to die tragically before his time. The Santarcangelo CORTEGE performance ended in the small hours with the musicians leaving the open-air stage, playing Toper's Rant and dispersing through the steep streets and piazzas of the old town. This was the last time THE CORTEGE was played and, although we didn't know it at the time, it was the end of an era. The success of THE CORTEGE raised expectations that the Orchestra would continue to operate on a regular basis. Unfortunately the fates, or the jazz scene, decided otherwise. Opportunities came to an abrupt halt and it was nearly ten years before I was able to form another big band. In the meantime I lost contact with Dave, as with many of the musicians. By all accounts these were, for Dave, years of great success, recording and touring with many well known pop groups, and with most of the big names in show business. But by the end of the 80's the commercial music scene had changed. The high-living days were over, and many fine musicians were reduced to playing West End shows for a living. This kind of work never really suited Dave's temperament. Lead trumpet players are a special breed of musician. They are the hired guns of the music world whose job is to go into any musical situation and take charge. If a big band sounds any good, it's probably because of the lead trumpet player. Yet these guys, respected and even revered among their colleagues, are often unknown to the public. In the far-off days of the touring big bands lead players, natural showmen with extrovert personalities to match their musical skills, were stars in their own right. In today's mileu, where the main employment is in backing singers and playing shows, the musicians are anonymous and unacknowledged. Musicians like Dave Plews, apparently such bravura characters, are in reality extremely vulnerable. Not only to the whims of fashion which decree whether big band backings or horn sections are in demand or not. They are also subject to the enormous stress of maintaining the very highest level of performance, of always being literally on top form. It is a high-risk profession. It can also be a frustrating one musically. Young musicians nurtured in the hot house of NYJO go out into the commercial jungle to fare as best they can. Their early training has led them to expect something better - exciting, challenging music to play, rather than the routine commercial work that is the reality for all but a lucky few. Musicians cope with these problems in various ways. But there have certainly been casualties. Dave Plews had his long struggle with alcoholism, with depression and a tormented relationship with his Catholic faith. Recently, according to his close friend, fellow trumpeter Stuart Brooks, Dave had taken control of his life and was in better shape than he had been for years. Then, suddenly, a disastrous chain of events plunged him into that last, fatal downward spiral, Dave did more concerts with us in 1992 when I re-formed the big band for BIG BAND ROSSINI, including the Proms performance at the Albert Hall. He also took part in the 3-day festival that the Orchestra played in Catania - where Danilo also made what was to prove his last guest appearance with us. In the years that followed Catania it became impossible to keep the Orchestra, and that trumpet section, together, and I heard nothing of Dave until the tragic news of his death. After his funeral service in Plympton, Devon, where a packed congregation included many of Dave's musician friends and colleagues from London, Kate and I came home and played a section of the album that he recorded with us back in '82, THE CORTEGE. His lead playing throughout is glorious - full of fire and energy. We started at Cordoba, the setting of Lorca's poem about a rider travelling towards his death. Towards the end of the piece Dave takes the trumpet theme up the octave - something that, if you're lucky, high-note men will often do to crown a climactic moment. In the middle of this sombre passage, Dave suddenly unleashes a moment of pure emotion, a characteristic gesture of defiance. Dave was one of the greats. The cynical music business could not accommodate such a talent, and such a free spirit, just as it has failed so many musicians of his generation. Dave's forte was not the orchestra pit. He was in his element on-stage, leading a cracking big band. Dave Plews was popular, and enjoyed much friendship and support among his fellow-musicians, especially within the close-knit circle of the trumpet world. His death has shocked that community. As one of the many who had the pleasure of working with Dave, I share in the great sense of loss felt by all who knew him. And also in their incredulity. The fact that such a well-loved person and fine musician should have been driven to such despair is an indictment of the world in which we musicians live. And a great voice has been silenced. May he rest in peace.

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