Duke of Astor
Bob Ewing, veteran Auckland jazz and pop bass player, passed away this week. He was among the bassists in the famed Epi Shalfoon band at the Crystal Palace and recorded for Tanza as a member of the label’s early 1950s house band the Astor Dixie Boys. In 2002 he talked to Auckland music student Andrew Menzies about his time in the Epi Shalfoon band:
“I think we thought we were good but we weren’t sure, and about that time – a little after bebop – they brought these musicians to Auckland. That must have been about the late 50s and early 60s. Then we were able to prove ourselves against them and we could see just professionals they were. Nat King Cole for instance brought out arrangements for our big band. He brought a skeleton group with him. The drummer, the arranger and himself being the pianist. And that threw a new light on it. A lot of groups came out here in the ’60s and that’s when it showed just how good the Auckland musicians were as far as musicianship was concerned.”
Ewing’s first professional gig was with the Johnny Madden Quartet in about 1942-43, and he was performing as recently as 2008. He had a long association with the pianist John McKenzie, and also performed and recorded with Nancy Harrie, Crombie Murdoch, Bill Wolfgramm, Bob Griffiths and Derek Heine. With McKenzie in 1952 he was one of the Astor Dixie Boys who recorded the standard ‘A Kiss to Build a Dream On’, with Bobby Griffiths taking the Louis Armstrong-style vocal.