Row hits a rough note for Bute's jazz fans

AN ANGRY row has erupted among Bute's jazz lovers after singer Jenny Brown is told her services are no longer required by a local group.

The Bute Jazz Friends wrote to Jenny on November 29 expressing their wish to move in a different musical direction in future, and suggesting that the recent retirement of former Isle of Bute Jazz Festival director Phil Mason - who ran the group for many years - made it "the perfect time" for Jenny to retire also.

The situation went public after Jenny passed the Friends' letter to The Buteman on Saturday, while she also referred to part of its contents on her Bute FM radio programme the previous day.

Her decision to put the issue in the public domain led to an angry response from the Friends, who argued that the rest of the band were getting the blame for Jenny's own "declining competence".

In their original letter the Friends – comprising Tim Saul, Wilf Peers, David Gray, Ray Bruce, Robin Dow, Paul McKay and Gerry Geoghegan – wrote to Jenny to say: "At a recent meeting of the musicians in the band it became apparent that the band wishes to pursue a different musical direction for the future, with an emphasis on instrumental and vocal performance towards mainstream and modern jazz.

"As Phil is retiring we feel that this is the perfect time for you to retire as guest vocalist with his Jazz Friends band. This will mark the end of one glorious era and perhaps the start of another one."

Jenny, 83, told The Buteman: "I didn't read their letter out on the radio – I decided to keep it to give to you.

"It was a great Christmas present. To not even talk to me about it – you can imagine the shock I got when I read it.

"I don't think people in Rothesay will like it if there's no trad jazz. I've been singing on Bute since I was 16 and to have it stopped just like that was a real shock.

"But I've always said that when one door shuts, another one opens, and I'm definitely not thinking about retiring."

Jenny's decision to make the matter public resulted in another letter from the Friends, through their bass player Paul McKay, complaining that Jenny's performances have been littered with more and more mistakes over the last two years, and accusing her of blaming the resulting "musical mess" on the members of the band.

"For the continuing sanity of all," Paul's letter states, "this situation could not continue, hence the private letter.

"It is now obvious that however diplomatic the band members have tried to be in handling this difficult matter, the outcome was never in doubt."

The Friends' original letter and the group's response to the airing of the row in public are both printed in full in the letters column of the new issue of The Buteman, along with a letter from Jenny herself apologising for her non-appearance at the forthcoming Jazz Across The Kyles concert in Colintraive village hall.

We also print a contribution from Jenny's friend, local businesswoman Rachel Hughes, who has started up a 'Bring Back Jenny' petition which had attracted 20 signatures at the time of writing.

Tim Saul, who took over the running of the Bute Jazz Friends after Phil Mason's retirement, said: "It was a band decision to write the original letter, and the response under Paul's name, not the decision of any individual.

"We would all rather this matter had been dealt with privately, but now that it has been made public we feel we have no option but to defend our position in a robust fashion."