Sunday, February 1, 2009

Dudley Moore - Jazz Icon of the 1960s and 1970s

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Did You Know That Dudley Moore Played the Piano? by Duane Shinn

Try typing "Dudley Moore, piano" into an Internet search engine. Yes, that Dudley Moore. Before the biographies and his life and trials as an actor, you'll find video clips of the actor sitting in front of a piano.

Dudley Moore played the piano; he wasn't just a star tinkering with a bit of music in his spare time either. Besides being a screen legend, Dudley Moore was a truly accomplished pianist who released 11 albums as part of the Dudley Moore Trio.

Dudley's childhood wasn't easy. He was a lot shorter than friends of the same age. He was born with a clubfoot, which was also a source of ridicule before it was surgically corrected. The shy Dudley found solace in music, quickly taking to the piano and then the violin at a remarkably young age.

He loved the piano and the organ, and by his early teens, he was playing solo for church weddings. His talent for music was further nurtured at the music school he attended on the weekends. Dudley proved an excellent student by the end of high school, winning a scholarship to the Magdelen College at Oxford University.

It was during this time that he met Peter Cook, his friend and co-star in Beyond the Fringe which became a hugely successful comedy show at the beginning of the 1960's. While taking classes in Music and Composition at Magdelin College, Dudley also became a big fan of jazz music, so he joined a little jazz outfit to hone his skills as a jazz pianist and composer.

Dudley's Beyond the Fringe co-star Peter Cook invested in some property in the early 60's, converting a building into a cabaret club called The Establishment. There Dudley played in a jazz band with Chris Karan and Pete McGurk. The three of them eventually formed the famed Dudley Moore Trio with Dudley on piano, Chris on drums and Pete on the bass guitar.

Dudley carried on with his acting career alongside Peter Cook. When Dudley was offered his own show in the mid-60's, he invited Peter to appear as one of the characters. The chemistry between them was so good that Peter's character became a regular fixture. The show, called "Not Only But Also", became enormously popular, and soon the duo moved into feature films.

They co-starred in Bedazzled in 1967, for which Dudley also wrote the musical soundtrack. Dudley then moved to Hollywood and starred in movies alongside big-screen greats like Goldie Hawn, Liza Minelli and Geraldine Fitzgerald. During the 70's and 80's, Dudley became the movie star and Hollywood legend that his fans know today.

Music never took a backseat in Dudley's life. Besides writing soundtracks for Hollywood movies and taking major roles in many of them, he continued recording and performing with the Dudley Moore Trio. Their first album, The Other Side of Dudley Moore, was released in 1966 and was quickly followed by their second album, called Genuine Dud, released in the same year. Dudley's love for pianist Oscar Peterson shone through in the music.

The early albums combined Dudley's classically trained piano with the more free-spirited feel of jazz and blues. On the soundtrack album for Bedazzled, Dudley showcased his talents as an incredible pianist and composer. He brought in the additional talents of Roy Willox on flute, Bob Efford on tenor sax, Harry Klein on baritone sax, Jock Bain on trombone and John Sharp on violin. His last album, The Music of Dudley Moore, was released in 1978 as a compilation of songs from the trio's albums and music from Bedazzled.

After starring in 24 movies with a glittering career as one of the most accomplished jazz pianists in Hollywood, Dudley Stuart John Moore died in 2002 after suffering degenerative brain disorder. He was 66 years old.

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