A jazz musician based in Oxfordshire
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Alvin Roy – A biography

Alvin Roy was born in Jerusalem in 1940, the son of Albert and Annette Roy. His father had emigrated from England to join the Palestine police and during the war became chief fire officer of Jerusalem. Alvin went to a Catholic convent kindergarden, which probably accounts for his atheist leanings today. In 1948, when the state of Israel came into being, the family, which included his brother Robin, settled in Wood Green, north London.

Alvin attended Glendale Grammar School and in 1958 clarinet lessons were introduced as an after school activity. This happened around the time he listened to his first jazz record, fell in love with sound of the clarinet and pestered his mother to buy him one. However, after three lessons he was thrown out of class for playing a blues, which in those days was considered taboo in a classical lesson. Six months later he joined a Trad band that rehearsed every week in a church hall in the Balls Pond Road. They never appeared in public, which, because of the appalling low standard, was probably no bad thing.

Leaving school in 1959, Alvin joined Rank Records as jazz repertoire planner and worked alongside Dick Rowe (who later on, famously turned down the Beatles when he was with Decca records) and Tony Hatch the songwriter. By 1960, Alvin was leading his own Traditional Jazz band in London and it was when they won the Soho Jazz Contest that year, that Alvin decided to play professionally.

His Saratoga Jazz band, recorded for the Ember, Decca and Riverside Labels and began to be booked at many of the jazz venues up and down the country during the 1960’s Trad boom. These included the Marquee, the Cavern Club, the Dancing Slipper, Wood Green jazz club and numerous dancehalls, including a season at the Mecca Royal Ballroom in Tottenham. Appearing in front of royalty at the Victoria Palace theatre, trips to the German jazz clubs followed and it was during this time that the band’s single, ‘True Blue’, reached the Japanese top 20. In 1963 the band did a season at Butlin’s followed by a trip to Spain and on returning to the UK they found that the Trad jazz boom bubble had burst.

Disillusioned with the scene, Alvin broke up the band, stopped playing and joined EMI in their Artistes Promotion division. However, in 1968 he was asked to join a semi-pro band which rekindled his interest in playing. He reformed his band with some of the original members and in 1971 started an 8 year residency at the Prospect of Whitby in Wapping, London.

Alvin Roy has toured Europe and this country and played at all the leading jazz clubs such as the Pizza Express, The 100 club, The Marquee, The Cavern Club etc and was resident at Mecca ballrooms such as the Royal in Tottenham. Has appeared on ITV and BBC TV and played many universities and theatres.

Recorded singles for the Decca, Ember and Riverside labels and reached the top 20 in Japan with the Decca single “True Blue”. Of ‘True Blue’, the Melody Maker magazine’s review said: ‘The Alvin Roy Band’s single True Blue, which has reached the Top Twenty in Japan, should ensure that they have a long career in the music business. The infectious sound created by the band had my feet tapping and I couldn’t get the tune out of my head for hours after hearing the record.’

Frequent broadcasts on BBC Radio 2 “Jazz Club” has brought him to a wider audience.

Has appeared in variety shows and for Royalty at the Victoria Palace Theatre and was the first jazz band to play a summer season at Butlins. Over the years, private functions like weddings and anniversaries and corporate dates have been a feature of the work done by the band and Alvin can provide a variety of combos ranging from a two piece band up to a septet.

Through Alvin, you can book a band that plays New Orleans/Dixieland jazz to a more modern swing/mainstream style, playing standards from the great American song book from composers such as Berlin, Porter, Ellington, Gershwin etc.

His band, “Reeds Unlimited”, frequently appear at various venues around Oxford and was one of the bands that appeared at the Witney Jazz Festivals, where he played with American jazz legends, Scott Hamilton and Bob Wilber.