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GIORGIO GOMELSKY

Giorgio Gomelsky

Born 28 February 1934
Tiflis, Georgian SSR, Soviet Union

Died 13 January 2016 (aged 81)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation(s) Music manager, record producer

Giorgio Sergio Alessando Gomelsky (28 February 1934 – 13 January 2016) was a film maker, impresario, music manager, songwriter (as Oscar Rasputin) and record producer. He was born in Georgia, grew up in Switzerland, and later lived in the United Kingdom and the United States.

He owned the Crawdaddy Club in London where The Rolling Stones were the house band, and he was involved with their early management. He hired The Yardbirds as a replacement and managed them. He was also their producer from the beginning through 1966. In 1967, he started Marmalade Records (distributed by Polydor), which featured “Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and the Trinity”, The Blossom Toes, and early recordings by Graham Gouldman and Kevin Godley and Lol Creme, who became 10cc. The label closed in 1969. Gomelsky was also instrumental in the careers of The Soft Machine, Daevid Allen and Gong, Magma and Material.

Gomelsky was born in Tiflis, Georgia. His father was a medical doctor, and his mother was from Monte Carlo. The family left in 1938 and via Syria, Egypt, and Italy, in 1944 settled in Switzerland, the country where his father had trained.

Giorgio discovered jazz at the age of 10, while living in Italy. One Sunday he was caught out by the 4pm German curfew, so he stayed in the house of friends. Exploring their attic he discovered a gramophone and some jazz records. As a symbol of defiance he and his friends took to occasionally briefly blasting the music out of the window. Fortunately they were never caught. After the liberation, eventually black GIs arrived and furthered his jazz education.

He attended a Benedictine school in Ascona, near Locarno, Switzerland. With the war over, he was able to pool resources with friends to start a record collection. By 1946, the American Forces Network had been established and Giorgio was exposed to be-bop via the Cool City program on VOA. (In 1964, his father having died and left him some money, Giorgio would return to Ascona and stage a jazz festival in a local airfield.)

He attended a progressive private school, the School of Humanity run by Paul Gehheb, in the mountains of Switzerland. While on vacation, with friends, he travelled around Europe by bicycle. In post-war Germany, they found a thriving cellar-jazz scene in towns like Düsseldorf. They visited Milan, and pedalled all the way to Paris to see Charlie Parker perform at the Salon de Jazz.

His mother was a hat designer. Her father had worked for the Société des Bains de Mer (the casino operator) in Monte Carlo, a popular resort for the British, and so she spoke English and became an anglophile, with a particular love of English literature. Thus her employer, Claude Saint-Cyr of Paris, sent her to run her atelier in London. She would send her Swiss schoolboy son the English music paper Melody Maker on a weekly basis, from which Giorgio learned English and also became familiar with the British jazz scene.

There was still at this time limited opportunity to hear new jazz in Europe, apart from Willis Conover on VOA. There was an Italian jazz radio show; Flavio Ambrosetti’s show on Swiss Radio ran just 20 minutes a week; there was Charles Delaunay jazz show on Europe 1 in Paris; and Charlie Fox on the BBC; and maybe a couple of German shows. There was a scene in Copenhagen. Aficionados in many cities set up jazz appreciation societies, and Giorgio and friends set one up in Locarno. A trio was formed, Roland Schramlei on bass, Bert Armbruster on piano, and Giorgio on drums. Resources were so limited that, only possessing a ride cymbal, Giorgio would have to hire a drum kit every time they had an engagement.

The main jazz magazine was Les Cahiers du Jazz from Paris, and there was also one in Italy. In both countries the magazines organized the local Jazz Societies into Federations which could then stage concert tours. Giorgio followed their model and formed a Swiss federation that staged concerts. In 1954, having been denied permission to stage a concert during the Zurich Festival by the city fathers, the Federation staged a daring protest on a Sunday. The resulting publicity persuaded the City to reverse its decision, and thus the Zurich Jazz Festival was born (and exists to this day).

Having become a Swiss citizen, Giorgio had to perform National Service, undergoing basic training with Swiss Air Force, where he flew Bucher biplanes. Although a proficient pilot he deliberately failed promotion tests and, after rejection, was then free to leave the country

Chris Barber’s trad-jazz band had launched the skiffle craze, and their hit “Rock Island Line” had made the band’s banjo player Lonnie Donegan a star. As skiffle became passé, Chris, whose sets were structured around the history of jazz, began to feature blues in its place, utilizing his school friend vocalist/guitarist Alexis Korner, and harmonica player Cyril Davies.

While the Barber blues set was strictly country style, Korner was set on expanding the sound to incorporate the more modern electric Chicago sound and an improvisational jazz approach. He formed his own group Alexis Korner Blues Incorporated and recruited musicians like drummer Charlie Watts and saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith.. Giorgio, then writing for Jazz News, became inspired by this to the extent of becoming evangelical. He coined the term BRB – British Rhythm and Blues, wrote articles, and bent the ear of anyone who would listen.

Alex and Cyril had a club in a pub upstairs room on Wardour Street where blues aficionados would gather on Wednesdays but they needed a larger venue for the noisy big band. With some difficulty, and support from Barber, Giorgio persuaded Pendleton to run a weekly Blues Night on Thursdays at his newly opened neighbouring club The Marquee. Korner’s new band, and others, were duly booked. However the audiences were still limited to a small group of enthusiasts and the future was uncertain.

A Jamaican Blue Beat club just off Portobello Road (immortalized in the move Scandal) was one of the hottest spots in London at the time. On a visit Giorgio had a chance encounter with its most notorious clients – Christine Keeler & Mandy Rice-Davies. He invited them to visit the Marquee Blues Night and they showed up the following week. The publicity generated was enough to give the night sufficient cachet to become fashionable and successful.

Giorgio wanted to build on the success of The Marquee Blues night with more shows but Pendleton wasn’t interested. Giorgio began to organize the bands, suggesting that they work co-operatively to obtain bookings and do other business, just as the earlier Jazz Societies had federated their efforts. He even persuaded the Portobello Jamaican club to host a couple of blues bands, however the regular patrons were not impressed.

Giorgio then discovered an alternative venue – the Cy Laurie Piccadilly Club in Ham Yard. Formerly a major London hotspot, it was now on its uppers. He was able to secure a Saturday night for a fee of $5 and proceeded to stage the first festival of British Blues. Bands appearing included Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, Blues By Six (which included Nicky Hopkins), and the Rolling Stones. Although attendance was slight, as a promotional device Giorgio prevailed on a number of friends to stand in line outside to attract the attention of passers by, and give the impression of a larger crowd. Pendleton was not at all happy with this local competition for his club.

Death

Gomelsky died of cancer on 13 January 2016 in New York City.[10] He was 81.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia