John Wurr obituary

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My father, John Wurr, who has died aged 82, was one of the most popular clarinettists on the British traditional jazz scene.

John was born in Hertford to Kath (nee Steel), a nursery nurse, and Alec, a teacher, but grew up in Worthing, West Sussex, where he went to Worthing high school for boys. He excelled academically, displaying a particular talent for music, and in 1957, when a school friend introduced him to New Orleans-style jazz, he saved up to buy a clarinet, which he then taught himself to play.

John won a scholarship to study mathematics at St John’s College, Cambridge, and then took employment as a statistician with the Air Ministry. In 1964 he married Judy Lynn and they moved to London, where John established his reputation on the trad jazz scene, now also playing tenor and alto saxophones as well as clarinet, and leading the New Sedalia Jazz Band.

John Wurr played tenor, baritone and alto saxophones as well as clarinet

In 1970 he and Judy moved to Roe Green Village, in north-west London, close to the RAF Supply Control Centre in Hendon where he worked as a computer programmer. The couple started a family there and had two sons.

In the 1970s John joined Steve Lane’s Famous Southern Stompers as well as the band of one of his earliest heroes, Ken Colyer. Later he became part of the house band at the 100 Club in Oxford Street, where he backed touring American artists such as Slim Gaillard, Wild Bill Davison and Champion Jack Dupree.

In the 80s he was recruited as an IT lecturer by the Civil Service College and later went freelance as an IT specialist so that he could spend more time playing jazz, headlining in London at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Purcell Room and touring with George Chisholm, Keith Smith and Georgie Fame.

He also became musical director for the singer Maxine Daniels, added baritone saxophone to his arsenal, and recorded tributes to Sidney Bechet and Johnny Dodds. In the 90s he retired from IT work and moved to south Devon, but continued to play at jazz weekenders and festivals and on holiday tours.

John effectively retired from professional performance when the Covid-19˜  pandemic struck, but continued to teach music and to sing in local choirs.

Judy died in 2020. He is survived by their sons, Adam and me, and granddaughters, Lana and Edie.