Simon D’souza: black suit, black trilby, shades. Soprano sax, tenor, alto, baritone, trumpet. He plays the sweetest soprano with us, just one of his bands. He also plays with the great big band, Straight No Chaser. He teaches jazz at Chichester College, and composes achingly beautiful music, in particular for his excellent band, Spirit. Once a year, regular as clockwork, he dominates the sax section in our Ska-Kestra, with his blistering storming tenor solos. God knows why he plays with us; well, he says it’s fun. He gives the lie to the taciturn po-faced jazz stereotype: this man is passionate, positive, funky, and… fun.

He recently had a brain tumour removed – he was airlifted from his French holiday to Hurstwood Park Neurosurgical Centre in Haywards Heath for the operation. His fellow musicians organise a benefit – a tribute to him, and a fund-raiser for the Friends of the hospital. The gig is called Spirit of Love (‘I was on pharmaceutical drugs when I came up with the name’). The Brunswick is packed with friends and jazz fans: no-one can enter unless someone goes out – it’s at capacity; a huge cheer goes up when he and Susan enter: Simon affects surprise (but it’s actually delight) at seeing so many people.

Saxshop, Simon’s 19-piece band (16 of them are horns) makes a massive sound in the small venue. They play arrangements of The Pink Panther, One Step Beyond, Night Train (that’s one of ours struck off the set-list, then!) and more. Simon’s nodding and smiling his approval. After them come Spirit – trumpet, tenor, trombone, piano bass and drums. Lush, moving compositions, heartfelt solos over exquisite rhythm section playing, can bring tears to your eyes. Follow that!

Ska Toons have been asked to wrap up the evening, and we’re expecting an exodus of jazz fans: except they stay. Simon doesn’t though (with apologies) and he has – let’s face it – heard and played our stuff many times. It still takes him ages to get to the door, as he’s stopped and hugged by friends and well-wishers. We blast through our 50 minutes at full-pelt, and though he’s not on stage with us, Simon’s spirit fires our playing.

‘So ‘carpe diem’, no more pissing around with computer games for me!  I am going to live whatever life is left me to the full.  Expect to see me out playing gigs in the near future!’

Consummate musician, composer, arranger, teacher, and a thoroughly nice man. An inspiration.

http://www.souzamusic.co.uk/music.html
http://www.justgiving.com/spiritoflove

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