Mike Phillipson

Nottingham University Tentet 1961, Conrad on the piano

Conrad and I became and remained steadfast friends since meeting in our first year at Nottingham University. We shared a common and driven enthusiasm for music-making which consumed much of our undergraduate time. At that stage, although he was already a multi-instrumentalist, we couldn’t have anticipated that, much later, he would develop a truly innovative approach to jazz education! For many years he had to pursue his focus on jazz performance alongside his family and work commitments. His remarkable tenacity paid off! Not only did he add another instrument (saxophone) to his performing repertoire, but he created a truly imaginative unique approach to practical jazz education. Modelled on Lego’s block-by-block construction principle he developed a way of drawing potential performers through harmonic learning into the dark arts of improvisation. It soon generated international interest and facilitated a career shift into jazz education. And, of course, it enabled him to do much more playing himself, often sharing the stand with established jazz musicians of multiple persuasions.

Although he and I, geographically awkwardly distant, could meet only rarely, we never failed to keep in touch digitally and occasionally conversationally (music/fiction/crosswords/Tour-de-France/humour were binding points of contact). As he wound-down his record collection I would occasionally receive, out of the blue(s), presents through the post in response to something I had mentioned in passing (a box set, cd’s of musicians he was recommending to me, as well as recordings of his own performances with visiting musicians). Conrad was beyond generous!

Even as his health and mobility deteriorated, supported throughout by Ali’s loving care, his wry sense of humour never left him. He remains a treasured friend.

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