I was very sorry to learn of Conrad’s death. I knew him for only a few years, a long time ago, but his was a formative influence and he was an inspiring teacher.
I was introduced to Conrad by Alan Ross in 1981. Alan had helped me get an understanding of jazz by generously lending me a succession of records by the greats and, as I recall, suggested I go along to a session at Conrad’s studio. At that time, Conrad also played in a quintet called Milestones, alongside the trumpeter Terry Willetts. I was learning to play the saxophone and over the next couple of years, I turned up for one-to-one sessions at irregular intervals. Conrad talked about the principles of jazz improvisation and shared with me some of his transcriptions, notably the early solos of Sonny Rollins. The sessions were illustrated with tracks from Conrad’s comprehensive record collection. He conveyed an understanding of what was important about the music, why it was great and why it should be revered. He conveyed an enthusiasm for the music of Lee Konitz, Steve Lacy, Art Pepper, Albert Ayler and many more. I once asked Conrad how important he thought Eric Dolphy was. He replied that he had named his son Eric. And it was at one of these session that Conrad played the Archie Shepp/Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen version of ‘Moose the Mooche’, an unforgettable buzz.
I realised eventually that playing jazz was beyond me, but what Conrad taught me about melody and harmony in relation to jazz has been fundamental for my playing of what Conrad referred to as WEAM – Western European Art Music – since then.
Conrad was a kind of eminence grise behind the establishment of the jazz club, Jazz Forum Leicester, which Alan Ross, Nick Hislam and I set up, with others, in (I think) 1982. I left Leicester in 1986 and lost contact with Conrad, but enthusiasm for jazz and something of Conrad’s intensity about it has never left me. How fortunate I was to have known him.