Barber, Kenny Ball, Ken Colyer, Monty Sunshine, Bob Wallis, Bruce Turner, Mick Mulligan and Bilk. Bilk recorded a series of albums in England that were also released successfully in the United States (on the Atlantic Records subsidiary Atco), including a memorable collaboration (Together) with Danish jazz pianist-composer Bent Fabric (“The Alley Cat”). But his success tapered off when British rock and roll made its big international explosion beginning in 1964, and Bilk shifted direction to the cabaret circuit. He finally had another chart success in 1976, with “Aria,” which went to number five in the United Kingdom. In May 1977, Bilk & His Paramount Jazz Band provided the interval act for the Eurovision Song Contest. His last chart appearance was in 1978 when the TV promoted album released on Pye/Warwick “Evergreen” reached 17 in a 14 week album chart run. In the early 1980s, Bilk and his signature hit were newly familiar, thanks to “Stranger on the Shore” being used in the soundtrack to Sweet Dreams, the film biography of country music legend Patsy Cline. Most of his classic albums with the Paramount Jazz Band have been reissued and are available on the UK based Lake Records label. Bilk has been described as “Great Master of the Clarinet”.
His clarinet sound and style was at least as singular as had been those of American jazzmen such as Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, and Russell Procope, and “Stranger on the Shore” – which he was once quoted as calling “my old-age pension” – remains a beloved standard of jazz and popular music alike. Acker Bilk continues to tour with his Paramount Jazz Band, as well as performing concerts with his two contemporaries, Chris Barber and Kenny Ball (both of whom were born in 1930) as the 3B’s. One of his recordings is with the Chris Barber band, sharing the clarinet spot with the band’s regular reedsmen, John Crocker and Ian Wheeler.
He made a CD with another legend of British Jazz Wally Fawkes for the Lake Records label in 2002. He has appeared on two recent albums by Van Morrison, Down the Road and What’s Wrong With This Picture?.
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