Chris Dagley

Chris DagleyChris was raised in a musical family in the West Midlands and, as a six-year old, was introduced to drummer Pete Cater, then with the Midlands Youth Jazz Orchestra.

After giving Chris some lessons, when Pete vacated the drum chair at MYJO in 1984, the 13-year-old – who had otherwise largely taught himself, practising Buddy Rich’s dazzling technique in his parents’ garage – was already good enough to take over.

Chris joined NYJO in 1986, driving the band from the age of 15 with the confidence and precision of a seasoned pro. By 18 Chris was totally committed to music, and was already running drum clinics for students. He moved from the Midlands to a shared musicians’ house in Bushey, Herts, and on leaving NYJO, he applied himself to learning all the skills of the complete professional – sight reading, arrangement and mastery of every type of contemporary groove.

Chris was particularly drawn to the funk methods of the Americans Steve Gadd, Dave Weckl and Vinnie Colaiuta, skills that made him the ideal session-player. He worked with leading jazz soloists including Benny Golson, Randy Brecker, Jim Mullen and Don Weller, played in the BBC Big Band, and was a superb accompanist for artists as different as the acclaimed British vocalist Claire Martin and the jazz-classical crossover violinist Lizzie Ball.

He also played and recorded with mainstream pop artists including Bette Midler, Lionel Richie, Take That, Jamiroquai, Liza Minnelli, Westlife, Will Young, Van Morrison and the Osmonds.

In 2006, when the revamped Ronnie Scott’s opened, Chris joined the pianist James Pearson and bassist Sam Burgess in the new house band. This group quickly matured into a world-class ensemble, as adept at carrying an entertaining show on its own as it was at accompanying the most diverse guest artists. Chris adapted his punchy funk style to a cooler jazz approach, guided by his long-established discipline of recording his every performance on a DAT machine, for assiduous study and self-correction afterwards.

It was returning from a Ronnie’s gig late one night in July 2010 that Chris was involved in the road accident that caused his untimely death.