The Dave Weisser Memorial Award

Singer and trumpeter Dave Weisser was a highly influential figure in the jazz scene of the North East of England.  His long-running Take It To The Bridge weekly jam session was a jazz workshop through which most of the scene’s young players passed on their way to becoming established musicians. Both his daughter Jess and his grandson Jahleel benefited were supported by Awards for Young Musicians and he was an avid supporter of the charity.

Born in New Haven Connecticut in 1939, Dave remembered his mother playing popular and old Russian songs on the piano, but he gravitated towards jazz and the doowop craze.  He got his first trumpet at age 12 and taught himself.  The only real trumpet lesson he ever received was when, living in California, his old New Haven friend Dave Dana visited while on tour with Buddy Rich’s band, and introduced Dave to his bandmate, the trumpeter Sal Marquez. Sal gave him some guidance and a worksheet – everything else about his distinctive and lyrical style was absorbed through intense listening to a huge record collection, much of it built up when he worked in the famous Wallich’s Music City in Los Angeles. 

Living in America in the 1960’s meant that he briefly encountered the likes of John Coltrane, Doris Day and Nina Simone, but he married a Geordie lass and eventually they settled in the North East of England and raised two daughters. Dave multi-tasked studying for a BSc in Psychology whilst working at JG Windows music store and singing and playing sometimes two gigs a night on Newcastle’s busy jazz club and dance hall scene, as well as in some more soul oriented bands.

His vocals – described by jazz blogger Lance Liddle as “cool as Chet Baker’s or Mark Murphy’s” – were legendary, as was his encyclopaedic recall of jazz tunes and lyrics, and he gained a reputation as the finest jazz vocalist in the area. He went on to play cruise ships and then he and new partner Jude went on to perform in holiday camps and hotels in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Madeira and Turkey.  Some live recordings are available to hear on this YouTube channel

Settling back in the North East just before Jess was born, Dave (and his dear friends Terry Ellis and Barrie Ascroft) started a weekly music workshop that nurtured many young musicians who went on to professional careers: Take It To The Bridge still continues today – a fitting legacy. It’s always welcomed all levels of experience and ability – testament to Dave’s insistence on inclusivity. And all who participated were grateful recipients of Dave’s wisdom and famed mix-tape CDs – jazz education by direct experience of the music rather than academic formulae.

Jess took a different route from jazz, specialising in baroque and contemporary classical recorder playing.  He was a very proud dad and glad of the help that Awards for Young Musicians provided her over the years. His grandson Jahleel was also a received support to help with cello lessons. Dave felt privileged to attend events and concerts associated with the charity.

Sadly, Dave lost a long battle with Parkinson’s on 16 July 2023. A memorial gig will be held at the home of Newcastle’s Jazz Coop, the Globe on his birthday, Wednesday 11 October.  When considering a suitable recipient of funds raised by this gig, AYM was an obvious choice. The money raised will be used to establish The Dave Weisser Memorial Award for young jazz musicians in the North East, to continue Dave’s passion of nurturing young talent.

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