Les Tomkins obituary

During his long career as a magazine journalist, Les Tomkins compiled an archive of more than a thousand interviews with jazz musicians, many of them significant figures in the music’s history. Those who answered his questions included Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson, Peggy Lee, Benny Goodman, Stan Getz, Dave Brubeck, Stephane Grappelli and Woody Herman.

Tomkins, who has died aged 89, was most closely identified with Crescendo International, a monthly magazine founded in 1962. His interview with Peterson was featured in its first issue, and from 1966 to 1970 he served as its editor. In his later years he wrote for The Jazz Rag.

He was born in Brixton, south London, to Charles, a printworker, and Rosa (nee Dodt), and brought up in Carshalton, Surrey. Educated at Sutton County grammar school, he worked as a junior reporter on the Croydon Advertiser before joining an advertising agency, where he was employed for many years as a costing accountant.

Exposure to boogie-woogie pianists during his schooldays turned him into a jazz fan. In 1950 he started a Monday-night jazz club in Sutton, featuring John Dankworth, Ronnie Scott and Tubby Hayes among the live performers. His earliest interviews were published by the Melody Maker and Jazz News before he transferred his allegiance to Crescendo, where the emphasis was on big bands and mainstream-modern jazz. “It was a small operation and essentially it fell to me to fill the pages,” he remembered. Several generations of musicians found in him a sympathetic and knowledgable repository of their memories and opinions.

The possessor of perfect pitch, he was also a singer, often taking part in the Singers’ Club sessions initially held in the upstairs room at Ronnie Scott’s and later in the Royal George pub off Charing Cross Road.

He was married three times: first in 1948 to Gwendolyn Kekewich, with whom he had three sons and three daughters; second to Margaret Wheatley, with whom he had a son; and finally, in 1974, to Margaret Hains, with whom he had a daughter. The first two marriages ended in divorce. Margaret died in 2019, and one son, Alan, also predeceased him. He is survived by his children Marvin, Lorraine, Eve, Sharon, Neal, Glenn and Roz, and by four grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.