Gavin Jones obituary

Other lives: Record shop owners and promoter of jazz gigs in Cambridge

For more than 30 years Gavin Jones, who has died aged 78, helped to bring jazz into the heart of East Anglia – initially through his Garon Records shop in Cambridge and then also as a promoter of live gigs in the city.

A business run by Gavin was not simply a shop but a social hub where status and intellect were unimportant. Jazz was the lingua franca and the style somewhere between a party and a seminar.

In 1980 he invited me to bring secondhand books into the shop, and a few years later he extended his interests still further as an impresario, working with his lifelong friend and fellow jazz enthusiast Martin Gayford to bring a string of eminent musicians to the Cambridge Farmers Club – including Doc Cheatham, Scott Hamilton, Ruby Braff, Buddy Tate and “Sir” Charles Thompson.

Gavin was born in Braintree, Essex, to Graham, a metal designer at Crittall Windows, and Lilian (nee Moon), a typist. Mildly dyslexic, he was no star at Romford community college, but it rapidly became clear that he not only had a passion for jazz but a capacity for a depth of listening and emotional involvement in the music that marked him out. After leaving school he became a rep for Atlantic Records and Polyphon before setting up in business with a London cab driver, Ron Michaels.

They began by selling imported records from a wallpaper table in Upper Street in Islington, north London, and then in 1969 acquired a regular market stall in Cambridge. They paired the first letters of their Christian names and Garon Records was born. Later they moved into bricks and mortar premises in the city’s King Street, and soon further branches opened at a covered market in Oxford and a shop in Norwich.

Gavin’s annual trip to the Nice jazz festival sometimes took weeks, but it led to friendships with the trumpeter Joe Newman and the pianist Jimmy Rowles, who together made a recording for Gavin’s own label, Cymbal Records.

When he retired, his many friends and customers missed not only the music and expertise, but a shop that encouraged sensibility to all areas of culture outside the mainstream.

He is survived by his brother, Tim.

Ian Alister

The GuardianTramp

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