Victor Schonfield obituary

Other lives: Jazz and avant-garde music enthusiast who set up a charity to promote his favourite kind of music

My friend Victor Schonfield, who has died aged 81, set up the Music Now charity in the late 1960s to promote the kind of jazz and avant-garde music that he loved so much. As director of the organisation he was involved in organising around 80 concerts in Britain and continental Europe, bringing the experimental jazz composer Sun Ra to Britain for the first time – at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London in 1970 – and staging a John Cage event at the Royal Albert Hall in 1972.

Vic was born in London, to Judith Hertz, a housewife, and Solomon Schonfeld, a rabbi. I met him at the age of 11, when I became a pupil at his father’s school, the Orthodox Hasmonean high school for boys in Hendon, north-west London. We both began buying jazz records with our pocket money, Vic quickly amassing a vast collection.

Vic went to Oxford University in 1959 but dropped out in 1961, moving on to the London School of Economics (1962-65), where he ran the jazz club and graduated with a degree in history.

Throughout the 60s he contributed occasional reviews and features to jazz magazines and, after doing a number of years of part-time teaching, in 1967 he set up Music Now, running it until its dissolution in 1976. Later he became a part-time manager for various musical artists, including AMM, a London-based free improvisation group, and Cornelius Cardew, an experimental composer and founder of the Scratch Orchestra.

Outside music, Vic’s interest in politics led him to become honorary treasurer (1975-80) of the leftwing Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, with which he had been involved since its foundation in 1973. He was also vice-chair of membership for the Kensington Labour party from 1977 to 1983.

After a quadruple heart-bypass operation he gave up his political activities in 1990, although his recovery was astonishing - for many years afterwards he would walk at least halfway across London to jazz events, just for the exercise.

Although Vic later fell prey to Alzheimer’s, he was still very much himself until the end, holding on to his characteristic intelligence, humour and kindness.

He is survived by his wife, Susan (nee Schlesinger), an NHS consultant in public health whom he had met at Oxford and married in 1967, their two children, Malcolm and Ernest, and four granddaughters.


Pete Brown

The GuardianTramp

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