MANCHESTER DIARY
Musician Jeremy feels at home in Berlin

NEW ALBUM: Jeremy Sassoon

JEREMY Sassoon should feel at home in Berlin this weekend.

For the musician recently acquired German citizenship — and his sister, Julie, also lives there.

The Mancunian will be performing at the A-Trane Jazz Club in the Charlottenburg area of Berlin for three nights.

Then, on Monday, he will be at the Manchester Jazz Festival, before heading to the Wythenshawe Games on Wednesday and appearing at Manchester’s Bee in the City festival on July 29.

It is all to promote his new album, Jeremy Sassoon and Friends — Live, which was recorded at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho, London.

It includes Glen Campbell’s Wichita Lineman, as a tribute to Campbell, who died around the time of the recording in November.

Jeremy, who has maternal German roots, decided to apply for a German passport due to uncertainties following the fallout over Brexit.

“A lot of people have started to research their family history to see if they can remain a member of the EU,” the jazz singer-pianist said. “Many of my Irish friends have done the same.

“I discovered a scheme, run by the German government, which repatriates families whose relatives perished in the Holocaust.”

Jeremy’s maternal great-grandparents, Fanny and Max Valfer, who came from the town of Kippenheim, in the Black Forest, were murdered at Auschwitz.

His grandparents, Else and Henry Wertheimer, married at the synagogue in Kippenheim on February 6, 1938 — the last registered wedding in the town before the Nazis took over.

They arrived in England at the start of the Second World War.

On his father’s side, Jeremy is of Sephardi ancestry, the descendant of Jews from Aleppo, Syria.

As a child, he always chose to go with his father to the local Sephardi synagogue in Queen’s Road, Didsbury.

The son of Fay Wertheimer, who plays in a flute and string quintet called The Carlton Ensemble, and jazz pianist David Sassoon, he qualified as a doctor at The Middlesex Hospital, London.

He practised medicine in Australia, the south of England and Manchester, before specialising in psychiatry.

But he gave it all up for a career in music, having also attended the Royal Northern College of Music, in Manchester, from seven until he was 18.

Jeremy set up his own band in 2000 and secured various spots in bars and restaurants in Manchester and Cheshire.

He got his first big break in the music industry as musical director for the American jazz and R&B artist Dana Bryant, performing with her at the North Sea Jazz Festival, before securing a partnership with jazz and gospel singer Paul Bentley.

They released an album entitled Bacon or Pastrami?, in a nod to Jeremy’s Jewish roots and Paul’s Christian background.

But then Paul announced his sudden retirement from music — which meant Jeremy had to start singing.

Jeremy recalled: “We had gigs lined up — it was terrifying.”

His latest album is his first solo record since 2011’s Coming Out.

“I called it that because that’s what it felt like as a singer,” he said. “It was frightening.”

But Jeremy soon overcame his nerves and relaunched the 17-piece band, Ray Charles Project, which performs the songs of the legendary artist.

They have performed at BluesFest, Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club and, last Sunday, at the Wigan International Jazz Festival.

“The blend of jazz, blues and soul that Ray Charles sang and played was an identical mix to what myself and Paul used to play,” Jeremy said.

“In the old days, jazz musicians played jazz, soul musicians played soul and blues musicians played blues, but Ray Charles fused them all together for the first time. It encapsulates what I do.”

He added: “When you release an album, it is interesting to see where it takes you, rather than where you take the album.

“We did Jeremy Sassoon and Friends — Live with a five-piece band and I am very happy with it. There are some great songs on there.”

Jeremy also achieved fame when, in 2014, an old colleague from medical school, Dr Hugh Montgomery, chose Jeremy’s version of The Things We’ve Handed Down as his castaway’s favourite on BBC Radio 4 show Desert Island Discs.

“My website went into a frenzy with people downloading it,” Jeremy said. “It is a beautiful song about what we inherit from our parents.

“It also hit number one in the iTunes vocal download chart.”

* jeremysassoon.com


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