Saturday, 15 December 2018

Roger that! Winslet père is still rocking out at 76

HIS middle daughter is currently lighting up cinema screens worldwide as one of the stars

HIS middle daughter is currently lighting up cinema screens worldwide as one of the stars of the new Steve Jobs biopic, but for Roger Winslet this weekend is all about the music.

The 76-year-old self-declared punk is appearing at the Golden Ball in Lower Assendon tonight (Friday) as part of the ever-popular Brakspear Jazz and Blues Festival.

This year’s event is the third to be held and has seen 15 pubs from the Henley area taking part.

As we head into the weekend there are still nine local gigs to go — starting at 7pm when the Roger Winslet Trio take to the stage.

For Golden Ball manager Sharon Harper, tonight is the second of three live music nights in a row.

Not bad going for a venue that regards itself as more of a restaurant than a pub — with Sharon and chef-owner Stephen Luscombe having taken over its running back in 2006.

Prior to that, Sharon had worked with Paul Clerehugh at the Crooked Billet in Stoke Row — which was famously the venue for Kate Winslet’s bangers and mash wedding reception in November 1998.

Having hosted the Fleur Stevenson Trio last night (Thursday), and a second trio tonight, tomorrow night will see the Joe Henwood Jazz Duo break the pattern with their 7pm set.

The Golden Ball has been a fixture of the jazz and blues festival for the last three years, but despite this Sharon admits music nights are the exception rather than the rule.

“In the winter months we do one every month,” she says. “Just a bit of background jazz. And then we do the festival. That’s about as much as we want to do.

“The thing is with here, it’s not set out very well to do music. It is very much background, and to us we’re a restaurant so a lot of our business [is the food].”

With that in mind, the Golden Ball is offering a set dinner menu of two courses for £25 or three courses for £30, though entry to the bar is free for anyone wanting to enjoy the music.

“For us, it’s quite nice to have something like this,” adds Sharon. “It does bring over a bit more business and also people that haven’t been here before. It’s really good.”

With Roger having recently been introduced to the Golden Ball by a friend, Sharon said it was a pleasure to be welcoming him back to the venue in a musical capacity.

“I’m advertising the trio because he doesn’t have a name for his band as such. For me it’s a trio. Everybody knows the name Winslet.”

That much is certainly true — though for much of his music career Roger was best known for fronting his band Bidgie Reef & The Gas. An album, Pinstripes and Promises, appeared in 2005 and is still available online. But for now Roger is focusing on his live work.

“I just love to be doing music,” he says. “I sing as often as I can — I don’t actually play an instrument but I sing. I write songs, but I shan’t be doing any of those!”

Famously a jobbing actor himself, Roger’s was happy to explain how his focus had shifted to music.

“I started off doing this post-punk thing with a mate of mine in Reading called Bidgie Reef & The Gas.

“It’s an odd name but I got fed up twiddling my thumbs so I thought I’d better do music — and I enjoy it so much.

“I then started to show more interest in all kinds of music, really. The best of country, the best of jazz, a bit of blues — a homogenous mix of music that I’m attracted to.

“I do work with a little jazz combo whenever I can get the work — I do it for sheer fun, to be honest. And when Sharon asked me would I be interested I said yeah, that’d be great.

“I must stress, though, it’s not straight jazz we’re doing — Sharon knows that. It’s a little bit of something for everyone, so it’ll be a bit of a jazz feel, a little bit of a creoley sort of thing, a little bit of a blues thing — and one or two very recognisable songs, hopefully.”

Roger is full of praise for the Golden Ball, saying: “I discovered this little watering hole through a very good friend of mine who lives in Henley who invited us for Sunday lunch there. Not only is it a pleasant pub, the food of course is excellent. I would say the ambience is first class — I just tell as many people as I can about it. As long as they’re discriminating and they don’t spread the word too far and wide!”

As far as Winslet père is concerned, it seems a little of what you like goes a long way when it comes to music, food and everything else besides.

“Absolutely, why not? I mean, you only get one life to do it, so go for it!” he laughs.

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