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Celebrate with a city jazz legend

PUBLISHED: 11:31 01 April 2009 | UPDATED: 15:40 29 October 2010

A peep into Lamb Yard, one of the courts and yards where many families lived.

A peep into Lamb Yard, one of the courts and yards where many families lived.

Derek James

He's been tickling the ivories since he started to toddle and now you are invited to join him as he celebrates his 80th birthday. His name is Mike Capocci and he is our very own, and much-loved, king of jazz.

Derek James

He's been tickling the ivories since he started to toddle and now you are invited to join him as he celebrates his 80th birthday.

His name is Mike Capocci and he is our very own, and much-loved, king of jazz.

Born in Norwich of 1929, his dad ran a fish and chip shop in boisterous and bawdy Ber Street, home to hundreds of families in those days. The family home was further down the road… in leafy Lakenham.

Young Mike started to play the piano when he was just three years old and nine years later he started to take an interest in jazz, listening to the exciting sounds of the day coming over to our shores from America.

He taught himself to play and, after leaving school, got himself a job making fireplaces with Gale & Galey at their Drayton Road factory in Norwich.

But Mike had music running through his veins and after turning professional in the 1950s, he toured abroad with the Johnny Hawkins Band, which took him to Casablanca in Morocco, where he played in a night club for six months.

Play it again Mike, they said. And he did.

After returning to England, he formed his own group and worked with the likes of Rosemary Squires and Ken Mackintosh,

As Mike's reputation as a talented jazz pianist grew, he worked in Jersey for several years. He backed some of the biggest stars in the world, such as Ella Fitzgerald, and worked in cabaret with the late, great Tommy Cooper.

Back in Norwich he ran jazz clubs at the world-famous Jolly Butchers in Ber Street, home to the legendary queen of Norwich jazz Black Anna.

Mike also ran Santana's, playing host to some of Britain's best jazz musicians - the likes of Martin Taylor, Peter King, Bobby Orr and the rest.

If you love jazz and good music then the chances are you will have heard Mike at venues, large and small, across Norwich and Norfolk.

And it seems that as he gets older his music gets richer… he really is a joy to listen to.

He and his wife Barbara ran jazz nights at the Red Lion in Thorpe St Andrew before moving to The Green Man in Rackheath, a brilliant venue for cool jazz and good food.

While Barbara organises these wonderful evenings,

the fact that Mike is playing attracts some of the biggest names in the country to The Green Man. They will think nothing of travelling hundreds of miles to play with Mike and the boys.

The jazz nights are on a Tuesday and on April 14, The Mike Capocci Trio, that's Mike along with Brian McAllister, drums, and Mike Harris, bass, will have a special bash to celebrate his 80th year.

The three of them have been playing together, on and off, since the 1970s and are the quality resident trio at the Green Man.

t Tuesday, April 14 will be a special night and if you want to be a part of it then why not pop along or better still call the Green Man on Norwich 782693 and book a table for dinner… and listen to a class act.

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