Musician and promoter

Born: April 9, 1946;

Died: October 31, 2016

BILL Kyle, who has died aged 70, was a musician, promoter and tireless advocate for jazz in Scotland. He gave countless hours to playing, organising events and nurturing musicians, and the influence and friendships he gained through jazz extend across the world.

On the evening following his death, the club he ran in Edinburgh from 2005, the Jazz Bar, hosted its regular Monday big band session so friends could pay their respects. Even in his absence this was typical of Bill Kyle. The band featured musicians in their 20s alongside others who are well into their senior years, in keeping with the venue’s advertised “cool clientele – from 18 to 80”.

Bill Kyle was born in Dunfermline and there was already one jazz musician in the family when he took up the drums. His older brother, Jim, played tenor saxophone, specialising in big band music and was the legendary Scottish bandleader Tommy Sampson’s trusted tenor for 20 years before dying tragically early in 1988.

Bill Kyle started out in pop bands in the mid-1960s, playing with Dunfermline’s Ambassadors among others, but by the time he moved to Glasgow a few years later he was a jazz devotee with a particular fondness for the drummer Tony Williams, who had joined Miles Davis at the age of 16.

While working in computer training with IBM, Mr Kyle became the consummate jazz gig fixer. This he remained for the rest of his life. He was committed to the basic tenets that musicians need to play to develop and a jazz scene needs activity to thrive.

In 1971 he and bassist Graham Robb formed a band, Head, in the jazz-rock style that Miles Davis and Ian Carr’s Nucleus were then pioneering. With typical Kylesque enterprise, Head entered and won the Best New Band competition at Dunkerque Jazz Festival. They went on to record three albums, the impolitely titled GTF, Red Dwarf and Blackpool Cool. They also toured extensively, appeared on radio and television and collaborated with the former Cream bassist, Jack Bruce.

By this time, Bill Kyle had gathered three like-minds, the guitarist and later Jazzwise magazine founder Charles Alexander, Edinburgh-based pianist Jack Finlay and bassist Ian Croal. Together they formed Platform, the first jazz organisation to gain Scottish Arts Council funding.

After an initial mini-tour by the hottest London group of the time, Major Surgery, Platform went on to promote hundreds of concerts across Scotland. Bill Kyle was involved in many of them and had a fund of tales about visiting stars including Miles Davis, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Art Pepper.

Following a return to more straightahead jazz with the hugely popular sextet he co-led with trombonist-arranger Brian Keddie, Mr Kyle’s work in computing took him to New York for a year. There the gigging continued (he also took lessons from his idol, Tony Williams) and the ear for talent that had brought saxophonist Gordon Cruickshank into Head and had seen Bill Kyle finance the teenaged Tommy Smith’s first recording in 1983 found more collaborators, including the vibes virtuoso Joe Locke.

Bill Kyle’s New York Jazz, pitching Locke and various other Stateside finds alongside Smith and other home-grown talents, became a regular touring outfit for a few years after Mr Kyle returned, first, from New York and then from a five-year spell working in London. Back in Scotland, he organised a jazz festival in his home town for a couple of years in the early 1990s, bringing London-based players including great Scots, guitarist Jim Mullen and the late saxophonist Bobby Wellins, to Dunfermline.

With his successful hi-tech IT business operating in Edinburgh, Mr Kyle became involved in further jazz endeavours including, briefly, the Scottish Jazz Network. Through Edinburgh Jazz Projects he helped to programme gigs by London-based players and local musicians in the Tron bar’s basement and he played regularly, with his latest young finds, in Cellar No 1 in Chambers Street until its management sold out to an operation that carried out a major upgrade.

The new-look cellar jettisoned jazz so Kyle looked elsewhere, found a run-down pub round the corner and set about transforming it into Scotland’s first jazz bar. Opened in April 2002, Bill’s Place, as the Bridge Jazz Bar became affectionately known, hosted top American musicians including alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, former Herbie Hancock bassist Buster Williams, singer Viktoria Tolstoy, and Joe Locke. Then, on a night when Mr Kyle was paying tribute to a lost friend, saxophonist and subsequently broadcaster Gordon Cruickshank, disaster struck; the Cowgate fire of December 7, 2002 consumed the Bridge Jazz Bar along with other venues.

Mr Kyle’s dedication to finding a replacement venue in extremely trying financial circumstances before arriving back in Chambers Street was heroic. His determination that the show must go on resulted in him moving the programme he had already booked to nearby Cabaret Voltaire but it would take three years, a search through dozens of potential premises, and the support of anonymous financial backers to get what was Cellar No 1 and is now the Jazz Bar up and running.

Even a programme that saw the venue open 364 days a year with BBC broadcasts of visiting stars including Ravi Coltrane and a minimum of three gigs a day (five on Saturdays) could not contain Mr Kyle’s promotional drive. When he was not in position at the end of the bar, enthusing over what was happening on stage, he was invariably on that stage or running his Bridge Music events elsewhere. In the face of public funding apathy, he began a weekly programme at Glasgow Art Club that offered the Jazz Bar’s Wednesday guests a Thursday gig and ran until June 2015.

August at the Jazz Bar found Bill Kyle hosting some 200 Fringe gigs – and insisting on finding an alternative space for around a dozen of them when his club was inundated with raw sewage from premises below in 2010.

Through it all Kyle found an endless stream of young musicians to champion. The Jazz Bar won numerous accolades – none more pleasing than Downbeat Jazz Magazine naming it one of the world’s top jazz venues – and Bill Kyle himself was listed in John Chilton’s Who’s Who of British Jazz. He also won a Herald Angel in 2010.

The recognition was the least he deserved. Just weeks before he died, he had launched yet another series of gigs, twice a week promotions at Swing in Glasgow, and he was always open to the Jazz Bar providing the Edinburgh stopover for touring bands.

Over seven nights in September 2015, he arranged for a team from Napier University to record 23 of the acts who had appeared most regularly over the Jazz Bar’s first decade. It took over a year to appear and the 2-CD set that resulted was never intended as an epitaph but it stands as a fitting tribute to a man whose selfless dedication to making jazz happen knew no limits and whose death leaves a massive gap in the jazz world.

He is survived by his wife, Mary Ann, daughter Edith and sons Andrew and Louis.