Jazz legend’s trumpet plays again for a friend

A young Nat Gonella. Inset, Cuff Billet playing Nat's trumpet at the funeral of its last owner, John Pittard, pictured below.

A young Nat Gonella. Inset, Cuff Billet playing Nat's trumpet at the funeral of its last owner, John Pittard, pictured below.

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THE sweet tones of jazz legend Nat Gonella’s trumpet rang out again for the funeral of his friend.

The trumpet was played at the funeral of John Pittard, a life-long Labour activist and politician as well as being the co-founder of the Gosport Jazz Club.

John Pittard

John Pittard

Mr Pittard, pictured, a well-known figure in Gosport, died on June 27 aged 73 after a six-year battle with a form of cancer known as Myeloma.

Nat Gonella was one of the most well-known names in British jazz, with a career that began before the Second World War.

He retired to Gosport in 1977, where he became involved with the local jazz club.

Mr Pittard had bought the trumpet at auction after Mr Gonella died in 1998.

Cuff Billet playing Nat Gonella's trumpet at the funeral of its last owner, John Pittard in Portchester Crematorium. Inset, John Pittard and a young Nat Gonella

Cuff Billet playing Nat Gonella's trumpet at the funeral of its last owner, John Pittard in Portchester Crematorium. Inset, John Pittard and a young Nat Gonella

Local jazz trumpet player and band leader Cuff Billet played Just a Closer Walk With Thee to more than 100 people who gathered for Mr Pittard’s funeral at Portchester Crematorium on August 9.

Tony Wing, owner of Stoke Gallery, had been a friend of Mr Pittard since they started Gosport Grammar School together in 1950.

He delivered a eulogy at his friend’s funeral and said: ‘When we were young John was very mature beyond his years, but it was during our time together in the school’s cadet unit that we really bonded.

‘He was very reliable, and he was the sort of friend where you knew you would always be there for each other.

‘Plus he was a great source of information on all sorts of things.’

Each March when the club would celebrate Mr Gonella’s birthday, and on other special occasions, Mr Pittard would lend the trumpet to visiting performers to play.

Mr Wing added: ‘When his doctor told him he shouldn’t blow it any more, Nat was going to throw his trumpet off the Clifton suspension bridge.

‘But fortunately his daughter managed to keep hold of it, and she put it up for auction at Bonhams after he died. That’s when John got it.’

Vic Pheasant, from Waterlooville, was also a friend of Mr Pittard’s through the jazz club. He added: ‘He was quite a quiet man, but he was very generous to the club and kept it going for a while when it was in trouble.

‘The funeral was a celebration of his life, and it was lovely to hear the trumpet being played for him.’

His family have set up a fundraising page for Myeloma UK in John’s memory. It can be found at justgiving.com/john-pittard

Money given at the funeral will go to the Nat Gonella Memorial Trust Fund in honour which is run by the jazz club and seeks to help disadvantaged children in the Gosport area. It has raised more than £7,000 in recent years.

The club meets fortnightly on a Wednesday evening at the Gosport & Fareham Rugby Club, For information go to gosportjazz.hampshire.org.uk.

Passion for politics as well as jazz music

ALTHOUGH John Pittard was a huge fan of jazz, he was also devoted to the Labour Party.

At just 21 Mr Pittard took a major political scalp – running for the Leesland ward in Gosport, he managed to beat the incumbent mayor, who had dismissed him in the campaign as ‘a teddy-boy upstart,’ earning him a headline in The News.

Dr Graham Giles, chairman of the Gosport Labour Party, paid tribute to his friend, a man who he recalled hated losing.

He said: ‘Competition ran like cordial in John Pittard’s veins.

‘A rebel against complacency and pomposity who wanted to change society, John became a trustee and the longest-serving member of Gosport Labour Party. If a race was worth running he ran to win, if a fight was worthy of muscle he pulled no punches, if an election needed contesting he granted no excuse for tiredness or apathy.

‘A brilliant election organiser, he became a legendary agent, clear-headed, always upbeat and optimistic, to whom there was no unwinnable seat.

‘Family memories recall a caring, smart, analytical and selfless man,’

And he recalled how his twin daughters Ann and Vanessa would be pressed into work on election days as unwilling poll monitors.

He joked: ‘It probably put them off politics for life.’

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