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Shake Keane Quintet

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Biography

Ellsworth McGranahan Keane (aka “Shake Keane”)(30 May 1927, Kingstown, St Vincent, West Indies – 11 November 1997, Oslo, Norway) was a jazz musician, poet and government minister. He is most well known today for his role as a jazz trumpeter, principally his work as a member of the ground breaking Joe Harriott Quintet (1959-1965).

Early life in St Vincent

Keane attended Kingstown Methodist School and St Vincent Grammar School. During his early adulthood in St Vincent, his principal interest was poetry and literature, not music. He had been dubbed ‘Shakespeare’ by his school friends, on account of this love of prose and poetry. This nickname was subsequently shortened to ‘Shake’, which would become the name he used throughout his adult life. He published two books of poetry, L’Oubili (1950) and Ixion (1952), while still in St Vincent.

Early career in Europe

Keane emigrated to Great Britain in 1952. He worked on BBC Radio’s Caribbean Voices, reading poetry and interviewing fellow writers and musicians. He also began playing the trumpet in London nightclubs, working in a number of styles including cabaret, highlife, soca, mento, calypso and jazz. From 1959 he committed more fully to jazz, spending six years as a member of pioneering alto saxophonist Joe Harriott’s band.

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