Disley, Diz (actually, William Charles)

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Disley, Diz (actually, William Charles)

Disley, Diz (actually, William Charles), noted Canadian-born, British jazz guitarist (bjo., singer);b. Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, May 27, 1931. His parents were British, and the family moved back to Wales when Diz was four, then on to Yorkshire five years later. He played banjo in local jazz-flavored bands including the Rotherham. Jazz Hounds and the Vernon Street Ramblers, while studying at the Leeds Coll. of Art. He joined the Yorkshire Jazz Band in 1949, but left to enlist in the Army a year later. After two years of service, he moved to London, worked with Jeremy French (late 1953), and began specializing on guitar. He worked with a number of trad-jazz ensembles through the 1950s; towards the end of the decade, he also became involved with the skiffle/folk-revival movement, and accompanied popular folk-styled singers like Nancy Whiskey. From 1958–60, he appeared regularly with own Soho String Quintet, modeled after the famous “Hot Club” ensemble led by Django Reinhardt in the 1930s. He played folk and jazz gigs throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, and led his own quintet and band. He began a long working association with Stephane Grappelli in 1973 (interrupted by Diz breaking his wrist in 1979), continuing through late 1982. He reformed his Soho String Quintet in 1983. Disley lived in Spain for part of the 1970s and 1980s, and opened jazz club (with clarinetist Bernie Holden) in Almeria in 1988. He returned to Britain in the early 1990s, and has led his own String Quintet and regularly guested with Dick Laurie’s Elastic Band (including bookings in Hong Kong). Disley freelanced in Europe and in the U.S.A. during the mid- 1990s.


Zing Went the Strings (1986); At the White Bear (1995); With Stephane Grappelli: I Got Rhythm (1973); Violinspiration (1976); With Martin Carthy & Dave Swarbrick: Rags, Reels, and Airs (1967).

—John Chilton, Who’s Who of British Jazz/Lewis Porter