Ike Isaacs

Ike Isaacs -1919~96

Jazz Guitarist

IkeIsaacs Ibanez

Ike Isaacs
Ike was born in Rangoon, Burma in 1919 – their forebears being of Baghdadi Jewish origins. They emigrated to London as young adults, where his son Mark was born. The family then emigrated again to Australia when Mark was four. Ike was a chemistry graduate he chose to pursue a career in music & started his own Jazz group while in India – the family left Burma for India and Isaacs was employed by the Maharajah of Patiala. In 1944 Ike turned pro with the Leslie Douglas – Bomber Command Band. He later joined Cyril Stapleton’s BBC Show Band as their guitarist & worked on a series of orchestral albums. He played for 12 years with the Ted Heath Band & featured in Braden’s Weeks & the Max Bygrave’s Show & has made several Albums, notably – Ike Isaacs Lutes & Flutes – The Music of Michel Le Grand. Ike joined the Diz Disley Trio on their world tour with Stephane in 1974.
Worked as a chemist. In the UK in the late 40s he freelanced, playing radio shows and leading his own small groups. Among the musicians with whom he played and sometimes recorded during the 40s and 50s with Ted Heath, Ralph Sharon.  A busy session musician, very active in studio work and playing in all manner of musical styles, Isaacs’ first love was for jazz and through the 60s, 70s and 80s he played with leading jazz musicians, A notable player on both acoustic and electric guitars,

CedricWest&IkeRangoon 1940 – LR Paul Ferraz sb, Reuben Solomon cl, Dean Wong vcl, Cedric West gtr, Ike Isaacs gtr

In 1942,  2 young, self taught jazz guitarists , arrived in Calcutta from  Burma, the eastern most outpost of what was British India.  Fleeing on foot, barely ahead  of the Japanese, were part of Reuben Solomon’s Jive Boy’s, one of the hottest bands in RangoonIke Isaacs went from Calcutta to Mussoorie and played in a hotel there until he left for England on a scholarship around the same time as Cedric West.  Ike was also self taught. Described as a master technician, Ike Isaacs was the dominant guitarist in English jazz until the mid-1970s.  Ike is featured in the list of the great jazz guitarists.

He played with all the greats, including a 2-yr world tour with Stephane Grapelli.

You may reference the original work at Great Guitars

IkeIsaacs1948Isaacs was an autodidact (self taught), and started playing professionally while he was a Chemistry Student at University. In 1946 he moved to England where he Freelanced for many years; he played in the BBC Show Band, as well as with George Chisholm (1956) and Barney Kessel (1968).

He was also the resident Guitarist with Chappie D’Amato’s Orchestra at Hatchett’s in London in 1949.

In the 1960s & 1970s he played with Stephane Grappelli extensively, including with Diz Disley’s Hot Club of London. Isaacs played with Digby Fairweather, Len Skeat (Bass) and Denny Wright in the group Velvet in the 1970s as well. The Co-operative Quartet ‘Velvet‘ (formerly of Stephane Grappelli’s Trio).  Isaacs moved to Australia in the 1980s, where he taught at the Sydney Guitar School.

Ike Isaacs talks guitars with 2 fellow Guitarists Bert Weedon & Jack Llewellyn during a break in his recording session

Photograph by Mark Hamilton

                                              NMEJan8th1954GuitarPollIkeIsaacs31954 New Musical Express Poll Winners

Firstly, musical expression & performance must not be likened to athletics or such competitions, with one assessing if this person plays faster than the other, or more technically and so on or so forth, comparing each feature of one’s playing with that of another.  In such cases, one is blinded by a player’s prowess in a particular technical facet and overlooks the essence of ability, the finished product, in which one or more of the constituents may not even rise to very great heights.  When one enjoys a beautiful painting, one does not say that the red of X is better than Y’s, or that their greens are not as good as Z’s.  It is the impact of the picture that counts, and the hallmark of a true artist is his ability to portray work in its entirety to the satisfaction of the viewer or listener, and with such an impact as to move him emotionally or aesthetically.  In fact, I was having a conversation with guitarist Alan Hodgkins who will be remembered by many, I am sure, as an excellent Guitarist who played with Stephane Grappelli in the mid-40s and also knew Reinhardt personally.

IKeCSLAlan was not only a teacher of guitar, but also an authority on modern art, and he stresses the importance of form, whether musically or in art and asserts that any great performance is so complete in its form that any addition would certainly be superfluous and taking anything out would give a sense of imbalance.  He also spoke of the necessity of self-expression in the arts; the completeness of an artistic person’s development has to embrace many of its aspects and therefore the inter-relation of the art forms should be experienced and understood by the musician if he wants to mature. Alan holds art classes in which he encourages well-known musicians to express themselves through painting, and it is becoming apparent that this other stimulant is having advantageous results on their musical performance, too!  Returning to the players we had in London last month, I have reviewed the concert elsewhere, but observing their approach to playing, I feel the following sentiments: That to them, playing is an extension of a natural function, like scratching one’s head, or clapping one’s hands.  To advance in one’s own playing, this is an important side to be cultivated-an absolute familiarity with the instrument and no fear, nor negative emotions towards playing.  A sense of enjoyment is so very important because it definitely communicates itself to the listener and it does not tire the player, but replenishes his energy.  This fact can be seen in players at a jazz club and those that have to be bread-and-butter (clock watching) musicians.  In fact, I am sure one or more of us has experienced the exuberance felt in the former situation, whereas a sense of boredom and lack of enthusiasm arises in the second circumstance.  The only way to benefit is to try and develop this alive attitude to your own playing, whatever you have to do.  As I have told some of my guitar-playing friends whenever I have heard a grumble: “Be thankful that you have the good fortune to be earning your living using a pick rather than a pick-axe!”  – From Ike Isaacs Guitar Forum published in the Crescendo magazine.

Ike Isaacs – Body and Soul Duo

Ike made a number of light music recordings, using the London Guitars, with Cedric West and ‘Gordon Toland‘ (probably Jack Duarte) on – Sounds of Guitar,

Ike Isaacs was promoting Burns Supersound Guitars and Amps back then and he collaborated with Gordon Toland and Cedric on his album The Sounds of Guitar. Listed on Spotify.  The Gordon Toland pieces may have been played by Jack Duarte. under a recording pseudonym.

I Love Paris
Themes from the Small Screen – Muzak, Elevator music style recordings that reflect the competence of the Guitarists but hardly show them in the Jazz Improvisation skills that they retained.  They may have had a wider audience appeal but no Jazz Aficionado would have such recordings in the house.

Book, 24 pages


Ike Isaacs, who died in 1996, was one of the great Chordal Masters of the Guitar, with a sophisticated harmonic sense that would transform a Jazz Standard into a shimmering masterpiece. As a follow-up to his best-selling book Guitar Moods (out of print but can still be found), Ike wrote this collection of distinctive solo guitar pieces to encompass a variety of musical styles, compositional ideas and guitar techniques to expand the guitarist’s awareness of the harmonic possibilities of the instrument. Includes Starlight, which Ike performs on his CD Intimate Interpretations. Ike was a strong mentor to accomplished British jazz guitarist,

Martin Taylor
Ike Isaacs and I used to play every Thursday at the Pizza On The Park—that was my 1st experience of Duo work.  It’s a fantastic thing to do, because there’s no room for mistakes you’re so exposed.  Working with Ike Isaacs was a great experience for me I consider him to be one of the greatest Guitar players ever.  My association with Ike in those few years really transformed me; I really grew as a Musician, through working with him. I learned so much from Ike, just sitting playing together he knows things that nobody else knows on the Guitar.  He’s unbelievable.  He can get the message across very well – he’s a very good Teacher.  Yes, he taught me a lot about the Guitar – a lot about life too.  We became very, very good friends, and we were always having philosophical debates, you know. I miss him a lot. I’d like to do the duo thing again with Ike.  Maybe he’ll read this and come back and see us!

Listen to Ike’s Story and his masterful playing.  For the last 15 years of his life, Ike lived and taught in Sydney and became a much-loved member of the Sydney Jazz Community.  Quite a story for a self-taught young man who passed through Calcutta and benefited from the Jazz Culture of the time ..and proved to the world that Jazz Musicians from the subcontinent could be world-class!.

IkeIsaacsCSLMelody Maker Jazz Polls – Guitar
1957 Guitar
1. Ken Sykora (1923 votes)
2. Dave Goldberg (1234)
5. Ivor Mairants (410)
6. Ike Isaacs (324)
10. Cedric West (40)
11. Roy Plummer (31)

IkeIsaacsSeated1958 Guitar
1. Ken Sykora (49.4%)
4. Dave Goldberg (6.7)
5. Ike Isaacs (6.4)
6  Ivor Mairants (4.2)
10. Roy Plummer (0.7)

1959 Guitar
1. Dave Goldberg (28.0%)
3. Ken Sykora (22.5)
4. Ike Isaacs (6.8)
8. Ivor Mairants(2.2)

The Ike Isaacs International Guitar Competition


Impromptu Jam session Poses on the Summerfield Stand at the British Music Fair, London c. 1976. Left to right:
Louis Gallo with CSL D Gypsy (sales tag still attached), Ray Gallo (playing an oval-soundhole CSL Gypsy), Ike Isaacs & Maurice Summerfield on cutaway Electric Ibanez models.

Ike’s nephew Australian-based pianist-composer Mark Isaacs (b.1958) has pursued a unique and demanding career path that has seen him gain international acclaim in both Jazz & Classical music. Such diversity was nurtured in the crucible of a highly musical family.  Mark’s father was on friendly terms with many of the biggest names in Jazz. Duke Ellington came for dinner one time and there were visits from George Benson, Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery, Barney Kessel and many others. As Mark grew older he would have informal Jams with some of the famous Musicians who would visit the Isaac’s household.  Mark’s father was an accomplished Jazz Guitarist & Songwriter who had one of his Songs recorded and released by Petula Clark and his mother had been trained as a Classical Pianist as well as often singing Jazz Standards.

Greetings. I found your Site while doing research into my older Guitarist brother Stanley Watson, who was a friend of Ike’s.  I remember as a kid Ike and his then-girlfriend in my dads sitting room in Palmers Green North London having wide-ranging discussions on life.  Stan died as a result of a traffic accident in 1978 in Portland, Maine having moved to the States in the 60s. – Regards,  R Watson.

The “Little Black Dog” Theme Ken Sykora plays Rhythm and Ike Isaacs on Lead Guitar with the Guitar Club band is the theme tune for the short British Film The Bedfordshire Clanger from Five Feet Films, showing at Cannes  Film Festival this year  (2007).  Very kind regards  – Alison Sykora –

IkeMauriceIke Isaacs (1919 –1996) was born in Rangoon, Burma. He started playing the Guitar professionally while he was a Chemistry Student at University. In 1946 he moved to England, where he freelanced for many years; and played in the Leslie Douglas Orchestra, the BBC Show Band led by Cyril Stapleton and with the Ted Heath Orchestra for 12 years. He was also the resident Guitarist with Chappie D’Amato’s Orchestra at Hatchett’s in London in 1949.   In the mid-1950s, at the age of 16, I was an aspiring Jazz Guitarist and listened every week to BBC Radio ’s Guitar Club programme. Introduced by Ken Sykora, the programme featured many leading UK Guitarists of the day, including Ivor Mairants & Ike Isaacs, in various small Groups.

I applied for Audience Tickets to the BBC for an upcoming Broadcast and was delighted when these arrived. I travelled to London and attended a marvellous Session. At the end, I introduced myself to Ike, told him of my passion for the Jazz Guitar, and I was delighted to find he was very friendly and hospitable.  He was very keen to help me in any way that he could – and within a few weeks, I was a guest at his Wembley home for a fabulous curry dinner – prepared by his lovely wife Moira.  We kept in touch and when I extended my Family’s Business to the distribution of Musical Instruments & Accessories, in 1964.  I began to see Ike quite frequently.  Our friendship grew. I asked his advice on certain products and used him in Demonstrations and to attend Exhibitions. In the 1960s we distributed the Ike Isaacs String Line made by British Music Strings Ltd.  In the early 1970’s we published an Ike Isaacs Guitar Solo Book as a promotion for Ibanez Guitars and in the late 1970s, we investigated the possibility of producing an Ibanez Ike Isaacs Jazz Guitar Model.  The attached photograph shows Ike and I in London shortly after I passed on the 1st sample of his Ibanez Guitar.


In the late 1970s as a founder of the Guitar Appreciation Society of North-east England, I was pleased to have the opportunity to present in Concert – Ike with a very young Martin Taylor at the Peoples’ Theatre in Heaton.  Martin of course initially studied with Ike and still quotes Ike as a major influence.  I first met Barney Kessel in person at an evening with Ike. Barney lived in London for a year in the late 1960s early 1970s and lived in Apartment rented from Ike. Barney told me many times that Ike’s knowledge of the Guitar Fingerboard was unsurpassed. Ike later recorded and played in Concert with George Chisholm (1956) & Barney Kessel (1968). He was a busy Studio Guitarist and played on dozens of Film Scores.  In 1975 he joined Stephane Grappelli and the Diz Disley Trio. In the late 1970s and early 1980s Ike came to Newcastle several times and was a guest in my house. By that time he loved to call me his ‘brother’.  He gave an In-Store demo for Ibanez at Jeavons of Percy Street in the late 1970’s.  Ike moved to Australia in the 1980s, where he taught at the Sydney Guitar School.  We kept in regular contact until his death there, of Cancer, in 1996.  Maurice Summerfield.


Phil Bates – Bass, Diz Disley, Stephane Grappelli  & Ike Isaacs
Ike Isaacs was a very competent soloist and played what could probably be best described as easy listening, Modern Jazz. He was not a Django stylist and his big hero was Wes Montgomery.  I think he made a reasonable living as a Session Musician & Arranger.

Teddy Dupont
I think he was actually one of the very best Chord Soloists (ala George Van Eps) of all time, he also taught Martin Taylor; his harmonic knowledge was extraordinary – he was great at both fingerstyle & plectrum, his Album Guitar Moods is superb Solo playing – really world-class.   He, with Judd Proctor & Denny Wright, were the Top Session Guitarists in London for many years a very, very busy man!   He was also a regular on the BBC Guitar Club Programme along with Louis Gallo etc.  His own recording career left something to be desired sadly.  There aren’t many chances to hear him really stretch out on Record,  I had the chance to see him several times in Duo with a young Martin Taylor in 1980/81 he was awesome.  He also played in the excellent group “Velvet” with Digby Fairweather & Denny Wright a great Group modelling themselves on the Barnes-Braff Quartet.  He produced many easy listening LPs in the 60’s with his Group the London Guitars (a Guitar ‘choir’ including the great Cedric West) – including the following recordings:-
The Velvet Guitar of Ike Isaacs
I like Ike
’14 great TV themes'(essential!)
‘I love Paris'(some genuinely nice playing on all French stuff inc. (‘J’Attendrai’)
IikeIssacsGlitteringGuitarsThe Music of Michel Legrand‘(Ike Isaacs and his Glittering Guitars)
”(1977) with Martin Taylor (superb playing by Isaacs here in Guo)

Though not a Django purist he could fake it pretty well!  He edited and arranged (not transcriptions) the Django Reinhardt Book in the Music Makers Series published by EMI in the 70‘s.  I met him once; a lovely guy with an easy smile he was very popular amongst his fellow Session Players (according to Judd Proctor)

Django Reinhardt
The Music Makers
EMI Music Publishing Ltd
138-140 Charing Cross Road
London WC2H OLD
ISBN 0 86175 020 9
Chord’s names and the Lead (theme) is transcribed for the 1st Chorus only.  Nuages & Souvenir have complete Transcription.  Overall quality is excellent.