Paul Foad, a guitar player, was born in Liverpool but his family came to Birmingham shortly afterwards. He first started playing for a school drama concert and then met Alan Edwards a guitar teacher in Birmingham and at 16 started teaching others to play. He was in a punk band called the Au Pairs consisting of two women and two men which had considerable success in the early 80s. Towards the end of that band Graeme Hamilton the trumpet player joined and through him he met Andy Hamilton and joined the Blue Notes in the 90s where his grounding in jazz really started. He played with the band until Andy’s death and has kept the club Andy started, now called Silvershine, going with his wife Kim one of Andy’s daughters. He continues to teach at BIM in Birmingham and with individual students as well as keeping the legacy of Andy Hamilton alive with the Blue Notes.

Picture: Paul playing with the Blue Notes at an outdoor gig at Silvershine Jazz Club during lockdown.

“At the age of 16, I saw George Benson, and my jaw just dropped on the floor. And that was it. I just thought my God, this guy really is an incredible musician. And then the Au Pairs towards the second album.. a band called Pig Bag, came and played on our second album. And we had the kind of crazy free jazz extemporize improvisation on the end of one of our songs. And at the same time, I just met Graeme Hamilton, great trumpet player. And Graeme came in to join right at the end of the Au Pairs, he came in on trumpet to kind of augment this the sound of the band because we wanted to kind of take it a little bit more in that kind of jazzy place.”

BH: Photographing jazz performance in bright overall light or daylight with no special “club set-up” can make it hard to avoid unattractive or confusing. In this case I’ve used a wide aperture to send the background out of focus and to make Paul stand out.

Picture: Paul during our online interview with him.

“I’ve been blessed beyond belief. Because every day since I’ve picked up the guitar at 15 every day, I’ve been able to play the guitar and that makes me happy. And teaching… I love it, man. Because I’m playing guitar. I’ve played in front of 70,000 people – that was the biggest crowd I’ve ever played in front of – and I’ve stood busking on New Street. There’s no difference. Playing is playing… It’s whether you get paid for it or not. It’s what I love doing. It’s what I’ll always do till the day I drop.”

BH: The Covid pandemic precluded photographing Paul during one his teaching sessions at schools in Birmingham which form much of his work outside of playing.

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