Having initially studied the piano, Jimmy took up the saxophone at the age of sixteen. It was then that he began to think seriously about a career as a professional musician.
His first move was to audition for the position of first tenor saxophone in Leslie Thorpe’s band at the Beach Ballroom in Aberdeen. He didn’t get the job. Soon after Jimmy left his native Scotland to try his luck “down south”.
Eventually he heard Humphrey Lyttelton was holding auditions for a saxophone player so he went along to have a go. This venture ended in failure as well. It then became obvious that Jimmy’s talents (such as they were at the time) lay in other musical directions, to which end he set off on a ship to enjoy several world tours as a ship’s musician.
After returning home to England Jimmy took up residence in London and joined the Ken Mackintosh band on first tenor saxophone. Two years later he left Ken’s band to join the BBC Radio Orchestra, taking over from Art Ellefson on first tenor saxophone. During this time the BBC renamed the dance band section of the Orchestra the “BBC Big Band”.
It was during his time with the BBC that Jimmy made his first appearance on the London jazz scene with gigs at the Bull’s Head in Barnes with the late Tony Lee and Bill Le Sage respectively. At Bill Le Sage’s suggestion, Jimmy teamed up with Dave Horler for Saturday night gigs at the Bull’s Head with the Bill Le Sage trio and so the Jimmy Hastings/Dave Horler quintet was born. Dave Horler went to Germany to join the Cologne Radio Orchestra so Jimmy then teamed up with Dave’s younger brother John and initially formed the Jimmy Hastings/John Horler duo. This, in turn became a trio, quartet and quintet with the addition of guitarist Phil Lee but has now settled into a quartet with John on piano or Phil on guitar. After four years Jimmy left the BBC to begin a new career as a freelance musician. This meant that, as well as radio, Jimmy was now also playing solos on records for pop artists, recording for TV, films and commercials.
Then came the West End Musicals, which began with “Treasure Island” at the Mermaid Theatre. The most recent one was the long running Gershwin musical “Crazy For You”, and there were others, including Marvyn Hamlisch’s “A Chorus Line”, Richard Rodney Bennett’s “Jazz Calendar”, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Jeeves”, Cole Porter’s “High Society”, Kurt Weill’s “Happy End” and Wayne Sleep’s “Dash”, which enjoyed a long run at the Apollo Victoria following a highly acclaimed national tour. Jimmy has deputised in a wide variety of other shows – “Cats”, “Starlight Express”, “West Side Story”, “Anything Goes”, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”, “Singing In The Rain”, “City Of Angels”, “Blues in the Night”, “Aspects of Love”, “The Pirates of Penzance” and “The Mikado”.
Over the years Jimmy has been a member of orchestras accompanying Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jnr., Tony Bennett, Sarah Vaughan, Aretha Franklin, and many other singers, and has also worked for Nelson Riddle, Robert Farnon, Henry Mancini and Benny Carter. On the jazz scene he has enjoyed spells with Red Rodney, Art Farmer, Bill Berry, Lanny Morgan, Billy Mitchell and Al Grey.
Jimmy also appeared on the rock scene, alongside brother Pye, as the fifth member of “Caravan”, appearing on all their early albums and occasionally on stage and at radio and TV sessions. The third record “In the Land Of Grey and Pink ” gathered a gold disc for the band. They have recently enjoyed great success at several revival concerts.
About thirty years after his ill-fated audition with Humphrey Lyttelton, Humphrey telephoned to offer him the job. Jimmy is still with Humphrey’s band, and enjoying every minute of it. Although (until then) primarily a tenor player, Jimmy joined Humphrey’s band on alto saxophone, clarinet and flute in 1993. He has toured extensively with the band and featured in all of their recordings to date. During 2001 the Band joined Radiohead on their album “Amnesiac”, which featured Jimmy on clarinet. Jimmy is also a member of the John Dankworth Generation Band on baritone saxophone, bass clarinet, clarinet and flute.
Jimmy is Professor of Jazz Saxophone at the London College of Music and was also Professor of Saxophone at the Royal Marines School of Music in Portsmouth from 1998 to 2004. Always aware of his own modest beginnings, he is keen to encourage aspiring young musicians whenever he can.
These days Jimmy is much in demand at all national jazz venues, either as a solo performer or with his own quartet. He deputises regularly with many of the big bands of today, including the Don Lusher Big Band, Paul Lacey’s Back to Basie Band, the Syd Lawrence Band, the Echoes of Ellington Band and others.