Updated: January 8, 2014 6:12AM
LONDON — British jazz pianist and composer Stan Tracey, who played with everyone from Sonny Rollins to Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones in the course of a 70-year career, has died at the age of 86.
Son Clark Tracey said the musician “passed away peacefully” on Friday. He had been suffering from cancer.
Born in London on Dec. 30, 1926, Mr. Tracey took up piano after a teenage stint as an accordionist entertaining troops during World War II.
After service in the Royal Air Force and time as a musician aboard cruise ships, Mr. Tracey performed with ensembles including the popular Ted Heath Orchestra and spent several years in the 1960s as resident pianist at Ronnie Scott’s storied London jazz club. That job allowed him to play with the era’s jazz greats, including Stan Getz, Ben Webster and Rollins, with whom he performed on the soundtrack to the 1966 Michael Caine film “Alfie.”
As well as leading his own ensembles of various sizes, Mr. Tracey had a stint in the big band led by Stones drummer Watts.
Mr. Tracey’s compositions included the enduringly popular “Under Milk Wood” suite — based on the lyrical radio play by Dylan Thomas — and the Lewis Carroll-inspired “Alice in Jazzland.”
He was nominated for the prestigious Mercury music prize in 1993 for his album “Portraits Plus.”
An inspiration to many younger musicians, Mr. Tracey became known as “the godfather of British jazz,” and was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in 2008.
He released his final album, the World War I-inspired “The Flying Pig,” earlier this year.
Pianist Jamie Cullum tweeted: “He played like a demon right up until his last days on earth.”