HE’S known throughout the jazz world as an award-winning cornet player, and as an ex-librarian has an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of jazz music.

But Digby Fairweather has looked further afield for his latest recording – classical composer Frederick Delius is the inspiration behind To Frederick With Affection, which sees him reinterpret some of his favourite pieces of the composer’s music.

It’s a very personal project for Digby as he explains how his relationship with the composer first began. He says: “My father married my mum in 1938 and I didn’t come along until 1946.

“During that time he followed the saga of Frederick Delius, who was born in Bradford, and Sir Thomas Beecham, who was Frederick’s champion.

“My dad used to come up and sing me to sleep in my cot in Hockley. Then he used to go and play Delius, and the music used to come into my bedroom.”

The music would always be associated with Digby’s father, John, but it was only later in life he rediscovered the composer and found his own love for his work.

Digby says: “About six years ago I was sitting in the garden of a very old friend of mine, Liz Lincoln, and I found some old vinyl of Delius and an old record player to play it on.

“I heard a piece called Fennimore and Gerda and I said, ‘That’s a great melody. You could do something with that if you wanted to.’”

A couple of years later, on a trip to the Birmingham International Jazz Festival, he ended up buying the complete original recordings of Delius, conducted by Beecham, and the music became something of an obsession.

Digby says: “It was the same collection my daddy had had on his 12- inch 78s. “I started playing them and thought, ‘I know this music’. It was seeping back to me. I listened to it every day. I don’t know whether anyone else could listen to one composer for two years, but I did. I was inspired because it was so deep and beautiful.”

A chance encounter with an old pal, who was a member of the Delius Society, resulted in a small commission for Digby.

Digby was only intending to have a look at one piece of music, but he realised the scope for the project was far more and he ended up putting together a full suite of jazz musings on the classical work. He was invited to speak at the Delius Society about his project, and has written extensive sleeve notes as well.

He adds: “I think jazz will come back, but we were put in a very dusty corner for about 50 years. The other week I played at Belfairs School with two young singers, aged 17, and when I asked them what music they liked they listed Ella Fitzgerald and Doris Day.”

To Frederick With Affection is out now.