This page contains the following Ian Carr-related writings, reviews and web links:
The funeral service for Ian Carr on 13 March 2009 at Golder's Green Crematorium, by George Foster
A review by Vincent Carr of the first North East England performance of Ian Carr's 'Northumbrian Sketches'
Ian Carr - Celebration of a Life in Music - QEH, London, 23 February 2010, a review by Roger Farbey
Programme note for the Ian Carr - Celebration of a Life in Music concert, by George Foster
Concert Review - The Music Of Ian Carr, The Sage, Gateshead, 17th March 2007, by Vincent Carr
Concert Review - Nucleus Revisited - Ian Carr Tribute Concert - Pizza Express, London, 30 March 2007
Concert review - Ian Carr Tribute Concert - Part of the LJF, Guildhall, London, 14 November 2006
Concert Review - Ian Carr Benefit Concert - 100 Club, London, 26 September 2006
Interview with Alyn Shipton, author of 'Out of the Long Dark' the forthcoming biography of Ian Carr
Concert Review - Nucleus - Cargo, London, 31 August 2005
The Maestro and His Music - an essay by Roger Farbey originally published on the All About Jazz website
Ian Carr and Nucleus: '70s British Jazz Rock Progenitors by John Kelman (Web link)
Ian Carr's 'Blind Jukebox' with Tom Callaghan
Ian Carr's Funeral
Well over 120 people attended Ian's funeral on the overcast afternoon of Friday 13th March . I didn't get a chance to count, but the chapel looked to me pretty close to its capacity of 150, as people took their seats to the sound of "In A Silent Way".
In addition to his daughter Selina and other members of Ian's family, there were people whose lives he had touched and changed in a variety of ways: old Army pals, several generations of musicians from Don Rendell (now 83) and Kenny Wheeler, Norma Winstone, Tim Whitehead, Mark and Mike Mondesir, to students in their early 20s. The significant number of young British musicians at the funeral was testimony to his stature and influence on the development of jazz in the UK over the last 45 years. There was Zoe Wanamaker, whose father Sam had been helped by Ian in his successful campaign to build a replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre; there were critics, writers, editors, producers and there were people who had helped care for him during the last few years and had formed bonds of friendship with this remarkable man.
Ian's biographer Alyn Shipton introduced the speakers and ran the event in a low-key and informal way. It was a secular "ceremony" which included recordings of Ian's own performances, his favourites by Miles and Louis and one live piece. Though filled with emotion, the event was more a celebration of his life than a mourning of his passing.
Using often hilarious extracts from Ian's own diaries, Gerald Laing described the impact Ian had made upon him 55 years ago, when as a 20 year old regular army officer, he met the well-read, mature and art-loving conscripted officer who had a degree in English Literature, wrote poetry and played jazz trumpet. Ian's diaries contained funny, beautifully written accounts of his meetings with the immature Gerald, usually culminating in an exasperated "I restrained myself from hitting him." Inspired by Ian's questioning attitude and fierce commitment to the arts, Gerald abandoned the military career his family were expecting of him to follow his own inclinations into drawing, painting and then sculpture. He is now an artist of considerable international stature. The piece played after he spoke, " Hot Rod" (by the Rendell - Carr Quintet) was inspired by a sports car Gerald had owned as his career took off, and which was the subject of an influential series of paintings.
Geoff Castle spoke of the years of touring with Nucleus and the way Ian had nurtured the musical and personal development of the members of the band, stimulating their reading of literature as well as their performance of music while touring Europe in often less than ideal conditions - like an unheated band van (after a year of freezing travel, they discovered that they had simply misunderstood the controls!) He also told how the band accepted a three-week tour of Germany which turned out to be organised by a cooperative of 16 year old schoolgirls. Needless to say it was the most efficiently run tour they ever did, and some of the girls went on to become successful professional promoters. The music of Nucleus was represented by "Selina" a piece dedicated to Ian's daughter.
Film-maker Mike Dibb spoke of the range of Ian's cultural interests and his fierce enthusiasm when speaking about jazz. He spoke of the 25 years it took to get "The Miles Davis Story" off the ground and of Ian's joy in New York when, during the filming, Ian was introduced to a group of SONY employees who were more interested to meet the bandleader of Nucleus than the biographer of Miles! He also described the frisson that spread across the tables at The Royal Philharmonic Society's Dorchester Awards Dinner, when a somewhat tipsy Ian berated the classical music establishment, which had generously just given its media award to the Miles Davis film, for its ignorance and condescension towards Jazz! We then heard part of Ian's haunting evocation of the North of England and his friend, the late poet Sid Chaplin. This was "Spirit of Place" from "Old Heartland" featuring Nucleus with a string orchestra.
Perhaps the most moving part was the address by three of Ian's ex-students who are now rising or established stars - Sara Dillon, Nicky Yeoh and Julian Joseph. They cited Ian not just as their teacher (and a strict one at that), but as a father-figure for whom no effort was too great when they needed help or advice, as a mentor who showed them the importance of understanding Jazz's history as well as its present, and as a dear friend.
Henry Lowther played the elegiac solo trumpet piece "For Liam", and we sat for a minute with our memories.
But this was a jazz event and the traditional exuberance of the New Orleans Jazz funeral came out in the two Louis Armstrong Hot Seven pieces played as we made our way out of the chapel: Ian's favourite "West End Blues" and then the piece with which he and his brother Mike had won a talent competition nearly 60 years ago "Hotter than That" (How he would have loved the irony of that title in a crematorium.)
We went to a nearby pub and talked and drank and laughed for several hours. It all helped to erase some of the memories of the painful and distressing state to which Alzheimer's and Dementia had reduced our old friend in his last months: it was invaluable to draw upon our collective experience of him and restore the friend who made such a large contribution to all our lives. We spoke of the difference Ian had made to what we listened to, played, read, thought and felt about music, literature and life. We discussed how what we had learned from him had changed the courses of our lives, in many cases quite profoundly and irrevocably.
I recalled WB Yeats, to whose poetry Ian had introduced me, and his line describing the legacy of his friend John Synge: "That dying chose the living world for text." I remembered also a very moving speech Julian Joseph made at a Guildhall School tribute concert for Ian in November 2007, when he was still able to appreciate it. Julian stood with a stage full of young musicians and said: "We are all Ian's children." Through our experiences of him we have indeed become, in our various ways, Ian Carr's children and part of his legacy to the world, and we acknowledged it last Friday.
[Editor's footnote: Alyn Shipton contacted this website on 19 March regarding Ian Carr's funeral service, "I overlooked one of the most important things I had intended to say at the event, which was to thank all the carers and medical staff who had looked after Ian during his last years of illness."]
Concert Review - Northumbrian Sketches
A review by Vincent Carr of the first North East England performance of Ian Carr's 'Northumbrian Sketches' at the Sage, Gateshead
Gateshead International Jazz Festival, The Sage Gateshead, Saturday 6th April 2013 'Northumbrian Sketches', written by Ian Carr in its first ever North East performance plus ‘Songs to the North Sky’, written in 2012 by Tim Garland, resident in the region. Performed by the Northern Sinfonia orchestra of The Sage Gateshead with jazz soloists Tim Whitehead and Henry Lowther plus award winning trio Lighthouse, featuring the award-winning pianist Gwilym Simcock.
Being slightly too young to have witnessed Ian Carr and Nucleus in their ‘heyday’ (I managed to catch the Nucleus Revisited gig at a previous Sage Jazz Festival a few years back) the chance to see ‘Northumbrian Sketches’ performed was an opportunity not to be missed. Apart from its initial Bracknell commission, I’m not sure if there will have been many other performances of the piece. The original liner notes to the ‘Old Heartland’ album suggest more than one performance around the time of its origination. I suspect that until it was revived for Ian’s memorial concert in 2010, it had not been heard since.
This evening of music was in three sections. Firstly, ‘Northumbrian Sketches’ performed by the Northern Sinfonia, along with soloists Tim Whitehead (a member of Nucleus briefly in the late 70s/early 80s) on soprano sax and bass clarinet, Henry Lowther on trumpet and flugelhorn, and local double bass player Andy Champion. This was followed by Tim Garland’s Lighthouse Trio and then Tim and the trio were joined by the Northern Sinfonia again to perform Tim’s new suite ‘Songs to the north sky’.
Starting with ‘Northumbrian Sketches’, my initial impressions were of the sheer beauty of the sound and the absolute precision of the orchestra. Although I’m not familiar with the considerable history and standing of the Northern Sinfonia, they were superb, negotiating material which in some sections is probably not their staple diet. Tim Whitehead was a ball of nervous energy in persona and performance, whilst in complete contrast Henry Lowther exhibited complete calm (my wife disagrees with me here and says that he was actually concentrating furiously, hence his almost absolute stasis, we’ll have to agree to differ!) and played with broader, more minimal flourishes. Having seen Henry on numerous occasions, it was no surprise to see him being his own man and putting his personal stamp on his musical contributions, fully aware that he was filling the shoes of a man no longer with us. Bassist Andy Champion played with virtuosic flair and played some lovely improvisations, particularly on the end section (the ‘Suspension’ riff) of ‘Interiors’.
At this point there was a short interval whilst the stage was reset for the Lighthouse Trio. A word about the quality of the sound is appropriate at this point. The sound in Hall One of the Sage building is absolutely top notch and the balance between orchestra and soloists during Northumbrian Sketches was superb. This was also true of the sound for the rest of the evening.
How I have managed to avoid seeing the Lighthouse Trio perform at some point previous to this during their nine year history, is something I was asking myself whilst I was being almost rocked out of my seat by the musical power of this group. Tim Garland on Saxes, pianist Gwilym Simcock and percussion wonder Asaf Sirkis are an absolute phenomenon. Struggling to put into words what I was hearing, the comparison that came to mind was Weather Report at their most joyful, with that (still) most individual of jazz groups, Oregon. An immediate point of reference for me was supplied in the opening number ‘Bajo del Sol’, a piece that Tim brought to Bill Brufords’ Earthworks repertoire. Up tempo, dancing and bouncing along, fleet interplay and improvisation, keenly listening to each other, percussionist Sirkis played with a broad grin all the way through the one hour set, during which they played five pieces. The nature of their performance was so spellbinding that it was over in what felt like half that time. It is safe to say I will be trying not to let another nine years pass before seeing this group again.
Tim then ushered back on stage the Northern Sinfonia and they played straight through the world premiere of Tim’s ‘Songs to the north sky’ suite. The suite comprises five ‘songs’, each with an accompanying improvisational variation, forming a suite of ten pieces. With the orchestra back on stage, the most obvious point of contrast to Ian Carr’s suite was the addition of Asaf Sirkis in conjunction with the strings, giving Tim’s suite additional forward motion, compared to the more stately progress of ‘Northumbrian Sketches’. My final reflection on these two orchestral works though is what they have in common. Although in their creation they are separated by a quarter of a century, to borrow Ian’s title, both works have that very definite ‘Spirit of Place’. The audience were fulsome in their final applause at the end - not a full house by any means, which is a shame when the music was this good. For those who did attend, it was a most memorable night of music, the likes of which don’t come around too often.
Vincent Carr, 9 April 2013
Ian Carr - Celebration of a Life in Music - Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, 23 February 2010
Geoff Castle and Rob Statham from Nucleus Revisited : (Photo courtesy George Cole)
Posthumous tributes can sometimes seem a little maudlin and sometimes even a little bland but tonight's tribute to the legend that was Ian Carr was none of these things. Compère and virtuoso pianist Julian Joseph kicked off the evening with some slightly self-effacing quips before he introduced the talented pianist Nikki Yeoh, a prodigy of Ian Carr (one of many) from his days teaching at the Weekend Arts College. Yeoh played two self-composed pieces, one 'Dance of Two Little Bears' and a piece she dedicated to Ian entitled 'The Healer'. Yeoh exudes a mixture of enthusiasm and vitality for jazz and this combined with the imagination and sensitivity that she displays in her art indicates that she is a pupil of whom Ian Carr was surely proud.
Julian Joseph then introduced the Michael Garrick sextet which featured Norma Winstone, Henry Lowther, Art Themen, Dave Green and Trevor Tomkins. The MG sextet was playing here because of its connections with Ian Carr who had played and recorded with both Garrick's groups and with the Rendell Carr Quintet of which three of this sextet had been members. First off was a version of Garrick's 'Promises' which Ian Carr had originally recorded with Garrick on his album of that name. This included lyrics sung by Norma Winstone. Then, an unbilled surprise, as Michael Garrick introduced poet Jeremy Robson with who he was associated decades before in the series of Poetry and Jazz concerts that Garrick had organised in the 1960s. This was a fantastic treat for anyone who had been too young to experience these Poetry and Jazz concerts at the time, and Robson recited the words to his poem 'Voices' for which Garrick had written a haunting melody. This track also appeared on Garrick's album 'The Heart is a Lotus'. Next the group played, again from 'The Heart is a Lotus', the lively 'Torrent'. Michael Garrick then introduced his old compatriot, the maestro Don Rendell to play Garrick's famous composition 'Dusk Fire', the title track of the second Rendell Carr Quintet album. So by this time, four of the original members of the Rendell Carr Quintet were now playing on stage again. Henry Lowther produced an elegant trumpet solo followed by an explorative Michael Garrick piano solo.
The Michael Garrick Septet (as it now was) closed with 'Webster's Mood' for which lyrics had been written and which were again sung by Norma Winstone. Art Themen initiated the solos with a Webster-esque tenor solo, followed by Don Rendell producing an exquisite flute solo proving once again that for an 84 year old, age is no barrier in jazz and that Rendell has retained all his magical abilities to enthral an audience. Finally Henry Lowther's graceful flugelhorn solo was closely followed by a tender and resourceful solo by Michael Garrick. This last composition is to be found on a newly released CD of live tracks by Reel Recordings entitled 'Live at the Union 1966' which also includes the sublime 'Ursula' a track never recorded by the RCQ although Ian Carr recorded it with Garrick on his album 'Black Marigolds'.
With his customary loquacity, Michael Garrick used this performance to mention two notable people in the audience, first Coleridge Goode, the 94 year old bass player who, along with Joe Harriott and Tony Coe had played and recorded with Garricks's early bands. Then he mentioned George Foster, the mastermind behind the event, and reminded the audience that without people like George, who had been a promoter of gigs for many years (including the one heard on the 'Live at the Union' CD) most musicians would be 'resting' at home twiddling their thumbs. In the context of musicians promoting themselves, something which he admitted most are not good at, Garrick wove into his anecdotes a simply wonderful impersonation of Ian Carr speaking to journalists at a Rendell Carr gig at the Phoenix (pub in Cavendish Square, London)where Carr would entreat these reporters to take special account of one musician or another's talents to the extent that Carr was in effect enthusiastically marketing the band ('just listen to the way that Don Rendell plays the solo in that piece, it's absolutely masterly'). Garrick's impersonation of Carr was so spot-on that it could have been Ian Carr speaking.
Following a twenty minute break, The second compère of the evening, actor Kevin Whately introduced himself and explained that his reason for being here was as an ambassador for the Alzheimer's Society for which proceeds of the concert were being donated. Carr himself was a victim of Alzheimer's as was Whately's own mother, so there was a personal interest there. Whately explained that although he didn't know Ian Carr personally he knew of the history of the next piece, 'Northumbrian Sketches' which Carr had written in memory of his friend the author Sid Chaplin. This was the first time that 'Sketches' had been performed in London, and it was executed in stunning style by a string orchestra led by violinist Sonia Slany along with students of the Royal College of Music and conducted by Ian Carr's long time friend, the composer, arranger and trombonist Mike Gibbs. Along with the orchestra three soloists were feature, Guy Barker on trumpet, Tim Whitehead on soprano sax and bass clarinet and Rob Statham on fretless bass guitar. The whole performance was stunning and completely foxed those who had been expecting an evening of pure jazz. 'Northumbrian Sketches' is a piece of music that almost defies classification and yet is totally captivating. Surely, this alone was worth the price of admission and something Carr would have been most proud had he been there to witness this performance.
The final set of the night featured Nucleus Revisited and stalwart Geoff Castle introduced the first piece an up tempo 'Mr Jelly Lord' which was taken from a suite of compositions under the title 'Conversations with the Blues'. Chris Batchelor soloed on trumpet here. This was followed by a piece Carr wrote for daughter (who was in the audience) 'Selina'. A charming piece with Tim Whitehead taking the solo. This was closely followed by the slinky 'Roots' taken from the album of that name. In this much-sampled tune, Mark Wood performed a coruscating guitar solo of Hendrix-like proportions, proving yet again that he is surely Britain's best kept secret guitarist, and one of its best exponents of that instrument. Chris Batchelor also soloed on here too in fine form, reminiscent of Carr himself. The fourth title played here, all of which were written by Ian Carr was 'Mutatis Mutandis' a devilishly tricky piece with solos from Chris Batchelor and Phil Todd on soprano sax.
Geoff Castle then introduced the first guest of the set, virtuoso guitarist Ray Russell, who had briefly played with Nucleus following Chris Spedding's departure. Russell gave a brilliant and typically inventive solo here to be followed by Tim Whitehead's soulful, wailing tenor solo. The second guest of the set then emerged in the form of Nucleus founder member, John Marshall - also a long standing close friend of Carr's. Nic France moved on to percussion duties whilst Marshall delighted the audience with his inimitable brand of drumming. The penultimate piece played was 'Lady Bountiful' a number in 5/4 time. Phil Todd (on soprano) and Mark Wood soloed, followed by Geoff Castle's elegant acoustic piano solo culminating in Chris Batchelor soloing over an ostinato bass figure leading to the conclusion of this quintessential Carr composition.
The final number of the evening was the beautiful and haunting 'Things Past' with Phil Todd on flute and Tim Whitehead giving a rich and gutsy tenor solo. Rob Statham's bass guitar solo proved was a talented musician he truly is and Chris Batchelor's closing trumpet flourishes were very poignant. The concert ended almost an hour over schedule at around 11.30pm so the audience, although uniformly enthusiastic were perhaps a little too abashed by the house lights being turned up to request an encore. But had it finished earlier, the Nucleus Revisited performance would surely have elicited several more numbers.
Special mention must also go to the pianist Dorian Ford (another alumnus of Carr's Weekend Arts College) who played a set dedicated to Carr, in the 'front room' area of the Queen Elizabeth Hall foyer prior to the evening's concert. Also the role of George Foster, Ian Carr's friend of nearly 50 years and part-time impresario, should not be underestimated. Foster was instrumental in coordinating the whole proceedings, assembling the vast array of musicians and also liaising on behalf of the charity side of the concert, since proceeds of the concert were being donated to the Alzheimer's Society, an appropriate cause, given that Carr's final few years were eaten away by that cruel and - as Kevin Whately warned in his introduction - increasingly common disease. Finally, praise is due to John Cumming, of the ever-essential Serious organisation, for making the event happen.
Had not 'Northumbrian Sketches' clearly demonstrated Ian Carr's compositional ability and invention, which it most certainly did, then Nucleus Revisited would have shown (which it did) how Carr was also a master of the killer riff, which Carr proffered to his audiences in abundance. This was truly a night to remember, but also a night to remember a man who had contributed so much to his art. A true genius.
Roger Farbey, 25 February 2010
Ian Carr 1993 - 2009 - A Personal Note by George Foster
One of the more tragic effects of Alzheimer’s Disease is that the need for lengthy care often means that people are out of the public eye and, in our fast moving world, out of public memory. When Ian Carr died last February he had not played for some time, and had barely appeared in public at all for two years, yet when I started suggesting a memorial event I was struck by the eagerness with which the idea was greeted, the generosity shown by so many musicians and non-musicians in making this event possible. It is a measure of the impact Ian had on so many lives.
One example of his impact was shown when he was in a care home and the American trumpeter Wallace Roney, who was playing at Ronnie Scott’s, went out of his way to make contact and to invite Ian to the club. Roney was the only young trumpeter to be mentored by Miles Davis; just before his death Miles had given his famous red trumpet to him. We expected Roney to want to talk about Ian’s monumental biography of Miles but he spoke about Ian’s work with Nucleus, which turned out to have been a huge formative influence and inspiration in his teenage years.
Ian was amazingly well-read. You never knew what aspects of his wide knowledge a conversation about music would draw on, but it ended with you having deeper insight into aspects of jazz, greater understanding and more love for the music. I vividly remember a lift home from a Rendell - Carr gig during which he explained to me with great clarity the German philosopher Nietzsche's usage of the terms Apollonian and Dionysian, concepts which as a 20 year old I had never encountered.
Named for the god Apollo, the Apollonian aspects of art are characterised by thoughtfulness, order, rationality, poise and self control – all aspects of “higher” thought. The Dionysian (after Dionysus, also known as Bacchus) were instinctual, chaotic, emotional and even irrational. In Nietzsche’s view it is the interaction between the two that makes drama interesting, and this was Ian’s attitude to jazz. To him jazz was a music that spanned two aspects of human existence mixing intellectual, Apollonian music with the earthy Dionysian legacy of the blues to profound effect. What I learnt in those minutes about jazz, blues, and the arts, especially music and poetry changed my whole understanding. Experience for yourself two of Ian’s passions: Louis Armstrong’s West End Blues and WB Yeats’ Crazy Jane poems.
It helps me now, over 40 years later, to understand music in general and Ian’s in particular: his compositions for Nucleus often have long melodic lines which unfurl slowly, but which are underpinned by bass figures so funky and seductive that young people who were not born when the records were made are sampling them to use in their home music making and posting them on YouTube. The tension built up between the two elements - Apollonian melody and Dionysian rhythms – is what makes his music so memorable, and the ability and courtesy to explain it clearly and patiently to a young fan is what makes the man so memorable.
Ian’s achievements are unparalleled: a brilliant trumpet player who won a battle in 1982 against colon cancer to continue playing; a talented composer of memorable pieces; an outstanding music critic who provides deep insights into the music of others; a passionate spokesman for jazz and especially British jazz; a selfless teacher whose list of ex-students reads like a roster of rising young jazz stars.
But this event can only scratch the surface. It would take a series of concerts to cover other aspects of his musical career: The Animals Big Band, his work with the New Jazz Orchestra and Neil Ardley, Poetry and Jazz with Michael Garrick, his Shakespearian pieces, work with George Russell, with the United Jazz Rock Ensemble, the London Jazz Orchestra. Then another series could show the impact he had on several generations of younger musicians in his teaching at the Guildhall School and the Weekend Arts College. And in addition to his music there are his achievements as writer and broadcaster to commemorate.
So let us remember Ian Carr tonight and begin to celebrate the generosity of his spirit, the enlightenment of his writing and the pleasure of listening to his music.
(Programme note for the 'Ian Carr - A Celebration of a Life in Music' concert held at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London on 23 February 2010, to mark the first anniversary of Ian Carr's death. Text supplied to this website by George Foster, with thanks)
Concert Review - The Music Of Ian Carr, The Sage, Gateshead, 17 March 2007
Gateshead International Jazz Festival, The Sage Gateshead, Saturday 17th March 2007 featuring the EmCee Five Recreated and Nucleus Revisited, hosted by Alyn Shipton, Introduction by Alyn Shipton
Part 1 - EmCee Five:
1. Stevenson’s Rocket
2. Blues For Monk
3. Dobson’s Choice
4. Room 608
5. Bossa Peri-Peri
6. Lefty’s Tune
In a change from the original billing of a north-east-based quintet of musicians booked to recreate the music of the EmCee Five, Mike Carr stepped in to play the date with his young quintet instead (from what I can gather, when Mike heard about the gig he contacted the Sage and reminded them that he was still around!). Four EmCee five originals, a new Mike Carr composition (Bossa Peri-Peri, I presume he’s talking about the sauce!) and a Horace Silver tune (Room 608, which was no surprise to hear, this group really sharing some of the feel of Silver’s great hard-bop quintets of the late 50’s/early 60’s). Mike Carr was on piano instead of his more usual Hammond Organ and he pointed out that his left foot was trying to play a bass pedal that wasn’t there! The slightly nervous look on the bassist’s face suggested that there hadn’t been a great deal of rehearsal before this performance, but in the end the tentative count-ins and slightly haphazard endings gave the whole performance a charming edge and also gave the soloing of Mike and his young cohorts a really spur-of-the-moment feel, with the audience duly responding warmly to a great set of exciting jazz.
Part 2 - Three Short Films:
Alyn Shipton then reappeared to introduce a short film section with Mike Dibb, who has worked with Ian several times over the years on various film projects. For those in attendance like myself who weren’t old enough to see these pieces of footage the first time around this was a real treat. The first film was a complete 9 minute performance (no-one was sure whether it was from 1967 or 1968) by the Rendell-Carr Quintet playing the Michael Garrick composition ‘Voices’, with Ian giving a running commentary over the top, talking the viewer through the performance. The second piece of film was a short (3 minute) section of a concert performance given in 1984 in Mexico City and features Ian taking his solo during a performance of ‘Things Past’ from the ‘Awakening’ album. Finally and also from 1984, another short 3 or 4 minute piece of film has Ian featured on the North-East regional programme ‘Heroes’, where he talks briefly about Miles Davis and then plays his tribute piece ‘For Miles and Miles’ to end the programme as the credits roll.
Part 3 - Nucleus Revisited:
1. Midnight Oil
2. Mutatis Mutandis
3. Out Of The Long Dark
4. Lady Bountiful
It’s been a long journey since I bought my first Nucleus album (a second-hand copy of ‘Elastic Rock’ in 1990), to my first experience of hearing the music of Ian Carr and Nucleus in concert, and whilst I wouldn’t have chosen to wait this long, it certainly made me savour the experience. A trio of Nucleus old boys - Geoff Castle, Mark Wood and Tim Whitehead featured in a group that played a somewhat narrow- range of Nucleus material (why feature only material from two albums, ‘Out Of The Long Dark’ and ‘Awakening’ when between 1970 and 1985 there were 13 Nucleus albums, nine studio and two live but all featuring original material?) - perhaps Geoff Castle and co. were playing the repertoire that was a feature of the live performances during their original tenures with the band, but it would have been nice to hear a broader range of material. That said, hearing this material played by a live band was a revelation and truly highlights the genius of Ian Carr’s writing - this is difficult music to play but no less accessible for it. A lot of Ian’s music is truly through-composed and twists and turns its way through different moods and musical sections before resolving, fulfilling Ian’s intention of creating tension and then releasing it. Whereas perhaps a lot of the ‘fusion-type’ music from the 70s/80s started to lose the quality of writing that made for compositions that stood the test of time, there’s no such problem here - theme/solo/theme it ain’t. Thus, there is the gradual built-up in intensity into and through the mid-section of ‘Lady Bountiful’, and on to a truly barnstorming performance of ‘Awakening’ complete with thundering drum solo that brought the set to a triumphant close. The same audience that had enjoyed the 60’s-based EmCee Five material gave this very different group a warm send-off.
I’m left to reflect on two and a half hours dedicated to a man who has given me a great deal of pleasure through his music over a number of years now. It is testament to his ability that I still enjoy his music as much now as when I first encountered it and I’ve no doubt that this will always be the case. I’m also pleased that a gig which would normally have probably taken place in London has taken place on my doorstep - my sincere thanks to the Sage for honouring Ian’s connections to this region and putting this event together - I’ll remember it for years to come. My thanks to Alyn Shipton for signing my copy of Ian’s biography on the day. Alyn also mentioned that the event was filmed so that Ian could see how it went - I’m sure that there’s a lot of other people who wouldn’t mind seeing it either!
Vincent Carr, 20 March 2007
Concert Review - Nucleus Revisited - Ian Carr Tribute Concert
Pizza Express Jazz Club, London, 30 March 2007
Rob Statham, Tim Whitehead, Chris Batchelor (Photo R. Farbey)
As part of the week long 'Jazzwise to the Power of 10' celebratory concerts at London's Pizza Express Jazz Club, marking the tenth anniversary of this august jazz magazine, Friday's gig featured Nucleus Revisited with a stellar line-up. The evening however kicked off with a trio led by guitarist David Okumu, ably assisted by bassist Tom Herbert and drummer Tom Skinner, who like Okumu are also part of Jade Fox and other incarnations of the excellent F-IRE collective. Although introduced as the David Okumu Trio, he modestly referred to them as 'Okumu, Skinner and Herbert' or 'OSH' as it is easier to remember. Okumu also revealed to the audience that this set was dedicated to Ian Carr whose Saturday jazz rehearsal classes were where Okumu, Skinner and Herbert originally met. OSH began quietly, ruminatively, but picked up pace about half way through their fine set.
The slightly unusual combination of acoustic bass and electric guitar (a fine solid bodied Hofner more normally to be found in a rock setting) and a bank of effects pedals did not jar in any way and the music flowed naturally. Tom Skinner's sure fire drumming completed this trio of talented musicians who managed to make their serpentine compositions utterly entrancing. Okumu's style although unique, seems surely informed by the likes of Bill Frisell, Pat Metheny and even Hendrix, the latter influence most noticeable on the penultimate number in which he employed a loop to repeat a fast and intricate guitar line. A great set from a trio of musicians that we will undoubtedly hear a lot more from soon.
Nucleus Revisited, with a line-up especially recruited for two tribute gigs to British modern jazz rock legend Ian Carr, played with astounding confidence and competence. Led by the redoubtable Geoff Castle longest serving Nucleus member, aside from Carr himself who is too frail to perform in public now, the sextet kicked off with a suitably slinky version of 'Midnight Oil' and then moved on to the somewhat quirkier 'Mutatis Mutandis'. This was followed by Carr's 'Out of the Long Dark' the title track of his 1979 album recorded for Capitol Records and as someone in the audience shouted out, also the title of the biography of Ian Carr. Next was a great version of the riff-rich 'Something for Mr Jelly Lord', one of the pieces composed by Carr which was commissioned as part of a suite entitled 'Conversations with the Blues' and which made its recorded debut on the Mood Records album 'Live at the Theaterhaus'.
Geoff Castle then introduced one of the more well-known of Carr's works, the title track from the album 'Roots' which as Castle pointed out, had been sampled quite a lot in recent years. The beautifully haunting 'Lady Bountiful' (in 5/4 time as Geoff Castle reminded the audience) benefited from a lengthy acoustic piano solo by Castle which drew rapt attention and suitably appreciative applause. The only non-Carr piece was Geoff Castle's 'Solar Wind' taken again from the Nucleus album 'Out of the Long Dark' which featured Castle's newly acquired 'Little Phatty' analog synthesizer (a Bob Moog tribute edition synth purchased a month ago because Castle's original Moog synth broke down) and a truly inspired, coruscating guitar solo by Mark Wood. The lovely 'Things Past' from Carr's album 'Old Heartland' was up next with the fantastic repeated horn line, oddly clipped in a manner not a million miles from 'Milestones' (pun intended).
Ian Carr himself by this point was so inspired by the band that he took to the side of the stage to make a brief announcement of gratitude for such a great concert. The gig ended with the subtle yet paradoxically enlivening 'Awakening', complete with yet another superb Moog solo from Castle and as aptly named as any of Carr's tunes. Throughout the performance, Rob Statham's fat Fender fretless bass kept the pace and often the riffs going ably assisted by Theo Travis' drummer Marc Parnell who was playing, to use one of Miles' favourite similes, when describing Tony Williams' drumming, like a mother******!
Tim Whitehead, an old Nucleus alumnus, was in fine form on both soprano and tenor saxes, giving it his all and clearly enjoying this rare occasion. Marc Wood was simply magnificent proving himself to be one of the truly greatest guitarists around but who is regrettably very rarely seen on stage. Chris Batchelor was there again on trumpet, recalling his earlier first appearance with the band when in August 2005, he so bravely stepped in for Ian Carr at the now legendary Nucleus gig at London's Cargo. This time Batchelor played even more superlatively and was clearly more relaxed than eighteen months earlier. Finally, Geoff Castle who made introductions to each composition, and had made it clear from the off that this concert was entirely devoted to Ian Carr, led the band with typical aplomb. Confident, assured, his playing just gets better and better.
This was one of the greatest Nucleus gigs in all of its sporadic thirty five year-plus history. The band obviously enjoyed it, the audience clearly enjoyed it - ecstatically - and Ian Carr definitely enjoyed it. As Jon Newey, editor of Jazzwise, said in his introduction to this Jazzwise Magazine 10th anniversary celebratory evening, Ian Carr along with Soft Machine was pivotal in pioneering British jazz rock in the late 60s and early 70s. Here's hoping we see them perform again sometime in the near future, because, as purveyors of Carr's superbly complex yet memorable jazz compositions, these musicians demonstrate that Nucleus is much more than merely the sum of its parts and that even without their founder and mentor at the helm, they are, nearly 40 years later, still alive and kicking ass and proving they were and still are the greatest.
Out of the Long Dark
Something for Mr Jelly Lord
Marc Wood (Photo R. Farbey) Geoff Castle (Photo R. Farbey)
Roger Farbey, 31 March 2007
Concert review: Ian Carr Tribute Concert - Part of the London Jazz Festival
Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, 14 November 2006
Photo: R. Farbey
Scott Stroman should be applauded for organising this long-overdue tribute to his friend and colleague Ian Carr, who is undoubtedly one of the UKs outstanding jazz legends. Fittingly, the man who last introduced him as such, on his 'Jazz Legends radio show, Julian Joseph, also participated in this supper-rare event which played to a packed auditorium. The concert opened with an excellent rendition by the Guildhall Jazz Band of Carr's 'Midnight Oil'. The 17-strong big band was conducted by Stroman but this was the only piece they played. They were immediately followed by the band that played the rest of the concert's music. This band was comprised of Cleveland Watkiss on vocals. Nick Smart on trumpet, Tom Challenger on alto sax, Jeremy Price on trombone, Chris Allard on guitar, Julian Joseph on piano, Mark Hodgson on bass and Andy Chapman on drums.
The tight ensemble kicked off with 'Big City Strut' followed by 'Pavanne' and closed the first half with a crackling version of 'Persephone's Jive'. The second half of the programme was to initially feature Cleveland Watkiss on looped vocals but his Echoplex was not functioning properly so he just had to sing without it and he and Julian Joseph performed as a duo two songs 'I Remember April' and 'Yesterdays'. Following this intermission, the band returned to the stage and proceeded with a great version of 'Hot Rod' followed by a slow 'Wine Dark Lullaby'. The next number was Carr's beautiful and distinctive masterpiece 'Les Neiges D'Antan' and the evening concluded with a robust version of 'Bull Dance' from the album 'Labyrinth'.
It was interesting to note that the majority of tunes played were from the 'Rendell Carr Quintet' era, but this was explained by Stroman when he made a short speech towards the end of the concert and mentioned that Martin Hathaway wrote the arrangements and he was a very big fan of this groundbreaking group. Another reason why the selection was fitting was that Nucleus' music really needs an electric band to perform it to its full jazz rock potential and this would have been difficult given the fact that the superb Mark Hodgson was playing acoustic bass and Julian Joseph was playing a grand piano. Joseph in an short speech earlier in the evening explained that all the particiants of the main band, like so many other jazz musicians of his generation had been helped and taught by Ian Carr either at the Guildhall or at the weekend workshops Ian conducted. It was clear that the love these fine musicians showed to Ian was genuine, not surprisingly so, since Ian Carr is one of the most caring, kind and sincere people in jazz.
The audience, which also included jazz stars Jon Hiseman, Barbara Thompson and Tim Garland amongst others was enthusiastic in its appreciation of this fine concert. Also present was Ian Carr himself, who Stroman invited onto the stage to take a bow. Carr had clearly enjoyed the evening and expressed his surprise at the number of people in attendance. This was a superb testament to an extraordinary figure in jazz and proof that, as Stroman said at the outset of the gig, they were here not (just) because they liked Ian but because they wanted to play his compositions. If nothing else this evening proved how good Ian Carr's compositions really are - and this was just the tip of the iceberg.
Roger Farbey, November 2006
Michael Garrick, Norma Winstone, Henry Lowther, Art Themen, Dave Green, Trevor Tomkins (photo: R. Farbey)
It's not an exaggeration to say that this was one of the most important gigs for British jazz since last year's Jazz Britannia concerts. Not just because the line-up of artists appearing was at least as illustrious as the Barbican gigs but because the benefit gig was in aid of one of the UK's most respected and loved figures, the redoubtable Ian Carr. Carr himself, frail yet still typically cheery, was in the audience and must have thoroughly enjoyed the evening since the stars were truly out that night in his honour.
The first set was a historic one with the Michael Garrick Sextet featuring Norma Winstone on vocals. As Garrick, who also compered the evening, said after the opening number 'Voices' from his album 'The Heart is a Lotus', this was the first time the band had played together since 1973 and they hadn't rehearsed. They sounded absolutely perfect. Winstone's scintillating vocals dominating the stage, not in volume but in sheer dexterity. Henry Lowther and Art Themen played like they had in their youth and seemed totally undaunted by the years. Trevor Tomkins is still a powerhouse of precision and sensitivity. Dave Green, who sadly had to leave half way through the MG6 set to be replaced by Alec Dankworth (a bit like bus drivers swapping over shifts) played superbly. Before Green left the stage, the band also played the tricky and fast bop-ish pastiche 'Good Times' from the album 'Black Marigolds' (even though Winstone had never sung on the album). This was in short a jazz supergroup that had been miraculously revived and the effect was mesmerising. They are scheduled for a 'reunion' gig next February but let's hope they play more gigs before and after that.
Following on from the MG6 must have been difficult, but the next set, by the Jacqui Dankworth group with her brother Alec on bass, was up to the challenge. Jacqui Dankworth is an accomplished singer who has clearly inherited both her famous parents' talents. It is surprising that she isn't more widely lauded. Perhaps she is in a similar position to Prince Charles in that she is the perhaps the new British jazz diva in waiting but Cleo takes precedence at the moment. Her vocal style is similar to her mother's in timbre and pitch but there are less of the scat vocals and more concentration on lyrics. She undoubtedly is a great talent and should not be underestimated. The closing number in the set, the blues 'Sitting on Top of the World', pulled no punches and was devastatingly good.
If the Michael Garrick Sextet had been a hard to follow then the sight of the octogenarian Kenny Wheeler being assisted onto the stage to play three of his own compositions with a band which was just as illustrious as the previous one, was a true sight for sore eyes. Wheeler, was accompanied by Stan Sulzman on tenor, John Parricelli on guitar, Malcolm Creese on bass, Ian Thomas on drums and Gwilym Simcock on piano. Although age is gradually creeping up on Kenny, his playing still retained the inventive fluidity that is his stylistic trademark. His compositions were typically complex and beautiful arrangements. This set too had an aura of immense profundity since it's not often that Wheeler plays a Central London gig these days and when he does, people listen, in awe.
Next up was a quartet which sported the great Alan Jackson on drums in remarkably cheerful mood - he had earlier made an impromptu speech where he regaled the audience with an anecdote about the one time he had played in Ian Carr's Nucleus and had turned up to the gig 'pissed and stoned' and played rather badly. He noted that Ian hadn't even castigated him and for that reason he thought Ian 'a nice guy'. As he shuffled off back to the drum kit he mumbled 'well I just thought someone should talk about Ian, no one has talked about Ian'. But within minutes the great Don Rendell, part of this quartet, made up for this omission by stating to the audience how very important Ian had been to him as the co-leader of the Rendell Carr Quintet. Rendell went on to say how they played great music and that they played from the heart. It was never about money, they just played how they felt. This was quite heart warming in itself, to see this near Octogenarian refusing to 'go gentle into that goodnight' and raging against the modern 'jangling' noise. Michael Garrick and Paul Moylan on bass completed the group and they played 'There is no Greater Love' (I think) followed by a really rousing and at times rebelliously loud version of Garrick and the RC5tet's anthem 'Dusk Fire'. Don Rendell is still as brilliant as ever, long may he live.
There were announcements including an auction of memorabilia and Dorothy Shaw the benefit organiser thanked the participants including Norma Winstone (who's idea the benefit was) and Michael Garrick who led the proceedings. As it was 11pm she thought it was officially the end of the gig, however, MG had other ideas and announced another set, this time led by Tim Whitehead - also a sometime Nucleus member. Sadly this reviewer had to leave at this point but if the final set was anything like the previous four, it must have been spectacular.
Roger Farbey, September 2006
(ICNW) As one of the UK’s leading jazz writers and critics, when did you first become aware of Ian Carr and what attracted you to his music?
(AS) I first heard Ian in person in 1969, playing with Mike Garrick's sextet. I was 16, and already interested in traditional and mainstream jazz, but this was my first introduction to the live sound of contemporary British Jazz. Mike, Don Rendell, Art Themen, Coleridge Goode and John Marshall all made an impression on me, but it was Ian's playing that stood out.
(ICNW) Do you see Ian as more of a virtuoso performer or an innovator?
(AS) More of an innovator, given his work at the forefront of so many genres, although he's certainly produced some great virtuoso solos, from I'm Beginning to See The Light on Stan Tracey's Love You Madly album through to things like Kaleidoscope of Rainbows, where he is exceptional throughout, and individual solos like Snakehips' Dream on the Nucleus at the BBC sessions.
(ICNW) Have you been influenced or impressed by Ian’s writing in any way (ie, the Miles, Keith Jarrett and Music Outside books?)
(AS) Music Outside was a book I learned a lot from when it first appeared, I have found the Miles book extremely useful as a guide to my own researches and thinking about Miles, and as a jumping off point for many BBC programmes. I actually came to the Jarrett book quite late, well after I'd started interviewing and writing about Keith myself, so that had less of an impact on me and my work, but the other two have both been essential reading.
(ICNW) Do you sense any bitterness that Ian lost several musicians from the original Nucleus line-up, many of whom were absorbed by Soft Machine, or do you think he accepted this stoically and moved on?
(AS) I think I'd be right in saying that most of the bitterness and bad feeling that occurred at the time is now long gone. For example, John Marshall returned to the Nucleus fold, but still plays in various Softs tributes and reunions, and Ian and Pete King at Ronnie's made it up with Ian years ago during the George Russell band residency at the club. Karl is now into a very different area of music, and I don't think his path and Ian's have crossed since the split.
(ICNW) Did you find Ian an easy or difficult subject for a biography?
(AS) Easy because we have a lot in common. Difficult, because I've known him for a long time. I've had no problems in getting to grips with Ian's background, because my grandmother grew up near to where Ian and Mike were children, and our respective great grandfathers were both part of the Durham establishment in the 19th century. We share musical tastes, have much listening in common, and have, indeed, played with some of the same musicians over the years. So being objective is harder under these circumstances, but I hope I've managed that.
(ICNW) Do you sense a distinct feel to British jazz as opposed to jazz from America or do you perceive jazz as a universal language?
(AS) Defining jazz is one of those "how long is a piece of string?" questions, and I spent a lot of time in my New History of Jazz arguing that - on the Dr Johnson principle of a dictionary recording rather than prescribing usage - a definition of jazz encompasses all the types of music that have been known as jazz, each of which has a different accent within a common language. So in considering the musical language of Ian, I've viewed it in terms of a particularly British dialect of jazz, albeit one that draws from Ian's extensive knowledge of and love for American jazz, but not forgetting his world music connections with the likes of Amancio D'Silva and Guy Warren.
(ICNW) Do you think jazz is recognised in the UK as serious music or is it still – to paraphrase Ian’s book ‘Music Outside’ - a ‘Cinderella’ art form?
(AS) I think it's recognised as a serious music, but also a minority taste. This is more or less where it sits in terms of everything from funding to radio coverage. It isn't regarded as "art" in the same way that it is by both funding bodies and broadcasters in many European countries, but equally it is no longer regarded as "popular" - even after the Jamie Cullum revolution. Actually the Cullum phenomenon rather confirms Ian's "cinderella" image. Jazz was briefly hailed as the new thing, and everything from Sunday supplements to teenage magazines were full of Jamie, but now the footmen have turned back to mice, the glass slipper has gone missing, and we're on to the next fashion of the moment....
(ICNW) On a more general note, what first attracted you to jazz?
(AS) My father came back from the far east with a pile of 78s he'd collected in Hong Kong immediately after the war, of everything from Earl Hines and Fats Waller to Duke Ellington and Muggsy Spanier, so this was the music I listened to as a child, along with the classics. I wanted to play it from the moment I could sit at a piano!
(ICNW) I see from the picture on your website that you play bass, how long have you played this instrument and why bass particularly?
(AS) I've played bass since the 1960s, first in a school band and then at Oxford University, where I ran the jazz club. I went on to play a lot of traditional and mainstream jazz, with a long association with Sammy Rimington, and a short period in Ken Colyer's band. I played in the Vile Bodies big band at the Ritz in the 80s and early 90s, often alongside Don Rendell in the reed section.
I wanted to play bass from the age of about twelve, but I had to start out on the cello because I wasn't big enough to reach the fingering positions on the bass! Then I got a half-size instrument, and started playing seriously at about the age of fourteen. Now I split my time between playing classical orchestral bass in and around Oxford, and getting back together with my mainstream jazz friends for festival gigs.
(ICNW) Apart from Ian Carr, who would you rate as your favourite jazz musician(s) – alive or dead?
(AS) Mainly the other ones I've written about: Fats Waller, Bud Powell, and Dizzy Gillespie. Then there's Louis, Mingus and Duke of course. But to that list I'd add Ornette Coleman, Oscar Peterson and Keith Jarrett, all of whom are still with us!
(ICNW) Do you have an all-time top three jazz albums?
(AS) Difficult question, but I think they'd have to include: Satchmo at Symphony Hall, Ellington at Newport 56 (the amazing digitally cleaned up stereo version), and Mingus Ah Um.
(ICNW) When do you expect the Ian Carr biography ‘Out of the Long Dark’ to be published and will it be available from the usual retail outlets?
(AS) We're hoping for June 22  as publication day. All Equinox books are obtainable via Amazon or Jazzscript UK websites, and ought to be found in bookshops with any kind of decent music collection (Blackwell Music Shop, Hatchard's Piccadilly, Waterstone's Gower St etc).
(ICNW) Thank you very much Alyn.
Interview date: 13 April 2006
Concert Review - Nucleus: Cargo, London, 31 August 2005
Photos courtesy Ian Willis-Bentley
On one of the hottest nights of the year in more senses than one, Nucleus took to the stage at Cargo, in London's most central sector of hip Hackney, located in an enclave not much more than a 20 minute walk from The Barbican Centre, where in February so many other British jazz legends had played to massive audiences at the Jazz Britannia weekend. They hadn't played a gig together for two years, the last being the swan song of the late, great, Neil Ardley at the Southbank. However, this was a sadder occasion, for Ian Carr was unable to play with the band and in his stead ex-Loose Tubes horn man Chris Batchelor had been recruited. Ian Carr had been in hospital two months ago for a double hernia operation, so it was understandable that he couldn't play. He did however introduce the band and then sat on the side of the stage, often nodding approvingly in time with the music, looking, resplendent in his trusty brown tweed jacket, for all the world like some proudly beneficent music professor, which indeed he has been to so many.
With little ado, the band kicked off at just after 10pm with 'Lady Bountiful' before moving on to a great, powerful version of 'Roots'. Then the band, which consisted of an amalgamation of the last two line ups of Nucleus (Mark Wood on guitar, Nic France on drums, Geoff Castle on keyboards and Phil Todd on saxes and flute) moved on to a selection of numbers from that early 1980s period. This began with 'Things Past' a slower tempo tune with solos by Castle, Wood and Batchelor. Ian Carr then introduced the next piece, 'Something for Mr Jelly Lord' which he said he wrote in 7/4 time, 'because he never did anything like that'. A moody version of 'Out of the Long Dark' followed this, and in turn this was succeeded by two more pieces from the 1980s recordings, 'Easy Does it Now' with a remarkable five minute fretless bass guitar solo by Rob Statham - and the sprightly closing number 'Dawn Choruses' introduced again by Ian Carr and which featured a truly coruscating, elemental, almost transcendental guitar solo by Mark Wood. An inevitable encore was demanded, and this took the form of the last section of 'Lady Bountiful' from the album 'Out of the Long Dark'. The applause was suitably uproarious, despite having stood for nearly two hours in sweltering heat, and just when the musicians thought it would be safe to pack up it was decided that one final encore could be managed and this was the elegantly graceful 'Summer Rain' from Carr's album 'Belladonna'.
Carr's band on this occasion comprised some of his longest serving colleagues including the great Geoff Castle who has been with Carr longest more than 30 years but special mention must be made of Chris Batchelor who did a first class job as nevertheless fitted into the group excellently, his soloing on occasion being nothing short of stunning. However, all the compositions in the set were written by Ian Carr and despite him not playing, the loyal and talented band and the cerebral yet rhythmically groove-based music proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Carr was the true progenitor of jazz rock in the United Kingdom, if not the World. He has no peers, but many, many fans.
Photo: R. Farbey
Roger Farbey, August 2005
Ian Carr and Nucleus: '70s British Jazz Rock Progenitors - an excellent essay by John Kelman from the All About Jazz website (published October 19, 2004) can be viewed from this link:
Ian Carr: The Maestro and His Music - by Roger Farbey, All About Jazz website (published July 7, 2005) can be viewed from this link: http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=18154
Ian Carr's 'Blind Jukebox' with Tom Callaghan
Ian Carr's 'Blind Jukebox' with Tom Callaghan (this was originally produced for 'Absolute Jazz' magazine in 1995 and is reproduced with the author's permission)
Ian Carr, the jazz trumpeter, composer, writer and broadcaster, very kindly agreed to take part in this 'Blind Jukebox' despite considerable pressures on his time. As well as revising his acclaimed biography of Miles Davis and his Jazz: The Essential Companion, Ian has just returned from a long tour with the United Jazz and Rock Ensemble. In addition, his commitments
as a teacher at the Guildhall and his criticism for the BBC Music Magazine occupy a lot of his time. Nevertheless, he insisted on wining and dining me before we listened to my compilation of modern jazz trumpet playing. A genuinely modest and self-effacing man, his comments were never less than perceptive, and revealed not only his deep commitment to jazz but to his thoughtful,artistic nature. We listened to some wonderful players, and the tape even had a twist in the tail!
You Can't Go Home Again
(Chet Baket, trumpet; Paul Desmond, alto; Kenny Barron, piano, Ron Carter, bass; Tony Williams, drums; Don Sebesky, el piano) You Can't Go Home Again, Chet Baker, 1977
Ian Carr: Is that Paul Desmond? And late Chet Baker? I like him in his old age because there's a depth of feeling there. There's another dimension in his older playing, a sureness of the notes, he's prepared not to play too many . He can play a lot, of course, but he's prepared to play fewer notes, rather like Miles Davis. All the notes sing with this incredible lyrical feeling, so that you feel the man is putting the whole of his being into the notes that he's playing at this particular moment. In a sense, all you can ask of any artist is that he puts all his being into it, whether it's in words or paints or music. I think Chet Baker had got rid of so much consciousness, because of the way he lived, that everything was focussed on this one thing. His meaning of life was to play: whatever his love affairs, or his private life, his tragedies or his triumphs, the actual thing that gave him real meaning was the way he played. Herbie Hancock said that the interesting thing about Chet Baker is that he never learned to read music particularly well, if at all really, so his instinctive playing is absolutely fabulous. He's actually making music at this moment in time, not a note in sight, not even a note in his head in terms of written music, but coming straight from the heart through the mouth, to us.
Tom Callaghan: Despite the drugs? Or because of them?
IC: I think the drugs may have cut out some of his consciousness, which enabled him to focus so much, but there's a kind of wisdom of life in his later playing which may have come just from living, not from drugs. Maybe the fact that he was forced to concentrate on the notes that were coming immediately in front of him, the notes he was producing may have been due to a lack of consciousness. I like Chet Baker very much, early and late, he's a very nice musician who speaks to me.
The Flight of the Bumblebee
(Wynton Marsalis, cornet)
Wynton Marsalis, Portrait of..., 1983
IC: Is it Harry James? I know it's 'Flight of the Bumblebee' (laughs)
TC: It's not Harry James.
IC: He did it first though, on the trumpet. Was it a jazz player?
TC: Yes, but one who got famous imitating a different jazz player than Harry James.
IC: I've no idea who it was at all.
TC: Wynton Marsalis.
IC: Well, I'm disgusted with him (laughs). I really am disgusted with him for doing that!
TC: Because of what it is?
IC: Yes, because of what it is; when Miles Davis wanted to insult someone he said " You might as well try playing 'Flight of the Bumblebee'" (laughs). I'm surprised Wynton Marsalis did it actually, I really am. When you think he plays the Hummel and various trumpet concertos, why did he do that? There are lots of trumpet players who could do that, and it didn't have to be Marsalis, and I didn't recognise Marsalis' playing from that. It sounded just like some guy with facility playing a trumpet:
in terms of individuality, I would rate it zero.
TC: Is Marsalis simply trying to relive the '50s Davis band?
IC: Well, I think Marsalis has been under too much influence from Stanley Crouch, who seems to be his guru, because Crouch is by no means the ultimate authority on music, let alone jazz. A lot of these statements by Marsalis seem to echo those of Crouch, who doesn't like Miles Davis at all, for example. Anybody who advised Wynton Marsalis to go on stage with Miles Davis and ask for a blow did him a great disservice. To ask Davis for a blow after insulting him was very foolish. Davis stopped the band and said "Get out of here; get off, go away." There's something obscene about a twenty-odd year old musician advising a person like Miles Davis what to do with his life. It's like a young guy going up to Picasso and saying "Why are you doing ceramics? A genius like you? How could you waste your time doing ceramics?" Picasso made ceramics because that's what he wanted to do. Whatever interests him, he wants to do it. And with Miles Davis, it's the same. Marsalis wasn't the first young musician to try to tell Miles what to do; there's a big difference between a twenty year old and a forty year old, particularly in jazz.
Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
(Lew Soloff, trumpet, flugelhorn; Gil Evans, el piano; Pete Levin, synth; Hiram Bullock, guitar; Mark Egan, bass; Adam Nussbaum, drums, Manolo Badrena, perc)
Hanalei Bay, Lew Soloff, 1986
IC: (partway through) Lester Bowie? (at the end) Is it a white player? Is it Lew Soloff?
TC: Yes. But what made you ask that?
IC: Because I couldn't think of a black player who was a modernist who had that kind of vibrato on certain notes, and also growled like that. I had Lew Soloff in the back of my mind, because of the purity of the high notes he hit. When I said Lester Bowie, he hadn't really hit any high notes, and if I'd heard those high notes I'd never have said Lester Bowie, but I first thought, from the growls and the vibrato, which is an kind of thing, that it was Bowie putting it on, but it wasn't. It was Lew Soloff, not putting it on but being himself. And of course, he's an incredibly good player. He's one of these guys, who, like wine, matures with age. Some of his really great work has been done quite recently with Carla Bley; his actual sound on 'Big Band Theory' is really beautiful. It's the best sound he's ever had, a beautiful fat lyrical sound, and fantastic chops and stamina, and great phrases: he's really coming into his own.
TC : With Lew Soloff and Gary Valenti really battling it out!
IC: It's chalk and cheese: Valenti is more a jive eccentric than a jive virtuoso, but Soloff
is a virtuoso, a man who's getting more emotion into his playing in old age than he did when he was younger.
TC: What about his work with Gil Evans' band?
IC: He's terrific with Gil Evans' band, but I still think he's playing better now. He's always
been brilliant technically, but he's coming into his own in these later stages, and maybe one of the reasons is the continuity of always working with Carla Bley and always being the main featured soloist. This is a great compliment from Carla; he's risen to the occasion, and he's playing really well because of that. These things are so subtle: why emotion starts coming out in a player can depend on all kinds of subtle psychological things that are going on with the people around him. I think Lew is suddenly coming out as a big emotional player as well as a great technical player.
(Charles Tolliver, trumpet; Stanley Cowell, piano; Clint Houston, bass; Clifford Barbaro, drums)
Live In Tokyo, Charles Tolliver/Music Inc, 1973
IC: Well, I didn't get that one!
TC: Charles Tolliver.
IC: Life is very unfair, you know, because Charles Tolliver is a very good player, a very good player indeed, but for some reason, he's not very easily distinguishable from other people. When I used to listen to him in the '60s - quite a long time ago - he always seemed to me to be in the Freddie Hubbard vein, or even Woody Shaw, but he didn't seem to have the individuality which really marks you out from the crowd. But he always seemed to be a very good player, excellent technically, and would play great things. So I haven't heard of him, he's been off the scene for years... but lots of people are off the scene - not forgetting yours truly! - and in a sense, they're probably playing just as well or better than they ever did play. But everybody can't be on the scene all the time, there's just not enough room, there are too many people clamouring for attention. But
it was great to hear Charles Tolliver again; he played extremely nicely, and I liked it a lot...
(Herb Alpert, trumpet; Greg Smith, keyboards, bass, guitar, programming; Joe Rotondi, Piano; Kevin Ricard, perc)
North On South St, Herb Alpert, 1991
IC: Who was the guy - I'm sure it's him! - who ran a record company after he played the trumpet, in harmony with other trumpets?
TC: Herb Alpert?
IC: That's him! Well, yes, I'm not surprised! Dire! Absolutely dire! I thought it was him but I couldn't think of his name! He's a good technician, a good trumpeter, and probably he's also a very nice guy, you know?
TC: That's the most damning thing you can say about anybody!
IC: Yes, but you can have absolutely dreadful human beings who can produce something interesting. I've heard Herb Alpert playing things that are beautifully played, but I've never heard him play anything that moved me, and I'm sure that he's the first person who knows he can't do that. And that's why he's such a nice guy and why he runs a record company and why he helps other people so much, because he's a great help to other musicians...
Concerto For Billy the Kid (unreleased take)
(George Russell Smalltet)
Jazz Workshop, George Russell Smalltet, 1956
IC: (after a few seconds) Art Farmer!
IC: The thing about Art Farmer is that he's instantly recognisable. I can recognise Art Farmer anywhere and this is an amazing gift. I don't think Art had to work at that, it's just the way he articulates notes, and he's got a curious way of separating the notes when he plays. They don't run into one another the way most trumpet players do so: they're actually like beads on a string, and that's very curious. He's got this very nice thing that he does: a little bit of vibrato at the end of the note and its a very unique and original way of playing. Everybody's unique, and it just so happens by some freak of fortune that Art got his uniqueness into his playing. If everybody could do that, everybody would be getting great audiences everywhere. I talked to him about this record with George Russell, because it's very hard to play, the music is very difficult, and they played as if it was easy. I asked Art how they did it and he said that they rehearsed the music every Sunday for months and when they were ready to do something they did it. Art is one of the very very few original individual players around today: I like him very much, he's got a great feeling and tone.
TC: You've played with George Russell; did you find his music hard to play?
IC: Yes, it's hard to play, and it's also hard physically in terms of duration and stamina,
you've got to be in really good shape to play with George. It requires great control but the rewards are very great. It's a joy; George began as a drummer and his music is always incredibly eloquent rhythmically, full of the most wonderful rhythms, and he also has very good guys playing with him. It's a joy to work with him, although you really have to give your all for George, George demands everything you can give and more, and when you've given everything, he's still asking for more. At the end, you're completely spent, but the rewards are very great, and some of it is sheer ecstacy, when the band's really going.
(Kenny Wheeler, trumpet, flugelhorn; Jan Garbarek, tenor, soprano; John Abercrombie, guitar, mandolin; Dave Holland, bass; Jack DeJohnette, drums)
Deer Wan, Kenny Wheeler, 1977
IC: Kenny Wheeler, with Jan Gabarek, John Abercrombie, from the record 'Deer Wan' which is one of my favourite records. The feeling on 'Deer Wan' is phenomenal: there's a track in 6/4 where the feeling is simply amazing. What can I say? Kenny is one of the great original trumpeters playing today; he's like Art Farmer, he cannot help being himself, and he's so completely different from any other self, he's a complete original. He's a giant of the trumpet technically as well as emotionally. People said of Miles that he made a virtue out of his shortcomings and became very original - I don't know whether that's true actually! - and with Kenny, there are certain things he can't do very well; he can't really play bebop, which is a string of even quavers when you're soloing. He doesn't do that so well, so he does it in a different way; they're not even, they're uneven, and out of this comes his originality. But he's one of the greatest trumpeters playing today, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most original. The emotional range of his work may be narrow but it's very deep, and actually it's better to be narrow and deep than wide and shallow...
I Only Have Eyes For You
(Lester Bowie, trumpet; Stanton Davis, trumpet, flugelhorn; Malachi Thompson, trumpet; Bruce Purse, trumpet; Craig Harris, trombone; Steve Turre, trombone; Vincent Chancey, french horn; Bob Stewart, tuba; Phillip Wilson, drums)
I Only Have Eyes For You, Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy, 1985
IC: Lester Bowie? I thought it was Lester Bowie because of the growling and the slurring of the notes, the half-valve choked effects. This really comes from Rex Stewart out of the Ellington band, who was a master of this sort of thing. He could do something which I've never heard anybody else do, do an entire conversation on the half-valve, like two people talking - arguing with each other over the fence. Lester Bowie invests a lot of theatricality in his music, and I think that the sound that he was doing was tongue-in-cheek. The only excuse for it would be that it was done with a sardonic intent, because it's threadbare musically; there are two chords in there, and nothing much happening. I find that - as a general rule in this music - the more theatricality you have, the more threadbare the music. It also happens in avant-garde groups, say the Globe Unity Orchestra. They all say they're satirising the medium, doing a cod blues or whatever, but really it's because they don't know what else to do. This kind of satirical commentary his a fairly limited place in jazz; I like Lester Bowie though, he's a good player.
What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?
(Freddie Hubbard, trumpet; Herbie Hancock, piano; Milt Jackson, vibes; Ron Carter, bass; Billy Cobham, drums)
Sunflower, Milt Jackson, 1972
IC: What can I say? Freddie Hubbard is a marvellous trumpet player, and quite a major influence on other players. He worked out a whole series of new ways of using fourths, which are very typical of his playing, and which influenced a lot of people, like Woody Shaw. He's a fantastic technician, and capable of playing of the very highest calibre. He's not a good band leader, his best playing is never with his own bands, it's with other leaders, like Dolphy on 'Out to Lunch', with Coltrane, with Oliver Nelson. When he's left to his own devices, he never seems to reach that pitch of greatness.
TC: Is that because it's his own material? Or because he's got other concerns?
IC: There's not the focus there; he always plays beautifully, you could never fault him technically, but when he's with giants... all trumpet players after Louis Armstrong were influenced by sax players, for example, Dizzy with Charlie Parker. Now Freddie Hubbard roomed with Eric Dolphy, and would practice the same exercises, all those huge interval leaps, and that made his playing very different and individual.
Trouble In Mind (The Return)
(Mark Isham, trumpet; Marianne Faithfull, vocals; Pee Wee Ellis, sax; Kurt Wortman, percussion; Peter Maunu, guitar)
'Trouble In Mind' Original Film Soundtrack, 1986
IC: No idea.
TC: He's reputed to be the highest-paid trumpet player in the world. Mark Isham.
IC: It could have been anyone, it could have been Palle Mikkelberg - any good trumpet player copying Miles. But I like the track; I used to play it when I was young.
My Funny Valentine
(Ian Carr, trumpet; Nico, vocals, harmonium; keyboards, James Young; Graham Dids, perc) Camera Obscura, Nico + the faction, 1985
IC: I don't know who that trumpet player was.
TC: Any good?
IC: Yes I think he was good.
TC: It's a guy called Ian Carr.
IC: (laughs) What? Is it really me? It sounded a bit too good for me. God, that was really good. I remember the session. The producer was John Cale...
TC: Founder of the Velvet Underground.
IC: I remember, Cale wasn't hard to work with, but he was one of those guys who always want to try something else, even when you know it's done. But we did this in one take. I was playing flugelhorn, and they put a lot of sound on it. I don't remember it, I never got a copy of the record, but a reviewer in Melody Maker praised this unknown trumpet player!
TC: It was either going to be this track or the track you did with No-man: they were very
complimentary about you in the Wire, saying about how Nucleus were doing in Europe what Miles was doing in America, and what an influence you were.
IC: Well, thank you very much; when you get a pat on the back like that, it does wonders for your feelings about yourself, because a lot of the time, it's like sending messages in a bottle, you can't tell if it's survived!
TC: Ian, thanks very much.
Newcastle photographer Jim Perry had an exhibition of prints at the Sage, Gateshead. These featured jazz in Newcastle in the 1960s and include several ultra-rare photographs of Ian and Mike Carr and the EmCee Five. These unique photographs have been loaded onto Flickr (as at November 2008) and can be viewed here: http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=Newcastle+jazz+1960s
Back to home page: http://iancarrsnucleus.webs.com/