Don Rendell/ Ian Carr: “Live” (1969) EMI Lansdowne

Selection: Pavanne (Carr/Tomkins)

Artists

Don Rendell  (Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute, Clarinet) Ian Carr  (Trumpet, Flugelhorn) Michael Garrick (Piano) Dave Green  (Bass) Trevor Tomkins (Drums) recorded Lansdowne Studios, Holland Park, London,  March 18, 1968,  recording engineer David Heelis,  cover design Gerald Laing.

British jazz seems to have low visibility to those steeped in the US tradition, so some of these artists may be unfamiliar to LJC readers. I feel reasonably well versed in British jazz in the American tradition – Tubby Hayes, Joe Harriott, Dizzy Reece, Shake Keane and others, but less so with the Don Rendell Ian Carr Quintet, who represent a peculiarly British strain of jazz which emerged in the second half of the ’60s.

As much for my own benefit, here is a quick flyover, inadequate comparisons on my part, merely what first came to mind.  Don Rendell, tenor and smaller saxes, flute and clarinet: a cross between Lester Young  and John Coltrane with a touch of Archie Shepp (Rendell d. 2015 age 89) ; Ian Carr, trumpet and flugelhorn: a cross between Clifford Brown and Miles Davis (Carr d. 2009 age 75); Michael Garrick, composer and pianist, Duke Ellington meets St Paul’s Cathedral, liked to combine music with poetry readings (Garrick d. 2011 age  78). Dave Green is still playing bass, age 75. Trevor Tomkins is also very much alive and kicking, also age 75, last seen by me a few months back at East Croydon’s The Oval venue, behind the drums of the very excellent Simon Spillett Quartet.

Notice anything? I have no statistics to back it up, but I hazzard that British jazz players lived a lot lot longer than their American counterparts.  I put this down to two things:  more restricted access to narcotics – mostly, a couple of pints of bitter seemed to do the trick – and a general observance by motorists of The Highway Code. Now, thanks to health and safety, the indoor smoking ban, cholesterol-lowering drugs, and gym club membership, today’s jazz players will certainly live to over a hundred, but will the music be as good? That is the question. Life is not just about length. It is also about breadth.

Any intention of collecting these as original pressings will immediately hit a massive financial obstacle. I had none of these albums until a chance encounter with two of them, including “Live”. The other will follow in a future post.

Music

Technically, a pavanne is slow processional dance.The selection Pavanne here is a tango-themed reading from a darker place. It is by no means easy to pidgeon-hole this. Carr’s daring lower register trumpet theatrics are the highlight, and the whole performance has a haunting atmospheric quality that makes this group so original and exciting, staking a claim to Jazz Independence Day. 

Rendell/ Carr’s works are not a British extension of US post-bop or modal, but full of fresh instrumental rethinking, drawing on eclectic world influences of Balkan, Indian, African and Middle Eastern music, composed and arranged passages of orchestral narrative, combined with free passages and quirky solos.

Rendell often favours clarinet and soprano sax, without any retro Sidney Bechet vibrato or dixieland stylistics, more classical in rendition. Carr like to shift to flugelhorn, lending variety of tone, and Garrick’s studied classical forms add a different flavour to the mix, not a rhythm section. The whole piece has a conceptual, intellectual quality not often found in more viscerally-driven rhythmic jazz. It has aged well compared to the contemporary jazz fusion that followed it, confirmed by its collector value.

Recorded  “live” in 1969 at London’s Lansdowne Studios in Holland Park, before an invited audience of jazz cognoscenti.  The improvisations on “Live” feel extended in length, as often happens in live performance compared with stopwatch studio discipline. It is British jazz, from Britain’s premier jazz group of the time (possibly all time), no longer jazz trying to break into the US market, but stylistically confident original voices and compositions, a mixed heritage of  jazz roots, classical sensibility, and progressive direction.

One for the sound engineers

The engineering is superlative, perfect stereo sound-stage capturing the ambience of a live setting while still enjoying studio quality, in a lights-low front row seat experience. Other Lansdowne LP in my collection, like Stan Tracy’s Jazz Suite – Under Milk Wood is similarly sonically electrifying. Why do EMI Lansdowne recordings sound so good? LJC takes a look under the bonnet, strokes chin thoughtfully, and has an aha moment.

I knew it, pure engineering porn: multiple close-up German Neumann and AKG condenser valve mics, 20 position mixer with  four track outputs, with a second composite tape run through an EMT plate for adding reverb. Soundsational. 

BritishJazzCollector (sporting bowler hat, brogues, umbrella and old school tie),  briefly standing in for LondonJazzCollector , surveys the Don Rendell Ian Carr Quintet musical landscape of late Sixties and Early Seventies, on vinyl.

Between 1965-9, The Rendell Carr Quintet produced a series of outstanding albums for EMI Lansdowne:

Shades of Blue, Dusk Fire, Phase III and Change Is, are among the most sought after records in the British Jazz catalogue. Shades of Blue you are lucky to get any change from £2,000, the others will set you back between £300 and 500, if you can find them.

This was the golden era of independent-thinking  British jazz, the late ’60s. but commercially a direction which was not sustained in the years that followed. Let’s look at the artists history.

Don Rendell was an earlier starter in ’40s big bands, branching out with smaller ensembles, before starting the Rendell Carr unit in 1963.  Below, a 10″ Tempo extremely rare and desirable, LAP1 Meet Don Rendell, and below, his 1972 EMI Lansdowne release Space Walk, which follows in the footsteps of the great Rendell Carr Quintet recordings.  His later recordings for Spotlite Records do not have the same collectablility, and by the ’80s Rendell had moved into music education,

Trumpeter Ian Carr went on to run with trends of the day, prog-psych jazz fusion funk rock pop smorgasbord with his band Nucleus. A sample of Nucleus albums, with their aggressive graphic design cover designs typical of the decade, not something I follow though I am sure it has its fans.

Michael Garrick produced more iconic works like this title, Home Stretch Blues (1972), which a saw once on a record shop wall asking £300, or it might have been £500. I laughed, but I’m not laughing now.

Garrick continued as band leader, composer and much-loved figure of British jazz over three decades. A friend who knew him socially confirmed he was an enormously nice guy, as well as enormously talented. Isn’t that how it usually works?

Vinyl: SCX 6316 EMI Magic Notes “Columbia”, 1969

This is the UK EMI-licensed “Columbia”, Columbia Magic Notes, not the US Columbia that resorted to all sorts of shennanigans to get its recordings released in Europe by getting around its own licensing arrangements with EMI. The Lansdowne Series is the cream of the crop.

Collector’s Corner

Rendell and Carr are very sought after by British Collectors, “a niche within a niche”.  The numbers as always tell the  story: Discogs Marketplace statistics for “Live” : Have: 10 Want: 146. Only one Marketplace seller is offering a copy, asking over £600, which is a little over the market rate, but first you have to find one.

It was the first time I had come across a Rendell Carr EMI Lansdowne face to face. Not a time for hesitation, I just said “yes”. Not much else to the story really. Just wish it happened more often, but delighted that it did at all.

I’m really a beginner in British Jazz, a latecomer and in short trousers. Gearbox has some good titles but only radio quality.

Any British Jazz Illuminati who can sharpen my reading are welcome to pick up the microphone. Anyone see the Rendell/Carr live? What do you make of British Jazz, War of Independence?

LJC

 

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17 thoughts on “Don Rendell/ Ian Carr: “Live” (1969) EMI Lansdowne

  1. Some of you might be interested in a new reissue from the folks of The Record Collector:
    http://shop.recordcollectormag.com/product/VINRENDELL/buy-don-rendell-rare-vinyl
    Two vinyl slabs of “Rendell playing at this famous West London venue back in September 1963 with a line-up of Rendell (Tenor/Soprano), Kenny Baker (trumpet), Glenn Hughes (baritone), Johnny Mealing (piano), Chick Andrews (drums) and Lennie Williams (bass). ”
    In the magazine Ian Shirley ( I think, I don’t have the latest issue around just now) also talked about his plans to re-issue “Shades of Blue” and “Dusk Fire”. Unfortunately the rights holders do not want to license the music. Too bad, seems there will be no re-issue in the near future of these gems!

    • Yes, I saw that article and offer. The part about the rights holders not being prepared to licence Rendell/Carr material pained me even though I had previously heard this from other sources. I wonder why they’re sitting on these master tapes (whoever “they” are)? I’d have thought a well-packaged audiophile re-issue would be financially viable. In my more fanciful moments I imagine a crowdfunding campaign to produce a top notch limited edition box-set…

  2. The specially invited audience at Lansdowne Studio for this recording included Beeb stars and jazz enthusiasts the late John le Mesurier and Warren Mitchell, I believe.

      • I’m surprised you don’t have a copy sidewinder, you have all the nice records! That’s assuming you are the sidewinder from the other place…

  3. For one of the best aide-memoirs of Brit Jazz take a look at Birka Jazz: http://www.birkajazz.com/archive/england.htm

    Rare as hens’ teeth doesn’t even begin to describe some of these records. What little I have is mainly on CD, from the Vocation and other reissues of more than a decade ago now, when Gilles Peterson was reviving interest in the period — and helping boost the prices of originals into the stratosphere, of course. Stan Tracey’s UNDER MILK WOOD SUITE is still one of the greatest recordings of the period, but his WITH LOVE FROM JAZZ is a good runner-up.

    British jazz of the period does have a particular flavour, especially as it edged towards fusion. I still enjoy the first three or four Ian Carr/Nucleus LPs. I suppose they are more accurately described as jazz-rock rather than fusion as such…

    Oh — and your post is somewhat open to misreading, LJC: I read it with a sense of shock thinking that Archie Shepp had died!

    • OMG I see what you mean, quick fix, thank you. You are promoted to LJC Senior Proof-reader and Fact Checker (position currently vacant, don’t ask, honorary)

      I’ve never seen With Love From Jazz in the flesh, but it looks very desirable.

  4. Well, THAT was enlightening! This is the best non-American jazz group I have heard since Django was active. Thanks for posting the audio clip and the Randell Carr quintet.

  5. Michael Garrick’s trio had a Wednesday night residency at the Highwayman, Camberley,in the mid to late 60s,often augmented by Ian Carr and Don Rendell.
    Other guests included Tubby Hayes and Jimmy Witherspoon who I remember instructing Garrick to”just play the chords man”!
    These were all great nights and served as an introduction for me to top notch modern jazz.
    At a Zoot Money gig at the 100 club,probably in the late 70s I mentioned the Highwayman nights to Garrick,who was in the audience,and he said he was amazed that so many people still talked to him about these sessions and had the same enthusiasm for the music they heard there.
    Great times!
    Strangely the only Carrr/Rendell I still have is “Phase 111” which I played just the other day.It still sounds great!
    I have had other Lps in the Carr/Rendell series but over the years they’ve been sold or lost. Where do they disappear to?!

  6. A fantastic record! I own mint copies of this album along with “phase III” and “change is”. I own a Japanese philips issue of “dusk fire”(in stereo! I believe it never came out in stereo on Columbia?) and sadly will not likely ever own “shades of blue”. The CD will have to do. The whole Lansdowne jazz series is fantastic. “Integration” is one of the jewels of my collection! Last year I got really lucky and bought three Michael Garrick albums(“October woman”, “black marigolds”, and “the heart is a lotus”) on Argo in NM condition from a local collector for about $30 each….a score for me indeed. Anyway great post!

  7. Hi Andy,

    Saw your review of the Don Rendell Ian Carr Quintet. It brought back memories of seeing the quintet both at the Sunbury Jazz and Blues festival in 1968 and also at the BBC Jazz Club recordings in the 1960s. The group certainly had a ‘British’ rather than ‘American’ feel.

    I was lucky enough to meet Ian at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1970 where he performed with Nucleus and won the top group prize. Later I found that he lived close by me in London and went to his flat a number of times.

    Those were the days.

    Best regards

    Harry

  8. Ah, Andy, great to see you finally write about the magnificent Rendell Carr Quintet, undoubtedly the finest British small jazz group ever (at least in my humble opinion). Like you, my acquisition of Live was as a result of a fortuitous chance encounter which I described on my Into Somethin’ blog back in 2015. I now own three out of the five LPs recorded by this group for Columbia UK plus some others under Garrick’s leadership on the Argo label (that’s the UK Argo label, an entirety different entity to the Us label that changed name to Cadet).

    You rightly identify the distinctive British flavour of this group which distinguished it from predecessors that, by and large, were under American influence. I’ve never understood why their records have never been reissued (except for a. Couple of early 1970s Japanese pressings). It’s a shameful state of affairs that our home grown talents continue to languish almost completely unrecognised and unremembered. I shall soon be returning to writing about messrs Carr, Garrick, Green, Rendell and Tomkins.

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