Selection: Pavanne (Carr/Tomkins)
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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.
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.
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.
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?