Alan Skidmore: TCB (1970) Philips

Selection: Lantern Wood

.  .  .

Track List

A1 Jack Knife  7:53
A2  Lantern Wood   9:56
A3  One On One Off   6:51
A4  TCB   8:47
B1  Walk In And Dance Out   4:54
B2   AJ   3:37
B3   And Think Again   2:54

Artists

Side A – Quintet : Alan Skidmore, tenor saxophone, Malcolm Griffiths, trombone; John Taylor, piano/electric piano; Chris Lawrence, bass; Tony Levin, drums;

Side B – Quintet add Mike Osborne & John Surman; recorded October 31, 1970 at Philips Studios, London, England; engineer, David Voyde.

The star turn for me is pianist John Taylor, who appears on many of the late 60s, early 70s  British jazz sessions.

British Jazz Saxophonists Primer

Alan Skidmore is one of the elite group of best jazz saxophonists Britain produced in the 50s and 60s, in the company of Tubby Hayes (arguably our best), Don Rendell, Tommy Whittle, a few others who stand up to the Americans, make your own list. Lets walk through: 

Tommy Whittle

One of the first on the British modern jazz scene, a player with a very English name, (Frank Whittle, no relation, credited with inventing the turbojet engine patented in 1930). Voted Britain’s top tenor-sax player in the New Musical Express polI in 1955,  Whittle’s 1957 Tempo LP New Horizons  TAP27 (below, top  right) marks one of the most rare and expensive records in British jazz,  top auction £2,226. British jazz heritage comes at a price. I have just one Whittle album, link here>  Why Not? from 1977.

Don Rendell

Rendell was also one of the first saxophone modern jazz voices in 1950s Britain. He is most widely known for his contribution to the Rendell-Carr Quintet with Michael Garrick in the late 60s;  his earliest recordings are mainly 10″ and EPs, for Tempo, Esquire, Nixa and Decca. My only title Roarin’ on Jazzland. The 10″ Meet Don Rendell on Tempo usually fetches around £1,000, the hand-colourized  cover is a beauty.

Tubby Hayes

I have written on many times here, our own little giant, 8th Wonder of The World. A selection of his Tempo (Decca)  and Fontana (Philips)  LPs, all of which are essential listening. I count seven originals, some both mono and stereo.

Alan Skidmore

Described as “Britain’s most inspiring tenor since Tubby”, Alan Skidmore will be 80 this year, and modestly claims he is “still learning to play the saxophone” (Interview with Simon Spillett)  

Skidmore made the first of many appearances in the 60s on BBC Radio’s Jazz Club. In the following years he worked in the horn section of numerous bands big in the British Blues Boom:  Alexis Korner (1964), John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers (1964) Georgie Fame And The Blue Flames (1970), and later in Jazz ensembles: Graham Collier, Mike Westbrook (1970-71), Mike Gibbs (1970-71), and Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood Of Breath (1971).

Skidmore’s  debut album as leader, Once Upon A Time (below) was released in 1969 on the Decca Nova label, mono and stereo Decca labels colour coded below. Quite rare, it sold recently for a new high of  $500.

That year, Skidmore formed his own quintet (Kenny Wheeler, Tony Oxley, John Taylor and Harry Miller), winning best soloist and best band awards at the Montreux International Jazz Festival.

To date, LJC has seven  posts featuring Skidmore’s tenor from this golden era: 

1968: Jazz in Britain 1968  (compilation);

1969: Mike Westbrook: Marching Song;

1970: Stan Tracy: 7 Ages of Man; Graham Collier: Songs For My Father; Michael Gibbs: Tanglewood 63;

1971: John Surman: Tales of the Algonquin; Chris McGregor’s: Brotherhood of Breath

What followed was several decades of peripatetic Skidmore wandering, a mix of jazz recordings, several European Quintet sessions, and studio session recording with big name artists, Eric Clapton, Georgie Fame, Kate Bush among others.

Sixty years in blues and jazz, Skidmore toured the world several times over. A stylist in the Coltrane mode, of his East West album (CD only), Richard Williams (The Times) said ” Skidmore’s group confronted the hardest test of all – to take  Coltrane tunes and find something new to say. They do

Music

Skidmore’s tenor can be lyrical, measured, or blisteringly fast, abrasive and uncompromising. A player who has absorbed the spirit of Coltrane, never an imitator, with his own distinctive sound, still playing today, his melodic ideas honed in a lifetime of musical expression. 

The Skidmore story is brought up to the present day in Collector’s Corner below.

Vinyl: Philips 6308 841 original pressing (1970)

 Superficial light scuffing audible in quieter parts, result of owner not returning album to jacket after play. It is a rare album, you can’t be too fussy. 

That Skidmore cover with Pizza gives me an idea.

Harry’s Place

Alan Skidmore, Jazz Expo 1969

Photocredit: © Harry M

Collector’s Corner

In the late 70’s Skidmore recorded for several labels in Berlin, Germany, including  a short lived label with obvious copyright problems, “Vinyl Records”. British saxophonist, West Germany.   I have on on the Vinyl label, El Skid, a high-energy Elton Dean collaboration.

Jump forward to the turn of the century, a video clip from The Live Sessions: Georgie Fame and the New Blue Flames recorded live at the Pizza Express Jazz Club, Dean Street London in 1999 by Visible Jazz. Unfortunately WordPress does not permit MP4 uploads on my Plan, but the link below this screengrab will take you there.

(link> “Alan Skidmore”/Listen to Skid) a great MP4 HD clip that gives you a flavour of the man at work.  Alan plays a solo on  It happened to me, an arrangement by Georgie Fame of Johnny Burke and Jimmy van Heusen’ s It could Happen To You 

To bring Alan Skidmore up to the present day,  he recently played two John Coltrane anniversary concerts  – 50th and 52nd, at London’s Cafe Oto,  located in ultra hip Dalston, London E8, a  daytime cafe with night-time performances and live “avant-garde music from free jazz to psych rock” (pre-pandemic).

My favourite British jazz writerJohn  Fordham was there for the 2019 52nd concert, and wrote this review for Jazzwise magazine, which pays tribute to “Skid” and  his celebration of Coltrane. Fordham picks his words with care, much like musicians pick their notes.

Alan Skidmore with the Sunship Quartet, 50th Anniversary Concert (2017) at Cafe Oto, 13 minute Youtube in 1080p HD.

The piano-less Sunship Quartet already features two horns, so the addition of a third from Skidmore  makes it a high-energy blast. Amateur enthusiast foootage, a bit too much telephoto not enough wide angle say my inner photographer.  The 2019 session was recorded for a commemorative CD, but  I could find no video.

Late Coltrane’s not my thing, but I have to admire their spirit. Lesser mortals would have hung up their reed and retired, but in Skidmore, the Coltrane essence is alive, I play, therefore I am.

LJC

3 thoughts on “Alan Skidmore: TCB (1970) Philips

  1. Not seen Skid live for a number of years but remember a fearsome trio with Ali Haurand & Tony Oxley. His first two albums are essential listening for sure, he actually turns 80 next month hopefully celebrated with some live gigs.
    Good to see Tommy Whittle in the primer list which I assume is for tenor players I would, respectfully, add Evan Parker

    Like

    • Agreed.Evan Parker needs to be on the list

      Oxley was a great drummer. A superb collaboration between Oxley and Parker can be heard on The Baptised Traveler album on CBS.

      Tommy Whittle – these albums must be rare, I haven’t seen any of them!

      Like

  2. TCB – fine album

    Skidmore has a lot of energy , all of it creative.He may be inspired by Coltrane ,but he’s very much his own player.Once Upon a Time, also a fine album and the out takes on Jazz in Britain is highly recommended as well.

    I really like John Taylor’s contribution on keyboards

    Given the prices quoted,these albums appear to be getting very expensive now, although I think the Once Upon A Time Deram Nova one has been or is due to be re released

    Like

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