Music so far
All that Jazz!
Well, as I have hinted at, I was beginning to be drawn into the exciting
and challenging world of the British Jazz scene,
Not that I was in any way interested in jazz historically, it was purely
a matter of working with musicians who were more accomplished than me
in the improvisation side of the art and it appeared and was, the most
natural way forward for me in the music at the time.
My first break as such was to be invited to join the Mike Westbrook
band as a replacement for Gary Boyle who left to pursue his own career.
It was to be a long association that has spanned many years and musical
situations but more of that later.
I joined Solid Gold Cadillac, Mike’s ‘jazz rock pop theatrical,
extravaganza, and a bloody wonderful time it was!!!
It was a great learning ground for me as I was working with superb improvisers
and performers, the likes of , George Khan, Phil Minton, Malcolm Griffith,
Alan Jackson and, of coarse, the man himself, Westy!
I was afforded an innordinent amount of space (much more than I deserved)
to basically get better and develop as a improvising guitarist .
I’ve got extremely fond memories of those times. It was a totally
multi-media band which was capable of going from extreem improviation
to full on smaltz at the drop of a hat! I mean we did the most appallingly
funny version of ‘ I Believe’ I’ve ever had the pleasure
to play on in my life! Happy days!
Just to some up this episode, the first gig I ever did with ‘Cadillac’
was at the Tower of London! Have you ever heard of anything so bizarre!?
Phil Minton singing ‘ I Believe’ from the ramparts of that
historic old prison! Its doesn’t get much better does it!
The association with Mike would last through the 70s, 80s, and into the
90s and spanned a vast amount of music and lineups through from quartets
to orchestral ventures but, for me, my favourite times were when we were
recording and gigging with the the Mike Westbrook orchestras in their
various forms, especially the jazz setups in the 70s.
It was a bloody minefield of great musicians, such as the likes of , John
Surman, Kenny Wheeler, Stan Sultsmann, and later on with musicians I would
form bands with namely, George Khan, Steve Cook, Dave Barry, Chris Biscoe
and Tony Marsh.
Being a ‘non-reader’ it would prove on occasions to be a
right old slog coming to terms with Westy’s writing but both he,
and the other musicians, were extremely patient and generous with their
help and understanding for which I will be forever in their dept!
I would have to say that I never did or would consider myself to be a
jazz guitarist ala’ Barney Kessell or suchlike, that particular
sound and approach has never appealed to me.
With that I mean I’ve always seen the electric gtr as primarily
a rock instrument and always probably will.
So who do I like ?
Well for sake of argument lets call it jazz rock gtr or, fusion.
For pure class, Larry Carlton, for mind boggling technique, Alan Holdsworth
and I suppose for sheer natural ability and tone, Jeff Beck and Eddie
Vanhalen but lets face it, there’s truckloads of us out there! It’s
what you do with it that counts.
Anyway, back with the foot tappers! I was ,whilst playing with Westy,
involved in loads of other odd things, not all of them jazzy. I did to
my eternal embarrassment play with Gary Glitter on one of his comeback
UK tours of which I am proud to say I was given the bullet from for falling
asleep on stage!!
It was actually a bit of an eye opener (well , until I could not keep
them open any longer that is!) working with him because he was, really
and truly, crap! He couldn’t sing in tune, remember the songs and
he was a complete pillock but, people loved him!!
As one punter told me one night, ”we don't come to hear him sing,
we come to watch him shout!” There’s ‘nout’
so strange as folk! Best forgotten.
I was getting invited to work with other jazzy type outfits aka, The
Dick Morrisey Band with the best jazz drummer of the period Brian Spring
and other outfits such as the Bob Downes band, Paz, ect ,ect , but by
about the mid’ 70s, i was beginning to get involved in bands of
my own (or in collaboration) making. I speak mainly of my assosiation
with George Khan who had his own outfit called Zagunga!
This was, for want of a better description, a musical and semi-theatrical
co-operative gathering of people of all sizes and weights and musical
histories and on a good night could play outlandishly good jazz/pop/ dance
it was the kind of outfit that would try anything just for the hell of
it and did not take itself too seriously so, suffice to say, a lot of
Out of this set-up , Mirage would evolve, George, me , Dave Sheen on
drums and Steve Cook on bass. This Quartet would go on to record an album
for a Norwegian company, Compendium and work a bit in scandinavia.
The record is available on my Happydays label,
CD re-master. Buy it! It’s great!!
These were really good times (70s) as I was really quite busy what with
Westbrook, Mirage, Zagunga! and god knows what else but, plenty to do
and learn in between bouts of total looniness and alcohol abuse!
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