Music so far
sixteen tons
french period
blundering on
all that jazz
weighty eighties





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 music.
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 fun!!

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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