Post Number: 4788
Posted From: 188.8.131.52
|Posted on Friday, February 27, 2009 - 4:52 pm: || |
Many here will recall the Don Rendell/Ian Carr group - a major force in UK jazz. Ian died on the 25th of this month. This is his obit from the Times.
RIP and thanks for the music.
Ian Carr: trumpeter, bandleader, writer and broadcaster
(JAK KILBY / JAZZ INDEX)
Carr: he was an early convert to jazz-rock fusion manifested in his band Nucleus which triumphed at Montreux
Few figures in British jazz have matched great musical abilities with a proselytising zeal for the music as effectively as Ian Carr. A pioneer of European bebop in the 1950s with his brother’s band, the EmCee Five, the co-leader with Don Rendell of one of the most lyrical but adventurous modern jazz groups of the 1960s and an early convert to jazz-rock fusion with his band Nucleus, Carr was also an accomplished author, broadcaster and teacher. His biography of Miles Davis was acclaimed as “the definitive biography”, and his recently republished book on the 1960s avant-garde, Music Outside, is an excellent survey of the originality and breadth to be found in British jazz. He was the co-author with Brian Priestley and Digby Fairweather of the Rough Guide to Jazz, which, despite modest editorial resources, rivalled the much larger New Grove Dictionary of Jazz for depth and accuracy.
His Channel 4 TV films, made as interviewer and presenter for the director Mike Dibb, on Davis and on Keith Jarrett, were the high points in a long broadcasting career that included several documentary series for BBC Radio 3. The students whom he inspired to play jazz, first at a North London weekend workshop, and later at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, have included Julian Joseph, Jason Rebello, the Mondesir bothers and Nikki Yeoh.
Ian Henry Randall Carr was born in Dumfries, but he grew up in the North East of England near Barnard Castle. Ian and his younger brother Mike, who went on to become a jazz pianist and organist, began their musical lives as boy choristers in Gainford, Co Durham. In his late teens, having previously studied the piano, Carr took up the trumpet. At 19, accompanied by his brother, Carr was a finalist in the Carroll Levis Discoveries talent show, winning the regional heats in Darlington and travelling to the national finals in London. However, at this point in his life music took second place to academic study and Carr went up to King’s College, Newcastle, to read English, where his tutors were John Butt, Frank Kermode and Peter Ure. He became literary editor of the magazine Northerner, a period in which he established many lifelong friendships with fellow Novocastrians including his contemporary Norman Sherry, the future biographer of Graham Greene. Nevertheless, he continued to play jazz, and the university modern jazz group in which he played made it to the national finals of the annual contest for such groups held in 1954 in Liverpool.
After university, Carr served as a lieutenant in the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, both in Northern Ireland and Germany. He established many deep friendships during this period, notably with the sculptor Gerald Laing, a fellow officer, who was to inspire the music on Carr’s 1978 album Out of the Long Dark, and with John Latimer-Smith who was to become the publisher of his first books.
In 1958-59 Carr worked as an itinerant teacher of English in Europe, crewing for yachts and travelling widely in France and Italy, but at the end of 1959 he returned to Newcastle, took up a teaching job, and joined the EmCee Five led by his brother. This band produced some of the most original British jazz from the period, and was recorded by the entrepreneur Denis Preston for Parlophone. Preston became a fan of Carr’s lively playing on such pieces as Stevenson’s Rocket, and this stood him in good stead when, soon after coming to London to turn professional as a musician and play with the flautist Harold McNair, Carr joined forces with Don Rendell to form a new quintet.
From 1964-69 Preston recorded five albums by the Rendell-Carr Quintet, which stand as landmarks of creativity in British jazz Although they nodded in the direction of Miles Davis’s contemporaneous groups, the quintet’s investigation of literary source material, Eastern scales, unusual time signatures and extended forms set in motion a number of ideas that were not being explored anywhere else at the time. Central to the band’s sound was the lyrical, passionate playing of Carr, who also wrote much of the band’s material. The quintet also co-operated on discs with the African percussionist Kofi Ghanaba (Guy Warren of Ghana, obituary, Feb 3, 2009) and with the Indian guitarist Amancio D’Silva.
In 1969 the quintet split up and, despite forays into free jazz with John Stevens and Keith Tippett, Carr decided to opt for leading a jazz-rock band. The result was Nucleus which won the 1970 Montreux Festival Jazz Competition, and as a result went on to appear at the Newport Festival in the US. Carr was to lead Nucleus on and off for the rest of his life, recording numerous albums and also expanding the band for the ambitious extended works Solar Plexus, Labyrinth and (written by Neil Ardley) Kaleidoscope of Rainbows. At the heart of the group’s work was the idea of paring down musical form to its simplest, allowing the musicians huge improvisational scope over repeated rock basslines and rhythms. “It requires incredible imagination to think up a really good original and vital riff which is only really a melodic and rhythmic fragment,” Carr wrote. “To get a good one is very hard without it sounding trite, corny or too pretentious.” However, as a music critic himself, increasingly invited to write for specialist publications, Carr was adept at sniffing out pretention and at creating memorable pieces of his own, including Alleycat, In Flagrante Delicto and the Shakespeare-inspired Hey Day, which was one of a number of pieces Carr wrote for a 1974 Shakespeare birthday concert in Southwark Cathedral masterminded by Sam Wanamaker in his campaign for the Globe Theatre. After acting as musical director for this first event, Carr presented several more concerts to help raise money for the Globe project.
From 1977 Carr also became a member of the German-based United Jazz and Rock Ensemble, playing alongside his fellow trumpeter Kenny Wheeler and the British musicians Barbara Thompson and Jon Hiseman. The band was led by the pianist Wolfgang Dauner, initially to play on television, but soon for live concerts and tours. Its first album, Live in Schützenhaus, sold 60,000 copies in its first year and went on to become Germany’s bestselling jazz record of all time. The band was to have a life of more than 20 years, releasing its final album, X, in 1999.
Carr’s writing career began in earnest in 1973 with the publication of Music Outside, and its combination of interview and criticism became the method he employed for his subsequent biography of Davis (1982). A revised edition came out in 1999, after Davis’s death, which allowed Carr to look back more reflectively at the trumpeter’s life, and this was hailed by The Times as “the standard work”.
In 1983 Carr was given a diagnosis of colon cancer, but after several operations he was clear of the disease and able to resume playing and writing, undertaking a particularly arduous tour of South America with Nucleus for the British Council in 1984. His biography of Keith Jarrett came out in 1991. By this time he had presented several BBC series, including documentaries on Davis, Jarrett and the Boston-based composer and theorist George Russell (in whose Living Time Orchestra Carr had played on a European tour). Carr had also begun teaching at the Guildhall School and was a regular contributor to jazz workshops and residential courses. He was a regular CD reviewer for BBC Music Magazine, and saw through two updated editions of the Rough Guide to Jazz.
In the late 1980s Carr became a member of the BBC’s Central Music Advisory Committee in which he ceaselessly — although unsuccessfully — lobbied for jazz to be better represented across the networks, as he felt it was in most other European countries. With his friend Mike Dibb, whom he had met when Dibb filmed a documentary about the Rendell-Carr Quintet, Carr was to end his media career with two successful films for Channel 4. The Davis biography extended many of the ideas in his book but Keith Jarrett — The Art of Improvisation goes far farther than Carr had done in print in getting to the heart of Jarrett’s creative muse, as well as filming an artist, famous for his reluctance to be photographed, both in concert and rehearsal.
Carr won the 2006 BBC Jazz Award for services to jazz, but by the time he appeared at the ceremony he was already suffering from dementia.
He was married twice, and is survived by his second wife (from whom he was separated) and his daughter.
Ian Carr, trumpeter, bandleader, writer and broadcaster, was born on April 21, 1933. He died on February 25, 2009, aged 75