I was impressed with it even then when I didn’t really understand much if anything about jazz. I have subsequently “grown into it”.
Written by Roger Farbey
Jazz In Britain
Roger Farbey has produced an annotated discography of trumpeter Ian Carr. published by Jazz in Britain. Ian Carr, who died in 2009, is important for many reasons.: he was a key part of the Rendell-Carr quintet; he was a superb trumpet player; he created Nucleus and he wrote excellent biographies of Miles Davis and Keith Jarrett.
The current book is the third edition and it contains notes on all the recently discovered archive material. It is not simply a list, as most discographies are, but there are full notes on the crucial albums. Carr was ubiquitous and a discography on him is also a listing of the Rendell – Carr Quintet, much of Neil Ardley’s albums, and United Jazz + Rock Ensemble albums. Carr was a frequent contributor to BBC radio as a commentator on the jazz scene. The recent wide-ranging releases of Nucleus releases are also covered.
The book is a crucial contribution to an understanding of jazz in the 1960s and 70s. A CD of rare and unreleased Ian Carr music is also included.
Interview with Roger Farbey:
In addition to his review of the book detailed above, Jack Kenny also took the opportunity to talk to Roger Farbey abut the book and the trumpeter, Ian Carr.
Unlike many discographies, this one is not afraid to express opinions. Was that your intention?
Well, the first two editions were subtitled a critical discography. But someone pointed out that I wasn’t being too critical – more partisan – so I changed the subtitle to An Annotated Discography which I guess is more accurate but yes, I still wanted to include my opinions, biased or not.
You write: ‘There has been no British born trumpeter to match Ian Carr’s flair.’. What are the aspects of Ian’s playing that have special qualities?
His playing both on trumpet and flugel was fantastic, I think only Kenny Wheeler came close but he was a special case – and a good friend on Ian’s too. Superb examples of Ian’s soloing can be found on say, Solar Plexus, his solo on the title track of the NJO’s Le Dejeuner Sur L’Herbe and even on the Acker Bilk/Stan Tracey album We Love You Madly where Ian played a stupendous solo on ‘I’m Beginning To See The Light’.
You say that the music of Ian Carr ‘had not gained the recognition it deserved’. Why was that?
I was a bit shocked when I discovered there was no Ian Carr or Nucleus website when he’d played such a pivotal role in British jazz. I took matters in hand and started the Ian Carr & Nucleus Website back in 2002, which met with Ian’s enthusiastic approval.
You claim that Nucleus was a jazz group that was ‘tarred’ as jazz rock. Can you expand on that idea?
Well Nucleus, unlike some so-called jazz rock groups was populated by seasoned, ultra-talented jazz musicians at the top of their game. They were also not prepared to compromise artistically so they didn’t need a singer/frontman and they were actually playing jazz tinged with rock. Some of their contemporaries were a bit miffed at their success because they broke through to the progressive rock audiences, much like Miles did with Bitches Brew and played at some large rock venues as well as jazz ones.
Did you know Ian Carr personally; can you write about the Ian that you knew?
I only knew Ian for a year or so before he was more seriously affected by Alzheimer’s. But I’d met him once a little while before that at the Rendell Carr reunion gig at the RFH. He was typically bursting with enthusiasm about all aspects of jazz and unsurprisingly incredibly knowledgeable on the subject. He was also very modest about his achievements.
The rare album ‘Springboard’ made an impact on you. Why was that?
I picked it up at a wallpaper shop when I was a teenager in a remainders box. I was impressed with it even then when I didn’t really understand much if anything about jazz. I have subsequently “grown into it”. Two of the tracks penned by Ian were featured on the RCQ’s third album Phase III where they were given a slightly different treatment. But the main thing about it was that it was an amalgamation (no pun intended) of modern and avant garde jazz. The tunes are all haunting and memorable and when compared with say SME’s Oliv (also picked-up in that same wallpaper shop) it is very accessible but without any compromises. It really is overdue for a proper reissue.
Ian Carr plays on most of the Neil Ardley albums. Was there a special relationship?
Yes, Ian and Neil had been friends since their time in the New Jazz Orchestra and similarly Ian and Neil were close friends with Jon Hiseman and Barbara Thompson, also dating from their time in the NJO.
Many people who enthused over the Rendell Carr Quintet did not follow Ian Carr to Nucleus. Why was that?
That’s quite difficult to answer. I guess I discovered the RCQ after I discovered Nucleus (not quite true as I borrowed Phase III from the library when I was still a student – but didn’t quite “get it” then). I think, as with Miles (and Bob Dylan of course) going electric, there was a feeling that these guys had in some way sold out to rock which of course they hadn’t. But also, I think that seeing a group with an electric guitarist automatically raised hackles. Jazz purists hated this even though, perversely, they would admit to admiring the likes of Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery, Jim Hall, Kenny Burrell et al.
Your book is comprehensive and covers the recently issued Nucleus BBC broadcasts. Is there any material lurking in archives somewhere that you wish that you could hear?
Loads and much of it I don’t even know about yet! Jazz In Britain have been amazing in data-mining and locating tapes of rare jazz broadcasts lovingly wiped by the BBC in order to reuse tape.
As an advocate of the music of Ian Carr, is it still relevant to jazz audiences that rarely look back?
Judging by the number of recent vinyl reissues of Nucleus material I think yes, it is. I am still buying new vinyl not just because I am an obsessive Nucleus / Ian Carr completist but because the quality of the pressings is superb, and the albums still sound as fresh musically as when they were first released fifty-odd years ago. An example of this is Be With Records is releasing on vinyl only no fewer than four Nucleus album in May.
The five Ian Carr albums you would not want to be without?
Can I cheat a bit here? I would go for the Rendell Carr Quintet 5-LP box set released on 180-gram vinyl a while back by Jazzman Records. Then I think it would be Solar Plexus, Belladonna, Labyrinth and Elastic Rock. So that’s five, isn’t it?