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Thursday, June 1, 2017

2: London Jazz and Ian Carr (1971-72)

("Belladonna" Side A label)
Making the Leap to London
     In 1971, while still playing cover tunes with the Glen South Band in northern England, Allan met London-based saxophonist Ray Warleigh at a Musicians Clinic at Newcastle:
     "Just before we (the Glen South Band) moved to the Ritz, there was one of those jazz workshops that came up into our area, and I went along and I think it was Graham Collier...Geoff Castle, Ray Warleigh - oh, and Derek Wadsworth was there as well, the trombone player. So they played and we asked a bunch of questions. And then they said, ‘There's another one of these tomorrow, and we're going to ask people to sit in.’ So I thought, great, and so I took my guitar along and sat in with them on the next thing... 

     "So Ray remembered me, and he said, ‘If you ever need anywhere to stay, and you want to come down to London, I've got a spare room and you can stay there’. So then we (the Glen South Band) moved to the Ritz Ballroom, and I guess after about six or seven months I started to get really fed up and started thinking about it a lot. Then I called up Ray, and I said, ‘I was that guitar player, remember me?’ And he said, 'Yeah, yeah, come on down'. So I just packed my bags and went to London and stayed in his department... And he just kept dragging me round to these little gigs and trying to get me to sit in with different people. (40)
Ray Warleigh,
Pat Smythe,
"Trio: UK: Live" (1967)
     Ray encouraged Allan to perform with him and pianist Pat Smythe on a few jazz gigs at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club (last visited during the 'Igginbottom days, 3 years prior). During this time Allan also got the chance to play with future Soft Machine drummer John Marshall, who would be an important part of Allan's various jazz groupings in the next few years.      
This performance (probably 1980) features many of Allan's new musical partners (from the beginning of the 1970s) performing "Out From Under", 
a song co-written by Allan's visiting hometown pal Steve Robinson from "'Igginbottom". 

     Roy Babbington (future Nucleus/Soft Machine bassist/bandmate) remembers Allan's arrival vividly:  
     "Allan blew the pants off anybody. There was nobody to touch him. You had to be around at the time to suffer the shock of hearing him. You’d go, ‘Jesus Christ, where’s that coming from?’. There was this geezer from Bradford, just pouring with music, absolutely amazing. I mean, everybody wanted to play with him!"
  - Soft Machine - Floating World Live liner notes

Jamie Muir and "Sunship"
Jamie Muir, undated
     In early 1972 (probably February), Allan began to play with members of a more "jazz-rock" crowd. Jamie Muir (later King Crimson drummer) engaged Allan to do some free improv sessions at his house with Alan Gowen (keyboards for National Health), Laurie Baker (bass, Cornelius Cardew), and (possibly) Lyn Dobson (winds, Manfred Mann, Soft Machine), but no actual records were made. This grouping has been referred to at times as "Sunship". 
     Jamie Muir: "We had a rehearsal group in my house. I remember, that was the year of the electricity strikes. Laurie's wife would be making great vegetarian concoctions in the kitchen downstairs by candlelight, while we'd be upstairs rehearsing. Allan had come down wanting to do some sort of 'crucial' music and I'd been involved in so-called 'art music' and wanted to explore other areas. We were approaching it in some quite tongue-in-cheek ways and we had a lot of fun - we spent more time laughing than playing music. Laurie Baker was very much into art music on the intellectual side, but in the right mood he could play some monstrous bass."
 - Interview with Jamie Muir in Ptolemaic Terrascope.
How about "Sunship"?

AH: What's that?

That's a band you were in with Jamie Muir, Alan Gowen and Laurie Baker—back in 1971. 

AH: Oh, is that what it was called?

You didn't know the name?

AH: No! [laughs] Oh yeah! That was good fun too. It was really different than what I was wanting to do at the time. But as far as I remember, it was pretty open. It was very spontaneous music. It was a combination of those people improvising really. It wasn't like anything else.

Did you guys record anything?

AH: Not that I know of. [laughs] Who knows, that might be the next album—the bootleg!
       - from From Innerviews with Anil Prasad (“Creating imaginary backdrops”, 1993)

Ian Carr's "Belladonna"
Allan & Clive Thacker (LP art)
     However, a record and a few dates with trumpet-bandleader Ian Carr's "new" Nucleus formation did materialize. The loosely-structured funk-jazz compositions on Belladonna (recorded in July of 1972) marked Allan's 2nd vinyl appearance and probably the debut of his "proper" lead guitar tone. For the most part, this album sounds like it could function quite well as a "blaxploitation" film soundtrack, and Allan puts riffs from his Glen South Band days to good use here (one imagines). The addition of Gordon Beck on secondary keys on a few tracks also results in some thick 2-piano textures. Allan gets to shine on "Remadione" and especially on "Hector's House", where he cuts loose on a long solo over a snappy bass groove.

Ian Carr: trumpet, flugelhorn
Brian Smith: tenor sax, soprano sax, alto flute, bamboo flute
Dave MacRae: electric piano
Roy Babbington: electric bass
Clive Thacker: drums 
Trevor Tomkins: percussion ("Belladonna", "Remadione", "Mayday")
Gordon Beck: electric piano ("Belladonna", "Mayday", "Suspension", "Hector's House")
Trk Title Dur Song Breakdown
(All songs Ian Carr, except "Remadione" and "Hector's House", written by Brian Smith)
1 Belladonna 13:41 (with Gordon Beck on 2nd piano and Trevor Tomkins add'l percussion)

0:00: High register textural percussion and electric keys.
0:47: Muted trumpet and bass enter on unison head melody, as Allan and Gordon add some sparse keys/guitar volume swells.
2:08: 2nd head chorus with more open brass (soprano sax added to unison line) and group ornamentation.
3:39: Funky mid-tempo bass groove kicks off brass fanfare theme, Allan plays some funk guitar licks (!), loose modal jamming ensues.
5:48: Carr's trumpet solo transitions into Brian's sax solo, then keys duet, trumpet rejoins, Allan plays some (fairly innocuous) blues licks against Brian's sax, etc...eventually multiple solos overlap in a group improv.
10:36: Carr begins playing a rhythmic trumpet motif, as Allan soon makes pick scraping noises (for the first, and probably last, time).
11:06: Groove disintegrates, trumpet solos over metallic percussion using opening head and fanfare motifs.
2 Summer Rain 6:10 0:00: Soft blues rock groove led by brass head melody.
0:49: Bridge (development of main groove).
2:01: Brass drops out as Dave MacCrae takes a solo (on Fender electric piano). Allan's tone "beefs up" a bit at 3:40, but Dave's fuzzed-out piano dominates the latter part of the song in long, held figures.
3  Remadione 3:38 (with Trevor Tomkins add'l percussion)

0:00:  Trumpet and flute plays head melody over free rhythm textures, soon loosely followed by keys and bass.
1:46: Mid-tempo funk groove, Allan's guitar solo (finally starts sounding a little like "himself" here), dueling with Dave's keys.
2:57: Allan switches to his "fuzz tone" and the guitar/keys solo duel continues.
4 Mayday 5:33 (with Gordon Beck on 2nd piano and Trevor Tomkins add'l percussion)

0:00: Insistent hi-hat and bass pedal vamp with jammy keys/funk guitar ornaments (Allan sometimes uses volume swells here as a rhythmic device).
0:51: Brass enters with accented melody/head, Allan plays supportive funk guitar with wah wah.
1:40: Tenor sax solo over modal bass/hi-hat vamp.
3:20: Percussion ornaments lead into a new key and a more open/relaxed groove section, sax continues solo.
5:22: Ending brass fanfare and cadence.
5 Suspension 6:07 (with Gordon Beck on 2nd piano)

0:00: Bamboo flute and electric piano improvised duet.
1:04: Syncopated 2nd keyboard begins rhythm, bass solo.
1:55: Drum enters and Ian's trumpet solo begins as bass begins hypnotic vamp, Allan is very subdued except for a few brief wah wah interjections.
5:40: Drums/trumpet drop out, bass groove ends with some brief bamboo flute.
6 Hector's House 4:32 (with Gordon Beck on 2nd piano)

0:00: Isolated brass accents (overdubbed?), suddenly joined by uptempo groove driven by sinister and motoric guitar riff. Brass-driven rhythmic accents lead to...
0:53: ...Brian's soprano sax solo, over fast, funky guitar/keys groove, modulating.
2:48: Allan's solo, finally unleashed, same funky groove. The song ends with some final closing brass accents.

Ian Carr and Roy Babbington (LP jacket art)
     This line up would only last a few months, but Allan did briefly rejoin Nucleus in 1980 (listen to this amazing clip to hear Allan's matured style and tone, from 5:15 on).

     One more footnote to add (regarding the 1972 summer concerts) is that Allan also had a lengthy solo spot on the old Nucleus song "Song For the Bearded Lady" (from the lauded We'll Talk About It Later album). This song would later be revisited as part of Soft Machine's song suite "Hazard Profile" (off of Bundles).

     Allan began London's 1972 fall music season with a two week residency at Ronnie Scott's September 1972 Guitar Festival, playing in a jazz trio with Ron Herman (db) and Nigel Morris (d, from Isotope), on the bill with (again) classical guitarist John Williams and Barney Kessel's jazz trio. However, he was to be thrust firmly back into the world of fuzz-rock soon enough...

Next: Jon Hiseman's Tempest
Previous Chapter: 'Igginbottom

Go to the Table of Contents... 

The numbers in parentheses after Allan's quotes above refer to sources listed in the Bibliography.
For more detailed information on this chapter, see the Annotated Chronology.


  1. Loving this - your work here is greatly appreciated by this Holdsworth-nerd.

    1. Thanks! I just posted the next part - enjoy!

  2. Thanks to Christophe Coureau for figuring out when the Sunship "electricity strikes" happened, pinpointing the Sunship sessions!

  3. I've never heard any of this music before. Thank you for the blog Mr. Chang!

  4. I'm not even that much of a Holdsworth fan but the attention to detail and organisation of this blog is highly commendable and perhaps more importantly, highly readable!