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Paul Rutherford In Memoriam (1940-2007)

By Published: September 9, 2007
Well, in my case it was Paul, John Stevens & myself who shared all those formative years for all of us and we bounced ideas off each other right from the start. We three met in the Royal Air Force School of Music in Uxbridge in London in 1958. In the following weeks we all realized we had the same interest in music - jazz. So we started to get together and rehearse and try and play various things. After the Music School we all made sure that we were sent to the same band, and that was in Germany, in Cologne where we spent the next three years together and getting together in the band room to practice our own ways of playing jazz. Experimentation always attracted us in our different ways.

When we got out of the Air Force in '63, Paul and I continued to experiment together round his parents' house in Blackheath, London, and John was getting work in Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club. We were attracted by free jazz and things led on from that. John heard us playing at a later date and said he wanted to get involved again and that was the beginning of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble in 1965. Paul was an intelligent man in many respects and was clever enough also to realize his limitations and strengths as a player, and work more to his strengths. I wouldn't call him a "natural trombonist in the conventional sense of the word. He'd never play tailgate, if you know what I mean, but he used his musical frailties to his advantage and by that created a unique style. Most musicians don't have that courage, they either give up, or want to develop something that already has been done. So at least you knew the sound and style of Paul immediately. It could be no one else, and partly that's what it's all about.

- TREVOR WATTS, saxophonist

I met Paul for the first time last year at the Vision Festival. I think I will always be grateful to the folks at the Vision Festival for bringing Paul over here. It was my first time hearing him live and to meet him for the first time. We got to talk and trade stories for a good half-hour or so. I was very impressed that he knew who I was and was looking to meet me and was willing to spend some time talking. He was truly open and honest and was really enjoying his stay in New York. I have few heroes but anyone who had the courage to pick up a trombone, do a solo concert, record it, release it and have it become the classic it deserves to be, will always be a hero to me. To get up and say "this is it, this is me and how I "hear the world and who maintained the courage of his political stance for so many years is a truly heroic individual. His The Gentle Harm of the Bourgeoisie will always remain for me a goal, setting the bar very high for the rest of us to strive for on both musical and personal levels.

- STEVE SWELL, trombonist

One of my earliest memories of Paul in a non- playing situation was around 1973/74 at a Musicians' Co-op social event where he asked me to help him prepare his contribution to the food. I was to chop onions while he put some boiled potatoes into a bowl. Then adding the onions he covered the lot in salad cream. With a glint in his eye and a wry smile he said, There you are. Kartofelsalat. Just like in Germany. Fortunately for us his musical skills far outweighed his culinary ones but were equally direct. His considerable technical armory was never used for elaborately empty displays but were always of consequence to the musical situation. Demonstrating a rich humour and far reaching imagination, at its best Paul's capacity for invention could seem endless; his playing effortless.

He was also a self-deprecating and generous-natured man who loved the company of his fellow musicians. In my last conversation with him he said he was very much looking forward to playing together again. Sadly that was not to be.

- JOHN RUSSELL, guitarist

There were many good times with Paul. Usually on the road. The distance between South East London and West London was too much for casual socializing. We joked about him needing a passport to come across the river. There was a never ending discussion: Marx versus Bakunin that was never at risk of being resolved. One of his pet names for me was "the property owning anarchist . Strangely, given its provenance there was a quote from the Italian Futurists, perhaps Russolo, "Fist and cane fighting in defense of our futuristic music that always made him laugh.

- EVAN PARKER, saxophonist

I'll miss the good times that I've had with Paul. His playing was always excellent and he was a good friend. We all have to 'clock out' at some point, but I wish that Paul had been in good health and could have stayed with us longer. Cheers Paul!

- LOL COXHILL, saxophonist


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