In the early 1960s things were happening. In that seminal decade, the allure of which remains so great that people not even born at the time can feel vicarious nostalgia for it, both British and European jazz produced instrumentalists with the ability and know-how to establish themselves as distinctive voices within an ever-widening continuum of jazz. Of the three musicians discussed here Don Rendell has the longest pedigree, having been a member of the band Stan Kenton employed on his European visits in the previous decade. Ian Carr had worked in the band led by organist Mike Carr prior to forming the quintet with Rendell that's to be heard on Shades Of Blue. At the end of the decade Keith Tippett formed the sextet heard on Dedicated to You, But You Weren't Listening in the west of England. It's a measure of the times that this group found themselves recording for a "progressive" label like Vertigo, as per the album discussed here and which was indeed progressive in its breadth of roster if nothing else.
Neither album -musically speaking at least- is an archetypal product of the 1960s, but in the seven years between the two it's clear that a lot had taken place in terms of the music itself and the attitudes of those making it. Where the Rendell-Carr group might have owed some allegiance to Miles Davis's work of the later 1950s -an allegiance which was less overt on later releases- Tippett's group is a finished product of a different order, and if the European sensibility is anything other than a convenient label then it's the thing that informs their music and the rationale behind it. In both cases instrumental technique is no end in itself, and in the case of the Rendell-Carr group the predominant air is one of co-operation, as is evident on "Blue Mosque" where the autumnal hues of the melody serve as the basis for understatement, and pianist Colin Purbrook shows there was a lot more to his music than a devotion to Bud Powell.
Carr's curiously titled "Garrison 64" finds Rendell in tellingly effective form on soprano sax, a horn when he has the happy knack of approaching as an instrument in its own right, and the composition itself offers evidence of the instrumental colours that the band was capable of with what was -and remains- the quintessential hard bop line-up.
If the overriding quality of the Rendell-Carr set is one of poise, then that of Tippett's group is one of energy and motion. The sleeve notes for the group's previous release refer to the fact that the backbone of the group was made up of players of a generation that had grown up open to an unprecedented number of influences1 and this is evident on this, the group's second release. By contrast with the Rendell-Carr outfit this group was mapping out an area of improvised music that owes less to American precedents at the same time as its work is informed by that greater diversity of influences.
Ultimately the issue of precedents -American or otherwise- is secondary to the effectiveness of the music being made. In both of the cases discussed here the primacy of that is self-evident, and both albums are evidence of culturally more vibrant times by comparison with the present day.
Shades Of Blue
Don Rendell-Ian Carr Quintet
(Coupled with "Dusk Fire" as half of 2-CD set)
Beat Goes On (BGOCD 615)
Dedicated To You, But You Weren't Listening
Keith Tippett Group
Repertoire REP 4449-WP
1 Notes for You Are Here....I Am There
CD reissue on Disconforme (DISC 1963)