Keith Shadwickthe well loved British journalist and author who passed away on July 28, 2008was in his early twenties a jazz and jazz/rock musician playing saxophone, flute and piano. Then based in Australia, Shadwick was a founder member of the Sydney group, Sun.
Managed by Horst Liepolt (who later ran Sweet Basil's in New York), Sun released one album, Sun 1972 (RCA Australia, 1972), before splitting up and going their separate ways. To celebrate Shadwick's life, Candid Records have released Free Time, comprising previously unreleased tracks recorded in Australia in 1973/74 with fellow Sun founding member, drummer Gary Norwell.
After Sun's demise, Shadwick and Norwell decided to form a new band, and looked around for a guitarist and bassist. They were unable to find the former, but first in Justin McCoy and then in Robert Luckey found like-minded bass players. When a friend who managed Sydney's Point Five Studios offered the fledgling group some free "downtime" in which to record an album, they seized the opportunity, taking a rain check on the guitarist and using Shadwick instead on piano. The basic tracks and some of the solos on Free Time were recorded in August 1973 and January 1974when the studio manager quit his job and the free studio time ceased.
Shadwick held onto the tapes, always intending to complete the album, but making a living got in the way and it wasn't until 1984, after he'd returned to Britain, that he revived it, asking guitarist Billy Jenkins to contribute to three of the nine tracks. Free Time wasn't wholly finished until 2007, when San Francisco-based guitarist Mike Wollenberg made the final overdubs on a fourth track.
The impetus for the album's completion came in 2005, when Shadwick was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. In his liner notes, writing about the various circumstances that had put the album on hold for so many years, Shadwick observed, "then suddenly completion is in front of you and there is no free time any more."
In a gesture of support which Shadwick must have appreciated hugely, Candid boss Alan Bates offered to release Free Time (although, sadly, the album in its finished form arrived at Shadwick's home just as he passed away). It's an enjoyable set, vividly evocative of the free-spirited era in which the original tracks were recorded, when the barriers between rock and jazz were beginning to break down and all things seemed possible. Shadwick's saxophone is firmly in the expansive modal groove developed by John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders, and his piano playing redolent of Alice Coltrane and the then newly-rediscovered French composer Erik Satie. The music is by turns fierce and out there, and pretty and delicate, and listening to it is a lovely way to remember Keith Shadwick and his many and varied contributions to jazz.
House Of Love; Little Suite; If You Try To Be Honest; Little Song; Loose Talk; Tomorrow Has Gone; Winter/City/Rain/Train; Only Sue; The Original Hero/Hard Times.
Keith Shadwick: soprano and tenor saxophones, flute, piano; Robert Luckey: bass (1-6, 8); Justin McCoy: bass (7, 9); Gary Norwell: drums; Billy Jenkins: electric guitar (1, 3, 7); Mike Wollenberg: guitar (2).
In addition to writing and editing for All About Jazz, Chris is editor of the British style/culture/history magazine Jocks&Nerds and consultant Afrobeat historian for Google Arts & Culture and Partisan/Knitting Factory Records.