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Ian Carr and Nucleus: '70s British Jazz Rock Progenitors


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Ask the question, "who was the first fusion artist?" and you're likely to start a heated debate. While populists like to claim Miles Davis and seminal recordings including In a Silent Way and especially Bitches Brew as the first salvos in a genre that ultimately spawned groups including Chick Corea's Return to Forever, Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul and Miroslav Vitous' initially more freely-conceived Weather Report and, of course, the incendiary Mahavishnu Orchestra, fronted by guitar legend John McLaughlin, the reality is that, like any change in music, it came from a number of directions at once. A specific artist may introduce the record that defines a genre, but the truth is that for every landmark recording there are dozens of others that mine the same territory but never receive their proper due.

In the arena of jazz/rock fusion, clearly pianist Mike Nock and Fourth Way were early progenitors, with albums including The Sun and the Moon Have Come Together ('69) and Werewolf ('70). And vibraphonist Mike Manieri dabbled with rock sounds and rhythms on Journey Through an Electric Tube ('68) and the big band effort White Elephant ('69). But these efforts all reflected a more American approach to fusing rock rhythms and textures with jazz tonalities. What of places further abroad?

In England there were a number of groups who were blending rock sonorities with a more loose improvisational approach. Soft Machine released one of their most important albums, Third, in '70, an album that to this day is considered in the same breath as Bitches Brew for its sheer audacity and forward-thinking approach. And Dave Stewart's Egg, while owing much to the classical tradition, was still a harbinger of more jazzy things to come with bands including Hatfield and the North and National Health. But amidst all this flurry of activity arose a band who, while the personnel would change radically over the years, represented the vision of one artist: trumpeter Ian Carr, who would, following a long run with the Don Rendell/Ian Carr band of the '60s, search for ways to mesh his own self-taught traditional background in improvisational jazz with the more edgy rhythms and sounds of rock. The result, Nucleus, is a band that, critically acclaimed in its time, was almost forgotten through the ensuing years, but has recently come back into the spotlight thanks to a series of reissues by Britain's BGO Records, not to mention the release of live recordings by Hux and Cuneiform.

Chapter Index:
  1. Elastic Rock
  2. We'll Talk About It Later
  3. Solar Plexus
  4. Belladonna
  5. Labyrinth
  6. Roots
  7. Under the Sun
  8. Snakehips Etcetera
  9. Alleycat
  10. Direct Hits
  11. In Flagrante Delicto
  12. Out of the Long Dark
  13. The Pretty Redhead
  14. Live in Bremen
  15. In Closing
  16. Ian Carr/Nucleus Discography—Available Titles

Elastic Rock

When Carr brought together keyboardist/oboist Karl Jenkins, saxophonist/flautist Brian Smith, guitarist Chris Spedding, bassist Jeff Clyne and drummer John Marshall, established musicians all, to record Nucleus' first record, Elastic Rock, one doubts that he could have envisioned the impact the album would have, not only on the British scene, but on the international stage as well. A few short months after recording their first record they won the top award at the Montreux Jazz Festival and found themselves playing at the Village Gate in New York, to an audience who was wondering exactly what it was they were hearing. And if it weren't for a manager's greediness, Elastic Rock would have seen Stateside release, and the broader history of fusion might have been coloured a different way. But sadly that didn't happen and Nucleus, after an initial flurry of activity on the North American scene, ultimately returned to England where they maintained a successful career there and on the European continent, for the next ten years or so.

From the opening burst of Jenkins' "1916," with its anthemic horn-line supported by Marshall's flurry of activity, it is clear that something new is happening. The album as a whole, while incorporating certain elements of rock rhythms, is a more relaxed affair than what was to come later. If a comparison must be made, then Miles' In a Silent Way is a precedent, although Carr claims not to have heard it at the time of recording, which just continues to reinforce the reality that advances in music come from many sources and usually at the same time. Like In a Silent Way, Carr chose to build side-long continuous suites of music, although there is less reliance on hypnotic groove and more on composed melodies, mostly from the pen of Jenkins, who would write the majority of Nucleus' first two records. And while there are some similarities between the trancelike groove of "Torrid Zone" and "Shhh/Peaceful," there are differences as well. While "Shhh/Peaceful" would rest on a certain ambience for nearly an entire side, "Torrid Zone" would lead into "Stonescape," a more conventional ballad, albeit played with a certain elasticity in time by Marshall. Segueing into "Earth Mother," Jenkins delivers an oboe solo over a group improvisation that, as rocky as it gets, is still relatively subdued compared with their next album, We'll Talk About It Later, which was recorded eight months later in September '70.

We'll Talk About It Later

By the time We'll Talk About It Later was released, Nucleus had played Montreux and the States, and were already incorporating a harder edge. From the opening fanfare of Jenkins' "Song for the Bearded Lady," a tune that he would plunder later and convert into the epic "Hazard Profile" when he joined Soft Machine, the change is clear. If Elastic Rock was a tad on the polite side, We'll Talk About rIt Later dispensed with any such civilities. Spedding's guitar was more aggressive, using distortion, wah-wah, phase shifting and other electronic affectations. Marshall was playing harder as well, with more of a backbeat. The music, once again written primarily by Jenkins, revolved around repetitive riffs over which long over-the-bar themes would be developed by the horn section. The approach is looser, with more of a jam session approach, and while Nucleus was not as on the edge as Miles, there are definite parallels between tunes like "Sun Child" and some of the music ultimately released on the Complete Jack Johnson Sessions. Still, as loose as Nucleus' approach was at this point, there is still a stronger devotion to song form than what Miles was pursuing. "Lullaby for a Lonely Child," a ballad that has its own sense of drama, features long tones by Carr over Spedding's bouzouki and tremolo electric guitar.

As much an advance as We'll Talk About It Later is, there are two missteps in the final tracks, "Ballad of Joe Pimp" and "Easter 1916," both featuring uncredited vocals that would have been best left off the record. "Joe Pimp" may be an allusion to Frank Zappa's "Willie the Pimp" but has none of the wit, while "Easter 1916," a rehash of "1916 (Battle of Boogaloo)" from Elastic Rock, is a failed attempt at psychedelia. Still, these two blunders aside, We'll Talk About It Later represents a logical development. But while Carr and Nucleus were dabbling more with rock rhythms and longer jam-like vamps, it was clear that the group still came from a jazz background.

Solar Plexus

As is also the case with the follow-up to We'll Talk About It Later, Solar Plexus, recorded a mere three months later, but with a significant difference. This time Carr would be the sole compositional contributor, with a suite stemming from an Arts Council grant for double quintet. With an expanded line-up that includes trumpeters Kenny Wheeler and Harry Beckett, saxophonist Tony Roberts, bassist Ron Matthewson, percussionist Chris Karan and Keith Winter on VCS3 synthesizer, the sound of Solar Plexus is bigger and brasher. And while tunes like "Snakehips' Dream" rely on a fixed riff, a vamp over which Smith and Carr both contribute strong solos, the overall complexion of the album is more structured, all the while eschewing the theme-solo-theme structure of more traditional jazz form. The suite is based on two short themes stated at the beginning of the record, and explored at greater length throughout. From the arco bass and oboe duet that starts "Bedrock Deadlock" to Beckett's free flugelhorn solo on "Spirit Level," the textures are broader. With the expanded horn section there is greater opportunity for developing contrapuntal themes, as is the case later in "Bedrock Deadlock." And the diverse sounds and styles of the three trumpeters—Carr, Beckett and Wheeler—create a contrast that makes for a richness not found on the first two recordings.

But as arranged as the horn lines are and as much as there is an overall structure that pervades the proceedings, Carr is clearly more interested in using these conceits as set-ups for longer explorations. Regular performances at Ronnie Scott's in London, in addition to their trip to the US that same year, gave the group the chance to further refine its sound. Sadly however, while Nucleus was garnering critical success from around the world, such acclaim did not translate into financial gain, and for the first time, after a whirlwind year of three outstanding records and notable live performances, the group fell apart. Carr was in serious financial straits; Karl Jenkins and John Marshall had departed to join Mike Ratledge and Hugh Hopper in Soft Machine; Chris Spedding chose to pursue a career in rock; and Jeff Clyne had moved on to a successful career as a studio musician and member of Gilgamesh and Isotope.


For some, such a disastrous chain of events would be discouraging and, to be certain, Carr was at a low point, with health problems only compounding the financial difficulties of trying to keep a band afloat. Still, with Brian Smith remaining, Carr went into the studio with Colosseum drummer Jon Hiseman producing, and created an album that stands as a highlight of his career for a number of reasons. Belladonna, recorded eighteen months after Solar Plexus, was released under Carr's name but is, truthfully, a renewed version of Nucleus, this time with Carr the undisputed leader. Whereas Carr had always considered the original band to be a collective, when faced with others' lack of commitment, it became clear that this was, indeed, Carr's group.

The new group centred around Carr, Smith, Dave MacRae on Fender Rhodes, Roy Babbington on bass guitar (who would follow Jenkins and Marshall to Soft Machine a couple of years later), drummer Clive Thacker and, most notably, a young Alan Holdsworth on guitar. If Belladonna were a failure in all other aspects, and it is not by any stretch of the imagination, then it is worthy of attention for no other reason than to hear an early Holdsworth in action. Holdsworth solos with effortless abandon in tandem with Carr and Smith on the extended vamp of the title track, but it is on "Remadione" and, in particular, Smith's closer, "Hector's House," where notice is given that a new guitarist with a singular voice has arrived. Sure, Holdsworth's sound and conception is raw and not fully-formed, but the legato phrasing and lightening fast lines, inspired by John Coltrane, are already in full evidence.

But while Holdsworth's appearance is so vivid, so compelling, that it would be easy to dispense with the rest of the record, the reality is that Belladonna is the best representation of Carr's vision to date, and shows just how broad Carr's musical concept had become. While there is no doubt that this is a fusion record, it seems less forced, less considered; the rock rhythms more natural. And with extended pieces like the title track, Smith and Carr are, for the first time, given full reign to show their own inestimable talents. With MacRae providing a lush backdrop, and Gordon Beck adding a second electric piano on three tracks, the compositions on Belladonna, while retaining a sense of structure, are looser, more open-ended than anything recorded to date. And if there is any doubt about Smith's skills as an improviser, one need only listen to his work on "Hector's House," where his soprano work is beautifully constructed and is an exciting lead-up to Holdsworth's stunning solo.


With the success of Belladonna, it was clear that Carr could continue with Nucleus as a going concern. While Holdsworth had left the group, Carr continued on with Smith, MacRae, Babbington and Thacker, but again, as with Solar Plexus, augmenting the group, this time with trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, singer Norma Winstone, clarinetist Tony Coe, pianist Gordon Beck, drummer Tony Levin, percussionist Trevor Tomkins and synthesist Paddy Kingsland to form the ensemble that would record Labyrinth , Carr's most ambitious project to date.

Recorded nine months after Belladonna, Labyrinth found a stable Nucleus line-up again exploring, as they did with Solar Plexus, a broader sonic palette. Winstone sings lyrics on one track, the light and airy "Ariadne" which, with Smith's mellifluous flute, echoes some of the space that Chick Corea would explore with Flora Purim in his nascent Return to Forever band. Still, her most significant contribution to the record, and one that would continue to define her career for years to come in groups including the collaborative Azimuth with pianist John Taylor and Kenny Wheeler, is her wordless improvisations, adding an entirely new dimension to Carr's open-ended compositions.

Labyrinth also features some of the freest playing to be found on any Nucleus recording. "Arena (Part 1)" features the entire ensemble in the outer reaches, finally settling into an escalating vamp for "Arena (Part 2)," that ultimately resolves into a duet between Coe's bass clarinet and Wheeler's trumpet.

Cleverly combining a rock approach with a more outward-thinking sensibility, Labyrinth, which is the first Nucleus recording not to feature a guitarist, is unquestionably the group's most exploratory record, with collective improvisation by the entire ensemble and by various subsets defining a clear direction for the entire suite. class="f-left">


For his next album, Carr pares things down again. Remaining are Smith, MacRae and Thacker, with new recruits Jocelyn Pitchen on guitar, bassist Roger Sutton, percussionist Aureo de Souza and, on the gentle "Images," MacRae's wife Joy Yates on vocals. While credited as "Ian Carr's Nucleus," Roots is clearly more of a collaborative effort, with Carr writing three tunes, Smith delivering three tracks and MacRae supplying the somewhat out-of-character "Southern Roots and Celebration," with its hint of gospel and blues.

While the title track is a condensation of a longer commission from the Lambeth New Music Society, and "Caliban" is a part of a larger piece called "Ban, Ban, Caliban" commissioned by the Globe Playhouse Trust, Roots represented a shift away from a larger view and more towards individual compositions. The spirit of Chick Corea's Return to Forever looms large over Smith's "Whapatiti," a medium tempo samba, while the title track, revolving around a steadily building greasy funk line, features more of the collective soloing that Carr had favoured from the outset. Pitchen, unfortunately, is not as impressive as Holdsworth, and his solo on "Caliban" is somewhat meandering, with little in the way of thematic development.

Smith's compositions are less groove-centric than Carr's; "Capricorn" is a beautiful ballad with diverging ascending and descending lines creating an intriguing sense of tension.

Roots may lack some of the immediacy of its predecessors, but it remains a captivating album with fine writing, overall strong playing, and a group sound that is, once again, beginning to emerge by virtue of some consistency in the line-up. Unfortunately, that would soon change. class="f-left">

Under the Sun

Through six recordings of widely varying personnel, Carr's one constant partner was woodwind player Brian Smith. Smith, a New Zealander who had been in England since '64, worked with a variety of other artists including Alexis Korner, Mike Westbrook and Graham Collier, but always made Nucleus a priority until '74, when he left for an extended period to tour internationally with Maynard Ferguson's big band. He would ultimately return for '77's In Flagrante Delicto, but Carr's good fortune was to find a replacement in Bob Bertles, an Australian ex-pat. Smith's departure was not the only change; once again the group changed almost completely. While bassist Roger Sutton remained, Dave MacRae was gone, replaced by Geoff Castle; as in the case of Belladonna and Labyrinth, Gordon Beck contributed electric piano to the next session, '74's Under the Sun ; Clive Thacker was replaced by Bryan Spring; and while Jocelyn Pitchen was around for part of Under the Sun, he would ultimately be replaced part-way through the session by Ken Shaw.

The resulting record is a solid, if somewhat less adventurous recording than what came before. Under the Sun sports some interesting compositions, notably the side-long "Sarsaparilla" suite, which ranges from the up-tempo opening piece, "A Taste of Sarsaparilla" and "Theme 1: Sarsaparilla" to the darker funk of "Theme 2: Feast Alfresco," and the ambient opening of "Theme 3: Rites of Man," which ultimately resolves into another brooding funk groove to finish off the record. Bertles makes for an immediately vivid presence, fitting in comfortably with Carr's own inimitably lyrical solo style.

By this point Carr had established a number of conventions: riff-based vamps over which long, snakelike themes would be developed before heading into solo territory; open-ended ballads which, while tender, retained a certain darkness; and shorter anthemic pieces, like the opening track, "In Procession." The result is that, after a string of groundbreaking records, Nucleus was becoming slightly predictable. Still, the quality of the playing, kept fresh to some extent by the infusion of new blood, and a compelling writing style, ensured that even a weaker effort like Under the Sun retained an approachable style that made for captivating listening.

Snakehips Etcetera

While Nucleus remained a band worth following, there is no question that by the time Under the Sun was released they had reached a plateaux, one that would not be overcome on their next release, '75's Snakehips Etcetera. With a stable line-up of Carr, Bertles, Shaw, Castle, Sutton and newcomer Roger Sellers on drums, gone were the days of more collective improvisation, and instead the group seemed, for the most part, to return to the theme-solo-theme format that they had so steadfastly eschewed from the very beginning.

Still, there are plenty of things to like about Snakehips Etcetera. There is a certain clean soulfulness to some of the material, in particular Bertles' "Rat's Bag" and Castles' "Rachel's Tune." Some of the material, in particular Carr's irregular metered title track and "Heyday," which sports some 12-string acoustic guitar from Shaw that is somewhat reminiscent of Ralph Towner, features longer forms that hearken back to the early days of Belladonna. But the group is more literal, less open; and the result reeks too much of a rhythm section supporting a soloist rather than a group of improvisers who are working off each other. And while Bertles and Carr continue to be strong and imaginative soloists, Shaw comes too much from a rock background and hasn't enough jazz sensibility to keep things truly interesting during his lengthy solos.

But if Snakehips Etcetera is Nucleus at their most predictable, their most pedestrian, they are still a step ahead of many of their peers of the day. class="f-left">


'75's Alleycat features the same line-up as Snakehips Etcetera and, consequently the same set of strengths and weaknesses. Still, at this point Nucleus was a busy performing group, with regular tours in Germany to hone the group's sound. They may not have been as adventurous as they were in their early days, but they were a tight group, with a distinctive sound that was more about funk and soul than more traditional jazz roots. A band that had started as a hybrid looking towards fusing a variety of genres into a coherent sound had evolved into a more straightforward groove band. Sure, there are hints of more adventurous harmonies on tracks like Carr's "Splat," and a certain element of blues roots to tracks like the Carr/Shaw/Sutton collaboration "You Can't Be Sure," but the closest the group comes to recapturing their earlier days of adventure is on Bertles' "Nosegay," with its staggeringly fast theme and energetic Tower of Power burn over which Bertles delivers the strongest solo of the record. But, again, the writing is all about theme-solo-theme, a philosophy that Carr had so adamantly avoided in previous incarnations of the band.

Still, there's an energy about this incarnation of the band, and a broader accessibility that must have made them an exciting live act.

Direct Hits

With Alleycat Nucleus ended its long association with Vertigo Records, who had released everything by the band since its inception. Moving to Capital Records with perhaps hopes of greater marketability, in particular in North America, Nucleus would go on to release their next record, the live recording In Flagrante Delicto. But in the meantime Vertigo issued Direct Hits, as fitting a retrospective as one could ask for.

Interestingly, the most recent album represented would be Under the Sun, with more emphasis on the earlier incarnation of the band with Brian Smith. And what is most noticeable on the compilation is just how much ground they covered in their first year. With "Song For The Bearded Lady" from We'll Talk About It Later, "Crude Blues" from Elastic Rock and "Torso" from Solar Plexus, a clear picture evolves of a band that truly had its own take in shaping the fusion of jazz with more contemporary rhythms and tonalities. And while the group continued to push the envelope forward with Belladonna, Roots and, in particular, the ambitious Labyrinth, there is something special, something vital about the first incarnation of the band that was never quite recaptured, although the group certainly continued to develop its own sound and approach. class="f-left">

In Flagrante Delicto

While Bertles was a fine player, the return of Brian Smith to the fold in '77 demonstrates how one player can have a significant impact on the complexion of an entire band. By this point Nucleus had pared down to a lean, mean five-piece featuring keyboardist Geoff Castle and drummer Roger Sellers both of whom, with a couple of years with the group under their belt, were more seasoned and prepared for a return to the more collective improvisational approach that Smith's return represented. And while new bassist Bill Kristian had only played a few gigs on Nucleus' German tour in February '77, when In Flagrante Delicto was recorded live in concert, he had already melded nicely into a group that was now a little less soul-oriented, and was prepared to tackle darker material, including Carr's "Heyday" and the sixteen-minute title track, where Carr and Smith solo in tandem for much of the time, with Castle dropping intuitively appropriate supporting chords behind them.

In Flagrante Delicto may not represent a full return to Nucleus' early days, where the group came to the rock end of things from a more jazz disposition, but with a cleaner sound and greater sense of interplay, this is unquestionably the group's best album since '73's Roots.

Out of the Long Dark

By the time November '78 rolled around, and Carr reconvened the same group that had recorded In Flagrante Delicto nearly two years earlier, he was going through a personal musical crisis. After recording an album, on average, every six months since the group's inception, Carr had become, surprisingly, dissatisfied with his own writing and playing. Surprisingly because, based on the strength of In Flagrante Delicto, Nucleus seemed reinvigorated and Carr's playing, melodic as always, seemed stronger than ever. Out of the Long Dark is a clear return to form.

Sure, there were some nods to trends of the day—drummer Roger Sellers' disco beat on the opening "Gone With the Weed" sounds as dated as so many other similarly-informed fusion bands of the time did. But tunes including "Selina," which tips a very big nod to Miles Davis' "All Blues," and the dark funk of the title track, with Smith's flute and Carr's muted trumpet excelling at the kind of in tandem interplay that they always do so well, are some of Carr's strongest compositions in years. And "For Liam," a solo piece by Carr that finishes the record, shows him to be at the top of his game, both technically and emotionally.

But with the release of Out of the Long Dark Carr would more-or-less fold Nucleus. There would be two more records released, both on the Mood label and still awaiting reissue on CD—'80s Awakening, with Carr, Smith and Castle supported by a new rhythm section, and'85's Live at the Theaterhaus, with an entirely new band other than the return of drummer John Marshall—but for all intents and purposes Nucleus had ceased to exist other than for the occasional special project, including intermittent gigs and recording for the BBC. Carr would record his sadly-overlooked Old Heartland in '88 with a string orchestra and, on some tracks, a somewhat-reconvened Nucleus that included Marshall and Castle, but the music bore no resemblance to the jazz/rock fusion that he had pioneered during the '70s.

For the next couple of decades Carr would retire from active performance, concentrating more on practicing, teaching and writing. His '82 book Miles Davis—The Definitive Biography which he revised in '98, is a standard against which all other books on Davis are measured, and '91's Keith Jarrett—The Man and His Music is, to date, the most comprehensive look at another enigmatic figure. He has also been a contributor and editor of Jazz—The Rough Guide, one of the few books that recognizes the significant contribution of the British Jazz scene in context with happenings elsewhere around the globe.

The Pretty Redhead

Still, with Carr's reputation reaching something near legendary status in England, resulting in BGO's reissue of nearly the entire Nucleus discography to critical acclaim, it's no surprise that other record labels with access to archival Nucleus material should look to releasing additional sessions. Hux Records, notable for its series of reissues of BBC radio recordings, has gathered two sessions a dozen years apart to paint a picture of Nucleus as, first, a cooperative band and then more of a strict vehicle for Carr.

The March '71 session that opens The Pretty Redhead is, to date, the only recording available of the initial line-up in a live context, albeit in BBC's studio. What becomes evident on hearing this incarnation rip its way through "Song for the Bearded Lady," "Elastic Rock," and "Snakehips Dream," is how, while latter-day Nucleus approached jazz from a rock sensibility, this version came at things from the other way around. John Marshall, for example, is a drummer who whet his teeth in a more straightforward jazz environment, and it shows. The whole affair has an openness, a looser improvisational sensibility. Even when there is a primary soloist, as in the case of "Elastic Rock" where guitarist Chris Spedding and then Brian Smith take extended solos, the rhythm section is less intent on playing fixed form and, instead, is keenly attentive and responsive to the soloist's direction. Karl Jenkins, who would later be dismissed as the person responsible for eliminating the sense of freedom and interplay in Soft Machine, is a fine pianist here, layering chords that at times drive the soloists and, at other times, respond to them.

The second session, recorded in October '82, features a completely revamped line-up, even following the days of Out of the Long Dark. Marshall was back in the fold with Carr, but the rest of the band—saxophonist Tim Whitehead, guitarist Mark Wood and bassist Joe Hubbard—were all newcomers and, for the first time ever, the band was without a keyboardist. But Wood, who clearly has more jazz chops than many of the guitarists that came before him, acts as a fine textural accompanist on the spacious "For Miles and Miles," where he creates atmospheric swells with his volume pedal, and as an engaging soloist on the more straightforward title track. While the band misses the involvement of Smith, it represents a cogent group sound with its own personality.

As always, BBC recordings are clean and crisp; and so The Pretty Redhead is a fine example of how the group evolved over the course of twelve years while still retaining its identifiable sound

Live in Bremen

Recorded in May of '71, Live in Bremen captures Nucleus in performance during a transitional phase. Chris Spedding had left to pursue his career in rock, to be replaced by the somewhat enigmatic Ray Russell; and Roy Babbington had taken Jeff Clyne's place.

Babbington proves a logical and comfortable replacement, living in the same musical space as Clyne, with a background as a studio player in a variety of genres, but there's no question he's a jazzer at heart. More noticeable is Russell who, unlike Spedding, had a more compelling interest in jazz, specifically of the fusion variety, and would go on to record a number of solo albums in the ensuing years. With a more aggressive stance than Spedding, his solo on the set opener, "Song for the Bearded Lady" is closer to what John McLaughlin was doing with his Mahavishnu Orchestra, although Russell doesn't display the same staggering technical ability.

This two-CD set captures an entire Nucleus performance, half of which is material from their first three studio releases and, perhaps more importantly from an archival perspective, half of which appears to be group improvisations based around simple sketches. From the pastoral "By the Pool," with Smith's lyrical flute and Russell's folk-like strumming, to "Money Mad," which is at once the most swinging Nucleus on record and the most free, it's clear that this was a significant working unit that, while short-lived, had an identity that was more closely aligned with a free improvisational spirit than any other incarnation including the first. Kudos to Cuneiform Records, a small but important label who specializes in releasing archival live gems from bands like Soft Machine and Matching Mole, as well as newer progressive and jazz works from bands including The Muffins and Keith Tippet's collective, Mujician, for unearthing this recording, which asserts Nucleus as an exciting and innovative group that, for its time, was on par with any of the fusion groups receiving more attention in North America.

In Closing

While there is no question that talent plays a part in the popularity and longevity of any recording artist, just as important are issues beyond the music, including accessibility to a wider audience. Thanks to BGO Records, it is now possible for a broader international audience to look back at Ian Carr and Nucleus, and reassess their importance in the overall development of jazz in a more assertive, rock-informed environment. Clearly, on the strength of these recordings, Carr's music would have garnered him a greater degree of success had he had the same level of access to North American audiences that other fusion bands of the time had. The good news, however, is that with the reissue of the Nucleus catalogue by BGO, and archival live recordings by Hux and Cuneiform, enough interest has emerged to compel Carr to put together a new version of the group, which will be playing some UK dates later this year. A biography of Carr is also rumoured to be in the works. Hopefully this resurgence of interest will lead to a recording, and a chance for a broader audience to find out where Carr is now, twenty years down the road. class="f-left s-img">

Ian Carr/Nucleus Discography—Available Titles :

Elastic Rock (1970) issued with We'll Talk About It Later as BGOCD47
We'll Talk About It Later (1971) issued with Elastic Rock as BGOCD47
Solar Plexus (1971) issued with Belladonna as BGOCD566
Belladonna (1972) issued with Solar Plexus as BGOCD566
Labyrinth (1973) issued with Roots as BGOCD567
Roots (1973) issued with Labyrinth as BGOCD567
Under the Sun (1974) issued with Snakehips Etcetera as BGOCD568
Snakehips Etcetera (1975) issued with Under the Sun as BGOCD568
Alleycat (1975) issued with Direct Hits as BGOCD565
Direct Hits (1976) issued with Alleycat as BGOCD565
In Flagrante Delicto (1977) issued as BGO599
Out of the Long Dark (1979) issued with Old Heartland as BGOCD420
The Pretty Redhead (BBC recordings 1971/1982) issued as HUX 038
Live in Bremen (recorded 1971) issued by Cuneiform Records as RUNE 173/174

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