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Book Review

Neil Ardley & Ian Carr: Authoritative Studies Of Paradigm Shifting British Musicians


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Not-for-profit label Jazz In Britain is best known for carefully curated releases of historically important recordings made by British musicians in the 1960s and 1970s, most of them previously unavailable and sourced either from the musicians' own tape archives or those of BBC Radio. But from time to time, the label also publishes books.

Vivien Ardley's Neil Ardley: Kaleidoscopes And Rainbows tells the story of one of Britain's most singular and, outside a niche following made up largely of musicians, under-recognised composers. Roger Farbey's Elastic Dream: The Music Of Ian Carr is an annotated discography of the trumpeter and bandleader who, amongst much else, pioneered British jazz rock, anticipating some of Miles Davis' innovations as he did so. About the same age, Ardley and Carr's professional lives intersected frequently, particularly during the 1970s.

Both books are assiduously researched and exhaustively detailed and come packaged with CDs compiled by the authors. Ardley's biography is also illustrated with an abundance of previously unpublished photographs.

Neil Ardley: Kaleidoscopes And Rainbows
Vivien Ardley
417 pages, hardcover
ISBN: 978-1-9163206-4-2
Jazz In Britain

Neil Ardley (1937-2004) had two careers. One was as a composer, arranger and occasional bandleader, the other was as a writer of scientific textbooks. He wrote over 100 such books, with total sales of around ten million. The two careers were linked: an early adopter of synthesizers, Ardley was among the first composers, in any field, to combine electronic and acoustic instrumentation.

Ardley considered himself a composer first and an author second. Music was his first and enduring lifelong love. That was how he wanted to be remembered and how he is described on the headstone of his grave. And it is from this viewpoint that Vivien Ardley, his second wife, has focused his biography.

Ardley's most significant recordings are generally agreed to be Greek Variations & Other Aegean Exercises (Columbia, 1970), A Symphony Of Amaranths (Regal Zonophone, 1972), Kaleidoscope Of Rainbows (Gull, 1976), Harmony Of The Spheres (Decca, 1979) and, as a member of Zyklus, Virtual Realities (AMP, 1991). Decades on from their original release, the albums continue to delight and surprise—and a live recording of Kaleidoscope Of Rainbows, released by Jazz In Britain as a 2-CD in 2021, is a highly recommended late addition to the catalogue.

Ardley seems to have been a confirmed horder, so his biographer has been able to refer to a muthalode of letters, other writings, photographs and assorted memorabilia when writing the biography. She has done a superb job in chronicling not only Ardley's activities in music, but also his personal philosophy and approach to life.

"He had a brilliant sense of humour," she writes in the Introduction. "[He] grinned and laughed a lot and had an optimistic outlook on life. He loved women, they loved him and he strayed from his marriage on more than a few occasions. He had many female friends, at the same time enjoying strong male friendships." Over 417 fact-packed pages, the book paints a rounded picture of Neil Ardley and will be enjoyed by anyone who loves his music.

Elastic Dream: The Music Of Ian Carr
Roger Farbey
208 pages, softcover
ISBN: 978-1-9163206-5-9
Jazz In Britain

Onetime All About Jazz contributor Roger Farbey is without doubt the world's greatest authority on Ian Carr (1933-2009) and this is the third, revised edition of his annotated discography of his subject. If Carr is present on an album, it is included here with track listing, personnel and composer listings, details of when and where it was recorded and Farbey's observations on the music itself, these latter often running to 500 words or more. Farbey knew and consulted Carr during the final years of his life and one supposes Carr's input has enhanced the discography's accuracy.

The discography is divided into two parts with archival releases being covered in the second part. A 17-page appendix (one of three) details published writings by or about Carr—his Miles Davis: A Critical Biography (Quartet, 1982) contains many valuable insights into his music—and also details books, magazine articles and other writings discussing Carr or his band Nucleus.

As a source of factual data about Carr's recordings, Elastic Dream: The Music Of Ian Carr is definitive and invaluable. One may take occasional issue with Farbey's annotations—Guy Warren's Afro-Jazz (EMI Columbia, 1969) does not, for instance, sound remotely like "Fela Kuti meets The Brotherhood Of Breath"—but in the main the author's comments are useful.

The 78-minute CD which accompanies the book, compiled by Farbey from various Jazz In Britain physical and download releases, also includes 9:36 minutes of previously unreleased music: a live recording of The Ian Carr Quintet performing Carr's "For Miles And Miles" in 1991.

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