One of the first European jazz bandleaders to embrace synthesizers, bass guitars and other electric instruments, trumpeter, composer and author Ian Carr forged a singularly British style of jazz-rock with his band Nucleus, which he formed in 1969 and with which he recorded a dozen albums through the 1970s. Carr had previously paid extensive dues in acoustic jazz, most notably as co-leader with saxophonist Don Rendell of the highly regarded, culturally inclusive Rendell-Carr Quintet from 1964 to 1969.
Carr was a great admirer of Miles Davis and was the author of the authoritative Miles: A Critical Biography (Quartet, 1982). But he did not allow his admiration for Davis to shape Nucleus, which developed in parallel to rather than in the slipstream of Davis' electric bands. Carr's trajectory had deeper roots in the ideas of pianist and composer Neil Ardley, out of whose 1969 ensemble Nucleus' original lineup emerged. Like Ardley, Carr broke rules and defied genres, and Nucleus drew on progressive rock, contemporary classical and electronica in addition to jazz. In his 1973 survey of British jazz, Music Outside: Contemporary Jazz in Britain (Latimer New Dimensions), Carr famously declared: "To hell with dogma!"
Solar Session is another valuable recovery from the vaults by the estimable not-for-profit label Jazz In Britain. It comprises a 26:44 suite which was recorded live in the studio on October 26 1970 and broadcast the following night on BBC radio. Two months later, the same "double quintet" (with the addition of trumpeter and flugelhornist Kenny Wheeler) went on to record an extended and restructured version of the material, which was released as Nucleus' third album, Solar Plexus (Vertigo, 1971). A work-in-progress, the music on Solar Session provides an insight into the development of the suite, which, on the 8:41 closing track, "Snakehips' Dream," shows its closest, yet still glancing, intersection with Miles Davis' Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1969), which had been released eight months earlier.
Postscript: Ian Carr and a later incarnation of Nucleus can be heard on the 2xCD Neil Ardley masterpiece Kaleidoscope of Rainbows: Live '75 (Jazz In Britain, 2021).
Element 1; Bedrock Deadlock; Spirit Level; Torso; Snakehips’ Dream.
Ian Carr: trumpet, flugelhorn;
Harry Beckett: trumpet, flugelhorn;
Brian Smith: tenor and soprano saxophones;
Tony Roberts: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet;
Karl Jenkins: electric piano, oboe;
Chris Spedding: guitar;
Ron Matthewson: bass guitar;
Jeff Clyne: bass;
John Marshall: drums;
Chris Karan: congas;
Keith Winter: VCS3 synthesizer.
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