The death of Olivia de Havilland, the last link with Hollywood’s ‘Golden Age’, at an even more advanced age than (Gord bless ‘er) the Queen Mother, has prompted me to salute two other recent losses, those of Keith Tippett and Peter Green. I ‘got into’ these two greats in 1969/70, and they were both important early influences on my future listening habits.
Rather ironically, I blogged about Peter Green only a few months back, in a celebration of Fleetwood Mac’s quadrumvirate of classic singles - Albatross, Man of the World, Oh Well and The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown) - so want to just add a few words about Tippett.
Like many, I first came across Keith when exposed to ‘Cat Food’ on King Crimson’s second outing In the Wake of Poseidon, a Cecil Taylor-ish intrusion into the shoals of progressive rock. He also appeared on KC’s next two albums, Lizard and Islands. Along with Soft Machine Three, these records pointed me in the direction of jazz music, and I soon fell inevitably under the influence of the Keith Tippett Group, and their You Are Here…I Am There and Dedicated to You, But You Weren’t Listening (such typical 70s titles!), from 1970 and 1971 respectively. Along with contemporary recordings by the Softs and Nucleus (Elastic Rock and We’ll Talk About It Later) , these were required listening for any early 70s British jazz neophytes. Tippett’s group was suffused with talent - Marc Charig, Elton Dean, Nick Evans, Jeff Clyne and Alan Jackson (the latter two also associated with the free improv end of jazz).
Many years passed (about 40!) before I re-introduced myself to Tippett’s music, and, in the past few years, managed to see him in both solo and group formats at The Vortex and Cafe Oto. A solo gig at the latter was particularly mesmerising, and I recall another at the former, which was so sparsely attended that the pianist recommended that we reconvene at his home for a more intimate experience! Such was the fate of one of our greatest pianists (Stan Tracey has also passed, and Howard Riley remains very unwell, leaving a clear field for Alexander Hawkins to assume that title), who nevertheless leaves a glorious legacy of recorded music, from Centipede, through to small group, duo (with, among many others, Riley and Tracey, and his wife, Julie) and solo material. Just look up his discography on Wiki, and marvel. An all round good bloke, yet one that apparently also didn’t tolerate fools gladly.