Artist: Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet.
Label and Catalogue Number: Columbia UK Lansdowne Series SCX 6316.
Personnel: Ian Carr (trumpet, flugelhorn), Don Rendell (tenor sax, soprano sax, clarinet, flute), Michael Garrick (piano), Dave Green (bass), Trevor Tomkins (drums).
Side 1: On Track; Vignette; Pavanne.
Side 2: Nimjam; Voices; You’ve Said It.
Recording Date: 18 March 1968 at the Lansdowne Recording Studio, London, United Kingdom.
I work in the centre of a large city in the West of England (shouldn’t be hard to guess which one) and we’re still lucky enough to have a few second hand record shops within walking distance so I sometimes visit them during my lunch break. To be honest, most of them stock little if any jazz so these visits are more in hope than expectation.
All that changed a few weeks ago…
I was in one of these shops, thumbing through the crates, when I happened to glance up at the sleeves displayed in plastic wallets on the wall. There, right in front of me, was the cover of the Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet Live LP. I’d always assumed these covers on the wall were for decoration only – you know, they’ve got old sleeves but the records are trashed or long since lost. But this was too important a sleeve to ignore, so I made my way to the counter and, as casually as I could manage, I enquired whether they actually had the record or not. Well, the answer was yes and would I like to see it? Would I ever!
So there I was with an original stereo Lansdowne Series near mint record with the right labels and matrix numbers for a first (only?) pressing of this holy grail of 1960s British jazz in my hot little hand trying to appear nonchalant as I asked about the price. The guy behind the counter had to check a list and then phone the shop owner to confirm before giving me a figure. Hmmm, it was in the ballpark of what I expected but still more than I was prepared to pay. So I asked if he could keep it behind the counter while I did my other lunchtime errands. This, of course, was a ruse to give me thinking time and to check Popsike.
Checks done, thinking done, negotiating strategy decided, I returned half an hour later. After some further discussion and a second phone call to the shop owner, a satisfactory deal was struck and I walked away with my prize and an enormous smile.
For me, the Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet was the finest British small jazz group ever. And I can’t be the only one who nurses that opinion because all five of their limited legacy of LPs released in the 1960s are sought after collectors’ items. As far as I know, none of them have ever been reissued on vinyl (apart from a few tracks on compilations) and there’s this YouTube interview with Don Rendell and Michael Garrick in which they indicate that pressing runs of their LPs only amounted to around 1,000 copies (don’t adjust your set – the audio doesn’t cut in until 1 minute 5 seconds):
Enough collector gloating, what of the music itself?
Yes, it’s a live recording but not in the usual sense of a public concert. Rather, it was a studio session in which the band played and recorded live in the presence of a small (40 or so) invited audience of friends. It made for a special atmosphere that combined the relaxed nature of being in familiar company with the party spirit as refreshment flowed freely. All six tracks are first takes captured warts ‘n’ all. Though I, as a mere fan and not a musician, am hard put to spot anything other than consummate performances.
The whole record is cut through with modal sensibilities and Eastern (especially Indian, in the case of Garrick) influences. It’s not hard to imagine Rendell and Carr pairing as Britain’s modest answer to John Coltrane and Miles Davis. The latter being of such interest to Carr that he eventually penned one of the most critically acclaimed biographies of Davis. Anything they can do in New York, it seems, could also be done in London. Not least the sound quality of the recording which stands up well to comparison with Van Gelder and Columbia’s engineers. The bass is full and deep, the drums are sharp and tight, the horns pick up just the right amount of reverb from the confines of the studio. For the icing on the cake, we’re also treated to the microphones picking up of all the audience participation and reaction. Take a bow, Denis Preston and David Heelis!
I’ve picked Pavanne as the audio selection but I could also just have easily chosen other tracks: notably Voices which was to resurface on Garrick’s The Heart Is a Lotus LP for the UK Argo label a couple of years later or NimJam which showcases Tomkins dynamic drumming (among othe things).
I don’t really know what else to say. I’m sort of holding my breath that I haven’t used up this year’s quota of collecting luck all in one go.
For Collectors Only
Side one is non-deep groove with the black, white and silver Columbia UK/EMI so-called “magic notes” label (by the time this record was released, the earlier black, white and blue label had been phased out). The deadwax bears a stamped matrix number “YAX 3780-1U” as well as a stamped “1” and a stamped “R”. Side two’s label is in the same style as that on side one and this time the deadwax stampings are “YAX 3781-1U”, a “1” and a “V”. An open and shut case for a stereo first pressing with the vinyl tipping the scales at a modestly British 133g.
The cover is worthy of mention as it typifies the classic British flipback design with the front being nicely laminated while the rear unlaminated cardboard has to go through life exposed to the risk of damage. It’s not in prime condition but certainly well enough preserved to get my vote.