Jazz for Modernists 8 – Interview with Julie Tippetts and Keith Tippett (Part 2)

Jazz for Modernists 8 – Interview with Julie Tippetts and Keith Tippett (Part 2)

This entry is part 7 of 7 in the series James Thomas on Jazz

Here is part 2 of JTM’s interview with Julie Tippetts and Keith Tippett.

09: The period 1967-1972 was generally one of great dialogue between jazz, blues, folk, improvisational forms and rock music. On a personal level, did you experience this as a process of mutual discovery, each of you learning about the other’s musical backgrounds?

KEITH: As in our lives where we have grown together, also in the music. And may I take this opportunity to state that Centipede and the composition Septober Energy (1971) encompasses all these genres. Performing live with an orchestra including Jazz musicians/Soul and progressive rock musicians/improvising musicians and classical musicians had never been done before or since.

Centipede, Septober Energy (1971)

10: In April, 1971, Julie, you recorded Quartet Sequence, with The Spontaneous Music Ensemble. How did this come about and what was it like to step into this new area of improvisational singing?

JULIE: Our shared manager at the time, Giorgio Gomelsky, was also recording people like John Stevens and John McLaughlin, so I had the opportunity to listen to and try out all sorts of diverse musical areas of creation. Joining The Spontaneous Music Ensemble with John Stevens, Trevor Watts and Ron Herman was part of a natural progression moving into a freer approach to playing. As was (Ovary Lodge (with Keith, Frank Perry and Harry Miller), and collaborations with [previous SME member] Maggie Nicols. She and I set up our friendship and teamwork in Centipede. We did lots of improvising together in preparation for the concerts. We have always had an incredible rapport.

Spontaneuous Music Ensemble, Frameworks 

11: Much of this music is considered ‘improvisational’ or ‘experimental’. Is improvisation primarily a response to another musician’s performance or is it aiming to represent something tangible (a landscape, an idea, an emotion etc)?

KEITH: It is definitely not experimental. Composition is frozen improvisation. The ability to solidify on paper the idea you have created in sound. This is just the start. Likewise with the technology available today, what starts as an improvisation in a Dartington concert can be heard on a beach in Bali on cd 5 months later. All composers are improvisers.

12: Julie, you have periodically returned to more ‘conventional’ song forms throughout your career, working again with Brian Auger on Encore (1978), Fire in the Mountain (1989) with Working Week and quite recently, Sessions (2008) with Nostalgia 77 (with Keith). How would you describe the main differences in approach to structured song and improvisational singing?

JULIE: I love music… My privilege has been, being open enough to be part of many genres. I feel comfortable in composed or spontaneous music.

13: In 1975, you recorded Sunset Glow, a recording that in parts evokes for me works like Tim Buckley’s Starsailor (1970), Robert Wyatt’s Rock Bottom (1974) and Linda Perhac’s Parallelograms (1970). For those who love your 1960s work, could this LP be the gateway into your more experimental work, perhaps the one they could relate to most?

JULIE: I don’t think so really. For me personally, I can’t possibly make that statement. I have loved every limb of the body of work I have produced or been part of producing. It’s all part of the same journey. How people conceive it, or accept it, is part of their journey.

Julie Tippetts, Sunset Glow (1975)

14: Keith, during the 1980s and 1990s, you actively promoted the Rare Music Club in Bristol, an arena for experimental and collaborative music, based in part around your group Mujician. What were the major successes of that and did the experience make you optimistic about future music in Britain?

KEITH: The Rare Music club put on a programme of improvised music/jazz/20th century/contemporary western classical music/ and folk music from various countries. At least 3 different musics per night. Wonderful idea. I thought it would be commercial. I was wrong. Mujician was the house band and we were subsidizing guest artists. There was no profit whatsoever. Even with a hard-working committee raising small amounts of money, we could only sustain the club by the musicians’ good will. We had some headline, internationally known artists, and prosperous Bristol (a University city) did not have interest enough – particularly local musicians and students. The future of non-commercial music is in more danger now in the UK than it has ever been (with the exception of contemporary western classical music, which the establishment funds)… Thank God for Europe… ps…I worked more in Tokyo last year than my home town Bristol!!

Mujician (Paul Dunmall, Keith Tippett, the late Tony Levin, Paul Rodgers)

15: Keith, teaching has been important to you and you include many younger musicians in your improvising groups and write scores for younger musicians to perform. When you perform, you always seem to be interested in how they respond to your musical cues and suggestions…..

KEITH: Younger musicians are the future of course… musical cues and suggestions are of course discussed and rehearsed. I also am still working with many of the older comrades who were first-generation creators of improvised music.

16: Are you hopeful about the future of jazz and improvisational music?

KEITH: I am hopeful to an extent. However Europe (East and West) is where the work place is. The audiences also seem to be more knowledgeable.


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James Thomas

James Thomas was born in Bristol just the wrong side of 1970 (1971). His first encounters with the 1960s were his two-year-old elder brother’s reminiscences of the Moon Landing (since deleted by the BBC) and an afternoon in 1975 listening to the Beatles with his parents. He remembers 2-Tone and the ’79 revival, but was the one in his primary school still wearing flares until he persuaded his mum to buy him a black Harrington jacket (a stylish-enough copy by Burtons) and asked a hair stylist to make him ‘look like Suggs’. In the 1980s he became obsessed with almost every aspect of the 1960s, whether it were Star Trek, the length of George Harrison’s hair in March 1965 or the first colour TV broadcast of a cricket match (he thinks it was 1968). After being side-tracked by progressive rock (an ongoing guilty pleasure), James came to his senses in 1986 on seeing footage of Booker T and the MGs and Otis Redding on a programme celebrating the 60th anniversary of television. A flirtation with ‘indie pop’ (in the bowl-cut and anorak days) led to too much introspection, but also a new interest in the psychedelic sounds of the 1960s that seemed to go hand in glove with a liking for The Pastels and The Razorcuts. A summery afternoon in the jazz tent at Bristol’s annual (and long gone) Ashton Court Festival in 1989 opened his mind to the sounds of Lee Morgan, Horace Silver, Art Blakey and most forms of modern jazz. In 1990, James attended his first proper 60s club night, the revered Kaleidoscope Pop! in Leeds. On his return from the North in 1992, he developed a new commitment to Mod culture. He recalls early Untouchables Brighton New Year rallies and in 1994 moved to London. A real education for him (in so many ways...) was a period in Barcelona (1997-2002) where he helped out with the Magic in the Air club for a year or two and where his IQ was permanently reduced by a record dealer who made him clean vinyl for four weeks in a windowless room. After a decade or so in the West Country, he is now living again in London, where he plans to write about jazz, meet like-minded people and study the history of the cravat.

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September 29, 2016 By : Category : Bands,Front Page,Interviews,ModJazz,Music,UK Tags:, , , ,
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