Ten years ago Ian Carr was a major innovator, being one of the first British musicians to fuse rock and electronics with jazz. Yet his new five part composition ‘Conversations with the Blues’ was in no way pioneering music; in fact it was entertaining rather than profound. That his set was a success was due primarily to the preparation, care and effort that had gone into the work. It was totally professional, impeccably played and tightly performed.
The ensemble work was of a modern big band approach, with a rock rhythm section, improvised soloing and spiced throughout by a bluesy intonation; most notably from the guitar work of Jim Mullen. Most impressive of the nine contributors were Brian Smith on saxes and flute, Tim Whitehead on tenor, and Carr himself. His warm full bodied Milesian trumpet tone was very persuasive in this most compatible of settings.
The evening began with the first public appearance of the new Allan Holdsworth band, a less tightly knit ensemble (despite the fact that compositions rather than free blowing predominated). Ironically however, it was only in the freer sections, liberated largely by drummer John Marshall, that the music really warmed up.
With players of the calibre of Gordon Beck on piano, Ray Warleigh on alto and Holdsworth himself on guitar, they could not fail to impress, but, as a group, they lacked originality.
The first two numbers sounded uncomfortably like latter day Gong without the vibes, though they improved as the set progressed. Neither Holdsworth nor Beck were on top form, though it was good to hear the former playing well at slower tempos. In short, a pleasant (rather than stimulating) evening of jazz rock; disappointing in a certain lack of adventure from both groups.