JJ 03/71: Nucleus at Notre Dame Hall, London

Fifty years ago, Ron Brown thought Nucleus a cohesive rock-jazz group, not just soloist and rhythm as per Miles Davis. First published in Jazz Journal March 1971

Nucleus at Newport Jazz Festival 1970. L-R: John Marshall, Bryan Smith, Jeff Clyne, Ian Carr, Chris Spedding, Karl Jenkins. Photo © George Gilmore

Miles Davis might be the greatest soloist in the rock/jazz idiom, but Nucleus is certainly the finest rock/jazz group, and they proved it again at their Notre Dame Hall gig on February 12th, the day their second Vertigo album ‘We’ll Talk About It Later’ was released.

The line-up was as usual Ian Carr (tpt/fgl-h), Brian Smith (ten/sop), Chris Spedding (el-gtr), Karl Jenkins (el-pno/oboe), Jeff Clyne (bs-gtr), John Marshall (dm), and again as usual they played beautiful cohesive jazz, together group jazz; it’s hard to imagine this band without any of its members – this isn’t a soloist plus rhythmic cushion thing like Miles’ outfit, but a coopera­tive in which everybody contributes.

Ian Carr obviously feels so free and at home in the context he delights in that his honest, direct playing is more fiery than ever before; the all-pervasive Davis influence is now the least remarkable aspect of his style, and he’s really his own man on both his horns. Karl Jenkins continues to be the electric piano player (why won’t he solo on the thing?), and the balance (a vast improvement on the last Notre Dame concert by the group) enabled us to dig the subtleties of Jeff Clyne’s refinement; he’s achieved a complete bass-guitar style, rather than a transference of his double-bass technique to the electric instrument. I’ve always found Spedding the least interesting member of the band, but this time I’m happy to say he made me eat my words with some excellent work, particularly his hot and genuinely exciting solo on the closing blues.

The second half was especially good, as the group enthusiastically worked their way through Snake Hips, (a movement from Ian’s Solar Plexus suite), Oasis from the new LP, a quick reference to Persephone’s Jive, then out on that cooking blues. They know how to programme as well as blow! Thanks, lads.