JJ 02/73: Ian Carr – Belladonna

Fifty years ago Steve Voce thought that aside from the irritating wafts of the Miles Davis style the trumpeter's latest was a great success. First published in Jazz Journal February 1973


Gloriously original jazz which only falters when it occasionally tries to sound like Miles Davis. These tracks and the combinations of different sounds they contain are the products of some very inventive and inspired thinking, and whether it’s cracking along on the title track or treating the leader’s beautiful Summer Rain with the delicacy it deserves, the band never lets go of the exuberant feel that threads through each track.

Carr as leader and composer of most of the titles is rock-steady, while Brian Smith turns in an astonishing display on his saxes. But both men are immeasureably helped by the complex rhythm team, with the two pianos having a ball with their different sounds – probably as good a chance to compare the big differences between makes as you’ll get anywhere.

Belladonna itself is a fourteen minute celebration, and it’s here that one does occasionally feel an irritating waft of Miles Davis – irritating because the rest of the music is so original that it does obtrude. Remadione is Smith’s lovely ballad with a superb statement by flute and muted trumpet before MacRae takes flight into a rhythm powerhouse which makes a most aggressive contrast, and the track fades without a return to the theme.

Mayday begins by threading the various rhythm elements into a com­plex web before the horns enter over the top. Here one can see just how far the electric pianos have developed since Duke Pearson and Herbie Hancock be­gan toying with them some years ago. Both Beck and MacRae function as solo, comping, and rhythm instruments. Mayday then becomes a long, explosive feature for Smith’s brilliant tenor, wail­ing at breakneck tempo, but never losing momentum. Another display of piano armoury on Hector’s House and, to a lesser extent on Suspension which has delightful flugel from its composer.

A brilliant record which won’t appeal to the anti-electrics but which as far as I’m concerned gives me a fine new group to watch out for.

Belladonna; Summer Rain (19½ min) – Remadione; Mayday; Suspension; Hector’s House (20 min)
Ian Carr (tpt/flg-h); Brian Smith (ten/sop/alto/bamboo flt); Dave MacRae (Fender elec-pno); Alan Holdsworth (gtr); Roy Babbington (bs-gtr); Clive Thacker (dm). Gordon Beck (Hohner elec-pno) on ‘Belladonna’, ‘Mayday’, ‘Suspension’ and ‘Hector’s House’. Trevor Tomkins (perc) on ‘Belladonna’, ‘Remadione’ and ‘Mayday’. All tracks recorded London, July 1972.
(Vertigo 6360 076 £2.40)