If: Live At The BBC

Previously unreleased airshots broaden our knowledge of the 1970s jazz-rock group fronted by Dave Quincy, Dick Morrissey and Terry Smith

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In the wake of the 1960s blues boom and the advent of progressive rock another sub-genre arose in the form of jazz-rock. Bands such as Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago led the way in the USA whilst in the UK the Keef Hartley Band and Colosseum regularly appeared in major venues and at music festivals. For the jazzers who participated in these hybrid bands this was a dramatic new opportunity compared with the small clubs and pubs they had hitherto played, usually unamplified.

Originally signed to Island Records and fronted by saxophonists Dick Morrissey and Dave Quincy and guitarist Terry Smith, If was the quintessential British jazz-rock band.

Notably, this double-album compilation of BBC live in concert recordings has never been issued before. Repertoire has a commendable history of rescuing similar BBC archival programmes that otherwise would languish on tape, unreheard. Recent examples include multi-disc sets by Barbara Thompson (Repertoire, 2020), Colosseum (Repertoire, 2020) and Nucleus (Repertoire, 2021).

If – Live At The BBC, a more modest affair, is important since it highlights a band who made jazz-rock popular and accessible. Whilst populated by serious jazzers, If sounded much nearer to BS&T thanks to the stentorian yet soulful vocals of Lancashire born JW Hodkinson, who channelled the compelling delivery of David Clayton-Thomas.

This set also affords a rare opportunity to hear the brilliant Terry Smith, a criminally under-recorded virtuoso guitarist (recently interviewed for JJ), whose electrifying playing is much in evidence throughout.

The strength of the band’s repertoire lay in a variety of approaches. There are instrumental numbers such as What Did I Say About The Box, Jack? and anthemic, memorable songs like Forgotten Roads, I’m Reaching Out On All Sides and Your City Is Falling. Far Beyond sounds more like Yes but the spectacular I Couldn’t Write And Tell You affords both meaty vocals and a sensitive flute solo. The vaguely Iberian Sunday Sad with its dolorous head is a perfect example of If at its best with Smith majestically soloing over a two-chord riff.

If existed all too briefly but made an indelible mark on the jazz-rock scene.

Discography
CD1: I’m Reaching Out on All Sides; The Promised Land; I’m Reaching Out on All Sides; What Did I Say About the Box, Jack?; What Can a Friend Say?; Your City Is Falling; I Couldn’t Write And Tell You; Sunday Sad; Tarmac T. Pirate & The Lonesome Nymphomaniac (64.40)
CD2: Upstairs; Sweet January; Forgotten Roads; Fibonacci’s Number; Seldom Seen Sam; Far Beyond; Introduction: Alan Black; The Light Still Shines; What Did I Say About the Box, Jack?; Waterfall; Seldom Seen Sam (59.27)

Dave Quincy (as, f); Dick Morrissey (ts, f); Terry Smith (elg); JW Hodkinson (v, pc); John Mealing (p, org, v); Jim Richardson (elb); Dennis Elliott (d). London, May 1970 – July 1972.
Repertoire Records REPUK1427/1