Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet - "Webster's Mood" (Live at the Union 1966)
Mike King’s Reel Recordings label drops another historically important, not to mention fantastic, release. The Don Rendell/Ian Carr quintet’s official live album came toward the end of the group’s run, making this 1966 document especially welcome. As if that weren’t enough, four of the six tunes were not otherwise recorded by the quintet. Three of them, “Ursula,” “Carolling” and “Webster’s Mood” appear in radically different arrangements on Michael Garrick’s 1966 septet album Black Marigolds. “Trane’s Mood,” had not, so far as I am aware, been released at all.
Already well established on the British jazz scene, saxophonist and flutist Don Rendell formed the quintet with trumpeter Ian Carr in 1964; by 1966, the lineup had stabilized to include pianist Michael Garrick, bassist Dave Green and drummer Trevor Tomkins. This exciting performance was recorded at University College London on December 12, 1966, by Carr’s long-time friend George Foster. The monaural sound is vivid if slightly cramped, but any committed listener will soon forget the limitations as the vibrant atmosphere and powerful musicianship take over.
The band is on fire. The departure of Green for another gig after the second track — he was replaced by Tony Reeves — does nothing to diminish the energy. If not quite Green’s improvising equal, Reeves acquits himself quite well. The band’s influences are varied, these compositions demonstrating open ears without any hint of slavish imitation. The opener, “On,” clearly references middle 1960s Miles Davis and Atlantic period Ornette Coleman, but the triple metered modality of “Trane’s Mood” and the loosely swinging “Webster’s Mood” conjure shades of their inspirations. The former is especially interesting, as Rendell’s solo evokes blues and bop more than the “New Thing.” Carr follows suit on wah-wah muted trumpet, giving the tune an antiquated feel while his note choices and phrasing are clearly current. Garrick’s pianism may be the most blatantly adventurous element, as he switches tonal centers on a dime, inserting some Monkish harmonic pranks for good measure. He and Tomkins drive the band, locking up and leaving room in all the right places, each inventive and engaging. Check out the way Tomkins’ snare and Garrick’s chords punctuate Carr’s solo on “Carolling,” to hear them in full communion.
The program is nicely varied, and it is revelatory to hear an early version of “On,” not released on a studio album until 1968. We are also given, as a finale, a take on “Hot Rod,” which appeared on the quintet’s 1966 sophomore effort, Dusk Fire. These factors combine to make this set a must-hear for fans of British jazz (or great music making). We’re lucky that it finally saw the light of day.