This five-vinyl reissue package including Don Rendell & Ian Carr's Shades Of Blue, Dusk Fire, Phase 111, Live! and Change Is represents a treasure trove, even in today’s crowded marketplace of box sets.
Established by producer Denis Preston in 1956, the Lansdowne record label has a unique place in the history of British jazz. The first phase of its existence was marked by a notable ‘trad’ hit, Humphrey Lyttelton’s Bad Penny Blues, but by the early ‘60s Preston had given a platform to the leading lights of modernism, such as the innovative Jamaican saxophonist Joe Harriott and stellar English pianist Stan Tracey. What was new was hot. Nothing more so than the quintet jointly led by saxophonist Don Rendell and trumpeter Ian Carr, whose output for the label in a fertile four year period is a high watermark of creative music in the heyday of the Beatles.
A five-vinyl reissue package that includes Shades Of Blue, Dusk Fire, Phase 111, Live! and Change Is represents a treasure trove, even in today’s crowded marketplace of box sets. These albums are masterful insofar as they display the best of small group dynamics – the thrill of the interplay between rhythm and horn sections; the shifting anatomy of the ensemble, breaking down to trio, duo and solo. They also showcase the carefully calibrated dynamics and variations of mood and tempo – while, crucially, evoking the orchestral richness of a larger ensemble, primarily because many of the themes, harmonies and counterpoint are so rich. Rendell and Carr have advanced chemistry, if not telepathy, which led to moments of sublime beauty, especially when the latter mutes his brass to create a distinctly misty, mysterious glint that vividly evokes all the sensuality of the moment when day melts into night. The deep poetic imagining of Dusk Fire is thus vividly evoked by the group. Sound and image would magically become one.
In pianist Colin Purbrook, double bassist Dave Green, and drummer Trevor Tomkins, Rendell and Carr had accompanists who could be both subtle and forceful. Indeed, one of the key strengths of the combo was the finesse of Tomkins’ snare, percolating away to ignite the music without driving it into bombast. As is the case with many notable bands, changes in personnel had a beneficial effect, and the replacement of Purbrook by Michael Garrick gave the quintet, apart from its co-leaders, another composer with a strong personality. He had a distinct leaning towards Indian and non-western music, in general, as well as choral traditions. Pieces such as Black Marigolds have a ceremonial grandeur to them, as if the theme were written to accompany a procession to a mosque or temple that follows a trail of the titular flowers. The artful blend of Tomkins’ tympani, a breath fading in the air, and Rendell’s soprano saxophone, a ribbon fluttering in the breeze, evokes an ambience that is not a million miles from the other sounds of American legends such as Yusef Lateef and John Coltrane, whose daring forays into modal music and swirling 6/8 time significantly informed the work of their lesser known peers on the other side of the Atlantic.
While all the members of the Rendell Carr quintet, which would later include African percussionist Guy Warren of Ghana, [somewhat problematically], deserve an overdue ovation, the role of Preston is paramount. He was a producer with a clear vision who was quick to recognize the talent he had in his midst and duly create the apposite conditions for it to flourish. The Lansdowne studio in west London had a quite gorgeous sound, which has been faithfully handled by Alan Wharton’s analogue cut and mastering. The result is historical music that has remained living musical history.
Don Rendell Ian Carr Quintet, The Complete Lansdowne Recordings 1965-69 (Jazzman)