Goldmine Magazine has had a few people offering ‘10 Albums that Changed My Life’ recently. Sounds a bit portentous, but it’s true – some of them really did change lives – but it’s a slightly slippery idea. The music I heard as a teenager literally changed my life because it caused me to become a musician, so any list tends to be weighted in the early years. After that my life changed very little; I was fully engaged in being a musician. But there were then many albums that precipitated upheavals in direction, and caused major rethinking in the way I might go about doing things. I think that’s probably what the magazine was after. I thought I’d have a go at it.
1): Various Riverside label Artists: Riverside Giants of Jazz
Probably my first mass introduction to recorded jazz. Essentially a double album sampler of all the goodies on the Riverside label from New York, it gave me my first introduction to the sounds of Bill Evans, Cannonball Adderley, Thelonius Monk, Johnny Griffin, Wes Montgomery and many others. Among other treasures was a local British jazz combo, the Don Rendell Quintet, which contributed an explosive rendition of ‘Manumission’with Phil Kinorra on drums. I signed up right there and then. It was a violent jolt to the system, and got me learning jazz drumset.
2) Graham Bond: The Sound of ’65.
I’d seen this band at a local gig as a highly impressionable teenager, and it was the band that put me in music. Peter Baker on drums (later to find fame as Ginger Baker) seemed frightening and on the edge – the edge of the beat, his stool, the drums, and probably life itself. Immediately that was where I wanted to live. Just thinking about the sound of the Hammond organ driven through two Lesley cabinets makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
3) Dave Brubeck Quartet: Time Out.
Drummer Joe Morello means odd meters and a frighteningly high standard of chops. This album was the first to bring the playfulness of odd meters to my youthful attention, and I sank my teeth into them like a starving man. Here was something I could bring to rock. The turkish 9/8 of Blue Rondo a la Turk is still one of the hippest rhythms I know.
4) Ray Charles: Genius + Soul = Jazz.
So this is why Graham Bond sounded kind of like he did. This was a staple on the British jazz and rhythm and blues scene in the mid-60s, as we tried to figure out who the ‘ice man’ was and what a ‘mint julep’ might have been or done. The sound of a jazz-big band recorded live in a big room, with Quincy Jones arrangements, was bound to be a thriller. Which way to America?
5) Igor stravinsky: The Firebird / Petruschka / Rite of Spring.
We used to go on stage to Stravinsky’s music every night when I was in Yes. Its scope, size and power always seemed so much more than our tiny quintet had to offer. It gave me my first powerful glimpse into a big-scale classical music world outside the narrow confines and demand of rock.
6) King Crimson: In the Court of the Crimson King.
After hearing this, I just wanted to be in the group. I knew intuitively that I needed to be in such a band in order to stretch my musical legs and grow. Stretch them and grow I did.
7) Miles Davis: Bitches Brew
Like all the exciting stuff – Ornette Coleman’s ‘The Shape of Things to Come’, Igor Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’, John Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme’ – I didn’t get it at first. The musical vocabulary was too new. In the absence of the usual chord changes and melodies in Bitches Brew, I didn’t know what to listen to, or for. It was all about the texture, stupid.
8) Keith Jarrett: My Song.
One of my favourite albums of all time – one that I’d take to a desert island. In many ways it is simple but profound music, and a perfect vehicle for Jarrett’s beautiful flights of fancy.
9) Joshua Redman: Freedom in the Groove.
Joshua is, of course, the late tenor-player Dewey Redman’s son, as in the Earthworks song ‘Dewey-Eyed, then Dancing’ .These things are often – always – a matter of timing. The right music presents itself and alters your direction. Kicking around after an outing with Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, and Howe in the early 90s, I was in a dilemma. I wanted Earthworks back badly, but couldn’t see in what skin, or in what form, to resurrect it. The electronic drums around which the first Earthworks had been formed were no longer a viable proposition at club-level. I came across this at a party when Judy Burn played it for me. Redman’s music had exactly what I was looking for – a robust, muscular, visceral, skilful all-acoustic fusion. Earthworks Mark 2 had a direction-changing blueprint by the end of the evening.
10) Zawinul Syndicate: World Tour.
I picked this from Joe’s later career not because it’s a better album than the more famous ‘Heavy Weather’ – it isn’t – but because Zawinul was one of the first jazz musicians to see that the way out of the ‘complexity’ trap was to use the colours and sounds of many nations and continents – world music – to fuel his jazz. He made jazz fun again, particularly if Paco Sery was on drums, and altered Earthworks direction; again.