Keith Tippett (born Keith Graham Tippetts; 25 August 1947 – 14 June 2020) was a British jazz pianist and composer. According to AllMusic, Tippett’s career “..spanned jazz-rock, progressive rock, improvised and contemporary music, as well as modern jazz for more than half-a-century”. He held ” an unparalleled place in British contemporary music,” and was known for “his unique approach to improvisation”. Tippett appeared and recorded in many settings, including a duet with Stan Tracey, duets with his wife Julie Tippetts (née Driscoll), solo performances, and as a bandleader, and appeared on King Crimson albums.
Born in Southmead, Bristol, Tippett was the son of an English father who was a policeman and an Irish mother named Kitty. He wrote music dedicated to her after she died. He was the oldest of three siblings and went to Greenway Secondary Modern school in Southmead. As a child he played piano, church organ, cornet, and tenor horn.
At fourteen he formed his first band, KT Trad Lads, with school friends Richard Murch, Mike Milton, Terry Pratt, and Bob Chard, performing traditional jazz. He formed a modern jazz trio in Bristol and played regularly at the Dugout Club in Park Row, Bristol.
In 1967 Tippett moved to London to pursue a career in music, taking menial jobs while performing in jazz clubs. With a scholarship he attended the Barry Summer School Jazz Course in Wales, where he met Elton Dean, Nick Evans, and Marc Charig and with them started a band.The Keith Tippett Sextet was hired for a residency at the 100 Club in Oxford, leading to a contract with Vertigo Records, which released their first two albums, You Are There… I Am Here (1970) and Dedicated to You, but You Weren’t Listening (1971). Robert Fripp hired Tippett to play piano on the King Crimson album In the Wake of Poseidon. Evans and Charig joined Tippett on the King Crimson album Lizard. Tippett performed on the single “Cat Food” and appeared with King Crimson on Top of the Pops.
Tippett declined the offer to join King Crimson in order to continue to lead his own group, but he and Charig played on the band’s album Islands. After leaving Vertigo, Tippett formed Centipede, a 50-piece band that included his wife Julie Driscoll as well as members of King Crimson and Soft Machine, and brought together much of a generation of young British jazz and rock musicians. As well as performing some concerts (limited economically by the size of the band), they recorded one double-album, Septober Energy, a Tippett composition, which was released on the RCA label in 1971. Despite substantial publicity, the album failed to sell in sufficient numbers to justify the expense of maintaining the project.
For his next album, Blueprint (1972), he used a smaller group comprising himself and Julie Tippetts with bassist Roy Babbington and drummer Frank Perry. The band then expanded slightly to become Ovary Lodge, who recorded two albums, one for RCA (produced by Robert Fripp of King Crimson) and a second for the Ogun label. Tippett and his band also recorded in the 1970s for Giorgio Gomelsky’s label, Utopia, releasing the Julie Tippetts album Sunset Glow. Tippett continued to play with various combinations of musicians through the 1970s, playing improvisational jazz and jazz-rock with such musicians as Stan Tracey, Robert Wyatt, Dudu Pukwana, Harry Miller, Elton Dean, Hugh Hopper, and Louis Moholo. From 1979, he also started to release many live albums of solo piano performances, beginning with The Unlonely Raindancer.
In the late 1980s, he, along with Paul Dunmall saxes, Paul Rogers bass, and Tony Levin drums, formed the quartet Mujician, playing purely improvised jazz. Mujician released 6 albums from 1990-2002. He also formed a trio with Julie Tippetts and Willi Kellers, and wrote film and television scores. He also wrote music for string quartets and piano, and taught at summer schools. Tippett also continued to record and to tour in Britain and Europe with various ensembles. He also worked with musicians Andy Sheppard, as well as with his frequent collaborators Elton Dean, Louis Moholo, and Howard Riley.
He married singer Julie Driscoll in 1970.
In 2018, he had a heart attack and pneumonia but returned to performing in 2019.
He died on 14 June 2020 at the age of 72. (by wikipedia)
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk
4 stars With an arresting artwork, depicting a brainchild, on its cover, the KTG managed to climb up from the Phillips generalist label to the Vertigo Swirl prestigious and progressive label, and I can’t think of a better promotion. Line-up wise, Jeff Clyne shares the bass with Roy Babbington and the drums are shared between Wyatt, Brian springs and Phil Howard (who would go on to replace Wyatt in Soft Machine), but on the horns, the Dean/Charig/Evans trio remained. Please note the pun title is from Soft Machine’s “Dedicated To Hugh…”
The album opens on a conga-driven groovy track that gets its inspiration between the three horn players, but in the background, Keith’s piano is the one thing that makes this piece so rollicking. Followed up by the tough to grasp Thoughts To Geoff, a 10-mins corker that often veers dissonant and improvisational, which strangely enough becomes more fluid and melodic as it unravels. Even young Gary Boyle (out of auger’s trinity) manages to follow this difficult track, which had to faded out to be stopped. In Green & Orange Night Park, McCoy Typpett then shows with all three horns holding the Trane in the station, until Elton pulls his best solo (I would almost add ever in such a fanboy moment) while the other two are providing a descending line behind him that slowly morphs into another lead line, which had to be terminated again by a fade-out. Absolutely flabbergasting and jaw-dropping piece.
The flipside starts on the most difficult Gridal Suite, an Elton Dean improvised piece that he shares well with Phil Howard (just think of side 1 of Soft Machine’s 5 album), this track probably being the low point of the album. Five After Dawn might appear at first to be just as difficult, but it’s not quite the same nature, this one is written and impressionist track, evoking early life movement after the dead of night. After your stupor segued into surprise, it should normally give into joy and eventually glee. The short but sweet reprise of SM’s theme is only a wink, leading us to Black Horse, which is a bit the book- ending of the opening track (both tracks are written by trombonist Nick Evans, a very rhythmic groove with plenty of enthralling horn-section arrangements (a bit ala brass-rock), and it comes complete with a superb guitar solo from future Isotope Gary Boyle.
Not that this second album is that much better than their debut, but it grabbed all of the sunshine, shadowing all of the debut album, which consistently remains more difficult to find. Both are much worth the discovery and are excellent early UK jazz-rock. (by Sean Trane)
Marc Charig (cornet)
Elton Dean (saxophone, saxello)
Nick Evans (trombone)
Keith Tippett (piano)
Roy Babbington (bass)
Gary Boyle (guitar)
Phil Howard (drums)
Bryan Spring (drums)
Tony Uta (percussion)
Neville Whitehead (bass)
Robert Wyatt (drums)
01. This Is What Happens (Evans) 4.58
02. Thoughts To Geoff (Tippett)
03.Green And Orange Night Park (Tippett)
04. Gridal Suite (Dean)
05. Five After Dawn (Tippett)
06. Dedicated To You, But You Weren’t Listening (Dean/Hopper/Charig)
07. Black Horse (Dean)
Keith Tippett (25 August 1947 – 14 June 2020)