Sunday 28 July 2019

Dr John:

The recent death of Dr John a.k.a. Malcolm John Rebennack Jnr brought back to me a memory of seeing him perform in the City where I'm based (Exeter, Devon) sometime in the 1980's. Some considerable scoffing when I said that I was certain that I'd seen him led me to go digging in the archives. My memory did not deceive me. On Monday 4th November 1985 I paid £4.50 to see him perform at what was then The Exeter and Devon Arts Centre, and in its current incarnation is Exeter Phoenix. 
    I then discovered the bi-monthly brochure that the Arts Centre produced and realised what an amazing line up November and December of that year had brought to Exeter. The same organisation that co promoted Dr John also booked Robert Cray for an appearance at Tiffany's on the Quay in Exeter, and I found a 15" reel to reel recording of an interview that I did with him that very night. Only problem is I can't listen to it , because I don't have reel to reel recorder, let alone one that plays at 15ips..
  The same venue also hosted two magnificent jazz gigs. On November 30th for £3.00 you could see Howard Riley's "Facets" with bass player Jeff Clyne and drummer Tony Levin. The same gig had a special guest appearance by Evan Parker on saxes. The following Saturday - if you had been to the Howard Riley gig you could have bought a joint ticket for both gigs for £4.50 (I did!) - Keith Tippett's Canoe. Tippett  is still out on the road playing all sorts of venues and recording. He also played on a couple of King Crimson albums. However the highlight for me was that his wife, Julie Tippetts was featured vocalist with the group. In a previous life she had been Julie Driscoll who had had a huge UK pop hit with the Brian Auger Trinity on Bob Dylan's "Wheels on fire".
It also brought home to me how active South West Jazz were at the time, and conversely how much they are missed in helping to promote the sort of gigs that would otherwise be unaffordable for a lot of south west venues.
Finally, I ought to add that at the time I was working for the ILR station DevonAir and every year we held Operation Devon Care to raise money for good causes. In the very same brochure I notice that I had presented and hosted an evening of live music with music from 'Firing on Five' (of whom I have no recollection at all -perhaps if you read this an remember them you can contact me via the Edge of Jazz website) and Sneaky Pete and the Vipers who were from somewhere in North Dorset (but again details elude me). I can't remember anything at al about the evening though whether that was through the ingestion of drink or just a failing memory I can't decide.