18-05-06

John Burch RIP

Another sad message came in my my emailinbox :

> John Burch
>
> Versatile jazz pianist comfortable in a variety of genres
>
> During the rise of jazz-rock and funk in the 1960s, many musicians moved
> easily between traditional jazz, bebop, blues, skiffle, boogie, and rock -
> a fluidity that led to the British R&B boom, and the emergence of such
> artists as Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Georgie Fame and John
> McLaughlin. The pianist, songwriter and bandleader John Burch, who has
> died aged 74 from cancer, was a significant force on that scene.
>
> Though generally relegated to footnotes in star biographies, he was a
> working musician who was contented with his playing life and drily amused
> by the odder experiences it offered - like playing the Playboy Club with
> rubber gloves on his head to divert the punters' attention from the bunny
> girls.
> His style would be called "straight-ahead" today, but he built it in the
> 1950s from the strong left hand of Oscar Peterson and the swerves and
> convolutions of bop players like Bud Powell. By the 1960s, the Art Blakey
> sideman Cedar Walton had become his principal model. The blues was a
> particularly powerful force, sparked by a childhood fascination with
> boogie-woogie. He gravitated readily toward blues players, leading an
> early 1960s octet that was a hothouse for embryonic British R&B stars,
> including the late saxophonist, pianist and singer Graham Bond and Cream
> drummer Ginger Baker. He also composed; Preach and Teach (1966) provided
> the B-side of Georgie Fame's hit Yeh Yeh, and was also recorded by Buddy
> Rich.
>
> Born John Burchell in London, he studied the piano formally from the age
> of 12. Stationed in postwar Germany, he played in army bands. He met Bond
> in the late 1950s and toured European military bases as the leader of a
> trio. He performed in France in 1959 with the bassist Jeff Clyne and
> saxophonist Bobby Wellins, and joined drummer and composer Allan Ganley's
> Jazzmakers the following year.Next came a band led by the innovative
> saxophonist Don Rendell, with whom Burch collaborated on the 1961 album
> Roarin', a sweeping departure from the west coast sound of earlier Rendell
> ventures, taking on an earthiness suggestive of Charles Mingus, which was
> given extra urgency by Bond's fiery sound. A Burch composition,
> Manumission, stood up well against Miles Davis's So What as one of the
> disc's strongest tracks.
>
> Burch and Rendell worked together through 1962, while the pianist also ran
> a quartet including saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith (obituary, December
> 22 2004) that alternated sets at the Flamingo Club, Wardour Street, with
> Georgie Fame's Blue Flames. From 1964 to 1966 Burch led his influential
> octet, including Heckstall-Smith, Ray Warleigh and Peter King, bop
> trumpeter Henry "Hank" Shaw, and occasionally Ginger Baker and a fledgling
> Scottish bassist, Jack Bruce.
>
> This was also the time at which a relaxation of union regulations was
> leading to more frequent appearances in Britain by US stars. Burch was one
> of a handful of adaptable, alert and knowledgeable local pianists ideally
> suited to these minimally rehearsed accompanying roles, and he worked in
> 1966 with multi-saxophonist Rahsaan Roland Kirk, trumpeter Freddie
> Hubbard, and former Charlie Parker sideman Red Rodney, among others.
>
> Burch's relationship with the expressive expatriate Australian saxophonist
> Ray Warleigh led to a fine album of hard-driving standards with hard-bop
> drummer Tommy Chase and guest American trumpeter Jon Eardley for Spotlite
> Records in 1978. In the next decade, he often accompanied saxist Kathy
> Stobart and toured with such visitors as visitors like the soul-jazz
> musician Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson.
>
> He re-formed the octet in 1984 with the powerful British saxophonist Dick
> Morrissey (obituary, November 9 2000), and felt the relationship was one
> of his most exhilaratingly productive. He wrote Resurrection Ritual Suite
> for Morrissey, and reunited with Rendell on a reprise of Roarin' in the
> 90s. He was also a stimulating teacher on the Barry Summer School
> jazz-education project (the young Keith Tippett was one of the
> beneficiaries), and had plans for regular work in 2006 with trio Buscopo
> and a quintet called Jack's Alive. A just-completed tribute to Ronnie
> Scott called Just By Chance was found on Burch's piano last week.
>
> He is survived by his wife Deike Begg and daughter Connie.
>
> · John Burch (Burchell), pianist, born January 6 1932; died April 18 2006"

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