I LOVE A PIANO #3 - "FREEMAN 'ARDY 'N' WILLIS"

Ron Mathewson, Spike Wells and Mick Pyne downstairs at Ronnie Scott’s January 1990 during our week’s trio engagement

Ron Mathewson, Spike Wells and Mick Pyne downstairs at Ronnie Scott’s January 1990 during our week’s trio engagement

Here at last is the next instalment of my love affair with the piano trio. 

Some time back, I enthused about the trios led by BILL EVANS, KEITH JARRETT, BRAD MEHLDAU, KEVIN HAYS, HORACE PARLAN, WYNTON KELLY and others.

Today, I'm closer to home and am going to reminisce about the MICK PYNE piano trio completed by Ron Mathewson on bass and myself on drums.

I first started jamming with these two "at home" in Mick's flat two floors above me in the infamous 80 Sinclair Road W.14 (the house itself being the subject of a previous Musing).

Then Ron (bless him) swept me into the Tubby Hayes quartet in November 1968 and Mick rejoined the group -Tubby had meanwhile been experimenting with guitar instead - in the Summer of 1969.

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The recording we made with Tubby at the end of June that year, long thought lost and now finally released as Grits, beans and greens has done much to revive interest in the late, great Tubby Hayes and has also drawn favourable critical comments about the rhythm section, not least from saxophonist/writer/Tubby guru Simon Spillett who was very generous in his praise in the album booklet.

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You can now hear that session for the first time but the Mick-Ron-Spike combination not only remained Tubby's go-to rhythm section until his premature death in 1973 but also backed other soloists at home and abroad including Roland Kirk (on a tour across the UK promoted by the Premier drum co.)

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and Stan Getz across Scandinavia.

The trio with Stan Getz touring Scandinavia February 1970

The trio with Stan Getz touring Scandinavia February 1970

We also comprised half of Ronnie Scott’s 1970 sextet. Whenever we ran into Phil Seamen on the London jazz circuit, he would shout Look out, 'ere comes Freeeman 'Ardy n Willis! (ed.note: for younger readers, this was a famous old cheap shoe-shop chain).

And we continued to play together off and on for many more years, most memorably doing a week at Ronnie's in January 1990 as a piano trio. We took this as such a precious opportunity that Ron drank nothing but black coffee for six days and some, but not all, of the music was released on CD here and in Japan.

 "Music speaks louder than words" (as Charlie Parker once opined on television) and I find it almost impossible to put into words the sensation of playing with two other guys when all three of you are in perfect sync. But I know the total resultant level of swing, mutual respect and creativity far exceeds the sum of its parts. Let's leave it at that.

More Pyne/Mathewson/Wells to follow in due course but this week I have put up on the Music page some tracks from a beautiful unreleased 1994 recording (made just 15 months before Mick’s tragically early death at the age of 50) when we accompanied RAY WARLEIGH and KENNY WHEELER. It was Ray's brainchild and was done at Camden Studios with no less a producer than Evan Parker. ……..

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Spike Wells