Sunday School

How well I remember going up to members of the Keith Tippet Group (a free jazz band with a rock flavour) in about 1971 (when I was 15) and saying I loved their stuff but it would be really

A few years later descendants of The Pop Group did, and we had PPF.  That it was the Keith Tippett Group is particularly significant because Keith is a native of Bristol and I’ve been told by another free jazz native of Bristol (Geoff Hawkins) that all the PPFers would go and see him when he was playing a “home” gig (free jazz doesn’t have many opportunities to spread its wings beyond London).  I’m convinced that I was pretty precocious going to free jazz gigs at that age - and much more footly ones that the KTG - but, as I see it now, there is a particular energy in free jazz which is not available in any other kind of music. Similarly, in good funk there is also another great energy.

To combine them would be marvellous (I thought, and continue to think) and PPF was one move in this direction.  I have never been fully convinced by any of the Bristol products because they never seemed to end up with with a greater sum total of energy than is available in the parts. I do like my music to have disparate elements but also to COHERE, and I do not find that much of Bristol fulfils this criterion.

Anyway, one of my solutions to the problem was Sunday School - the aim was to be a band that was ENTIRELY IMPROVISED but that also had to groove at all times.  None of the tunes/riffs were written before-hand and set up in any way.  I may have started with an electric piano riff that had come to me during the week, but no-one else knew what it was, and I hadn’t worked on it in any way to find out where it could go. 

The history of the band is rehearsing on Sunday afternoons (hence the name) and recording ourselves on a 6-track cassette deck - that’s why all the pieces were about 22.5 minutes long as that was as long as the tape went on for. As a bassist I worhipped Garry Jones the bassist from a-near. There’s nothing like having a Hammond in your sitting room, so, as you might have noticed, there’s Lo playing the C3.  More of what I call the “lower keyboard style”, but she can do a great “Fire Poem” (Arthur Brown speaks over Vince Crane’s R’n’B Hammond).  Dave Stamper the guitarist and Garry obviously have a great musical relationship, and sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s who.  Although there’s no sax on this track, we did have Tom Weatherhead on sax, who was magnificent when warming up, and sometimes even when playing with the band (there’s a great moment of him imitating guitar feedback in the archives), but sadly spent more time fussing about his reeds than playing, and he is not on Centrifugal Bumble Puppy because he had walked out of the rehearsal in self-disgust.

As a through-and-through Soft Machine fan I think that Sunday School achieved great things, and Lo and I are both keen to be in a circumstance where we could do something similar, but there don’t seem to be the musicians with the same goal.  I’ve always thought that the others never understood what we’d achieved, or the band would have kept going when I had to retire due to ill-health.  Still, we have a record of it all.

Right click to download all of this extract (5 mins out of 22). (Better quality than the above)