Ian Carr: Trumpeter and composer whose band Nucleus was at the forefront of the jazz-rock movement

A modest and gentle fellow, the trumpeter Ian Carr was surprised when, as leader of the band Nucleus in 1970, he was thrust suddenly to the crest of the American jazz-rock boom. An ingénue to fame, he reacted to his instant eminence as incredulously as William Boot had in Evelyn Waugh's Scoop.

"It seemed we could do no wrong in America," Carr recalled. "I remember getting on a jumbo jet and flying back to London. Away from the madness, electricity, enthusiasm, friendliness, open-spiritedness, the extremes and professionalism of America, and back to the quiet anonymity of Britain. It was like returning from a forest full of wild beasts where one could never be certain who was the hunter or who or what was being hunted, to a small landscape garden with some plaster gnomes in it."

Formed in September 1969, Nucleus were an immediate and explosive success and in 1970 appeared at two of the world's most prestigious jazz festivals at Newport and Montreux. The band were inspired to some extent by the contemporary electrified experiments of Miles Davis, but mostly by Carr's wide-ranging ideas about exotic and non-Western improvisation and rhythmic patterns. These he combined with his own jazz improvisation and the sort of ostinato bass patterns brought into the rock field by Davis acolytes such as Herbie Hancock.

It was Davis, however, who was the pre-eminent influence on Carr's work and Carr became one of the world's leading scholars on the subject of Davis and his music. Apart from his musical talents he wrote prose with great style and also had a distinguished career as a radio presenter.

Carr grew up in the North East, started learning the piano when he was 12 and began teaching himself the trumpet when he was 17. He took a degree in literature at King's College, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and did National Service in the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers from 1956-58 before spending two years "wandering around Europe".

On his return to Newcastle, he involved himself in the local jazz scene and in 1960 joined his brother Mike's band, the EmCee Five. He travelled south to London in 1962 and joined Harold McNair's quintet, and then in 1963 formed a successful quintet with the tenor player Don Rendell that survived until 1969. The band recorded five albums for the enthusiastic producer Denis Preston. Carr also worked and recorded in those years with the New Jazz Orchestra led by Neil Ardley, and with Michael Garrick, Stan Tracey, Barbara Thompson and several other of the more adventurous bands.

He recorded with the inspired but ill-fated altoist Joe Harriott in 1969 and then, bringing his interest in Davis's jazz-rock electronics to fruition, formed Nucleus in 1970. The strength of Carr's own input gave the band originality and they successfully toured worldwide and made a total of 13 albums. Over the years Nucleus drew in some of the best musicians from the British jazz scene, including John Marshall, Karl Jenkins, Brian Smith, Jeff Clyne, Chris Spedding, Harry Beckett, Tony Coe and Ron Mathewson. Nucleus finally disbanded in the late Eighties.

In 1976 Carr had begun to tour Europe with the United Jazz and Rock Ensemble, beginning an association which was to last for the next 28 years. A trenchant and eloquent author, he shed light on some disgracefully overlooked titans of British jazz with Music Outside (1973), and co-authored Jazz: The Essential Companion (1987), revised in 1995 as Jazz: The Rough Guide. In 1991 he published Keith Jarrett The Man And His Music. But his great achievement as an author was Miles Davis: A Critical Biography (1982), which became one of the classic books on jazz when Carr expanded and revised it as Miles Davis: The Definitive Biography (1998).

Carr was one of the best of the BBC's jazz presenters and listeners enjoyed and came to trust his measured and lucid assessments of the music. He made two lengthy and remarkable radio series on Miles Davis and Keith Jarrett, travelling to New York with the Radio Three producer Derek Dreschler for his comprehensive research.

"I find him a joy to work with," said Dreschler. "It's jolly nice working with someone who really throws himself into it with such enthusiasm."

At the beginning of the decade Carr also collaborated with Mike Dibb to produce two seminal films for Channel 4 television, one on Davis and one on Jarrett. He taught as Associate Professor of Jazz at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and in 2006 he was given an award for Services to Jazz at the BBC Jazz Awards.

He had to fight much adversity for his life was dogged by ill-health and his first wife died in childbirth. He defeated cancer in the mid-Seventies but was afterwards subject to chronic fits of depression and in the last decade he suffered a series of strokes that led to the early onset of Alzheimer's disease, forcing him to spend his last years in a succession of care homes.

Steve Voce

Ian Henry Randall Carr, trumpeter, bandleader, composer, author, teacher: born Dumfries 21 April 1933; married firstly Margaret Bell (deceased, one daughter), secondly Sandy Major (marriage dissolved); died London 25 February 2009.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Babysitter Katie and Paul have terse words in the park
tvReview: The strength of the writing keeps viewers glued to their seats even when they are confronted with the hard-hitting scenes
Life and Style
Make-up artists prepare contestants for last year’s Miss World, held in Budapest
fashion
Life and Style
life
News
‘The Graduate’, starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft, was directed by Nichols in his purple period
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: FP&A Manager Supply Chain

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Argyll Scott is recruiting for a Permane...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property NQ+

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: COMMERCIAL PROPERTY SOLI...

Argyll Scott International: Retail Commercial Finance Analyst

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Due to further expansion, a leading inte...

Langley James : Senior Technician; Promotion & Training Opp; Borough; upto £32k

£27000 - £32000 per annum + training: Langley James : Senior Technician; Promo...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines
Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?

What are Jaden and Willow on about?

Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?
Fridge gate: How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces

Cold war

How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces
Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

From dogs in cars to online etiquette, while away a few minutes in peace with one of these humorous, original and occasionally educational tomes
Malky Mackay appointed Wigan manager: Three texts keep Scot’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

Three texts keep Mackay’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

New Wigan manager said all the right things - but until the FA’s verdict is delivered he is still on probation, says Ian Herbert
Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

‘O, Louis’ is the plaintive title of a biography about the Dutchman. Ian Herbert looks at what it tells us about the Manchester United manager