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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor


Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all