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Keith Tippett is the revered free-jazz pianist who crossed over into art-rock in the early 70s, playing with King Crimson and, in 1970, convening the monstrously ambitious Centipede, an avant-garde big band that drew together more than 50 of the UK’s most adventurous jazz and rock musicians. Since then he’s recorded and performed prolifically with groups including Mujician with saxophonist Paul Dunmall, and Ovary Lodge, alongside percussionist Frank Perry and his wife, Julie, who is in her own right one of the foremost European vocalists in the field of contemporary jazz and improvised music.
Tippett’s associations have been with some of the most substantial names in contemporary jazz. Over the years he has made numerous recordings and concert and festival appearances alongside other major pioneering improvisers from Europe and South Africa. His collaborations have included a quartet including Peter Brotzmann and Harry Miller (sadly, not officially documented); a duo with Howard Riley that has produced three recordings; and duos with Stan Tracey, Peter Fairclough, and Giovanni Maier, among numerous others.
In recent years his work has gained increasing recognition in wider geographical and stylistic contexts. Always in demand in Western Europe, since the late 1980s he has travelled further afield to perform in Japan, Canada, USA, India (on a British Council solo tour), Latvia and Hungary. Recognition has come too, from the world of contemporary ‘classical’ music. Not only has Tippett played a crucial role in opening the Dartington International Summer School to jazz and improvisation but he has composed several pieces for new music groups such as the Composers Ensemble with Mary Wiegold and recorded with the Balanescu String Quartet. His ground-breaking introduction as founder, musician and artistic director of the Rare Music Club series of concerts in his native Bristol (in which jazz, contemporary ‘classical’ and roots/ethnic music performers share the same bill) has given emphasis to his position as a leading figure in the contemporary music movement in Great Britain.
In solo performance Keith Tippett’s hallmark is a unique, mesmeric style coupled with a melodic, spiritual power, which transforms the piano into an orchestra of his imagination. As an improviser he bears out the revelation, shared only by a handful of other musicians today, that spontaneous composition, with its fine balance of structure and inspiration, is once again a vital force in contemporary music.
“Pianist, composer, bandleader, innovator, catalyst – the internationally acclaimed Keith Tippett is all these things and more” The Wire
“Creative pianist–composer Keith Tippett is a national treasure [and] one of our most innovative but undervalued musicians” Jazzwise