Spike Milligan, who possessed the wit, wonder, and sheer divilment above all, of only those who can truly play a shaughraun in their own work – “I hope nobody will ever measure the distance but me, my jewel” (Dion Boucicault) – introduces Peter Ind and Louis Stewart in the clip above.
It is easy to reflect that Peter Ind is something of a Renaissance man.
A very erudite person in conversation as I learned when I met him a few times over the years always memorably he can touch extensively on Reichian therapy and significant esoterica of all sorts usually advocated for puckishly and more to the point, persuasively.
Reading his book on Lennie Tristano, Jazz Visions published in 2005, before the current UK jazz scene interest in the ‘New Cool’ spearheaded by the Whirlwind label really took hold, it struck me how, in some ways, the Whirlwind label boss Michael Janisch, a bassist also, stands on the shoulders of Peter and the Geraldo’s Navy generation.
Peter became important on the London jazz scene during another cycle particularly as a British jazz mini-boom approached (at its peak and final stages around 1994) and then held firm as long as he could, trying to hold back the brutal commercial tides in the 1990s in a number of ways.
As often in jazz a place (like a bricks and mortar instrument) played a role, and it was his place as a club owner and before Hoxton and Shoreditch became the super fashionable and largely gentrified area that it still now is.
The Bass Clef and sister space the Tenor Clef were very Bohemian and authentic and represented a sense of musicianly integrity over style and everything that self-conscious preening hipsterdom and bizarrely its concomitant false flag sinister twin, big, usually uncaring, business, fails to address.
Peter, who grew up in Uxbridge in west London a long time ago and yet hipper than most millennials even baby boomers, became in recent decades a mentor to another significant bassist Gary Crosby on the scene long before Michael Janisch. Crosby emerged on Courtney Pine’s debut Journey to the Urge Within and later mentored today’s leading UK jazz export to the US, Shabaka Hutchings of Sons of Kemet.
Peter, the son of a builder, studied piano and classical harmony part time in the 1940s at Trinity College of Music. By his late teens he was playing double bass well and in Jazz Visions writes: “During my employment at the Palais de Danse, I first heard the music of Charlie Parker. This was a 78 rpm disk brought over from the USA by an enterprising musician, who was then working on one of the transatlantic liners.’’ The tunes? Visualise Picasso to the soundtrack of Stravinsky and then put on: “Billie’s Bounce” and “Now’s The Time” to imagine being there.
For Peter in the late-1940s post war period developing his tastes in one life loyal interest was pointed in the direction of Lennie Tristano, Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh, significant figures who he felt were “the epitome of the new jazz’’ born in headline terms at the Royal Roost and the nonet of Miles Davis.
These days the likes of Martin Speake, John O’Gallagher, Rachael Cohen, and Jeff Williams tearing up ludicrous notions of single generational entitlement are part of the New Cool; as are in the States or globally really pianist Ethan Iverson and saxophonist Mark Turner.
Peter went to New York, in his own narration, having auditioned with a musician friend for a contract on the Queen Mary, celebrating his own 21st birthday onboard and leaping to hear jazz in the clubs of Manhattan.
Developing his own technique Peter turned not to a bassist but a cult pianist whose work remains significant but still, things take time, under known today mostly beyond academia and non hyped low key everyday jazz club sessions. Young pianists today such as Belfast’s Scott Flanigan have written their master’s thesis on Tristano as a means of redress and to inform their own playing by understanding what Tristano achieved as a player and composer.
That style was a fork in the road inspired by Bud Powell and Monk. Peter along with some fellow British musicians who found themselves in New York as he did studied with Tristano at the pianist’s house in Flushing, Long Island.
“I remember Lennie,” Peter wrote, “asking me to play a scale. It soon became clear to me that playing scales was not a mere technical exercise, but real music making. Prior to this, I had regarded scales as an elemental task in becoming familiar with the instrument. Played as music – this shed an entirely new light on the subject. Lennie then had me playing scales, rhythmically, with a jazz feel and pulse. When I had mastered this new approach, in later lessons Lennie had me playing scales in all keys, and was not satisfied until I could play them, even in previously unfamiliar keys, with equal ease.’’
Top Irish jazz guitarist Nigel Mooney recently this year in residence at the Dublin United Arts Club recalls playing with Peter in the mid-late 1990s, approximately around 1996-1997, in Dublin. Peter had come to the Irish capital at the invitation of the painter Gerald Davis, who had a gallery on Capel Street and who ran a record label called Livia Records which issued LPs by for example Irish guitar great Louis Stewart and at that time a young guitar prodigy who Peter would also put out on his own label, Wave – the Grappellian: Martin Taylor.
Wave was another of Peter’s many artistic activities which would be the interesting subject of several more articles.
Nigel mentions Baubles, Bangles and Beads that Peter had put out on Wave in 1976.
Currently working on a new album involving guests such as Jean Toussaint and Linley Hamilton, as Nigel talks on the phone from county Wexford he breaks off briefly to swat a horse fly, a terrific nuisance this unusually hot Irish summer, and then to examine his record collection.
Gerald Davis, known also for his love of the work of James Joyce, had also put the painterly Peter up, and Nigel, who had switched to jazz by then I suppose as a natural thing after years playing the Chicago blues recalls they just “blew a few standards” in the gallery. It was “the sort of time when nobody can think, and someone says: what about a blues?” Gerald was a great character, Nigel continues, whose “art was very modern” and whose love of jazz was deep too. And Peter? Nigel says he struck him, the clue is in the adjectival understatement to try to describe his approving tone, as a “good straightahead bass player”.
The rest as they say is more conversation so for now play Peter Ind in action above, in a wonderful clip introduced of course hilariously by a big inspiration on the Pythons Spike Milligan – a jazz trumpeter “before his lip went.”