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Jakko M. Jakszyk
A Short Bio:
Through his collaborations with the likes of Dave Stewart, Peter Blegvad, John Greaves and Pip Pyle, Jakko M. Jakszyk has become an honorary member of the Canterbury 'family', although he has led a fruitful solo career and earned fame as Level 42's guitarist between 1991 and the band's split in 1994.
In his teenage years, while at school in Watford, Jakszyk's favourite bands were Henry Cow and Hatfield and the North. A big fan of Dave Stewart in particular, he sent him tapes of his band 64 Spoons, which resulted in Stewart coming down to a few gigs, sometimes in the company of Bill Bruford, whom he he was working with at the time. 64 Spoons folded at the turn of the decade, leaving an unreleased album, which finally saw the light of day in 1992 as Landing On A Rat Column on the Freshly Cut label, thanks to the effort of enthusiast Richard Armstrong, who sadly died shortly before the project came to fruition.
Jakszyk's friendship with Stewart resulted in him singing on the original demo for "What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted?". He eventually sang backup on the final version with Colin Blunstone on lead vocals. Meanwhile, he was a founding member, as guitarist and lead vocalist, of Rapid Eye Movement, a band formed by Stewart after the Bruford group had split up, also including Pip Pyle and Rick Biddulph. This obscure outfit (which left no recorded legacy) toured Europe irregularly for about a year (1980-81). "It was a lot rougher than National Health", Jakszyk remembers, "very structured but performed in a very anarchic way". When "What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted?" became a hit in England, it was included in the setlist. "Rapid Eye Movement did record some stuff in the studio. There are also a number of reasonably good live tapes and I have recently talked to Dave about releasing something".
Eventually, Stewart decided to concentrate on studio work, starting a successful duo with his singer partner Barbara Gaskin. Jakszyk contributed to most of their records during the eighties, and Stewart in turn guested on many of his own projects. This included Peter Blegvad's "How Beautiful You Are" on The Naked Shakespeare (1983), a song produced by Stewart which also featured John Greaves and planted the seed for the later Lodge album and band project. In the same period, Jakszyk also appeared on ex-VdGG David Jackson's solo project The Long Hello Vol. 3 (1982).
Meanwhile, a series of particularly unlucky attempts at putting out a solo album started. A deal with Chiswick Records led to the recording of Silesia, but the label went bankrupt when it was at printing stage. To this day it remains entirely unreleased, but should finally see the light of day in early 1999. "As well as the original tracks the CD also features singles and B-sides from that same period. Dave Stewart produces three of the tracks and plays on a few others. His solo on "Ingmar Bergman On The Window Sill" is a real corker. Other guests include Amanda Parsons on multitracked backing vocals (very Hatfields) and Dave Jackson (Van Der Graff) plays sax on virtualy every track".
Subsequently, he signed with Stiff Records and put out a few singles, but another album, recorded in 1983-85, was also shelved at the last minute. A third attempt was similarly unsuccessful - this time for MDM Records, a label distributed by Virgin, in 1986-87. Material from both these albums was compiled for a CD release on Resurgence, Are My Ears On Wrong? (1996).
In 1987, Jakszyk joined Peter Blegvad and John Greaves for the recording of the Lodge album in New York. This also featured Kristoffer Blegvad on lead vocals and Anton Fier on drums. Jakszyk was an important contributor, playing most of the guitar parts as well as singing lead on the title track. The project was extended to live activity with a slightly altered line-up, but it folded after a couple of gigs.
At that point, Jakszyk had started a collaboration with ex-Renaissance drummer Gavin Harrison, first for a Zappa pastiche album - Big Fish Popcorn by The Kings Of Oblivion - then a band, Dizrhythmia, with former Pentangle bassist Danny Thompson and percussionist Pandit Dinesh (Harrison also became The Lodge's live drummer). The quartet released a self-titled album in 1988 for the Antilles label, which featured Dave Stewart guesting on the 7-minute "Katy Goes To School". Other work during this period included a Sam Brown album, Stop, and recordings and tours with Italian singer Alice.
The first release bearing Jakszyk's name turned out to be a collaboration with Tom Robinson, We Never Had It So Good, started in 1988 and released on French label Musidisc in 1990. This featured all members of Dizrhythmia as well as Sam Brown and Dave Stewart. It was eventually reissued by Resurgence in 1997 as Blood Brother, with four new tracks.
A major career opportunity came in 1991 in the shape of an offer to become Level 42's lead guitarist. This job had been handled by none other than Allan Holdsworth for the previous album and tour, but this was a temporary arrangement following previous member Alan Murphy's sudden death. Jakszyk's involvement in Level 42 lasted until the band's split in 1994, by which time he'd brought in his Dizrhythmia colleague Gavin Harrison on drums for the Forever Now tour. "There was a period at the very begining of '92 when Level 42 started writting for the next album and we all had a hand in it. This didn't last though as this was just prior to Mark's ill-fated reconcilliation with Phil Gould. There was a live album recorded at both the Brighton Dome and the Albert Hall at the end of '94. I heard some monitor tapes and the band sounded fantastic, I fear however that these will never see the light of day. As with all the decision making it's in Mark's hands and I'm sure the further away the event becomes the less likely he'll want to do anything with it".
Also in 1994, Jakszyk's first solo release finally came out on Resurgence - a 4-song, 20-minute EP; entitled Kingdom Of Dust it featured three ex-members of Japan, Richard Barbieri, Mick Karn and Steve Jansen. This was followed in 1995 by a full-length effort, Mustard Gas And Roses, featuring Danny Thompson, Gavin Harrison, Sam Brown, B.J. Cole, Mick Karn and Steve Jansen. Jakszyk then started work on a project based on his own family life's story (he was brought up in England by two emigres, his mother raised in France an orphan, and his father a Pole of German ancestry, then found out in adolescence that these were in fact his adoptive parents - his real mother was a renowned Irish singer, and his father an American airman), The Road To Ballina, an almost classical work first aired on Radio 3 in December 1996 and released a few months later. It featured his ex-Level 42 colleagues Mark King, Gary Barnacle and Gavin Harrison.
Jakszyk also has done extensive work as producer or contributor. "I have, as I'm sure you might gather, played on a shit load of records. As to whether they have any historical interest that's somewhat debateable. I lived in LA for a while and ended up on an album by a band called What If, a rather bland MOR rock record it did however feuture Larry Klein (the ex-Mr Joni Mitchell). I also co-wote and played on a solo record by a Bill Myers and got to play with Jeff and Mike Porcaro. Whilst there I wrote and produced and album for Harry Belafonte's daughter Shari - a nice girl of arguable talent! Most of it is crap but a couple of the songs are pretty good and feature Larry Williams on piano, Gavin Harrison on drums, Alex Acuna (ex-Weather Report) on percussion and John Pattitucci on bass. I have also recorded with Mica Paris, Swing Out Sister and many others too unhip to mention. I engineered and played a wide selection of instruments on Mick Karn's last solo effort The Tooth Mother. I co wrote and played on Gavin Harrison's Sanity and Gravity CD. I played guitar and low-whistle on the recent album by Indigo Fall's (Richard Barbieri and his wife Suzzane).
Having kept in touch with John Greaves since the Lodge days, Jakszyk appeared on his joint album with David Cunningham, Greaves-Cunningham, and at the sole concert promoting Greaves' Songs album, at Paris' New Morning in April 1996. He played a solo set accompanied by a backing tape, playing a few of his own songs, and then joined Greaves' band for the main set, sharing lead vocals with Greaves, Kristoffer Blegvad and Caroline Loeb.
Another reunion with an old friend is Pip Pyle's solo album 7 Year Itch, which finally came out on Voiceprint in October 1998. Jakszyk sings lead vocals on three songs - "Chinese Whispers", "Long On" and "Shipwrecked" -, plays guitar and flute on the instrumental "Once Around The Shelves", and helped a lot with the production. And he will be involved in live performances related to the project if they materialize (plans for a Japanese tour have been shelved due to the current recession in Asia).
An update from ca. 2001 said - "I am currently working on the follow up to The Road to Ballina. BBC Radio 3 have comisioned me to compose a piece using the same technique. This one is tentativly entitled The Mysterious Death of Mario Lanza and I fly to LA next month [December 1998] to interview his friends and relatives. I also plan to put out a new solo record next year and will record, amongst my own new compositions, a great song of Mark King's that he didn't put on his new album. As for what I have been doing - well, I compose for TV/film etc. This keeps me busy and fed. I don't think naming the jobs is such a good idea as very few have a distinct Jakko stamp (whatever that may be). As ever there are all sorts of projects muted which may or may not come to fruition. Currently boiling away are a book/film about the real story behind the Balina saga; a collaborative album with Richard Barbieri. Maybe an instrumental/guitar-based record and numerous speech related radio/TV ideas".
In 2002, Jakko was very involved in the formation of 21st Century Schizoid Band, a band of which he was both the frontman and the only member who wasn't originally in King Crimson - the others being Mel Collins, Ian McDonald, Peter Giles and Michael Giles (replaced after the first tour by Ian Wallace). In 2006 he released an acclaimed solo album, The Bruised Romantic Glee Club, with guest appearances by a veritable who's who of British progressive music - Robert Fripp, Mel Collins, Ian McDonald and Ian Wallace of King Crimson fame, Canterbury stars Dave Stewart, Hugh Hopper and Clive Brooks, and other such notables as Mark King (Level 42), Danny Thompson (Pentangle), Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree) and John Giblin (Brand X). The full-length CD of original material was accompanied by a bonus CD of cover versions, including Soft Machine's "As Long As He Lies Perfectly Still" and Henry Cow's "Nirvana For Mice" and "Nine Funerals Of The Citizen King".