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A Short Bio:
One of the most respected and innovative pianists to have emerged from the British jazz scene in the last thirty years, Keith Tippett has earned a reputation as an open-minded musician, with a career that has spanned jazz-rock, progressive rock, improvised and contemporary music as well as jazz.
Keith Tippett was born in Bristol in 1947, and started gigging locally as a teenager, playing traditional jazz and bop. In 1967, he moved to London to try and enter the professional music scene. "I was lonely and broke", he later remembered. "I had a day job folding cardboard boxes and stayed in a tiny bedsit with no piano. I'd carved notches into the edge of a wooden table so I could practice...".
Frequent visits to the London jazz clubs led to his making the acquaintance of various musicians, including the members of Chris MacGregor's expatriate South African ensemble, the Blue Notes (among whom future collaborators Louis Moholo, Mongezi Feza and Dudu Pukwana). Late in 1967, he formed his own sextet, having in the meantime secured a scholarship. With a brass section of Elton Dean, Mark Charig and Nick Evans, and a constantly changing rhythm section (which at various times included bassists Jeff Clyne, Roy Babbington, Harry Miller and Neville Whitehead, and drummers Phil Howard, John Marshall, Bryan Spring and Alan Jackson), the band gained a lot of attention thanks to residencies at Oxford Street's 100 Club and others, and recorded two albums for the 'progressive' Vertigo label : You Are Here... I Am There (1970) and Dedicated To You But You Weren't Listening (1971).
In November 1970, Tippett assembled a 50-piece orchestra, consisting of young musicians from both the jazz and pop/rock scenes, among whom members of Soft Machine, Nucleus and King Crimson. A few live performances took place during the following months, and the double album Septober Energy was recorded during the Summer of 1971. It was produced by Robert Fripp, guitarist and mastermind of King Crimson, with whom Tippett had performed (on piano as well as electric keyboards, which he otherwise very rarely used) on their albums In The Wake Of Poseidon, Lizard (both 1970) and Islands (1971). Asked by Fripp to join at one point, Tippett declined, preferring to concentrate on his own bands.
During the first half of the 1970's, Tippett also led a smaller group, Ovary Lodge, which also featured his wife, Julie Tippetts, nee Driscoll. In subsequent years, he went back to acoustic, mainly improvised jazz music, with various combinations of musicians, including a duo with Stan Tracey, T'n'T. He also played in the bands of Trevor Watts (Amalgam), Elton Dean (Ninesense), Harry Miller, Dudu Pukwana, Louis Moholo and Howard Riley. In the late 70's, he also formed a 22-piece orchestra similar in concept to Centipede (which had dissolved after a final French tour in 1975), Ark, releasing the double album Frames.
In the 1980's, Tippett worked increasingly in duos and alone, adopting a meditative approach very different from the boisterousness of his earlier large ensembles. Later in the decade, though, he formed another band, Mujician (a term aptly bestowed on her father by Inca Tippetts) - with Paul Dunmall (reeds), Paul Rogers (double bass) and Tony Levin (drums) - whose approach he describes as "spontaneous composition - we don't use a preconceived composition to improvise around, we carve our musical architecture from the air"... Beginning with 1990's The Journey this group has released several CDs on the American label Cuneiform. In 1996 Mujician visited South Africa for a collaboration with the Zim Ngqawana's group Ingomaand; then in October 1997 there was a reciprocal tour of the UK organised by Contemporary Music Network.
Keith Tippett has also recorded with his wife, Julie Tippetts - in duo, in trio with Willi Kellers, and in other groupings - prepared a large scale work for 21-piece band, Tapestry, for the 1997 Bath Festival, and a piece for string quartet and piano for the 1996 Bath Festival. He is also a teacher, and was responsible for opening up the Darlington International Summer School to jazz and improvised music.
Most recently Tippett has moved firmly back to the Canterbury scene with his involvement in the new quartet SoftWare alongside ex-Soft Machine members Elton Dean, Hugh Hopper and John Marshall.
As bandleader :
With Mujician :
With The Dedication Orchestra :
As guest or group member :