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Sunday, September 08, 2013

Major Surgery The First Cut

Major Surgery
The First Cut

Having won praise in the pages of the Melody Maker and plaudits from diverse a range of players as pianist Gordon Beck and Hawkwind’s Del Dettmar, by the time Major Surgery spent a couple of days in a small studio recording their one and only album in 1976, they’d been a fixture of London’s pub jazz circuit for over five years.

Their rough and ready brew of no-frills grooves courtesy of drummer Tony Marsh and bassist Bruce Collcut, and swirling melodies delivered by (Don Weller (saxes) and Jimmy Roche (guitar). Weller and Roche had worked together before as members of East of Eden (appearing on ‘71s New Leaf) and part of Jamie Muir’s short-lived but legendary pre-King Crimson outfit,  Boris.

The results are potent though nothing like as tricksy as their jazz-rock pigeon-holing might imply.  Weller has a big sound that’s impressively fearless, rushing at complex, twisting themes with garrulous enthusiasm and is the driving force on the album.

Roche’s guitar playing though originally rooted in blues, scrabbles over inventive runs veering away from generic cliche. There’s a certain frisson emanating from these crackling and energetic first-take performances. Though lacking compositional subtlety it positively bristles with a raucous amped-up period charm that reminds us with a bit of flair and imagination jazz-rock need not be a dry exercise in technique.


Howard Lane said...

God yes we used to make a pilgrimage from the wilds of Surrey up to Croydon to see Major Surgery - was it in The Gun? I have a vague memory it was The Blue Anchor - they were truly awesome. I even got to play with Jimmy Roche a few years later. What a lovely bloke.

Peter Minde said...

Great cut. Hearing this, I'm wondering what Don would have sounded like playing with Mel Collins in King Crimson.

colesmh said...

Hey Sid,

Thanks for the reminder about this CD, featuring some great guitar from Jimmy Roche (reminds me at times of Phil Lee with Gilgamesh) and of course Don Weller's muscular tenor. I never even knew they recorded an LP until this was re-released. Information is so easily available now - back then Melody Maker was our only internet! For me it's all about the sound of an intensively-rehersed, and intensively-performing band performing intricate compositions (and/or improvising freely) as though their lives depend on it. Like these guys do here. And I don't seem to hear so much of that in these austere times.

Back in the day, we were smart enough to catch them twice at The Gun in Croydon: first on 10 August 1975 supported by Lol Coxhill (followed by a long walk home along the not-yet-opened Croydon Flyover) and back again for more (after a first term at university) on 21 December 1975, supported by an improvising pick-up band of Elton Dean, Gordon Beck and others (their legends will live forever).

Also, I still have a cassette of their Radio 3 Jazz in Britain session (Dog & Bull Fight/St. Vitus Dance/The Dare) broadcast on 10 February 1975 - which is where I first discovered 'em. Gordon Beck was then a new member of the band - his Fender Rhodes is an essential part of the sound - sadly absent from the LP, still I guess it gives Roche more room for his guitar solos.


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