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Graham Bond: Live At The BBC And Other Stories

Four-disc set from pioneering bandleader.

On this collection of radio sessions and one-off studio liaisons, Graham Bond’s inspirational presence is clear from his first touch on the Hammond organ.

Introduced by George Melly, recorded live in a cinema in London’s West End and broadcast on the BBC’s Jazz Club in April 1963, the opening cover of The Modern Jazz Quartet’s Bluesology packs swagger and ferocity aplenty.

Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, rejected by Johnny Dankworth’s old-school jazz troupe for being too loud, essay one of the great rhythm sections in rock history as Bond forges the sound of the new. As the session gains momentum, Bond’s gleeful distortion and edgy, Grand Guignol dynamics suggest the auto-destructive impulses of The Who and the floor shaking heaviness of prog bands to come.

Bond’s alto sax-blowing invention had already had an airing, storming through his Coronation Street tribute Elsie And Ena, the previous year with Don Rendell Quintet on Jazz Session.

A sequel to Repertoire’s 2012 Wade In The Water compilation, Live At The BBC And Other Stories gains from including the wry introductions by hepcat BBC announcers and the expertise of compiler collaborators Dick Heckstall-Smith and sleeve notes writer Pete Brown. Bond’s scintillating progress is tracked right up to recordings made with Brown for Sounds Of The 70s in 1972, two years before his premature death under a Tube train.

The grisly nature of his demise, shrouded in hard drug use and occult ritual, has meant Bond’s protean talent is sometimes sidelined. The thrilling music and energy gathered here puts Bond’s tumultuous creativity and diversity centre-stage. The Brown/Bond epic Beak Street mines fervent Afro-rock, sessions with proto Brit rocker Duffy Power, and I Saw Her Standing There (from the July 1963 Pop Goes The Beatles show) recast pop in a jazz furnace.

Signature tune Wade In The Water is present in five separate performances, culminating in the mighty 13-minute-plus version introduced by John Peel in 1970. The wildly varied renditions make it a vehicle for Bond’s galloping, improvisational growth. His time may have been brief but, as Peel notes, he didn’t hang about. A truly compelling force.

FINAL VERDICT: 810

Late NME, Daily Mirror and Classic Rock writer Gavin Martin started writing about music in 1977 when he published his hand-written fanzine Alternative Ulster in Belfast. He moved to London in 1980 to become the NME’s Media Editor and features writer, where he interviewed the Sex Pistols, Joe Strummer, Pete Townshend, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Ian Dury, Killing Joke, Neil Young, REM, Sting, Marvin Gaye, Leonard Cohen, Nina Simone, James Brown, Willie Nelson, Willie Dixon, Madonna and a host of others. He was also published in The Times, Guardian, Independent, Loaded, GQ and Uncut, he had pieces on Michael Jackson, Van Morrison and Frank Sinatra featured in The Faber Book Of Pop and Rock ’N’ Roll Is Here To Stay, and was the Daily Mirror’s regular music critic from 2001. He died in 2022.