GRAHAM BOND Live At The BBC And Other Stories

Prime cuts and choice oddments from a British secret agent of cool jazz and R&B.

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Despite making his recording debut in 1962, the same year that an Edinburgh milkman immortalised 007 in Dr No, this Mr Bond missed the bullseye of the big time. The Essex-born fridge-salesman-turned-bandleader did succeed in shaking and stirring the jazz and R&B scene, though, first on alto sax, then by making the Hammond organ/Leslie speaker combo cooler than the Arctic.

The Graham Bond Organisation was a sparring ground for soon-to-be champs Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. Like Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band and others of that ilk, the GBO were insanely popular live but not cute enough to make it as pop stars. Bond also lacked the songwriting ability to make his mark on the wider world, although he was a formidable interpreter of other artists’ material and a fertile musical innovator. And all of that’s amply demonstrated by this four-CD collection, compiled by Pete Brown, who also produced 2012’s Wade In The Water box set and provides insightful notes in the accompanying booklet.

Selections from the BBC Jazz Club programme, introduced with George Melly’s plummy quips, show how Bond and company gave the staid club scene a much-needed kick in the pants. His nifty sax-playing with the Don Rendell Quintet includes his own Elsie And Ena, dedicated to the titans of Coronation Street, while a brilliant 1963 session with Duffy Power on vocals unleashes the spirit of Ray Charles to convincing effect, as does Bond’s own growl on Every Day I Got The Blues.

Inevitably there’s repetition, and on each of the five versions of his signature tune, Wade In The Water, Bond seems to be vying with himself to come up with the most chaotic, menacing take. His creative high point is without doubt the haunting Love Is The Law, from Top Gear January 1970, announced by the droll tones of John Peel (and containing the valedictory line ‘a soulmate in this wounded world is all I tried to find.’).

Sadly, this ‘other Bond’ became a grisly historical footnote by dint of his addiction to drugs, unsavoury character and death at 37 beneath the wheels of a tube train, but his musical legacy is still richly deserving of our attention.

Claudia Elliott

Claudia Elliott is a music writer and sub-editor. She has freelanced for BBC Radio 2's Sounds of the 60s, Uncut, History of Rock, Classic Rock and The Blues magazine. She is a 1960s music specialist.