Enrique Jardines (1951-2010) will hopefully be known to readers of this blog as the bass player in the very unique US progressive band Absolute Zero, whose album Crashing Icons (2004, but recorded 2000-01) featured none other than Pip Pyle on drums alongside Enrique and keyboardist / lead singer Aislinn Quinn. I had been in touch with him about AZ long before Pip had become involved and over the course of our e-mail discussions, it turned out that he had experienced the Canterbury Scene more closely than most. It was tempting to test his memory, which produced some really incredible results, as you’ll read below.
I was fortunate to meet Enrique just once, in Washington DC in 2000, but never had a chance to see him perform, as plans for a European tour never materialised. Released by RéR, Crashing Icons remains as a testament to his outstanding playing and Absolute Zero’s unique musical vision, not to mention Pip’s superb drumming of course.
Basically, Enrique’s story is that he stayed in London for a year in 1976-77 and was witness to a lot of interesting musical activity, mainly around Alan Gowen and National Health but with glimpses of fellow Canterbury bands.
I began by asking him how much he knew of National Health before he arrived in England, as the band had yet to release anything, or play outside the UK, at that point.
I knew about National Heath’s existence because of my interest in the music. Ever since I’d seen Soft Machine playing in concert with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, I was very much interested in the so-called Canterbury Scene. I became more interested in the scene as my musical awareness as a bass player increased. I had not heard National Health’s music but knew of the band’s existence through Melody Maker. I’d seen an advert that mentioned them and their travails in trying to find some musical scores that they lost on the road and if you knew the whereabouts of these scores you should call that number… This was in 1976, and that year I flew over to play in a band in France. Once I arrived in London, I called the number and talked to Alan Gowen, whom I became friends with, and rather quickly. he invited me to stay with him. Upon arrival, I met up with Alan at his home and we quickly made it to a pub, and then back to his home in Tooting.
I left Alan’s house a few days later to go to France. Well, the French scene proved to be a comedy of errors. I was stranded in Calais waiting for my contact to show up. My contact never showed, and I was left on my own in Calais with my musical gear on its way to Paris with no one to claim it. After some quick maundering, I conjured up a cunning plan to stow away on a ship back to Dover. Mercifully, a couple of British sailors took pity on my plight and I was let onboard without having to pay for a ticket. Upon arrival in Dover, I called Alan to see if he would let me stay at his place till I figured out what to do next. The answer was yes. I arrived at his home and was welcomed by Alan and his wonderful family.
Who do you mean by “Alan’s family” apart from his partner Celia ?
Alan’s father Eric lived upstairs and would visit often. Eric was an intelligent and articulate personality whose wit was totally infectious. I was treated wonderfully by all and was made to feel as part of their family. It was a great experience.
What about their flatmate Geoff Davenport ?
Geoff lived there, and was considered as part of the family. Alan and family were very generous and caring personalities. They went out of their way to make you feel welcome. Geoff was a lot of fun to be around. He played sax, and from what I heard he was pretty good. Geoff was a very funny and warm person. After supper, we would often sit and watch television. When Alan would come home, they both would fill me in on the finer points of British comedy – Spike Milligan being a favourite… I spent about six months living with Alan and his family. My bedroom was the same room where National Health rehearsed. My bed was next to Alan’s keyboards, and sometimes I had to move Bill Bruford’s drum cases to make room for my bed !
So Bill Bruford was still in the band at that point ?
Yes, I met Bill one afternoon on my way back form the laundrymat in Tooting Bec. I walked in through the back gate into the garden, and Bill and Alan were talking by the doorway to the kitchen. Alan saw me entering the garden and took this opportunity to introduce me to Bill Bruford.
The bassist would have been Neil Murray ?
Yes. Neil and Alan were mates from the old Gilgamesh days. I found Neil to be a very generous friend and we hung out together on occasions. He fixed my bass on numerous times. We would visit the music shops on occasions, looking for gear and talk about bass playing in general. We shared a mutual admiration for Jack Bruce’s playing. When Neil was recording for the BBC, he managed to show me a trick or two on getting a better tone on the bass. A passionate and courageous bass player.
You mentioned a BBC session, so you were present for that recording ?
Yes, the one that produced “Clocks and Clouds “and “Brujo” for the John Peel Show. There were some impressionable moments both musically and in the group dynamics. There was a clarity of intent in the band’s musical vision. The band implemented this vision with determination and skill. National Health displayed the musical passion and duende necessary to create this wonderful music.
There was a piano overdub section that displayed the musical mastery of Alan and his mate Dave Stewart. They stood by a piano together to do some overdubs on “Brujo”. While looking at a musical score, they both briefly discussed their tasks and gave the signal to the booth for the music to start. As they followed the music on their score each would take a turn at playing the piano and executing their designated parts. A sort of musical chairs ensued between the two musicians as they played what seemed a dizzying array of notes till the end of the composition. When they finished they shook hands with a smile. They’d achieved their musical goal in one pass !
Did you attend any National Health rehearsals ?
No, I thought of it as their private time. Alan would sometimes talk to me about certain technical concerns with the music and I would get an education in the process. We often would listen to records together and speak of other types of music that we were both interested in. I enjoyed my musical discussions with him because he was very perceptive and intelligent . His broad scope of musical experiences was educational and his adventurous musical spirit was inspirational.
Can you remember what some of the artists/records you listened to together were ?
One of the records that I remember was Black Market by Weather Report – I had seen this version of Weather Report in Miami. There were other albums but the artists that I remember discussing were Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, Weather Report, Jaco Pastorius, Cecil Taylor, King Crimson (Jamie Muir), Tony Williams’ Lifetime, Chick Corea, Jimi Hendrix, Keith Tippett, Stan Tracey, McCoy Tyner and others.
There was a memorable concert at Victoria Theatre in which Muddy Waters and McCoy Tyner played. Muddy Waters delivered a great set and the McCoy Tyner group (Focus Point album personnel) played with their usual power and urgency. I remember Alan, Bill Bruford, C. and myself attending. We went to dinner afterwards and the main topic of discussion was McCoy Tyner. It was upon Alan and Geoff’s musical recommendations that I attended numerous concerts by Keith Tippett and Stan Tracey during my stay in London.