Scottish trumpeter, composer, educator and author Ian Carr was on the cutting edge of the U.K. jazz scene for over four decades. From 1963-1969, the self-trained musician worked in the fabled Don Rendell-Ian Carr Quintet, which released five influential albums that are pillars in the pronounced identity of British jazz that willfully established its own identity from its American counterpart. Self-trained as a musician, Carr also played an important role in the development of jazz-rock fusion, playing with John McLaughlin, and formed one of England's first electronic jazz-rock fusion groups, Nucleus, in 1969. He played with the international band the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble from 1975 until 1999. In 1982, Carr received a Calabria award in southern Italy for his Outstanding Contribution in the Field of Jazz. Wire Magazine presented him a special award for services to British jazz in 1987. Carr was equally influential as a music journalist and educator. The co-author of a jazz encyclopedia, The Essential Companion, Carr was also the author of Music Outside, an examination of contemporary British jazz published in 1973; Miles Davis: The Definitive Biography, published in 1982; and Keith Jarrett: The Man and His Music, published in 1991. From 1992 on, Carr wrote a monthly column for BBC Music Magazine and served as an associate professor at the Guildhall School of Music and Dance, lecturing weekly on jazz history.
Born in Scotland and raised in England, Carr thought little of a career in music until he was nearly 30 years old. Educated at King's College in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne where he studied English literature, Carr served in the Army in the late '50s. Shortly after his discharge, he formed a band, the EmCee Five, with his brother Mike and John McLaughlin. Carr remained with the band for two years, leaving to form the Rendell-Carr Quintet with saxophonist Don Rendell in 1962. During the seven years he worked with Rendell, Carr helped the band record five albums, all of which have been reissued several times and are considered cornerstones of British progressive jazz. In 1965 and 1966, he also played with composer/arranger Neil Ardley's New Jazz Orchestra, appearing on the influential albums Western Reunion and Le Dejeuner sur L'Herbe. Along the way he worked with Stan Tracey, Blossom Dearie, the Joe Harriott/Amancio D'Silva Quartet, Michael Garrick, and others.
In September of that year, Carr formed the groundbreaking fusion band Nucleus. The group attracted international acclaim when it took the top prize in a competition at the Montreux International Festival in 1970 for the performance of its charting debut album Elastic Rock. Between 1970 and 1989, Carr's group, which had changed its name to Ian Car's Nucleus, issued 15 studio albums (and a handful of live retrospective collections after they split), hosting a revolving-door lineup that included some of the most important names in British and European jazz: trumpeters Harry Beckett and Kenny Wheeler, guitarists Allan Holdsworth, Ray Russell, and Chris Spedding, pianist and reed player Karl Jenkins, drummers John Marshall and Tony Levin, vocalist Norma Winstone, saxophonist/clarinetist Tony Coe, and bassist Roy Babbington to name a scant few. Carr played with Nucleus until 1989 when he left to tour the United Kingdom and Europe as a soloist on electric trumpet with an Anglo-American orchestra led by American composer George Russell. His solo effort, Old Heartland, was recorded with the Kreisler String Orchestra in 1988 while Sounds and Sweet Airs was recorded with organist John Taylor in 1992. He guested on No Man's (Steven Wilson and Tim Bowness) Flowermouth two years later, and with the Mike Gibbs Orchestra on 1996's Big Music. In 2007 he appeared on Mike Taylor Remembered, a tribute offering to the pianist and composer that also featured Winstone, Ardley, Henry Lowther, and others. Carr died in 2009 from complications due to Alzheimer's Disease. Though the Rendell-Carr group's recordings were reissued during the compact disc era, in 2018, the U.K.'s Jazzman Records issued a retrospective LP box entitled The Complete Lansdowne Recordings 1965-69 that featured all five of their albums. It sold out during pre-order and needed to be re-pressed before its street date. ~ Craig Harris~ Rovi