Keith Graham Tippetts (25 August 1947 – 14 June 2020), known professionally as Keith Tippett, was a British jazz pianist and composer. According to AllMusic, Tippett's career "..spanned jazz-rock, progressive rock, improvised and contemporary music, as well as modern jazz for more than half-a-century". He held " an unparalleled place in British contemporary music," and was known for "his unique approach to improvisation". Tippett appeared and recorded in many settings, including a duet with Stan Tracey, duets with his wife Julie Tippetts (née Driscoll), solo performances, and as a bandleader.
|Birth name||Keith Graham Tippetts|
|Born||25 August 1947|
|Died||14 June 2020(aged 72)|
|Genres||Jazz, free jazz, free improvisation, pop, rock, progressive rock|
|Labels||RCA Victor, FMP, Ogun|
Born in Southmead, Bristol, England, Tippett was the son of an English father who was a policeman and an Irish mother named Kitty. He wrote music dedicated to her after she died. He was the oldest of three siblings and went to Greenway Secondary Modern school in Southmead. As a child he played piano, church organ, cornet, and tenor horn. At fourteen he formed his first band, KT Trad Lads, with school friends Richard Murch, Mike Milton, Terry Pratt, and Bob Chard, and Eric Condell performing traditional jazz. He formed a modern jazz trio in Bristol and played regularly at the Dugout Club in Park Row, Bristol.
In 1967, Tippett moved to London to pursue a career in music, taking menial jobs while performing in jazz clubs. With a scholarship he attended the Barry Summer School Jazz Course in Wales, where he met Elton Dean, Nick Evans, and Marc Charig and with them started a band. The Keith Tippett Sextet was hired for a residency at the 100 Club in Oxford, leading to a contract with Vertigo Records, which released their first two albums, You Are There... I Am Here (1970) and Dedicated to You, but You Weren't Listening (1971).
After leaving Vertigo, Tippett formed Centipede, a 50-piece band that included his wife Julie Driscoll, and brought together much of a generation of young British jazz and rock musicians. As well as performing some concerts (limited economically by the size of the band), they recorded one double-album, Septober Energy, a Tippett composition, which was released on the RCA label in 1971. Despite substantial publicity, the album failed to sell in sufficient numbers to justify the expense of maintaining the project.
For his next album as a leader, Blueprint (1972), he used a smaller group comprising himself and Julie Tippetts with bassist Roy Babbington and drummer Frank Perry. The band then expanded slightly to become Ovary Lodge, who recorded two albums, one for RCA and a second for the Ogun label. Tippett and his band also recorded in the 1970s for Giorgio Gomelsky's label, Utopia, releasing the Julie Tippetts album, Sunset Glow. Tippett continued to play with various combinations of musicians through the 1970s, playing improvisational jazz and jazz-rock with such musicians as Stan Tracey, Robert Wyatt, Dudu Pukwana, Harry Miller, Elton Dean, Hugh Hopper, and Louis Moholo. From 1979, he also started to release many live albums of solo piano performances, beginning with The Unlonely Raindancer.
In the late 1980s, he, along with Paul Dunmall saxes, Paul Rogers bass, and Tony Levin drums, formed the quartet Mujician, playing purely improvised jazz. Mujician released six albums between 1990 and 2002. He also formed a trio with Julie Tippetts and Willi Kellers, and wrote film and television scores. He also wrote music for string quartets and piano, and taught at summer schools. Tippett also continued to record and to tour in Britain and Europe with various ensembles. He also worked with musicians Andy Sheppard, as well as with his frequent collaborators Elton Dean, Louis Moholo, and Howard Riley.
In Bristol, starting in 1989 and continuing through the 1990s, he started the Seedbank Orchestra (SO), which performed at venues including the Thekla, the Arnolfini and Bristol Old Vic. This enabled beginners, amateurs and professional musicians to play in a large ensemble and was "emblematic of his quest to unite music of all types in a non-elitist, open to all, friendly environment free of establishment restrictions." He became a "musician's musician when he first set up the Seedbed Orchestra where many Bristol musicians could benefit from his guidance."
He married singer Julie Driscoll in 1970.
He died on 14 June 2020 at the age of 72.
With Elton Dean
With Paul Dunmall
With King Crimson
With Harry Miller