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When Ernest Mothle first told me about George Lee he said little other than that he was giant of a saxophone player and that we should play together.  So one Sunday lunchtime I dragged my Fender Rhodes to a little restaurant in Earl's Court called Toddy's and met up with some people who were destined to make a lasting impression on my musical life.

 

George was playing some arrangements that had been done for Chris MacGregor's big band and I learned the material whilst we were playing the gig.  The drummer on the day was probably Kofi Adu and I had never before experienced such musical intensity coupled with subtlety and control.  I started doing many gigs with George's band (which he called Anansi), including well known jazz venues such as Ronnie Scott's, The 100 Club, and many lesser known afro-jazz hideouts.

 

I have a lasting recollection of a vision that I had had from my teens, when, having gotten into the spirit of jazz culture, I saw myself playing wild music in a smoky room filled with hip black dudes.  Imagine how I felt when, during a rehearsal in a basement at the Diorama I glanced up from my keyboard and saw George and the rest of the band (where, as became the norm, I was the only white musician) peering out through their shades amidst a sea of smoke!  This was the first time that I experienced the reality that dreams do come true - and not the last ...

 

The Anansi band's repertoire consisted entirely of George's compositions and I wondered if he would be interested in including some of my material.  So I took him a recording of some of my pieces, done in my home studio using a simple Roland TR606 drum machine, my ARP Odyssey as the bass, and my Rhodes and Steinway pianos to do the rest.  When he heard the music (and the production) he decided instead that we put down some demos of his compositions with a view to producing an album for release.  So we set about recording a number of his songs which subsequently formed part of the selection for the Anansi album.  I recall how, after a day at work (I had taken a day job by that time in order to survive) I would drive across London from Ealing to Dulwich for an all-night recording session in a modern and well equipped studio.  The end result was stunning, and although the album never found a suitable distribution channel it received much acclaim from those who heard it on both sides of the Atlantic.

 

And we continued to do some exciting gigs at a variety of venues ranging from open air bandstands on the Thames Embankment, to The Forum in Camden Town and various other municipal halls and outdoor stages when it came to appearing at special events and functions.  I learned about the rhythms of West Africa and played with some brilliant musicians including bassplayer Clive Sharman (Jeff Beck band), percussionists Francis Fuster (Hugh Masekela band) Ade Wallace and Nana Tsibo - and it was the drumming and percussion of these fine players that ultimately left an indelible imprint on my musical consciousness.

 

George pulled up his roots and, armed with a 24 track mobile recording studio (plus engineer Benny King!) left London for Swaziland, Southern Africa in the mid eighties and the city's musical spirit felt it.  And at that time there was no way that I could have imagined what lay ahead for George and me ...