Listening to Mike Pyne (1978 BBC session)…..

Not sure that there’s much I can tell you about the British pianist Mike Pyne, who leads this BBC session from 1978.  What I do know is  that he played with – amongst others –  Tubby Hayes and Tony Levin and that he died in the mid-90’s.



Mike Pyne in action, date unknown….

Certainly, some of the other players in this band – Tony Levin on drums and Stan Sulzmann on tenor and soprano saxes – were  ‘bigger’ names than Pyne himself when this recording was made.  In a way, though, that’s why the recordings made by the BBC are such a treasure trove.  This one typifies the pedigree of the musicians – Ray Warleigh’s alto and Darryl Runswick’s bass make up the band –  and it’s the sort of brisk post-bop repertoire that has echoes of other British players like Tony Coe and Tubby Hayes. 

It’s great stuff, but I suppose my point is that the BBC were recording sessions like this on more or less a weekly basis for programmes like ‘Jazz Club’, ‘Jazz in Britain’ and eventually ‘Jazz on 3’.  However,  current policy seems to be to send a crew off to somewhere like the Festival Hall or The Barbican to record visiting international stars rather than document anyof the more humble domestic offerings.

For someone like Pyne, radio sessions like this would help to pay the rent and keep him ticking over.  As a regular sideman, he might play 7 or 8 of these sessions each year – not terribly lucrative but a way of supplementing income from pub & club gigs.

In this way, the BBC were modest players in maintaining a small,conservative domestic jazz scene in the 70’s where the likes of Pyne, Stan Tracey, Tony Coe, Stan Sulzmann and a handful of others could keep body & soul together, whilst devotees of the ‘Free’ school like John Surman, Barry Guy, Barre Phillips were more likely to be working in Europe.

Even so, when I put together a compilation of the radio work that John Surman had done for the BBC, starting with his early 70’s sessions with Jon Hiseman & Jack Bruce and coming right up to date with his solo gig at The Sage a couple of years back, I was shocked by the sheer volume of stuff Surman had recorded for the BBC over the years (and my collection is by no means comprehensive)  and the wide variety of contexts in which he had been recorded.  My CD compilation rapidly progressed from 1 to 2 to 3 discs almost without me having to think about it!

I suppose that the idea of letting someone loose in the BBC Jazz archive  to systematically make this stuff available on CD or for download is a pipe dream, but it seems shameful to me that so much brilliant music is mouldering away in some West London vault.  The Mike Pyne session is typical of dozens that were made with jobbing UK jazzers in the 1970’s and it shares most of the virtues and the vices that are typical of these sessions.  I am lucky to have a mate who has copied it on to CD for me, but it would be great if everyone else had a chance to hear it as well.transparent


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