I have taken the opportunity to use a lyric from Nick Cave here, from The Good Son, the second track from the album of the same title (1990), which I am listening to, as I start this encomium for the recently-passed saxophonist Lou Gare.
The critic Barry Withernden was good enough to inform me today of Lou’s death. I was immediately born back to words that I used at the very end of my first book, Beyond Jazz. And I quote:
“Lou Gare’s entry in the encyclopedia (that of Richard Cook/Brian Morton) just about sums the situation up (that of unrecognized improvisers): - “…as low-key as a leading member of his community - the British free-music pioneers - could be, which is saying something, and about as self-effacing as a saxophonist can aspire to be, which is saying something more” “. I added to this the hope that “future histories will unearth more about the less lauded figures of this movement”. This follows on from the loss of another most important figure of improvised jazz, John Jack, who passed in early September, and whose contribution to the music had been mostly below the radar of popular consciousness.
Lou Gare will be best remembered for his contribution to the soundfield of the early improvising group AMM; from the very early days with Cornelius Cardew, through to later meta-music with the Prevost/Tilbury/Rowe AMM trio. His understated, yet insistent, additions to the unique AMMusic, came closest, as far as I’m concerned, to AMM’s vision (I think) of ego-rinsed music, of and for the moment, anti-virtuosic and yet virtuosic at the same time. The main test for Lou Gare’s musical contribution is to hear the early AMM albums, such marvelous, and unparalleled, examples of a music without goals (or jails!), totally improvised throughout, and particularly difficult to contribute to, for such an essentially chord-free instrument as the saxophone. He immersed himself, and was in turn immersed, in AMMusic, and the results would definitely not have been as impressive without him.
I only contacted him once, and received a wonderfully polite, and helpful, response to my researches. And, in turn, only saw him perform live once, at the inevitable Cafe Oto, where he was vitally expressive, even though he was apparently, even then, not in the best of health.
We will have to get used to this, in all honesty. The passing on of the great creatives of the 50s, 60s and 70s, who will be lost to time’s ravages (or whatever). It is so important that we salute those who served, but those who were also granted so little attention in the time of their pomp. Lou Gare was one of those who not only served, but who served with dignity and humility, but who also needs to remembered for an accompanying pugnaciousness and assertiveness.
One more man gone. And a very goodun’ at that.