"That's Mike Carr on organ, if you ever get the chance to tour with him do it, you will have a ball."



LIVE AT RONNIESI am about to make one of those very controversial statements that will cause an uproar. Opinions will immediately become polarised. Shovels will be taken out of garden sheds to enable entrenched positions to be dug. Decent folks' children will be forbidden to play with mine. The club may well be picketed by irate Jimmy Smith fans, whilst armies of Richard 'Groove' Holmes fans may seek to pay cash for questions to be asked in the House of Commons.

Anyhow, here goes (deep breath)... Mike Carr is the best jazz organist in the world.

I know that it seems improbable the bald, overweight (as I myself am both, I can say this with impunity) Tynesider (or should it be Teesider?) should, in the opinion of your humble servant, out class the two above-mentioned legends of the Hammond, but there it is. For me, he does.

Michael Anthony Carr is a phenomenon. He is not simply a pianist who plays a bit of organ or vice versa. He is a fine swinging bop pianist and a world class organist. I could also mention vibes and marimba an his not inconsiderable oeuvre as a composer, but it is as a jazz organist that he stands above the others, a fact remarked upon by no less a personage than Oscar Peterson, just one of the many American jazz greats who found themselves amazed by Mike.

Mike moved to London some decades ago. Prior to his arrival in the metropolis, he was the influential leader of the jazz scene in the North East playing with the Emcee Five - drummer Ronnie Stevenson, bassist Malcolm Cecil, the great tenor saxophonist Gary Cox and trumpeter, brother Ian.

He became a member of the Ronnie Scott Trio, firstly with drummer Tony Crombie and then with the late Bobby Gien, which was a force for about five years, playing regularly and with great popularity at the club. They also played very successfully all over the world, including a concert at New York's Carnegie Hall.

Mike also had a wonderful group featuring Dick Morrissey and Jim Mullen and accompanied an impressive list of visiting American firemen.

Personal tragedy struck in the mid seventies. Mike's wife died suddenly at an improbably young age, leaving him to bring up two small children singlehandedly. As if that were not enough, one of the children, his daughter Julie, was born disabled by cerebral palsy. Mike cared for and looked after her with such tender love, that his own career had to suffer. At that time he was poised, in my view, on the brink of an international breakthrough. He gave it no second thought. He simply looked after Julie, confining himself to domestic gigs to pay the rent.

At all events back to my original premise. Why do I think so highly of his organ playing? Well, for a start, he swings like mad. Secondly he uses the whole of the instrument, keyboards, stops and pedals, with great independent technique. You would be amazed at how many so-called top American exponents chicken out of trying to exploit all the possibilities of the instrument. It can be quite nerve-wracking to try to play a well-constructed solo with your right hand, while comping accurately with your left, and keeping up a rhythmic and harmonically correct bass line with your feet.

Finally, and to me, most importantly, he plays wonderful jazz more influenced by the great tenor or trumpet players than by other organists. The result of this is that you get a coherently constructed piece of music rather than the tricksy indecipherable mess that most organists churn out. His solos are more informed by Hank Mobley than by Jimmy Smith... and all the better for it.

Mike still plays at the club from time to time and can often be seen in the place with his daughter (now thirty and living in a community designed to cope with the demands of her condition), when she has weekends at home with him. She is treated with affection by the staff. We all know of, and admire, Mike's sacrifice.

They say that a prophet is never honoroured in his own country. Well, this is my effort at honouring Mike. A true gent, one of the 'Ronnie Scott Club family', a super pianist, an amazing organist and my god, can he swing!

Wally Houser
Jazz At Ronnie Scott's
November 1999


EMCEE FIVE TAKING FIVEIt is patently absurd to assume that the best jazz in Britain is to be heard only in London. Just to prove the point here is a record by a quintet from Newcastle upon Tyne which contains some of the most exhilerating jazz I have yet heard played by a British band. The leader is pianist Mike Carr (hence the band's title) who I heard playing exciting vibes with the Bernie Thorpe Quartet when I was in Newcastle two years ago. Mike's brother, Ian, plays trumpet and flugelhorn while Gary Cox, an Aberdonian by birth, is on tenor. The group's original bass player was Malcolm Cecil who came to London a few years ago and quickly established himself as one of the leading bass players in the country, his place on this E.P. is taken by Spike Heatley of the Jonny Dankworth Band. The EmcEe Five.s drummer, up until the end of 1959, was Ronnie Stephenson who, like Malcolm Cecil, left Newcastle for comparative fame in the South. He has been with the Jonny Dankworth band for two and a half years and is present on this record in the capacity of 'distinguished old boy'. The long Preludes was composed by Gary Cox as a background for a presentation of T.S. Eliot's Preludes ('The winter evening settles down. With smell of steaks in passageways' etc.) on Tyne Tees Television. The shorter tracks were written by the leader.

The writing and playing is reminicent of the Horace Silver quintet and one of the most immediately striking aspects of the music is the intelligent, helpful support provided by Mike Carr. Ian Carr and Gary Cox have already reached the incredibly high standard and if I were a well known West End jazz musician I think I would be extremely worried by the grightening level of competence and invention shown by this out-of-Town band. Cox is all over his instrument like a seasoned professional (he deservedly earned the praise of the Basie musicians when he played at a jam session with Frank Foster and Al Grey in June, 1960); Ian Carr has more to say on trumpet than almost any other British jazz musician and I am of the opinion that the standard of jazz (I don't mean 'Trad') in this country is now second only to that in America. I implore readers to make a point of asking to hear this record when they next visit their record dealer. All five men, an Denis Preston who ecided to record the group, deserve nothing but praise and encouragement.

Alum Morgan
Jazz Monthly or The Gramaphone


A little bit of history! One of the most important bands to ever emerge from the regions - a kind of British territory band. Newcastle's EmCee Five originally featured the Carr brothers - Mike (piano) and Ian (trumpet), the fluent saxophonist Gary Cox, bassist Malcolm Cecil an drummer Ronnie Stephenson. Each musician was set for a distinguished career. Other players featured here include Spike Heatley (bass), Johnny Butts and Jackie Denton (drums) and guitarist John McLaughlin. There's excellent soloing all round, but most remarkable is how completely the contemporary American music had been absorbed in to the sound of the band. The ensembles would do any Blue Note session proud. Indispensable!

Jazz UK
November/December 1996

NOTTINGHAM PLAYHOUSENot everything was hip in the Swinging Sixties. It might have been a great time for fashion, satire, kitchen-sink drama, Beatles-inspired pop and post-Pill sexual liberation, but the national taste in jazz remained corny in the extreme. While New York was enjoying a golden age of modern jazz, plunking banjos and rasping trombones were all the rage here. Trad bandleaders like Ball, Barber and Bilk wore funny uniforms on Top of the Pops while modernists laboured in media anonymity. Dedicated men were inspired by a steady flow of masterpieces from Davis, Blakey, Rollins and Silver. Their only audience was a small coterie of Kerouac-reading, Blue Note record-buying hipsters in basement clubs and back-room pubs. London was best served, with Ronnie Scott, Joe Harriott and the phenomenal Tubby Hayes in action, but every provincial city had its underground heroes. Pianist Joe Palin and trombonist Eddie Wharburton were in Manchester, trumpeter Barry Whitworth in Sheffield, drummer Tony Levin in Birmingham and the Carr Brothers, pianist Mike and trumpeter Ian, in Newcastle upon Tyne. This album, issued on CD for the first time, shows how advanced the Carrs were. Their music, with its turbo-charged drive and impeccable handling at high speed, still sounds fresh today. Tenorist Gary Cox's solos also wear well and one interesting track features a teenage guitarist named John McLaughlin. Whatever became of him?

Jack Massarik
London Evening Standard
21st November 1996


Good Times & The Blues ranks as some of the finest organ jazz recorded outside the US.

9th November 2000
The Guardian

Carr is on a par with the best American performers past and present.

Ray Comisky
Irish Times

Honest four square blowing from a stalwart and friends.

Richard Cook
Jazz Express

A highly recommended album.

Malcolm Herrison
Keyboard Magazine

Intelligent & loose limbed bop.

Garry Booth
BBC Magazine

Certainly his finest release to date.

Stan Britt
Music Week

These four players compare with the best in the USA.

David Griffiths
South Wales Evening Post

This is an exceptional album.

Ken Rattenbury

A first class session.

Derek Ansell
Jazz Journal


Mike Carr and his cohorts once again come up with something that manages to combine high quality musicianship with instant commercial appeal.

Driven by highly infectious, bubbling rhythm, this track features rapped vocals by the very distinctive sounding 'Dr Jazz' who proceeds to pay tribute to the all-time jazz greats. Elsewhere there are strong contributions by such luminaries as Ronnie Scott, Pete King (saxes) and Chris Albert (trumpet) and some very catchy chorus vocalising from the girl singers.

Not only is this single of the week, it also comes in the sleeve of the week which features splendid caricatures of some of the stars mentioned in the rap. A slight deviation from my 'normal' top pick, but one deserving of your attention.

Colin Hudd
Blues & Soul
1st - 14th October 1985

Dr Jazz does the rap, Ronnie Scott does the tenor, Mike Carr plays the keyboards, Pete king alto... a group of UK jazzers enjoy themselves over a nifty little funk groove. The bass is heavy enough, the mix as clear as a perrier, the rap is amusing and it reminds me of Alexis Korner. But the instrumental mix is the one to go for, as you might expect with such players on hand. You'll hear it, and you'll smile. Not real jazz in content, but in execution. And a possible hit.

Ian McCann
21st September 1985