Munrow and the Jazz Connection

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The following is taken from an article on the internet. It is largely an interview with Ken Barnes, and the Roundtable. Clear references are made to Munrow...
There is also reference to Arthur Johnson who was the producer of Pied Piper

The Roundtable - Ken Barnes Interview

For our latest Licorice Soul release in conjunction with , we are proud to present something a little off the beaten track; LSD004 features a re-working of Laura Nyro's 'Eli's Comin' and the Ken Moule original 'Saturday Gigue', a sprightly pair of tracks extracted from the extremely curious and increasingly difficult to locate 'Spinning Wheel' album by a mysterious group of musicians named The Roundtable. It's a faultlessly charming blend of funky brass, Hammond and rhythm twinned with the unlikely bedfellow of medieval instrumentation supplied by David Munrow and Christopher Hogwood. These two fellows earned much respect in the late 1960's by rediscovering traditional instrumentation and songs and playing highbrow concerts as the Early Music Consort. This worthy endeavour earned them both much critical acclaim in the serious music world. David Munrow was considered the world expert in early forms of music and besides lecturing on the subject at Leicester University, made many albums in this fashion, notably recording a string of familiar period soundtracks for television and film along the way, such as 'The Six Wives of Henry VIII' and 'Elizabeth R' for the BBC, and 'The Devils' for Ken Russell.

In 1969 it seems that David Munrow and the Early Music Consort were looking to try something a little different and were receptive to the suggestion of marrying their strange instrumentation with some modern jazz-rock elements provided by the cream of British session players. Recorded by the small independent company Sutton Sound and subsequently released on the tiny Jay-Boy offshoot of President Records, the man behind the concept, and who also produced the sessions was Ken Barnes, a one-time Decca in-house producer who went on to work with some of the biggest names in the business..

Sadly, Munrow committed suicide in 1976, but the man whose idea it was to bring these two forms of music together in one irresistible brew was kind enough to offer us some insight into not only the sessions that produced The Roundtable album, but also some of his other contributions to music we hold so dear, in particular his work with the Harry Roche Constellation.

Vinyl Vulture: How did the idea for the Roundtable album materialize?

Ken Barnes: I was a director of the Sutton Sound recording studio in Soho; it's now the Sony building. This was in 1969 and we'd made a bit of a dent in the industry; I'd been to New York and got some clients and we were recording all sorts of different things and I was studio manager and was getting the business in. One of the directors was a friend of David Munrow and they wanted to make an album, and they thought about what was the best way to present them. They'd done some early music consort type of albums before and we thought it would be good to do a little experiment. We actually did two; one with Indian music combined with jazz, after the fashion of Ravi Shankar and Stan Tracey. We got some Indian musicians in and some jazz musicians and we called it 'Curried Jazz', and it was very successful. So we thought about other musical hybrids that we could do and we got the early music together with a jazz-rock backing. We kicked the idea around and had quite a few meetings about it and then I brought in Ken Moule to do the recording. He booked some good guys and we went in and did it all in about three sessions. It was inspired a little bit by Blood, Sweat & Tears, so we named the album 'Spinning Wheel'. The name of the group was mine; I thought that Roundtable had a medieval feel to it but the 'round' element went well with the jazz ideas.

VV: What was it to work with such highly regarded classical musicians?

KB: They were OK. David was always a little bit dour; he was a very fine musician and he took it all very seriously. Christopher Hogwood was a very fine keyboard player and he did the harpsichord, then we had things on it like a sackbut, which gave it all a very different flavour.

VV: How did you hear of their expertise in this field?

KB: As I said, David Munrow was a friend of one of the directors and he was doing concerts at the time that were quite well received. I thought it was a wonderful idea to be playing music from medieval times and they wanted to make an album that was a little different to the kind of stuff they had recorded before. The arrangements had to be very carefully structured so that they didn't upset the identity of the early music consorts, so that it didn't look like a tree graft. Ken wasn't always happy about everything he'd ask if we thought it was OK and we'd give very careful thought to it and maybe change things, even on the studio floor, if they didn't work. I'd say that it was more inspiration before anything else. We didn't want it to seem like it was too pretentious; we wanted to create something that would have listening appeal across a fairly broad spectrum. I don't know if we succeeded, but we tried.

VV: Was the mass-appeal concept at the bottom of choosing songs that were currently popular?

KB: Yes, we wanted to make sure that there was some commercial angle, or some recognition angle where people would see it and there would be at least some familiar material. Of course, 'Scarborough Fair' was period material in itself, long before Paul Simon picked it up.

VV: Your own composition 'The Girl I Used To Know' has a very authentic flavour to it.

KB: Arthur Johnson had a fragment of a melody that I thought was rather good and I just embellished on it further. We did actually do a lyric for it, but I wasn't too happy with it. We didn't record it for that album, but it did appear on another later on, and we really wanted it onto the Roundtable record as it was a song that Sutton Sound were able to publish.

VV: Was 'Saturday Gigue' written specifically for this project?

KB: Yes, it was something that Ken Moule had kicking around and I think it was called that either because he wrote it on a Saturday or that we recorded it on a Saturday.

VV: How well did the record sell at the time?

KB: I really don't know. I never saw any sales figures for it, but it did get some pretty good reviews and it was fairly well distributed. I think that President did a good job with it. I don't want to put President down or anything, but maybe it should have gone to a bigger label and we might have made more of it. When President showed an interest I think that whoever was doing the selling of it, and I wasn't involved in that, probably licensed it to the first one that came along, just to do the deal. But they did do a nice job on it, so everyone was happy.

VV: The sleeve is wonderful, do you have any idea who is responsible for that?

KB: That would have come from President's art department.

VV: How did the jazz players react to working with all of the other strange instrumentation?

Ken Barnes with Fred Astaire

KB: They really liked it! There was a real sense of camaraderie between the two sides, and I know they got on as people. Even once or twice during the sessions David Munrow would smile, and he was a very serious young man. All of the jazz guys were pleased because for them it represented something different to what they were normally doing. Those guys would be playing two or three sessions a day at those times; going from Geoff Love and a Manuel session in the morning to working with Quincey Jones or Henry Mancini in the afternoon. Record companies would not have existed if it were not for those musicians, yet today they don't seem to have any place in the scheme of things.

VV: Do you remember some of the other players on the session?

KB: Kenny Clare was the drummer, as far as I can recall, the brass section would have been; trumpets: Greg Bowen, Kenny Baker, Eddie Blair & Leon Calvert (also flugelhorn), trombones: Don Lusher, John Marshall, Johnny Edwards and Jackie Armstrong, the reeds were Pete Swinfield and Roy Willocks. I worked with a lot of those guys regularly, so they would have been the same throughout. Kenny Clare was always Ken Moule's first choice. Ken had been an arranger with the Ted Heath band and he did a very successful thing called 'Jazz At Toad Hall'; a suite based on The Wind In The Willows. On bass there was Jeff Clyne and possibly Pete Morgan as well. I bumped into Jeff a while ago and we talked about some of the old sessions.

VV: Did the studio engineers have to make any special provisions for all of the strange instruments?

KB: It was recorded in the Sutton Sound studio, and the whole thing had to be very well set up. The engineer was Mike Hall, with me producing and Mark Sutton one of the directors was probably the second engineer.

VV: We believe David Munrow committed suicide in the mid-1970's.

KB: It wouldn't surprise me. I didn't know him very well; but he looked like a deeply serious young man who could have been drawn to depression, and yet on these sessions I saw him smile a few times. He did a lot of work for the BBC and he was never short of work; I don't know if he felt that his career was limited or not, but his suicide might not have had anything to do with that. He was a brilliant musician and I respected him enormously. He must have only been in his thirties when he died. I never kept in touch with Christopher Hogwood, but he was a very charming and bright guy and a very skilled player.

                The rest of the interview has not been included here........


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