Loose Tubes: Tomorrow Night is Your Last Chance Ever
Both Bates and Lockheart have their own ideas about Loose Tubes' longer-term legacy, on each of them as players as well as on the wider jazz scene. Bates is happy to discuss the wider scene: "One example is the F-ire Collective. Barak Schmool, a major part of it, always cites Loose Tubes as an influence." As for its influence on his own development, Bates says emphatically that it was "very big." He adds, "After Loose Tubes ended I quickly started a new band, but it wasn't democratic. It was my band. I called it Delightful Precipice. We had a great time before things changed. Large groups have always been part of my life since Loose Tubes ... but I did drop some of the Loose Tubes things that I saw as a hindrance, like having four trombones. I always saw that as like having four front doors on your house."
There's another very personal impact that Bates acknowledges: "I was very introverted before Loose Tubesreally focused on my music and what was going on inside my head. Loose Tubes dragged out that more extrovert side. It also taught me that I could take this music much further than I had ever dreamed."
Lockheart also speaks fondly of the Loose Tubes legacy: "For me, it was amazing. I came pretty much straight out of Trinity College of Music, and I was in Loose Tubes, a band that was getting amazing reviews and making incredible music. I think it had an enormous influence on all of its membersall the people who went on to do their own thing. It was creatively important to us and also provided a platform from which we could launch our own projects. It's a shame it wasn't documentedthe records aren't even available now. No one seems to know who has the masters." One of the highlights of Dancing On Frith Street is Lockheart's saxophone solos, but not according to the man himself: "I'm really pleased that Django has released the album. I think the band sounds great, but personally I hate my playing from that period. I see myself as a bit of a late developer, and so I really can't listen to my playing from that time."
Lockheart's view of his playing is surprising, not only because his work on the album sounds so strong, but also because the horn section as a unit sounds so powerful and so timeless. By contrast, some of Bates' keyboards and Paricelli's guitar playing have much more of an '80s sound. "Yes, those sounds are like that," agrees Lockheart. "That's the only thing that dates that music, in a way. It's a problem with electronic instrumentsyou can almost date the music by those sounds. It's a bit like Weather Report. But the compositions still sound fresh to me."
Bates (pictured right) is also one of the few British jazz musicians, along with players such as pianist Neil Cowley and the members of Led Bib, to cultivate a strong visual image. Was this, too, a legacy of his time in Loose Tubes? Bates agrees that it was, "But it wasn't that carefully considered." He continues, "The question of what the band should wear came up before the first gig. The more traditional faction wanted us all to wear the same. Then someone said it would be better to wear things that reflected our individual characters. People pounced on that and took it to the extreme."
The band's image and emphasis on fun and spontaneity also arose from a fondness for '60s British humor: Monty Python's Flying Circus and the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band were influences. Bates was a fan of both: "I had an early Bonzos record, and I'm sure the influence crept in there. People like (flautist) Eddie Parker were always celebrating absurd literature and crazy thinking, and we'd all grown up watching Monty Python."
"When we played in Canada," Bates continues, "we played in a field behind a big hotel. The hotel had a pool and a diving board. We were playing a huge chord and John Eacott, the trumpet player, ran through the audience and climbed up to the top of the diving board and dived in. As he hit the water, we gave the final 'pow' hit to the chordjust a spontaneous desire to do something theatrical."
Dancing On Frith Street
The sound quality on Dancing On Frith Street is exceptionally good for a live recording, and the atmosphere at the three gigs was clearly buzzing, yet the album took 20 years to appear. Its genesis was by no means a simple one, but Bates takes a positive view. "At least waiting that long makes it a really exciting event," says Bates, laughing. "We played those three gigs at Ronnie Scott's knowing that it was the end of the bandalthough we did play one final gig in Spain, which felt really weird. I took rough mixes of the performances home on cassettes and listened to them but wasn't sure what to do next. The band had finished, some people were grieving, and I guess some people were pretty pissed off about it."