'Keith Tippett was a life-enhancing spirit who cared passionately about every note he played.
I first met him just after leaving school - Laurence Aston and I programmed a jazz festival in Hammersmith. Keith arrived, tore into me because I'd mentioned King Crimson in the write-up for the concert and then, seeing that I was about to burst into tears, gave me a hug and a bottle of cider and started to soundcheck. The Steinway tuner objected when he gently laid a plastic crocodile on the piano strings for resonance - 'You're not allowed to prepare the piano!'. Keith drew himself up to his full height and declaimed 'How dare you! I never prepare anything - it's improvised'. The croc stayed - it was a sublime and spontaneous performance, and the start of an occasional relationship that's threaded through the last 40 years, working alongside other enthusiastic producers like Nod Knowles, and Polly Eldridge and Maija Handover at Sound UK.
He loved his huge creations, like Centipede, but his intimate collaborations were very special - touring with saxophonist Andy Sheppard (their duo album 66 Shades of Lipstick is a neglected masterpiece) and with violinist Alex Balanescu, as well as his spell-binding work with his wife, singer Julie Tippetts, that began with her wonderful album Sunset Glow and continued until the end.
In recent years, we brought Keith and Stan Tracey back together for a final duet as TnT, and then produced his glorious piano partnership with kindred spirit Matthew Bourne in the EFG London Jazz Festival three years ago. We were set to present this duo a few months ago in the new music programme at Warwick Arts Centre, but sadly his final illness ruled that out.
As an inspiration to so many players and a great creative spirit in his own right, Keith Tippett's full story will go on unfolding.' (David Jones/Serious)
Photo by Emile Holba