Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Flute & Nut

Harold McNair - Flute & Nut RCA Camden INTS-1096 (UK) (1970)

McNair started out at the Alpha Boys School under the tutelage of Victor Tulloch, whilst playing with Joe Harriott (a lifelong friend who considered McNair his de facto younger brother), Wilton 'Bogey' Gaynair, and Baba Motta's band. He spent the first decade of his musical career in The Bahamas, where he used the name Little G for recordings and live performances. His early Bahamian recordings were mostly in Caribbean musical styles rather than jazz, in which he sang and played both alto and tenor saxophone. He also played a calypso singer in the 1958 film Island Women. In 1960, he went to Miami to record his first album, a mixture of jazz and calypso numbers entitled Bahama Bash. It was around this time that he began playing the flute, which would eventually become his signature instrument. Initially he had some lessons in New York, but he was largely self taught. He departed for Europe later in 1960.

Like many other West Indian jazz musicians of the 1950s and 1960s (eg Harriott, Dizzy Reece and Harry Beckett), McNair moved to Britain. However, before arriving in London, he toured Europe with Quincy Jones and worked on film and TV scores in Paris. Once in London, he quickly gained a reputation as a formidable player on flute, alto and tenor saxophone, leading to a regular gig at Ronnie Scott's nightclub.
His playing drew the admiration of bass player Charles Mingus, who was in London to shoot the 1961 motion picture All Night Long. McNair was part of a quartet Mingus formed to rehearse with during his stay in Britain. Unfortunately, the band never played live in front of a paying audience, due to a ban imposed by the UK Musicians' Union on US musicians in British nightclubs. A recording of the band exists, playing the earliest recorded version of the now famous Mingus composition Peggy's Blue Skylight, but it has never been released, despite featuring in the movie itself. The Musician's Union ban was lifted later in 1961, leading to a residency by US tenor saxophonist Zoot Sims at Ronnie Scott's club. Ironically, McNair's own quartet were also on the bill, resulting in two of his performances appearing on the album made to commemorate the gigs, Zoot Live at Ronnie Scott's. Around the same time, he also recorded with the drummer Tony Crombie and the percussionist Jack Costanzo.

McNair briefly returned to The Bahamas, where he cut his first all jazz LP Up In The Air With Harold McNair, before settling back in London permanently. His first UK album as a leader, 'Affectionate Fink', was made for the fledgling Island Records in 1965. The session saw him team up with Ornette Coleman's then current rhythm section of David Izenzon (bass) and Charles Moffett (drums), for a set of standards played with hard swinging intensity. McNair equally featured his tenor sax and flute on this session, delivering virtuoso performances on both. His next (self titled) album, cut for RCA in 1968, was another classic and featured probably his most famous composition, 'The Hipster', which has become a perennial fixture on the playlists at jazz clubs and was included on Gilles Peterson's Impressed Vol.2 compilation of 1960s British jazz.
His next album was 1970's Flute and Nut (RCA), which featured big band and string arrangements by John Cameron. This was quickly followed up in the same year by The Fence, which moved in the direction of jazz fusion. Another self-titled album was issued posthumously by the B&C label in 1972, which mixed tracks from the 1968 RCA album with later, unreleased recordings. Notable recorded works as a jazz sideman included sessions with the jazz-rock/big band ensemble Ginger Baker's Air Force and John Cameron's Off Centre. He also recorded with visiting Americans including vocalists Jon Hendricks and Blossom Dearie, drummer Philly Joe Jones and saxophonist Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis.

1) The Umbrella Man
2) The Night Has A Thousand Eyes
3) You Are Too Beautiful
4) Barnes Bridge
5) Nomadic Joe
6) Herb Green
7) My Romance
8) Burnt Amber


Quimsy said...


Mr. Shyloc said...

Many thanks!!

Reza said...

Nice post quimsy , hows things , hope your fully recovered ....

Quimsy said...

All better now Reza, thanks for asking. Do send me a message offline with details of your new blog

Highest Regards


John Baldy said...

Great article and cover scan Quimsy. Many thanks.

May I use some of your words (credited of course) and a crop of the cover shot at:


I have a short paragraph on the site about many of Alpha Boys School's musical graduates - but I still need some text on Harold McNair for the site - so please do let me know what you think.


John Baldy

John Baldy said...

Sorry. It should have been a slash rather than a dot. Here is the correct address:



Reza said...

Hi quimsy
I dropped you an email, did you receive it, maybe it hit the spam box ...

Vinyl Room said...

Hi Reza,
Any chance of an invite to your other blog, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Great and rare, thanks a lot!

Anonymous said...

Take it I'm not getting an invite then?, lol

Vinyl Room said...

Oooops, need to sign in.

Take it I'm not getting an invite then?, lol

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basso said...

This is one hell of a blog, Quimsy!
Great posts all the way down.
Utmost respect, Sir.

Cheers, Basso

May I add you to my collection of links?

yesha said...

Hi, i really need this gem. Can someone reupload it please ? It would be very nice.

Thanks in advance

yesha said...

i meant, can you re-upload it as a FLAC or a 320 kbps bitrate ? I think this gem deserve a good quality.

Thanks for this fabulous upload.

Solomon said...

You post great stuff! Thank you.
I especially love the MPS albums.

antonios said...

THANKS GREAT BLOG!CAN YOU RE UPLOAD THE Quinteplus-Quinteplus (1972)?

db said...

great music!
check out
calisoulbrother records
for rare soul, jazz, funk, brazil & latin records!

Anonymous said...

Great album, thanks a lot

g.raf said...

hi, thank you so much for sharing this great album!

boogieman said...

Thanks. McNair is a bit forgotten these days, not only was he a great jazz player but he contributed also to countless rock-pop and even british blues sessions. Listen to his accompaniment to alexis Korner "Mary Open the Door" (A new Generation of blues).
Thanks again for reminding us of his talent.
Perhaps somebody should start a blog about West Indian jazzmen (Harriott, Shake keane, Wilton Gaynor ...)? I'd love to do it but i do not have enough time to develop a blog. Quimsy, you have all my respect for all the work you put in your blog.

IR e L a IXI said...


Anonymous said...

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Great website, looks very clean and organized. Keep up the good work! antibacterial

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