Move to Avant Garde Free-Form Jazz
In the spring of 1968 Frank moved into jazz and specifically ‘free-form group improvisation’ as this was unfolding amongst a handful of musicians in the late sixties. He achieved great prominence in this field also and is thus part of the ‘first generation improvisers’ in Britain. He was a member of ‘The Musician’s Co-Operative’ (replacing percussionist Tony Oxley) with eight other original improvising innovators: – Evan Parker, (the late) Derek Bailey, Barry Guy, (the late) Paul Rutherford, Howerd Riley, and Paul Lytton. All of whom he has played with, whilst they are still active in the field of improvised music. He regularly took part in their international events – mostly at Ronnie Scott’s Club London, where he also did a ten-month season with Ovary Lodge. He began exploring this new direction early in 1968 with the very talented alto saxophonist Michael Sullivan in a group they called Musicians Union. Very tragically, Mike was unable to play for many years due to a dental accident thereby denying the jazz world of one of its most spirited and truly gifted players, for a period of time. George Jensen, whom he had known in ‘Abstract Sound’, joined them on electric and then on double bass. Other musicians ‘jammed’ from time to time, for instance Roy Harris played double bass with the core duo of Mike and Frank for a period.
His own unique, unconventional, and highly individual style was formed early and through his pioneering explorations he was responsible for creating some remarkable innovations both in style, approach, concept, and range of playing (most notably with his work with ‘Ovary Lodge’, ‘Balance’, and The Derek Bailey Group/Company and the Frank Perry Trio – with Derek Bailey and Evan Parker). He bought his first gong in 1968 whilst his current collection totals 45 gongs.
During 1971 he CO-founded two groups of improvisers: – Ovary Lodge (which released two albums on the RCA/Victor label and one other on the Ogun label) with Keith Tippett (one of Europe’s top pianists), and Roy Babbington (bassist later to join ‘Soft Machine’), shortly afterwards the group was joined by Keith’s wife Julie Tippetts (ne Julie Driscoll – pop singer/model – who, with Brian Auger’s Trinity did a cover version of Dylan’s ‘This Wheel’s on Fire.’ – featured theme tune for TV’s ‘Absolutely Fabulous’); and ‘Balance’ with electric guitarist Ian Brighton, thereafter joined by Phil Wachsmann on electric violin, Radu Malfatti on trombone and occasionally Colin Wood on cello. Whilst Frank was living in a bedsit in Crouch End, Ian Brighton would arrive each weekend for a rehearsal having travelled up
from Southend. The two had an immediate rapport and continued together regularly for some time before adding the other musicians and forming Balance which went on to record for the Incus Record label the LP BALANCE and disbanded a short while afterwards. Whilst Frank named the group Balance, Ian’s term of endearment was: The Crouch End All Stars.
Frank began his solo career in 1971 in a solo concert at Falmouth School of Art, having completed a three-month
summer season playing with the top jazz trio in Cornwall – Jazz Roots (with Tony Dickinson vibraphone and founder/leader Goudie Charles bass). The trio played several nights a week at The Railway Tavern in Penzance. Since then he has given in excess of three hundred solo concerts – including many performances at major international festivals throughout the world. Throughout the period 1969 to 1974 Frank played regularly with the leading figures in the jazz/improvising world. From ’68 to ’70 he lived in Mildenhall, Suffolk, and soon became the drummer with the top modern jazz group in the Cambridge area: The Percy Seeby/Alan Broad Quintet and he also chose to play for Henry Cow – ultra-progressive rock group – then in its formative phase in Cambridge. During this period he rehearsed at weekends in the works canteen at Murrells practising for between 8 and 13 hours a day. Also, towards the end of this time, he would visit London at weekends and play at the ‘Peanuts’ club (run by the late Harry Miller [also bassist in Ovary Lodge after Roy Babbington’s departure] at Stockwell, South London) with the top avant-garde free-jazz players such as: Mike Osborne, Elton Dean, Marc Charig, Nick Evans, Harry Miller, and Gary Windo (a recent CD release of a session at Gary Windo’s home in 1974 has been issued “Avant Gardeners” including Gary’s wife Pam on piano).
In 1970 he moved back to North London and that evening became house drummer at Ray Man’s Crucible Club and then playing regularly in duos, trios, quartets, etc, with leading players in avant-garde jazz and free-form jazz: – (the late) Chris McGregor, Mongezi Feza, Dudu Pukwana, Johnny Dhyani Group (these last three being South African Zulus – all now deceased), Alan Davie (famous Scottish painter-musician), Derek Bailey Group/Company, also occasionally with Trevor Watts, Howard Riley, Paul Rutherford, and from thereafter featured in Keith Tippett’s orchestras: – Centipede and Ark, plus a solo career and playing with his own groups; – ‘I is Another’ (piano trio with Chris Goodie piano and the late Ron Herman bass); The Frank Perry Trio (with Evan Parker saxophones and the late Derek Bailey electric guitar), along with the two improvising groups he co-founded i.e. Ovary Lodge and Balance. He met the artist Alan Davie during his summer season at Penzance in Cornwall whilst improvising at Dingle and then continued to play with him (in what was to become subsequently the so-called Alan Davie Music Workshop) for the following few years – including concerts at The Tate Gallery and also at Gimpel Fils art gallery, London. In 1973 he became an endorsee for PAISTE, the world’s leading manufacturer of Cymbals, Gongs and metal sounds. During 1979 he utilised their special metal for five of his own inventions – creating by hand his collection of Petalumines, Pyrahermeezees, Pyrotahermeezees, Trianguhermeezees, Ufoms, Sun Rays, and Spirotapetals. Named in honour of Harry Partch, the Petalumine in particular, are unique in the world of percussion, the largest ringing on for some five minutes after one strike! A collection of some 19 of these featured in his second solo album recorded for and commissioned by Eckhart Rahn owner of the American Celestial Harmonies label titled NEW ATLANTIS, on Side One TEMPLE OF SOUND (released on LP & MC in 1983 and now available as a Double CD alongside DEEP PEACE). These remarkable and astounding instruments, alongside his Sun Ray (Soundplates – or Rectangular Bell Plates) and Planicerv (adapted Tuned Sound-Discs), provide him with sounds of incredible sustaining resonance, thus enabling him to continue his explorations into extended time-duration and the ‘sounds hanging in space’ for which he is so rightly famous.
(Photo above – Jak Kilby – Frank Solo performance @ Ronnie’s)