The key to Dick Morrissey's talent, in a career that spanned four decades, was his ability to get through to an audience. He was one of the great communicators of jazz and, despite the fact that he often played fairly complex tenor saxophone solos, he was able to communicate with his listeners and quickly to establish a bond with them. He didn't do this by honking and squealing on the instrument as some of the more sensational players have done. Like Charlie Parker before him, he was somehow able to lift audiences that knew little or nothing about his music.
Although one could from time to time imagine a feel of the American players Sonny Rollins or Ben Webster in Morrissey's work, he was outstanding among British players for his originality. Despite the sophistication of his ideas there was often a down-home quality to his punchy and hard swinging solos, and this was a reflection of one of his idols, the tenorist Stanley Turrentine. He was a lightning improviser and the flood of his inventions flew through his fingers with ease, for he was a masterful player. In his time Morrissey spanned the whole of jazz with his playing and for several successful years managed to move into the field of rock music without compromising his playing.
He was born in Surrey in 1940 into a musical family. As a boy he played violin, accordion, piccolo and flute as well as reed instruments. Entirely self-taught, he began playing jazz on clarinet, inspired by the New Orleans player Johnny Dodds. "When I was at school everything was Sandy Brown or Humphrey Lyttelton," he said. "But when I eventually got around to Charlie Parker I really pricked up my ears. He was a genius, that's all there is to it."
The boy took to Bebop and never looked back. For a jazz musician, his tastes were catholic in the extreme. "I can get a certain amount of pleasure out of any music, even pop," he said: I like Mozart's horn solos and some of the powerful works of Beethoven. I guess that's why I'm not too keen on modern classical composers. To me they don't seem to have any melody. When he left Sutton High School in Surrey, Morrissey took up an apprenticeship with a local jewellery firm. By now he'd switched to tenor saxophone and was already an outstanding player, taking jobs with a quartet after work: "I'm afraid the usual thing happened. It just couldn't last. Travelling back and forth to somewhere like Coventry on semi-pro gigs I kept being late for work. I took the initial step and left, but I could see that the boot was coming my way anyway before much longer".
He decided to earn his living from jazz and by August 1960 was leading his own band at the Flamingo Club in London. In 1961 he made his first album for Fontana, a major label, and was offered a nine- month season in Calcutta with the bassist Ashley Kozac's quartet. This included Harry South, who was to be one of Britain's most distinguished composers and pianists and a close friend of Morrissey's. While they were in India the two men planned to form a band of their own when they returned to England. It was to be a quartet with the drummer Jackie Dougan and the bassist Phil Bates. Morrissey also worked at this time with another inventive Englishman, the composer-pianist Michael Garrick. He had only been a professional for three years. "If you've got a good reed and a solid backing, there are no worries. I have the right guys with me, so we blow hot and fast. All the excitement comes out of the group. We live every number together." When Harry South formed a big band, Morrissey was one of the main soloists, and during the Sixties he was called in to accompany visiting American jazz musicians.
He formed another band in 1968 which finally developed in 1969 into the band If, co-led by Morrissey and the guitarist Terry Smith and including the saxophonist Dave Quincy. The band took off internationally, and Morrissey and Smith moved to live in Sweden as a base from which to start their tours. This was the Blood, Sweat and Tears era of rock music, and If appealed to the same audiences, making many visits to the United States and having one of their albums in the Billboard charts in 1970. If was signed for Atlantic Records and altogether made seven albums. The band rode the fashion of the times and when it died in 1974 and the money stopped coming in, the group broke up, although Morrissey and Smith continued to work together.
Morrissey then had a prolific and satisfying partnership with the organist Mike Carr and worked with Carr's trio before travelling back to the States for eight months in 1975. He met the guitarist Jim Mullen in New York and the two played in the Average White Band. During this time Morrissey worked with the American flautist Herbie Mann and also led his own group.
The partnership with Jim Mullen was to be a very strong one and when they returned to Britain the two men played as the Morrissey Mullen Band from 1976 until 1986, drawing large audiences with their potent blend of jazz-funk. They finally split so that Morrissey could concentrate on more orthodox jazz playing, although he continued to make albums like Souliloquy (1986) which reunited him with friends from Fleetwood Mac and the Average White Band - but as always he sounded better in person than on disc. Morrissey led a quartet, playing frequently at Ronnie Scott's club, and toured Germany several times with the drummer Peter York's band. In 1993 he was reunited with Jim Mullen and Mike Carr for the latter's remarkable album Good Times and the Blues. This was to be his last recording. His health began to fail in the mid-Nineties and he became virtually bed- ridden, summoning enough strength for the odd gig, but becoming rapidly exhausted.
Over the years Morrissey had worked for many celebrities, including at one time Paul McCartney. As his illness took control of him, benefit concerts were held for him in Deal, where he lived, and he managed to play briefly at them from his wheelchair, having an arm removed from it so that he could reach his saxophone properly. At one of them a few months ago at the Astor Theatre the Morrissey Mullen Band was revived. "We got a standing ovation before we had played a note," said Jim Mullen: The way the people love this incredible guy is just wonderful. Paul McCartney sent down a video which we played on a couple of monitors in the theatre, sending his best wishes to Dick in his fight against the illness which had claimed his wife, Linda.
Mike Carr played at the Jazz Cafe in London with Stanley Turrentine earlier this year, and while there had Turrentine sign a photograph for Morrissey. Morrissey was deeply moved by it. Little did he or Turrentine think that, before the year was out, they would both be dead.
Dick Morrissey, who has died aged 60 from cancer, was one of Britain's brightest jazz stars and a man who had a key role in the early fusion between jazz and rock during the 1970's. As jazz fashions see-sawed between freer forms and fusion, Morrissey moved towards the latter.
Born in Surrey, Morrissey went to school in Sutton and was a self-taught musician. He began as a clarinettist in his early teens, but subsequently learned all the saxophones, plus flute. In his late teens he worked with the bandleader Harry South, first appearing in the London clubs as a tenor saxophonist, the instrument with which he was always most closely identified. John Coltrane's approach to the tenor had yet to make much of an impact in Britain, and Morrissey came up with a startling and warmly appreciated blend of Stan Getz and Sonny Rollins, the phrasing of one allied to the abrasive tones of the other. He was also influenced by the example of Tubby Hayes, whose lightening-quick forays through complex harmonies he was probably the first to emulate.
Morrissey soon established himself as leader of various quartets at Ronnie Scott's club, working with Phil Seaman and Harry South. In 1961 he recorded his first solo album, 'It's Morrissey Man!' He went on to record a live album in 1966 with the blues legend Jimmy Witherspoon. By the mid-60's, though, a newer breed of musician, linked to Ornette Coleman or to various kinds of music inspired, however indirectly, by Coleman, had emerged. Before his 30th birthday, Morrissey might already have been in danger of dropping off the jazz map, perhaps resigned to a decade or more of studio anonymity. Instead, he adapted his hard, no-nonsense tones to fit various contexts of soul or jazz-rock. By 1970, he was co-leading the group If with guitarist Terry Smith. After the original band split up, in 1973 Morrissey brought in new young musicians, including Geoff Whitehorn, Cliff Davies and Gabriel Magno, and recorded the albums Not Just a Bunch of Pretty Faces and Tea Break Over, Back On Your 'Eads, before touring in America.
In 1975 the group disbanded and Morrissey went on to work with the Average White Band for their Atlantic recordings in New York. It was in that city, in 1976, that he also worked with Herbie Mann. Morrissey was now sufficiently well known and respected in the soul and jazz-rock milieu to be picked for the Blue Note album recorded in London by organist Jack McDuff as a follow-up to his big hit, Theme From the Electric Surfboard.
By the mid-70's, he had also joined up with Jim Mullen to form the historic jazz-rock band Morrissey/Mullen. They recorded six albums between 1977 and 1988, including the critically acclaimed Cape Wrath (1979). Their earlier collaborations often reflected the electric currents of the time, Morrissey sometimes playing soprano saxophone in the kind of glitzy context Weather Report had popularised. On tenor he was no longer tempted to do it all at once: there's a mature relaxation about his best work of that era, exemplified by a recording of the classic Mal Waldron ballad Soul Eyes. Towards the end of its formal existence, the Morrissey/ Mullen band had edged closer to the mainstream without losing its rock-hard edge. A straight-from-the-heart tenor style, with a big sound thrown in, also made Morrissey a natural to front organ trios, and he often joined organist Mike Carr. With Mullen also on hand and Mark Taylor on drums, Good Times & The Blues from 1993 ranks as some of the finest organ jazz recorded outside the US.
Throughout his career Morrissey was always in demand as a saxophonist on the recording circuit. In the 1980's he worked with Brian Auger, Peter Gabriel and Roy Harper; with Paul McCartney on The Long and Winding Road; and on the soundtrack of Ridley Scott's Bladerunner.
For some time he lived in Portugal. For Morrissey's last years, cancer confined him to a wheelchair and public appearances were understandably rare. Occasionally, he delighted fans by performing at his local pub in Deal, Kent [The Alma Freehouse, 126 West St, Deal, Kent CT14 6EB. Tel 01304 360244], sometimes with his son Jasper on drums. A few weeks prior to his death the last Morrissey-Mullen line-up, including vocalist Noel McCalla and Pete Jacobsen on keyboards, was revived for a concert at Deal's Astor Theatre.
British jazz has lost one of its best liked and most respected musicians with the death of saxophonist Dick Morrissey from spinal cancer. He had been confined to a wheelchair in recent years, but his spirit had remained high, and he would occasionally play in impromptu sessions in his local pub in Deal, often with his son, Jasper Morrissey, on drums.
In August this year, Morrissey joined the Glasgow-born guitarist Jim Mullen in a reunion of his best known project, Morrissey-Mullen, at the Astor Theatre in Deal. Mullen reported that they received a standing ovation “before we had played a note”, an indication of the affection and respect in which Morrissey was held. Tenor saxophonist Dave Lewis had travelled from Germany in case Morrissey was unable to play the whole concert, but his services were not required as he rose to the occasion in characteristically sparkling style.
He was born Richard Edwin Morrissey in Horley, and took up clarinet at Sutton High School in his mid-teens, where he had taught himself to play a number of instruments (he eventually played all the saxophones, and also flute). He joined the Original Climax Jazz Band, playing in a Dixieland style on clarinet, but his next engagement would bring about a profound shift in his musical alignment.
He joined the band led by trumpeter Gus Galbraith, where he met alto saxophonist Pete King. King introduced him to the records of his hero, Charlie Parker, and Morrissey became a convert to bebop. He switched to tenor saxophone as his main instrument at the beginning of 1960, and gave up his apprenticeship as a jeweller to become a professional musician later that year, leading his own quartet.
He recorded his debut album, It’s Morrissey, Man!, in April, 1961, a disc which is now considered something of a classic. He spent the winter playing with the Ashley Kozak Quartet at the Trincas Restaurant in Calcutta, where they played three two-hour sets every day. The intensity of that experience greatly advanced his already impressive technical capacity on the instrument, and also allowed him to begin to refine the fluency and rich, broad sonority which characterised his mature style.
He formed a new quartet on his return to Britain, working with musicians like pianists Michael Garrick and Harry South (also a member of the Calcutta quartet), and the great drummer, Phil Seaman. He played regularly at Ronnie Scott’s club, and worked with a number of visiting American musicians in London, including trombonist J. J. Johnson and blues giant Jimmy Witherspoon, with whom he made a highly regarded live album in 1966.
As the decade progressed, however, shifts in musical fashion toward free jazz and fusion began to dry up the demand for mainstream swing and bop players. Morrissey’s response was to grab the bull by the horns and tackle the new developments head on. He chose jazz-rock fusion as the most appropriate alternative outlet for his musical leanings.
He co-founded the band If with guitarist Terry Smith in the late-60s, and they based themselves in Sweden for a time. He recorded several albums with the band prior to its eventual break-up in 1974. He worked with organist Mike Carr in the summer of 1975 (an association which was often renewed in the ensuing years, including a classic organ-jazz recording which also featured Jim Mullen, Good Times and The Blues, in 1993), then travelled to America with Mullen to join the Average White Band, the successful Scottish jazz-funk outfit who were by then based in America. He spent eight months in New York, and also worked with flautist Herbie Mann in that period.
His association with Mullen continued on their return to Britain with the formation of Morrissey-Mullen in 1976. The band straddled the genres, from straight bebop to rock, soul and funk, and established themselves as one of the most popular crossover bands on the UK jazz scene. They recorded several albums in the susbequent decade, and won a big following in both the jazz and rock camps, but never succeeded in establishing the firm foothold in America which would have allowed them to expand their activities.
Eventually, feeling that they had done as much as they could in Britain, they called a halt to the group in 1985, but continued to work together in occasional projects over the years, often convening under the simple name of Our Band.
He led his own bands in the late-80s and early-90s, reverting to a more mainstream bop-based approach, but illness began to curtail his activities as the decade progressed, leading to his eventual confinement to a wheelchair.
Morrissey will be remembered as one of the best jazz improvisers to emerge on the UK scene, but he was a highly adaptable player throughout his career, and contributed as a session musician to many pop and rock recordings, including working with singers Peter Gabriel and Roy Harper, and with Paul McCartney on The Long and Winding Road. He also played on film soundtracks, notably Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner.Extract
Dick turned professional after leading his own quartet at the Marquee Club, then later at the Flamingo Club. He joined bassist Ashley Kozak`s group featuring pianist Harry South, and worked with Michael Garrick and Freddie Mack.
At 2 a.m. on Wednesday, 8 November 2000, we lost not only one of the best British - if not world - jazz musicians, but a gentle and sweet man whose enthusiasm for life and refusal to accept defeat should stand as a shining example to us all. All the obituaries gave the full details of his musical history, from being self-taught on the clarinet to achieving deserved acclaim as one of the foremost saxophone players of his day, and little can be added to the flow of tributes, other than complete agreement.
Dick Morrissey`s funeral was held on 13 November in St Thomas`s Catholic church in Deal, attended by his very caring family, friends and fellow musicians, including Tony Archer, Phil Bates, Lennie Best, Johnny Burch, Mike Carr, Mick Durrell, Chris Fletcher, Allan Ganley, Dave Green, Jim Hall, Chris Howes, Dave Lewis, Len Skeat, Terry Smith, Hamish Stuart, Neal Wilkinson and Bobby Worth, plus David Redfern and Jack Massarik.
The parish priest, who knew Dick well, quoted from the Psalms that `I will make music to your name, O Lord my God most high`, and then hoped that, `now, a good jazz jam session will be going on above`. The other highlight of the service was when Martin Drew came forth from the congregation, entered the pulpit, and gave a warm and touching tribute to Dick. Martin recalled that, when travelling, Dick liked to listen to The Goon Show. So what better classic amusement could he have found than that of the grandson of a rabbi, reading from on high in a Catholic church? It brought to mind Rabbi Guy Hall`s very amusing address to the congregation at Ronnie Scott`s memorial service at St Martin-in-the-Fields.
After a discreet burial locally, all those involved went back to the Alma pub for refreshments and exchanges of stories and reminiscences. The Alma was where Dick, from his wheelchair, played most of his last gigs.
His last years were spent in considerable pain and deteriorating health, but he never seemed to complain, and always showed that strength of character, plus his lovely smile. It is very rare actually to meet a hero, but Dick was one, and I will always remember him as such. David Sinclair
For those of you who are lovers of Jazz Saxophone, the name of Dick Morrissey MUST be at the top of your list of all time great players. Born just 60 years ago in Horley, Surrey, just down the road from the international Gatwick Airport England, Dick was a unique human being.......and that's not just my opinion, believe me!. Dick had been suffering from spinal cancer for about 7 years prior to his passing. I am, for my sins, a "Small works General Builder"- with a passion for great Jazz. Dick, in so many ways, provided me with the greatest pleasure, both as a player and as a friend.
It was about fifteen or so years ago, that I first saw Dick playing live. The venue was the Jersey Jazz Festival....Channel Islands (not Jersey USA.) Well..... talk about Blowing up a storm!. His duets with guitarist Martin Taylor and vibes player Alan Randall were incredible. The basement room of the "Pomme D'or" Hotel in St Hellier was the jazz venue to be at..... IN THE WORLD. Unbelievable music. It was a large room.... packed solid...wall to wall stuff. The electricity in that room would make lightning look tame! Louder cheers than the cup finals at Wembley were normal when Dick played.
An additional pleasure for me, personally, was having Dick eat at my table in the Hotel. (Four days of GREAT conversations). I remember thinking, "What a fantastic bloke, completely natural". He was GENUINELY interested in YOU. The "Big Time" attitude had never entered Dick's world and never would despite the fact that he was, without a doubt a world-class player. From the conversations, it turned out that, as a kid, Dick used to cycle through our small village of Tatsfield on his way to look at airplanes take off and land at the war famous "Biggin Hill" airport, Kent. (Just 2 miles from Tatsfield - say 15 from Horley).
To do proper justice to Dick - a 500 page book to fully document him wouldn't be enough. (Maybe I will attempt one in old age). I play a bit of jazz on Chromatic Harmonica and once had the pleasure of making a three track demo with bassist Len Skeat, pianist Ian Wright , drummer Ralph Salmins with special guest Dick on tenor saxophone! What an unforgettable experience! I had to follow a solo by Dick on an up-tempo "I got Rhythm". I was thinking that it was like being in a cage with a roaring Lion. Talk about being lit up. (No electricity needed there... I was glowing like a light bulb!.) A TOTAL moment of pure joy.
Dick would stay over at our house occasionally and I would join him on a walk around the village. Dick had never driven a car in his life. My brother Tony has the local garage in Tatsfield and I took Dick around there to meet him. "I know NOTHING AT ALL about all this" he said. He didn't need to. (Motor cars - who is the wise one 'eh!) He loved birds, animals, scenery, and in fact anything to do with nature. Once, in the early hours of a star studded morning, returning from a gig at Tunbridge Wells, Kent, Dick and I were close to "Chartwell".... formerly the home of Sir Winston Churchill. Waddling along, on the opposite side of the road, going in our direction was a big, old Badger. "Whats that?" said Dick, coming awake. "A Badger" says I. "I've NEVER SEEN A BADGER" says an excited Dick Morrissey. For his pleasure, I slowed the car to a crawl in first gear, put the headlights on full and followed the Badger for about 50 yards before it found a gap in the hedge. Dick was OVER THE MOON.... like a little kid. I was in awe of a legendary Jazzer, Dick was in awe of the Badger!
Getting back to Jazz, Dick was greatly admired by fans, friends and family alike. The "Morrissey Mullen" band were legendary. Together with guitarist Jim Mullen, Dick toured America, made four albums during the early 70's and took America by storm. They were based in Sweden for a while and made parts of Europe totally theirs at that time. They just went down a bomb, wherever they performed. (I have those four albums and would NEVER part with them.... for any price)
We all wish Dick's sister Liz and brother Chris, plus Dick's four children our deepest condolences for their loss. The support that Liz and Chris gave Dick throughout his long illness was so touching to see. During that time, in a wheelchair, Dick would summon up enough strength to play locally in Deal near Dover, raising money for various charities in the process. What a Man! Up until the last days he was brilliant. When he was too ill to play anymore... he quietly slipped away. On behalf of thousands of his fans, family and friends.... "We will miss you Dick!" Barry Watson
"Oscar Peterson calls it, "swinging you into bad health!". Ray Brown calls it "stompin' in a mudhole!" Gene Harris called it "low down, filthy, greasy..............!"
Whatever anyone calls it, Dick Morrissey did it with a vengeance. His sound, his time, and his sense of swing used to regularly reduce me to tears when I was playing with him or listening to him. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, "Dick Morrissey swung so much, it hurt!"
The jazz world is a much sadder place, now that he is no longer here, but his records will last for many, many years, providing a legacy to his brilliance.
Dick was a world class musician, and also a world class chap! He loved his pint of Guinness and being with his family or fellow musicians.
Dick didn't talk much about jazz or his music. He let his playing speak for himself, and my God, it did just that! There are many musicians who talk and talk about what they can do, etc., etc. But the acid test is when they get up on the bandstand, and do it, or not, as the case may be! Dick always did it, but never said much about it. Once he had finished there really wasn't much left to say!
He would love to listen to a Goon tape, and we would both imitate either Neddy Seagoon, Major Bloodnoc, or some comedy tape. When in my car on numerous occasions, when we were listening to some music, he would ask me to play, Eccles, Little Jim, Grypepipe Thin, etc., falling about with laughter.
When we got to the gig, he did his magic, which is the only word for how he played and sounded. He was totally unpretentious, rather like Ronnie Scott, and indeed shared much the same musical outlook as Ronnie. Like Ronnie, Dick COM-manded respect, rather than DE-manded it. That difference, to my mind, is huge.
I have tapes of a band I used to lead, called "Our Band", which originally featured Louis Stewart on guitar, then Jim Mullen on guitar, John Critchinson on piano, the genius of Ron Mathewson on double bass, Dick on saxophone, and myself. What a band! There were also many nights with Tony Lee on piano, Tony Archer on double bass, Terry Smith on guitar, and myself, at the Bull's Head, Barnes. This was when Albert Tolley used to run The Bull, and I can see him now sitting at the back of the room, smiling all over his face, as he loved Dick so much. These are only memories I treasure. Many more people and musicians.
During his last years, Dick must have suffered hugely through his illness, but he never made a big deal about it. He always had a kind word for everybody, and confounded everyone by playing almost up until he passed away. What an amazing example to all of us, and I will always be intensely proud to have known him, played with him, and shared some of the happiest musical moments of my life with him. A privilege, no less. Martin Drew
As I admired the many tributes to Dick Morrissey including half-pages in The Times, Guardian, Telegraph and Independent, I reflected on the fact that such fulsome praise never appeared during his lifetime. Despite legendary status amongst musicians, Dick's achievements went largely unnoticed by the press.
It seemed the crime of "not being American" consigned Dick to the lip-service department. Not that he gave any of this a second thought. He concentrated on what he did best—"swinging like crazy". Dick's relaxed nature belied the fact that he was always totally focused on the music. Stories are still told of tenor battles with Sonny Stitt and Teddy Edwards, where Dick more than held his own. I'll never forget the daunting task of having to follow a Morrissey solo -"each one carved from marble" Every night was a master class in jazz improvisation. In 15 years working together I never knew Dick to "coast" or take it easy. He always gave 100%.
I treasure the memory of the last time we played together. This was the Morrissey Mullen band reunion held at the Astor Theatre, Deal, last August. Dick had called me a week before the gig saying he wasn't sure he'd be well enough. Despite his years of ill health, Dick never lost his enthusiasm and gigs at his local pub in Deal did much to keep up his morale. I'm in the process of trying to get a Best of Morrissey Mullen CD released [“All Things Must Change - Best of Morrissey Mullen”] —both to raise money for Dick's family, and to help keep alive the memory of a great musician and friend. Jim Mullen
Dick Morrissey was a beautiful human being and a great musician. The warmth of his personality and his passionately swinging saxophone touched (or thawed) the hearts of many people, and his courage throughout his long last illness was extraordinary. His recorded legacy embodies his qualities, but he himself is sorely missed. Ian Carr
...one of our most outstanding tenor sax players, Dick Morrissey, provided a fitting climax for the evening. distinction, and of enduring value—-Dick Morrissey a player with a glorious true-to-tenor sound—yes, a huge-massive, one could emphasise—sonority, though always adaptable and sympathetic to the mood, tempo and content of the material selected for performance. A warm, perfectly controlled vibrato; a relaxed, refusing-to-be-rushed approach; complete control of the technical side of things. Then, what feeling, what conviction and poise! Ken Rattenbury
My memories of Dick are always associated with Terry Smith, both of whom changed my musical life when I discovered jazz in the late 60's. The Torrington in North Finchley was brave enough to try jazz on Thursdays and Sundays and it soon became a regular thing. Then "IF" hit the streets and my Beatle days were over. The interaction between Dick and Dave Quincy was stunning and Terry's innovative solos just mesmerising to see and hear. Their "live" performances were sheer musical perfection to my ears, and I will never forget the way John Mealing's keyboards made their music so much more unique. I have to say that his death had as much impact on me as when John Lennon died. He always had a friendly smile and acknowledged our appreciation of his music. Greatly missed.
In 1956, I was one of a rather motley collection of musicians, myself on trombone, Dick on clarinet, in an Air Training Corps hut in Beddington, Surrey. The musicians were distinctly on the traditional side, the instrumentation including `skiffle` objects such as tea chests, and we all, Dick included, loathed bebop. He was then a sixteen-year-old. His influences then were Johnny Dodds - born Waverly, near New Orleans, Louisiana, 12 April 1892 - and Monty Sunshine, then with Chris Barber - born Stepney, East London, 8 April 1928. Dick was hugely talented. He bought a clarinet one week and was playing in a band the next. We went different ways stylistically, and, I`m sorry to say, never met since. Mike Pointon
A particular thank-you to Dick Morrissey for his work in jazz-rock. There were not many mature musicians about in the 60's and 70's who could both swing and rock equally convincingly, but Dick had a perfect feel and mastery of both styles. Moreover, he had the rare talent of being able to blend the two synergistically, as evidenced by his playing and writing with the band IF. He has enriched this listener's musical life considerably. Many thanks.
The event of the year has to be the recent joyous, roof-raisin' reunion of the Morrissey-Mullen Band, the first time this seminal, influential British funk outfit has performed together for almost 15 years. An important and groundbreaking band, Morrissey-Mullen did much to bring to these shores the storming fat-funk vibe being created by legendary bands such as Stuff in the States in the late 70s. MM followers packed out the Astor Theatre in Deal, Kent, on 26 August, including a huge turnout of former players. More than simply a reunion, it proved to be a deeply emotional night. Fans who shared in this unique event report that the much-loved Dick Morrissey, wheelchair-bound these days as a result of seven years of illness, still blows a tenor like he's never been away, a testament to the depth of the man's talent and indomitable spirit. A delighted and uplifted Jim Mullen told Jazzwise after the gig that they are hoping to do it again, around Christmas or New Year. We're looking forward to it already! August 2000
On Saturday 5th December 1998, I was privileged to take part in the Dick Morrissey Reunion Concert at The Alma, Deal. The event was brilliantly organised by Martin Drew, in collaboration with Chris Morrissey and was in aid of the Pilgrims Hospice, Canterbury. The band was a re-creation of Martin's 'Our Band' with Dick Morrissey, Jim Mullen, Paul Morgan and myself, and as I knew Dick was in a wheelchair, I had expected him to play a few choruses on clarinet. How wrong can one be!! From the moment Dick 'drove' his electric wheelchair into the bar, announcing himself as 'Nanook of the North!' and piloting himself to his obviously regular spot - red rear light flashing on the back of his chair, the scene was set for a very special evening.
At this point I ask you to remember that I am writing this as a Ronnie Scott trained sceptic in all matters emotional. However!
We assembled in the newly decorated function room with an audience of around 120 seated plus several more standing and Dick removed the right arm of his wheelchair, produced his current 'shiny' tenor saxophone and proceeded to play as though he had never been away! The audience erupted with joy from the first few bars and I have never before experienced so much love coming from people, including us musicians, watching Dick and Jim produce their unique brand of jazz music. With Martin's swinging drums and Paul's driving double bass, this pianist had the space to absorb a truly magical event. I don't know where the first set went - the hour seemed to take about five minutes and after the interval, Spike Robinson added his unique sound to the band and the magic continued until closing time.
Among the many friends there whose names escape me, it was good to see Tony Crombie, Kenny Baldock, Tony Archer, Brian Blain, David Sinclair and Allan and Hariett Coleman. Spritually, the evening belonged to Dick Morrissey, but without the ability and organisation of Martin Drew, there would have been no evening. His efforts produced around £3,000 for the Pilgrims Hospice. Congratulations, Martin!
My final lasting impression is seeing Dick driving his wheelchair along the pavement, talking to his always attentive sister Liz about the gig and then waving 'Cheers, Critch', as he turned the corner in the frosty moonlight. Cheers, Dick! John Critchinson
UK saxophonist, composer, leader; also plays flute. Played with Ginger Baker and Phil Seamen in Harry South band (Sound Venture collaboration '66; sessioned on Georgie Fame's Two Faces Of Fame '67. Morrissey's own LPs incl. Storm Warning '67 and another with Jimmy Witherspoon at the Bull's Head '68, both on Fontana. Formed jazz-rock group If late '60s with guitarist Terry Smith, guitar; first LPs If and If 2 '70 incl. Dennis Elliott, drums; John Mealing, keyboards; Dave Quincy, sax; Jim Richardson, bass; J. W. Hodgkinson, vocals. If did not break through in UK due to absence touring in USA, where the market for jazz-rock was stronger. After If 3 and 4 '71--2 Morrissey was the only one left; a lineup with Dave Wintour on bass and Dave Greenslade on keyboards rehearsed but came to nothing when they left to form rock band Greenslade; Morrissey formed a new line-up with Cliff Davis, drums; Walt Monaghan, bass; Geoff Whitehorn, guitar; Gabriel Magno, keyboards; this group made Not Just A Bunch Of Pretty Faces '74 and Tea Break Over, Back On Your Heads '75, then split. Smith and Quincy formed Afro- rockers Zzebra for two LPs '74--5; Mealing went into production (Strawbs, others); Davis backed Ted Nugent; Elliott joined King Crimson. Morrissey then teamed with guitarist Jim Mullen (b 2 Nov. '45, Glasgow; led groups in Glasgow; came to London and worked with Pete Brown '69--71, Brian Auger '71--3). Both had worked with the Average White Band, Herbie Mann; as a team they likewise did not make the big time despite adding a dash of funk to suit changing fashion: they co-led albums Up '77 on Embryo, Cape Wrath and Lovely Day '79 on EMI/Harvest, renamed the group Morrissey-Mullen for Badness '81, Life On The Wire '82, It's About Time '83 on Beggars Banquet; This Must Be The Place and Happy Hour on Coda. (Beggars Banquet stuff also reissued on Coda.) They've since recorded with Cargo (see Mike Carr), 'playing superbly', as Anthony Troon put it in The Scotsman, 'as if they have escaped from a theme park'. Among the UK's most in-demand freelance musicians, apart from studio work their solo albums incl. Morrissey's After Dark '84 and Souliloquy '88 on Coda, Resurrection Ritual on Miles Music '89; Mullen released Thumbs Up '84 on Coda, Soundbites and Rule Of Thumb '94--5 on EFZ (the latter's booklet decorated with guitar picks, an in-joke: his fans know he relies on his thumb).From www.musicweb.uk.net/encyclopaedia /
Jazz Saxophonist Dick Morrissey's first experience with an electronic composer was playing saxophone on the Blade Runner soundtrack for Vangelis. He first played on Numan's Warriors album, then returned for The Fury, Strange Charm, Metal Rhythm/New Anger, and Outland.