Thu, 11 Jun 2020
THOSE of us around the Newbury music scene in the 1970s remember enjoying the wider success of our progressive jazz/rock band Tonton Macoute. Now, an LP track by the band is included in a new compilation album called Occasional Rain.
Tonton Macoute played a unique fusion of jazz-rock. The line-up was Paul French (keyboard/vocals), guitarist/ bassist Gavin Wilkinson (Chris Gavin), drummer Nigel Reveler and Dave Knowles (saxophones/flute).
They first worked together professionally in Europe in the late 1960s with the Dick Scott Company showband, and later as pop outfit Windmill, touring and
recording three singles with MCA. Morphing into Tonton Macoute, they toured extensively in the UK and Europe in the early 1970s, working in TV and radio, and recording an album.
The Tonton track included in the new compilation, which has been put together by Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs as a sequel to their English Weather collection, is Flying South in Winter.
It’s in good company, with other tracks by Traffic, Yes, Argent, the Moody Blues and Mott the Hoople. As the 60s moved into the 70s, it’s “the sound of young bands experimenting in a period of flux, feeling for a new direction”.
Tonton Macoute were signed to RCA/Neon Records and their album is now a collector’s piece, the niche label only signing four bands.
Gavin said: “The band had gigged unceasingly for several years before we recorded this album, and by then we were an intuitively cohesive unit. We recorded the album in three days, pretty much the way we would play a live gig.
“By then drummer Nigel Reveler and I had formed such a rapport that we even played each other’s mistakes in unison.
“Although none of us played the Tonton repertoire after the band split up, over the years we have played together for specific events, despite us all having gone in different musical directions.”
Two of the band members still live locally; Nigel, who lives in Yattendon, has spent a lifetime in the music industry alongside playing and Gavin has always been a well-known multi-media artist and musician, currently one of the organisers of Newbury Jazz Platform and its house band guitarist. Paul , who lives in Windsor, is a composer and arranger and Dave died in 2015.
The original album is available on CD (or vinyl for collectors) from record shops and all the usual online outlets, including Amazon. Google Tonton Macoute and listen to the tracks.