TRIBUTE: Mike Carr (1937-2017) by Wally Houser

Mike Carr

MIKE CARR, the younger brother of the late trumpeter Ian Carr, has passed away on Friday 22 September at the age of 79. The news came from Lance Liddle’s Bebop Spoken Here site (LINK). Mike Carr’s organ playing was a regular fixture at Ronnie Scott’s. This tribute is from Walter Houser, who acted as legal counsel to Ronnie Scott’s club for several decades. Wally writes:

Mike and I were friends for more than 50 years.

His jazz career is well known.

He was born in South Shields and moved to London in the early 1960s His first major jazz group in the north east was the MC5 with his brother Ian on trumpet, Gary Cox on tenor. Malcolm Cecil on bass and Ronnie Stephenson on drums. They were hard boppers and the band was outstanding

After he moved to London Mike took up the organ – Hammond B3 to be precise. He ultimately owned a large number of them.

He became for me (and for others) simply the best jazz organist in the world. His solos were always note perfect compositions more informed by Hank Mobley or Blue Mitchell than Jimmy Smith. He also exploited all the possibilities of the instrument. Including the bass pedals which he really made swing.

For a while he was part of the Ronnie Scott Trio. He also had a duo with Tony Crombie and later a trio with Peter King and Bobby Gien on drums who was replaced by Kenny Clare. My fondest memory of Mike at his imperious best was when this trio played Sax No End. It was a big band piece re-arranged for trio by Peter King . Superb.

Mike was part of or led many groups. Too many to list

His personal life became rather sad after the desertion by and subsequent death of his wife left him to care for a son and a disabled daughter . In fact he gave up the possibility of a glittering international career to care for his daughter helped greatly by his son Robert

Mike was a keen tennis player and in the seventies he and I would play two or three times a month. He always beat me

In 2011 came the first signs of dementia. He and I spoke on the phone until about 2014 when that horrible condition made it impossible. He was a really good man with endless infectious enthusiasm for music.

Mike Rest in peace

Wally Houser

Categories: miscellaneous

8 replies »

  1. “He became for me (and for others) simply the best jazz organist in the world.”

    Spot on.

    I used to see Mike Carr regularly in the early 70s when he was in Ronnie Scott's Trio with Bobby Gien. I have such fond memories of those performances, and Mike's playing was central to them – not least the incredible pedal work.

    So sorry to read of the difficulties in his personal life, but at least he's at peace now. Not that there's likely to be too much peace around as sadly Ronnie and Bobby passed on before him so the Trio is doubtless swinging again!

  2. Yes, a fine player (who even passed me a couple of gigs). The fondest memory arises from when I was dispatched to Ronnie's to interview Dizzy Gillespie in the back office and, while Mike was blowing up a storm on stage, Dizzy was engaged playing checkers with Mike's then teenage daughter.

  3. We have lost another truly great musician. Mike Carr could swing like an outhouse door in a gale. I heard him with Dick Morrissey on a couple of occassions. Never a note out of place. RIP Mike Carr. Your legacy lives on through your music.

  4. Mike was a fantastic musician & always willing to talk music when we met on gigs. A Geordie through & through….Now playing duets with Ian!
    R.I.P. mike

  5. Mike was a fantastic player on any of his three instruments, but I guess his organ playing was his “love”. We always had a chat at a gig, both of us being Geordies. Your music will live on.
    R.I.P. mike.

  6. I first came across Mike when I purchased an album in London. I bought it because it had a Hammond Organ on the front! I was getting into jazz piano and on listening to this record had to own a Hammond. I have subsequently owned too many to mention….! I then got to know Mike. A priveledge and honour. To call a man of his ability and standing in the jazz world a friend is indeed very special, as was Mike. A passionate musician as many others have said, but more than that a brilliant musician, pianist, vines player and of course Hammond Organ – including the bass pedals – a skill not shared by his American counterparts. For me he was by a mile the best organist in the world. A more modern approach than most well known Americans based on classic bebop phrasing that swung like the clappers. I went to his house many times and shall miss his comments like ‘don’t worry about the neighbours – just put your foot down’
    RIP Mike

Leave a Reply