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In the mid-70s drummer Roger Odell was working with the band Northern Lights and his rhythm section partner was bassist Trevor Horn, who later formed Buggles (“Video Killed The Radio Star”) before becoming a producer and working for Seal, Simple Minds, Yes, etc.
Seeking more musically challenging material than the Top-Twenty hits and radio jingles they were playing with Northern Lights, Roger asked Trevor to join a band he intended forming to play the emerging jazz-rock fusion music of groups like Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters, Chick Corea’s Return To Forever and Weather Report.
Looking for a keyboard player and a guitarist, Roger found both in his home town of Bishop’s Stortford. Keith Winter was the prodigious guitar-playing son of Derek Winter, a local bandleader with whom Roger had played some years earlier. Bill Sharpe was known to Roger as a flautist/guitarist, but when his considerable keyboard skills were revealed he was the obvious choice to complete the group. Ex-CMU guitarist Ian Hamlett also became an occasional member.
After rehearsing enough material for a two hour performance, Tracks began what was to become a residency every Sunday lunchtime at Triad Arts Centre in Bishop’s Stortford, soon attracting an enthusiastic audience who would travel some distances to hear the band.
When Trevor left the band to become Musical Director of the Tina Charles Band (former lead vocalist with Northern Lights), his replacement was Martin Elliott, later to join Michael Nyman. Keith also joined Tina’s band, whilst still remaining as the guitarist with Tracks.
When Martin left the band his replacement was John Dover, who was the bassist in one of Roger’s first professional groups and later worked with Keith in the band Scoundrel.
Although starting with a repertoire based around the afore-mentioned groups, Tracks soon began to develop original material from within the group. Luckily, Bill was working as a Trainee Engineer for the BBC and was allowed to record groups during “training time”, so in November 1979 Tracks entered the studios at Maida Vale, London and recorded what was to become their Limited Edition 12″ Mini Album of which only 100 copies were produced.
These vinyl records sold out quickly at their Triad residency and because of their rarity they soon became “Collector’s Items”. In fact, on a recent trip to Bratislava, Slovakia, the bass playing promoter of a Shakatak concert there owned a cassette copy (of a copy, of a copy) of the original vinyl. The word had truly got around!
Resulting from session work in London, Bill, Keith & Roger were Invited to record some original material composed by Bill. This resulted in the first recordings of the band that with the later addition of George Anderson (bass guitar), Jill Saward & Jackie Rawe (vocals) became the original Shakatak line-up.
Roger Odell – Drums
I first began playing drums at about the age of 14 in a band that we formed at my school, Buckhurst Hill County High, and later I played in various dance bands in the Essex/Herts area. In my late teens I formed a modern jazz group and played regularly at The Greyhound in Harlow, and this led to my meeting up with jazz pianist Alan Gowen. The trio we subsequently formed with John Hosey on bass continued to play in the Harlow area, and as a rhythm section we accompanied most of the top names on the UK jazz scene. I also played in a student big band run by members of the John Dankworth Orchestra in London.
I turned fully professional in the 70’s with the Cambridge group C.M.U., touring throughout the UK and Europe and recording two albums for the Transatlantic label. These were called “Open Spaces”, and “Space Cabaret”, and have just been re-released on one CD on the See For Miles label- SEECD373. This group featured my wife Larraine as lead vocalist.
Towards the end of the 70’s I formed a jazz-rock band called Tracks with Trevor on bass, Bill Sharpe (keyboards) and Keith Winter (guitar). When Trevor left to form Buggles his replacement was Martin Elliot, now with Michael Nyman. Ian Hamlett, formerly of C.M.U., and bassist John Dover also played with Tracks. We recorded an EP which we released on “white label”, and sold at our regular Sunday lunch-time gig at Triad Arts Centre in Bishops Stortford. This is now available on CD.
As well as being a member of Shakatak, I free-lance in other situations and I also run my own bands, often featuring my wife Larraine as vocalist. Our son Jamie (Jimpster, Audiomontage, DJ, Re-mixer) is a keyboard playing Producer/Engineer rapidly making a name for himself with a variety of projects including The Bays, and we have a daughter, Maxine, who graduated from Coventry University with a degree in Culture, Communication and Media, and is now living and working in London. In late ’99, early ’00, I co-produced my own CD with Jamie, which features among others, Larraine and Jacqui Hicks on vocals, Mornington Lockett on saxes, Jamie on keyboards, Maxine on backing vocals, and myself on drums. The group is called Beatifik, and the CD is entitled “The Blue Window”.
Bill Sharpe – Keyboards
After graduating from Birmingham University with an honours degree in music, I started to work for the BBC as a studio manager. At the same time, I continued to play in bands as I did throughout my years at school. One of the bands was called “Tracks” which comprised of Roger Odell, Keith Winter and Trevor Horn.
1980, along with Keith and Roger and producer Nigel Wright, I formed Shakatak. We toured the UK extensively during the early eighties and signed with Polydor records. In 1982 we had our first top 20 hit with “Easier said than done”, one of the hits that I wrote for the band. Others include “Night Birds”,”Invitations”, “Dark is the Night”, “Down on the Street” and “Mr Manic and Sister Cool”.
In 1983, international success began for the band in Europe, America and particularly in Japan where “Night Birds” became one of the biggest selling international albums of all time.
As the band’s success continued through the 80’s, I released my first solo album “Famous People” in 1985. One song on the album featured Gary Numan. Called “Change your Mind” , it became a top 20 hit and also heralded the start of a successful collaboration with Gary under the name of “Sharpe and Numan”.
Apart from working with Gary , I also found time to write with and for other artists all over the world. From Yusuko Agawe in Japan to Annabella from “Bow Wow Wow” in the UK.
As the 90’s began , Shakatak and I found ourselves touring less and recording more due to the demand for recordings particularly in Japan. Our music was becoming very popular in America in the contemporary jazz market where they had two consecutive number 1 albums.
At this time, since the band’s schedule was less hectic, I found time to start writing music for television which has remained an interest to this day. In 1996, through my consultancy work for Technics keyboards, I met the great jazz musician Don Grusin and after spending time helping with the design and specs for some new Technics products in Japan, we became good friends. In 1997, I had the time and opportunity to record my second solo album and asked Don Grusin to co-produce the record with me in Los Angeles. This enabled me to work with some of my favourite American musicians including Alex Acuna, Paulinho da Costa, Abe Laboriel as well as the great soul singer Jeffrey Osborne.
The album is titled ‘State of the Heart” and has received critical acclaim worldwide. In the ensuing years, I have continued to record and tour with Shakatak and we have just released our latest album, “Emotionally Blue”, in 2007. There will be a new album later this year – look out for that! As far as my solo projects are concerned I recorded an album with Don Grusin called “Geography” which you can download from my http://www.billsharpe.com. we’ll be working on a new album this year so look out for that. I also recorded a solo piano album of shakatak songs.
Martin Elliott – Electric bass
I turned professional in December 1978 and since then I’ve been lucky enough to play for many great musicians and singers, plus I have travelled all over the world.
Over the past 30 years or so some of the jobs I’ve had include playing for: Michael Nyman, Gary Numan, Michael Ball, Shirley Bassey, Bucks Fizz, Petula Clark, The Nolans, Alice (Italy), London Saxophonic, Franco Battiato(Italy), The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Soweto String Quartet, Sacha Distel, Ute Lemper, Matt Munro, the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra and many others, plus I’ve played in theatres for: “Grease”, “Cats”, “Les Miserables”, “Chess”, “Whistle Down The Wind”, “The Beautiful Game” and I’ve played many TV, radio, album (recently for John Barrowman and Will Martin) and film recording dates.
A couple of TV jobs that I’m most pleased to have done are: playing on the theme tune of “Blue Peter” (when it had a slapped Fender Jazz…I’m sure you remember that…) and playing my fretless on the show “Bottom” as part of the “Bum Notes”. During the late ’80s I played in the orchestra for “New Faces”, plus I regularly played in the house band for “Wogan”. I have also been involved as a co-producer with the Michael Nyman Band, for the piece “After Extra Time” and London Saxophonic, for the CD “An Eye for a Difference”.
In 1997 I had the unusual and privileged opportunity to perform a modern opera – “Dirty Tricks”, with music by Paul Barker – that was accompanied by solo bass guitar. I have also recorded a “concerto” for bass guitar written for me by the Spanish composer Chema Rivas.
Keith Winter – Guitar
A professional session player and gigging guitarist from the age of 19, Keith Winter went on to become a founder member of the 80’s jazz funk band Shakatak. The band achieved considerable chart success both here and abroad and toured extensively.
At the end of the 80’s, during an extended spell of nothing but recording, Keith felt the need to get out and play live again, returning to his early rockier roots with the band ‘Before The Storm’.
With Keith as the main composer along with singer Steve Scales, the band played some 200 gigs in and around the London area and was attracting record company interest when Keith fell ill with a very rare condition that considerably damaged his sensory nervous system and left him severely disabled and unable to play the guitar or even walk properly. The consultants were of the opinion that recovery was unlikely due to the extent of the damage, so some seriously nice guitars and amps got sold!
But amazingly, 21 years later and against all the odds, Keith has now recovered and is back playing again. Initially he started playing guitar with his daughter Cara, a young pianist and singer songwriter (myspace.com/carawinter). He then formed an 8 piece band called ‘Have You Heard’ with local musicians to play a selection of Pat Metheny Group tunes and has got back together again with Steve Scales as ‘Another Storm’ (myspace.com/anotherstorm) playing the tunes written back at the start of the 90’s, with new material and CD planned for 2011.
The icing on the cake as far as he is concerned is the return of ‘Tracks’.
Master of Ceremonies for the evening was the erudite Gareth Williams-James
This gig was a truly rare stunning blast from the past and they should reform much more often to play their unique blend of Jazz Rock Fusion. Tonight they played many great numbers including:
Jalna An original Tracks number written by Roger Odell – meaning of the title is somewhat obscure!
Monday Jump Another song penned by Roger Odell – we leave to you the meaning of the song title!
Maiden Voyage Tracks interpretation of the famous composition by Herbie Hancock from his 1965 album Maiden Voyage
Queen Mab A Tracks tune based on A Tale Entwined in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
Freeway written by Bill Sharpe
Freeway Play based on Bill’s original Freeway
Following the Jazznights raffle of 3 jazz cd’s Tracks then continued foe the second set numbers including:
Arjen’s Bag from John McLaughlin’s Extrapolation is the debut album by jazz guitarist John McLaughlin.
Dreams of E.B. Frankenstein composed by Ian Hamett one of the original guitarists of the Cambridge C.M.U. band
Down Wind from Cerberus
El Mar by George Benson from the White Rabbit album.
Coast To Coast written by Bill Sharpe another of tonight’s tunes from the original 1979 Tracks album.
Snoopy’s Search – 1:02 / Red Baron as featured on the the debut album by jazz fusion drummer Billy Cobham
Spain is an instrumental jazz fusion composition by jazz pianist and composer Chick Corea. It is probably Corea’s most recognized piece, and some[who?] would consider it a modern jazz standard and what a great finale for this memorable gig.
Sunday 11th September 2016 – ANITA WARDELL (voc) will be at Jazz Nights.
With a career dating back to the 1990s, Anita has enjoyed more than two decades of success and last year she was pronounced Best Jazz Vocalist at the British Jazz Awards. She has made many critically acclaimed albums whilst commanding the respect of her peers and she has a brand new CD out now called “The Road” on the Specific Jazz label.
THE BEST IN BRITISH MODERN JAZZ is at Jazznights, The Bell Hotel. Clare, Suffolk. CO10 8NN
Admission £10. Doors open 7.00 pm. Music 7.30 – 10.00 pm.
Reserve seating on 01787 237653 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Pay on the night.
You can join us at facebook, read reviews of previous performances on more opinions blog or tweet at twitter.com/jazznightsuk
Pictures from past gigs can also be seen HERE
For further information on future gigs go to www.jazz-nights.com