Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Digging into the jazz side of Raphael Ravenscroft

It’s one of rock and roll’s most distinctive and memorable saxophone riffs – ever. In fact, many would argue the sax work was primarily responsible for transforming Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” into a mega hit.


Rafferty and producer Hugh Murphy had considered a variety of instruments for the tune’s long instrumental break. Young U.K. saxophonist Raphael Ravenscroft got the call and laid down the bluesy riff for what became the featured track on Rafferty’s 1978 album City to City.  

"Baker Street" catapaulted Ravenscroft's productive career as a respected studio musician, saxophone technique book author, composer and film music scorer. After the Baker Street success, he went on to be featured on recordings by Alvin Lee, Pink Floyd, Robert Plant, Marvin Gaye, ABBA, Kim Carnes, Mike Oldfield, Mary Hopkin,  Bonnie Tyler, Roger Waters, Willie & The Poor Boys, and Phil Collins' Brand X, among others.


In an interview on the BBC’s The One Show in 2010, Ravenscroft’s memory of the recording session was that his "Baker Street" solo was “actually out of tune.” He also said his playing was inspired by the searing / soaring guitar explorations of Jimi Hendrix.


Ravenscroft has played a bit of jazz over the years, but has no significant discography to show for it. That's our loss.

 In 1979, Ravenscroft signed with CBS Portrait label, for whom he recorded a solo album, Her Father Didn’t Like Me Anyway. Released only on vinyl, the jazz-tinged album was categorized more as smooth jazz – with some originals plus covers of rock tunes.  

 Some of his jazz work can be found on YouTube, including several tracks from a May 22, 2009 jazz fundraising concert at Exeter Cathedral (he was living in Exeter at the time). Ravenscroft was part of a band that was backing singer Felicity Mares. In terms of audio quality, “Girl From Ipanema” is the strongest of those tracks.


According to Wikipedia, Ravenscroft retired in the summer of 2012 due to poor health.

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