Musical Career

Photographer

Ron Caines began playing saxophone while at Bristol Art School, and during this time became enthralled by the music of Charlie Parker. He worked in commercial rock and roll bands which led to sessions at the Star Club in Hamburg. Returning to Bristol he formed the Contemporary Jazz Quintet with David Arbus on trumpet, and this led to a BBC 2 recording.

He founded East of Eden with Geoff Nicholson on guitar and Dave initially on trumpet. They played the 1969 Actuel Festival in Amougies where Zappa, Beefheart , AACM and Soft Machine were also performing. Caines contributed original music and lyrics, and introduced ska material by Don Drummond and eclectic material including Mingus, Coltrane and the folk heart of Bartok (uniquely so for a pop band on a pop label in that pre-niche music era). In the climate of post-1968 Paris, where the band frequently played, their combination of theatre and live improvisation struck a chord with audiences and critics. The band's single Jig-a-Jig, subsequently re-released by Decca and promoted as a novelty instrumental, anticipated the genre of Celtic Rock, but its success effectively overshadowed the true direction of the group, and this confirmed Caines' disaffection with commercial music.

In 1977 he joined Bristol Co-operative, the first improvisors' co-operative in the UK. He co-ordinated the Festival of Improvised Music, Arnolfini Bristol 1979 featuring Evan Parker, Derek Bailey and Leo Smith. He played in Keith Tippett's Ark, and various collaborations at venues including Glastonbury, Bracknell, and ICA. He worked with Larry Stabbins, Paul Dunmell, Julie Tippetts and others, and played with Steve Lacy.

Caines summed up his musical aims at this time:

"I am interested in improvised playing as a means of working directly with ideas, a process which the audience and musician can share at the moment of creation. To me it is not unlike drawing, and it is this evidence which is the work - unlike a 'finished painting', where the process which has taken it to that point, of being 'finished' has been brushed out."

Around 1989 he formed Parkers Mood, with Nigel Jefferies on piano, playing an Arts Council tour, including Brecon Jazz Festival. He also performed original compositions for film, television and radio.

He moved to Brighton in 1995, concentrating on painting, and gave up musical performance due to the long term effects of a tendon injury. However in 2008 he began performing again, initially with Brighton's Safehouse Collective and other local musicians.

Caines is essentially interested in the idea of 'presence' and 'expressiveness' and the concept of the artist or musician as 'author'.

Reviews

On East of Eden - "Since the Amougies festival, East of Eden have been a revelation, in performance- as opposed to on record - the musicians confront the audience, present their themes then break down the structure, and free the material from the limitation of form! In this respect it relates to Dada and 'anti-music' or 'anti-art'."
Paul Alesandri, 'Rock and Folk', Paris 1970.
On Parkers Mood - "Succeeds in treading a dangerous path through an improvisation. He showed again what a dextrous player he is and illustrated in a few phases how his own playing even at its most abstract has its roots in Parker's one man revolution."
Dave Broom, Venue, 1989
"He found top form when his influence became the whirling eccentricity of Eric Dolphy."
Derek Briggs, Gloucester Echo
Ron Caines Quartet. "Caines has honed his style to a fine edge of emotional and lyrical qualities".
Phil Johnson, Independent on Sunday, 1992
"He showed a mastery that in the context of local jazz was quite stunning.. best of all was a sustained work-out on Tenor Sax"
Phil Johnson, Venue.
"Brighton free-jazzers West Hill Blast Quartet apply their lungs to a range of unconventional instruments on this second album: melodica, bamboo saxophone, shenai, bird whistle. Small percussion instruments add to the mix, taking the band's classic New Thing sound into the glistening textural environments associated with Art Ensemble Of Chicago or Brotherhood Of Breath's 'Night Poem'. Veteran UK jazz and improv saxophonist Ron Caines is on fine form, negotiating the the rhythm section of Gus Garside and Andy Pyne's open forms with an edgy lyricism. Bolide member and Wire scribe Daniel Spicer is the wild card, adding playful DIY/freak-folk elements with his rag-bag of small instruments. A terrific piece of underground British jazz."
The Quietus, January 2015

PHOTOS

With East of Eden:

With Evan Parker, Festival of Improvised Music, Bristol, 1979:

With Keith Tippett, Bristol Arts Centre:

Playing Safehouse, Brighton:

With Broken Star at Spirit of Gravity, 2011:

Playing at the Coach House, Brighton, 2012. Photo by Mel Pressman.

At Safehouse Brighton, 2012.

With Broken Star

West Hill Blast Quartet, The Hope, Brighton

West Hill Blast Quartet, Green Door Store, Brighton

Out and about: