Raymond Kent - a message from Edward...

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Raymond Kent - a message from Edward...

Post by Nonsuch » Mon Apr 17, 2023 10:32 am

Dear Mike,

First of all, thank you for your considerate email, and your sensitivity in conveying its sadness.

And it is with great sadness to relate that Raymond Kent, our friend and fellow musician in The Times passed away earlier this month. Our thoughts are immediately with his family, particularly his brother Martin and our mutual friends Paul Kendall, Rob Vasey and Richard Evans.

Raymond was a tremendous friend to all who knew him well. If you were the type of person who valued intelligent discourse he was always right on the nub with reasoned, considered conversation that was empathic and balanced. Gossip and bad-mouthing were given, in football parlance, a drop of the shoulder and a polite 'excuse me'.

Also, he may be the first person i ever met who had a google-like knowledge of music, somewhere over the horizon, beyond the land that my friends and i inhabited.

Cool music, where Miles Davis, Tony Williams, Glenn Gould, African and Middle Eastern musicians, and then Soft Machine, The White Noise, Peter Green to the latest electronic/concrete experiments du jour would fill the air of his flat in Electric Avenue.

He was also profoundly funny, not in a default cynical or sarcastic way, more a distillation of Michael Palin's Height-of-Python/Oxford Uni (where Ray also studied) period, colliding with Tom Courtenay's portrayal of Billy Liar; in fact, first time i met him i thought he was the spit of the young Courtenay. That alone would've got you in The Times, looking like a sixties icon!

But of course, he was an innovative musician too, as the body of work he leaves behind shows; his presence on This Is London, Hello Europe and Enjoy fulfilled soundscapes that we distinctly lacked on Pop Goes Art!. His ability to play non-related instruments as disparate as the tablas, flute and classical guitar, gave us our very own Brian Jones. And his personal compositions, one of which we recorded, 'El Aragua' (beautifully performed as a duo with John East), always displayed a great sense of melody and arrangement with a questing nature towards rhythm patterns.

In my mind, his performances on our records were the wooing bit of the Times sound, Ray as this free-roaming musical spirit in the middle of John East, Paul Damien / Simon Smith and myself. The problem was, this was not always displayed in the public image of the band as he was also an excellent photographer and as often as not was on the wrong side of the lens.

I met him through Rob Vasey and Paul Kendall in 1980. Paul had a small recording studio in Covent Garden that almost exclusively recorded the various offshoots of the original 3 piece Dry Rib after Rob's departure. Ray seemed to feature in all of them. He caught my eye as the keyboard player in Mike Mullholland and Andrew Goodwin's new Dry Rib alongside Paul Kendall and Joni Sackett. His style on these songs seemed to have an ironic sixties vibe that pricked my ears and prompted me to invite him to join The Times. Our brief to Ray was the Zombies sound with lashings of XTC's Barry Andrews. He went beyond that and gave us the Ray K Sound.

But more tellingly, his personal fulfilment as an artist might be reflected in his recordings with As, Hem, Syrup alongside Lindsay Lancaster and Rob. Ray played a wicked style of drums that seemed to encapsulate everything in his head. Now that i think of it, it reminds me of Robert Wyatt, with the spirit of Tony Williams lurking close by, but like everything he did, always with that Ray of Kent sunshine.

In fact, the last time Ray and i played together, i had a full drum kit and a fender rhodes piano set up in my flat. We put Bitches Brew on the sound system and played right along, Ray behind the kit picking up all those jazzy inflections, me doing bad Chick Corea impressions. The CD finished and we carried on obliviously, jamming for about an hour afterwards. On and on, set free by the Miles groove. Even now, over a week later after hearing the sad news, it still makes me weep to recall this.

Our finest moment together? Perhaps live in Italy 1985. Exhausted and shattered after a long journey through the snow from Germany to Italy. Raymond and i rebelled against the rehearsed version of Picture Gallery, causing John East and Simon Smith some initial consternation, and went Ratledge and Barrett (again, another poor impression from me) on the rhythm section and the poor unsuspecting audience. But what a performance!

Thank you for reading this long eulogy, and remembering with me the star that was Ray Kent. He really was an original. Safe journeys, my fellow crusader....


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