Malcolm Cecil obituary | Electronic music


When Stevie Marvel met Malcolm Cecil at a New York recording studio one Could weekend in 1971, he was holding a duplicate of Zero Time, the album of digital music that Cecil and Bob Margouleff had simply launched underneath the title of Tonto’s Increasing Head Band. A few weeks away from his twenty first birthday, Marvel was in search of a method to set up his musical independence. Cecil invited him in, demonstrated the newly developed Moog synthesisers with which they have been working, and started a relationship that may assist rework Marvel, already a profitable soul singer, into a global celebrity.

Cecil, who has died aged 84, was an English musician who had as soon as been the double bassist in the home band at Ronnie Scott’s membership in London. Nevertheless it was his different vocation, as a recording-studio technician, that took him to New York and a partnership with Margouleff, a sound-effects skilled.

The pair have been thrust into prominence by their position within the sequence of albums with which Marvel freed himself from the creative restrictions imposed by executives at Motown, his report label. Music of My Thoughts, Speaking E-book, Innervisions and Fulfillingness’ First Finale, launched within the interval 1972-74, yielded such hit singles as Superstition, You Are the Sunshine of My Life and Living for the City, all of them enriched by way of synthesised sounds. In consequence, different main artists got here to them for a sonic replace. Cecil and Margouleff labored on the Isley Brothers’ hit single That Lady (1973), and on recordings by Gil Scott-Heron, Syreeta Wright, Quincy Jones, Bobby Womack, Minnie Riperton, Climate Report and plenty of others.

Stevie Marvel’s Sunshine of My Life, displaying the affect of Malcolm Cecil’s synthesised sounds

Born in London to folks who have been divorced when he was two years outdated, Cecil had a mom, Edna Cecil, who was a profitable skilled accordionist, and a father who gave up a musical profession to handle artists. Malcolm studied piano as a toddler, switched to drums at 13 and took up the double bass at 15. Quickly he was taking part in within the bands of the saxophonist Don Rendell, the pianist Dill Jones and the drummer Tony Crombie, whereas finding out physics on the London Polytechnic (now the College of Westminster) within the daytime. At 20 he was a founder member of the Jazz Couriers, a quintet collectively led by Tubby Hayes and Ronnie Scott.

Nationwide service as an RAF radar technician took him first to Somerset after which to the north-east of England, the place he began a membership in Newcastle upon Tyne, the Downbeat, with a neighborhood promoter, Mike Jeffrey, who later turned Jimi Hendrix’s supervisor. He additionally joined a neighborhood group, the EmCee 5, that includes the Carr brothers, pianist Mike and trumpeter Ian. Again in London after being demobbed in 1961, he turned a member of the Peter King Quartet, the Harry KleinVic Ash Jazz 5 (who toured the UK with Miles Davis), Alexis Korner’s Blues Integrated, and the band within the London manufacturing of The Connection, Jack Gelber’s play about junkies. With the Stan Tracey Trio, he backed many visiting American stars at Ronnie Scott’s, together with Stan Getz and Roland Kirk. He was additionally appointed principal bass with the BBC Radio Orchestra.

As soon as severe lung issues had restricted his taking part in engagements, he started to focus on electronics, putting in sound techniques in golf equipment. In 1967, having been advised he had solely three years to stay, he and his spouse, Poli, moved briefly to South Africa for the clear air and heat local weather, however the problematic expertise of attempting to arrange mixed-race live shows induced them to maneuver on.

A 12 months in Los Angeles, organising a studio for the singer Pat Boone, was adopted by a transfer to New York. There Cecil performed gigs with the guitarist Jim Hall whereas working as a technician on the Report Plant studio. He additionally met Margouleff, who was in search of somebody who knew learn how to programme the Moog III analog synthesiser put in in a basement studio referred to as Media Sound. After putting in a 16-track system there, on which Cecil engineered T Rex’s Electrical Warrior album (1971), they transferred the tools to Hendrix’s Electrical Girl studios, now managed, after the guitarist’s demise, by Jeffrey.

Malcolm Cecil, right, and Robert Margouleff performing live as Tonto’s Expanding Head Band in 1974.
Malcolm Cecil, proper, and Robert Margouleff performing stay as Tonto’s Increasing Head Band in 1974. {Photograph}: Michael Ochs/Getty Photos

Tonto, standing for The Authentic New Timbral Orchestra, was given its title after a second Moog and varied different synthesisers, sequencers and keyboards had been added to make music resembling a psychedelically reimagined model of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop’s Physician Who theme. Within the palms of Cecil and Margouleff, each of whom seemed like hippies, digital sounds turned greater than the kitsch novelty they’d appeared a few years earlier when Walter (later Wendy) Carlos used an early Moog on a bestselling album referred to as Switched On Bach. On one piece from the Zero Time album, referred to as Riversong, Cecil tuned the instrument to a 17-tone octave.

The duo’s collaboration with Marvel was shut and creatively intimate. “To work collectively the best way the three of us did, we needed to stay inside his thoughts, and he in ours, too,” Cecil advised Mark Ribowsky, Marvel’s biographer. “And Stevie actually did rely on us to make it proper. We weren’t simply the fellows who ran the synthesiser.” In 1973 they moved the Tonto tools to Los Angeles and have been so obsessive about sound that they recorded the string preparations for Marvel’s tracks in London as a result of, as Cecil defined to the singer, the violin gamers all had devices that have been greater than 100 years outdated.

The duo’s work with Marvel resulted in 1975 after a dispute over whether or not they need to be paid royalties they believed they’d been promised. That 12 months Cecil and Margouleff additionally break up up, the Englishman shopping for out his companion’s share within the challenge and shifting it to Santa Monica. He remained concerned in creating know-how and in later years taught music at a group faculty close to his dwelling in Malden-on-Hudson in upstate New York.

His work was performed, within the sense that the notion of synthesisers had been remodeled, and ultimately he supervised the reinstallation of Tonto in Canada’s Nationwide Music Centre in Calgary, the place it’s housed as a working exhibit alongside the tools from the Rolling Stones’ cell studio and considered one of Elton John’s pianos.

He’s survived by Poli and their son, Milton.

Malcolm Ian Cecil, musician, born 9 January 1937; died 28 March 2021



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