On 25 February 2009, the musician, broadcaster and Miles biographer Ian Carr died after a long illness. Ian was also a friend of mine, whom I met by chance on a street in central London in the 1980s. I said: “You’re Ian Carr!” He smiled and we went for a drink in a small coffee shop in Charing Cross Road (now long gone). After that, we stayed in touch.
Ian Carr with George Cole
Both of us shared a love for Miles’s music and Ian’s enthusiasm was infectious. Ian had met Miles a few times and interviewed him. Once, when Ian took along a copy of his book “Miles Davis – A Critical Biography” (updated in 1998 and published as “Miles Davis – The Definitive Biography.”), Miles signed it: “To the great Ian Carr.” Ian’s name is the last to appear in the acknowledgements section of Miles’s autobiography. Ian’s book on Miles will remain one of the major reference works for as long as people are interested in Miles Davis. Ian not only wrote articles and books about Miles, but he also scripted and presented a number of excellent radio programmes and series on Miles for BBC Radio. Whether he was writing or speaking about music, Ian’s enthusiasm leapt from the pages or into the air waves.In 1982, Ian made a programme about Miles for the ITV arts programme The South Bank Show. Ian also worked with director Mike Dibb on the highly acclaimed two-part television programme, The Miles Davis Story, which later went onto DVD.
Ian Carr’s BBC Award for Services to Jazz in the UK
Ian lived for music and I can remember that the walls of his flat in Brixton, London, seemed to be bulging at the seams with music books, CDs, music videos and music magazines. Despite all his achievements, Ian was a very modest man and you had to work hard to get any personal accomplishments out of him. Even now, I’m learning new things about Ian. Ian was very supportive when I started working on The Last Miles. I had many doubts as to whether I could complete such a project and Ian gave me lots of encouragement. Every now and then, Ian and I would talk on the phone or meet up with Tom Callaghan, another friend and fellow Miles fan. The three of us would have a meal in Kettners restaurant in Soho, London, and talk about jazz for hours. In 2006, Ian won both the BBC Services to Jazz and the Parliamentary Jazz awards, belated recognition of his enormous contribution to the jazz world. During the last few years of his life, Ian suffered from dementia and it was heart breaking to see such an enthusiastic, erudite and energetic man transformed by this terrible illness. I last saw Ian just before Christmas 2008, and I shall always cherish the fact that I knew this warm-hearted, talented, kind and remarkable man.
Roger Farbey has created a terrific website devoted to Ian and his music, which includes links to many Ian Carr tributes and obituaries: http://www.iancarrsnucleus.net/