The (very) early days...
The core membership of Jade Warrior is/was Jon Field (flute, congas, etc.) and Tony Duhig (guitar). During their youths, Jon and Tony independently developed an interest in Jazz, African music, and Latin American music. They met in the early 1960s while driving forklift trucks in a factory, and soon learned that they shared musical interests and intentions. At the time, they were just beginning to play instruments themselves (Jon a set of congas, and Tony a cheap guitar which he tuned quite unconventionally to open C).
Each of them bought a quarter-track tape recorder, capable of sound-on-sound "pingponging". They began composing their own music, and experimenting with building up multi-layered overdubbed amalgams of the sorts of music which moved them... all done with practically no money. Jon has described this process as "our training... trying to build a cathedral with the sort of things you'd find in your back yard." This complex layered and overdubbed sound would be a hallmark of Jade Warrior's music throughout their entire career to date.
They spent the next years going to clubs, listening to jazz and blues, and in 1965 formed a rhythm & blues band called "Second Thoughts" headed up by lead singer Patrick Lyons. Second Thoughts released one four-song EP. During the same period, Tom Newman (later the engineer for Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells), Alan James, Pete Cook and Chris Jackson had formed the first incarnation of the "Tomcats" (one of several bands known to have used this name).
In 1965, both of these two bands split up. Patrick Lyons departed, joining up with Alex Spyropoulos in a duo named "Nirvana" which subsequently released an on-the-charts single "Rainbow Chaser" and a total of five LPs (with Jade Warrior members performing on 1971's "Local Anaesthetic").
The Tomcats re-formed with a new line-up: Tom Newman, Alan James, Chris Jackson, Jon Field and Tony Duhig. The band spent the best part of 1965 and 1966 in Spain, acting as a spearhead for British pop music in that country. They released four EPs which did very well on the Spanish charts. The four EPs by The Tomcats were collected onto a single LP by Acme Records, and a pressing of The Second Thoughts' four-song EP was included.
After returning to England in 1966, the Tomcats were re-named "July", playing psychedelic-pop/rock written by Tom Newman and Pete Cook. July issued one album, which has been released in three different versions. The original version was July. A later release Second of July contains alternate versions and additional outtakes, and a third release Dandelion Seeds is a re-release of July plus the outtakes. July disbanded in 1968. Tony Duhig successfully auditioned for a role in a band called "Unit Four Plus Two" (who had released a hit song "Concrete and Clay" a few years earlier but had since lost all of its original members, save the lead singer). Other recent additions to Unit Four Plus Two were bass guitarist/vocalist Glyn Havard, and drummer Allan Price. This line-up of Unit Four Plus Two had a brief club tour in the U.K., and then broke up.
Musical ideas continued to develop and they hooked up with Glyn again to work them into songs. The first piece they worked on became 'The Traveller' (released on the first Vertigo album). They called the band Jade Warrior after one of the dance dramas they had composed for a London drama school.
The Vertigo Years
Jade Warrior put together some demonstration material, shopped it around and were signed to a record deal with Vertigo in the early seventies. According to Glyn Havard, this signing was due in part to the fact that they were being managed by Mother Mistro, the same company which was managing the "Afro-rock" band Assagai which was being actively pursued by Vertigo. Mother Mistro said "If you want a deal with Assagai, you'll have to sign Jade Warrior as well" and Vertigo agreed. This may have been helped along by the fact that their old band-mate Patrick Lyons - now Patrick Campbell-Lyons - had become an important producer and talent-spotter for Vertigo. This left Jade Warrior with a signed contract, but one with a record company which had little actual interest in the band and very little willingness to support or promote them.
With this basic line-up (with Tony's brother David Duhig, Allan Price, and Dave Conners also taking part at times) they released three albums in as many years on the Vertigo label: Jade Warrior, Released, and Last Autumn's Dream. They toured the U.S. once, as the opening band for Dave Mason and Earthquake. The tour was promoted by Mercury Records, which was pleased with Jade Warrior's sales in the United States. Mercury also arranged for Billy Gaff's Gaff-Masters Management to take over responsibility for the band, replacing Mother Mistro which hadn't done much since arranging the signing with Vertigo.
The band was apparently captured on film during this period. They, along with Rod Stewart, and several other bands were filmed at The Marquee Club in London as part of an event put on by Gaff-Masters Management. The whereabouts of this film are unknown.
After the end of the American tour, the band went back into the studio, and entered a rather troubled time marked by personal and musical disagreements among the members of the band. They completed an additional set of tracks, selected an album's worth and did a test pressing of Eclipse. Before the album was actually manufactured, Vertigo Records shelved it and cancelled the band's contract. At about the same time, the band began a second tour (of Holland this time), but it did not go well and was cancelled partway through.
As a result of the contract cancellation, and of the disagreements and pressures which had developed within the band, Jade Warrior dissolved. The band's first era was over. The Vertigo albums were followed by a retrospective/compilation album Reflections which includes tracks from Released and Last Autumn's Dream, and three tracks originally recorded for Eclipse. Reflections was released on Butt Records. Two other tracks from Eclipse were released on various versions of a Vertigo Records sampler LP called Suck It And See.
These "first era" albums are characterized by a style which has its base in rock music (some tracks are basically straightforward rock) with a Jethro Tull flavour, and significant admixtures of what we'd probably call "world music" influence today. Many of the characteristic "signatures" of Jade Warrior music were present from the beginning... rapid dynamic shifts between quiet and suddenly-very-loud-and-percussive, Jon's flute playing off against Tony's guitar, the use of the "wordless chorus" and the cyclical bell-tree themes, and a complexity of composition which reminds me at times of some classical music. Your average garage-rock band, these guys are NOT.
The three Vertigo albums were released on CD by the German label LINE in 1988. The CD transfers are disappointing - the sound is dull, distant, and muddy, with no liveness or sparkle - avoid - and go for the recent, much better, Repertoire releases.
Reflections has not been released on CD. The Eclipse album has been released by Acme Records, as both a limited-pressing LP and a CD. The post-Eclipse material (eight tracks, 36 minutes) has been released on the Background label by Hi-Note Music under the title Fifth Element.
Jade Warrior also did some movie soundtrack work during these years: writing and performing the main theme song of "Bad Man's River" (a re-spin of "Too Many Heroes" from the Eclipse album, with different lyrics), and also the music for the 1979 movie "Game for Vultures".
The Assagai Connection
Jade Warrior had some interesting interactions with fellow Vertigo band Assagai during this time. Assagai was anchored by respected African musicians Louis Moholo, Mongezi Feza, and Dudu Pukwana, and was signed by Vertigo in the label's attempt to capitalize on the popularity of Afro-rock bands such as Osibisa.
Assagai released two albums; the first (self-titled) contained their cover version of Jade Warrior's "Telephone Girl", and a song "Irin Ajolawa" co-written by Tony Duhig. The second album (released originally as "Zimbabwe", and re-issued by a different label under the name "AfroRock") contains covers of Jade Warrior's "Barazinbar" (from Released) and "Sanga" (from Eclipse), and a song titled "Kinzambi" written by Tony Duhig.
Duhig, Field, and Havard are credited with performances on the second Assagai album. They recorded one session together with several of the members of Assagai, under the band name of "Simba". Two songs from this session were released on a 45 single, and later issued on a multi-band collection LP entitled "Afro Rock Festival". The songs: "Movin' On" and "Louie Louie"!
The Island Years
Steve Winwood (of Traffic fame) had heard Jade Warrior's music, and had been quite impressed with it. He urged Chris Blackwell of Island Records to give Jade Warrior a hearing and consider signing them up to do some instrumental albums once they were available. Blackwell did so, liked what he heard and proposed that Jon and Tony re-form the band and sign a contract for three albums (later expanded to four) "as an ornament to my label". He was interested in a primarily instrumental sound (possibly as an Island label equivalent to the music of Virgin Records' new artist Mike Oldfield), and the contract offered by Island was not extended to include Glyn Havard.
On these Island albums Jon and Tony reorganized a bit, and took their music in a direction which was less overtly rock-oriented (but still uses many rock techniques) and towards a more theme-oriented approach to doing their albums. Once again, David Duhig played an occasional track, and there was a large and changing bill of associate musicians (including Steve Winwood and Fred Frith).
The four Island albums were released between 1974 and 1978 and were, almost without exception, VERY hard to get here in the U.S., and even harder to get in the U.K. Island's U.S. affiliate had lousy distribution and really fouled up the pressings and quality control in several cases.
1974's Floating World is a musical exploration of the Japanese concept of Ukiyo - floating along, free of cares, accepting life as it comes and conscious of beauty all around. The album's second side is punctuated by a striking "Monkey Chant" which combines a Balinese kecak chant with a Hendrix-influenced guitar solo by David Duhig. Waves, in 1975, carries us through dawn-lit countryside full of birdsong, downriver to the ocean, and out among the great whales. With Kites, in 1976, we drift through the aeolean landscapes of Paul Klee, and get a glimpse at 9th Century China and the wandering Zen master Teh Ch'eng. 1978's Way of the Sun arrives, like a thunder-filled dawn, in Central America before and after the arrival of the Hispanic conquerors.
In all four of these albums, the characteristic Jade Warrior sound and skills are applied to good ends. These albums have a similar sound, and yet they're individually unique. Jon Field has described this relationship as being like "...digging into a mountain, to find a pot of gold... you'd never quite get there, so you'd back off and come in again from a different angle."
These albums have been re-released on CD on Island, Island Masters, and/or PolyGram. Floating World and Way of the Sun are excellent CD transfers, available on the Island Masters label from the U.K. These two CDs were remastered by Jon Field, recovering the wide dynamic range that he and Tony wanted to achieve but were unable to capture on vinyl. Kites and Waves are rumoured to have been re-released individually on CD, but I've never been able to get any solid information about these alleged re-releases, and believe that this is an urban legend.
All four albums have been released by Island/PolyGram in a single two-CD set Elements. This set includes a retrospective essay and history of Jade Warrior, written by Vivian Goldman. Elements was issued by PolyGram without any prior notice to the band - in fact, PolyGram mistakenly believed that Jade Warrior had completely disbanded after Way of the Sun and had never recorded again. The albums were remastered for CD by PolyGram without Jon's creative input, and for this reason the result does not reflect Jon's desire to recapture the original dynamics that he and Tony had envisioned. They have recently been re-released on Eclectic records.
At some point during this period, Island Records' Chris Blackwell commissioned a live performance of the band. The performance would have included the band itself, and selected orchestral assistance. Some additional material was written and rehearsed, a venue was selected and rented... and the performance was cancelled shortly before its scheduled date, due to serious confusion and lack of follow-through at Island Records. To the best of my knowledge, Jade Warrior never again performed in a live venue.
The "missing years"
There was a long hiatus after 1978's Way of the Sun... long enough that I thought that Jade Warrior must have gone completely out of the business (not the first time I made that mistake, and not the last). During this time, Jon got divorced, and moved out of London to the country. Tony became ill, decided that he too was fed up with living in London, and moved to Glastonbury, first buying a house and then setting up a commercial studio a stone's throw away from Glastonbury Abbey.
Two albums were released during this period. Horizen was released in 1984 on Pulse Records, and didn't see release on CD until February of 2001. It's a darker and moodier album than the previous few, due in part to the "Dune" theme of one side. Horizen was almost entirely a Tony Duhig project - he wrote all of the music, and Jon performed on only a few of the tracks.
In 1989, At Peace was released on the British label Earthsounds. At Peace is perhaps the least typical of the Jade Warrior albums in many respects... it's far quieter, meditative, and could be classed as "ambient" music or even as "new age" (whatever that means). The composition and performance was simply credited to Jade Warrior; this album was apparently a Field/Duhig project with no additional musicians. According to one report, this album was recorded at Tony's studio, in only four days.
Jon Field is not particularly happy with either of these albums... He feels that he and Tony were not "following the rules" that made their musical collaboration so successful, and he does not consider either of these albums to be truly representative of Jade Warrior.
The Red Hot era
Jon sold his country house and moved back to London, doing session work on a bunch of pop recordings, playing at jazz clubs around town, and eventually setting up a small studio. While doing some session work at his studio, Jon met Dave Sturt, a young bassist from northern England. He was so struck by Dave's sound and music that he asked Dave to join his jazz combo, and then raised the subject of Jade Warrior. Jon hoped that he, Dave, and Tony could get Jade Warrior "back on track".
Jon and Dave were joined in London by Colin Henson, a guitarist that Jon had met through his girlfriend Carol Bellingham. They began "putting together some bits", sent some tapes up to Tony to listen to, and actually got together with Tony as a foursome for an evening of "light jamming". Colin says that this first jam, although "nothing that would ever have made it to CD", showed real potential for the new group line-up.
Before Tony was able to contribute to the new album Breathing the Storm, he had a massive and fatal heart attack. This was a hard blow for Jon - he remains very sad to this day about Tony's loss and about the fact that Tony was never able to play as part of the new Jade Warrior line-up.
Breathing the Storm was released in 1992 on the Red Hot Records label. Its theme is one of chaos, in the mathematical and physical sense - the fact that one small change somewhere in the world can have large, unexpected effects elsewhere. The album captured a relaxed and sometimes sombre mood. The addition of Colin's precise guitar playing and Dave's distinctive fretless bass provided new dimensions to the band's sound and has been critically acclaimed.
Late 1993 brings us to Distant Echoes, also on Red Hot Records. This album's theme reaches back to our ancestors: our human and pre-human forbearers who walked the earth long ago. The group line-up was augmented by a host of guest musicians including Theo Travis (of Gong and Soft Machine Legacy) and David Cross (of King Crimson). This album revisited some of the world music influences and extreme dynamics of the Island era and joined Breathing the Storm in receiving great reviews.
Work began on another album but various pressures resulted in the work being shelved. The band lay dormant for a decade but momentum built up over the last few years and musical ideas were passed around. After a few preliminary recording sessions a meeting was arranged with original vocalist Glyn Havard and he was invited to rejoin the fold. As the album progressed it became clear that Colin was not comfortable with the direction the band were moving in and so he decided to leave.
A New era
Their latest album NOW was released in 2008 on the WindWeaver Music label. It features guest appearances from Tim Stone on guitar,
Jeff Davenport on drums, saxophonists Theo Travis and Gowan Turnbull, pianist Chris Ingham, and Jon's daughter Charlotte, which musically reflects all eras of Jade Warrior with it's blend of classic seventies psychedelia, modern rock and orchestral arrangements.
On October 23rd 2008 Jade Warrior performed live at the Astoria2 after a 35 year absence from the live circuit.
History compiled from writings by Dave Platt and Charles Wilkinson.