Daryl Runswick El Plantano
Norma Winstone, voice
Strains for Laine's Brains
One for Denis
The story of this music's genesis is curious. It was the brainchild of Denis Preston (1916-79) the legendary jazz record producer who brought Humphrey Lyttleton, Stan Tracey, Joe Harriott, Tony Coe and Indo-Jazz Fusion to the public, among many others, in a career spanning decades. He even had his own record label under the EMI banner, Lansdowne Jazz. But perhaps Denis was getting old. In 1978 (this is my best guess as to the date but my diaries for the period are lost) he got in touch with me about a new project. His latest 'discovery' was to be Mike McKenzie (I'm sorry I can't find a picture) a Trinidadian pianist/singer, already middle-aged, who had a residency at a nightclub in Mayfair – Berkeley Square, if I remember correctly. This was to be Mike's record, to be sold on the door at the nightclub as the punters left. Mike was to be the nominal bandleader though the actual musical director on the recordings would be me. In a further twist, Denis prescribed that the musical style was to be Latin Fusion in the manner of Carlos Santana. What this had to do with Mike McKenzie and his cocktail jazz I never worked out. I just took the gig. I knew little of Carlos Santana either, and I'm sorry to say I didn't trouble to find out. The Latin Fusion tag was good enough for me, though I hadn't expected three drummers.
Denis also dreamed up the title, which he thought a great joke: 'el plantano', he told me, is the Spanish for 'banana tree'. Only one problem: it isn't. 'Platano' is the Spanish for banana, I find in Google. Have I mis-remembered? Was Denis mistaken? Or was he pulling an even faster one than I thought? Whatever – El Plantano has come down the years with me and will stay that way, meaningless as it is.
Denis assembled an eclectic but stellar band for me to write for – surprisingly not including Mike McKenzie. He was brought in when the tracks were almost complete, to overdub a backing vocal here, a piano improvisation there. Denis also imported an Australian fiddler, Don Harper, to spice up some parts he (Denis) thought were undercooked (I didn't). It was all very strange: but I kept my cool, put on a suave face and out of this melange somehow managed to weave some pretty acceptable music. At Denis's behest I arranged two of Mike's songs (to which I added music of my own: only one is included here) and I composed two pieces specifically for the project. To these we added my arrangements of one song each by John Taylor, Tony Coe, Ornette Coleman and Paul Simon (this last also omitted here). As arranger I went to town, thinking symphonically as I had with the Hymas/Runswick Big Band. The album was recorded – with spectacular playing and wonderful soloing from everybody – mixed and mastered, and we awaited release. Then the news came that Denis Preston had died. How far he had got in the process of issuing the record I don't know, but it never came out. I rescued a set of test mixes from Lansdowne Studios when they closed some years later. This is the music's first exposure to the public. I hope you enjoy it.
Recorded at Lansdowne Studio A, London, perhaps 1978.
Produced by Denis Preston. Engineer Robert Butterworth.
These compositions and recordings are covered by