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9 May 1970
from Pete Senoff in Los Angeles
Can a pharmaceutical chemist be the right ingredient in the formula for an ever-successful fave-rave rock and roll assemblage? Is Raquel Welch a woman? The answer to both of these most pertinent questions is emphatically yes. The latter, though near and dear to the heart, is best saved for another time ... sorry Raquel. But the first ... ah, yes ... The pharmaceutical chemist in question is one John Evan, the newest member of Jethro Tull and a keyboard artist, at that.
So who's John Evan, right? Better you should ask: Who's Jeffrey? Actually, John Evan, back in Grammar School days, used to lead a band that included the famous Ian Anderson and the mysterious Jeffrey in its ranks. What's he doing with Jethro Tull now, after almost a decade? Ian Anderson explained it:
"Well, having become pretty expert in the field of playing the piano, I thought it would be nice to give a new boy a try. No, actually what it amounted to was playing in the studio. It was beginning to become a matter of doing much too much overdubbing. I mean, the songs were more complex, though still with our apparent simplicity which makes the whole thing more relevant to the people who don't deeply involve themselves in the actual music from a technical point of view. But nevertheless, our music is becoming more complicated, in terms of construction. It was pretty important at that point, as far as the recording was concerned, to be doing it in a way that still sounds live and immediate and not become a series of cut pieces of tape joined together in overdubs ... all the time, every time.
"So after having played like that for about the first two tracks that we recorded for this album (Benefit), with me playing piano, I got to a point where I felt it was necessary to find someone else to do the piano. John was still at the University when I asked him to come and play on our sessions. John freed us so that the whole thing became more simple and direct ... more spontaneous and with a live feel to it. We liked the final results and that's the way it worked really. I mean, at that point in time, I had sort of vague ideas about asking John to join the band, which I really didn't voice to anyone else. But that's the way I felt. I felt in playing on stage, we could do with somebody else to help.
"But had John not been available, I wouldn't have asked anyone else to do it. It's only because I know John. We've spent a lot of time together, living in the same place, all the time he's been at the University and I've been playing. It's only because of that that we asked anybody else into the band, really. Had he not been available, we'd still have been a four-piece group and I would have played piano."
Evan elaborated on his earlier relationship with the frantic Mr Anderson.
"I met Ian during the first year at Grammar School, when we were both about 11 ... gad, that was 11 years ago ... wow! when we were in the same classroom. We sat on opposite sides of the room and really didn't talk to each other much. But when we got into other rooms, separated, we, for some some reason, started talking to each other and found out that we both wanted to do the same pop music thing; to have a go at it, anyway. So we formed this group ... with Jeffrey."
And who, actually, was the mysterious Jeffrey?
"Oh ... he was just a mysterious guy. Nobody knew him, aside from Ian and myself. He was the bass player."
The name of that high-schoolish group was the John Evan Group ("It sounded better than calling it the Ian Anderson Group"). Judging by the group's latest West Coast concerts on this new tour, Evan fits in perfectly with the overall Tull sound ... still a vehicle for the dramatic mastery of Ian Anderson. Unlike a Nicky Hopkins-type soloist, Evan uses the keyboard as more of a filler and builder to the Tull musical form; creating more complex melodies, yet, as aforementioned, not straying from the basic Jethro Tull simplicity.
The group's current tour stretches through the beginning of June, lapses a month (resumed in England), then re-initiates for the summer festival season in America.
Many thanks to Glenn Cornick for this article