A picture of John Altman and Peter Green

The two are definitely on the same wavelength here. I really like this photo. They had a band then, quite jazzy, Peter getting modal, Bitches Brew, out there, groovy, John on every reed and woodwind he could get his hands on. Hippie brilliance. He was so good, that Peter Green, and the horizon was limitless, such were the times. 1970. Jimi lived, the Beatles still were. Miles was a rock star and blues, rock, jazz and eastern sounds swirled together in a perfect ever changing mix. Musicians siphoned that mix into their own sound, their own bands. This was another of those bands, with Peter Green and John Altman and other outstanding London musicians. I wish I could find the names (although that is English bluesman Duster Bennett on harp, and vocalist Danny Da Costa left his story in the comments below), but there’s nowhere to look that I can find. It was an ephemeral moment, lost but for a photo and memories four decades old. There were so many of those throw together bands then. There’s stories, there’s legends. The ultimate, you’ll remember, was Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis together. That was the ultimate band, the dream band, the jazz rock band of all jazz rock bands. And that band never even existed. Miles sent the music over to Jimi. Jimi couldn’t read music. That ended that. Peter Green’s jazz rock band–the name, if they had one, escapes me–did play one storied gig at a packed London club. This might be a photo of that gig. If not, there’s another I’ve seen, Peter with a soloist’s concentration, John waiting his turn, two or three saxophones and a clarinet hung round his neck. That’s all I know, though, a couple photos, John Altman’s stories and an anecdote or two by audience members who commented on John’s Facebook page.  No audio, no video, just a couple photos and memories. And then Peter met some strange Germans, took a chemical trip to Valhalla, and that was that. 1970 was a rotten year for rock ‘n roll, full of dead and wounded and the missing in action. A rock star Viet Nam.

Look again at the photo. I have no idea who took it, but  it’s one of those perfect shots, so vivid, and with such great composition, that it goes beyond the visual and you can almost hear the music and follow the action and catch the vibe of the moment. That’s a rare thing, those shots. You can look through a mess of  Facebook galleries and a pile of photo albums and not see one. I don’t think a person gets more than a couple of shots like this in a life time. One that people can see generations later and think wow, that’s what it was like. But music fans look at a photo like this and they sigh. They wonder what might have been, and they sigh.

John Altman and Peter Green

Peter Green and John Altman in 1970. Duster Bennett in the background..

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2 thoughts on “A picture of John Altman and Peter Green

    • According to John Altman (look him up on Facebook), Green was heading in a much jazzier direction, and he certainly had the skills. Alas this band was never recorded and only a few weeks later he went on the fateful psychedelic trip to Germany and it was all over.

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