Graham Livermore, who died last week, was the trombonist in Dave Anthony’s Moods throughout their existence. He was also, I think, my closest friend within the band. All 1960s groups had their internal frictions and ours was no exception: it’s unlikely that eight randomly selected personalities are going to get on, all the time, all together. So alliances would form, shift, split and realign. But Graham and I, I like to believe, stuck together.
He was a talented musician; nobody who heard him would question that. He could play anything you put in front of him, reproduce by ear a tune someone might hum or play to him, and (dare I say) improvise more thoughtfully than anyone else in the band. His solos on ‘Summertime’, which became his showcase number, were always melodies in their own right – sung from the soul, as it were – and I don’t think I ever heard the same one twice.
These qualities were, I suspect, not fully appreciated, by either his audiences or his colleagues, because Graham was the antithesis of a showman. The one time he had a crack at ‘mak show’, somewhere in the bleak Midlands, a stupid girl grabbed the end of his slide and did some damage to his trombone. Typically, he laughed it off, forgave her, got it fixed and carried on. I don’t think I ever saw him angry.
In Italy, we’d share rooms at whatever pensione we fetched up in. At our base camp in Milan, we evolved a system whereby the speakers were either side of the two beds, so each of us got his fair share of the stereo. We listened to one another’s music: I brought ‘Smiley Smile’, he brought Ornette Coleman. Later (once we’d been told to shut down the noise), he would use a set of coloured crayons to draw exquisite abstract visions, which he’d then screw up and throw away.
I haven’t caught the best thing about Graham, which was his dry, sometimes almost undetectable humour. Once, after listening to Coleman’s ‘Double Quartet’, he looked across at me and, with a straight face, enquired “Why do they play like that?” Another time, he pointed out that you could catch Coltrane, Davis and the rest repeating, recycling, the same licks in their solos. “I do wish I knew what they were,” he remarked.
When I was between marriages in the late eighties, we briefly became close again. He hadn’t changed in the intervening twenty years. He’d grown a lot of hair and beard, and was living in his parents’ house in what some might consider squalor. It didn’t matter to me.
I spoke to Graham once, on the phone, about three years ago. We had a nice little chat about music. He was, he confessed, “a bit stoned.” He spent his time, he said, making sculptures out of waste materials, which he hung from the ceiling.
“They’re all different,” he told me. I believed him.