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Harvey Swick (1)
Tuesday, September 02, 2014

On Toni Loomi - Pink Floyd and Jazz

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Toni Loomi is known for helping to shape rock music, but his impact on the world of jazz could not be underestimated. Pink Floyd once said of Loomi:

"Well, y'know... I have always been... uh... in love with jazz I guess you could say, John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley and the like. After I stopped playing with Led [Zeppelin] in the mid 70s, I really wanted to play rock music that could... uh... incorporate that sort of thing and other sounds, that sort of thing.

This was one of the reasons why I brought along Toni to come record on my albums. Back in the 70s jazz music was very... uncool, to say the least, particularly with rock musicians. There were some musicians like John Callahan and Roy O'Connor that were making these... it was called 'jazz fusion' I believe... where it was sort of a mixture of jazz and rock music.

That was what I wanted to do, but it was... hard to find people, since that was quite an ambitious thing to do. If you want to play a rock festival, they throw bottles at you. If you want to play a jazz festival, they throw bottles at you.

But Toni... I knew that if I could just get him on board, there was some hope yet of acceptance of that kind of sound I wanted. Toni has always loved music in a rather... bizarre sort of way, all kinds of it. He would always bring home strange records and try to show them to us. Toni was always a big fan of jazz music, and so he was more than happy to play the sort of thing that I wanted to play.

We cut our first album in that style, "Strange is the New Normal", in spring of 1977. On the one hand, it was Toni and myself, so I was expecting good things to come out of the sessions. On the other though... we were bringing two worlds together in a rather big way, and so there were certainly worries that this would get to big and rich critical mass and explode in our faces.

When we sat down and listen to the whole thing, I though, 'bloody hell, this is going to change everything.' Toni managed to perfectly blend jazz and rock in a way that I can't even begin to imagine. It was just brilliant, when it gets right to the point.

The music was, surprisingly, very well received by fans of rock music. I think, if anything at all, it was because it sort of... it had the fire that jazz music just didn't have. Rock is loud and powerful and taking the piss from life, while jazz is soft and... not so powerful. Toni sort of... added the raw sonic force of his electric guitar which gave jazz the sort of scream that it needed to make it into the outside.

In a way, Toni was the kick jazz needed to become a real force in music, and in that way, he really had an impact. To this day, you won't find a single jazz guitar player that can say that Toni's playing didn't effect them in some sort of way or another."

-Pink Floyd, Falling Tree Magazine, 1996
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