Landscape’s first album was Thursday the 12th (1975), a mono, cassette-only release on the Jaguar label founded by British jazz pianist Gordon Beck, a fantastic musician we all admired. Other artists on Jaguar included Don Weller’s band Major Surgery, and Beck’s own band.
This album was made with the eight-piece version of Landscape that John formed after disbanding the John Walters Nonet in the summer of 1974. Thursday the 12th features music he had written while studying maths with physics at King’s College London. Some of the charts were quite demanding, and appealed to musicians who regarded the music as a challenge. (The one non-Walters number was ‘Sixty-One’ by trombonist Peter Thoms, who had just come back from a gig in Hong Kong.)
Peter brought fellow Australian Greg Lyon into the band as bassist, but Greg headed back home (to escape the English winter) not long after recording the rhythm tracks at Hendene Studios in Hendon, north London, autumn 1974.
For several months the eight-piece Landscape had a regular Sunday afternoon residency at the Troubadour, a venue in London’s Old Brompton Road famous for hosting folk legends such as Martin Carthy, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon.
While Landscape did the Troubadour, several guest musicians came and went, including the great Harry Beckett, memorably depping for Dick Pearce on one occasion. The one who came and stayed was bassist Andy Pask, then a student at the Royal Academy of Music.
The album recording process for Thursday the 12th was low budget and very simplistic by Landscape’s later standards, bouncing back and forth between two Revox tape recorders to make a mono mix. There was little room for error in the performances – we couldn’t remix. ‘Rainfall’, the most ambitious track, overdubbed the wind instruments three times to create a 16-piece jazz orchestra, very much in the style of one of John’s idols, jazz composer Michael Gibbs. (Gordon Beck was blunt: ‘It’s like Gibbsy, isn’t it?’)
Despite the low-fi sound, it was a critical success, earning rave reviews in the Times (Miles Kington), Time Out and elsewhere. Charles Fox requested an open-reel copy of the Beckett-inspired ‘Watt is Knott’ (featuring a gorgeous solo by Dick Pearce) to play on BBC Radio 3‘s Jazz Record Requests; the Beeb wouldn’t permit him to play cassettes.
Some tunes from Thursday the 12th remained in Landscape’s live repertoire for years, notably ‘T.T.S.’ (‘Twelve-Tone Shuffle’).
Re-mastering and re-issuing the album may require some digital cleverness.