A History of Jade Warrior (version of 28 June 2010)

This file contains some history and commentary on the British musical group Jade Warrior. It's gleaned from a number of sources and is believed to be mostly accurate. It contains some commentary by its author Dave Platt which should be taken as "author's comments only".

The early days...

The core membership of Jade Warrior is/was Jon Field (flute etc.) and Tony Duhig (guitar). During their youths, Jon and Tony independently developed an interest in jazz, African music, and Latin American music. They met in the early 1960s while driving forklift trucks in a factory, and soon learned that they shared musical interests and intentions. At the time, they were just beginning to play instruments themselves (Jon a set of congas, and Tony a cheap guitar which he tuned quite unconventionally to open C).

Each of them bought a quarter-track tape recorder, capable of sound-on-sound "pingponging". They began composing their own music, and experimenting with building up multi-layered overdubbed amalgams of the sorts of music which moved them... all done with practically no money. Jon has described this process as "our training... trying to build a cathedral with the sort of things you'd find in your back yard." This complex layered and overdubbed sound would be a hallmark of Jade Warrior's music throughout their entire career to date.

They spent the next years going to clubs, listening to jazz and blues, and in 1965 formed a rhythm&blues band called "Second Thoughts" headed up by lead singer Patrick Lyons. Second Thoughts released one four-song EP. During the same period, Tom Newman (later the engineer for Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells), Alan James, Pete Cook and Chris Jackson had formed the first incarnation of the "Tomcats" (one of several bands known to have used this name).

In 1965, both of these two bands split up. Patrick Lyons departed, joining up with Alex Spyropoulos in a duo named "Nirvana" which subsequently released an on-the-charts single "Rainbow Chaser" and a total of five LPs (with Jade Warrior members performing on one of them: 1971's Local Anaesthetic).

The Tomcats re-formed with a new lineup: Tom Newman, Alan James, Chris Jackson, Jon Field and Tony Duhig. The band spent the best part of 1965 and 1966 in Spain, acting as a spearhead for British pop music in that country. They released four EPs which did very well on the Spanish charts.

The four EPs by The Tomcats were collected onto a single LP by Acme Records a couple of years ago, and a pressing of The Second Thoughts' four-song EP was included. As far as I know this collection was never released on CD.

After returning to England in 1966, the Tomcats were re-named "July", playing psychedelic-pop/rock written mostly by Tom Newman. July issued one album, which has been released in three different versions. The original version was July. A later release Second of July contains alternate versions and additional outtakes, and a third release Dandelion Seeds is a re-release of July plus the outtakes.

Jon Field described the July album to me in terms which make it pretty clear he thinks it's utterly terrible (or at least rather embarrassing) and wishes it'd never been released. Other folks who have heard it seem to have a more favorable opinion of it, considering it a significant piece of late 1960s psychedelic pop.

July disbanded in 1968. Tony Duhig auditioned successfully for a role in a band called Unit Four Plus Two (a group which had released a hit song "Concrete and Clay" a few years earlier but had since lost all of its original members save the lead singer). Other recent additions to Unit Four Plus Two were bass guitarist and vocalist Glyn Havard, and drummer Allan Price. This lineup of Unit Four Plus Two did a brief club tour in the U.K., and then broke up.

At some point during this period, Tony took some time off to tour around Iran - I'm not sure whether this took place before or after his stint with Unit Four Plus Two.

Post-July, Jon learned to play flute, and wrote music for a couple of dance dramas that a friend was putting together for a drama school he was attending.

After Tony and Glyn left Unit Four Plus Two, they put a few musical ideas down on tape, and hooked up with Jon again. Their material worked so well together that the three were encouraged to form a band, joining Glyn's words, vocals, and bass with Tony and Jon's music and compositions. They called the band Jade Warrior.

Origins of the name "Jade Warrior"

I've heard three different stories for the origin of the name Jade Warrior:

The Vertigo Years

Jade Warrior put together some demonstration material, shopped it around, and were signed to a record deal with Vertigo in 1970 or 1971. According to Glyn Havard, this signing was due in part to the fact that they were being managed by Mother Mistro, the same company which was managing the "Afro-rock" band Assagai which was being actively pursued by Vertigo. Mother Mistro said "If you want a deal with Assagai, you'll have to sign Jade Warrior as well" and Vertigo agreed. This may have been helped along by the fact that their old band-mate Patrick Lyons - now Patrick Campbell-Lyons - had become an important producer and talent-spotter for Vertigo. This left Jade Warrior with a signed contract, but one with a record company which had little actual interest in the band and very little willingness to support or promote them.

With this basic line-up (with Tony's brother David Duhig, Alan Price, and Dave Conners also taking part at times) they released three albums in as many years on the Vertigo label: Jade Warrior, Released, and Last Autumn's Dream. They toured the U.S. once, as the opening band for Dave Mason, Long John Baldry, and Earthquake. The tour was promoted by Mercury Records, which was pleased with Jade Warrior's sales in the United States. Mercury also arranged for Billy Gaff's Gaff-Masters Management to take over responsibility for the band, replacing Mother Mistro which hadn't done much since arranging the signing with Vertigo.

The band was apparently captured on film during this period. They, Rod Stewart, and several other bands were filmed at The Marquee Club in London as part of an event put on by Gaff-Masters Management. I haven't been able to track down a copy of this concert/event anywhere. If you have a tape which you believe might be of this concert, please contact me!

After the end of the American tour, the band went back into the studio, and entered a rather troubled time marked by personal and musical disagreements among the members of the band. They completed an additional set of tracks, selected an album's worth, and did a test pressing of Eclipse. Before the album was actually manufactured, Vertigo Records shelved it and cancelled the band's contract. At about the same time, the band began a second tour (of Holland this time), but it did not go well, and was cancelled partway through.

As a result of the contract cancellation, and of the disagreements and pressures which had developed within the band, Jade Warrior dissolved. The band's first era was over.

The Vertigo albums were followed by a retrospective/compilation album Reflections which includes tracks from Released and Last Autumn's Dream, and three tracks originally recorded for Eclipse. Reflections was released on Butt Records. It's probably the second-cruddiest vinyl pressing in my collection... great music, terrible sound. Two other tracks from Eclipse were released on various versions of a Vertigo Records sampler LP Suck It And See.

These "first era" albums are characterized by a style which has its base in rock music (some tracks are basically straightforward rock) with a Jethro Tull flavor, and significant admixtures of what we'd probably call "world music" influence today. Many of the characteristic "signatures" of Jade Warrior music were present from the beginning... rapid dynamic shifts between quiet and suddenly-very-loud-and-percussive, Jon's flute playing off against Tony's guitar, the use of the "wordless chorus" and the cyclical bell-tree themes, and a complexity of composition which reminds me at times of some classical music. Your average garage-rock band, these guys are NOT.

The three Vertigo albums were released on CD by the German label LINE in 1988. The CD transfers are disappointing - the sound is dull, distant, and muddy, with no liveness or sparkle. It sounds as if a noise-reduction system was cranked up high enough to eliminate all traces of master-tape hiss, and took most of the music's treble and ambience with it. A common mistake in the first generation of CD re-releases, I understand; LINE is reported to have done this to other albums as well. In addition, it appears as if LINE did not have access to the original master tapes from the Vertigo/Polygram vaults - reportedly, they used a set of copies provided to them by Tony Duhig. To make matters even worse, it has been determined that the two of the three CDs - Jade Warrior and Last Autumn's Dream - were somehow mastered with the left and right channels out of phase (the polarity of one channel is reversed)! This causes much of the low bass to cancel out, and causes the stereo image to be blurred, indistinct, and prone to wander. Aargh!

These albums were reissued on CD by the Hi-Note label in the autumn of 2000. These versions are far superior to the LINE issues. They were meticulously remastered from a much better set of tapes (second-generation studio masters) recovered from Polygram's vaults. They were subsequently re-issued by Air Mail Archive in Japan, and then in a digitally-remastered form by Repertoire Records. The Repertoire editions are currently in print and are the ones to buy!

Reflections has not been released on CD. The Eclipse album was been released by Acme Records, as both a limited-pressing LP and a CD. The post-Eclipse material (eight tracks, 36 minutes) was released on the Background label by Hi-Note Music under the title Fifth Element. Both of these albums have been reissued on CD by Repertoire Records.

Jade Warrior did some movie soundtrack work during these years: they wrote and performed the main theme song of "Bad Man's River" (a re-spin of "Too Many Heroes" from the Eclipse album, with different lyrics), and did the music for "Game for Vultures". Jon's reaction when I mentioned these soundtracks to him might be summarized as "restrained horror".

The Assagai Connection

Jade Warrior had some interesting interactions with fellow Vertigo band Assagai during this time. Assagai was anchored by respected African musicians Louis Moholo, Mongezi Feza, and Dudu Pukwana, and was signed by Vertigo in the label's attempt to capitalize on the popularity of Afro-rock bands such as Osibisa.

Assagai released two albums; the first (self-titled) contained their cover version of Jade Warrior's "Telephone Girl", and a song "Irin Ajolawa" co-written by Tony Duhig. The second album (released originally as "Zimbabwe", and re-issued by a different label under the name "AfroRock") contains covers of Jade Warrior's "Barazinbar" (from "Released") and "Sanga" (from "Eclipse"), and a song "Kinzambi" written by Tony Duhig.

Duhig, Field, and Havard are credited with performances on the second Assagai album. They recorded one session together with several of the members of Assagai, under the band name of "Simba". Two songs from this session were released on a 45 single, and later issued on a multi-band collection LP entitled "Afro Rock Festival". The songs: "Movin' On" and "Louie Louie"!

The Island Years

Stevie Winwood (of Traffic fame) had heard Jade Warrior's music, and had been quite impressed with it. He urged Chris Blackwell of Island Records to give Jade Warrior a hearing, and consider signing them up to do some instrumental albums once they were available. Blackwell did so, liked what he heard, and proposed that Jon and Tony re-form the band and sign a contract for three albums (later expanded to four) "as an ornament to my label". He was interested in a primarily instrumental sound (possibly as an Island label equivalent to the music of Virgin Records' new artist Mike Oldfield), and the contract offered by Island was not extended to include Glyn Havard.

On these Island albums Jon and Tony reorganized a bit, and took their music in a direction which was less overtly rock-oriented (but still uses many rock techniques) and towards a more theme-oriented approach to doing their albums. Once again, David Duhig played an occasional track, and there was a large and changing bill of associate musicians (including Stevie Winwood and Fred Frith).

The four Island albums were released between 1974 and 1978 and were, almost without exception, VERY hard to get here in the U.S., and even harder to get in the U.K. Island's U.S. affiliate had lousy distribution and really fouled up the pressings and quality control in several cases. I felt as if I was on a hunt for the Holy Grail, trying to get a good copy of "Way of the Sun"... it took me almost a year. Jon has commented that Blackwell wanted to have the albums, but didn't seem to want to sell them to anyone - as a result, distribution and publicity were rather spotty.

1974's Floating World is a musical exploration of the Japanese concept of Ukiyo - floating along, free of cares, accepting life as it comes and conscious of beauty all around. The album's second side is punctuated by a striking "Monkey Chant" which combines a Balinese kecak chant with a Hendrix-influenced guitar solo by David Duhig. Waves, in 1975, carries us through dawn-lit countryside full of birdsong, downriver to the ocean, and out among the great whales. With Kites, in 1976, we drift through the aeolean landscapes of Paul Klee, and get a glimpse at 9th Century China and the wandering Zen master Teh Ch'eng. 1978's Way of the Sun arrives, like a thunder-filled dawn, in Central America before and after the arrival of the Hispanic conquerers.

In all four of these albums, the characteristic Jade Warrior sound and skills are applied to good ends. These albums have a similar sound, and yet they're individually unique. Jon Field has described this relationship as being like "...digging into a mountain, to find a pot of gold... you'd never quite get there, so you'd back off and come in again from a different angle."

I'd suggest Way of the Sun as a good album to use to introduce someone to Jade Warrior for the first time... it's perhaps the most accessible of these four albums and gives a real sense for the richness of their music.

These albums were been re-released in the early 1990s on CD on Island, Island Masters, and/or Polygram. Floating World and Way of the Sun are excellent CD transfers, available on the Island Masters label from the U.K. These two CDs were remastered by Jon Field, recovering the wide dynamic range that he and Tony wanted to achieve but were unable to capture on vinyl. Kites and Waves were rumored to have been re-released individually on CD, but I've never been able to get any solid information about these alleged re-releases, and believe that this is an urban legend.

The Island Masters CDs were among many manufactured in that era which were subject to a form of corrosion known as bronzing, which causes the reflective media to deteriorate and become unplayable.

All four albums were released by Island/Polygram in a single two-CD set Elements. This set includes a retrospective essay and history of Jade Warrior, written by Vivian Goldman. Elements was issued by Polygram without any prior notice to the band - in fact, Polygram mistakenly believed that Jade Warrior had completely disbanded after Way of the Sun and had never recorded again. The albums were remastered for CD by Polygram without Jon's creative input, and for this reason the result does not reflect Jon's desire to recapture the original dynamics that he and Tony had envisioned. This set went out of print during the first quarter of 1998, was reissued by Island U.K. in February 2001, and went out of print a year or so thereafter.

The sound quality of the Elements elements collection was somewhat poor, suffering from an overall "brightness". In addition, the last minute or so of the Waves album is omitted from the CD, presumably due to lack of recording space on the CD.

All four albums were reissued in 2006 by Eclectic Discs, under license from Universal. The Eclectic discs were remastered from the original Island tapes, with what appears to be extreme care and good taste - the sound quality is excellent, and the tonal balance closely matches the Island Masters versions done by Jon Field. All of the original cover artwork is included, as are a new set of liner notes and a writeup of the band's history (written by yours truly). Unfortunately, Eclectic went bankrupt early in 2007, and the supply of these discs has dried up.

The Eclectic discs are being reissued in 2010 by Esoteric Recordings (a division of Cherry Red).

If you don't currently own any Jade Warrior recordings, the Eclectic/Esoteric CDs are an excellent place to start!

At some point during this period, Island Records' Chris Blackwell commissioned a live performance of the band. The performance would have included the band itself, and selected orchestral assistance. Some additional material was written and rehearsed, a venue was selected and rented... and the performance was cancelled shortly before its scheduled date, due to serious confusion and lack of follow-through at Island Records. To the best of my knowledge, Jade Warrior did not play again in a live venue until their 2008 reunion concert at The Astoria 2 in London.

The "missing years"

There was a long hiatus after 1978's Way of the Sun... long enough that I thought that Jade Warrior must have gone completely out of the business (not the first time I made that mistake, and not the last). During this time, Jon got divorced, and moved out of London to the country. Tony became ill, decided that he too was fed up with living in London, and moved to Glastonbury, first buying a house and then setting up a commercial studio a stone's throw away from Glastonbury Abbey.

Jon has described this time as "total disaster". Tony mortgaged his house to fund his studio, and had terrible problems getting enough paying clients to cover the mortgage payments. Jon found that while spending time in the country was good for his inspiration, it was bad for his ability to get serious work done. Tony was extremely busy (and distracted and stressed out) trying to get enough work to pay for the studio, and found it difficult to do any work on Jade Warrior material.

In the end, the bank foreclosed, and Tony lost his house... a terrible blow.

Two albums were released during this period. Horizen was released in 1984 on Pulse Records, and didn't see release on CD until February of 2001. It's a darker and moodier album than the previous few, due in part to the "Dune" theme of one side. Horizen was almost entirely a Tony Duhig project - he wrote all of the music, and Jon performed on only a few of the tracks.

In 1989, At Peace was released on the British label Earthsounds. At Peace is perhaps the least typical of the Jade Warrior albums in many respects... it's far quieter, meditative, and could be classed as "ambient" music or even as "new age" (whatever that means). The composition and performance was simply credited to Jade Warrior; this album was apparently a Field/Duhig project with no additional musicians. According to one report, this album was recorded at Tony's studio, in only four days.

I understand that At Peace was released on both CD and on analog cassette but not on vinyl. It was reissued in early 2001 by Earthsounds.

Jon Field is not particularly happy with either of these albums... "I think of both of them with a deep loathing" are his exact words. He feels that he and Tony were not "following the rules" that made their musical collaboration so successful, and he does not consider either of these albums to be truly representative of Jade Warrior.

The Red Hot era

Jon sold his country house and moved back to London, doing session work on a bunch of pop recordings, playing at jazz clubs around town, and eventually setting up a small studio. While doing some session work at his studio, Jon met Dave Sturt, a young bassist from northern England. He was so struck by Dave's sound and music that he asked Dave to join his jazz combo, and then raised the subject of Jade Warrior. Jon hoped that he, Dave, and Tony could get Jade Warrior "back on track". Jon and Dave were joined in London by Colin Henson, a guitarist that Jon had met through his girlfriend Carol Bellingham. They began "putting together some bits", sent some tapes up to Tony to listen to, and actually got together with Tony as a foursome for an evening of "light jamming". Colin says that this first jam, although "nothing that would ever have made it to CD", showed real potential for the new group lineup.

Before Tony was able to contribute to the new album Breathing the Storm, he had a massive and fatal heart attack. This was a hard blow for Jon - he remains very sad to this day about Tony's loss and about the fact that Tony was never able to play as part of the new Jade Warrior lineup.

Breathing the Storm was released in 1992 on the Red Hot Records label. Its theme is one of chaos, in the mathematical and physical sense - the fact that one small change somewhere in the world can have large, unexpected effects elsewhere. The specific change Jon talks about is the "doing good" of the Tibetan monks, and the way that their effort to do good spreads outwards throughout the world.

To my ear, this album is somewhat less focused than the strongest of the Island-era Jade Warrior... the loss of Tony Duhig's skills is noticeable. Other peoples' opinions about this album seem to vary - one listener describes it as his favorite of all of the Jade Warrior albums In any case, the general "feel" of the album is still, quite definitely, that of Jade Warrior.

Late 1993 brings us to Distant Echoes, also on Red Hot Records. This album's theme reaches back to our ancestors: our human and pre-human forebearers who walked the earth long ago. The group lineup is the same as in Breathing the Storm with some guest performers joining in.

In theme, composition, performance, and sonics, this is a tighter and more powerful album than Breathing the Storm. The closest comparison I can offer is to Way of the Sun in that it's a strongly-tempoed glimpse backwards to a past culture... but the focus is set far further in the past, and the themes are less familiar to us than the pre-Hispanic culture glimpsed in Way of the Sun. It is, at first, less accessible than Way of the Sun, but I find that it grows on me as I continue to listen to it. I'd rank it as one of their best.

The mid-1990s and onwards...

For the last 15 years or so, the standard question about Jade Warrior seems to have been "Have they broken up, or will they make another album some day?" That question remains quite valid.

As of June 15th, 1996, the answer was "There's another album on the way!" I spoke with Jon Field, and he said that they're "midway through" the production of the new album. It's an album with two different themes - images from the life of Crazy Horse, and ancient Egypt. He said he's quite happy with how it's working out, and that "it won't be long."

The sound of the new album may hark back to the layered "analog" sound of the Island era. Jon and Dave have been doing more work with combinations of digital sampling (to "capture" valuable sounds for re-use), analog techniques and synthesizers, the use of field recordings and field-captured sounds, and large-space ambience. Jon has recovered some raw-materials tapes from the Island sessions, permitting some of the sounds used on the Island albums to be sampled and used again. He's also found a tape with some of Tony Duhig's earliest guitar work, and spoke of the possibility of combining Tony's guitar work with new tracks recorded by himself, Dave, and Colin.

As of the end of 2001, the new album had not yet appeared, and little or no further progress has been made during the past few years. Jon, Colin, and David were living in separate areas of England and have found it very difficult to get together to work on the new album.

Jon described himself as being in "semi-retirement" from music at this point. He's working as a professional artist/illustrator, with a special interest in World War I fighter planes. He, his wife Carol (nee Bellingham), and their utterly delightful daughter Charlotte live in London.

Jade Warrior... NOW

And then, things changed. Again.

In 2000, Jade Warrior's original bassist and vocalist Glyn Havard reappeared on the scene. He and alumnus David Duhig joined up as a duo named Dogstar Poets, releasing one tuneful album.

In the summer of 2005, Glyn officially rejoined Jade Warrior, joining with Jon Field, Dave Sturt, and Colin Henson to work on a new album. After about a year of work, Colin withdrew from Jade Warrior, citing severe creative differences with the other band members. The new album NOW was completed during the first half of 2008 and was officially released on 30 June 2008. It's a powerful and often-emotional album, which mixes Glyn's lyrics and vocals with Dave's fretless bass and Jon's flutes (and a score of other instruments played by these band members and a sterling cast of supporting musicians). Not simply a rehashing of earlier Jade Warrior efforts, NOW stands by itself as a new incarnation of the unique Jade Warrior sound and character and (I certainly hope) the start of yet another thriving period in the career of Jade Warrior!

A few months after NOW was released, Jade Warrior played its first live concert in over three decades at The Astoria 2 theatre in London.

Further developments...

As of this writing (June 2010), Jade Warrior is working on not one, but two new albums.

One is a "song album", described as being a successor to NOW.

The other, code-named Haiku, is an instrumental album based on a series of modern haiku poems.

The band intends to work on both albums in tandem, and to post tracks from the albums on their official web site at JadeWarrior.com

Go to the Friends of Jade Warrior home page

Go to the Jade Warrior discography