Monday, September 13, 2010

Dave Tarr

I did an earlier posting on Dave Tarr and other musicians we soaked up in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but this new batch of drawings focuses primarily on Dave, who was a good friend of my eldest brother, Ian, as both did an art matric at the Belgravia Art School in East London under Barry Gibb.



As noted earlier, Dave played fiddle along with a myriad other instruments, and was a key member of the Silver Creek Mountain Band. He later also played with Ramsay McKay, formerly of Freedom's Children. But we mainly caught Dave doing the pub scene accompanied by guitarist and vocalist Trevor Promnitz. Most of these drawings were done at venues in East London, in particular the Hotel Osner. This is a watercolour I did of an original sketch done in situ. You'll notice, when viewing the original, below, how difficult it is to capture the sense of movement, and excitement, in a more formal picture.



Part of the beauty of the quick sketch is that it does not fully conform to anatomical, or any other, strictures. Here you are following the movement of the musician, and lines fly off the figure and onto the page as the song unfolds.



Here I have done Dave front-on, the lines in a way echoing the labyrinthine sounds he would weave. It was an electric violin, so Dave was using it as a rock instrument most of the time. He also recorded with Wildebeest later in his career, alongside Piet Botha, son, would you believe it, of Nat cabinet minister Pik Botha.



The whole idea of drawing while musicians are themselves creating, lends itself to a sort of artistic synergy, which I think is reflected here. You can just notice that Dave has the strings of his bow going over all the violin strings, with the bow itself behind the neck. In this way he would play chords.



These drawings, it must be remembered, were done in the midst of "the jol", with the beers flowing. Also, the room would have been fairly dark, with the musicians well lit. I have used the technique mentioned way earlier while I was at art school whereby, by and large, I don't even look at the paper, but allow the lines to sail off the figure and onto the page.



The same semi-abstract feel is evident in this quick study of two waiters.



Here is a study of one of the patrons watching the performance, which was held in a pub-like set-up, with people seated at tables.



One of very few quickies I did of both Dave and Trevor in action.



This pencil sketch, from another time, another place, I later worked into an oil painting. I think it captures something of Dave's inherently gentle nature.



From the same gig, this time he is seen slightly from behind. Dave would pour out notes in great avalanches of sound, especially on solos like The Orange Blossom Special.



As noted earlier, he was at home on numerous instruments, and here, in typical pose, he launches into some sounds on the mandolin. I also heard him play flute, penny-whistle, recorder and acoustic guitar. He had a great singing voice, and on occasion did superb versions of Hobo's Lullaby and The Streets of London. Tragically, Dave died about 10 years ago of skin cancer. Few musicians can survive on their art alone, and from early on Dave, who had a skipper's licence, earned a living skippering rich people's yachts around the globe for them. It was that exposure to the sun which eventually took its toll, I belieive. Not having seen him for about a decade, I had a chance meeting with Dave at the PE Yacht Club around 1986. It was a Saturday afternoon, and I was there with photographer Barry Lamprecht doing a story about yachting. We had just returned to the club after being taken out in a yacht and having seen southern right whales rolling about in Algoa Bay. I was on my second beer when Dave came in, saying that an impending cold front had made him cut short his voyage from Durban to I think Cape Town. Fortunately, he had among his crew a young woman who played fine guitar and I persuaded Dave to bring out his fiddle. He entertained us with some superb Irish sea shanties. He had two young daughters at the time of his death, and even more tragedy befell them when their mother died of cancer not long after Dave's untimely death.



Underrated in the presence of Dave's genius was Trevor Promnitz, whose guitarwork and singing provided the platform for Dave to excel.



Head down, Trevor lays into the melody on that acoustic guitar. Anyone who has attempted to play an acoustic guitar strung to concert pitch will realise just how hard it is on the fingers to keep pressing those chords...



This looks like a quickie of the bar at the Hobnob, Bonza Bay Hotel, where Trevor and Dave sometimes played.



And this is an elderly patron. Either I was in my cups, or he was.

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