Keith Tippett, a British pianist who contributed to three early King Crimson records, has died at the age of 72.
The cause of death was undisclosed, but The Guardian‘s obituary reports that Tippett a heart attack in 2018 that left him with a “debilitating form of pneumonia.” He recovered and resumed live performances in 2019.
Born in Bristol, England, on Aug. 25, 1947, Tippett started playing jazz piano as a teenager before moving to London in 1967 to pursue his musical career. He established himself in London’s jazz scene, releasing his debut as a bandleader, You Are Here, I Am There, in 1970.
That same year, he performed on three tracks on King Crimson’s In the Wake of Poseidon – “Cadence and Cascade,” “Cat Food” and the instrumental suite “The Devil’s Triangle” – and its follow-up LP, Lizard. He reportedly declined Robert Fripp‘s invitation to join the band.
Around this time, Tippett formed Centipede – a 50-piece ensemble comprised of progressive rock, jazz and classical musicians – in order to perform his four-part, 85-minute suite “Septober Energy.” After they played throughout Europe, the piece was recorded for a 1971 release, with production work by Fripp. Tippett’s final King Crimson sessions came later in 1971 with Islands.
While Tippett primarily continued to work in jazz on his own projects and as a sideman, he occasionally crossed paths with the prog world. In 1975, he played on a rock version of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf that also featured Phil Collins, Gary Moore, Bill Bruford of Yes and Brian Eno.
Tippett occasionally enlisted another King Crimson member, Tony Levin, for several of his projects, including a 1984 septet album and a free-form jazz group called Mujician that was named after his five-year-old daughter’s description of his job.