Gryphon is the oldest and the newest thing – a legendary British band that’s as exhilarating, energetic, unpredictable and addictive now as it was when the boys last toured, in the 1970s.
At that time, no-one could pigeonhole Gryphon. When the first album came out, the band appeared on BBC Radios 1, 2, 3 and 4, all in the same week. They appeared with Yes at Madison Square Garden and Houston Astrodome, played festivals, folk clubs and cathedrals. They wrote and played the music for Sir Peter Hall’s National Theatre production of The Tempest at the Old Vic and found a unique place in the hearts of folkies, prog rock fans, Early Music aficionados and others with an ear for something fresh and different.
Now Gryphon is back, reinvented and mixing old and new material. The virtuoso musicianship and composing flair that marked the band out in the ’70s has been pushed even further, as the band members have gone their separate ways for the last three decades.
Over the years, members of Gryphon have worked with Musica Reservata and the Bootleg Beatles, Paul McCartney and Alan Bleasdale, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Kate Bush, Tanita Tikaram, Loudon Wainwright, John Williams and the other John Williams, Cliff Richard, Brian Ferry, Elvis Costello and Home Service, Hans Zimmer, Max Boyce and Desmond Dekker, David Byrne, the Albion Band, the Royal Choral Society, Long John Baldry and the New Scorpion Band. New recruit and old friend Graham Preskett has played with everyone from Van Morrison to Cher, arranged the strings for Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street, and contributed mandolin to Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, tango violin to Moulin Rouge and harmonica to Thelma and Louise. In fact, the list is endless.
Individually or in combination, the members of Gryphon have been involved in medieval mummers plays and the Cambridge Footlights, led the pit orchestra for West End theatre hits like Anything Goes and performed at events ranging from Glastonbury, Cambridge and Cropredy to major cultural festivals in Europe. They have written concertos for guitar, viola and recorder and scored countless films and television series.
Multi-instrumentalist Richard Harvey has recently been in Hollywood, working with Hans Zimmer on the score for The Little Prince, as well as an extensive tour. It is because of these and other similar commitments that Richard has decided to step down from the Gryphon chair, giving way to a gallant successor in Keith Thompson, long-term colleague and friend of the band and founder of Medieval band City Waites.
Guitarist Graeme Taylor was music director for the recent smash hit West End production of War Horse, featuring songs by John Tams, with whom Graeme played in Home Service, while Brian Gulland – the wild-eyed, wild-haired, crumhorn-wielding warrior-wizard whose iconic presence seemed to define the band – moved to France for a stint with Malicorne before returning to his UK roots as a member of the much-loved New Scorpion Band.
Bass player Jon Davie has now emigrated to Thailand and his role has been taken up by Rory McFarlane, whose first major work was with Richard Thompson. More recently he has been working with Katie Melua, Marianne Faithfull, Damon Albarn and Tom Waits.
Gryphon’s music? It’s just as it always was – odd, different, good-humouredly dazzling. It’s mainly acoustic, with crumhorns and bassoons alongside guitars, keyboards and imaginative percussion, imagined and played by singer Dave Oberle. Every gig involves at least 40 instruments, so the textures can be pretty varied and unfamiliar.
Gryphon, as ever, is the antidote to genres. Whatever you expect, you’ll get something different, surprising, and exciting. Whatever you get, it’ll make you wonder why it took these guys so long to crank up the engines and get out on the road again. But, it’ll always be worth the wait.