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He has been described as ‘….a wide ranging musician, working in free improvisation as well as jazz and various kinds of composition (some modernistic, some more like Faure than anything else)….’ (Peter Riley, CODA, Issue 172, 1980).
He has also been wide ranging in his choice of instruments in performance: woodwinds, keyboards, percussion, strings and so on, as well as the use of MIDI in recording.
A largely self-taught musician, his methods of working have been similar to those of the so-called American Experimental Tradition, in the sense of being non-academic, intutive and with a penchant for experimentation and disregard of convention.
The biographical details and lists of recordings – both released (on his own labels) and unreleased – give some indication of his activites since the 1960s.
DAVID (DAVE) PANTON ………………………was born in the mid 1940s in the English Midlands. His formative musical experience revolved around singing: in the local church choir and later with a mixed voice choir and an amateur operatic society. He began teaching himself ‘classical’ piano from the age of twelve, and by fifteen had begun to compose by improvising at the keyboard. At seventeen he joined the army as a bandsman, taking up the oboe and being posted for a year to Kneller Hall, the Military School of Music (1964-65); later he attended Birmigham School of Music (now Birmingham Conservatoire) for piano tuition under the late William Fellowes (1966-67). His composing continued but took on a more modern direction which was largely unintelligible to his military colleagues.
After four years as a bandsman he resigned to pursue a musical career back in ‘civvy’ street, taking up the alto saxophone as a result of hearing some of the American and British ‘free-jazz’ players of the time such as Ornette Coleman and Mike Osborne. Although by the 1970s he had received or given a handful of performances of his fully composed works and continued to work in this way, it was the ‘free-form’ jazz area which he began to concentrate upon, forming several such groupings as well as giving solo performances at the Birmingham Arts Lab, Midlands Arts Centre, Birmingham and Midlands Institute and numerous pubs. By now he had made contact with some of the London based musicians associated with this area such as John Stevens, Evan Parker, Derek Bailey and Maggie Nichols. This led to appearances at the Little Theatre Club, Oval Arts Centre, Jazz Centre Society, Soho Poly and the launch of the NONDO label.
At about the same time he became a member of the contemporary/progressive folk group FOREST during the last year of their existence, touring with them in Holland and doing various recording sessions for the John Peel and Bob Harris Radio One programmes [see Other Recordings]. Later he joined Southampton based experimental theatre group CHAMELEON LABORATORY THEATRE, to devise the musical content for their Amnesty International commission about political prisoners, This together with another show based on the infamous Charles Manson Family toured as a double bill around the country. The last productions he was involved in were a series of intense psychological vignettes which called for equally intense musical/sound effects, and an experimental performance from his own (literary) writings accompanied by totally improvised music. Some of these productions were also presented at the Little Theatre Club as well as Southampton venues. During 1973-74 he was an occasional member of John Stevens’ ENTOURAGE aka SPONTANEOUS MUSIC ORCHESTRA, which was a large ensemble incorporating the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, Free Space and workshop groups together with second generation improvisers who regularly performed in various groupings at the Little Theatre Club etc; some live recordings by Martin Davidson have since been released on EMANEM [see Other Recordings].
In 1979 he received an Arts Council jazz bursary, allegedly the first provincial based musician to do so, and a second followed in 1981. The results were recorded with John Stevens and bassist Nick Stephens (also originally from the Midlands) for release on NONDO, and a BBC Three ‘Jazz In Britain’ broadcast which was presented by Charles Fox who had previously aired NONDO tracks on his ‘Jazz Today’ record review programme. A second broadcast in 1983 also included other Midlands based musicians – with whom he had been working with in various contexts – alongside John, Nick, Roger Turner and Harry Beckett.
In 1989 he started up a cassette duplication business, largely abandoning regular musical activities – apart from the occasional solo bag-piping gig, recording session on alto saxophone or piano, and MIDI realization/revision of his largely composed works. When the demise of the audio cassette undermined the viability of this business he opted to take up a civil service post from which he retired in 2006. In 2009 he successfully completed a MA in Music (Open University) with a dissertation on Modernism and its alleged break with the past.
The current project aims to catalogue and make available evidence of his activities over the years. Some recordings are being up-loaded onto the pantonmusic channel on You Tube. The NONDO/PM catalogue of recordings is slowly being re-issued as (recorded) CDs, which are now available for purchase, as well as downloads/streams from various online sites