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Alan Gowen

Alan GowenBorn: 19-Aug-1947
Birthplace: North Hampstead, England
Died: 17-May-1981
Location of death: London, England
Cause of death: Cancer - Leukemia

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Jazz Musician

Nationality: England
Executive summary: Jazz-rock keyboardist

One of the core group of musicians to develop the British jazz-rock movement of the 1960s and 70s, Alan Gowen began working in be-bop jazz/outfits in the vicinity of his home base of Harlow. In 1971 he moved to London and hooked up with Assagai, a band that had evolved out of the popular African/rock hybrid ensemble Osibisa; not long after, both Gowen and Assagai co-hort Jamie Muir then split off to form the equally short-lived Sunship. No recordings were ever completed and Sunship dissolved the following year when Muir was invited to join an overhauled line-up of King Crimson.

The sinking of Sunship led to the creation of Gowen's next band, Gilgamesh, in 1972. The keyboardist fared somewhat better in this project than his previous two: the band endured until 1975, and - after two years of rehearsing, occasional performances and multiple personnel shake-ups - managed to release a self-titled album in early 1975, which prominently featured Gowen's writing and instrumental skills. The band had come to an end by the end of the year, but was briefly resurrected in 1977 when it released a second Gowen-written-and-arranged album, Another Fine Tune You've Got Me Into. The seeds of Gowen's next project had been planted when Gilgamesh performed two collaborative shows with fellow jazz-rock explorers Hatfield and the North in Novemeber of 1973. Both bands reached the end of their road about the same time, allowing Gowen and former Hatfield keyboardist Dave Stewart to join forces to create National Health with some of musicians from their respective earlier bands. National Health suffered from continual upheavals in membership, and financial difficulties and general frustration led Gowen to abandon the group in 1977 - although a temporary return was made to contribute to sessions for the debut album later in the year. By 1979 it was Stewart's turn to quit the band, and Gowen stepped in as his replacement during the brief period left before complete meltdown.

Between his stints in National Health, Alan Gowen participated in the quartet Soft Heap, and following Health's demise he enlisted sometime Soft Heap (and Soft Machine bassist Hugh Hopper for the keyboard/bass duo album Two Rainbows Daily (1981). Shortly after the project's completion, Gowen was diagnosed with leukemia; in the time remaining to him, he composed and recorded his final musical statement Before a Word is Said. His death followed only weeks after completion of the sessions.

In tribute to the keyboardist, his National Heath bandmates re-convened in 1982 to perfrom a benefit show and record D.S. Al Coda, an album consisting of both unrecorded and reworked Gowen compositons.

Wife: Celia Gowen

    Assagai Keyboardist (1971-72)
    Gilgamesh Keyboardist (1972-75 and 1977-78)
    National Health Keyboardist (1975-77 and 1979-80)
    Soft Heap Keyboardist

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