Pianist John Donaldson pays tribute to his friend and fellow musician Ian Price.


I met Ian about 12 years ago give or take. I had a quartet gig at the Rutland Arms in South London with Dave Smith and Simon Thorpe. Ian was a last minute dep. It was a great gig and we played together ever since. The last gig we played was in June this year.

Over that time I saw Ian grow from being a good saxophonist into a great musician. Behind the self depreciation and humour was a totally committed and dedicated guy who worked tirelessly at his craft. He was passionate about what he did and like many great players was not driven by ego but by discovering those secrets in music and maybe in himself that allow the stuff beyond the notes to be communicated and touch others. I loved his sound whether he played soft as a whisper or at full throttle, and whatever he played he constructed with an intelligence and beauty no matter how angular or ‘out’ it became.

When my friend Bheki Mseleku died in 2008, Ian and I decided to record an album of Bheki’s compositions a s a dedication. Ian was instrumental in helping that happen. He suggested the great drummer Tristan Banks and introduced me to Rikki Borkum who recorded the project. Ian played beautifully throughout and then mixed the album with Rikki. We later toured the music sometimes as a sextet which included the legendary Peter King on alto. It was great to hear Ian play next to Pete, for if he still had doubts about his playing the tour proved he could live and shine in such exalted saxophone company. We also played together at the Brecon Jazz Festival where he played out of his skin alongside American heavyweights Roy Hargrove and Eric Alexander late into the night.

A couple of months ago he talked to me about a concert he’d been to at the Dome in Brighton, Two of the pieces were Stravinsky’s ‘Symphony of Psalms’ and Ravel’s ‘Piano Concerto’. He talked about what made them great works and the beauty in and beyond the sound– the gaps in the compositions that allow you to have those fleeting glimpses into another space that only great performances can give. Even though he was, by now, in a lot of pain he was still in touch with his dreams and his own musical journey. He had talked to me over the last 10 years about doing his own recording. He was a perfectionist and that’s probably what stopped him, but this year was going to be the year, it really was, he’d been working on new compositions, was happy with his instruments and was ready, and then he became too ill to play.

Ian was a entirely unique person, a very funny guy who I’m sure all the musicians will agree is completely irreplaceable. Rest in peace Ian Price and thanks for all you gave us.