Roy Babbington is a special guest of honor at the MoonJune Festival Toledo between September 28 and October 1, 2023.
Roy Babbington (born 8 July 1940 in Kempston, Bedfordshire, England) is an English rock and jazz bassist. He became well known for being a member of the seminal electric jazz bands Nucleus and specially Soft Machine..
Babbington started his musical career in 1958, playing double bass in local jazz bands. At the age of 17 he took up the post of double bass, doubling on electric guitar (on such numbers as Cliff Richard’s “Move It” on Monday’s Rock ‘n’ Roll evening) with The Leslie Thorp Orchestra at the Aberdeen Beach Ballroom, where he honed his sight reading skills. After moving to London in 1969, he joined the band Delivery, one of the side roots of the Canterbury scene with Phil Miller, Pip Pyle and Lol Coxhill. Also, he began to work as a session musician with jazz/fusion musicians like Michael Gibbs and The Keith Tippett Group (including Elton Dean), appearing on their album Dedicated To You But You Weren’t Listening (1970) as well as in Tippett’s big band project Centipede (1971) and on Dean’s album Just Us. When Delivery disbanded in 1971 after an album with Carol Grimes titled Fools Meeting, Babbington joined Nucleus.
He contributed to albums by Alexis Korner, Mike d’Abo, Chris Spedding, folk singers Harvey Andrews and Schunge, and was a part-time member of the bands Solid Gold Cadillac (jazz pianist’s Mike Westbrook rock band) and Keith Tippett’s Ovary Lodge.
Having already contributed additional double bass parts to electric bassist Hugh Hopper’s work on the Soft Machine albums Fourth (1971) and Fifth (1972), he finally replaced Hopper fully in the band with the release of their album Seven. He used a six-string Fender VI throughout his tenure with the band. In addition to Seven, he can be heard on BBC Radio 1971-1974, Bundles, Softs and the library music project Rubber Riff (not actually a Soft Machine recording but featuring its members). Babbington’s funk- and rock-oriented electric bass playing went along well with Karl Jenkins’ and John Marshall’s fusion concept of Soft Machine at the time.
After leaving Soft Machine, Babbington remained active on the UK jazz scene, playing with Barbara Thompson’s Paraphernalia, Joe Gallivan’s Intercontinental Express and various bands led by pianist Stan Tracey. In 1979, he appeared on the album Welcome to the Cruise by Judie Tzuke. In the 1980s and 1990s, he returned to his roots, double bass and pure jazz, and became affectionately know “the jazz handbrake”. He also worked with Elvis Costello, Carol Grimes,Mose Allison and the BBC Big Band.
In 2008, he replaced replaced Hugh Hopper in Soft Machine (Legacy) as their electric bassist in 2009. On 7 December 2021 Soft Machine issued a press release announcing that Babbington was retiring from the band, and was replaced by Fred Thelonious Baker on bass