Malcolm Cecil of Tonto’s Expanding Head Band has died, aged 84

The synth pioneer collaborated with Stevie Wonder and Gil Scott-Heron

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Synth pioneer and Stevie Wonder collaborator Malcolm Cecil, of Tonto’s Expanding Head Band, has died aged 84.

According to a Twitter post by the Bob Moog foundation, he passed away on Sunday (March 28) after a long illness.


London-born Cecil started out as a jazz bassist in the late 1950s with The Jazz Couriers, and later joined an early line-up of Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated.

After moving to New York he pursued a long-standing interest in electronic music, teaming up with Robert Margouleff to build their own huge analogue synthesiser called TONTO (The Original New Timbral Orchestra), the centrepiece of their two albums as Tonto’s Expanding Head Band.

After hearing 1971’s Zero Time, Stevie Wonder tracked down the duo to work with him on his run of trailblazing 1970s albums including Music Of My Mind and Innervisions. “We were always exploring,” Margouleff told Uncut recently. “We made new sounds for every song.”

Cecil also made several albums with Gil Scott-Heron – TONTO stars on the cover of Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson’s 1980 – and he featured on records by The Isley Brothers, Minnie Ripperton, James Taylor, Randy Newman and more.


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