BOOK REVIEW: Arthur Elgort – Jazz

Arthur Elgort – Jazz
(Damiani. ISBN 978-88-6208-608-0. Book review by Andrew Cartmel)

In an age where books of jazz photography tend to be of the mammoth, coffee table-hogging variety, this handsome collection of Arthur Elgort’s work bucks the trend. Published by Damiani, an Italian firm specialising in stylish volumes of photography, it’s an elegantly compact and solid hardcover, beautifully produced and designed to last for a lifetime of browsing. The cover has embossed golden metallic type over an image of saxophonist Illinois Jacquet in full flight, and indeed Jacquet features frequently throughout — perhaps most memorably portrayed grimacing as he chews on a reed at the Selmer factory, and generally looking splendidly moody and autumnal, in Paris in 1990.

Other luminaries to be found in these pages include a gritty depiction of Joshua Redman in action in 1996, a grizzled, silvery and distinguished Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon blowing ecstatically (both 1988), George Benson with his Ibanez guitar in 1987 and Sonny Rollins looking positively Buddha-like in 1991. There’s also a particularly beautiful study of Wynton Marsalis playing, which occupies the rear endpapers of Jazz and also comes as a print with the deluxe, limited edition of this book.

Black and white is Elgort’s forte — almost all of these images are in luminous monochrome, with the sort of glow and fine-grained detail which reminds us that classic analog photography relied on the light sensitivity of compounds of silver. But there are also some lush full-colour shots including a striking one of Ornette Coleman looking dapper astride a shiny red motorbike in 1988.

While the book depicts some of the giants of jazz, Elgort is himself a giant of fashion photography, enjoying a particularly long and fruitful association with Vogue magazine. Some of his most celebrated shoots featured Christy Turlington at the Red Army barracks in Leningrad and Stella Tennant diving into a swimming pool in tweeds and wellies. Elgort’s use of natural light was pioneering in the field, and he favours spontaneity over carefully contrived composition — and both of these qualities come across strongly in Jazz.

Contact sheet showing musicians and modelsin Harlem
Photo  © Arthur Elgort
Elgort’s association with the world of fashion leads to a certain degree of crossover, with supermodels such as Jenny Howorth and Liya Kebede cropping up in some of the same shots as the musicians in this book — and it has to be said that elder statesmen of jazz don’t look to be suffering too much at having such high calibre arm candy inflicted on them. And one the most gorgeous images in the book has Liya Kebede framed by the serpentine curves of a saxophone. It’s the epitome of jazz as glamour.

A little more information wouldn’t have gone amiss — there’s no index in the book, and a few of the portraits aren’t easy to identify — but this is a sophisticated little volume rich in jazz imagery seen through the lens of a master. And it’s arrived just in time for Christmas.

LINK: Jazz at Damiani Editore


PREVIEW: Jazz Cubano (23 November, Barbican, 2018 EFG LJF)

Pianist Alfredo Rodriguez
Publicity Photo by Anna Webber

Latin jazz specialist, French journalist Yannick Le Maintec of Le Monde, tells us that he will be making a special trip to London for just one show in this year's EFG London Jazz Festival. He explains his strong imperative for him to be here for Jazz Cubano:

On Friday 23 November, 2018 the EFG London Jazz Festival is offering a triple show, Jazz Cubano, three opportunities to discover the vivacity of Cuban jazz.

Let's face it. Comfortably settled in its tradition, Latin jazz, like its jazz cousin, can sometimes be lazy. But isn't innovation part of its DNA? Weren’t Dizzy Gillespie, Mario Bauza and Chico O'Farrill innovators?

When it came to making the choice between tradition and invention, Arturo O'Farrill (performing at the Barbican with his sextet) chose not to make a decision. Every Sunday at Birdland, he celebrates the work of his father Chico. His own recordings are formidable inventions. (website)

You never know what to expect from an Alfredo Rodriguez album. The Little Dream is no exception to this rule. Even the Besame Mucho, which has been sung into the ground, is getting a new lease on life. (website)

They were meant to meet. Two kindred spirits, Omar Sosa and Yilian Cañizares, the pianist and the violinist. Aguas, the result – almost mystical – of their musical union is an object of infinite beauty. (Facebook)

One violinist, three pianists, as many degrees of creativity. This is what we expect from this Cubano Jazz! scheduled for 23 November on the Barbican Hall stage. Expressing your creativity on stage, isn't that what jazz is all about?

Yannick Le Maintec's original French text:

Vendredi 23 novembre 2018, le London Jazz Festival propose un triple show, Jazz Cubano !, trois occasions de découvrir la vivacité du jazz cubain.

Reconnaissons-le. Confortablement installé dans sa tradition, le latin jazz, à l’instar de son cousin jazz, se fait parfois paresseux. L’innovation ne fait-elle pas partie de son ADN ? Dizzy Gillespie, Mario Bauza, Chico O’Farrill n’étaient-ils pas des inventeurs ?

Entre tradition et invention, Arturo O’Farrill a choisi de ne pas choisir. Chaque dimanche au Birdland, il célèbre l'oeuvre de son père Chico. Ses propres enregistrements sont redoutables d’invention.

Vous ne savez jamais ce qui vous attend dans un album d’Alfredo Rodriguez. « The Little Dream » ne déroge pas à la règle. Même l’usé Besame Mucho retrouve une nouvelle jeunesse.

Ils étaient faits pour se rencontrer. Deux âmes sœurs, Omar Sosa et Yilian Cañizares, le pianiste et la violoniste. « Aguas », le résultat -quasi-mystique- de leur union musicale est un objet d’une infinie beauté.

Une violoniste, trois pianistes, autant de degrés de créativité. Voilà ce qu’on attend de ce Jazz Cubano ! programmé le 23 novembre sur la scène du Barbican Center. Exprimer sur la scène sa créativité, n’est-ce pas le propre du jazz ?

LINK: Barbican bookings for 23 November


INTERVIEW: Deelee Dubé (Elgar Room, Royal Albert Hall, 29 November and new album Tenderly early 2019)

Deelee Dubé
Photo credit: Bob Meyrick
South London vocalist DEELEE DUBÉ was the winner of the 2016 Sarah Vaughan Competition in New Jersey, with a judging panel that included Dianne Reeves and Christian McBride. She has an Elgar Room appearance with her group on 29 November, and will launch a new album early next year. Having interviewed her when she won the competition (link below), Sebastian found out about what has been happening since, and her current plans:

LJN: In the time since you won the Sarah Vaughan comp in Jan 2016 you've been studying, I understand. A course? A thesis?

Deelee Dubé: Yes. I was offered a one-year placement and scholarship to study an MA in Voice studies at the Royal  Central School of Speech and Drama, which I have just completed. It has been a transformational experience, which has challenged me intensely on both a performative and academic level.

LJN: Was it more practical or more theoretical?

DD: It entailed both, practical and theoretical experiences which have enhanced my perspective on vocal pedagogy on so many levels, with a different lens in which to view my voice, craft and the art of performance and all that it encompasses. I have embraced this opportunity to fully immerse myself and engage with my voice and truth on a comprehensive level which I have not had the chance to do before, and in doing so I have observed my growth and development, and acquired/generated some logic and context behind the doing which is undoubtedly empowering.

LJN: Do you feel the studying has helped you as a singer/performer?

DD:  Absolutely. I enjoy learning, and believe that the moment we stop learning is the moment we stop living. Life is a learning experience in itself which sees and enables the constant evolution and development of self. In learning about the embodied voice, I have benefited from gaining and developing an informed understanding of my craft on a holistic level and consider this process as part of my overall make-up as a vocalist and as an individual and I like to utilise and apply what I learn to further enhance creative processes and abilities as a performer and individual respectively.

LJN: You have a new album due out early next year? When was it recorded?

DD: That's right. The Tenderly album was recorded prior to my studies at the RCSSD.

LJN: Who is on it and what will you be playing?

DD: Renato D’Aiello on tenor saxophone, who also produced and arranged the record, Bruno Montrone on piano, Nicola Muresu on double bass, and Gasper Bertoncelj on drums, a great line-up and rhythm section. For the most recent project I have worked with a great US-based rhythm section which include: Benito Gonzalez (piano), Corcoran Holt (acoustic bass), Mark Whitfield Jnr (drums) and Russell Malone (guitar)

LJN: Has the Vaughan comp win opened doors?

DD: Yes, it has, as much as I have enabled it to. I’ve also yet to see what other possibilities may unfold. The competition was an amazing and humbling experience and opportunity for myself as an artist and I especially feel honoured to have been chosen as the first British winner by a trailblazing panel of judges, it is a transformational experience.

LJN: What have been highlights since you won?

DD: I have performed at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2017 which was an amazing experience, and also performed at the Teatro Auditorio Revellin in Ceuta, and received an amazing reception both from the audience and Spanish press.

I performed as part of the Royal Albert Hall’s 150th anniversary series which included Celebrating Women and the Hall series (which will see the hall 150 on 29 March 2021) which was in honour of Sarah Vaughan who performed at the Royal Albert Hall on the 22 February 1953.

Besides my residency at Ronnie Scott’s Acoustic Jazz Lounge, I have also completed a mini-tour of the US prior to beginning my recording project for Concord, and have been recording whilst studying, so things have been pretty intense, but I’m not complaining!

LJN: What new repertoire or approaches to songs have you been getting into recently?

DD: I have also been listening the late South African jazz singer called Sathima Bea Benjamin (Ibrahim Abdullah’s late wife and jazz artist) and currently have an intrigue for improvisational vocal artforms such as vocalese and scat singing which have led towards exploring word-based art forms, listening to pioneers and studying their approaches such as Jon Hendricks and Allan Harris, Eddie Jefferson, Bobby McFerrin as well as listening to the magnificent Shirley Horn, Jobim and Carmen McRae, Alice Coltrane, Abbey Lincoln, Ernestine Anderson, Dena Derosa, Rene Marie and Meredith D’Ambrosio.

I believe it’s important to find the fun and excitement as well as the challenge within a musical moment, and the simple approach always seems to be effective, so in saying that I still enjoy listening to the likes of Diana Krall, Eliane Elias, Nora Jones and Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves, Abbey Lincoln, Roberta Flack, Bessie Smith. I also enjoy listening to Sarah Vaughan’s creative approach to interpreting songs of The Beatles' catalogue.

LJN: You also have a role in Alex Webb and Tony Kofi's Cannonball show. How does all that work?

DD: Yes, I am currently working and touring with Tony Kofi and Alex Webb on a great project which celebrates the genius of Cannonball and Nat Adderley. My feature is based on the Cannonball’s 1961 studio album collaboration with Nancy Wilson, and we have an upcoming performance at the 606 Jazz club on 21 November 2018 as part of LJF, followed by the Hideaway on 17 January 2019

LJN: The Elgar Room show... will it be based on the material on the album?

DD:  We will be performing material from my repertoire which incorporates some new songs, compositions and arrangements. It’s going to be exciting!

LJN: Will you go back to North America ? 

DD: Yes I hope, soon!

LJN: And other plans?

DD: I am going on tour and also curating ideas and material for my next album project. I will also be graduating in December, and look forward to also developing my practice as a voice practitioner and emerging voice pedagogue. 2019 will see the development of new projects and music related ventures. Watch this space.

LINKS: Deelee Dube's website2016 Interview with Deelee Dube after her win at the Sarah Vaughan Competition
Elgar Room Bookings for 29 November


REVIEW: GoGo Penguin at the Royal Albert Hall

Gogo Penguin at the Royal Albert Hall
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska

GoGo Penguin
(Royal Albert Hall, 12 November 2018. Review by Sarah Chaplin)

Jazz gigs are not generally synonymous with large, oval, grandiose spaces that have too many associations with flag-waving prom-lovers, and looking at GoGo Penguin’s list of tour dates, it seemed that the Albert Hall was something of an anomaly in amongst their other ports of call, both in terms of capacity and style of venue. So when the three Mancunian musicians, pianist Chris Illingworth, bassist Nick Blacka and drummer Rob Turner, trooped onto the stage, they seemed a tad daunted by the vastness of their audience and the space they were about to fill with music.

But fill it they did, mostly with tunes from their latest album A Humdrum Star, released on Blue Note earlier this year. Things typically build up from a single hammered note from Chris, or from the slightest hint of a riff by Nick, or in response to a darkly persistent pulse laid down by Rob, and then slowly but surely they build an edifice of sound from this foundation. Their ideas mutate, spreading from one musician to the other, as they mould each simple motif into a cosmic landscape. The inspiration for their latest album came from Carl Sagan, but while his comment was intended to play down the importance of the sun in the context of our galactic neighbourhood, GoGo Penguin seem to regard it more as a challenge; their music seems to want to explore and celebrate our being here.

So in the first stretch we were treated to Prayer, Raven, Bardo and A Hundred Moons from this new album, then One Percent from their previous album v2.0. Halfway through the tune Ocean In A Drop, I began musing about the secret to GoGo Penguin’s success, about what makes them more than a drop in the jazz ocean. Was it their choice of name – apparently selected in the green room just before they performed their first gig, as their eye fell on a strange grubby item in the room that looked a bit like a penguin? Or was it their fortuitous sequence of signings, first to Gondwana, then Blue Note, and all the attendant publicity this has courted? Without meaning to sound churlish, there are plenty of other equally unassuming, self-effacing, non-commercial, hard-working, accomplished and talented jazzers on the circuit, so what’s caught the attention of a much wider audience, that’s enabled this trio to reach a level of success other jazz line-ups can only dream of? Lacking an obvious answer, I simply allowed myself to tune into my senses like every other person around me seemed to be doing, and be mesmerised.

Chris Illingworth of GoGo Penguin at the Royal Albert Hall
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska
GoGo Penguin lure you into a trance-like state, they toy with your emotions, feeding some primal need with jolts of energy, artfully varying the tension, the volume, the texture and creating a sense of expansiveness, all the while playing instruments that look completely conventional, yet leading you to suspect that somehow they’ve been souped up into another dimension. True, Illingworth’s grand piano had a strange ridged protuberance sticking out of the top and a weirdly sonorous quality at times, and Blacka’s acoustic, sometimes bowed, bass often had a reedy, synthy sound. Meanwhile, Turner seemed to be wielding more than two sticks, but it might just have been an illusion, because his hands were moving so fast. Then there’s the attention to visual detail: they have a nifty logo, which was repeated on three luminous disks above their heads, and a backlit band of LEDs that when combined with the smoke and cut through with pinpoints of coloured light, silhouetted and dissected the band in a way not often attempted at a jazz gig.

They claim their music sounds like who they’ve been listening to, and it seemed to me that must have encompassed a fair amount of classical minimalism, especially given the fact they recently toured with their new score to accompany the film Koyaanisqatsi, whose original soundtrack was written by Philip Glass. The one-set show concluded with tunes like Reactor and Transient State, by which time I was definitely in an altered state myself. Drifting back to the tube, I could hardly recall the two engaging support acts from the early part of the evening, Andreya Triana and Sunda Arc. But no matter, I got what I came for: a taste of the dizzy heights a humdrum jazz outfit from Manchester can rise to, given half a chance. London, we need to up our game!

Sarah Chaplin is Founder and Managing Director of JAZZLONDONLIVE

Rob Turner of Gogo Penguin at the Royal Albert Hall
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska


LP REVIEW: Eric Dolphy – Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions

Eric Dolphy – Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions
(Resonance Records vinyl limited edition with booklet. LP review by Geoff Winston)

This three-LP vinyl set, drawn from the full Eric Dolphy sessions produced by Alan Douglas that gave rise to the Conversations and Iron Man LPs is, without reservation, extraordinary. The sound quality on these vinyl pressings is exceptional, using the surviving mono masters as the source for revisiting the sessions recorded on two days in July 1963.

The masters are from the priceless possessions entrusted to Hale and Juanita Smith by Dolphy before his fateful trip to Europe. He tragically died in a German hospital due to a misdiagnosis of his diabetes. Thanks to the tireless efforts of flautist James Newton, a Dolphy devotee and close friend of the Smiths, and the agency of LA-based Resonance Records' Zev Feldman, via Jason Moran, these tracks have been lovingly restored and enhanced by Resonance, in the hands of the company's president, George Klabin, and engineer Fran Gala, for release on vinyl on 23 November 2018, followed by CD release early in 2019.

Accompanying the tracks from those LPs is a carefully compiled selection of 85 minutes-worth of alternate and unissued takes along with a booklet of in-depth essays, interviews and photos which shed further light on Dolphy's unique talent, his personality and the stories behind these recordings.

What is amazing about these mixes and vinyl pressings is the clarity and tingling, bright definition achieved, which enhances the listening experience significantly, especially when compared to earlier, perfectly acceptable releases of the two albums. It is a sparkling, full sound, imbued with a tactile precision that brings out the underlying detail as never before. When you listen, you really do hear the range and subtleties of each musician's individual contribution in the acoustic separations, with the resulting whole very much a fulfilling sum of its parts.

The profundity of Eric Dolphy's genius is no more deeply articulated than in his duets playing bass clarinet with bassist Richard Davis on Muses For Richard Davis (previously unissued; two takes) with their inescapably powerful, emotional reach, and their two spiritual interpretations of Alone Together. The richness of the bass hums with breathtaking resonance from the opening notes of Alone Together. A bassist to whom I played these tracks said that's how he's always wished his bass could be recorded. These are not just recordings, you feel as though you are in the room together with Dolphy and Davis.

Dolphy's mental and technical dexterity, vision and virtuosity are revealed in the pin-sharp renderings of the three different takes of his intense, virtuosic solo forays on alto saxophone on Love Me. This pressing ensures that every note carries its full weight as one follows the tumbling intricacies of each astounding interpretation, which immediately bring to mind the pioneering invention of Coleman Hawkins' unaccompanied tenor solo, Picasso, on which he laboured for two four-hour sessions, a month apart in 1948, before deeming one take to be suitable for release – which it was as part of Norman Granz's monumental vinylite set, The Jazz Scene.

Eric Dolphy
Photo credit: Lee Tanner
Photo authorised for re-use by Resonance's distributor 

The range of the ensemble pieces is a delight. As Newton notes, "these recordings are testament to Dolphy's ability to assemble ensembles that could delve deeply in to his compositional language and his visionary approach as a bandleader". Original Dolphy compositions and interpretations of those of others are heard as though for the first time, and with repeated listening the subtle variations of alternate takes can be appreciated alongside the originals. The outtake of Jitterbug Waltz features a quirkily off-beat flute passage from Dolphy which brings out a smile. In both versions the merest hints of drum and cymbal touches are positioned so discreetly. The humour and joyfulness of the Mexican-inflected Music Matador is captured to a tee both times.

The Iron Man tracks, originally issued four years after Dolphy's death, comprising mainly Dolphy pieces, with its loose, almost messy, 'live' feel to the three larger group works (the title track, Mandrake and Burning Spear), were initially deemed 'too futuristic' by the record company, sadly echoing the fate of his recordings of Ellington with Chico Hamilton, when the record company had the suite re-recorded with Buddy Collette in his place. Luckily, the Dolphy recording was subsequently discovered by chance. In Burning Spear, it is still a surprise when it becomes obvious that there are two bassists playing, Davis and Eddie Kahn!

The brass work is superb, with the 18-year old trumpeter, Woody Shaw, given his break by the ever-generous and insightful Dolphy, rewarding the faith in his talent with truly mature and inspired contributions, while the section work utilised the talents of Sonny Simmons and Clifford Jordan. The ethereal, unearthly qualities of Bobby Hutcherson's vibraphone playing are refined with great sensitivity, shimmering ever deeper within the sound strata that Dolphy created.

A special bonus in this set is the only other recording of the unnerving Personal Statement aka Jim Crow which exists outside of that released on Other Aspects in 1987. Robin D.G. Kelley, in his illuminating essay, explains the fascinating story behind these recordings made in March 1964. Kelley also discusses Dolphy's Town Hall concert, sharing the bill with poet Ree Dragonette, around whose poems he wrote several compositions, including those that became Hat And Beard on Out To Lunch!, and Mandrake on Iron Man.

The insights offered by musicians who played with Dolphy are revealing. Herbie Hancock, drafted in as a 22-year-old to Dolphy's group, says, "Playing with Eric pried open my brain as to what was possible in jazz." Sonny Simmons movingly comments, in one of the publication's July 2018 interviews, "It was sad how they treated Dolphy … It broke my heart. … He couldn't work in New York." Which is why he went to Europe. McCoy Tyner remembers Dolphy's pockets "bulging with mouthpieces"! There is also a lovely conversation between Newton and bassist Davis which gets to the nub of his and Dolphy's special musical relationship.

This major collection of recordings is, in effect, the bridge between the adventurous exuberance of Out There, the loose, confident energy of Outward Bound and the daring leap that was Out To Lunch!, Dolphy's last studio recording as leader. It really is a joy to hear these sets entirely afresh, with the extra dimension that ultimately focusses on Dolphy's outstanding talents and playing. David Murray puts his finger on it when he harangues against a commentator who describes Dolphy's choice of notes as “unresolved”. "But those are the notes that make people great, in fact. The ones that he doesn't seem able to define."

I have one question, after reading in the touching reminiscences of Juanita Smith that Dolphy's last telephone goodbye before leaving from the airport was to the Hale's dog, Mitzi, adored by Dolphy. What kind of dog was Mitzi, and are there any photos of her, ideally with Dolphy?

The limited edition vinyl set, Eric Dolphy, Musical Prophet, is an absolute 'must have' for any Dolphy fan. Start queueing at your local record store now (or ‘Get in line, now,’ for American readers)! It should be noted that the Dolphy Family Trust is the beneficiary of the proceeds from this release.

Eric Dolphy, Musical Prophet will be available to selected independent stores only on 23 November, Record Store Day’s Black Friday event, where they can continue to sell the set after this date for one week only. After this initial period the set will then be made widely available for as long as stocks of the vinyl version last. The 3-CD version will be released on 25 January 2019.

LINK: Information on Record Store Day’s Black Friday event.
Eric Dolphy at Resonance Records


REVIEW: Buck and Billie: Julia Biel and The Buck Clayton Legacy Band at SJE Arts, Oxford

Julia Biel as Billie Holiday
Photo courtesy of Ushaw Jazz Festival, Durham

Buck and Billie: Julia Biel and The Buck Clayton Legacy Band
(SJE Arts, Oxford. Wed 7th Nov 2018. Review by Alison Bentley)

"What a lovely live acoustic," said bassist and bandleader Alyn Shipton from the front of the church. "Imagine you’re in a Kansas City Dance Hall, where Buck Clayton started his career in halls with a similar resonance." It wasn’t till the second half that a couple started dancing in the aisles, but from the first piece (the boppy Outer Drive, with which Clayton began his own gigs) the joint was jumping and the audience was smiling. In the breakneck The Jeep Is Jumpin’, Adrian Fry’s trombone solo stood out, with its vocal phrasing and rich tone. Four-part horn harmonies traded licks with the bass, like delicious treats. Shady Side was a downbeat take on the chords to On The Sunny Side Of The Street, with some sweet swooping alto from Alan Barnes.

Billie Holiday was a friend of Buck Clayton – they toured together in Count Basie’s band and recorded many albums. Resplendent with signature white flower in her hair, the excellent Julia Biel joined the sharp-suited band for Back In Your Own Backyard (“It’s the duty of the musicians to be neat about the neck,” Clayton used to say.) With her strong stage presence, the crying tone of Biel’s voice was very like Billie’s; Biel had Billie’s way of singing way behind the beat, so making the band’s immaculate grooves even more exciting. The original string arrangement of I’m A Fool To Want You had been pared down to four horns (hats off to Menno Daams and Adrian Fry who had shared arranging duties for the band). Fry’s trombone weaved gorgeously in and out of Biel’s vocals, whose emotional delivery made the big space feel intimate.

The pulsing minor swing of My Man allowed Biel to phrase freely alongside Jonathan Vinten’s sparkling piano trills. What A Little Moonlight Can Do evoked Benny Goodman with Alan Barnes’ and Michael McQuaid’s clarinet duet. In These Foolish Things, the voice was exposed, supported by just piano, bass and drums. Biel closed her eyes and drew us into the mood. At times, you could hear a more modern sensibility in her tone – the way, say, Erykah Badu has her own distinctive voice along with some of Billie’s gamine timbre.

The second set featured more songs associated with Billie: the instruments were fewer than in the originals, but the arrangements never lacked intensity or variety. The vocal line skated on the sumptuous four-horn harmonies; in the thrilling Swing Brother Swing it sounded relaxed, with a fierce energy mirroring Clark Tracey’s powerfully swinging drums. Ian Smith’s trumpet came to the fore in two ballads, Good Morning Heartache and Easy Living. The first had a slow thoughtful solo, while the muted trumpet circled the vocals bluesily in the second. The punchy swing of I Hear Music sparked an exceptional solo from McQuaid’s tenor.

Billie’s own co-written God Bless The Child was sung with an astringent bluesy twist, using the voice as an instrument, the way Billie did. The harmonised horns were like a personality all by themselves, interacting in You’re My Thrill. The taut swing of Now Or Never with its Basie-esque horn riffs, had the audience yelling for an encore. Shipton called My Old Flame “a hymn to amnesia” ("I can't even think of his name.") But this was a gig to remember, and the audience was reluctant to let the band go. This tribute to Buck and Billie was never pastiche, but played and sung with a very present vitality and personality.

LINK: Interview with Alyn Shipton about this project from 2017


REVIEW: Allison Neale Quartet at Lauderdale House

Allison Neale
Publicity Photo by Benjamin Amure

Allison Neale Quartet 
(Lauderdale House, 8 November 2018. Review by Brian Blain) 

"Nice to hear some really melodic stuff" was the verdict of one woman as an all-smiles audience exited altoist Allison Neale's Art Pepper-inspired evening at Lauderdale House last Thursday Maybe Neale's sound is a bit less robust than Pepper's but this was nothing that intelligent use of low level PA couldn't fix and the overall band sound was immaculate all evening. Every other aspect of Pepper's playing - the long flowing lines, the bite and passion, the beautiful understated swing and complete understanding with the other musicians – pianist Alex Bryson, a great new find with deep Bud Powell roots, bassist Darren McCarthy and drummer Matt Fishwick, whose mastery of dynamics in what can be a tricky room for drummers, was real quality-meant that this was a jazz experience to savour and roll around the tongue.

Some of the material was from the classic Meets the Rhythm Section (Miles Davis's, Red Garland Philly Joe Jones, Paul Chambers) sets with Pepper's original, Patricia, a beautiful ballad with real depth and that yearning melancholia that was such a feature of the writing of the bop era. Other tunes followed the typical formula of the era based on standards such as Suzy the Poodle (Indiana) and the brilliantly volatile (and flying) Straight Life (After You've Gone). Tin Tin Deo was a really attractive theme that put part of its toe in a heavily rimshotted Latin feel that was typical of West Coast exotica of the period but which was the only part of the evening that to my ears sounded a tad dated.

As all you hipsters say, 'Big Up' to Allison for including Begin the Beguine an unusual long form standard that is rarely heard, although –oddly enough – Elaine Delmar did include it in her show the previous week. A massive hit for Artie Shaw, but then he was one of the most brilliant, if acerbic, musicians in the history of the music.

Footnote: Allison and vibist Nat Steele have put together a festival within the EFG London one.It's at Toulouse Lautrec in Kennington, a fine French bistro and brasserie, with an upstairs cabaret-style room for the main bands. Unashamedly straight-ahead it will feature musicians from the US and Europe as well as some of the best of the UK. Music will roam both West and East Coast and includes tributes to Art Blakey and Sonny Rollins with the MJQ.

Brian Blain is a programmer at Lauderdale House

Brasserie Toulouse Lautrec is at 140 Newington Butts, London SE11 4RN – Website


PREVIEW: Two London Exhibitions of Photography by William Ellis (Cadogan Hall and Omnibus Clapham, 16-26 November)

Roy Hargrove at the Brecon Jazz Festival,2008 (*)
Photo credit and © William Ellis

Sebastian writes:

One of our regular contributors - music photographer William Ellis is presenting two exhibitions which run during the EFG London Jazz Festival. They focus on two distinctly different aspects of his work. He has an exhibition of photographs from his "One LP" project in which artists are photographed with an album which has been signifcant to them, at Cadogan Hall. There is also an exhibition of his jazz photography entitled Miles and Beyond at Omnibus Theatre in ClaphamWilliam has provided the remainder of the explanation of the two shows. He also pays tribute to Roy Hargrove(*):

Sheila Jordan : at home New York City, 2014
Record: Charlie Parker's Now's the Time
Photo credit and © William Ellis


One LP

One LP is a unique and critically acclaimed portrait photography project that explores the inspirational qualities of jazz recordings and the impact that they have on people’s lives. Each portrait features the subject holding a recording that is of fundamental importance to them. The photograph is accompanied by a short interview that explores the meaning and value of the selected album.

The exhibition consists of around 50 portraits from the ongoing project. The artists range from innovators whose provenance reaches back to the birth of the jazz genre and moves through to those at the cutting edge of contemporary composition and performance. Including Al Jarreau, Annie Ross, Benny Golson, Chris Barber, Gary Crosby, Gregory Porter, Jimmy Heath, Marcus Miller, Norma Winstone, Robert Glasper, Terri Lyne Carrington, Tierney Sutton and Ron Carter.

Commenced in 2010 the musicians have been photographed at home, in venues and hotels throughout the UK, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Kansas City MO.

The premiere exhibition was hosted by the ARChive of Contemporary Music in New York,

"British photographer William Ellis is perhaps best known for his impeccable photos of jazz musicians. Now his One LP Project comes to New York. Truly cool interactive exhibits like this don't come around too often" - Time Out New York

Cadogan Hall, 5 Sloane Terrace, Belgravia, London SW1X 9DQ
16th - 26th November. Opening times - contact venue, 020 7730 4500

LINKS: OneLP website 
Cadogan Hall


Miles and Beyond: Jazz Photographs

A collection of black and white portraits and performance photographs dating from 1989. This is music on a chink of light - including - Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Kurt Elling, Miles Davis, Nancy Wilson, Omara Portuondo, Roy Hargrove and Stan Tracey

“There is a unifying thread to Ellis' work, whether it be a performance shot in a club, a concert hall or festival, or a portrait of the musicians he so admires; that common denominator is intimacy. Action shots, per se, are not what he's about. Many of the subjects of Ellis' photography are captured, revealing a softer, more vulnerable side to their often larger-than-life personas on stage. “ Ian Patterson, allaboutjazz

Omnibus Theatre, 1 Clapham Common North Side, London SW4 0QW
16th - 26th November. Opening times - contact venue, 020 7498 4699

LINKS: William Ellis website
Omnibus Theatre website

William Ellis remembers Roy Hargrove (*)

The first time I saw Roy Hargrove was at City Hall Glasgow in 1992 where he and his young band entranced the audience - scintillating, utter brilliance. I heard him play a number of times after - he was always on top form whether in a small group or big band setting in Brecon, Havana and Wigan. The last time I saw Roy was at the Blue Note in New York when I invited him to be included in the One LP Project. “Sure - later” was his reply, said with a little smile, then made his way downstairs to the stage.

We both knew ‘later’ did not relate to that evening, but to another time we thought we’d share.

We love you and miss you madly Roy.


CD REVIEW: Emile Parisien Quintet – Sfumato Live in Marciac

Emile Parisien Quintet – Sfumato Live in Marciac
(ACT 6021-2. CD/DVD review by Brian Marley)

Soprano saxophonist Emile Parisien’s rise to prominence isn’t surprising given the strength of his recent releases: Chien Guêpe (Laborie, 2012), Spezial Snack (ACT, 2014), and the much lauded Sfumato (ACT, 2016). He’s not quite avant-garde, nor is he mainstream, but, more importantly, he’s never boring. What he offers is a music that seems familiar because it emerges from the well-stuffed vaults of jazz tradition (albeit of the more European than American kind) with adventure writ large. His compositions are memorable, and even though the ensemble work is super-tight it’s always loose enough for soloists to strike a spark or three.

Sfumato brought out his best qualities as both a composer and improviser, and it spotlit the role of pianist Joachim Kühn, an ACT label stalwart. Sfumato Live in Marciac, recorded in 2017, very slightly reduces Kühn’s role, but that serves to focus the listeners’ attention on what a good team player he is and how well the quintet navigates Parisien’s often complex charts. On the Marciac concert, guests Vincent Peirani (accordion) and Michel Portal (bass clarinet) stand out, as they did on Sfumato, but the surprise guest is trumpeter Wynton Marsalis who, on Temptation Rag (played by a witty trio of Marsalis, Parisien and Peirani), helps to evoke New Orleans trad as filtered through a distinctly Gallic sensibility.

Apart from the suite Le Clown Tueur de la Fête Foraine, a feature for Peirani (check out Belle Époque, his excellent duo CD with Parisien, where Temptation Rag first aired), which contains broad hints of both circus and cabaret, and the two-part Balladibiza, the Marciac concert doesn’t strictly follow Sfumato’s programme, either on CD or DVD. One or two tracks have been dropped and new ones introduced, which certainly keeps things fresh. Transmitting is one of the new pieces (featuring Portal, and, this time in more expansive mode, Marsalis) that easily earns its place in the new running order: a terrific composition. The expanded DVD programme fills in a few gaps, giving a welcome place to Poulp (in which double bassist Simon Tailleu and drummer Mário Costa finally get to solo) and Préamble. And let’s not neglect guitarist Manu Codjia, who plays splendidly throughout.

If you already own Sfumato and wonder whether buying the Marciac recording is really necessary, I’d say yes. Musically it’s an advance on Sfumato in certain respects, and the DVD – multi-camera, well-shot, capturing the musicians’ infectious interplay – is worth the price of purchase alone.


PREVIEW: The Edge of the Abyss: EFG London Jazz Festival performance featuring Club Inégales (Royal Academy of Art, 16 November 2018)

Death and the Maiden by Egon Schiele, 1915
Public Domain

The Uncertain Hour is a five-concert series including two dates at the London Jazz Festival presented by Club Inégales. AJ Dehany spoke to director Peter Wiegold.

One of the flashpoints in the creation of the modern world, fin de siècle Vienna was the crucible in which the nineteenth century transformed itself into the twentieth. Vienna’s creative jouissance and role as a place of artistic, musical and intellectual foment will be celebrated and explored in the forthcoming concert The Edge of the Abyss at the Royal Academy of Art on the first night of the 2018 London Jazz Festival.

The concert is named after a quote from Stravinsky, who wrote that while composing the Rite of Spring between 1912-13 he felt “on the edge of an abyss.” During the concert presented by Club Inégales, director Peter Wiegold will discuss the wider sense of rupture leading up to this. He says “I’m going to talk about 'From Certainty to Uncertainty’: you have the class system challenged by Marx, the work of Darwin, science challenged by Einstein, the nature of the persona challenged by Freud. I love reflecting on that time, from fixed ideas of humanness and social status to the fluidity of the twentieth century."

The concert will be performed by a quartet with Peter Wiegold and Martin Butler on pianos, saxophonist Diane McLoughlin, and vocalist and violinist Alice Zawadzki. “We're going to start from two of the breakaways of the twentieth century, Schoenberg and Stravinsky. We’ve got this rather interesting idea where we play an old recording of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire (1912), and then it fades and we carry on improvising so it's like playing with a ghost of it. We'll play off the motifs and the sounds of Pierrot Lunaire, all representing the unpredictable night of the new century.”

The concert will include Stravinsky’s short piece from 1918, Ragtime. “Stravinsky blew harmonic language completely open with the Rite of Spring,” he says. “We go off from Ragtime into more classical and jazz-funk approaches meeting together, and there's the other side—there's the chromatic avant-garde side and then there's the rhythmic side of the twentieth century and both of them launched at that time.”

Last year Club Inégales presented a sell-out show at the RA performing original graphic scores inspired by an exhibition of painter Jasper Johns. The Edge of the Abyss is in part a response to the RA’s current exhibition Klimt / Schiele: Drawings from the Albertina Museum, Vienna. “You've got the gold and the glitter and the sumptuousness of Klimt, who in a way represents the richness of Vienna, and you have the absolute bare human beings of Schiele who represents its tortured soul."

The Edge of the Abyss is part of a series of five concerts called The Uncertain Hour. The name is taken from TS Eliot’s Four Quartets:

"In the uncertain hour before the morning/ Near the ending of interminable night/ At the recurrent end of the unending.” 

The lines encapsulate not just the feeling of beginning and ending in fin de siècle Vienna, but other historical flashpoints too. Last week the series opened with a concert of Brecht & Weill. “I've often been interested in text, image and the social place of music, how music tells us about society or even speaks of society like Brecht does." In planning the series, he says, “once we had the 'uncertain hour' of just before the Second World War with Brecht and Weill, suddenly the whole series fell into shape."

Following the concert at the Royal Academy the series will continue with Expect The Unexpected II presenting original collaborations on the Thursday of the Festival. Then we travel a long way from Europe with a concert from Peter Knight, director of the Australian Art Orchestra, about getting lost in the Australian desert. The series concludes with the launch of folk-singer Sam Lee’s album Van Diemen’s Land. Referencing the attenuated figures in Egon Schiele’s paintings, Peter Wiegold says that the series as a whole is "about these stretched human beings going beyond, going into the unknown, the uncertain."

AJ Dehany is based in London and writes independently about music, art and stuff.

LINKS: The Edge of the Abyss at the RA website
REVIEW: Visualising Music: The Art of the Graphic Score at the RA in the 2017 EFG LJF


REVIEW: Denys Baptiste's The Late Trane in Tampere, Finland

Denys Baptiste with Larry Bartley
Photo courtesy of Tampere Int Jazz Happening

Denys Baptiste, The Late Trane
(Tampere, International Jazz Happening, Finland, 3 November 2018. Review by Mike Collins)

Denys Baptiste landed in Finland with his band, fresh from receiving the well-deserved accolade ‘Album of the Year’ in the UK Parliamentary Jazz Awards, arriving in Tampere, two hours north of Helsinki, in the middle of the city’s 37th annual International Jazz Happening. The festival is at the start of winter, positioned to cast light and warmth into the lengthening days and long winter months ahead. The quartet delivered an incandescent set on the Saturday night, based on their album The Late Trane, to a rapturous reception in the main hall of the city centre’s Old Custom House.

They are a formidable unit, with Rod Youngs on drums, Larry Bartley on bass and Nikki Yeoh on keyboards driving Baptiste on. The repertoire of the late Coltrane years was reworked in their hands to give it a contemporary and personal edge. Yeoh conjured growls, ghostly choirs and squelching, funky voices from her keyboards and laptop as often as she turned to the piano on stage, whilst Baptiste extended yet further the emotional range of his horn with judicious use electronics.

Living Space was introduced with atmospherics and shifting textures, before the rubato theme uncoiled, and bustle and accompaniment thickened. It morphed into a funky groove with a snappy, pulsing bass riff for Ascent, Larry Bartley really digging in. Peace On Earth saw an extended piano intro from Yeoh before an affecting duo with Baptiste. After The Rain was given an easy, delicate, lilt and a twist with a country flavoured chord progression providing a platform for lyrical soloing.

If these were the prepared templates, what set them on fire was the energy and interaction the band poured in. On Ascent the tenor swirled and swooped, squawked and screamed as the rhythm section goaded Baptiste into an ever more impassioned statement. On Vigil it was Youngs unleashing a firestorm from the drums before Yeoh and Baptiste found a medley of effects and voices.

It was a thunderous, emotional performance and the packed hall loved it. They were the lone UK band in a diverse, layered programme that encompassed all points of the musical as well as the geographic compass and in which, The Late Coltrane was a festival highlight.

Mike Collins is a pianist and writer based in Bath, who runs the jazzyblogman site. Twitter @jazzyblogman

LINK: Round-Up of the 2015 Tampere International Jazz Happening


ROUND-UP REVIEW: 21st Pancevo Jazz Festival, Serbia

Cecile McLorin Salvant with drummer Jeff Hamilton, bassist John Clayton
and the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra
Photo credit and copyright John Watson/

21st Pancevo Jazz Festival, Serbia
(Pancevo, Serbia, 1-4 November 2018. Review and photos by John Watson)

Monsters are in town! The great singer Cecile McLorin Salvant, appearing with the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, was asked: “What is it like to be working with such monster musicians?” Big band co-leader and bass master John Clayton immediately cracked her up by making a monster face and clawing gestures with his hands.

Along with drummer Jeff Hamilton, they were taking part in a question-and-answer session before their concert at the 21st Pancevo Jazz Festival. The small town of around 60,000 residents, just north of the capital Belgrade, punches way above its weight when it comes to presenting magnificent international artists at the Culture Centre, a medium-sized theatre and exhibition space. Salvant and the big band were another sell-out triumph for the festival, with many fans happy to pay to stand and watch the show. It was indeed a superb performance, including a smooth version of The Beatles' And I Love Him, a touching interpretation of the ballad Where Is Love from the musical Oliver!, and a fabulously raunchy rendition of a Jelly Roll Morton rarity, I Hate A Man Like You. Marvellous, too, to hear the great tenor player Rickey Woodard in the big band, especially his blistering duet with veteran fellow tenorist Charles Owens.

There were plenty of other monster musicians in the festival, some internationally-known, some rising stars, and some superb players from Serbia itself. The festival opened with Austrian trio Café Drechsler, led by tenor saxophonist Ulrich Drechsler, with bassist Oliver Steger and drummer Alex Deutsch. The group creates simple, but very effective, funky themes – all freely improvised. Imagine dancing to free improvisation? With this group, it would be possible. Then came a real highlight: Italian trio Petrella, Mirra and Rabia, with the astonishing virtuoso trombonist Gianluca Petrella, vibraphonist Pascale Mirra and percussionist Michele Rabbia, creating intense, passionate and beautifully integrated pieces.

Saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa with Rez Abassi and Dan Weiss
Photo credit and copyright John Watson/

U.S. saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa brought his recent project the Indo-Pak Coalition to Pancevo, with guitarist Rez Abbasi and drummer Dan Weiss. Not everyone likes the altoist’s multi-noted approach, but I do – he spins furiously complex lines which are always powerfully emotional and to my ears completely captivating. The Schime Trio plus One, a Serbian-Italian mix, is actually a quartet: altoist Luka Ignjatovic, bassist Boris Sainovic, drummer Peda Milutinovic, plus Serbian pianist Sava Miletic and guest pianist from Italy Enrico Zanisi. They created a truly vibrant set – driving, imaginative and full of musical surprises. It would actually have been a superb set to conclude the evening, as sets by two excellent but quiet performers followed: the great guitarist Ralph Towner, and the unusual Israeli quartet of tenor saxophonist Oded Tzur. Towner, playing solo on classical guitar, created versions of originals and standard songs that were simply sublime and supremely articulated, including his own Blues As In Bley, My Foolish Heart, and I Fall In Love Too Easily.

Ralph Towner in his solo set at Pancevo
Photo credit and copyright John Watson/

The evening concluded with the ultra-gentle sounds of Tzur and his musicians: pianist Nitai Hershkovits, bassist Petros Klampanis, and drummer Colin Stranahan. Tzur creates ethereal melodies using breathy high notes, yet is able to bend the pitch – a remarkable technical achievement – producing a sound rather like the Japanese end-blown flute the shakuhachi. There were more heated moments, too, but the themes and improvisations were generally as soft as blown feathers. The rhythm section, when given plenty of space, was marvellous.

The festival was another triumph for the Pancevo team, including the festival’s artistic director Vojislav Pantic and the centre’s music programme director Boban Tanasijevic.

A photography exhibition by John Watson, The Jazz Moment, was staged as part of the festival.


CD REVIEW: Frank Kimbrough/ Scott Robinson/ Rufus Reid/ Billy Drummond – Monk's Dreams: The Complete Compositions Of Thelonious Sphere Monk

Frank Kimbrough/Scott Robinson/Rufus Reid/Billy Drummond – The Complete Compositions Of Thelonious Sphere Monk.
(Sunnyside SSC4032. Six CD Set. Review by Liam  Noble)

When I was a kid I had an encyclopedia. Every Saturday morning my nan would bring one volume, one more chunk of knowledge, a ledger of facts and statistics, extending my world from Bromley outwards across the earth and into outer space. Now this box set of Monk’s music sits on my shelf, an anthology not of facts but of stories.

Frank Kimbrough, Scott Robinson, Rufus Reid and Billy Drummond certainly sound like they know these tunes inside-out, although some must have been less familiar than others. Whilst hearing these tunes back to back certainly brings out their iconic status, it turns out that this recording is more about just playing. It’s respectful, not of the duty to preserve the notes, but of the process. Recorded over two three day sessions, there are no particular angles here, no agendas or concepts. It’s the pleasure of simply playing the tunes, waiting patiently for the moments of inspiration to appear. Frank Kimbrough plays a long game here in allowing that to happen over a long stretch of music with essentially the same line-up.

Monk’s own recorded output seemed to narrow in scope after the extreme compositional radicalism of his early recordings for Blue Note, gnawing endlessly at certain tunes like Epistrophy and Evidence, whilst those like Hornin’ In and Humph never appeared after their premieres. So I always saw Monk’s music splits into two equally tricky areas; hard-baked standards like Round Midnight and Well You Needn’t and the lesser played tunes like Brilliant Corners and Skippy (Like Beethoven, it’s the catchier stuff that made it to hit status). On the one hand, the re-treading of the paths often trod, on the other, finding out just why feet rarely walked this way before.

Steve Lacy was the first musician to learn all of Monk’s music, and reckoned he knew more than Monk himself did. His album, School Days tells you in its title what he was after; a period of deep study at a time when Monk’s music was perhaps less fashionable. Here the approach seems more informal, allowing everyone to simply work their magic on the tunes. In the excellent and exhaustive liner notes, Kimbrough talks of not wanting to “re-invent the wheel”, and some of these tunes are so gnarly and bumpy that getting to the end without losing a few spokes is an art form in itself. Coming On The Hudson is a case in point; its logic defies musical “rules”, seeming to exist simply on the strength of its melodic stubbornness. Monk himself always took it at an awkward stagger, definitely chugging against the current; here, Kimbrough ups the tempo and makes it cut through the water like a speedboat. Conversely, Locomotive is taken at a strikingly slow tempo, the dark shades of the bass clarinet making the whole atmosphere melancholic, the last journey of a steam train destined for the scrap heap. Two of Monk’s solo blues improvisations get some of the most novel treatments here. Blue Hawk has Scott Robinson’s “echo cornet” playing the head like a call and response between open and Harmon-muted horns, and Monk’s Point strips back to piano and drums for a brilliantly free dialogue around which bell-like semitones of the melody are reworked and abstracted, standing like pillars amid the hits and splashes of Drummond’s kit.

Monk talked a lot about the role of the rhythm section, and he’d have loved this one. Bass and drums often get namechecked at the end of reviews but, like a really expensive mattress, you never quite know the value of a good rhythm section until you sit on one for yourself. On Skippy, Reid and Drummond simply burn brightly and allow Robinson and Kimbrough to surf on their waves of swing, to bounce on the bed springs as it were. This is not the only way a rhythm section works though, and a tune like Green Chimneys shows how expertly they can weave in and out Monk’s melodies. Reid’s bass solo is then shadowed with a deep and understated groove from Drummond that blends and propels; in this music, pulse and rhythm are like harmony and counterpoint to Bach, and these guys are masters.

Perhaps the greatest change to Monk’s relatively monochrome approach to instrumentation is the inclusion of Scott Robinson, who alternates between the familiar tones of the tenor saxophone and the trumpet (sounding beautifully un-brassy), but then digs deep into the contrabass sarrusophone and bass saxophone, imbuing melodies with a murky low swampiness. Misterioso has a gut-rumbling humour but nevertheless swings like the clappers. On Let’s Cool One, Robinson’s tenor solo stretches the melody in a way that feels part maths genius and part old-school balladeer, which is an intoxicating mix, but mostly he just soars through Monk, with melodies seeming to effortlessly spring forth at every turn.

Some of Monk’s less song-like tunes offer up interesting opportunities for improvising. The riffy structure of Oska T enables the rest of the band to play off the melody instead of the chords, and Kimbrough seems to relish the chance to open things up where elsewhere he’s often remarkably faithful to Monk’s vocabulary, without resorting to fully fledged “licks”. Perhaps this is the key to the success of this recording; everything is somehow familiar, but it has that freshness that only real improvisers can generate. It’s like watching a seasoned comedian tell an old familiar joke, the stories around the punchline getting just as many laughs.

I must admit to skipping straight to Round Midnight when I first got these CDs. Completists love it for its pernickety pedantry, its harmonic do’s and don’ts, but here there are broader brush strokes, Reid’s sonorous solo exploration of the tune leading to a surprising key change into the solos. From there on it’s business as usual, which simply means its full of surprises within a format that often leaves lesser players bereft of ideas and complaining of its limitations. Following on from this is another evergreen, Well You Needn’t played straight and with many of Monk’s original asides between phrases. With its mix of reverence and invention, it’s typical of many of the tunes in this set. Bass saxophone on the head lends a lurching gait, and then Kimbrough lays straight into the chords; he has something of Monk’s attack, but what comes across most is the logic of his explorations. Like Monk himself, he often sounds like he’s listening to what he just played, ear cocked to the ground, before moving on. Unlike Monk, he is also able to soar fluently over the chords when he wants to. It’s a good example of why this format has persisted into the music’s mainstream beyond its “golden age”; so much remains undone, unexplored if you’re willing to get into the details. Much of Monk’s repertoire has, of course, been neglected, but it’s also such fun to just play it as it is, and that feeling communicates to an audience that can sit past ten seconds of music and get immersed in it. And what better way than to listen to 68 tunes of the stuff.

I have noticed how often I’ve referred to “CDs” here; these are objects that feel good to pick up. You’ll want to read Nate Chinen’s liner notes, as well as those of the musicians, producer and engineer. As I was reading over this paragraph, with the almost-slightly-ridiculously-silly Children’s Song on in the background, I suddenly heard trumpet and piano inadvertently stray on to a stream of identical notes, accompaniment and solo becoming one. Such moments of telepathy are peppered throughout this set. It reminds me of the creative possibilities still existing within the miraculous convergence of harmony, melody and rhythm that was and is Monk. He is of course often praised as a composer but, as with Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter, not many have the courage to leave the spaces he left as an improviser.

Frank Kimbrough gets inside Monk as both player and composer, and for that reason alone this is something you will want, like the Young Person’s Encyclopedia, sitting on your shelf (if it can take the weight).

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Frank Kimbrough - piano
Scott Robinson - tenor and bass saxophones, trumpet, echo cornet, bass clarinet, contrabass sarrusophone
Rufus Reid - bass
Billy Drummond - drums

Monk's Dreams: The Complete Compositions Of Thelonious Sphere Monk is released on 23 November 

LINK: Samples and description on Bandcamp
Liam Noble's website


NEWS: John Scofield Combo 66 Quartet announced for Cadogan Hall (17 May 2019)

John Scofield at home in Hudson Valley
Publicity photo

Sebastian writes: 

It is announced today that John Scofield's Quartet with bassist Vicente Archer, pianist Gerald Clayton & drummer Bill Stewart will be at Cadogan Hall on 19 May 2019.

This is the group which recorded the well-received album Combo 66 (Verve) earlier this year. The album consists of the guitarist's own compositions.  “I wrote all new tunes for this record, Combo 66," Scofield has said. "I called it that because—I’m 66! And 66 is the coolest jazz number you can get because if you hit 66 you’re doing ok. Remember all the great records from the 60s? Brasil 66. Route 66. It hit me that it would be poetic to use that title.”


Booking for this concert opens today, and we will have tickets as a prize draw for newsletter subscribers on 14 November 2018, courtesy of promoter AGMP.



FESTIVAL ROUND-UP: Jazzfest Berlin 2018

"In the end it's all about the what the personalities have in common, 
and can use to communicate with each other."
Bill Frisell and Mary Halvorson
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

Jazzfest Berlin 2018
(Haus der Festspiele, Berlin. 1-4 November 2018. Round-Up by Ralf Dombrowski)

It was supposed to be something new; it has certainly become something different. Nadin Deventer and her programming team have turned Jazzfest Berlin into a colourful theme park of options, the proposal is as put as many things on offer as possible. So there is a little symposium, some performance art, a bit of the event-as-spectacular, an insight into the scene, a few melodic highlights, and, of course, a lot of political correctness. People talk about Afrofuturism and gender diversity, light portals are lit up, Berlin musicians in masks stroll through the foyer, artists are sent to play in the living room, at the hairdresser's, or on the main stage.

Nadin Deventer (left) introducing a panel session including
Roscoe Mitchell and Nicole Mitchell (both right)
iPhone snap by Sebastian Scotney

It is about history and the present, America and Europe, men and women, old and young. Established members of the avant-garde meet up with traditionalists still in the process of maturing, it's a context where abstraction can be assessed alongside popular sounds, sometimes it even gets a little earthier, there's the scent of garage rock in the air. Some things have been solved deftly, such as the spatial rearrangement of the Haus der Berliner Festspiele, in which two new stages and a kind of podium have been conjured up in premises that always seemed inherently inflexible. Other things are in keeping with the zeitgeist, such as the strangely cryptic slogans over the stage at the individual concerts or the inflated promotional rhetoric of the flyer texts. The bottom line, however, is clear: the superannuated jazz tanker has been taken to the dry dock of event management, had its rust removed, been modernized, and it has to be said that the structural alterations have worked out particularly well.

Jaimie Branch Quartet
iPhone snap by Sebastian Scotney

Musically, on the other hand, it was a festival where time could pass slowly, with only occasional bursts into intensity. Violinist Théo Ceccaldi, for example, in the frenzied company of his "freaks" and also in a trio, showed that he is one of the most effective sources of energy in European jazz, and that his tendency to formulate loud, post-experimental ideas is something very refreshing. The trio of Heinz Herbert, based around guitarist Dominic Landolt channelled rock spirit in generous quantities, and trumpeter Jaimie Branch was adept at creating both energy and atmosphere as she oscillated between the possibilities of free inspiration and micro-themes in the manner of Ornette Coleman. Some were young yet sounded older, like singer Jazzmeia Horn, who presented cheery swing for old folks with the WDR Big Band, or the free spirits of the quartet Irreversible Entanglements, who together with the spoken word activist Moor Mother attempted to bring political urgency into the present, in just the way it was done back in the seventies. The Art Ensemble Of Chicago certainly had a lot of art in mind as they presented a combination of Afro-American improvisation culture and contemporary chamber music, complete with European reinforcement. Or the Guitarrista in Residence Mary Halvorson: her well-crafted octet arrangements, for example, demonstrated her thorough mastery of balance and proportion in sound.

Don Moye of the Art Ensemble of Chicago
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

The pianist Jason Moran, on the other hand, a frequent performer at jazz festivals, showed a sense of humour as he juxtaposed his energetic modern trio with the music of jazz pioneer James Reese Europe. He was together with an ensemble based on early dance orchestras, plus a little multimedia. And there was the old man of sound-aware reductionism on guitar. Bill Frisell played with a lot of loop support through a solo programme which was charmingly unshowy and had its roots in his own style. When Mary Halvorson joined him on stage for an encore at the end of the festival to offer a little Debussy to the night as a duo, one could divine where the origins of the musical intensity are still to be found. Because in the end it's all about the what the personalities have in common, and can use to communicate with each other. Far away from the surface showmanship, it brought us back to a focus on listening, reacting and also on risk. The jazz festival of the future still has a lot of potential for creative courage. “Listen to what is happening” is a political slogan (in Germany) – and also a good idea to keep in mind.

=== === === === === === === === ===

Ralf Dombrowski's original German Text

Jazzmeia Horn and Bob Mintzer
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski
Neu sollte es sein, anders ist es geworden. Nadine Deventer und ihr Programmteam haben aus dem Jazzfest Berlin einen bunten Themenpark der Optionen gemacht, der möglichst viele Vorschläge anzubieten hat. Da gibt es ein wenig Kongress und etwas Kunstaktion, ein bisschen Event-Spektakel und einen Szene-Einblick, ein paar wohlklingende Schwerpunkte und natürlich viel Correctness. Man redet über Afrofuturismus und Gender Diversity, lässt Lichtportale leuchten und Berliner Musiker in Masken durch das Foyer flanieren, schickt Künstler und Künstlerinnen zum Spielen ins Wohnzimmer, zum Friseur oder auf die große Bühne. Es geht um Geschichte und Gegenwart, Amerika und Europa, Männer und Frauen, alt und jung. Bewährte Avantgardisten treffen auf noch werdende Traditionalisten, Abstraktion darf sich mit populären Sounds messen, manchmal wird es sogar ein wenig erdiger mit einem Hauch Garagenrockduft. Manches ist pfiffig gelöst wie die räumliche Umordnung des Hauses der Berliner Festspiele, die zwei neue Bühnen und eine Art Podium den an sich unflexiblen Räumlichkeiten abringt. Anderes ist dem Zeitgeist geschuldet wie die seltsam kryptischen Mottosetzungen über den einzelnen Konzertabenden oder der wortblähende Promoton der Flyertexte. Unterm Strich jedoch wird klar, dass hier ein etwas in die Jahre gekommener Jazztanker auf dem Trockendock des Eventmanagements entrostet und modernisiert wird, was vor allem bei den strukturellen Maßnahmen gut gelingt.

Musikalisch hingegen war es ein Festival der Längen mit Ausreißern in die Intensität. So zeigte der Geiger Théo Ceccaldi im wilden Verbund seiner „Freaks“ oder auch im Trio, dass er zu den Energiebündeln des europäischen Jazz zählt, mit einem erfrischenden Hang zu lautstarker Formulierung postexperimenteller Stilideen. Das Trio Heinz Herbert um den Gitarristen Dominic Landolt packte eine Runde Rockspirit aus, die Trompeterin Jaimie Branch stellte sich als ebenso energisch wie atmosphärisch agierende Grenzgestalt zwischen den Möglichkeiten freier Inspiration und an Ornette Coleman geschulter Mikrothematik heraus. Manche waren jung und klangen wie Alte wie etwa die Sängerin Jazzmeia Horn, die mit der WDR Big Band Greisenswing mit gutgelaunter Patina präsentierte, oder auch das frei agierende Quartett Irreversible Entanglements, das zusammen mit der Spoken-Word-Aktivistin Moor Mother versuchte, die politische Dringlichkeit nach Art der Siebziger in die Gegenwart zu holen. Viel Kunst im Sinn hatten das Art Ensemble Of Chicago, das mit europäischer Verstärkung eine Verknüpfung afroamerikanischer Improvisationskultur und zeitgenössischer Kammermusik präsentierte. Oder auch die Guitarrista in Residence Mary Halvorson, deren durchgeformte Oktett-Arrangements beispielsweise umfassende Klangraumbeherrschung dokumentierten.

Der häufig beim Jazzfest gastierende Pianist Jason Moran hingegen bewies Humor, indem er sein energiegeladen modernes Trio zusammen mit einem an frühen Tanzorchestern orientierten Ensemble und ein wenig Multimedia mit der Musik des Jazzpioniers James Reese Europe konfrontierte. Und der alte Herr der soundbewusst reduktionistischen Gitarre Bill Frisell spielte sich mit viel Loop-Unterstützung durch ein charmant uneitles Soloprogramm der eigenen Stilwurzeln. Als dann am Ende des Festivals Mary Halvorson zu ihm auf die Bühne kam, um im Duo noch ein wenig Debussy zur Nacht zu bieten, konnte man als Zugabe ahnen, wo die Ursprünge der musikalischen Intensität weiterhin zu finden sind. Denn am Ende geht es um die Gemeinsamkeit der Persönlichkeiten, die weit entfernt vom Schaulaufen der Oberfläche das Zuhören, Reagieren, auch das Risiko in den Mittelpunkt stellt. Da hat das Jazzfest der Zukunft noch viel Potential für gestalterischen Mut. Hören, was ansteht – könnte auch einmal ein Motto sein.

Roscoe Mitchell
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski


PREVIEW: Theatralia Jazz Festival (PizzaExpress Jazz Club, 13/14 Nov)

The Theatralia Jazz Festival's logo
Logo: © Gina Tondo

Daphne Bugler reports:

UK-based and Sardinian jazz improvisers are coming together to perform at the upcoming Theatralia Jazz Festival in London this month, following the success of the festival's Sardinian leg.

In close collaboration with the city of Alghero and Jazz Alguer, the London-based Sardinian vocalist and lyricist Filomena Campus has created a bridge between the West End and the historic town of Alghero by uniting jazz artist from both cities on the stage to share their musical backgrounds and art.

Previously named My Jazz Islands, the festival now enters its fourth year, and features a collaboration with jazz artists from Sardinia where one night of the festival was held on 27 September.

The London end of the festival will be located at the PizzaExpress Jazz Club in Soho on Tuesday 13 and Wednesday 14 November. On the first night Marcello Peghin and Salvatore Maltana, a 10-string guitar and double bass duo will play, alongside Italian vocalist Marta Capponi and the award-winning Cleveland Watkiss. On the second night the Filomena Campus Quartet will perform alongside vibraphonist Jackie Walduck.

Filomena Campus explained that she launched the festival in 2013 with a mission to “unite her Sardinian roots with Italian and UK Jazz musicians”. She said: “Years ago I left my island, Sardinia, for another island. Great Britain welcomed me and helped me to make many dreams come true. At a moment in which walls are being raised, I want to build a bridge between our two countries. One that is made of notes, sand, myrtle wine and poetry”.

The event has been endorsed by the Mayor of Alghero.

LINK: Theatralia Jazz Festival at PizzaExpress