INTERVIEW: Matthew Read (Matthew Read Trio - CD Anecdotes II out 9 February, and touring)

The Matthew Read Trio (from left): Andrew Newell, Matthew Read and Benedict Wood
Photo credit: Stew Capper
MATTHEW READ has a new album coming out, as well as an extensive UK tour, with drummer Andrew Newell and guitarist Benedict Wood. He tells Editor-at-Large why three is not a crowd, how he chooses to record a double bass, and why telling stories is important.

LondonJazz News: Your new album with Arthur Newell on drums and Benedict Wood on guitar is called Anecdotes II. Is there a Volume I?

Matthew Read: Strictly speaking we don't have an album called Anecdotes Volume I but our first album is called Anecdotes. We released it a few years back and are still really proud of it. When we were rehearsing the new album it really felt like its own thing and a new sound for us. It wasn’t until we got to the studio however that we realised that there are a lot of similarities both in the sound and content. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really happy with the progression we have made and the albums do sound distinctly different, but we are extremely proud of having a sound. By calling this record Volume II, it’s a nod to what we like to jokingly refer to as the “Anecdotes sound”.

LJN: You’ve played in many larger groups and big bands. What do you like about this trio format?

MR: Whilst I was at Guildhall I attended a master class in which Martin France likened ensembles to stools. He said that a stool with one leg is very hard to control and you are likely to fall flat on your face. Two legs are easier, but still a great challenge. A three-legged stool however is extremely hard to topple – each leg takes an equal amount of weight and plays an equally important role in supporting both the stool and the person sitting on it. Once you get past three legs, each one you add has less responsibility and becomes more and more gratuitous. I couldn’t put it better myself.

For me, the trio setting gives as much opportunity to the drummer to play the melody as it does the guitarist or bassist. Everyone’s interjections are as important as each others’ and that sense of responsibility leads to what I believe to be the most intimate setting to play improvised music.

LJN: The sound of your bass on the recording is one of its chief pleasures for me. It sounds like you’re in the room, just between my hifi speakers. What’s the secret? (And don’t just wave your fingers at me in Jaco Pastorius fashion - ha ha!). You can get geeky if you wish… I’m genuinely interested in how it was recorded.

MR: I’ve always loved reading and watching documentaries about the recording process. The time spent getting everything perfect has always seemed to me to be as important as the notes you play in the studio. We’ve recorded both albums now with the same engineer, an amazing guy called Owain Fleetwood-Jenkins who runs Studiowz – a studio in Pembrokeshire packed full of retro gear. Each time we’ve been to see Owz we’ve spent five days in the studio. The first day is always spent getting the drum sound and the second is for getting the guitar and bass sounds. We try every mic combination under the sun, listen to a lot of reference tracks of the tones we love and really take the time to make the sound as close to how we want it as is humanly possible. The references we worked from for the bass sound on this album were Thomas Morgan on Jakob Bro’s album Gefion, Larry Grenadier on Art of the Trio Volume 4 and Charlie Haden on the Konitz, Mehldau, Haden & Motian album Live At Birdland.

In the end we used a Gefell umt70s and a handmade Stager SR-2N stereo ribbon mic, using the mid side technique, as we found they gave the most realistic representation of my tone with a nice, not too intrusive click on the front of the notes. We recorded the first album with an Electrovoice RE20 just in front of the bridge for exactly the same reasons; however, with the same microphone, the same strings on the same bass and in the same position in the same room it just didn’t sound quite right the second time. It’s funny how these things happen.

 LJN: Tell me about Arthur and Benedict. How do you know them, and why do you work with them?

MR: For me the whole point of having a band is that you create a group atmosphere where everyone feels completely at ease and able to say whatever they want, be that musically or verbally. If we were to talk about the Coltrane Quartet or Oscar Peterson Trio or Miles’ Second Quintet, you don’t just think of Coltrane, Oscar or Miles, but also McCoy, Jimmy Garrison, Elvin, Ray Brown, Ed Thigpen, Wayne, Herbie, Ron and Tony. Those bands aren’t just made by the leaders – everyone has a controlling stake in what is said.

Arthur and Benedict were both the year below me at Guildhall and we all ended up playing in a quintet with two mutual friends. As I mentioned earlier, the trio has always been the ultimate line-up for me and I was also intrigued by writing for guitar as it is a much more restrictive instrument than the piano. I instantly liked the cool with which Benedict played everything and the commitment that Arthur put in to the groove. I wrote a few tunes and we got together to play them. Looking back I definitely wouldn’t want to listen to any of the stuff we played then, but there was a tangible vibe beyond the notes that intrigued me.

We rehearsed twice a week for the first year and really forged an understanding that you don’t get in pick-up bands or bands with flexible memberships. Playing with Art and Bena is like playing with two extensions of myself – we always seem to be on the same wavelength and that has to be the greatest feeling of all when playing in a band. Even when it’s hard, it’s easy.

 LJN: The song titles are intriguing, ranging from a single letter, one which I assume refers to drummer Paul Motian, and one named for two famous murderers. Tell me more…

MR: No matter what I listen to, the best music always tells a story – you can watch it unfold in your mind’s eye and feel the raw human emotions of the musicians. Similarly, I have always preferred composing with a story in mind. The abstract nature of turning an anecdote into music has always appealed to me as there is no right or wrong, only the emotional connection between the two. The whole point of both the original Anecdotes and Volume II is this idea of storytelling – whether it’s something that actually happened to me, an imagined scenario or even a musical portrait. I suppose that the stories on both albums have no causal link beyond myself, but they all have stories or personalities behind them that stick in my mind.

I spent a period of time pairing people together who have no real-world links and writing music that captures how I imagine that would be. K. is one of these tunes and is the music that I imagine Kendrick Lamar and Kurt Rosenwinkel would play if they got together. I’m still working on one for Ornette Coleman and Alan Partridge...



The stories really work best paired with the music though. I like to tell them on gigs and they have become an integral part of the live show. You should definitely come down to a show and check them out!

LJN: The music reminds me more of what is coming out of young bands in Scandinavia, rather than in the UK or America. Tell me about the influences upon your music.

MR: As you can probably tell by the list of reference albums that I took to the studio, I love ECM. Actually, scratch that. We love ECM. If we’re ever stuck creatively I like to ask myself “What would Manfred do?”

All joking aside, I suppose that my parents were the first people to expose me to jazz. When I was little, they had a vinyl of Weather Report’s Heavy Weather that they used to play for me and my brother to dance to so that we’d tire ourselves out. We’d go mad to Birdland and crash out on the sofa as soon as A Remark You Made came on.

We also used to go and see loads of gigs and saw Jarrett two or three times, EST two or three times, Wayne Shorter Quartet, Brad Mehldau Trio, Dave Holland and Chris Potter, Polar Bear, Acoustic Ladyland and Phronesis. My parents were long time Loose Tubes fanatics and I was more likely to get a left field jazz album for Christmas than anything else.

I remember having a conversation with my dad when I’d just started learning to play jazz and all I was listening to was Charlie Parker and Miles’ four Prestige Sessions albums. He said something to me like “I guess all that stuff's cool, but why play it now? It already happened 60 years ago! Why not do something new?” I suppose that as long as I can remember, it’s been in my mind that making music is really about creating music instead of recreating it. I wouldn’t say that we strive to make music that sounds like it comes from any particular place, but instead want to make music that sounds like us. It only makes sense that you can hear our ECM obsession in our music. Hopefully you can hear other things in there too!

LJN: You’re about to tour extensively. Can listeners expect the album? Or will you be including other material too?

MR: As with many jazz groups, we’re very conscious of making each individual gig as organic as is possible. Because of this, we very rarely work out a set list so that we can make sure that each track fits best where it is in the night. We’ll be playing music from both albums (mainly Volume II) and also some new material that we are working on for the prospective Anecdotes Volume III. We’ve always looked at making albums as a way of cataloguing where we are at a set place in time and want our tour to be the same. Come down and hear three volumes of Anecdotes in one night!

Anecdotes II is released on 9 February and the Matthew Read Trio is touring from 25 January starting  with the early set at Ronnie Scott's, and taking in York, Liverpool, Newcastle, Ambleside, Kenilworth, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leeds, Maidstone, Southampton, Birmingham, Cambridge, Cardiff, Bristol, Basingstoke, Maidenhead and Torquay. The album launch is at Kansas Smitty's in London on 15 February. (pp)

LINK: Matthew Read's website with full touring details

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NEWS: Guinness Cork Jazz Festival Organizer's Contract Not Renewed

Poster for the 2012 Guiness Cork Jazz Festival

Sebastian writes: 

The Irish Times' Cormac Larkin is reporting some sad news concerning one of Europe's most long-standing, successful and dynamic jazz festivals, the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival. His full story is HERE.

The New York Jazz Band (from York) in Cork in 2012

Although there has been no official statement from the Festival, the Irish times is reporting that the contract of Festival organizer Jack McGouran is not being renewed.

The history of this festival, started in 1978 is  really quite something. Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie both appeared....and Joe Zawinul... The Cork Festival is a major national event. The year I went in 2012 it was officially opened by the Irish Prime Minister. Jack McGouran's distinguished association with it goes back around thirty years, and his long-term contribution to the scene is immeasurable.

The Cork Festival has been one of the best anywhere at creating the balancing act between popular acts and top quality well-chosen jazz, and doing it successfully for many years. The contract is strongly rumoured to be going to AMA (Audionetworks Music Agency - ) whose involvement / enthusiasm/ experience in/for jazz until now appear from their website" to be non-existent. It is to be hoped that there can be at least some continuity for this unique and important Festival.

Gary Crosby's Nu Troop at the 2017 Guiness Cork Jazz Festival 
LINK: Peter Jones' report from the 2017 Festival (1)
Peter Jones' Report from the 2017 Festival (2)

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PREVIEW: Peter Evans & Sam Pluta with BEAST (16 February at Bramall Building, Birmingham)

Peter Evans and Sam Pluta
Photo credit: Sam Pluta's website
Peter Bacon looks forward to a special collaboration:

It’s not only a meeting of minds, it’s a meeting across the Atlantic, a meeting of acoustic instruments and electronics, and a meeting between organisations. It all comes to fruition over two days in February at the University of Birmingham’s Crosscurrents Festival when U.S. trumpeter Peter Evans and his duo partner Sam Pluta on electronics collaborate with BEAST for workshops and a concert.


BEAST (the acronym of Birmingham Electroacoustic Sound Theatre) has been a force for electronic music investigation – and particularly acousmatic music (music composed especially for loudspeakers) – ever since Jonty Harrison founded it in 1982. For the last four years it has been under the direction of Scott Wilson, along with Annie Mahtani and James Carpenter as technical director.

New York City-based composer Sam Pluta studied for a Masters in Music at the University of Birmingham and worked closely with BEAST. He has been collaborating with fellow New Yorker, trumpeter Peter Evans - a very exciting player indeed, who has previously worked with Craig Taborn and Evan Parker - since 2008, so it was only natural that he wanted to bring together his duo partner and the group from his alma mater.

The catalyst was Birmingham promoter Tony Dudley-Evans, who had previously brought Peter Evans to Birmingham for a TDE Promotions concert as part of the band Amok Amor. And so, as a co-promotion between the Jazzlines programme, BEAST, the Jazz and Musical Technology departments at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and TDE Promotions, these workshops and a concert have come about.

The workshops will be held at both the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and Department of Music at the University of Birmingham on Thursday 15 February, and the idea is that a group will emerge from these sessions to play a support slot at the Peter Evans/Sam Pluta/BEAST concert in the BEASTdome, Bramall Building, on the university campus at 7.30pm on Friday 16 February.

 LINKS: Full details of the concert

The Peter Evans/Sam Pluta duo

BEAST

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REVIEW: Julian Lage Trio at Pizza Express Dean Street

Julian Lage
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska

Julian Lage Trio
(Pizza Express Dean Street. 17 January 2018. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

It has been abundantly clear for many years now that guitarist Julian Lage is technically equipped to take the guitar in more or less any direction he chooses. He had already made an album as part of Gary Burton’s group as a sixteen year-old. That now seems such a long time ago. Lage has just passed his 30th birthday (on Christmas day in fact…), but he has already been around for ages, and developing, and building the base of a major career.    

His current trio project, the album Modern Lore, is not a complete denial of all that virtuosity and velocity, but often gets close to being one. The basic inclination is to slow down and relish the groove. He has set out his stall thus: “I wanted all the songs on this album to be borne out of a danceable groove, a kind of sensuality, something that felt great even before the guitar was a part of it.” And what Monika S. Jakubowska's photos capture really well here is his simple and highly communicative joy in playing.

Julian Lage and Jorge Roeder
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska

There were diversions, occasional moments of wild abstraction, in last night's gig, particularly in an extended roasting section of the tune Presley from Lage’s last album Arclight. And towards the end of the set, almost like a creature from another planet, there was a delicate jazz standard, I’ll Be Seeing You. And yet the core vibe was heartfelt, and very American, often relishing those slow, lazy grooves. There are resonances of Bill Frisell (when aren’t there?), and even the shadow of a walking-pace Chet Atkins. And Lage's collaboration with Chris Eldridge from the Punch brothers also leaves its mark.

In recent interviews Lage has talked a lot about lightness and heaviness in playing, and those contrasts are really worked, as is the juxtaposition of simplicity and complexity. There is always much to admire in the sheer tonal and chordal variety he can muster. He is in good company both on the album – with Scott Colley and Kenny Wolleson (and occasional spectral keyboard subtlety from Tyler Chester) –  and last night live in London with Peruvian-born bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Eric Doob.

The album is quite unified, and to my mind highly successful in the way it presents these related grooves. So the question was whether the band could rise to the challenge in the live setting to hold an audience's interest for a full set mainly using this comfortingly similar material. Yes they could and they did.

Receiving the final applause
Julian Lage, Jorge Roeder, Eric Doob
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska

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REVIEW: Royal Academy of Music Big Band with Dave Douglas and Evan Parker at Duke's Hall

Dave Douglas 'clearly enjoying himself enormously'
Photo credit: © Simon Jay Price

Royal Academy of Music Big Band with Evan Parker and Dave Douglas
(Duke's Hall, RAM, Tuesday 16 January. Review by Peter Slavid)

The entire Royal Academy Jazz Department took to the stage for this special concert put together by its Head of Jazz, Nick Smart.

The concert was in two sections. The first part comprised a single piece called Eight Elements of Change. It divided the 45 musicians into seven smaller ensembles plus Evan Parker, who was introduced as an ensemble in his own right, to make up the eighth element. This piece has been used by Dave Douglas as an “ice-breaker” on the influential Banff jazz course but not normally performed in public. If the audience expected a conventional big-band sound they will have had something of a shock. This was a long complex swirling cinematic sound out of which each of the small ensembles and some of the individuals got a chance to feature – with Douglas enthusiastically conducting and encouraging.


The concert in the Duke's Hall
Photo credit: © Simon Jay Price

In the second half the band was reduced to the more conventionally-sized Academy Band of about 18-pieces (members listed below), and Douglas picked up his trumpet to play alongside Evan Parker. Douglas also shared the conducting with Nick Smart, and there were excellent solos from a number of the students as well as some blistering trumpet from Douglas. Parker played a typically ferocious soprano sax as well as a fairly restrained tenor.

Through all this Dave Douglas was clearly enjoying himself enormously. He loved the venue, was delighted by it's connection to Kenny Wheeler, made a few negative comments about the American President, called out to Norma Winstone and others who were in the audience, and generally had a great time playing his compositions with the band.

Some of the students are already well known performers, and I have no doubt that others will soon become successful. If I winced a little at the relatively low number of women, and the even smaller number of non-white faces, it didn't change the quality of the musicians on display. This was a very enjoyable concert which would have graced a major concert hall, and there's definitely a new generation of terrific musicians on the way.

Peter Slavid broadcasts a programme of European Jazz on thejazz.co.uk and mixcloud.com/ukjazz


Evan Parker and Dave Douglas
Photo credit: © Simon Jay Price


LINE-UP OF THE BIG BAND IN THE SECOND HALF

Saxes: Quinn Oulton, Robin Porter, Dan Smith, Chris Williams and Tom Smith

Trumpets: Tom Gardner, Luke Vice-Coles, Alistair Martin and Alex Ridout

Trombones: Nabou Calerhout, Joel Knee, Harry Maund and Rory Ingham on bass tbn

Piano: Albert Palau
Guitar: Oli Mason
Bass: Will Richardson/Will Sach
Drums: Oren McLoughlin/Luke Tomlinson
Directed by Nick Smart

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CD REVIEW: Andreas Schaerer A Novel of Anomaly



Andreas Schaerer A Novel of Anomaly
(ACT 9853-2. CD Review by Jon Turney)


Wildly creative Swiss voice artist Andreas Schaerer has a duo with drummer Lucas Niggli that explores extended free improvisation very fruitfully. Expanding that group to a quartet – with Luciano Biondini on accordion and Americana-inclined Finnish guitarist Kalle Kalima – brings more order to the proceedings.

Their first recording is described as a set of short stories, which does give the overall flavour. The 11, song-based tracks, most of them three or four minutes long, certainly have clear structure: beginning, middle and end. And there are many words. It’s a polyglot affair, with songs in Italian, Swiss-German, and Finnish, so no comment here on what the songs may be about. There is one English lyric, but otherwise I’m personally content to hear Schaerer’s voice as an instrument.

Musically, the four offer a nice variant of what I think of as the ACT-label’s European sound – the vocal quality of the accordion blending beautifully with the varied voice work, but also dancing with Kalima’s clean-toned, rock-inflected guitar lines. There’s exuberant, up tempo work here, with the collective rhythmic energy of the opener Aritmia, the racy Getalateria, which features yodelling against driving folk-rock figures that Fairport Convention would be happy to own, or the warm, raggedy beat of Planet Zumo.

Most of the songs, though, are more reflective. And while there are modest helpings of Schaerer’s mouth percussion, vocal trumpet, and super-fast scatting, he spends more time than usual singing straight, sometimes in duo with just guitar or accordion, sometimes with the whole band. He could clearly, among many other things, be an unusually skilful pop singer, caressing every word in any language you please. Sometimes, the delivery has an almost devotional purity, every note drawn out, sometimes it is more gently musing – either way the others underline the mood faultlessly.

These pieces get stretched a little more live, as YouTube quickly reveals. Still, their studio session is a very attractive calling card. The quartet doesn’t project the high-wire virtuosity of Schaerer’s other current quartet Out of Land, but this slightly lower-key effort, like all his projects, still conveys a powerful feeling of joy in music-making.

Jon Turney writes about jazz, and other things, from Bristol. jonturney.co.uk.  Twitter: @jonWturney

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FEATURE: Elon Turgeman (new album Climb Up now out)

Elon Turgeman
Publicity picture

Editor-at-Large Peter Bacon finds out about Israeli guitarist ELON TURGEMAN and his new album with drummer ADAM NUSSBAUM.

Elon Turgeman, whose new album Climb Up is now released, will be a new name to many, so a little background is necessary.

The guitarist was born in Jerusalem, Israel, in 1960, into a musical family which included a cantor father and a mother whose family had performed in the royal court of Morocco. Those Middle Eastern and North African roots together with listening to his older brothers playing and singing along to Elvis Presley, Ray Charles and Frank Sinatra, were early influences.

Teenage years playing in his own rock band, studying classical music in high school, a stint in the Air Force band, a Berklee education and experience teaching contemporary music back in Israel have all fed into what Turgeman is today: a highly accomplished electric jazz guitarist and band leader.

Turgeman explained how Climb Up came about:

“A few months ago I made contact with the international drum icon Adam Nussbaum and decided to write original material for the recording and launching of a new album, Climb Up, with his participation.

“We went into the studio in September – along with good friends keyboardist Avi Adrian, bassist Yorai Oron, saxophone player Mark Rozen – where we recorded nine original pieces. The music in the album is melodic and varied, combining a wide range of musical influences and improvisations, leaving the musicians with a lot of room for interaction and self-expression.”

The entry point to this album for many outside Israel will clearly be the band’s special guest drummer.

The Connecticut-born Adam Nussbaum – whom Turgeman first got in touch with through Facebook – brings a really distinctive kind of energy to every band he plays in, and his discography shows an impressive list of collaborations, including John Abercrombie, Michael Brecker, Gil Evans, Lee Konitz, Dave Liebman and John Scofield. Awareness of his musicianship has increased in the UK since his work with the transatlantic supergroup, The Impossible Gentlemen.

And now, Elon Turgeman can add himself to that impressive roster. It Plays By Itself, the opening track of Climb Up, (video below) shows clearly the joyful, flowing drive that Adam Nussbaum brings to Turgeman’s group.






Adrian, Oron and Rozen are all hugely respected players on the Israeli jazz scene. Both Avi Adrian and Yorai Oron – like Turgeman, a Berklee graduate – are faculty members of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance and have been playing with Turgeman since they were teenagers.

Elon Turgeman cites Pat Metheny, John Scofield and Mike Stern as influences and his current music reflects them, though his musical range on this album is broad, from the ballad Doron – a feature for Adrian – to the Methenyesque Gili, and jazz fusion romps like Blues For Niran and the title track.
Recorded in a day in the studio in the classic jazz manner, Climb Up has the fresh immediacy that comes with such a method, but also the accomplished musicianship that means quite a lot is achievable in such a short space of time.

It’s a strong release which should bring Elon Turgeman a wider international following. (pp)

LINKS: Elon Turgeman’s website where you can buy Climb Up

Q&A with jazz author Debbie Burke

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CD REVIEW: Elliot Mason – Before, Now & After



Elliot Mason – Before, Now & After
(Archival Recordings 1585. CD review by Tom Green)

Mention Elliot Mason’s name to any trombonist and they’re sure to react with reverence. His unique language, sound and total command of the instrument have marked him out as a trailblazer for more than 10 years, and it’s hard to believe that this is his first solo album. Originally from Norwich, both he and his brother Brad Mason are long-time New York residents and have recorded two CDs as the Mason Brothers Quintet, but from the start of this album it’s clear that this is very much Elliot’s own work – he takes solos on every track, and composes or arranges all the rest.

It should be no surprise that, as a member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra for 10 years, his rhythm section of choice for his ensemble Cre8tion is made up of his JLCO colleagues Dan Nimmer (piano), Carlos Henriquez (bass), and Ali Jackson (drums), complemented by a number of special guests. The most influential of these is clearly Mason’s wife Sofija Knežević, who is featured particularly on three original tunes that have a strong connecting thread. All have lyrics by Sofija and all feature unison trombone and voice in the melodies, which are often intervallic and unpredictable. The first of these and opening track, Before Now and After, begins with a raga-like chord and the trombonist stating the melody with his trademark wide vibrato – the trombone has always been an extremely vocal instrument in jazz and it is clear its lyrical qualities are very important in his playing. The track feels like a mini-suite, moving through a 7/8 vocal solo, swing trombone and piano solos before a half-time bass solo brings it back to the original melody.

Vulnerable is a slow bossa featuring Mason on bass trumpet, an instrument that could well have been forgotten through the passage of time but which he plays with equal dexterity to the trombone, so much so that it is hard to tell them apart just from listening to the album. The third of the trilogy, Let Me Ask You Something is a more upbeat swing number which again has a strong narrative to it, including a slow rubato introduction and some nice interplay, but the final fade out is a bit of a flat end to the album after everything that’s gone before. The final original on the CD is the 3-minute long And Then There Were <3 a trio between Elliot, tenorist Joe Lovano and Ali Jackson on drums. Dedicated to Elliot’s unborn child, the track moves more into “free” territory for the improvisers and acts as a stand-alone interlude between the other material.

The covers are a mixed bag – the diminished and harmonic minor harmony of Ellington’s Caravan has made it a favourite of modern improvisers and this is very much the sound world Mason naturally inhabits. Here it is given a time signature makeover in 7/4 and a slight re-harmonisation, but there isn’t much new in terms of arranging here and despite a brilliant solo from the bandleader it feels a bit safe especially coming straight after the first original. Tim Hagans guests on trumpet, who also writes liner notes for the album.

Passion Dance is a more successful arrangement, featuring a striking piano intro in true McCoy Tyner style, as well as a new melody in harmony between trombone, voice and trumpet (in this case Elliot Mason’s brother Brad) before the familiar tune comes in, as well as an energetic “shout” chorus at the end. Brad solos first and you can really hear the similarities between his lines and Elliot’s – clearly growing up trying to imitate each other had a particular influence especially on the trombonist's playing. Copying phrases on trombone that traditionally would be “trumpet” lines with the added benefits that valves give has influenced both his language and technique. The group improvisation together at the end of this track shows their connection.

Coltrane’s Resolution, also featuring Lovano, is the standout track in terms of improvising and interplay. Apparently in the studio the band listened to Coltrane’s live version before playing this, and consequently the energy is on a different level to many of the other tracks. Once Mason and Lovano get going this track truly shows they are masters of their instruments, with a particularly outrageous trombone solo over the full range of the instrument. In A Sentimental Mood is a chance for Knežević to take the melody on her own, though again Elliot’s trombone is the standout feature – I’d struggle to name another trombonist who would decide to play this tune up an octave to a super G.

For me the strength of the album as a whole really hangs on Elliot Mason’s own playing, which threads everything together and is absolutely world-class throughout. The album occasionally feels a little off-balance though and would potentially have been better off with a focus on either standards or original compositions – this is amplified by the track order, where all the originals are always broken up by familiar tunes, so it feels a little like the original material isn’t given enough space for the listener to hear a clear compositional voice. However, Mason's mastery of his instrument more than makes up for this, and anyone listening will never doubt the trombone’s limitations again.

LINK: Interview with Elliot Mason about Before, Now & After

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PREVIEW: 2018 South Coast Jazz Festival (Shoreham, 20-27 January)



Sebastian writes: 

The South Coast Jazz Festival keeps on growing in scale and confidence. This year's is the fourth Festival and it will take place over eight days - the first one was just three days. We're trying to make it run more smoothly by having it all in one place," says one of the Festival's three directors Claire Martin – "but at the same time it’s more difficult – because there is so much more going on

Claire Martin explained the deliberate quest for range and variety. "We wanted to show all different styles and forms of music co-exist and combine to become jazz. We think there will be something for everyone. We hope to have it all covered!"

An example is the latin evening that the festival has commissioned from Liane Carroll and Ian Shaw, which has already sold out. "Ian is going to talk about the influence bossa nova has on jazz music. Putting them together will be fantastic. Julian Nicholas will introduce / interview them. A new Brighton based performing arts school BRICTT will be sponsoring that evening."

The evening with  Pee Wee Ellis is also sold out.

John Billett Events will be sponsoring the Jazz Repertory Company's 100 Years of Jazz show,

I spoke to Claire Martin about the evening with Gwilym Simcock and Yuri Goloubev: "That one aims to show how classical and jazz music meet.” Claire Martin will interview Gwilym, and a starry chef will also be doing a buffet before the concert. Ropetackle Centre has a large kitchen which can be used... That evening is selling particularly well.

There are also concerts with Elliot Galvin and Clark Tracey's new quintet – including  BBC Young Jazz Musician winner Alexandra Ridout. Clark Tracey will also do a book signing of his newly-published Stan Tracey biography.

The Brotherhood of Breath Evening is planned by Julian Nicholas. It has former fellow Loose Tubers like Chris Batchelor and will feature Chris Biscoe and Claude Deppa and Annie Whitehead with Steve Arguelles coming over specially from France. The concert will be preceded by a session with Kevin Le Gendre.

And the events in the daytime? "We've got much more going on for children." Joe Stilgoe has written a song for each day featuring a different instrument and will teach it to a group of toddlers, working with his wife Katie Stilgoe (Beard). "The children will be able to hear, see, feel, and touch the instrument and understand its role in a band."explains Claire.

And students too. There is a brand-new collaboration with BIMM (British and Irish Modern Music Institute) who will have showcases for students but their involvement will be deeper, their students will also be shadowing and being mentored by the people making the festival happen - runners, sound engineers, production staff, etc.

BBC Young Jazz Musician winner Alexandra Ridout (Thur 25)

PROGRAMME OF EVENING CONCERTS

SAT 20 JAN - 100 Years of Jazz in 99 minutes - This show by Pete Long and The Jazz Repertory Company has been a success at Cadogan Hall

SUN 21 JAN - Liane Carroll & Ian Shaw present ‘Latin Flavours’ - specially commissioned show for this year’s festival.

MON 22 JAN - An Evening with Gwilym Simcock & Yuri Goloubev tickets £25 Includes a buffet meal prepared using fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Show

TUE 23 JAN - Elliot Galvin Trio - appearing for the first time at the Festival

WED 24 JAN - Pee Wee Ellis ‘Funk Assembly’

THU 25 JAN - Clark Tracey Quintet ‘Bebop and Beyond’ feat. Alexandra Ridout

 FRI 26 JAN - Brotherhood of Breath – the music of Chris McGregor- a special one-off show includes Annie Whitehead and Claude Deppa.

SAT 27 JAN - Smitty’s Big Four ft special guest Joe Stilgoe

FULL PROGRAMME ON THE FESTIVAL WEBSITE

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CD REVIEW: Maciej Obara Quartet - Unloved



Maciej Obara Quartet - Unloved
(ECM 5764562. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield)


Unloved is the first studio recording by the Maciej Obara Quartet, and their ECM debut. Altoist Maciej Obara first played with pianist Dominik Wania in one of Tomasz Stanko's bands over a decade ago, and they formed this quartet with Ole Morten Vågan on bass and Gard Nilssen on drums in 2012.

It is a record full of lyrical, impressionistic music. There is a downbeat, introspective tone to many of the pieces, and most are relatively slow. The result is moody and gentle. The quartet is grounded in improvisation. Wania's piano explorations are fluent and evocative, whilst Obara's alto solos can lead to some unexpected places – there are hints of Bacharach-like melodies in some places.

The only non-original piece on the CD is Krzystof Komeda's Unloved. Originally written for a film, it is a melancholic tune lifted by its melody; like much of the record, it has a narrative feel to it. Indeed, the last track is called Storyteller, a piece which features Obara's haunting, almost crying, saxophone over rumbling scrubs and cymbals and rumbling notes from Wania's piano. This is perhaps the most impressionistic, heartfelt tune of the collection. A noir-ish soundtrack telling a myriad of late-mate tales, it sums up the record.

Patrick Hadfield lives in Edinburgh, occasionally takes photographs, and sometimes blogs at On the Beat. Twitter: @patrickhadfield.

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REVIEW: Samba Azul at the Jazz Café

Samba Azul with Mishka Adams (foreground)
Samba Azul
(Jazz Café. 14 January 2018. Review by Peter Jones.)

London on a cold, drizzly January night is very much in need of sunny vibes, and the first outing for drummer Adam Osmianski’s new latin band Samba Azul was the perfect antidote. Their Jazz Café set was dedicated to the music of Sergio Mendes, but anyone expecting Going Out of my Head or Fool on the Hill or The Look of Love was in for a surprise: the big hits were avoided, and everything was sung entirely in Portuguese. This was much appreciated by an audience full of ex-pat Brazilians, most of whom joined in happily with every tune.

Magalenha (from a late Mendes album called Brasileiros) consisted of voices and drums/percussion only, starting the evening off on a suitably primal note. The main vocal was taken by percussionist and cavaco player Jeremy Shaverin, but from then on Mishka Adams did a terrific job in fronting the band, as well as taking on the vast bulk of the singing duties. She was able to invest the tunes with that typically South American mixture of joy and melancholy, adding a distinctively Brazilian glissando to the notes.

Another highlight of the first set was Yê Melê, a powerful driving chant that always sends a shiver down the backbone. The second half, however, saw the band really come into its own. Vento de Maio was a gorgeous waltz-time '60s melody made famous by Elis Regina (I couldn’t actually find a Mendes recording of it), and here Adams was at her very best.


Samba Azul with Joy Ellis (keyboards - right)

In Brasil 66, the vocal lines were generally taken by two women – originally Lani Hall with either Bibi Vogel or Janis Hansen – singing in unison. On the occasions where Adams was joined by pianist Joy Ellis, the effect was instantly more powerful, as well as sounding more authentic, and any repeat performances of the Mendes set would benefit from more of her vocal input.

Most of the solos were taken by guitarist Gregory Sanders-Gallego, although towards the end of the second set, Ellis had a wonderful piano outing on Casa Forte, with its rising wordless melody. All the way through, the tunes throbbed along thanks to the terrific pulse of electric bassman Greg Gottlieb, who plays his right-handed instrument upsidedown, whilst percussionist Alex Talbot combined brilliantly with Osmianski and Shaverin. A couple of ragged edges aside, this was a fine gig from a formidably talented outfit.

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NEWS: Frisell/Morgan, Sheppard, Black, Rollers added to Cheltenham Jazz Festival line-up

Thomas Morgan and Bill Frisell
Publicity picture
Peter Bacon writes:

There are more names added to the programme for this year’s Cheltenham Jazz Festival (2-7 May 2018).

In this second tranche (that seems to the be the word of choice on occasions such as this) are Bill Frisell with Thomas Morgan, the Andy Sheppard Quartet, drummer Jim Black, and the Roller Trio. There is also violinist Nigel Kennedy.

The collaboration between guitarist Bill Frisell and double bassist Thomas Morgan which led to last year’s Small Town album on ECM (reviewed) and a number of dates on that side of the Atlantic drew enthusiastic reviews so it is bound to generate interest for their first UK performance.

Andy Sheppard’s band with guitarist Eivind Aarset, double bassist Michel Benita and drummer Seb Rochford has developed a strong rapport and toured here before. Their new ECM album Romaria is out on 16 February.

Roller Trio have a new line-up which includes guitarist Chris Sharkey, and the band will be playing music from a forthcoming album. Drummer Jim Black will be bringing his Malamute project, which has attracted a “future jazz” accolade from The Wire magazine, to the festival. All these events are added to the Saturday 5 May line-up and I guess will be in the smaller marquee or in the excellent Parabola Theatre.

Nigel Kennedy and his Polish band will be turning their attentions to the music of Jimi Hendrix. This event is in Cheltenham Town Hall on Thursday 3 May.

These names join the already-announced Donny McCaslin, Kamasi Washington, Beth Hart, Randy Crawford, Christian McBride’s Big Band, Jason Moran, and Dinosaur.

The full 2018 Cheltenham Jazz Festival line-up will be announced in February. Tickets for Randy Crawford, Beth Hart, Kamasi Washington and Christian McBride are on sale now, and available from www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/jazz.

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BOOK REVIEW: Peter Kerr – The Other Monarch of the Glen




Peter Kerr – The Other Monarch of the Glen
(Oasis-WERP, 139pp., £7.99. Book Review by Rob Adams)

Peter Kerr is a former jazz musician whose experiences with the popular Scottish trad band the Clyde Valley Stompers were catalogued in his previous book, Don’t Call Me Clyde. Now a best-selling author of fiction with a dozen titles to his name, he reverts to that genre with this enjoyably daft romp set in the Highlands of Scotland and featuring a cast of characters most sane citizens would want to give a wide berth.

It begins in Edinburgh where the two main protagonists, apparently total strangers, encounter each other in Waverley Station and proceed to pick each other’s pockets. Unbeknownst to them, they and another couple who will shortly be fellow guests of the hapless Lord Strathsporran, are taking the same train to Inverness, and as the journey begins so too does a yarn of the sort that Tom Sharpe used to spin with unlikely event following unlikely event with an occasional pause for amorous (sort of) diversion.

The interest for jazz fans might take a while to materialise, although this is a volume slim enough to be read at one sitting, but the humour and word-play Kerr uses will have been born, or at least further developed, during his days in the Clyde Valley Stompers band bus and is very jazz muso of a certain age in style.

When the jazz element does emerge – the two leading characters turn out to be long lost brothers who had a distant musician-fan relationship without knowing their true connection – the effect is of Tom Sharpe’s Blott on the Landscape creating a love child with George Melly’s Owning Up.

In terms of the plot, the jazz, like the younger sibling-chancer’s communion with Senga, the house maid, is subservient to the heist the re-acquainted brothers hatch when it transpires that Strathsporran has an heirloom, a sibling painting to Landseer’s The Monarch of the Glen, worth millions. And without wishing to give too much away, the jazz possibility returns – and not because they open a club with their share of the spoils.

All in all a pleasingly bonkers read that sets a trap and makes you want find out what happens.

LINKS: Peter Kerr
Review of Don’t Call Me Clyde by Chris Parker

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CD REVIEW: Ashley Henry & the RE:ensemble - Easter EP



Ashley Henry & the RE:ensemble - Easter EP
(Sony Music. CD review by Rob Mallows)


At what point does innovation become the mainstream?

British pianist Ashley Henry’s debut EP Easter - with major label Sony, no less - is trailed as an imaginative project, exploring new musical territory, fusing together jazz, hip-hop and R&B. Yet so commonplace now is the temptation for new artists and labels to use the hip-hop ‘vibe’ to bring in younger listeners, that one almost feels that this jazz-hip-hop hybrid sensibility is becoming the new ‘norm’ and, therefore, far from innovative.

Henry’s six-track EP is replete with achingly modern sounds, influences and moods, but - thankfully - it doesn’t feel like a desperate marketing ploy dressed up as a jazz album. No, this is a nice collection of punchy and peppy jazz and jazz-influenced cuts which shows the promise of a young artist finding his voice. A little rough around the edges - it offers perhaps too varied a selection, like an over-spiced cake - it nevertheless serves as a tasty hors d’oeuvre for a promised full studio album in the Spring.

A Londoner with Royal Academy Training (the RAM now producing jazz artists with the efficiency and speed of a Toyota production line), Henry has brought to this album a very personal mix of musical influences, from Abdullah Ibrahim to Margot Fonteyn(!) and Dreezy, a singer/rapper from Chicago. He has also assembled a great team for his debut: Luke Flowers and Eddie Hick on drums, Jean Toussaint on saxophone, James Copus on trumpet, Daniel Casimir on bass, and Cherise Adams-Burnett on vocals.

Opener Easter is an up-beat South London meets Copacabana vibe on which Henry’s piano playing (which brings to mind a young Jason Rebello at the height of the ‘new wave of British jazz’ in the early 1990s) is complemented by his strong vocal performance and frequent, almost Pentecostal-style interjections about the Easter season (making an early January launch an odd choice). It’s certainly the most stand-out, interesting track on the EP.

The World is Yours is a well-wrought trio adaptation of a Nas track, a little underwhelming compared with what went before but nevertheless charming in its simplicity and saved by a strong solo. Third track Pressure has Adams-Burnett on vocals giving a more soulful R&B vibe to a track by guitar pop band The Enemy, Henry’s piano playing taking second fiddle to Hick's drums (with potent ride cymbal work) on a track which is nicely balanced, if lacking in anything suggesting much improvement on the original.

Bunny, track four, is a light-hearted, trippy sojourn, with a particularly nice bass line from Casimir and sufficient melodic treats hidden in the musical undergrowth to take it beyond the everyday. Fifth track St Anne’s (Remix) is where Henry's jazz tyres really meets the hip-road road; the vocals of rapper ‘Mattic' brought to mind Stanley Clarke’s collaboration with Q-Tip from the early 1990s. However, the jazz gets a little lost between the hard beats in the remix, making the track a little forgettable.

Final track Moving Forward is a better showcase for Henry’s undoubted piano-playing abilities which, while not yet distinct enough to make his sound instantly recognisable, shows he has good chops and an ear for a catchy improvisational shift.

Ashley Henry should certainly be filed under ‘one to watch’.

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REVIEW/ PHOTOS: Alexander Hawkins - Elaine Mitchener Quartet – Uproot album launch at Kings Place

Elaine Mitchener and Neil Charles
Photo credit and © Monika S. Jakubowska

Alexander Hawkins – Elaine Mitchener Quartet - Uproot album launch
(Kings Place Hall Two. 12 January 2018. Review by Dan Bergsagel)

Clapping, slapping, stuttering into action, Elaine Mitchener is centre stage. She is surrounded by a trio doing a fantastic job of sounding like they're clutching their instruments while falling down a flight of stairs.

Together, they are Alexander Hawkins – Elaine Mitchener Quartet. And as ever, first impressions aren't always reliable - very soon it becomes clear that they are in fact falling down this imaginary flight of stairs together in neatly composed coordination, and that the format is not a familiar trio plus singer, but very much a quartet, with Mitchener a multi-instrumentalist ready to sing or speak, to (almost) inaudibly snap open and closed her mouth, and to make any range of sounds in between.

The UpRoot album launch at Kings Place displayed the whole gamut of moods, from the tender retelling of Patty Waters' Why is Love Such a Funny Thing, or Jeanne Lee's more theatrical narrative The Miracle, blending in to an operatic climax.

Alexander Hawkins
Photo credit and © Monika S. Jakubowska

Yet it is on Alexander Hawkins' own title track composition that the threads are truly tied together – an intense bebop rhythm trio led by Hawkins' distinctive wide-ranging style, filtered through the texture provided by Mitchener on top, with occasional Zappa-esque moments (such as the atonal revelation that “It's true I cannot see my face because it is always facing”). Joy acts as a palate cleanser, a clean resolution of subtle bass, and cymbals brushed or lightly rapped by the deft knuckles of Stephen Davis on the stool.

Neil Charles
Photo credit and © Monika S. Jakubowska


The spiritual OM-SE draws on the rich talent of Neil Charles, who opens with sweeping bass coupling Mitchener's siren calls, occasionally muddled with brief bouts of vocal transient tics, before Charles slips into a bowed improvisational moment and the relaxing walking swing of Environment Music walks in. This is a journey into the mundanities of someone's life: the box of receipts, tired bras, loose change in many kitchen drawers, mains leads that work sometimes. It highlights how likeable a prospect the quartet really are. The warm glimpses across the band, the pats on the shoulder as they walk past one another; Hawkins genuinely enthused and humbled to have an audience to play to, and Mitchener presenting like the sort of wildcard friend who you can introduce to anyone, and make any evening entertaining.

A fleeting Archie Shepp revisit of Blasé, arranged as it is here, is a song that feels remarkably of the moment. Without the melancholy soft melodic introduction of Shepp's tenor, the Jeanne Lee lyrics sound like a stark warning, and Mitchener's pressing, accusatory, almost wounded storytelling delivery on top of the atmospheric percussion makes for a powerful unsettling piece.

Listened to live and recorded, the quartet are subtly different things. The record feels more a collection of vignettes – brief emotional episodes coupling a tonal language and thought together. Live they are a more amorphous beast, blurring song boundaries and only coming up for air at the interval and the end. The audience, so acclimatised to the continuous waves of sound and vision and abrupt changes in attitude, was happy to sit in silence watching a motionless band on stage for 10-15 long seconds, before a grin from Mitchener signalled that the set was over.

Stephen Davis
Photo credit and © Monika S. Jakubowska

Part of the mesmerising performance is the stress that Mitchener and Hawkins can generate between them, formed from an enticing unpredictability. Directives, an avant-garde journey flitting from instructions to questions through an astounding array of sounds, was opened and reprieved throughout the set to bring the audience back to a certain atmosphere, and on record closely accompanied by the earnest overtures of I'll Meet You There.

Flipping between moments of clean organisation, swallowed sounds and run together fingers; UpRoot is composed as an epic struggle; a constant tension between clutter and clarity, wrought with emotion. Yet another unique feather in the cap of the diverse careers of Mitchener and Hawkins.

The final applause
L-R: Hawkins, Mitchener. Charles. Davis
Photo credit and © Monika S. Jakubowska

LINK: Uproot is released on Intakt Records

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REVIEW: Pigfoot Shuffle at 1000 Trades, Birmingham

Pigfoot Shuffle: Chris Batchelor, Paul Clarvis, Liam Noble and James Allsopp at 1000 Trades
Photo credit: © Brian Homer
Pigfoot Shuffle
(Birmingham Jazz at 1000 Trades, Birmingham, 12 January 2018. Review by Tony Dudley-Evans)

Pigfoot, the quartet led by Chris Batchelor on trumpet with James Allsopp on baritone saxophone and bass clarinet, Liam Noble on keys and Paul Clarvis on drums, specialises in deconstructing the music of various genres. Over the past few years in their residency at the Vortex Jazz Club they have usually focussed in a gig on one particular genre, taking key examples of the genre and reworking them in arrangements that play around with the original in a witty, but respectful manner. So we have had gigs dedicated respectively to traditional jazz, opera, Elvis Presley, the music of 1972 and the Motown hits.

For this Birmingham gig the band played a selection of these arrangements in what Batchelor has called the Pigfoot Shuffle. The original idea was for the audience to select the tunes to be played as the concert proceeded, but this ambitious plan was shelved in favour of Batchelor selecting the material with a degree of spontaneity to suit the mood of the evening.

This approach meant a lot of variety for the audience; we had versions of spirituals such as A Closer Walk With Thee, the New Orleans classics St. Louis Blues and Basin Street Blues, Fats Waller’s Jitterbug Waltz, Elvis Presley tunes such as Jailhouse Rock, Love Letters and Love Me Tender (played as the encore with Batchelor and Allsopp making some lovely noises on two bizarre instruments with lots of pipes!), selections from opera classics such as The Magic Flute, The Marriage of Figaro and Salome’s Dance, some great tunes from 1972 by Curtis Mayfield, James Brown, Led Zeppelin and Stevie Wonder and even Burt Bacharach’s Alfie.

All this material worked well, but I particularly enjoyed the selections from 1972 including Curtis Mayfield’s Pusherman, James Brown’s Get On A Good Foot and Led Zeppelin’s Black Dog.

Chris Batchelor
Photo credit: © Brian Homer
This made for a very entertaining evening that went down well with a packed audience. What makes it work so well is that the melodies are so strong and are enhanced by the way that the arrangements bend the tunes subtly without destroying the original. The music is witty without ever descending into a kind of mocking of the original composition. Clarvis on drums drives it all along with humour and rhythmic surprises, Noble adds interesting harmonic twists, and Batchelor and Allsopp take some great solos. I enjoyed it all, but have one reservation. All the material performed was quite short with the playing of the arrangement followed by a number of short solos and then back to the arrangement.  I would have liked, on at least a few of the tunes, a more developed and extensive working of the material.

Tony Dudley-Evans is Programme Adviser to the Jazzlines programme at Town Hall Symphony Hall and Cheltenham Jazz Festival.

LINK: Birmingham Jazz's programme, which continues with the Ben Crosland Quintet next Friday, 19 January. 

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REVIEW: Cloudmakers Five at Eastside Jazz Club, Birmingham

Cloudmakers Five at Eastside Jazz Club
Photo credit: jazz student Cameron James Aitken
Cloudmakers Five
(Eastside Jazz Club, The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Birmingham, 11 January 2018.
Review by Tony Dudley-Evans)

The Cloudmakers Five group is all about textures and group interaction. The original trio of Jim Hart on vibes, Michael Janisch on double bass and Dave Smith on drums created some beautiful interactive music, but the addition of a tenor saxophone, George Crowley on this gig but to be Robin Fincker on some of the later dates, and Hannes Riepler on guitar, created a different feeling and some very distinctive textures.

Playing the first date of an extensive tour launching a new album, Travelling Pulse, due out on Whirlwind Records in February, the quintet focussed on a set of originals written by Jim Hart.

The material ranged in the first set from the opening up tempo The Past Is Another Country, to Travelling Somewhere, inspired by a similar rhythmic pattern Hart had noted in both Ghanaian percussion and Marius Neset’s music. An Eric Satie-inspired piece, Golden, was a feature for a strong guitar solo from Riepler to which Crowley added some beautiful textures on clarinet. And Another Thing, a tune that combined elements of the standard All The Things You Are and Charlie Parker’s Ornithology, featured a forceful Janisch bass solo. The set also included one jazz standard, Thelonious Monk’s Epistrophe, and it was interesting to note how well a Monk tune fitted into the mood of the set.

The second set featured rather more solo work with Hart’s vibes to the fore supported by Smith’s always inventive drum accompaniment and Janisch’s strong bass lines.

The band created an excellent atmosphere in the new Eastside Jazz Club, based in the new Conservatoire building. The audience, largely consisting of students on the jazz course, clearly loved the energy and interactive nature of the music.

LINKS: Full details of the Cloudmakers Five tour

11 Jan - Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, England

12 Jan - Verdict Jazz, Brighton, England

16 Jan - Lille Ole Bull, Bergen, Norway

17 Jan - The Jazz Bar, Edinburgh, Scotland

18 Jan - Jazz at The Blue Lamp, Aberdeen, Scotland

20 Jan - Vortex Jazz Club, London

20 Jan - Wells Cathedral School, England

23 Jan - Crane Lane, Cork, Ireland

25 Jan - The Bonington, Nottingham, England

16 March - Les Dominicains, Alsace, France

Details of the new album. The saxophonist on the album is Antonin-Tri Hoang.

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REVIEW: Guildhall Studio Orchestra with Liane Carroll at Milton Court

"A richly enjoyable evening."
Liane Carroll at Milton Court

Guildhall Studio Orchestra with Liane Carroll
(Milton Court.. 10 January 2018. Review by Peter Jones)

Lucky old Guildhall School of Music and Drama: for the last four years they have had the wonderful 600-seater Milton Court concert hall to showcase their students’ work. The acoustics are perfect, the design is clean and modern, and although it feels large, it seats a modest 600, thus preserving a certain intimacy you don’t get from the next-door Barbican Hall.

The evening was mainly intended to provide a platform for the recently-formed Guildhall Studio Orchestra. It was Head of Jazz Malcolm Edmonstone who came up with the idea (see link below) for a student ensemble along the lines of the famous Dutch Metropole Orkest – one, in other words, capable of working in a wide variety of genres and contexts, including jazz. The inclusion of one of the School’s vocal teachers, Liane Carroll, gave the occasion a couple of extra dimensions: helping her to promote her recent album, and giving further exposure to the vocal students.

And so it was that the stage was crowded with musicians and singers, young and not-so-young: as well as Ms Carroll and Mr Edmonstone, there were guest appearances from drummer Ralph Salmins, singer Sara Colman and bass maestro (and teacher) Jules Jackson.

Carroll and Edmonstone share a love for the music of Donald Fagen and Steely Dan. I went along a few months ago for an evening of Guildhall music from, and inspired by, Fagen’s iconic album The Nightfly, and – sure enough – among tonight’s highlights was the gorgeous bittersweet Maxine, in which the bridge featured an impressive solo from singer Luca Manning. The arrangement featured a smaller subsection of the choir, which although not loud enough, sounded well-integrated and disciplined. And later, to close the show, we were treated to Fagen’s Walk Between the Raindrops, a long-time live favourite of Liane Carroll’s.

Laura Nyro is a rather forgotten figure these days, so it was great to hear a funked-up arrangement of her gospel-inflected song And When I Die, complete with fine solos courtesy of Sam Knight (alto sax), Jacob Cooper (trombone) and David Swan (synth). Ballads always sound particularly lush with a full orchestral backing. Carroll’s vocal on The Right to Love, a gorgeous tune by Lalo Schifrin, was illuminated by a soft, lyrical trumpet solo from Toby Brazier. It was followed in the second half by the equally gorgeous waltz-time Calgary Bay, sung by Sara Colman, with impressive solos by Adam McGloughlin (tenor) and Ed Rice (piano).

In short, this was a richly enjoyable evening, with a packed audience, and Malcolm Edmonstone’s elation at the end was plain for all to see.

LINKS: Preview of the Guildhall Studio Orchestra's debut with Dave Arch
The Nightfly at Milton Court
Liane Carroll at Milton Court in 2016

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CD REVIEW: TRICHOTOMY - Live with String Quartet



TRICHOTOMY - Live with String Quartet
(Available via Bandcamp. CD review by Simon Scott)


Trichotomy are an Australian trio formed in 1999 while studying at the Conservatorium in Queensland. Their format is standard – piano bass and drums – but their output has always striven to break out of any and all constraints that may restrict the full range of their invention and vision.

Working in conjunction with other artists is not a new venture for the trio – they have appeared with chamber groups, a saxophonist, and a symphony orchestra in the past. The hallmark of their output centres around their willingness to place themselves in potentially narrow musical formats, and then thoroughly enjoy confounding them with their inventive approaches to making ground-breaking music. But anyone expecting a serious clash of musical styles when placing a free jazz trio with a quartet of violins, viola and cello will be pleased at the enjoyable musical support and advance that each offers to the other.

The opening piece Dancing About Architecture was composed by drummer John Parker and is percussive as you would expect. From the opening notes, it’s clear that the strings are not there to "accompany" the trio – the piece is a fully integrated work with all instruments being given equal space and a platform to contribute to the overall sound. Founder and pianist Sean Foran has the next three pieces on the album. His piano playing ranges from subtle sound washes to spikey progressions which are enhanced by bowed and plucked string work from bassist Samuel Vincent to add to the percussion, ensuring that the listener is always unsure of where the pieces are going to go next.

Bookending the album is Life Gets In The Way, another piece by Parker. Once again the percussive feel of the string quartet forms the basis of the music which builds as it progresses, drawing together all the elements that have made the album so enjoyable.

Jazz is all about being in the moment, and you can never be more in the moment as a listener than by experiencing the unique nature of a live performance which is never ever going to be the same again. The next best thing is a live album like this one, which is only one small step removed from that live experience, being a soundscape captured on that one evening back in October 2014.

If the purpose of any album is to give you repeated listening pleasure, while also inspiring you to check out more of the artists’ work, and find when you can go and enjoy them performing in concert, then this album ticks all those boxes. A first listen leads immediately to a second, to start listening for, and finding, the additional nuances and extra treats that were missed the first time, and the start of some anticipation for when more of this remarkable trio’s work may be released – and when they will be visiting the UK.

This album shows that Trichotomy’s desire for innovation and border-blurring music is stronger than ever, and as a live jazz recording, this is about as good as it gets.

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REPORT: NYJO reception at Ronnie Scott's with Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, Royal Patron

Prince Edward at the NYJO reception
Sebastian writes:

Friends, supporters, band members, music directors and others associated with NYJO packed out the upstairs bar of Ronnie Scott's for a reception last night, and had the opportunity to hear more about what the organisation is up to. Executive Chairman Nigel Tully welcomed the Duke of Wessex (Prince Edward). Tully described him as a man who “really loves his jazz and is such a brilliant supporter of our young musicians”. Nigel Tully and Cleveland Watkiss - also present at the reception - were both congratulated on their recent New Year Honours. "2017," said Nigel Tully, "was a fantastic year for NYJO, and 2018 will be even better." The organisation has tripled in size. NYJO has no fewer than 80 active educational partnerships. On diversity, he said: "We are brave enough to admit it, we need and want to do better."

One example of an initiative under way is a sextet called the NYJO Jazz Messengers. In the past year it has played to 5,000 young people in 40 schools. These concerts, Tully said, are intended to make a clear path to get involved for any young musician, and to convey the message: "We like jazz. We are like you. You might like jazz too. Give it a go." Another initiative is a specific focus on female composers, both in the concerts of the Ronnie's residency, and in 2018 in general.

There was also a speech by NYJO Artistic Director Mark Armstrong who said: "We believe that what makes jazz so great is that it represents what is best in society – that people from different social and cultural backgrounds and different ideas come together and that the sum is greater than the parts."

Leader of NYJO Jazz Messengers Chelsea Carmichael also spoke about how much she enjoyed the Messengers' mission: "taking vibrancy of jazz directly to young people" and "to show the benefits of getting involved in music, and to show young people there is a place for all kinds of people in music". She talked articulately about how important it is that young people can see thier own potential through role models in front of them. She makes a point of ensuring that she can talk to the young people after the concerts.

In his closing remarks the Prince went out of his way to ensure that appreciation was shown for the supporters and the staff, and to reinforce the sense of pride and achievement in NYJO: "It is down to you. None of this would happen without you."

Chelsea Carmichael

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NEWS: Helena Kay, Olly Chalk, Faye MacCalman and Jasmine Whalley announced as Peter Whittingham Award Winners



Help Musicians UK (formerly the Musicians Benvolent Fund, has announced that Helena Kay is the winner of the Peter Whittingham Jazz Award 2017, and will receive  £5,000. Saxophonist Kay, originally from Perth, Scotland won Young Scottish Jazz Musician Of The Year in 2015 (report). She is currently an artist fellow at Guildhall School. She will use the money to fund the costs of a debut album.

Development Awards went to Birmingham-based pianist  Olly Chalk, Newcastle based saxophonist Faye MacCalman (Archipelago) and Jasmine Whalley , saxophonist of the Leeds-based 8-piece Tȇtes De Pois).

Helena Kay’s KIM Trio, Jasmine Whalley’s Tȇtes De Pois and Laura Jurd will be performing at an HMUK-curated by HMUK gig at the 100 Club on Sunday 4 February.

The judging panel consisted of Zoe Rahman, Geoff Gascoyne, Issie Barratt and Noel Langley plus Peter Whittingham’s son-in-law Clive Shelton.

LINKS : Helena Kay website 
Olly Chalk website
Jasmine Whalley on Soundcloud

Faye McCalman website

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