CD REVIEW: Terri Lyne Carrington - The Mosaic Project: Love And Soul



Terri Lyne Carrington - The Mosaic Project: Love And Soul
(Concord Records CRE3777902. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield)


One of the exciting things about jazz is that you never quite know what you're going to get. Artists experiment and explore, crossing genres. On her new record, Terri Lyne Carrington leaves one in no doubt where she's at from the start, laying a fast, programmed beat behind Duke Ellington's Come Sunday. It doesn't necessarily work, the hyperactive rhythm at odds with the slow, languorous vocal by Natalie Cole.

Elsewhere the emphasis is heavily on the soul. The record features several strong voices, such as Chaka Khan, Aleta Adams and Nancy Wilson. The bass - mostly by Linda Oh and Rhonda Smith - keeps things skipping along. There are some good saxophone solos, though trumpeter Ingrid Jensen seems somewhat wasted.

Carrington's previously released The Mosaic Project won her a Grammy, and this record  -  more soul than jazz - may well follow suit.

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

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FESTIVAL REPORT: 2015 Norwich Jazz Weekender with Claire Martin, Kit Downes, Partisans, Damon Brown, Majamisty Trio...

Nick Fitch Quartet. Photo credit: ck@chris-kirby.co.uk


Norwich Jazz Weekender 
Various venues in Norwich.  29th- 30th August 2015. Festival Report by Maureen Baker)

“When it comes to producing great jazz musicians, some wonder why Norwich punches above it’s weight”. So mused Simon Brown, promoter of the second Norwich Jazz Weekender, when introducing Kit Downes, one of the City’s finest gifts to jazz in recent years. Modesty must have precluded him from explaining why this city in the rural East, with its medieval heritage, should be such a jazz hothouse, because the answer lies at least in part in the encouragement and direction given by Simon and others, past and present, who have helped nurture this creativity. Ventures like this Weekender can only ensure that the tradition will continue. It was great to hear Simon himself playing piano in “Back to Birdland” – a tribute to George Shearing- and in other contexts too. The following report will not cover the complete and very full programme - I was sorry to miss Gabrielle Ducomble for example - just the gigs I was able to attend...



SATURDAY- NICK FITCH QUARTET

The main stage was at “Open” in the City Centre and first up was local trad band “Dixiemix”. Hard on their heels came Norwich’s next big thing: 19 year old guitarist, Nick Fitch- who fronted the Nick Fitch Quartet, comprising the equally precocious talents of Tom Smith on saxes and flute; Ed Dunlop on drums; and, Norwich’s best kept secret-till now-, Owen Morgan on upright and electric basses. Fitch is a recent NYJO recruit, and winner of a scholarshio to this year’s GMF Summer School in Certado. The band belied their youth with musical skill beyond their years playing classics including Miles Davis’ Seven Steps to Heaven – all played with real panache but really showing their mettle to best effect on contemporary pieces such as Gwilym Simcock’s “Barber Blues” with, Owen “Jaco’s –in- the- house” Morgan nailing the bass right down to the sandy Norfolk soil beneath him and Ed Dunlop fast, sharp and swinging on drums. Their version of Jim Mullen’s Medication was another triumph, Smith switching between alto and tenor throughout the set before a final flourish of flute in Gareth Lockrane’s  Stutterfunk earned them their warm reception from an appreciative crowd.


Majamisty Trio


MAJAMISTY TRIO (SERBIA)

Next up was the Majamisty Trio from Novi Sad in Serbia about whom little was known save their next gig was at Soho’s Pizza Express the day after. How had Norwich come to net a band this rare and exotic? The question may have been intriguing, but the answer was prosaic : Novi Sad is twinned with Norwich and, trio leader and pianist , Maja Alvanovic had simply Googled “Norwich Jazz” to find Simon Brown and get her band a gig. All who heard them play would surely agree they were glad she did. Musically placed somewhere in the EST style jazz sphere, there was a translucent beauty in Ms Alvanovic’s playing: her style contemplative as to be expected of a Bill Evans disciple with Lennie Tristano touches evdient too in her love of cliché- free solos. It was her admiration for Erroll Garner’s Misty that brought the band a name and provided the set’s only standard, albeit performed in anything but a standard way.

Complemented by her strong connection with Ervin Malina on bass and Istvan Cik on drums, the three played as one musical being on beautiful self penned ballads “ Landscape” and “ Barquinho”, Ms Alvanovic’s lightness on keys, ebbing and flowing as Malina’s bowed bass yearned achingly away against subtle percussive underpinning from Cik. Compositions inspired by topics as diverse as forests in rain, Rain Drops and riding on uncomfortable Serbian buses, Coolah Trance, were played with immense delicacy and managed to cast a spell over the room. The drama and joy of the ambitious Love as the set neared it’s end reinforced that Majamisty’s first visit to England must not be allowed to be their last.

DAMON BROWN QUINTET / CLAIRE MARTIN AND THE DAVE NEWTON TRIO

High energy bebop then chased away any languor as Damon Brown's quintet roused the audience and got their receptive energies back in place ready to receive the Queen of British jazz, Claire Martin OBE, who graced the stage next, with the equally regal Dave Newton Trio (Dave Newton on piano; Jeremy Brown on bass; and Matt Skelton on drums).

Selecting from her back catalogue right back to The Waiting Game and mid- 90s albums Offbeat and Secret Love, this gig was pure joy for fans who either trod the path with her over the years or came to visit later. The tempo was up from the off:  I Love Being here With You nodding respect to Peggy Lee, breezing through Better Than Anything  then cooling to Bobby Troup’s bossa- for- his- Mrs : The Meaning of the Blues. Travellin Light saw Dave Newton swinging a path alongside Jeremy Brown’s masterly bass. You Turned the Tables on Me would have had Anita O’Day herself give credit for all that peerless diction as the phrasing moved against Dave Newton chopping the rhythm around as only a piano god like him can. Other classics followed including the now seldom heard Betty Carter masterpiece “ Tight” which the band recognised as a direction ever as much as the name of the piece. A final 90s salvo from Come Back to Me and the audience would have bayed for more save authentic Cuban jazz was up next in the form of  Sarabanda who played whilst some listened and many danced right to the end of the night.

The Dunnett/ Baxter Big Band


SUNDAY - DUNNETT/ BAXTER BIG BAND

Day two began with the Dunnett/ Baxter Big Band a seventeen- piece band comprising ex-Birmingham Conservatoire graduates and best mates, led by another son of Norwich, the hugely likeable Tom Dunnett, whose talents, beyond his considerable musicianship, incorporate the apparent ability to impersonate all regional accents- beyond a Norfolk one that is. Packed onto the club room stage, the band took no easy paths and much of their material was either written or arranged from amongst their talented midst. Dave Ferris (piano) arranged the band’s opener “Virgo”, a pace- changing showcase for sax choruses and trumpet blasts set against a guitar motif by Nick Fitch, guesting from his previous day’s gig. Monk’s Think of One , arranged by Chris Maddock (ts), featured a fluent alto solo by Elliott Drew with Tom Dunnett following on trombone and announcing why he’s joint leader. Other glories followed: “Joker in the Pack” (arr. Dave Ferris), began in funk but blossomed into swing with a glorious elongated alto solo from Elliot Drew again. Loose Tubes’ The Last Word showed the band’s puckish sense of fun: oom-pah meets reggae, yielding to a more conventional big band groove and featuring a fine solo by Chris Maddock on tenor along the way with the last word itself from Tom Dunnett on trombone. Sean Gibbs (tp) (whose new album “Burns “ was recently reviewed on LJN ) showed off his composing chops with The Eye of the Needle and Natures Law, both performed here, showing his feel for sophisticated melodies played against irresistible driving tempos.

Tom Dunnett’s own Bebop inspired “ Times Up” rounded off the set with Calum Roxburgh giving an old style blistering tenor show just before even energy on this scale had to surrender to the next act on the bill.



KIT DOWNES TRIO "THE ENEMY"

Kit Downes’ new trio “The Enemy” (Kit Downes piano; Petter Eldh on bass; and James Maddren on drums) was a highlight gig for many, bringing what he calls his “new music” fresh to his home town for one of it’s earlier hearings. His childhood fascination with improvisation was wisely encouraged and has developed through the years to bring us music now that engages not just the emotions but makes the brain work too. From pieces where the playing was as fast as sunlight bouncing across rippling water to gentle reflective music with multiple construction changes, this was a highly sophisticated set. The enigmatically titled Politics went back and forth like opposing points of view, Downes’ phenomenal playing diverting it’s course with Maddren’s deceptively understated drum work serving to enhance the fineness of the piece before it ended, somewhere, whether in resolution or surrender, who knows? Other Eldh composed pieces comprised “Race the Sun”, named in honour of the computer game, featured staccato phrases from Downes whilst Eldh reflected melodic motifs on bass, and the obscurely named, Children with Torches which provided yet more evidence to underscore this trio’s terrific musical intellect, huge energy and intuitive sensibilities.

PARTISANS / FLETCH'S BREW

Such glory was hard to follow but the mighty Partisans took on the challenge. Though not a Norwich original, Julian Siegel at least studied Music at UEA and he and his band gave as uncompromising a set as all have come to expect of them.


Fletch’s Brew ended the night and the event with another Norwich hero, Freddie Gavita, pedal pushing both trumpet and flugelhorn to silky effect atop Carl Orr’s dynamic guitar; Laurence Cottle’s killer electric bass and Mark Fletcher’s searing drums for a slick and funky finale.

LINK: Norwich Jazz Club

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INTERVIEW/PREVIEW Mark Pringle - new album A Moveable Feast and tour dates

Mark Pringle. Photo credit: Robin French

Mark Pringle's new album "A Moveable Feast" willbe coming out this month. The award winning pianist is currently touring the UK before heading off to Germany. Feature by Peter Bacon:

“Mark Pringle is an exceptionally gifted pianist and composer, and a remarkable improviser. A Moveable Feast is a brilliant ensemble piece and a striking example of his writing and playing.”

You don’t get testimonials much stronger than that; it comes from the late John Taylor, one of Mark’s teachers - along with John Turville, Hans Koller, Joe Cutler and Liam Noble - during his years studying at Birmingham Conservatoire.

Mark graduated this summer and picked up the Jazz Department Performance Prize, the Dean’s Award for exceptional achievement and the Principal’s Prize for outstanding contribution to the life of the Conservatoire. He adds those to last December’s Peter Whittingham Award.

Still in the first half of his third decade, Mark has already got about a bit. He started out in Wells, Somerset, he’s been living, studying and playing in Birmingham for the last four years, with a stay in Paris along the way. This autumn he moves to Europe to continue doing all those things in Berlin, Copenhagen and Amsterdam as part of his placement on the European Jazz Masters programme.

It was the Paris sojourn that inspired the album he is releasing this month on Stoney Lane Records. A Moveable Feast finds him writing for and leading a 12-piece band which includes a string quartet along with more conventional jazz instruments.

"I was very lucky," says Mark Pringle," to have the opportunity to study in Paris for four months in 2013. The music is heavily inspired by my experiences there, and so inspirations behind the pieces come from a myriad of extra-musical sources."

 The music itself ranges from evocations of city hurly burly to the sudden peace of a tree-filled park, and the stylistic influences are clearly not only jazz ones but classical too. You might think that for a man of Mark’s youthful years, the Parisian inspirations would be recent ones, but no, they include Ernest Hemingway, who provided the album title as part of this highly relevant quote: “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast”. Hemingway is also remembered in a track called The Writer. Wind back a century and the composer Olivier Messiaen’s reaction on first seeing a score by Claude Debussy was to call it “a real bombshell”. That provides the title of the opening piece on Mark’s album.

For A Moveable Feast the musicians are all current or former Birmingham residents, among them trumpeter Percy Pursglove, alto saxophonist Chris Young, bassist James Banner (now working out of Berlin) and drummer Euan Palmer.

Mark started out studying classical music but he discovered the joys of improvising at a young age.

"The first recording I remember having was a National Trust compilation CD of British trad, featuring the music of Kenny Ball, Chris Barber and Acker Bilk. Such great melodies! The obsession really took off with a Bill Evans CD (Empathy/A Simple Matter of Conviction) and Oscar Peterson's Night Train, both purchased from Broad Street Jazz, the old jazz CD shop in Bath." 

Mark is as busy playing in clubs and halls around the land as he is recording and winning accolades. Last month he performed the music from A Moveable Feast at the Manchester Jazz Festival and also played in the Proms Extra Late Series at the Royal Albert Hall, which was recorded for BBC Radio 3 broadcast. He has been playing in the 12-piece, trio and small group formats, as well as solo. So which does he prefer?

"I like all those settings but there is something special about the openness of a trio, where you have so much freedom to take the music in different directions. That flexibility makes it creatively very exciting, especially when playing with people you have strong empathy with, which I am lucky enough to. I get a different kind of enjoyment from writing for A Moveable Feast, where I have the chance to be really creative with texture, harmony, orchestration, timbre… Although structurally it’s often more restricted than a trio, it’s sonically richer and more varied, which feels great to play in. Luckily you’re allowed to do both! “Having said that, I also can’t wait for saxophonists Joe Wright and Lluis Mather to join my trio for three London gigs in late September. They’re sure to be really exciting ones.”

A Moveable Feast is released on Stoney Lane Records.  

Mark Pringle is playing the following London dates: 

- 6 Sept Lume presents @ The Vortex (Large ensemble)
- 20 Sept The Green Note (Trio)
- 25 Sept South Bank Centre (Trio + Joe Wright and Lluis Mather)
- 27 Sept Omnibus, Clapham (Trio + Wright/Mather)
- 28 Sept The Oxford (Trio + Wright/Mather). 

He is also playing in Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Oxford, Cardiff and Wells.

LINKS: Mark Pringle Music 
Stoney Lane Records

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REVIEW: Lindsey Webster at Le Caprice

Lindsey Webster. Photo credit: Lucy Kissick


Lindsey Webster
(Le Caprice Martell Jazz Sessions, August 30th 2015. Review by Andrew Cartmel)


American singer Lindsey Webster and her longtime associate, pianist and arranger Keith Slattery, are here for the first time in the UK. Webster’s CV includes performing backing vocals for Donald Fagen and Slattery’s pedigree involves playing keyboards for notable soul acts as well as playing and engineering for Kanye West.

The yearning sway of Lindsey Webster's vocals start wordlessly then gradually take shape as Summertime, with Keith Slattery’s ripe, rolling piano chords like the jumping of the fish in the song. Webster has a strong, deep voice with an affecting rawness, stretching phrases and promising considerable power in reserve. There’s a hint of torment in there, too, an essential ingredient shared with great soul and blues singers — and which speaks to the underlying text of the Gershwin lyrics. Slattery shows a strong stride influence in his piano playing here. His barrel roll barrage of a solo inspires Lindsey Webster to punch out a powerful second chorus, pushing the vocals towards scat abstraction. She belts the song out with smooth, tremendous force, Keith Slattery providing a rainbow shower of colours behind her.

Impressively, Lindsey Webster is not just a singer but a songwriter. Her new CD consists entirely of originals composed with Slattery, and Fool Me Once is one of these. It’s a sudden shift to the urban after the rural beauties of Summertime and an opportunity for Slattery to build more complex structures in his playing, with shimmering crystalline descents, and to generally show what he can do. Lindsey Webster is more incisive and heartfelt now, concisely funky, wailing. The song draws to a beautiful, succinct, understated ending.

Aretha Franklin’s classic (You Make Me Fell Like) A Natural Woman is rightly performed as a husky, sultry and raw R&B number with a great, pungent soulful punch from Lindsey Webster, aided and abetted by Keith Slattery’s potent comping. Webster effortlessly and fearlessly soars to the top notes. We’re in an Atlantic Records stratosphere here, with contrails of piano streaking the clear blue sky. Webster sings fantastic, sustained, fervent whoops — she has a great voice. Hip, with a tender streak.

A stunning version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow includes the seldom heard opening verse. Yip Harburg’s lyrics are beautifully served with soaring vocals seeming to literally go over that rainbow, accompanied by Slattery’s lilting raindrop piano, all drawing to a combustible conclusion. Bleed is another original, a heartfelt, touching number, with the searching emotion of the vocals matched by the refined delicacy of the piano. If Keith Slattery’s playing suggested James P. Johnson before, now it reflects Ravel and Debussy. Tell Me Something Good by Stevie Wonder receives a sly, soulful, boastful treatment, challenging and sexy. Slattery evokes another Keith here — Jarrett, with the shining structure of his piano playing lilting and gleaming under the seductive confidence of Lindsey Webster’s eloquent, bragging vocals.

I Will Always Love You comes from Dolly Parton by way of Whitney Houston and it receives a knockout rendition. Lindsey Webster and Keith Slattery wring out all the tingling exultation which lurks in this power ballad, with Slattery taking an intriguingly laid-back excursion as Webster sneaks up on the explosive centre of the song. She launches into an astonishing, immaculate sustained note which even shuts up the drinkers in the bar, and causes tears to form in the eyes of hardened music reviewers and their dinner guests. Slattery pays homage to his deeply talented singer by scattering notes around her like rose petals at her feet. Lindsey Webster punches out the song with apparently endless reserves of power.

The art deco elegance of the legendary Mayfair restaurant Le Caprice is an ideal setting for stylish Sunday evening jazz sessions, and their association with Martell cognac makes for some suitably sophisticated cocktails to sip while listening. What began for me as an opportunity to experience one of London’s great restaurants turned into the chance to hear a formidable singing talent at close quarters. A startling and revealing evening.

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CD REVIEW: Joel Harrison 5: Spirit House



Joel Harrison 5: Spirit House
(Whirlwind WR 4673. CD review by Jon Turney)


Joel Harrison is an eclectic organiser of ensembles and a versatile composer as well as one of the most accomplished contemporary guitar stylists. This quintet recording gives us work for a particularly interesting ensemble that toured the US West Coast a couple of years ago. From the opening An Elephant in Igor’s Yard, with its titular nod to George Russell, it is clear we are in for some thoughtful, cleverly textured music – all by Harrison save for one of Paul Motian’s pellucid ballads, Johnny Broken Wing.

The elephant, I suppose, is Paul Hanson’s bassoon. That rarity, sometimes electrified, is the most unusual element here, contributing a welcome range of feelings from gruff avuncularity to some arresting wailing on Sacred Love, the tune on which the whole band rocks out to good, bluesy, effect.

He is joined by Cuong Vu on trumpet, Kermit Driscoll on bass, and the restlessly creative Brian Blade on drums. Harrison’s guitar mainly takes a back seat, contributing colours and judicious effects, but he gets more assertive as needed and has some lucid solos, notably on You Must Go Through a Winter. The most prominent solo voice, bassoon notwithstanding, is the trumpet, with Vu matching the other players for versatility of tone. He gets solidly into the feel of each piece, in a set that ranges over Frisellish Americana through deeply grooving jazz and rock-inflected electronics.

The result, like Harrison’s large discography, is full of refreshing twists and turns and delicious surprises. Does it all work? Well, the two tracks featuring vocals did nothing for me. The tribute piece Some thoughts on Kenny Kirkland is too mawkish to be effective, and the closing song confirms that the leader writes better music than lyrics. The charming collection he recorded on Free Country, from 2003, is a better place to get to know Harrison’s song-settings. For his other varied talents, though, this latest set is a great place to start.

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

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RIP Hugo Rasmussen (1941-2015)

Hugo Rasmussen in 2010
Photo credit: B. Stegmann/ Creative Commons


The Danish jazz community is mourning the loss this weekend of a central figure, the bassist Hugo Rasmussen. His unaffectedness, his humour and his friendliness are the stuff of legend. His quality and positivity as a player were inspirational and in permanent demand. He appears on over 1,000 albums. He would regularly play 20-25 gigs each year in the Copenhagen Jazz Festival. As saxophonist Jakob Dinesen said of him in 2014 : "I don't know anyone else like Hugo. Neither as a bassist or a human being. His ability to take self-importance and snobbery out of music is liberating - and does not prevent him from playing the coolest and most beautiful bass I can imagine. " The glorious sound of Rasmussen soloing is in the video below from [4:15].

In sadness.



LINKS: Interview / magazine feature from Politiken in 2014
Obituary at Politiken

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INTERVIEW/PREVIEW The Jazz Repertory Company presents Jazz in New York: The 1930s ( Cadogan Hall, Sat. Sept. 19th)



"Jazz in New York: The 1930s" will be the sixteenth presentation by Richard Pite's Jazz Repertory Company at Chelsea’s Cadogan Hall. It will feature music from Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Eddie Condon, Lee Wiley and Mildred Bailey. 

Author and broadcaster Alyn Shipton, who will be presenting the show, talks to Jazz Repertory Company’s director Richard Pite, who will also be the featured drummer for the concert:


Richard Pite: Alyn, I’m very pleased to have bagged you for this concert. At many of my previous concerts I have used the BBC’s other walking encyclopaedia of Jazz – Russell Davies. I never cease to be astonished at the breadth of knowledge both of you share on the history of the music. You seem to have an enthusiasm for every era in its history but do you have a particularly favourite period?

Alyn Shipton: Because I grew up during the 1960s, those years still have a special place in my heart. There were elder statesmen of New Orleans to be heard, like Louis Nelson and Kid Thomas; meanwhile first generation swing musicians like Buck Clayton and Bud Freeman were touring here; and yet simultaneously British jazz was entering one of its most fertile periods. Because my school was active in all kinds of music, I was lucky enough as a teenager to meet and make music with Michael Garrick (and members of the Rendell – Carr quintet), and with John Dankworth (who wrote Tom Sawyer’s Saturday for our orchestra) while going to the local jazz club once a month to hear Humph and Ken Colyer. So it was immensely fertile in terms of the musical landscape, and I think I owe my breadth of interest to what happened during that decade.

However, my second love has always been the 1930s, the period we are celebrating in this concert, because this is the music my father was keen on and as a child I was captivated by his 78s of Fats Waller, Earl Hines and Duke Ellington.

RP: We will be celebrating the centenary of Billie Holiday with a short set from Julia Biel, who for me beautifully captures the style and essence of her early years. Billie’s still a big influence on young jazz vocalists – is she the most important singer in the music’s history?

AS: I don’t like to label people “most important” or “greatest” because there’s always an exception to confound the rule. But there’s no doubt that Billie was and remains one of the most profoundly emotional singers in jazz. She rode roughshod over melodies, actually often working in a very narrow range, but she had a unique balance of caring for the words of a lyric, even the frothy ones about sunbonnets and roses round the door, and putting those words into a meaningful context. Whereas Ella’s delivery of words was sublime, and Sarah Vaughan’s grasp of harmony quite dazzling, neither of them managed to inhabit a lyric and create a story out of it with the same consistency and emotional depth as Billie.

RP: Two names that feature in our concert that might not be so familiar to today’s audience are Mildred Bailey and Lee Wiley (American singer Joan Viskant will be paying tribute to them)

AS: Poor Mildred Bailey  had such a short life, dying at only 44 owing to diabetes, but she made some great music during that time. Although she spent some years as Paul Whiteman’s female singer, (her brother Al Rinker also sang for Whiteman, with a young unknown called Bing Crosby) I think her most memorable work comes from her partnership with her sometime husband, the vibes and xylophone player Red Norvo. They were known as “Mr and Mrs Swing” and his openness to new musical ideas coupled with her sureness of touch as a singer make their records hidden treasures that are largely forgotten today. Her big hit was “Rockin’ Chair” but there are plenty of other fine examples.

There’s been a bit of a Lee Wiley revival going on among listeners to Jazz Record Requests lately, and it’s good to have had the chance to air some of her work as, like Mildred, she’s a largely forgotten figure today. Everybody thinks of Ella Fitzgerald as pioneering the “songbook” album of a particular writer’s work, but Lee was doing this with All Star bands some fifteen to twenty years earlier, starting with Gershwin in 1939. Unlike Mildred, she lived well into the post-war period and her albums from the 1950s are refreshingly different from other singers of the time. She had a directness and a slightly knowing quality about her delivery that is very beguiling.

RP: For "Jazz In The 30’s" we are featuring the German maestro Matthias Seuffert who also plays saxophone and clarinet in your Buck Clayton Legacy Band. We are both huge fans of his – have you known about him for a while now?

AS: I first met Matthias in Ascona in Switzerland in the late 1990s, and was immediately struck by his mastery of swing and early jazz styles of reed playing. He’s developed a really big tenor sound, a melée of Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster and Herschel Evans, with overtones of Don Byas, that’s a real contrast to those players who follow a more Lester Young-influenced path, and it’s great to have him in a band doing this because he becomes a sort of rhythmic and tonal centre of gravity. Meanwhile his clarinet playing (using Albert system fingering, which allows the instrument a broader, woodier tone) is a vade mecum of classic jazz, immediately recognisable as Matthias, but encompassing nuances drawn from players as different as Johnny Dodds and Jimmy Hamilton.

RP: We are very lucky to have such an array of jazz musicians in the UK who have studied and mastered the styles of the early stars of the music. Enrico Tomasso does a marvellous Louis Armstrong, Keith Nichols has Fats Waller style stride piano off pat, and Martin Litton pretty much covers everyone up to Thelonious Monk. Do you think the playing of repertory jazz has improved as the music’s history has got longer and longer?

AS: I think repertory jazz has been rather good from the outset. Muggsy Spanier’s Ragtimers did a rather good job resuscitating Chicagoan jazz in 1939, and it goes on from there. What’s changed is that as jazz history has got longer, the smorgasbord from which we can pick and choose has grown immeasurably. Of course we’re lucky that players can emulate earlier great talents with skill and a degree of verisimilitude, but if you took 1960s France for example, you'd hear Irakli doing a more than passable turn as Louis, Claude Luter emulating Bechet and Christian Azzi sounding like James P Johnson. I think what stands out about today’s musicians at their best is that they have their own musical personalities, which they combine adroitly with the essence of earlier styles. So Rico, for instance, is very much his own man on his “Al Dente” CD, but he can equally well turn his hand to a range of material in a concert like this one, with an authentic feel to his timing, tone and choice of notes.

RP: Someone once said to me “Always remember how young these musicians were when they were playing this great music all those years ago.” A lot of these musicians in the 1930s were in their prime and playing with such power and vitality. It’s all about the excitement and if you didn’t generate that then the club owners would fire you!

AS: Age didn’t stop many of the swing masters of the 30s from continuing to play with that same degree of excitement and fire. When I heard Benny Goodman in 1981 at Carnegie Hall, he produced half a dozen choruses on Airmail Special that were as utterly dazzling as anything he did in the ‘30s. And I’ve been lucky enough with the BBC to work on broadcasts with the likes of Lionel Hampton and Harry "Sweets" Edison who were every bit as punchy in the 1990s as they had been 60 years before! So I think swing is an attitude of mind, and quite ageless.

RP: Do you have any particular recordings from the 1930s which are firm favourites?

AS: Too many to list here, but among the high points are Bill Coleman’s records with Fats Waller, things like “Night Wind” and “Believe It Beloved”; Billie Holiday’s sides with Teddy Wilson and particularly the ones with Buck Clayton and Lester Young, like “Mean To Me” or “When You’re Smiling”; Lionel Hampton’s small groups, especially the “Hot Mallets” session, Jimmy Blanton’s arrival with Ellington, say “Tootin Through The Roof” and – because I wrote a whole book about him – Cab Calloway’s records, including the “Minnie The Moocher” saga. My Royal Academy of Music students would also say that for reasons they never quite fathom, I always inflict Sharkey Bonano, Wingy Manone and Louis Prima’s 52nd Street groups on them, just to prove that there were other ways to play the trumpet…

RP: I like the Eddie Condon quote about the difference between the old style guys and the new breed. “The boppers flat their fifths. We consume ours”. To conclude, do you have any funny or remarkable stories about any of the 1930s jazz stars we’ll be paying tribute too?

AS: When Ronald Waller was asked at primary school what his father did for a living, he thought for a moment and said “He drinks gin”. So the high life was all part and parcel of the sounds of the era, and particularly in a country coming out of Prohibition. Jonah Jones told me in a BBC interview that when he worked for Stuff Smith, he and Cozy Cole were fined if they weren’t “high” by the interval — Jones eventually joined Calloway after his doctor said the diet of whisky and marijuana with Smith was killing him. And when Billie Holiday worked the Café Society for the famously racially tolerant Barney Josephson, his tolerance did not stretch to her smoking pot on the premises. So she really liked it when Doc Cheatham joined her backing band as he smoked a particularly vile and pungent variety of pipe tobacco. She used to persuade him to sit and puff his pipe outside her dressing room so that Josephson remained unaware of the more, er, subtle aroma coming from within!

RP: As the concert promoter,  I’d  bettter set the record straight on that point, and  reassure anybody coming to the show that our performance will be drug and alcohol free.

LINE-UP:  Keith Nichols and Martin Litton (piano), Joan Viskant and Julia Biel (vocals),  Enrico Tomasso (trumpet/ vocals),  Ian Bateman, (trombone), Anthony Kerr,(vibraphone), Thomas “Spats” Langham  (guitar), Dave Chamberlain (double bass and guitar). The show will also feature the German reedsman Matthias Seuffert and the Australian multi-instrumentalist Michael McQuaid

JAZZ IN NEW YORK: The 1930s is at Cadogan Hall  SW1 7.30 Saturday September 19th.


BOOKINGS

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CD REVIEW: Samuel Hällkvist - Variety of Live



Samuel Hällkvist - Variety of Live
(BoogiePost Recordings BPCD020. CD Review by Adrian Pallant)


In 2014, following his 2012 studio release Variety of Loud, Swedish guitarist Samuel Hällkvist made the decision to tour Denmark and Sweden in order to satisfy his curiosity of playing live with his strong personnel of Pat Mastelotto (traps & buttons), Qarin Wikström (voice, keys), Guy Pratt (bass) and Stefan Pasborg (drums).

It was, however, almost a year later that Hällkvist decided on his preferred artistic route for the recordings of the gigs. Rather than put out a straightforward live album, he would use these performance accounts as a basis for a fusion with studio creativity, inviting a number of guest contributions. The result is a powerful, immersive experience of rock, prog, jazz, funk and electronica, suggesting the busy, instrumental sound worlds of  - amongst others - King Crimson, Peter Gabriel and Nik Bärtsch.

The complimentary 'prog' tag is perhaps inevitable, given that Guy Pratt (Pink Floyd sideman bassist) and Pat Mastelotto (drummer with King Crimson since the '90s) are part of the driving energy propelled by drummer Stefan Pasborg. And, along with the influential role of keyboardist and programmer Richard Barbieri, as well as exotic world-music chants from Qarin Wikström, Mocako Asano and Yukiko Taniguchi, the improvisational jazz element is reinforced by British-based musicians Yazz Ahmed (trumpet) and Denys Baptiste (saxophone).

As Barbieri explains, it's the supportive cohesion of Hällkvist's guitars and devices which makes his approach so appealing: "I like the way he 'mangles' his guitar sounds to produce the weirdest textures and glitches. His playing is always tasteful and integrated into the song – there's no showiness or overplaying." Having said that, Variety of Loud can be intensely mesmerising, the usual instrumental delineation frequently blurred into a blend of constantly evolving phrases, rhythms, effects and atmospheres. Opening number Greyer Melange develops, raga-like, as Hällkvist's sustained, crackled guitar squeals (not unlike Fripp or Manzanera) permeate a vocalised, synthy pulse; and Chord: Horror Vacui bubbles to Patrick Moraz-style steel-pan keyboards and Baptiste's flowing tenor, before Pasborg's percussive battery erupts in blistering fashion.

Other highlights include the rocky modulations of Kiopotec, with a highly-charged, processed groove whose instrumentation is fascinatingly difficult to decipher; and Heru Ra-Ha/Road, which throbs effusively and then gradually stratifies, is pleasingly reminiscent of Bärtsch's Ronin. Music for the Maraca Triplet turns away from its initial Gong-like, xylophonic trance to become increasingly Floydian (though with apparitional trumpet improv), before dropping into the relative, almost-reggae lightness of In Transfer; and the solid rock riff of Cluck Old Hen is tangibly '70s metal, with strangely becalming trumpet lines from Yazz Ahmed amongst its widely demonstrative female vocals.

This is a continual soundscape in which to lose oneself, rather than a programme of individual tracks – and the effect of Hällkvist's project at high volume is exhilarating, especially if you have a 'proggy' predilection (which, I'm proud to say, I have!).

Adrian Pallant is a proofreader, musician and jazz writer who also reviews at his own site ap-reviews.com


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RIP Steve Lane 1921-2015 (+ funeral details)

Steve Lane (second from right) in 1952



Roger Trobridge has written in with sad news:

The pioneer traditional band leader and cornet player, Steve Lane, died on Saturday, 22 August, 2015, aged 93.

He was a cornet player, guitarist, composer and arranger, as well as being a director of VJM Records from 1960 with Brian Rust and John Wadley.

Steve led his own Southern Stompers jazz band in the early 1950, and also led and recorded with his Red Hot Peppers and the VJM Washboard Band for over 50 years.

He was a a very traditional jazz player in the Ken Colyer style and he established the Ealing Jazz Club in the Fox and Goose, Hanger Lane, Ealing in 1952. Lots of good musicians passed through his band.

The photo here is from the Ealing Jazz Club, Fox and Goose, Hanger Lane, 1952, which Steve started. Steve on cornet, with Colin Kingwell on trombone, Ian MacDonald on piano, Jim Forey on banjo, Doug Grey on sousaphone and Johnny Milton on clarinet.

UPDATE 27th August from Roger Trobridge:

The funeral will start promptly at 12 o'clock on Monday 7 September, at
New Southgate Crematorium
Brunswick Park
Brunswick Park Road
New Southgate
London N11 1JJ

Travel details are on the WEBSITE

After the short service we can move on to a local pub.

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NEWS: Jive Aces and Swing Museum to perform at National Jazz Archive Fundraiser on 18th September



A fun fundraising evening for the National Jazz Archive in Chingford on will feature the UK’s No. 1 jive and swing band The Jive Aces, and the Hot Club de France-inspired quartet Swing Museum. This lively event will be on Friday 18th September at Chingford Assembly Hall.

THE JIVE ACES

"A regular act at the biggest UK summer music festivals this summer, they are the the UK’s top jive and swing band, The Jive Aces are renowned for their high energy Jump Jive music (the exciting sound where Swing meets Rock ’n’ Roll) and spectacular stage show. They combine a mixture of fresh arrangements of swing/jive/R&B classics – songs made famous by such greats as Louis Prima, Cab Calloway, Bobby Darin, Louis Armstrong, Dean Martin, Big Joe Turner and Sammy Davis, Jr – along with a selection of superb swinging originals taken from their eight studio albums."

SWING MUSEUM

Swing Museum is led by violinist Andrew Rackham. "Inspired by the ‘Hot Club of France’, Swing Museum is a well-known instrumental Jazz Manouche quartet, playing a delightfully authentic version of this sophisticated and refined music from the 1930s and 1940s. By combining the innovative styling of Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt with their own foot-tapping original compositions, they make each of their sets unique."

This concert is on Friday 18 September 2015, and is one of a series during the year to raise funds to support the work of the National Jazz Archive. It starts at 7.30pm and tickets cost £17.

The venue is Chingford Assembly Hall, Station Road, Chingford, London, E4 7EN (500 metres from Chingford Station), with parking close by, and good access by bus.

LINK/ TO BOOK : NJA EVENTS. Also phone 020 8502 4701 / email events@nationaljazzarchive.org.uk

The next event at the Archive itself is on Saturday lunchtime Sep 26th, a talk by blues specialist Lawrence Davies entitled New Orleans, London, Memphis, Manchester... British Blues before the 1960s. Details and tickets

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CD REVIEW: Stuart McCallum – City



Stuart McCallum – City
(Naim Jazz Records naimcd219). CD Review by Peter Jones.


Some music is at its best after dark; after all, night is the time for introspection, and this, guitarist Stuart McCallum’s second album for Naim Jazz, is a case in point: we’re truly talking about 3.00am levels of introspection.

McCallum has used a rock line-up, merged with subtle electronica. The vibe is thrillingly slow, rich, sensuous, dark and mellow, one might almost say druggy. There are echoes not only of McCallum’s band The Cinematic Orchestra, but of the late lamented Durutti Column, with shades also of the Cocteau Twins, Massive Attack, Plastyc Buddha and Zero 7 - downtempo, chill-out, call it what you will. And before the jazz police come knocking (perhaps looking for the aforementioned drugs), I should add that there are clearly improvised elements to the music, with echoes of Emily Remler in McCallum’s beautiful, plangent guitar work.

As well as himself on both acoustic and electric guitars, the band consists of Robin Mullarkey on bass, Sean Foran on Fender Rhodes and most significantly of all, Richard Spaven on drums, synths and electronics. Spaven, who has contributed so much to José James’s sound, should really be co-credited with McCallum, having shared the writing and production duties with him. A variety of vocalists have been used, not in a conventional way, more as additional tones used like instruments in the overall mix.

It’s tough to pick out individual tracks: these don’t feel like conventional ‘tunes’ or ‘songs’ but looping, dreamlike pieces that flow from one to the next. But if I were compelled to mention any in particular, Mk II and Inhale are gorgeous, McCallum’s chiming guitars underpinned by Spaven’s signature broken-beat drumming to create a very fresh, contemporary sound picture. Lushly romantic as it is, it’s romance with a somewhat bleak northern aspect, in the best ‘ECM’ sense.

Frustratingly, Stuart McCallum has no plans to gig down south following his one London date last July, but the northern half of the country is in for a real treat.

Meanwhile City is available on 180gm vinyl as well as in CD and digital formats.

Stuart McCallum’s live dates are as follows:

Sept 24 - Grumbles, Stafford;
Oct 7 - Lescar, Sheffield;

Oct 8 - Mash Guru, Macclesfield;
Oct 9 - Cafe Lento, Leeds;
Oct 10 - Zefirellis, Ambleside
Oct 11 - Marsden Jazz Festival, West Yorks

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CD REVIEW: Kait Dunton - Trio Kait



Kait Dunton - Trio Kait
(Real & Imagined Music R&I 003. CD review by Rob Mallows


Increasingly, many piano trios in contemporary jazz are reducing their reliance on red-hot soloing in favour of a more collective, constructed sound that’s reliant on strong melodies and an appeal to the emotions rather than the intellect. If that’s what it takes to make an album as fun as this, then I say more power to them.

Kait Dunton is the LA-based leader of this piano trio who, along with her bandmates bassist Cooper Appelt and drummer Jake Reed, has - on this, her third album - produced a singular sound that is all about the collective identity of the group. Rather like pioneers EST, Neil Cowley Trio and presently Robert Glasper, who’ve all sought to expand the horizons of jazz piano in different ways over the years - all with great commercial success, one might add - one senses Dunton is also seeking to squeeze as much juice out of the piano trio as she can.

A composer who seeks inspiration from electronica, rock, classical, R&B as well as jazz, this linkage to multiple musical sources of inspiration has helped Dunton strike the mother lode. She finds variety in rhythms, chord changes and tone, rather than pure improvisation and virtuosity. Not that she’s abandoned improvisation - it’s just she clearly doesn’t rely on it to create something compelling and utterly listenable.

Dunton has a choppy and angular style which cuts through on the opening track Prelude and pound out a confident melody that hints at what the album’s all about. Even relying solely on the acoustic piano on this album, she brings a rock-like power to her playing that creates a rich band sound.

Her rhythm section is perhaps the key to this album. Using electric bass rather than upright, Appelt achieves great cut-through in the sound on many of the tracks and adds some real colour higher up in the register which complements Dunton’s playing. The reliance on more rock-influenced rhythms from drummer Reed provides groove but never in any way that suggests this is anything but a jazz trio album.

Second track Channels - a more conventional ballad - is only 41 seconds of classical runs after which the album goes from first gear to fourth by leaping straight into funk-filled Chrysocolla. Time Travel, as its title suggests, is about finding creativity in the use of different and complex time signatures to illuminate the tune - the 7/4 rhythm fairly rushes along at breakneck speed conveying a simple tune. A great track that shows it’s not only pop music that can create three minute wonders. Yes is more late-night soul smoothness, with a gorgeously creamy bass sound that’s all about mood.

Album closer Customis a jazz-hip-hop confection so prevalent now on contemporary jazz albums, but this one is fairly benign. It has all the simple drum rhythms and dope-ass bass of street hip hop which call pall, but the repetitive melody is rather listenable and this track overall, while the weakest on the album, has a certain simplistic charm.

I was impressed by this album. The piano trio is a competitive market and any group must dig deep to find new musical avenues to explore and sounds to expand the listeners horizons and capture their attention. Trio Kait does this in spades.

When you thrown a lot of different musical influences into the jazz pot, you need a good chef to make the resulting meal palatable. On this evidence, Kait Dunton is already on her way to a Michelin star. Lovely album

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SURVEY: Gender Roles in the Jazz Jam Session



Joy Ellis will be presenting a paper on Gender Roles in the Jazz Jam Session at the Darmstadt Jazzforum conference in early October, which this year - the Jazzarchiv's 25th Anniversary -  has as its theme Gender and Identity in Jazz.

Joy is currently conducting a survey of attitudes - the very worst of which are on display in the video above. Contributions to Joy's survey will be anonymous / unattributable.

TAKE THE SURVEY HERE

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NEWS: Six-day opening event for South African Jazz Cultures and the Archive culminates with Tete Mbambisa Sextet

 

The University of York is hosting a six-day programme of events focusing on SouthAfrican jazz from September 4th - 9th: discussions, public lectures, book readings, film showings, record launches and live music. The programme is devised by Dr. Jonathan Eato.

This series of events marks the start of a two-year British Academy Newton Advanced Fellowship project, in association with the University of York Department of Music, under the banner South African Jazz Cultures and the Archive.

UK-based artists with strong South African origin or deep connections such as Eugene Skeef, Adam Glasser, Pinise Saul and Darius Brubeck are involved. Skeef will present sections from an unfifnished film about Bheki Mseleku. The final event presents  a sextet led by pianist Tete Mbambisa, and including Julian Arguelles and Chris Batchelor.

Tickets are required to attend the events and they are available by emailing  jonathan (dot) eato (at) york (dot) ac (dot) uk

LINK: Full Programme for South African Jazz Cultures and the Archive

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FEATURE: Elliot Galvin looks forward to 15-date trio tour (2- 18 Sept)



 The Elliot Galvin Trio (video of "Cozy" above by Alex Morley) has a fourteen-date September tour of the UK. Pianist Elliot Galvin, regular bassist Tom McCredie and drummer Simon Roth were all on the debut album "Dreamland" (Chaos, 2015). He writes:

For our tour starting 2nd September we will be bringing the music from our debut album Dreamland, along with some new material, to venues all around the country. We have a whole new album's worth of material that we plan to record in Berlin in early December, using the funds we received from winning the 2014 European Young Jazz Musicians of The Year Award in Burghausen.

As a band we are constantly trying to develop our sound and often searching beyond our comfort zone. One new piece features a microtonal melodica that I built out of two melodicas, keeping one in it’s original tuning and opening the other one up to file down all the metal reeds inside - detuning each by a microtone. This was a great way for me to achieve that sound without using technology.

We also have a new arrangement of Mac the Knife. I’ve always wanted to do an arrangement of Mac the Knife, because for me it’s a really misunderstood piece of music. By 1931, when Brecht added the extra final pay-off verse about the peope in the dark, the intention that the song could stand as a metaphor for the rise of Hitler, who had hated the 1928 Threepenny Opera, was evident -  and yet somehow it has become a pastiche crooner classic. I really wanted to do a version of the piece that kept the bite and dark wit of the original, something I’ve always admired in Kurt Weill’s music.

Some of the rest of the new material comes from our 2014 London Jazz Festival commission, and there is also Cozy, another one of our new tunes which came out of the multimedia installation we did at The Turner Contemporary in Margate last year. The viideo above was made for that installation:



 In our tour we will be playing at:

02 Sept - The lescar, Sheffield
03 Sept - Coffee Coasts, Birmingham
04 Sept - The Verdict, Brighton
06 Sept - The Lighthouse, Deal
07 Sept - Pizza Express, Maidstone
08 Sept - Dempsey's, Cardiff
09 Sept - The Vortex, London
10 Sept - Hidden Rooms, Cambridge
11 Sept - Colston hall Foyer, Bristol
12 Sept - Zeffirelli's, Ambleside
13 Sept - Seven Arts, Leeds
15 Sept – Edinburgh House Concert, Edinburgh (contact trio for details)
16 Sept - The Butterfly and Pig, Glasgow
17 Sept - The Blue Lamp, Aberdeen
18 Sept - Literary and Philoso­­phical Society, Newcastle ­

­ The Elliot Galvin Trio UK tour has received support from The PRS for Music Foundation.

LINKS: CD Review Dreamland 
Review of CD Launch gig
Interview withElliot Galvin  

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CD REVIEW: John Fedchock New York Big Band – Like It Is



John Fedchock New York Big Band – Like It Is
(Mama MAA1048. CD Review by Peter Jones)


Trombonists seem to like taking charge of big bands and large ensembles – presumably because that’s where they spend nearly all their time. Recently in the UK both Tom Green and Patrick Hayes have produced albums which are not only accomplished but fresh and challenging.

Across the pond another trombonist, ex-Woody Herman arranger John Fedchock, has been at it for a lot longer than them: this is his fifth recording with the 16-piece New York Big Band - ‘a vital large ensemble inspired by tradition and innovation’, according to the publicity. The new album contains ten tunes, half old and half new, but all characterized by super-glossy playing and highly-polished production. Fedchock has succeeded in getting commissions for four of them from four different universities – quite an achievement, and surely very helpful with the album’s production costs.

All the new numbers are his original compositions. Although the title track swaggers along with familiar New York attitude, the melody just doesn’t emerge all that strongly. It’s the same story on the mid-tempo swinger Just Sayin’. It’s brash and confident, but sayin’ what exactly? Hair Of The Dog lurches through the mean streets in more convincing fashion, bassist Dick Sarpola and pianist Allen Farnham setting a suitably queasy tone ahead of a conventional solo from Fedchock and a slightly more hung-over one from tenor saxophonist Walt Weiskopf. Ten Thirty 30 is a faster, more angular piece with some edgy playing from Farnham and tenor saxophonist Rich Perry.

The non-originals begin with You And The Night And The Music, in which the arranger’s stated aim was to ‘mask the original structure’ of the tune, and its identity is indeed skillfully disguised behind a new coat of musical paint. The wistful ballad Never Let Me Go is a highlight, the leader playing most of the melody himself and soloing with great sensitivity. Cedar Walton’s Ojos De Rojo contains some fine brass flourishes and a great drums from Dave Ratajczak. Just Squeeze Me sets up a nice call-and-response between Scott Robinson’s doleful baritone sax and the rest of the horns.

In short, a pleasant album, a thoroughly professional album, with some fine moments, but there’s a shortage of the promised innovation, and one can’t help wishing John Fedchock had taken more risks.

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REVIEW: Molly Ringwald at Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho

Molly Ringwald at Pizza Express
Photo credit: Cat Munro


Molly Ringwald
(Pizza Express Soho, August 19th 2015. Review by Andrew Cartmel)


It might surprise some to find Molly Ringwald, an iconic young movie star of the 1980s (Sixteen Candles, Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink singing in a London jazz club. But as Ringwald herself has said, “My dad was a jazz pianist and I grew up on a steady diet of Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and Earl ‘Fatha’ Hines — I met Eubie Blake.” And in pursuit of her career as a jazz vocalist she has enlisted some impressive support. The gifted pianist and arranger Peter Smith is her regular collaborator and musical director. (He has also worked with James Tormé — and Stevie Wonder.) Their English pickup band — some pickup band — consists of double bassist Alec Dankworth, of course a scion of one of the most distinguished British jazz lineages, and drummer Winston Clifford who studied with Tubby Hayes’s drummer Bill Eyden and has played with Art Farmer and Freddie Hubbard.

Sooner or Later by Stephen Sondheim is from the film Dick Tracy where it was sung by nightclub chanteuse Breathless Mahoney, played by Madonna. Molly Ringwald was also up for the part, so there is an element of getting even in Ringwald’s rendition, where she demonstrates that she’s a rhythm singer with a fine sense of swing, and timing that gets the listener’s toe tapping. Her clipped rhythmic precision on Exactly Like You is emphasised by Dankworth’s incisive bass, Smith’s rich and discerning piano and a flurry of elegant brushwork by Clifford.

I Get Along Without You Very Well sees Dankworth and Clifford sitting out. Molly Ringwald extracts the maximum emotion from the lyric and Peter Smith plays elegant heartfelt flourishes, taking this standard at a sedate, pensive, searching pace. Smith specialises in considered, handsome piano figures, measured and richly melodic. The Great American Song Book predominates throughout the evening. On They Say it’s Spring by Marty Clark and Bob Haymes, Ringwald’s acting experience is evident both her driving diction and her knack for getting the full feeling and value from the words. Her musicians support her with great, jaunty unison playing, doing a terrific job of walking the fine line between comping and classy trio jazz. Peter Smith sets off on a skipping, eloquent excursion backed up by strong, subtle drumming with outstanding brushwork from Clifford and Dankworth’s sturdy, virile bass. Smith plays a gorgeous, insistent intro on It Never Entered My Mind as Molly savours the lyric, Winston Clifford’s delicate drumming gradually grows into a mist of shimmering cymbals and Dankworth flicks gentle thunder from the strings, then solos sonorously.

Molly Ringwald reminds us that these songs are vehicles for some of the best lyrics ever written. The most powerful moment of the evening comes with Buddy Can You Spare a Dime? by Jay Gorney and Yip Harburg. Molly performs a solo vocal introduction, moving as fast as a startled cat, and then the trio comes in. The song is delivered in snatched phrases, full of impact and bringing out Harburg’s caustic, timeless rhapsody of class war. There’s a chiming bop solo from Smith, feverish and skilful bass by Dankworth and restrained, explosive playing by Clifford. It’s an exceptional arrangement by Smith and Molly Ringwald’s singing is punchy and anguished. The impact is impressive, and dramatic. The highlight of the set, and a very unexpected one. We’re a long way from smooth dinner jazz here.

LINK: Molly Ringwald interview

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REVIEW: Kirk Lightsey/ Paul Zauner Quintet at the Vortex

Kirk Kightsey at the Vortex
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2015. All Rights Reserved

Kirk Lightsey /Paul Zauner Quintet
(Vortex, 20 August 2015; night 2 of 2-day residency; review and drawings by Geoff Winston)

Pianist Kirk Lightsey and trombonist Paul Zauner combine mastery of their instruments with a sensitive, light touch that has formed the basis of their collaborations for nearly thirty years since they first shared billing on an early tour of Zauner's enduring Blue Brass group.

Lightsey, now based in Paris, grew up and cut his teeth in Detroit with its rich tradition of jazz piano, boasting such luminaries as Hank Jones, Sir Roland Hanna and Tommy Flanagan, and has been pianist of choice for many of the greats including Dexter Gordon, with whom he toured for four years, and Chet Baker, with whom he first played in the mid-60s.

Zauner is not only the leader of the very fine quartet which he brought to the Vortex, but also organiser of the unique INNtöne Festival which takes place on his pig farm in Austria and Director of the PAO label which forges some unexpected links between European and American jazz.

Trombonist Paul Zauner
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2015. All Rights Reserved

On tenor sax, Klemens Pliem's unmistakable respect for Coltrane's legacy shaped the clarity of his dynamic and demanding contributions in both the standards in their repertoire and Lightsey's compositions, a balanced foil to Zauner's softly blended tonal range which took its cues from Bob Brookmeyer, spiced with blasts of Albert Mangelsdorff's spiky robustness. Dusan Novakov also carried the mantle of the bright, soft touch approach with impeccable timing on percussion and an unceasing alertness to every nuance of his co-musicans, traits that carried through to Wolfram Derschmidt's low-key, yet highly expressive bass work.

Lightsey grinned with delight as the quintet found the space to allow full voice to his own subtly constructed approach to the keyboard. What was so special was the way that he created spaces while he built up structures which, in an understated way, just leaned away from the predictable as he picked over the melodic routes with care, restraint and inspiration.

Ellington's Creole Love Call with its elastic, rubbery texture and Mood Indigo's slinky melancholy contrasted with the primal momentum of Santamaria's Afro Blue, while there was a suggestion of the quirky delicacy of Paul Klee's painting, The Twittering Machine, in the group's fragile interplay in Lightsey's Heaven Dance, following his beautifully articulated short solo piece, Kiwi. And a one-off towards the end - an extended flute duet shared by Lightsey and Pliem on Lightsey's Habiba, flickering and weaving hypnotically and eventually breaking down into a relaxed quintet groove, prefacing a fiercely demanded encore, a strong blues before the band headed for their overnight flight to Austria.

Kirk Lightsey, piano
Klemens Pliem, tenor sax
Paul Zauner, trombone
Wolfram Derschmidt, bass
Dusan Novakov, drums


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INTERVIEW/ PREVIEW: Derek Nash (You’ve Got to Dig It to Dig It, You Dig? Album Launch Tour Dates, 3rd to 9th Sept)

Derek Nash


Saxophonist Derek Nash has a new Acoustic Quartet CD on Jazzizit Records, "You’ve Got to Dig It to Dig It, You Dig?" In this interview with Alison Bentley, he talked about the background to this new album, and also about his work with Sax Appeal, Jools Holland and Paul McCartney, and tells the story of the recording of Jamie Cullum’s first album.

London Jazz News: Where does the title of your new album come from?

Derek Nash: There’s a list of notes that the saxophonist Steve Lacey transcribed of Thelonious Monk’s advice: it’s things like: ‘Make the drummer sound good.’ ‘Stop playing all those weird notes.’ Slap bang in the middle is this: ‘You’ve got to dig it to dig it, you dig?’ As soon as I read that I was inspired to write a piece of music, and I just used the rhythm of that phrase. It’s very much a boogaloo piece. Think Ramsey Lewis, Cannonball Adderley, all of those things when Blue Note jazz suddenly started to get a soul backbeat to it. I thought, if this is a piece of music that’s got to be dug, then it ought to be a little bit groovy: good-time jazz but with real chords that you can get your teeth stuck into.

LJN: How did you start working with David Newton, Geoff Gascoyne and Sebastiaan de Krom?

DN: Geoff came originally to me as an artist- I have a joint career running a recording studio- Clowns Pocket Recording Studio. Geoff and Trudy [Kerr] his wife have recorded between them ten or twelve albums there over the years. Geoff and Sebastiaan once turned up at my studio with an incredible and very young pianist/vocalist called Jamie Cullum. Geoff had met him on a Jazz course he was teaching on, and Jamie was a participant. That led to me recording the ‘Pointless Nostalgic’ album for Jamie when he was just beginning to get going. So I got to know Geoff and Sebastiaan incredibly well from those days. Dave Newton- I just adored his playing- always so melodic, swings, and when you want to be introspective, I love his ability almost to sound like Brad Mehldau at times. It’s one of those things where you just have to pluck up the courage and say, ‘I’d really like to work with you.’ Dave’s been fantastic.

LJN: Dave Newton has done an arrangement for your new album?

DN: Yes, he brought a version of Secret Love. Most people would look at it and think- they’re just going to play a standard swing version of a well-known tune. Dave had a pedal note running through most of the head (initial statement of the tune) and a little kind of Celtic vamp which is quite unexpected. It means when you first start playing, people really aren’t sure what you’re playing, but eventually it works its way into the tune. When you release it into the normal swing that people would expect, it’s almost as though you’d lit the blue touch paper.

Geoff had two compositions he thought would work really well for the Quartet- Vertigo, and Keep It To Yourself, which is based on ‘The Preacher’, the old Horace Silver tune. I decided to change the arrangement, and do a more New Orleans version of it. He was more than happy with that.

And with Geoff and Sebastiaan I’ve been doing a Gerry Mulligan/Chet Baker tribute, playing all that beautiful piano-less stuff from the 50s.

LJN: There’s one like that on the new CD?

DN: Yes, that was one I wrote that we’ve been doing live with the Quartet. I’m proud of it as a composition, and I have [trumpeter] Martin Shaw guesting with me on the recording.

LJN: And you’ve an acoustic version of a Yellowjackets tune?

DN: I was incredibly privileged to spend a week in the company of Russ Ferrante  - the Yellowjackets' pianist - in America about six years ago. I was involved The Conference on World Affairs: it’s an amazing thing- they get musicians from all around the world and just put us together. We have to do a concert for 2,500 people in two days flat. I played a couple of Russ Ferrante’s tunes with him, and he played a couple of my tunes. I did it earlier this year too, and this time I was playing alongside Ernie Watts, who’s another childhood hero. I’ve been in touch with Russ ever since. I’ve always loved the Yellowjackets- they’re a very inspirational band. This was an early song that was done in a very poppy, synthy manner. One day I had an idea of doing it as a jazz waltz, just to see how it would work. I contacted Russ Ferrante and said, ‘I’d like to do a version of your tune Homecoming on my new album’. Twenty minutes later he’d emailed his original leadsheet to me. He was perfectly happy to hand out his original. I was so impressed by that that I’ve done the same thing- I’ve put some of my leadsheets on my website. I’d love to spread the gospel of my music, so if anyone wants to play it please do!

LJN: Do you play all four saxes on the new album, like the last one - Joyriding 2011, which won a British Jazz Award?

DN: Yes, this is something I’ve done for a long time now. I was an alto player first, and then I added soprano, then baritone, and I didn’t take up tenor till I was in my 20s. I was quite adept at baritone well before even thinking about even picking up a tenor sax. If I do a guest spot with a house rhythm section, I’ll always take all four saxophones with me. Firstly, it’s good for me to keep them all match fit. But more importantly, I think it gives the audience four totally different tone colours, and gives me a chance to play in a different way, because you never play on a soprano the way you do on a baritone. The only thing for me is, I’ve got to carry saxophones everywhere- my car has more equipment than most drummers!

LJN: You have a very tender bari tone on ‘Joyriding’. Do you have a favourite baritone player?

DN: Obviously Gerry Mulligan’s always going to be an important influence, and Harry Carney, Cecil Payne- he’s got a beautiful subtle sound.

LJN: Other sax players?

DN: Sonny Stitt and Cannonball Adderley. Sam Butera, who was the saxophone player with Louis Prima. He’s someone that everyone always forgets, but wow, he swung! And he had this lovely gritty sound that comes through everything. I love all the crossover guys like Stanley Turrentine. who can play the most heart-wrenching soul stuff, but also be a great swinging player. And I’ve done a fair amount of rock and roll grittiness over the years. I love doing double header gigs with Ray Gelato. I used to play in a band with Spike Robinson, sadly no longer with us. But we’ve been recently recreating the three tenors band that we had, now with myself, Alan Barnes and Vasilis Xenopoulos- a three tenor front line, going out with that, and that becomes a battle royal!

LJN: And your arranging?

DN: Arranging for me is just as important as composing. My dad was an arranger for the BBC Northern Dance Orchestra for 35 years. So I grew up with an arranger’s ear, and my dad showing me versions of chords, and how arrangements can change a tune dramatically. And I’ve been arranging for Jools [Holland] for ten years. I do five or six charts every year.

The whole thing about my musical life is that it is so varied. I've also run Sax Appeal for over thirty years, and Protect the Beat, a funk and fusion band. I’ve always experimented with Sax Appeal, with all the different colours you can get out of five saxophones and flutes; and putting sopranos on lead, and turning the voicing upside down with tenor on lead, and seeing what can happen. I’ve always been involved with arranging things and I love the challenge of it all- it’s great fun.

LJN: Any favourite arrangers?

DN: I love Claus Ogerman, particularly all the stuff he did with Michael Brecker and the early Brecker Brothers with that wonderful three horn writing. Though I probably listen to more Cannonball and Sonny Stitt than I do the Brecker Brothers these days.

LJN: You have a Sax Appeal gig in the middle of your Quartet tour?

DN: That’ll be with Brandon Allen and Simon Allen- both on the new Sax Appeal album. And Bob McKay has been my regular baritone player for years, and Scott Garland on lead alto. It’ll be Pete Adams on piano, Phil Scragg on bass, and Mike Bradley on drums. That line-up could always shuffle a tiny bit, to say the least!!

LJN: You’ve Got to Dig It to Dig It, You Dig? was recorded in your own studio, and is out on your own label, Jazzizit?

DN: We’re very proud- Jazzizit has been around for quite a long time now, and it’s an interesting thing to write, arrange, play, produce, and record your own music. You get so ingrained with it all, sometimes it’s very hard to keep focused. So I got this incredible young guy I’ve been working with called Chris Kalcov to master it, just because I wanted an independent pair of ears. And he ended up recording a whole suite by Sax Appeal that was written for The Watermill in Dorking, for their 20th anniversary- ‘The Phoenix Suite’. It’s on YouTube. The Watermill then invited me back to premiere the new Quartet album on the 3rd of Sept.

LJN: You get to work with all sorts of different people with Jools Holland.

DN: Yes, everyone from Solomon Burke to Jessie J, Ray LaMontagne, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Annie Lennox, Eric Clapton, and Kylie Minogue, who was a delight actually! Working with David Sanborn was an absolute treat. And then to play with Paul McCartney- we did Got to Get You Into My Life with all the fantastic brass stuff. You meet someone like Paul McCartney and you wonder what they’re going to be like. He politely asked the drummer, ‘Would you mind if I counted this in?’ He just wanted to be one of us. He said, ‘Play louder if you want. I just wanted to get more atmosphere. Let’s have a party onstage.’It’s opened all these doors for me in that respect.

Because I’ve got my fingers in so many musical pies, I get turned on by loads of different kinds of music. I suppose that shows up in the new album. We’ve worked together for a few years now, and this is the second album with the same line up. Geoff, Dave and Sebastiaan are a band: they have inputs into the arrangements, they have honest feeling, and what you get is a band telepathy. I’m still having an absolute ball making good music with amazing musicians.

DEREK NASH ACOUSTIC QUARTET - DATES

Watermill Jazz, Dorking – Thursday 3rd September – 8.30pm

Jazz on the Pier, Southend-on-Sea – Sunday 6th September – 12.30pm

OFFICIAL CD LAUNCH – Pizza Express, Soho – Sunday 6th September – 7.30pm

Bexley Jazz Club – Monday 7th September – 8.30pm

The Woodman, Ide Hill – Wednesday 9th September – 8.30pm

SAX APPEAL Tuesday 8th September- The Bull’s Head, Barnes 8.30pm

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NEWS: Tim Garland's Return to the Fire with Gerard Presencer and Jason Rebello set for October release on vinyl



Edition Records are today announcing the release of a new album from Tim Garland, entitled Return to the Fire, which re-unites the same quintet which made a recording, "Enter the Fire" in 1995. Release date is October 2nd.

The band is the same core quintet:

- Tim Garland (tenor, soprano saxophones and bass clarinet)
- Gerard Presencer (trumpet and flugelhorn)
- Jason Rebello (piano and fender rhodes)
- Jeremy Stacey (drums)
- Mick Hutton (double bass).

Additional musicians also appear: Tom Farmer (bass), Laurence Cottle (electric bass), James Maddren (drums) and Ant Law (guitar).

It is an out-and-out jazz album in the lineage of the acoustic quintets of Miles Davis. As Tim Garland explains in this interview with Dave Stapleton of Edition, it is honest and organic, we need this in our over produced, auto-tuned world." Here is the interview:

Dave Stapleton:How did this album come about?

Tim Garland: I had a more or less annual call from Jeremy Stacey over the years saying that we should do a follow up to Enter the Fire. After a few long tours with Chick Corea, I started to think about this more, because my chats with Chick tend be about the heritage of jazz, and our different takes on it. There were some ballads I'd wanted to approach for ages and it seemed like the right time to "Return To The Fire" especially as it turns out its a whole 20 years since this group last recorded.

Youve said that the first album with this quintet line-up, ‘Enter the Fire’ (Linn, 1995) was the album that originally sparked Chick's interest in you as a player. How did that happen?

Chick was given the original disc by Billy Childs and got in touch soon after, wondering where I was from. He loved the freedom and the compositions. It was the first time I'd felt comfortable playing music with such an American style heritage. The strong rhythm section of Jason Rebello, Jeremy Stacey and Mick Hutton helped with that confidence as they work together amazingly well. There is a true joy in swing when it is in their hands.

I had almost given up finishing the album and finding a label, things were hard and jazz musicians will tell you, they still are! But we pushed through and got heard by someone who really could make a difference. The strong connection with the history of our music has been brought out more in me, I think, through all these years with Chick, he looks forward and back at the same time and that's how I aspire to keep creating.

What is like working with these guys again almost 20 years later?

It is spooky how, on listening back, the band is still so unmistakably us, the same as 20 years ago, but hopefully a little better! I never forgot the freedom, the risk taking, the authenticity of swing and the near anarchic humour of this band, nothing has changed!

Why release on vinyl only?

The tracks that really worked got us to about 40 minutes of music, perfect for vinyl and moreover, the album has a strong tribute quality about it from the days when all I had was vinyl. This was a recording using equipment from the 50's and 60s, including the piano, it is so right that such a project is on this old format too. Also I applaud the come back of vinyl as we can ritualise, once more, the listening experience, instead of just "using" music like turning on air ventilation or the light in the fish tank!

The album appears to both look back and celebrate the music and the musicians but also look forward. The last track includes Fender Rhodes, is that an indication to what’s is coming in the future?

If you check out albums like Water Babies (Miles Davis), they represent a collection of tracks documenting a musical evolution, as opposed to just a fixed genre. This time when electric instruments got taken up by jazz musicians was so exciting. Its quite possible to express 21st century musical ideas and refer to these seminal times, the music is intrinsically so open. I also love the fact we were so old-school about the way we recorded, it is honest and organic, we need this in our over produced, auto-tuned world!

YES, the future is an electric band, but led by the heart, and Jason Rebello is brilliant with keyboards. Ant Law is playing an 8-string guitar which employs a rich bass register, we cover the bass in very unique ways. It has a jazz-rock slant from my early influences such as Chick and the Bill Bruford bands.

LINKS:Edition Records website
Enter the Fire at Linn Records

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REVIEW: Sun Ra Arkestra at Cafe Oto

Marshall Allen / Sun Ra Arkestra at Cafe Oto
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2015. All Rights Reserved

Sun Ra Arkestra
(Cafe Oto. 17 August 2015. Night 1 of 3-day residency. Review and drawings by Geoff Winston)

The Sun Ra Arkestra were on fire on the opening night of their 3-day stint at Cafe Oto. Led by the energised and animated '91 years young Marshall Allen' - as baritone sax player Danny Ray Thompson reminded the full house (as if they needed reminding!) - the eleven-piece sizzled from the start, with effervescent vocalist Tara Middleton and guitarist Dave Hotep giving an extra fillip to the nine-piece that tore up the same venue two months ago.

Tara Middleton / Sun Ra Arkestra at Cafe Oto
Drawing by Geoff Winston. ©2015. All Rights Reserved

There was something in the air that drove the Arkestra to the highest levels of intensity. A vibrant momentum pulsed through richly hued arrangements which flowed with a combination of well-oiled group dynamics and individual artistry. The acoustics of the small space, packed to the gunnels, bolstered the growling riffs that chugged at the structural core.

The rainbow-hued, scaly, sequinned and pattern-emblazoned costumes added to the spectacle. Infectious chants were informed by the political drive that continued Sun Ra's personal crusades: 'Amongst so many stars you've lost your rights, you've lost your cosmic rights.' Outer space as a metaphor for the real world.

Tylor Mitchell / Sun Ra Arkestra at Cafe Oto
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2015. All Rights Reserved

An irrepressible humour bubbled to the surface with smiles and laughter and occasional wisecracks as they egged each other along through the spaceways. 'How dirty can you get?' quipped Thompson during Tylor Mitchell's beautifully crafted, muted bass solo supported by ever-so pianissimo piano.

Solos abounded - Marshall Allen was unstoppable, squalling and straining on alto, adding extra cosmic disorientation with retro electronic sound on EVI. Knoel Scott - eyes darting to ensure, with Allen, that the band were on track - added touches of Don Byas-like authority on tenor. Hotep took the inventively oblique guitar route as Stargazers took off and Thompson flipped from earthy, sculpted baritone to fluttering flute, while Cecil Brooks took up the mute in finely phrased counters to his soaring trumpet tones. Dave Davis cut through with brassy trombone swipes, and all the while, Wayne Smith Jnr, in tandem with Elson Nascimento just cooly kept that massive rhythmic drive powering on at every turn.

Dave Hotep / Sun Ra Arkestra at Cafe Oto
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2015. All Rights Reserved

It was the Arkestra's cosmic jazz jam at its very best with, in the midst of proceedings, a massive big band blues to die for. Devastatingly fast synchronised passages, telepathically routed to perfection alternated with infectious swing, inspired treatments of jazz standards and spells of glorious, improvised mayhem. And they didn't grind to a halt until well in to the early hours - where they got the energy from … only Sun Ra would have been able to answer. Magnificent!

Marshall Allen – alto sax and EWI
Tara Middleton – vocals
Knoel Scott – alto sax and percussion
Danny Ray Thompson – baritone sax and percussion
Cecil Brooks – trumpet
Dave Davis – trombone
George Burton – piano
Tylor Mitchell – bass
Elson Nascimento – percussion
Wayne Smith Jnr – drums
Dave Hotep – guitar

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