CD Review: L’Arpeggiata, Christina Pluhar - Music For a While - Improvisations on Purcell

L’Arpeggiata, Christina Pluhar - Music For a While - Improvisations on Purcell
(Erato/Warner Classics 08256 463375 07. CD Review by Alison Bentley)

Baroque music often has elements of improvisation, but in the 14-piece group L'Arpeggiata's new CD, director and arranger Christina Pluhar, born in Graz in Austria, and based in Paris, who founded the group in 2000, has brought jazz into the mix alongside baroque instruments with winsome names like theorbo, cornet à bouquin and archlute, with the presence of Austrian guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel (they went to school together) and Italian clarinettist Gianluigi Trovesi.

Pluhar’s aim is to be ‘..constantly moving between the centuries in the harmonies and styles of the improvisations…’. Although the music was written in the late 1600s, a progression like the descending bass line of When I am laid in earth could have been written for jazz and there are many moments when you could be listening to an ECM jazz recording.

Wondrous machine, with alto Vincenzo Capezzuto’s light, expressive voice, has a wondrous groove. Quivering African-influenced percussion starts alongside trilling clarinet; guitar and piano improvise together over energetic bass lines. Countertenor Philippe Jaroussky brings grace to everything he sings- those long, pure notes with their miraculous crescendos. His phrasing is languorous but always precise, floating on the walking bass and gently swung brushes; the juxtaposition of classical singing and jazz instrumental styles is strikingly original. Trovesi’s jazz clarinet solo wraps itself beautifully around the voice. Here the deities approve opens conventionally, with trailing piano lines (Francesco Turrisi) behind Jarroussky. A Cuban groove emerges behind Muthspiel’s guitar solo. An Evening Hymn Upon a Ground starts with exquisite jazz-edged solo guitar, Jaroussky’s sensuous voice melting into the jazz piano and guitar solos.

Raquel Andueza sings in the same register as the male singers, but with a folkier edge to the voice. Alfred Deller’s 60s version of Strike the viol runs through my head, highlighting the way Andueza phrases freely behind the beat in this version. There’s a kind of 17th Century New Orleans carefree collective improvisation, the clarinet riffing along with Muthspiel’s guitar, with cornet arpeggios and dramatic percussion; Haru Kitamika’s organ could almost be Brian Auger. Andueza sings the melody of When I am laid in earth with poise as Jarrett-esque piano trades fours with Muthspiel. Her Ah! Belinda and A prince of glorious race descended have subtle jazz elements, with piano fills between vocal lines and a Muthspiel outro of great beauty in the latter.

Some pieces blur Early Music and folk. The lively One charming night (just a hint of reggae) and ‘Twas within a furlong are sung with verve by Capezzuto. The latter, a ballad of love and marriage, has a country swing, shuffly percussion and a melodica. Dominique Visse treats Man is for the woman made almost like a comic patter song. The instrumental Curtain Tune on a Ground has robust but subtle percussion, and sounds like a folk dance.

Other pieces are performed in Early Music style, highlights being counterpointed duets between Jaroussky and Capezzuto in In vain the am’rous flute, and Jaroussky and Andueza inHark how the songsters of the grove. Veronika Skuplik’s baroque violin heightens the melancholy of Andueza’s voice in O let me weep. The ensemble playing is so good that you don’t want to focus on individual instruments, as in O Solitude where Jaroussky’s voice rests on a cushion of harps and lutes.

Leonard Cohen’s oft-covered Hallelujah, the ‘bonus track’, is an unexpected conclusion to the album, but I’m sure it goes down a storm as a gig encore.

‘Our listeners find themselves in a timeless music room,’ says Pluhar. The experience of hearing the 17th and 21st centuries (and probably a few in between) in the same songs is a thrilling one. L’Arpeggiata play with such finesse and zeal, that ‘Music for a while/ shall all your cares beguile’.


Christina Pluhar- director, theorbo
Doron Sherwin- cornet à bouquin
Veronika Skuplik- baroque violin
Julien Martin, Marine Sablonnière- recorder
Eero Palviainen- archlute, baroque guitar
Marcello Vitale- baroque guitar, chitarra battente
Sarah Ridy- baroque harp
David Mayoral, Sergey Saprichev, Michèle Claude- percussion
Boris Schmidt- double bass
Haru Kitamika- harpsichord, organ
Francesco Turrisi- piano, harpsichord, organ, melodica

Special Guests

Gianluigi Trovesi- clarinet
Wolfgang Muthspiel- acoustic guitar & electric guitar
Philippe Jaroussky- countertenor
Raquel Andueza- soprano
Vincenzo Capezzuto- alto
Dominique Visse- countertenor

Christina Pluhar at Warner Classics . In addition to the standard CD version there is also a Limited Edition "Casebound Deluxe CD plus DVD" version)


CD Review: Phronesis - Life to Everything

Phronesis - Life to Everything
(Edition. EDN1050. CD review by Mike Collins)

The reputation of the trio of bass virtuoso Jaspar Høiby, pianist Ivo Neame and drummer Anton Eger reached new heights following their 2012 release Walking Dark and relentless touring including extensive trips to North America and Australia. Their shows at the Cockpit Theatre in the 2013 London Jazz Festival, at which they planned to record this new album, quickly sold out and a third was added. The release of Life to Everything has been keenly anticipated.

The excitement and emotional charge will be no surprise to those sell-out audiences at The Cockpit, but it’s hard not join in with the whoops and cheers as yet another furious climax is reached with Anton Eger letting rip, interacting with an off kilter stop start riff at the end of Høiby’s Wings 2 the Mind or whipping up a solo storm at the end of his own composition Dr. Black before an imperious rocky piano vamp returns to close the set, sounding for all the world like the Bad Plus on steroids. This does indeed feel close to having the live experience in your living room – pay attention now!

The thrilling set is built around ingredients that will be familiar to Phronesis aficionados: complex quick-fire looping riffs; melodic fragments, sections of abstract shifting harmony, and blistering soloing from the piano; propulsive, restless and unfailingly complementary drumming. It’s a potent brew and the band members have each taken turns in piecing together the elements.

Urban Control starts with a typically urgent, stuttering bass riff echoed by descending piano chords. The pattern and a little melodic phrase launching the solos. Ivo Neame’s Phraternal creates a slightly different atmosphere. Meditative, rich, chords introduce it and meandering lines are shadowed by resonant bowed bass adding colour before a flowing more lyrical piano solo builds. Song for Lost Nomads also starts with piano etching out the harmony before a skipping, dance like groove emerges underpinning motifs with an eastern edge to them. The ceaseless flow of ideas from Eger’s kit offer a foil for percussive chord based soloing. Jaspar Høiby’s fluid, rich bass is the ever present beating heart of this group sound and launches his Nine Lives, another jigsaw like confection of rhythms and patterns, its stop-start riffs prompting a blistering workout from Neame. Anton Eger’s Herne Hill starts with the prettiest melodic theme of the set and then proceeds to stretch and maul it with a variety of time feels and thunderous latin grooves in what sounds like a mainly through composed piece.

It all makes for compelling listening and is a great advert for the live band. Buy the CD. Go and see them.


CD Review: Jon Di Fiore - Yellow Petals

Jon Di Fiore - Yellow Petals
(Third Freedom Music 1003. CD Review by Eric Ford)

Jon Di Fiore is a drummer, classical percussionist, pianist and composer based in New Jersey. He's written nine varied tracks, each on a theme, for the debut CD of his trio with Adrian Moring on bass and Billy Test on piano. All three are recent graduates, and in fact Test is still doing a Masters at the Manhattan School of Music on a full scholarship - which tells you that he's pretty spesh. For me, he steals the show on this CD. There's a Brad Mehldau influence (amongst others) in his playing and he has some serious classical chops to unleash at climactic moments, as well as demonstrating great restraint, sensitivity, swing, imagination and everything else you'd hope for from a jazz pianist at other times.

Despite the modernity of some of Test's playing, it seems to me that this album has a mid-sixties Rudy Van Gelder aura about it thanks to the warmth of the sound, the sound of the drums (like Gretsch drums from that era with the tuning you'd expect to hear on those recordings) and cymbals (eg the infamous Tony Williams ride), the "woodiness" of the bass and the compositions themselves. Who'd have thought a tune inspired by "the low income architecture of New Orleans" could be as wistful and lovely as Shotgun House is? I wonder what Di Fiore would come up with if confronted by some of the 'low income architecture' in London?!

Lots of drummers write tunes around unusual rhythms or figures that they've come up with but -  with the exception of Orange  - that's not the case here. There's plenty of variation of speed and "vibe", a tune in 6/4, another in 7/4, one in 6/8, some moments of abstraction, but still there's a very homogenous feel to the album. Again, I think this has a lot to do with the sound but also Di Fiore's playing, which is always subtle and not "chopsy".


Cd Review: Roy Assaf Trio - Second Row Behind The Painter

Roy Assaf Trio - Second Row Behind The Painter
(One Trick Dog Records UPC 888295063746. CD Review by Andy Boeckstaens)

Israeli pianist Roy Assaf went to Boston in 2003 to study at the Berklee College of Music, where he met the likes of Richie Beirach and Joanne Brackeen. Since graduating, and moving to New York in 2006 to continue his studies at the Manhattan School of Music, he has played with the Dizzy Gillespie All Stars, the Mingus Big Band and David Sanborn.

Assaf is now in his early 30s, and Second Row Behind The Painter is the début recording by a trio that worked together for around a year before going into the studio last September. The CD is unusual because a series of sets – almost five hours altogether - were taped like a live performance, and the result combines the immediacy of a gig with the clarity of a studio album.

The first pieces by Assaf set the bar very high. The title track has a quasi-classical beginning before a flexible beat is introduced by bassist Raviv Markovitz and Jake Goldbas on drums. The former, who has appeared with Joe Lovano and Makoto Ozone, is prominently featured throughout the set. Goldbas has experience alongside Patti Austin and Dave Brubeck, and his ear-catching hand-drumming makes a distinctive impact on several selections.

Babel is even better than the opener. It has tremendous momentum and beautiful harmonies, and other-wordly bursts of electric piano combine with bells and percussion to add variety to a finely-honed creation that is already bursting with drama.

Frank Loesser’s Never Will I Marry - a rarely-heard melody from the unsuccessful 1960 Broadway show Greenwillow - and It’s a Dance by Michel Petrucciani are attractively impressionistic. A more traditional feel pervades Kvar Acharei Chatzot, a gentle ballad by the renowned Israeli songwriter Naomi Shemer.

Despite the “live” approach, there is a bit of studio tweaking, the details of which were kindly explained to me by the lead engineer, Dev Avidon. The synthesizer on Con Grew is straight out of a ‘70s sci-fi action movie, and its soaring whine tends to overwhelm the underlying piano and rhythm. Markovitz and Goldbas whip up a stonking groove on the longest track, folk-lore, where Assaf’s rollicking, Billy Taylor-ish piano is processed in parts with a Moog filter.

Three uncredited interludes are, presumably, improvised. Interlude #1 is the most meaty, and would succeed as the basis for a fully-fledged composition. The others are shorter, less interesting, and dominated by the harsh backbeat of a snare drum that initially emerges on a quirky version of I Got It Bad.

The trio is unadorned for the closing, magnificent Budvar. It starts with big chords and goes through changes of pace and mood before blossoming into gorgeous raw straight-time, when all three musicians sound at their most confident, relaxed and free.

It’s a great conclusion to an album that is very good by any standards. Second Row Behind The Painter is an impressive showcase for the group, and Assaf deserves special recognition for his compositions as well as his instrumental artistry.


CD Review: Piero Umiliani - Svezia Inferno e Paradiso

Piero Umiliani - Svezia Inferno e Paradiso
(Digibeat. DGBT 001. CD review by Andrew Cartmel)

The success of the 1962 film Mondo Cane set the trend for sensationalist and rather sleazy semi-documentaries emanating from Italy. The 1968 film Svezia Inferno e Paradiso (Sweden — Heaven and Hell, or rather vice versa) was very much in this tradition, a goggle-eyed glance at permissive Swedish culture —they have motorcycle gangs, they go topless, etc. These films are forgettable, their music anything but.

For Mondo Cane the music was by Riz Ortolani and its song was More. Svezia’s composer was the wonderful Piero Umiliani and the song the wordless, infinitely catchy Mah-Nà Mah-Nà which became a worldwide hit and was covered by the Dave Pell Singers and immortalized by the Muppets.

Piero Umiliani was a formidably talented Italian jazz man who paid the bills by making astonishing music for movies and television. The burgeoning lounge (and bachelor pad) movements have led to a welcome revival of his back catalogue. The vinyl release of Il Marchio di Kriminal (REVIEWED HERE) appeared recently and now Beat Records in Rome have reissued the entire score of Svezia Inferno e Paradiso on CD.

The jazz credentials of the players on a Umiliani session are impeccable, but Svezia has a particularly strong line up, including a core combo on several tracks featuring no less a luminary than Gato Barbieri playing tenor sax. The other musicians are Antonello Vannucchi on Hammond organ and vibes, Carlo Pes on guitar, Maurizio Majorana on bass and Roberto Podio on drums. Umiliani plays piano and clavinet as well as operating a kind of early string synthesiser which he built himself, consisting of a 16 track Ampex tape recorder (probably an MM-1000, given the date) with a keyboard of its own. “Violins were recorded on each channel,” recalled Umiliani. “It was a brand new instrument and I had called it, rather incongruously, ‘Sarchiapone’,” — the name of an imaginary animal from a TV comedy.

Vocals are also an important part of the score, and not just the aforementioned Mah-Nà Mah-Nà. That classic song features Alessandro Alessandroni and his wife Giulia Alessandroni. But also appearing on the soundtrack is Edda Dell’Orso, the eerie goddess of Euro vocals. Edda and the two Alessandronis provide the surreal, interwoven vocal soundscapes conjured in Sequenza psichedelica (surely I don’t need to translate) accompanied by Roberto Podio’s hypnotic bongos, Vannucchi’s haunted Hammond and spectral electronica.

The final featured singer is Lydia MacDonald, born in Edinburgh to an Italian mother and a Scottish father, who performs You Tried to Warn Me as well as the lullaby Sleep Now Little One, The latter track provides material for some of the most notable moments on the album. “Gato used the same theme to create a totally different musical situation,” said Umiliani. “So different that we even changed the title.”

This is re-titled instrumental is Solitudine (Loneliness) which opens with nocturnal and bluesy solo sax from a fluent and expressive Barbieri. Only gradually does Giovanni Tommaso’s bass creep in, accompanied by Bruno Biriaco’s shuffling drums. Barbieri soars aloofly over them, a predatory and proud raptor. Then, just when the listener begins to accept it’s going to be a trio piece, we’re treated to the glassy beauty of Antonello Vannucchi’s vibes. The crystalline loveliness of his playing calls to mind Milt Jackson in vintage MJQ recordings, as Vannucchi duets marvellously in conversation with Barbieri.

The appropriately named Free in Minore is a free jazz excursion by Barbieri’s raw, splintering, wheedling tenor in a moody minor sound-world where the only other inhabitant is Giovanni Tommaso’s adroitly minimal bass, whose strumming provides a kind of smudged charcoal background for the silvery sparks of the saxophone. In utter contrast Piano Bossa Nova is a delightfully warm and sensual workout, with Barbieri’s tone reminiscent of his rasping cries of rapture on Last Tango in Paris. This track again features Tommaso on bass and Biriaco on drums while Enzo Grillini replaces Carlo Pes on guitar. Maestro Umiliani plays the eponymous piano in lilting, dancing style.

Stoccolma, My Dear provides a kiss-off for the Swedish capital in the form of Vannucchi’s rapid, ripe Hammond organ, skipping and skirling against the laid back twang of Carlo Pes’s guitar and solid steady-state drumming by Roberto Podio. Notte di mezza estate (Midsummer Night) rides in on a warm tide of vocals from Edda Dell’Orso and Mr and Mrs Alessandroni before Piero Umiliani steps forward and demonstrates his chops on clavinet. It’s a kind of harmonious collision of baroque and bossa.

Nel Cosmo (In the Cosmos) features otherworldly electronic effects brought back down to earth by Podio’s drums, Vannucchi’s Hammond and Carlo Pes’s fuzz guitar. Pes is one of the heroes of Topless Party (that's the kind of a movie this was), apparently double tracked so that he is playing against himself in a masterful, choppy exchange. This cut is also a showcase for Vannucchi on Hammond. It makes you want to get up and dance — minus your top, naturally — if you can tear yourself away from listening to Alessandro Alessandroni’s virtuosic whistling on La Signora Cameriera (The Lady Waitress).

Beat's Limited Edition CD gives us for the very first time every note recorded for the film Svezia Inferno e Paradiso. This issue represents not just a defining moment for Umiliani, but for Italian popular music of the 20th Century.


Preview / Interview: Barry Guy New Orchestra at Cafe Oto, 20-22 May

Barry Guy, London, 2014
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2014. All Rights Reserved

Preview: Barry Guy New Orchestra
(Cafe Oto, 20-21 May. Preview / interview and drawings by Geoff Winston)

Virtuoso bassist and composer, Barry Guy, has been a key figure in the British and European jazz and free improvising scenes for over 40 years. Best known as founder of the London Jazz Composers Orchestra and as a fiendishly inventive improviser in the reknowned trio with Evan Parker and Paul Lytton, and in projects with the likes of Mats Gustafsson and Marilyn Crispell, he brings his Barry Guy New Orchestra to Cafe Oto for a 3-day residency on 20-22 May (tickets HERE).

Guy also straddles the jazz and classical divide, with appointments as principal bass player in highly respected chamber orchestras, including The Academy of Ancient Music, over a 25 year period, and concert repertoires that combine jazz improvisation, early music and contemporary classical material.

His adventurous and demanding compositions and recordings have won prestigious international awards and critical accolades, and he attracts commissions from international musicians and festivals of the highest calibre.

He has appeared on several key ECM recordings, with The Hilliard Ensemble, John Surman, Roscoe Mitchell, and Evan Parker's Electro-Acoustic Ensemble, and under his own name with his wife, early music specialist Maya Homburger, with whom he also runs the diverse and esoteric Maya Recordings CD label.

As well being as an acclaimed solo and small group performer, Guy's large ensemble work with the LJCO and, since 2000, the BGNO, has brought together leading improvisers for concerts of unsurpassed dynamic invention and its British debut at Cafe Oto will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of the jazz and free music calendar.

Geoff Winston interviewed him for London Jazz News:

Geoff Winston: The residency of the Barry Guy New Orchestra (BGNO) at Cafe Oto on 20, 21 and 22 May with eleven of the most resourceful musicians around must be an appealing prospect. And an intimate venue, perhaps, offers something different to the more formal concert hall setting?

Barry Guy: Yes indeed. The atmosphere of Cafe Oto is relaxed and, from my previous experiences, there exists an intense concentration coming from the listeners. It’s also rather special to find a place in the audience to hear one's colleagues rather than sitting back stage.

GW: Will you be programming each night along similar lines of residencies in Switzerland, Poland and Germany, facilitating solo spots, performances by duos, trios and other groupings, as well those by the full orchestra? How will it work?

BG: Exactly as you have observed. There are so many possibilities and my main task is to make sure that all of the musicians have adequate space to work out their music with others. There’s also the joy of perhaps putting together an unusual combination which surprises us all.

GW: The line-up of instrumentalists in your New Orchestra makes a very strong case for the strength and depth of European jazz and contemporary music. You are now living in Switzerland and have been working with many of these musicians for quite a number of years, in small groups and in the 18-piece London Jazz Composers Orchestra (LJCO) which you founded in 1972, as well as the BGNO.

Who will be in the BGNO on the night? How did you find them – or do they find you? There must be some interesting stories along the way.

BG: The BGNO line-up will be: Herb Robertson (trumpet), Johannes Bauer (trombone), Per Åke Holmlander (tuba), Trevor Watts (alto sax), Evan Parker (soprano/tenor sax), Per ‘Texas’ Johansson (baritone sax/clarinet), Hans Koch (bass clarinet), Maya Homburger (violin), Agusti Fernandez (piano), Paul Lytton (percussion), Raymond Strid (percussion), and myself (bass/director).

Following a Berlin Jazz Festival performance by the LJCO in 1998, Patrik Landolt, the boss of Intakt Records, suggested putting together a smaller ensemble that could operate when funds were not available for the big group. It took me a while to assimilate the ramifications of such a move since I was still hooked to the LJCO size and orchestration possibilities. After a while it occurred to me that a group of players based upon three working trios (Parker/Guy/Lytton, Guy/Crispell/Lytton and Guy/Gustafsson/Strid – now called Tarfala) with additional musicians who had crossed paths over the years would be a good basis for the BGNO. After the first project and recording (Inscape – Tableaux), Marilyn Crispell got a little tired of transatlantic travelling and suggested Agusti Fernandez as a pianist that could take over from her. It worked a treat, and now of course I have a trio with Agusti and Ramon Lopez. A little later I had the chance to invite Trevor Watts into the band to complete a more balanced orchestra – cementing the connection between the trumpet and the saxophone section. This represented a satisfying and important link with the LJCO since Trevor was a founding member.

Barry Guy, London, 2014
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2014. All Rights Reserved

GW: How do your working relationships with these musicians evolve, given your demanding compositions which mix conventional and intricate graphic scores with improvised tracts, and have you conducting, sometimes in conduction mode, as well as playing alongside them? You must have complete trust in their abilities to respond to the musical structure and to inject their own expressive input in to the whole schema.

BG: That’s the whole idea really and yes, it has been important to compose music that allows the musician’s creative imagination to flourish. Sometimes it is quite tricky to pull the rabbit out of the hat, so to speak, but with my constant analysing of previous scores and their successes and problems, I get to hold the rabbit without too much fuss. The main objective is to write only what needs to be written to balance composition and improvisation.

GW: On the final night the Orchestra will be performing the two major compositions, AMPHI (2010) and RADIO RONDO (2008), that make up the latest CD on your Maya Recordings label. They are quite a contrast, with AMPHI written around Maya’s baroque violin (Maya Homburger, Barry’s wife and musical partner) and RADIO RONDO, around various high energy groupings. Can you tell us a bit about these pieces?

BG: Briefly, AMPHI might be termed as ‘chamber music’, whilst RADIO RONDO looks towards a more orchestral landscape. The listeners must adjust their expectations accordingly since the expansiveness of the grand piano offers an obvious ‘big picture’ in RADIO RONDO whilst the orchestration for the baroque violin in AMPHI is more internalised. Of course I have to thank Maya in the first place for suggesting such a risky but irresistible project. Orchestrating for such a delicate sounding instrument posed some interesting questions, not least in the the balance between her violin and brass, saxophones and percussion. In AMPHI I envisaged the baroque violin being gently embraced by the ensemble (think King Kong gently holding the female atop the Empire State building), whilst RADIO RONDO throws the whole ensemble at the grand piano with Agusti on high alert to deal with whatever comes his way.

GW: Where did you study and practice architecture and how did you make the transition to music?

Do you sense a relationship between the two practices? I know that some of your compositions have architectural inspiration, not to mention form – AMPHI being a case in point, related to the physical structure of Aalto’s Helsinki Technical University. And others have links with artists such as Alan Davie.

BG: A book could be written about this, and I should point out that my musical migration was jazz through to contemporary through to early music projects.

Concerning my architectural activities, I was ‘articled’ to a London-based practice of restoration architects called Caroe and Partners. Their work extended from University College Cardiff through to some of the great cathedrals (Wells and Canterbury for instance), as well as many West Country churches. I enjoyed the work immensely. Whilst working day-times with the practice, I attended music evening classes in composition, playing gigs and generally immersing myself in music until the opportunity arose to go to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. So when the doors opened for me, I dived in with total enthusiasm soaking up whatever I encountered. It was a heady time! My architectural interests however did not desert me, in fact they became stronger, so much so that I found situations emerging where architectural structures influenced my compositional musings.

Additional to architecture, I’ve often found paintings to be quite important. In my day-to-day activities the artists Alan Davie, Bert Irvin and Fred Hellier play a large part in the sense that they constantly stimulate my imagination. The vitality that the canvasses exude represents a daily pleasure and my graphic scores have benefited enormously from their work. My other influence is the work of Samuel Beckett, but that is another story.

GW: Can you say something about the impact on your work for large ensembles of the Jazz Composers Orchestra Association (which Evan Parker has cited as a major influence), and perhaps also about Alexander Von Schlippenbach’s Global Unity Orchestra and the Instant Composers Pool Orchestra, which all started up in the mid-60s?

BG: All of the ensembles you mentioned started before the LJCO and it was the JCOA that I first heard when I had all but completed my first large scale work, ODE. I was so thrilled by the discovery that Michael Mantler was working with a similar type of notation. My desire was then to get in touch with Mike to exchange scores and perhaps to prepare some performances, but my naivety led me nowhere since I was generally so unworldly and without the knowledge or contacts to make a connection. Many years later I met Mike and told him of my hopes. I think he was mildly amused.

As far as Globe Unity and ICP were concerned I knew more about their music from reports by Paul Rutherford and guys that had an international reputation. I concluded that the working methods of these ensembles were just different from my own, so didn’t really research their music. I knew it was very original though.

Geoff Winston: This Cafe Oto residency is a milestone, the first – and long overdue – appearance of the BGNO in the UK. What sort of impression would you like to feel that you will make on those lucky enough to be able to attend any of these dates. What do you hope they will go away with?

Barry Guy: My hope is that we deliver improvised and composed music of a high order that will thrill the audience. The colours are so diverse and unpredictable, so there should be something for everybody. The sounds will come from practitioners who have developed their individual art for many years, so we should be ready for surprises. If the listener goes away with a sense of discovery, then we will have done our job.


Led Bib Preview (Tour 22 April - 4 May). Mark Holub writes...

Mark Holub. Photo: Mapex Drums

Drummer Mark Holub writes about the forthcoming Led Bib tour – dates below:

With only a few weeks to go till the tour, it's got me thinking about our beginnings and the fact that in 2005, we were one of the first ever bands to play in the new Vortex in Dalston, launching our first album there before the club was even properly opened. We had friends run the bar, which wasn't even there yet, and played on the floor before the stage was built....and looking at the pictures, we were younger....a lot younger!

On that same tour I remember playing one of our first concerts outside of London, which we are returning to on this tour, at St. Ives Jazz Club in Cornwall. We were of course super excited to be playing anywhere at the time, and after the concert a journalist from a local paper asked if he could interview me. It was naturally also one of my first 'interviews', so of course the band was all keen to find out what the guy had written during the concert. One of the guys went behind the journalist and looked at his notepad, which only had one line on it, 'The most avant-garde thing I have ever seen in St. Ives'. Well, hopefully he will come back to this next gig there,our first concert there since 2005.

But, I digress, back to the Vortex and London. The Vortex has always felt to us like our 'home' club. The staff have always been supportive of the band and we have seen the club grow from a shell, still waiting to get its liqueur license, to a 365 day a year jazz club, showcasing some of the best new music from the UK and beyond. We recorded some of our live LP here (The Good Egg out April 21st), recorded for Jazz on 3, ran the Dalston Summer Stew there, worked with young people from Hackney, collaborated with Chris Batchelor - the list goes on and on. Now, the Vortex has been so kind as to give us 3 nights (one of which is being recorded for later broadcast by Jazz on 3) to celebrate the release of the aforementioned live album alongside a new studio CD entitled The People in Your Neighbourhood, (REVIEWED HERE)

We are playing a 13-day tour across the UK and the Vortex shows are some of the final ones on the tour, so, we WILL be ready, and can't wait to see all the lovely Vortex staff and volunteers, and also, of course, the friendly faces of the people who have been coming to our concerts all these years.

It's funny reading the old reviews for the band, 'firebrand twenty-somethings', a 'horribly young band' etc etc. That's not us any more, for most of us, our twenties are getting pretty far away, and that baton has been passed on to the next generation, but the thing that brought us together is the music, and in my mind it's stronger than ever and we can't wait to take it on tour.


22 April 2014 St Ives Jazz Club, Cornwall
23 April 2014 Broomhill Art Hotel, Barnstaple
24 April 2014 The Hope, Brighton
25 April 2014 Millennium Hall, Sheffield
26 April 2014 Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry
27 April 2014 Fusebox @ The Fox and Newt, Leeds
28 April 2014 The Bell, Bath
29 April 2014 Freedom Principle @ Dulcimer, Manchester
30 April 2014 Dempsey's, Cardiff
1 -3 May 2014 Vortex, London Album launch residency
4 May 2014 Sounds New Festival, Canterbury


Report: Jeremy Pelt Close to my Heart re-created at Kings Place

Jeremy Pelt at Kings Place- Photo credit Melody McLaren (iPhome)

Sebastian writes:

I'm definitely disqualified from reviewing this one, having been given the privilege of introducing the bands from the stage, but I have to say that this concert, part of the Global Music Foundation's Easter weekend at Kings Place, was special.

Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt re-visited his 2003 album Close to my Heart with the arranger of the album David O'Rourke directing a small orchestra, plus a fine trio of Bruce Barth, Duncan Hopkins and Stephen Keogh.

In some senses it was a premiere, since the album was done with only four string players overdubbed, and this was the first ever performance with the scaled-up resources originally intended.

Jeremy Pelt played in Kings Place Hall One completely acoustically, and trusted David O'Rourke and the strings to balance  - which they did. Pelt's tone, line, spacious phrasing, logic, the sheer beauty of his playing of Cy Coleman's Why Try to Change Me Now? was absolutely the kind of sound that the refined Kings Place Hall One acoustic was always intended for. This was supreme ballad-playing as complete nourishment for heart and soul, and heard in perfect conditions.

There was an added bonus in the set: Rene Marie performed her double-song of (wait for it) Ravel's Bolero and Leonard Cohen's Suzanne, realized for trio and Orchestra by David O'Rourke. And does the combination of Montreal beef brisket plus tea and oranges with a composition by a French vegetarian composer work? You really had to be there.

Earlier in the evening, Tina May and Guillermo Rozenthuler had taken the audience on a wonderful romantic world tour in Musica Paradiso, with and orchestra directed, and string arrangements by Raphael Hurwitz. An unlikely high-point of this set was another improbable double-song: Michel Legrand's love theme from Les Parapluies de Cherbourg combined with Agustin Lara's Piensa en mi.


CD Review: Vein - Vote for Vein!

Vein - Vote for Vein!
(Unit Records. UTR 4453. CD Review by Eric Ford)

Unless you have another CD by Vein, I reckon you're unlikely to have anything else in your collection that's quite like this. In their moments of gleeful irreverence they might bring to mind a Swiss version of The Bad Plus, but there still seems to be affection for the style being parodied and there's never any doubting the seriousness of the work these guys have put in individually and collectively. All members of the trio (brothers Michael Arbenz - piano - and Florian Arbenz - drums / Thomas Laehns - bass ) sound like they had excellent classical training and have played a lot of contemporary music, but yes they can and do swing! One of the joys of this band is its variety and creativity. It's extraordinarily tight and ventures into some territory few other bands would attempt to explore, as well as playing conventional piano trio jazz with great panache. They've also collaborated, toured and recorded with Greg Osby, Dave Liebman and Glenn Ferris - this is a heavy band!

If you plan to buy the CD, you may want to look away now and come back in the next paragraph... As an example of the scope of this trio, check out the first track "Appearance and Speech". Presumably satirising politicians' election campaigns, there's a hilarious "grand" entry which turns in a flash into a jerky mixed-meter ragtime over which bassist Thomas Lahns manages to solo fluidly. This morphs into a joyous Oscar Peterson trio-type romp but again in a meter-fest never heard from Oscar's trio.

Subsequent tracks utilise tuned and untuned percussion - there is some multi-tracking of percussion and indeed of bass - and there's a lot of bowed bass, which (as always) adds so much colour and texture. It grooves, it's rubato, it's subtle, it's fun, it's ruminative, it's exultant; above all, it's constantly surprising. It's a treat.

Vein are at the Vortex in London this coming Thursday (April 24th) with guest GREG OSBY whom we interviewed last year -  LINK HERE .


CD Review: The Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra - Strength In Numbers

The Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra - Strength In Numbers
Summit Records DCD 627. CD Review by Frank Griffith)

Strength In Numbers, indeed, as this Connecticut born, NYC-based trombonist/arranger's second big band CD shines on many levels. Pete McGuinness nods to the late Bob Brookmeyer, as well as other jazz icons (Thad Jones and Chet Baker) are evident while never overshadowing his well formed individual voice as a writer, trombonist and singer.

His wise combination of largely originals with three carefully chosen standards make for a delectable collection that joins together seamlessly. The crack NYC band sparkles throughout, boasting a fleet of inspired and virtousic soloists coupled with exemplary ensemble prowess. They negotiate through the leader's challenging, yet highly rewarding charts with unfettered aplomb.

Standout soloists, to name a few include veteran trumpeter, Chris Rogers whose lyrical harmon muted heartfelt melodies score highly on "Spellbound". Fans of the 1970s movie, "Fame" might remember Chris's bit part in that film as a student who suddenly could not resist the urge to dance atop a cafeteria table during lunch. Tenor saxist, Tom Christensen's beefy but clear toned sinewy excursions also prevail on the opening track "The Send Off". This was a tribute piece to Brookmeyer who had a significant influence on McGuinness having studied with the great man as a member of the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop in the late 1980s. Not to be outdone, the spirited yet perplexing trombone tradings of Mark Patterson and Matt Havilland followed by the emotive and melliflous offerings of Bill Mobley's trumpet help make the leader's "Nasty Blues" anything but. Finally, would someone please confiscate the alto sax from Dave Pietro's hands as he completely mops the floor with his blinding solo on "Nasty" as well.

In addition to his passionately played trombone feature on "Trixie's Little Girl" (dedicated to his late mother, Anne) Pete's vocals glow on two standards, "What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life" and "You Don't Know What Love Is". Free of vibrato or affectations, his clear and winningly light textured vocal quality delivers the goods with a subtle intensity. This fine singing is complemented grandly by his embracing ensemble treatments of these classic songs.

Numbering the strengths of this quality recording would be a job indeed as they are countless. A truly inspired and brilliant addition to the modern big band sound while incorporating the traditions that built it. A stellar effort.


Report: The Forge Venue's 5th Birthday Party

The Forge's 5th Birthday Party
(The Forge. 15th April 2014. Report by Daniel Bergsegel)

For a fifth birthday party, there was a noticeable lack of balloons, or clowns, or children. The Forge celebrated five years of hosting live music with an ambitious genre-crossing quadruple bill touching on soul, folk, chamber music, and Congolese Soukous percussion.

The Forge sets out to be “home to London’s most diverse musical talent”, and to cater for such wide ranging demands requires a versatile blank slate of a building: a modern Scandinavian mix of pale timber clad walls and exposed concrete, tied together with a 20 foot wall of vegetation climbing through the centre of the building. It is as well suited to its daytime guise – an airy cafe unfolding onto Delancey Street, with Gil Scott-Heron and Fela Kuti playing in the background – as it is to its evening musical role.

As daylight disappeared the first act, Ayanna Witter-Johnson, took to the stage. In demand as a composer and a collaborator, here Ayanna featured as a singer and songwriter, accompanying her blend of soul and blues with Reuben (her cello). In support of her rich voice Reuben was pushed to his limits, from strong deep bowing to bouncing and scraping her bow, at times almost inaudibly touching the strings. Ranging from heartfelt compositions to musings on Nigella Lawson, the audience was drawn through mesmerising compositions of contrast where both her vocals and cello rose and fell in conversation with each other. Her lyrical style bringing to mind Belleruche, the atmosphere and drama generated through her unique instrumental style was beautifully highlighted on her cover of Roxanne a familiar piece which is not often re-imagined as successfully in such a different format.

Following on in the small auditorium were the Lawson Piano Trio who featured a cello in a more traditional format. As Annabelle Lawson explained, the trio took a role in the evenings proceedings not dissimilar to a “lemon sorbet”, cleansing the palette with a beautifully executed rendition of Mozart's Piano Trio in C Major. While Ayanna had the individual flexibility to emphasis and play with the crowd, Annabelle, Clara Biss and Rebecca Knight functioned as a choreographed machine full of glances and organisation. Their second allowed the strings a more passionate run depicting the “hormones and harmony” of a composition by an eighteen year-old Debussy, penned pre-love affairs and the Prix de Rome.

The audience then re-entered the bar area for Concrete Mountain, a more hirsute group than the previous two who played a fast-paced set of songs, tunes and reels. Channelling the Cohen brothers' Soggy Bottom Boys, their songs elaborated on the important musical themes of women, death, drink and drugs. For moments a stamping and driving unit underpinned by Paul Martin's guitar and Dave Tunstall's double bass, at others a traditional celtic band with Jerry Bloom's fiddle lines rising high, they were most evocative when stripped bare to the lone voice of Rob Rider picking a sorrowful James Skelly-esque line through the silence. In fusing American and Gaelic music together, Concrete Mountain took their presentation of modal mountain songs to a London audience seriously.

For the final act of the night, Kasaï Masaï, the auditorium doors peeled back to reveal a large stage and dance floor, transforming the previously low-fi and acoustic facilities to those of a fully amplified hall. Led from the front by charismatic Soukous percussionist and vocalist Nickens Nkoso straddling his djembé, they ploughed through a set of traditional equatorial village fare. Although lacking their saxophonist, the four remaining musicians provided an enthralling and persistent groove as a back drop to a dancing audience; their Congolese beats provided an uplifting end to an eclectic evening.

The movement through the venue for each of the four acts was an intriguing foil for showcasing the many spatial layouts available. Each musical setup was perfectly suited to the artist it catered for: a solo vocalist singing by the tumbling plants, a piano trio in the salon-like auditorium, a folk band playing opposite the bar, and a dance band playing to an open floor. While it was a powerful demonstration of the venues possibilities, blending the different genres into one evening, instead of placing them on different nights of a week, at times left the trailing audience a little lost at sea. A crowd that had just adapted to Ayanna's soul compositions in the courtyard took time to adjust its behaviour to the Lawson trio's more structured format, milling around during the movements and applauding between them. Having calmed themselves in the auditorium, the crowd were then ill prepared for the dancing and clapping best associated with Concrete Mountain's traditional tunes. The stamina displayed by some to navigate the mini-festival with the energy to jive for Kasaï Masaï at the finish was laudable.

The complex organisation of the event displayed the imagination of the Forge’s organisers, Adam and Charlotte Caird. Both of them are musicians in their own right. So the challenging programme arranged partnered with the community atmosphere generated amongst the audience was testament to the work they have put in to bring the Forge to its current standing in only a short five years. To present the evening's entertainment free of charge underscored a commitment to sharing music which encapsulates the democratising ambitions which they have. As Adam intimated between sets, steering an arts venue – described as their bemusing “problem child” - is never straightforward. However if the Forge's birthday party was indicative of anything, it was that the venue is truly in fine fettle and is ready to continue hosting an exciting array of musicians in enticing surroundings for years to come.

The Forge Venue website


CD Review: Eric Alexander - Chicago Fire

Eric Alexander – Chicago Fire
(HighNote HCD 7262. CD Review by Peter Vacher)

Hearing tenorist Eric Alexander unfettered and at length, is for me one of the greatest treats in jazz. This imposing improviser is reunited here with his mentor, the veteran pianist Harold Mabern and they’re joined by another hot favourite, the always daring trumpeter Jeremy Pelt on three of the eight tracks. Add in the sublime engineering of Rudy Van Gelder and the swing engendered by bassist John Webber and drummer Joe Farnsworth and you have a formula for excellence, if ever there was one.

Alexander produced the session [it dates from November 2013] as both a reminder of and a homage to his seminal period as a working sideman and soloist in Chicago. ‘Save Your Love For Me’ by Buddy Johnson opens, with the kind of peachy groove that might best described as a ‘Freddie Freeloader’ feel, Alexander off and running hard, with Mabern probing over that great rhythm section. Pelt comes in with an ebullient, heartfelt solo as he does on ‘The Bee Hive’, Mabern’s bright recall of a famous Chicago club, its feel-good hook evocative of a time when Chicago’s venues were at their peak. Alexander’s ‘Eddie Harris’ is for one of his heroes, the composer taking the honours here, warm-toned and hard swinging, sounding ready to step in to a Blue Note session should there be one handy.

Mabern contributes ‘Blues for Vonski’, a tribute to another Chicago legend, Von Freeman this time, this rather touchingly introduced by some spoken reminiscences of Freeman by Mabern and Webber, ahead of Alexander’s very bluesy tenor theme, his sound and phrasing suitably righteous, before Mabern rolls the blues like a South Side master. Magnificent music by both. Alexander gives ‘Just One of Those Things’ a seeing to that would have made the late Johnny Griffin beam, the tenor complexities and speed of execution like a one-man cutting contest. Mabern’s ‘Mr Stitt’ is a smart piece, Alexander getting to grips with its changes and launching a long extemporisation, seemingly never at a loss yet eschewing any tendency for meaningless display.

With ‘You Talk That Talk’, a riff original by organist Leon Spencer, Alexander reunites with Pelt in playfully soulful fashion before ‘Don’t Take Your Love From Me’, with Alexander in relaxed yet funky form rounds out a superb set, all first takes, the music fresh and vigorous, old and new masters of the art in happy accord. One for the Record of the Year polls? For sure.


CD Review: GoGo Penguin - v2.0

GoGo Penguin - v2.0
(Gondwana Records. GONDCD 009. CD Review by Nicolas Pillai)

Assured and exciting, the delightfully named GoGo Penguin go from strength to strength. Now comprising pianist Chris Illingworth, bassist Nick Blacka and drummer Rob Turner, the trio’s second album is technically superb but never cold, emotionally rich but never mawkish, by turns contemplative and frenetic.

It’s little wonder that these ten tracks have been attracting the attention not just of jazz fans but also club DJs. But to praise GoGo Penguin for their crossover potential is to condemn them to cliché. And this is a real jazz band, brimming with ideas communicated with panache.

On the first track, Murmuration, Turner’s drums are wingbeats which, over Blacka’s urgent bass, fly Illingworth from measured rhetoric to anthemic crescendo. Garden Dog Barbecue and Kamaloka pick up the tempo, evoking drum loops and breakbeats that agitate Illingworth’s glacial tone. In Fort, a simple echo effect suggests the infinity of space. The band’s evident interest in the acoustic/digital relationship finds apotheosis in One Percent, in which their instruments brilliantly mimic the sound of a CD skipping.

The second half of the album takes a somewhat more introspective tone, reflected in the song titles. Home, The Letter (recorded totally in the dark) and the heady To Drown In You all build to Shock and Awe which ticks ominously, a promise of death. Throughout, the listener is gripped by the drama of these compositions. Their collective impact makes the final track Hopopono seem yet more playful and welcome. The album ends on a high, showing off this young band’s charisma and energy with a song both lyrical and incisive.


JJA Awards (Musician Categories) Announced

The  winners of the 18th Jazz Journalists Association Awards - musician categories  - have been announced.  Herbie Hancock won a Lifetime Achievement Award, Wayne Shorter and Maria Schneider won three awards each. Cecile McLorin Salvant and Joe Lovano each won two.

Other winners were: The Randy Weston / Billy Harper duo,  Gregory Porter, Terence Blanchard, Roswell Rudd, Lee Konitz , Gary Smulyan,  Jane Ira Bloom,  Nicole Mitchell, Anat Cohen, Bill Frisell, Craig Taborn, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Christian McBride, Regina Carter, Pedrito Martinez, Gary Burton, Jack DeJohnette, Gregoire Maret and Jason Lindner

The reissue of the year was Miles Live in Europe 1969 (Columbia Legacy). Label of the year was ECM . The Awards ceremony will be on June 11th in New York, when the winners of the media categories and awards such as Jazz Hero will also be announced.

Sebastian is a voting member - FULL LISTINGS ARE HERE


Interview: Dave Manington's Riff Raff - Tour Starts May 14th

Dave Manington's Riff Raff
Left to Right: Brigitte Beraha, RobUpdrgraff, Dave Manington,
IvoNeame, Tim Giles, Tom Challenger 

Dave Manington's Riff-Raff will be on a tour supported by Jazz Services between May 14th and July 11th. We interviewed Dave by email:   

LondonJazz News: You're a bassist, what made you choose the instrument? 

Dave Manington: I first tried the bass at school when I was the second best guitarist in a band that needed a bass player! As soon as I started playing it though I gravitated more and more to the bass, I guess whenever I listen to music of any genre I always naturally hear the bass first and the rest of the music built around it.

LJN: Are bassists natural leaders?

DM: I think so in the sense that musically they’re always in the centre of things. There have been a lot of great bass player/leaders who’ve inspired me over the years with their great writing, from Mingus, Dave Holland, Charlie Haden and Jaco Pastorius through to younger guys like Reid Anderson and Chris Lightcap. Personally I don’t particularly like being the bandleader in many respects, I’m mainly interested in writing and developing my music, but one comes with the other so here I am!

LJN: How long has it been going? Who's in the band/ why were they chosen?

The current 6 piece line up of Riff Raff has developed organically over the past 10 years. I originally started a Quartet with Ivo Neame on piano, Tim Giles on drums and Mark Hanslip on Tenor Sax (who was replaced in Riff Raff by the fantastic Tom Challenger) around the time the Loop Collective was formed in 2005, which seems a long time ago now. Brigitte Beraha and I later collaborated on some new material for the 2009 Loop Festival and it worked so beautifully that she joined the band. This new material became the starting point for this album. Soon after I added Rob Updegraff on the guitar as the final piece in the jigsaw and the music really fell into place. Rob, Tim and I have a great understanding as we were in a band at school together and have been playing with each other for over 20 years now which seems remarkable!

The main thing I look for in any collaborator is they have to have their own strong musical identity. They have to be open to listening to each other and responding/leading as they see fit in different circumstances (which could change very suddenly sometimes!). A certain level of technical wizardry and being able to read crazy melodies in 13 is preferable but more important is great improvising, either within the framework of a piece or just freely between the whole band.

LJN: What drove the concept? Particular friendships? A desire to tackle a particular repertoire? A band sound you wanted to develop?

DM: I place a great deal of importance on creating a unified `band sound’ and identity that comes from not chopping and changing personnel or getting deps in unless absolutely necessary. This means we can interpret the music flexibly each time we play it, and often pieces will be reinvented quite radically from one gig to the next, or will gradually morph as we develop a new angle on it. Much of the music has undergone many revisions this way, and each member of the band has had a lot more individual input and freedom than they might normally have in a band where they basically just turn up and sight read through the music. There needs to be a lot of trust between the musicians for it to be possible to play freely and improvise over music that may be quite complex rhythmically. Similarly, it’s important to me to know how each member of the band will play intuitively. When I write new material, I write with them and their playing in mind. If I write a new piece and take it to rehearsal, I know they’ll “get it” straight away, and soon they’ll have developed it into something much greater with their inputs. I generally end up rewriting each tune several times!

LJN: Who writes/ arranges?

DM: It’s all my own work compositionally and the arrangements. Brigitte has written beautiful lyrics for several of the tunes which have given them an extra dimension.

LJN: Is there a tune you start/ finish sets with and why?

DM: Not a Worthless Thing

This is the oldest tune on the album, having been a mainstay of the live set for many years. Brigitte’s lyrics gave an added dimension to the tune, and it’s become the encore tune for gigs which is my most melodic and upbeat tune and hopefully sends people home happy after listening to a lot of new and (sometimes) complicated music.

LJN: Is this your first tour? What are the challenges? Who needs thanking?

DM: It’s our first proper Riff Raff tour although I’ve toured smaller bands and also done short runs of gigs with Riff Raff previously. Obviously with a 6 piece band which is relatively large it’s challenging financially to get the band on the road at all, and the main thanks as ever is to Jazz Services for their support. These days a lot of jazz venues are struggling, and there are only certain venues that have an audience who will come and watch 2 sets of modern original music that’s completely new to them so I tried to choose carefully where to play.

I think it’s a big challenge for all of us as musicians/promoters/journalists to find creative ways of finding and engaging new young audiences for our music. They’re out there, but they’re not necessarily going to come along to a jazz club to check out the music there, so we need to reach out to them in other ways.

LondonJazz News: Have this magic wand. What dreams do you have for the band beyond this tour?

Dave Manington: I’m very excited about this tour and mainly just for a chance to get inside the music in a way that’s only possible with a good run of gigs. It’s the culmination of a lot of work for me since the album release last year, and at the same time it’s also the beginning of something new. I hope to be playing at least two new compositions on the first gig and work more new tunes into the set as we go. Ultimately it’s the first steps to a new album of material for next year. With the magic wand in hand perhaps I can push for more opportunities to play in major jazz festivals and on the European jazz scene over the next few years. Also for me generally I get a kick out of listening to or playing with other creative musicians. There are so many incredibly talented musicians playing in the UK these days and not just jazz musicians so it’s hard not to get inspired by hearing them play.

Tour Dates:

Weds May 14th @ Dempsey’s Bar, Cardiff
Thurs May 15th @ Soundcellar, Poole
Fri May 16th @ Bebop club, Bristol
Weds June 25th, @ e17 jazz, Walthamstow,
Thurs June 26th @ NC Jazz Club, Wellingborough
Sat June 28th @ Sherborne Jazz Club
Tues July 8th @ Parr Jazz, Liverpool
Weds July 9th @ Les Car, Sheffield
Fri July 11th @ Barton Arms, Birmingham
More info


CD Review: Tori Freestone Trio- In the Chop House

Tori Freestone Trio- In the Chop House
(Whirlwind Recordings WR4648. CD Review by Alison Bentley)

There’s no shortage of chops in saxophonist Tori Freestone’s new CD In the Chop House. This trio album with the excellent Dave Manington (double bass) and Tim Giles (drums) is fronted by Freestone’s opulent tenor tone. She’s been touring all over Europe and working with the likes of Ivo Neame and Jim Hart, and now it’s good to hear her own trio.

Three of the tracks are by Freestone, some openly referring to other sax players. Pottering Around nudges us towards Chris Potter, with its risky restless motifs and huge leaps that seem to glance off the bass notes, and loose-limbed funky drumming- Giles’ solo is acrobatic. The bass solo is incredibly rhythmic and you can hear lots of the wiry natural sound of the instrument.Mrs PC points to Coltrane, but its insouciant funkiness makes you think of Ornette Coleman, with a theme that roosts in the brain- in a good way. Freestone often recalls Joe Lovano on this album. There’s a pleasantly scratchy edge to her sound here, as well as the rich tone. Both these pieces are in 7, as is The Universal 4 (is 7 the new 4?). The bass plays major/minor notes behind a repeated sax riff, and the ear fills in the harmony slightly differently every time- part of the fun. It’s a sunny piece with a Rollins-ish calypso feel, and almost melodic drumming. Freestone’s solo is thoughtful and then hoarsely articulate, with intervals that jump up and surprise you.

Manington’s Lonesome George is more boppish with a bluesy bass and sax head, before it melts into a free section with an unbelievable array of drum textures. Shreds of sax and bass melody fly out between drum fills. Jez Franks’ Bubble and Squeak has double-stopped pizzicato bass, delicate drum ‘n’ bass textures from Giles, and tottering bar lengths. Freestone mixes flitting arpeggios and Coltrane-esque vibrato with virtuosity and mischief.

There really is a Chop House in Manchester where Freestone rehearsed with Neil Yates’ big band, and was inspired to return partly to her folk roots. As a child, she sang and played folk violin with her family. She opens My Lagan Love-in the Chophouse with sax trills like uilleann pipes. Freestone’s sound is smoothly Getz-like, free over bass pedal, bells and mallets on toms thundering gently in the distance. Both Sides Now, with its serene folk edge, is her tribute to Joni Mitchell, who was a huge influence.

But Not For Me is the only standard, and the familiar song highlights how original Freestone is. There’s a friendly tug of war across the bar lines; it’s in 5/4, and the tune’s phrases play hide and seek with the listener, appearing in unexpected places. Manington’s bass strides across the tenor’s rising lines, creating beautiful harmonies.

Tori Freestone is a great communicator, and a there’s playfulness among the serious chops. ‘We’re able to push our own boundaries,’ she says, ‘while having the knowledge that we can rely on each other.’ The musicians have a strong rapport, honed since student days, and listening is pure pleasure- that delicious tenor sound…


Preview: Veryan Weston Tuning Out. 7-Date Tour of UK Churches (10th-19th May)

Veryan Weston has written in about a 7 date tour (between 10-19 May) of English churches - in Leicestershire, Liverpool, York, Newcastle, Sheffield, Brighton and London - with a new group. The project (called Tuning Out) explores different tunings, besides equal temperament, with the use of retuned string instruments, microtones, and Tracker Action Pipe Organs.

He writes:

After the fairly substantial project that I helped put together last November - "Make", with a Choir and visiting Canadian choir leader - Christine Duncan and various others, I'm doing something completely different which is coming up towards the end of May. It involves a tour with me playing tracker action pipe organs, Australian maverick Jon Rose on violins and Hannah Marshall on cello.

In preparation, I had to go 'round England looking at a selection of smallish tracker-action organs mostly in churches. I visited 24 in all and chose 7 to be part of a national tour. Although at the time I thought it would be a fun thing to do, it turned out to be hard work and intense. There were some beautiful venues and exquisite  gems of pipe organs and so choosing the seven was painfully difficult.”

For the dates -  between May 10th and 19th  - the venue information and tickets click HERE


Herts Jazz Festival (September 12th-14th) Programme / Weekend Tickets / Early Bird Discounts

Herts Jazz Festival (September 12th-14th) has announced its programme and just put its weekend tickets on sale.  Prices for the weekend are £95 /£85 Herts Jazz members / £30 students. Early-bird discounts of £10 are available for tickets purchased before 1st July. 


Friday September 12th

8.30-11.00 The Big Chris Barber Band
11.00-12.30 Brian Dee Trio

Saturday September 13th

11.30–12.30 James Pearson Trio – A history of jazz piano
1.00-2.00 Art Themen Quartet
2.00-3.00 Nigel Price solo
3.15-4.30 Ben Castle Quartet
5.00-6.15 Jean Toussaint's Blakey Tribute
6.15-7.30 Michael De Souza duo
7.45-10.15 John Taylor Quartet
10.30-12.00 Leon Greening Trio

Sunday September 14th

11.30-12.30 Herts Youth Jazz Ensemble
1.00-2.00 Clark Tracey Quintet
2.00-3.00 Mike Gorman solo
3.15-4.30 JJ Wheeler Quintet
5.00-6.15 Stickchops (Orphy Robinson/Anthony Kerr/Clark Tracey)
6.15-7.30 Alan Barnes/Dave Newton
7.45-10.15 Alan Skidmore Quartet with special guest Georgie Fame

Stephen Hyde of Herts Jazz writes: "This will be the fourth Herts Jazz Festival. It will have a similar format to last year’s which was so popular, with free of charge sessions in the foyer during the session intervals and after hours. One big difference is that for the first time there will be ALLOCATED SEATING at no extra cost."

TICKETS: Either via the Festival website – or at the Hawthorne Theatre box office (01707 357117). (pp)


Review: Evan Parker / Barry Guy / Paul Lytton at the Vortex

Evan Parker, Barry Guy and Paul Lytton at the Vortex
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2013. All Rights Reserved

Evan Parker / Barry Guy / Paul Lytton
(Vortex, 10 April 2014; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

Evan Parker, Barry Guy and Paul Lytton are three improvising masters who have tirelessly refined their musical language and the breadth of their dialogues over nigh on forty-five years. They convened at the Vortex for a relatively rare trio run-out, celebrating Evan Parker's seventieth birthday, with a full house in attendance.

In the drive to expand their expressive armouries, each member of the trio makes strenuous demands on himself and the others, without a hint of becoming jaded or reverting to formulae. Their combined efforts have the accuracy of a rapid reaction force - crossed with the fluency and spontaneity of a Brazilian football front line.

Parker fluttered and rolled the tenor tones with a compulsive, inventive streak and an intensity born of his rigorous practice regimen, about which he has said, 'I'll keep ... refining and rejecting stuff I've done a thousand times before it is the basis for things I've never done before.'

Guy's athletic, quick-fire movements took him all over the bass in his search for elusive, unexpected nuances which he drew out with unfettered virtuosity, utilising beaters, sticks and bow, lightly finger-tapping strings, and cordoning off sections of the fingerboard to create a distinctive voice which hopped from withdrawn introversion to an all-out shout as a stick was dragged skidding down the strings.

Lytton, totally absorbed, revealed beauty and rhythmic cadences in the meetings of found objects and the conventional drum kit. An empty coffee packet, a strand of wire, a metal paint scraper - all found their places in an ever-changing contact sport with skins and metal.

There were genuine surprises for even the seasoned devotee, notably, when at full tilt, the trio applied an instant tourniquet halt, the product of an invisible telepathic signal, to cut to an unfathomable silence that gradually bled to a minimal drumbeat, a muted bass utterance and a wisp of melody before Parker let rip with a Coltrane-inspired power surge.

In a rare solo spell, Parker shaped the final phase of the two sets, as he vied with Guy's bass harmonics in a compelling, cyclical construct that grew exponentially with an urgency that carried all in its wake.

After the trio's ultimate number, combining rampant rhythms, repetitions and no-hesitation, thinking on their feet, the Vortex's Oliver Weindling presented Evan with an iced birthday cake topped with a single candle. Evan expressed joyous surprise, but also wondered whether seventy candles would have needed him to deploy his (renowned) circular breathing.

Evan Parker: tenor saxophone
Barry Guy: double bass
Paul Lytton: drums, percussion


Interview: Tom Taylor talking about the new trio; duck-rabbit

Joe Wright, James Opstad, Tom Taylor

We spoke to pianist Tom Taylor about the new trio, duck-rabbit

LondonJazz: You've called this duck-rabbit. Why?

Tom Taylor: duck-rabbit is an optical illusion in which the same image can be perceived as either a duck or a rabbit.  We felt this was particularly relevant to improvised music and how audiences interpret it. An improvised piece can carry strong imagery for one person who is then surprised that their friend, who was sat next to them, took it to mean something completely different. In this way we see the audience as the fourth member of the group, interacting by projecting their own context and meaning on to the performance. In addition, we are currently developing an electronic side to the band that will interact with the acoustic configuration. This split personality is also reflected in the band name.

LJ: Who is involved?

TT: duck-rabbit is a trio: Joe Wright (Saxophone), James Opstad (Double Bass) and myself (Piano).

LJ: And what's the idea?

TT: Having known and enjoyed each other’s playing for a long time, we came together to experiment with playing in a more open format. After an initial session it was clear that we had an understanding and were keen to work together. Since then we have been playing together on a regular basis and recently made our first recording, Path to Field. This recording is the first in a series of releases that will document performances in interesting and unusual locations.

LJ: Is it more than a bit of fun?

TT: It’s important that it is fun and our primary motivation for playing together is that we enjoy it. As a result, we are all willing to put a lot of time and energy into the project. Splitting the workload between us has made the organisation simpler and more enjoyable and it is very satisfying to feel the collective enthusiasm and know that we are all equally invested.

LJ: I can see what you get from it but what should an audience expect?

TT: Interaction is at the forefront of what we are doing, coupled with a mutual desire to explore the sonic potential of our instruments. An audience should expect to hear new sonorities and a rapid exchange of ideas. When we go to see freely improvised music, we enjoy seeing how ideas are treated, how they are developed and sometimes cast away. This is music that lives in the present and can produce moments of beauty unachievable by other means. Over the coming months we will be exploring another layer of interaction as we find new ways of engaging with our acoustic improvisations using electronics. We hope that above all, an audience will see three musicians who love playing together.

LondonJazz: When's the live date/ is there a tour planned?

Tom Taylor: We are currently putting together a tour for later in the year. In the meantime we will be making new recordings that will be available on our website.


Review Hiromi: The Trio Project at Cadogan Hall

Hiromi at Cadogan Hall, April 2014
Photo credit: Roger Thomas. All Rights Reserved

Hiromi: The Trio Project
(Cadogan Hall, Sloane Square. 13th April 2014. First night of three. Review by Rob Mallows)

 If the UK is, as scientists say, desperately in search of new sources of energy, the government could do worse than plug The Trio Project into the national grid. What a display of musical pyrotechnics we saw on Sunday at Cadogan Hall, the first of three UK gigs at the Sloane Square venue, the trio's only UK appearances this year.

This was an energetic, frenetic and spell-binding gig, at the centre of which was Japan's own musical pocket-rocket, Hiromi Uehara (whom Sebastian recently interviewed, an interview in which she acknowledged the profound influence of Ahmad Jamal).   Performing tunes from their last album Move (2012) and their upcoming album, scheduled for June, Alive, the trio -  consisting of Hiromi herself,  all foot stomping, smiles and floppy, cotton candy hair, Anthony Jackson on contra-bass guitar, and LA-based UK drummer Simon Phillips - touched most points on the musical compass in a wonderful tour de force. The audience got jazz in bucket-loads, sure; but they also got progressive rock, the blues, classical allusions, rhythm and blues and even some AOR.  The 88 keys in front of her give Hiromi a world of possibilities.

The two sets were a pleasure just to sit and listen to, intently, feeling what these three musicians can do together. A powerful opening - Hiromi battering down block chords to kick of explosive opener Move - set the tone for the evening. The Trio Project works with quartz precision and it's a joy to behold. Phillips' drumming covered all the rhythmic bases: with a huge kit that was more Carl Palmer than Art Blakey, he provided the turbo boost that drove the music along and challenged Hiromi to go one step further every bar. Bassist Jackson - seated centre-stage, at times almost wrestling with his contra-bass guitar in the search for the colour tones - was in the pocket all night, matching the volcanic activity on either side of him.


Renato D'Aiello Interview. New projects: Evolution - debut 21 April + Confluences - debut in October

Sebastian interviewed saxophonist / bandleader Renato D'Aiello about his weekly series at Ronnie Scott's, his two new projects:

LondonJazz: When did you move from Italy

Renato D'Aiello: I moved to London on Feb 1999.

LJ: It was the weather wasn't it?

RD'A: I came here for the weather, haha.  Actually, I came here  for a woman who I liked very much and met in Italy. To be really honest I do not like so much hot weather.   I like playing a lot in nice clubs and I noticed that in countries  where it is too hot the clubs tends to shut for holiday already  in May, and perhaps reopen in September or even in October . That is not great for me as I like to play possibly each month. So the weather here is  actually OK  for me.

LJ: You have a regular gig at Ronnie Scott's what are the highlights?

RD'A:  I started the Monday night  upstairs at Ronnie Scott's on the 9th of July 2010, ( in July it will be 4 years ) . At the beginning it was just me and the trio playing once a month and it was called Italian jazz night , then we changed for "Acoustic jazz lounge" . Then after few months  it became a twice a month thing and finally after a year and half  from the start it became an every Monday event.  At this point me and the general manager discussed about the idea to invite a singer for the central set every Monday. Actually  it has been working very well since then with this format.

There are a lot of people who love the "Acoustic Jazz Lounge". They keep coming back with new and old  friends. The atmosphere is very intimate and relaxed but not too snobbish. Unfortunately, I do not like so much having customers standing and chatting too much, so I make sure that there are enough tables with candles and low light to create a congenial environment where they can he happy, and  we can play at our best.

LJ: You play quite a lot elsewhere in Europe

RD'A:  I do play quite a lot in Europe at the moment. I go to Paris every few months. I started to go there 10 years ago invited by a French guitarist/producer  called Patrick Saussois and on my first night in Paris Felix Sportis  from Jazz Hot magazine interviewed me.

I also play in Berlin sometimes, In Stockholm , Oslo and Italy.  In June I will be going for the first time  to Finland  for a week of concerts with Finnish pianist Karri Luhtala. In July I have been invited at the Malta Jazz Festival to play , and teach on a master class.

LJ: Tell us about your new projects

RD'A:  I have 2 new  projects in the pot now. The first one is called EVOLUTION featuring the phenomenal singer/performer from London Randolph Matthews, Japanese pianist  resident in Paris Hiroshi Murayama, Italian bassist in London Dario DI Lecce and new comer in London,  Italian drummer Emiliano Caroselli.

We will start playing on the 21st of April Upstairs at Ronnie Scott's, then again on the same venue on the 30th of June, and on the 24th of July we will be at Pizza Express Dean st.

This project includes original compositions by myself, Hiroshi, Randolph, plus our original arrangements of Shorter and Davis compositions.

LJ: And the other project?

RD'A:  The other project which is very dear to me is called CONFLUENCES. This is a world music project with some jazz influence. We will start playing in October . The music is all mine. Each song has been written and dedicated to a particular  country of the Earth. On one number  called "The Adventurer"  a poem of mine is recited on top of music. I have been writing poems, aphorisms, anecdotes since I was 6 years old.

The project CONFLUENCES will be featuring the amazing talent of Amit Chatterjee on guitar/singing  ( 11 years guitarist/singer with Joe Zawinul's syndicate ).

LJ: What are the big dates?

RD'A: Our first gig will be in London at Lauderdale House on the 16th of October. I am working now on booking some other gigs in UK near the London date.

LJ: And you are interested in Indian music?

RD'A: I love Indian music a lot and I have been studying Indian singing for a while, before starting taking lesson with Ranjana Ghatak.  When I heard Amit  singing/playing in Paris with Zawinul I was amazingly impressed and touched. On that day i promised to myself that one day i will have a band with him. That day has come.

LJ: Tell us about the musicians in Confluences and Amit Chatterjee in particular

RD'A: Amit is firstly a wonderful classical Indian sitarist, but he does not play the sitar outside the context of classical Indian music. He plays guitar with a very original style and his singing is just celestial. The other musicians will be Hiroshi Murayama on piano/keyboards, Ivano Fortuna on drums/percussion/vocal.

Ivano Fortuna is a multi talented ( percussion/drums, singer/producer ) artist from Italy and an old friend. I have not decided yet who is going to be on bass but soon will have clear idea about it. Hiroshi as, also Zawinul has a background in classical music and classic jazz but he can play anything from classic jazz to contemporary jazz. He is incredibly interactive on the stage, therefore an ideal partner for me. I am used to  listen a lot to the other musicians when we play and I always look for people with the same attitude.

LondonJazz: And there's a Jazz album? and what else?

Renato D'Aiello:  I am also finishing a ballad album (jazz  standards )  in April for 33JAZZ.

In May I will also tackle my previous unfinished  project SATORI with the string quartet added to the band, and hopefully we will be recording next year with Confluences featuring Amit  and the new band.


Report: AREA Reunion Tour Live at the 100 Club

AresTavolazzi, PaoloTofani, WalterPaoli on the 2011 AREA Reunion tour / Wiki/ Creative commons
AREA Reunion Tour Live
(100 Club. 11th April 2014. Report by Renato D'Aiello)

We has picked up such a buzz among Italian people about this gig, a sense of connection and re-connection surrounding it, we asked Renato D'Aiello if he could report on it and to explain some of the connections and the context. He writes:

It was indeed a reunion concert on last Friday at the 100 Club for the members of AREA, the historical prog rock band from the seventies, who evolved more and more jazzy from the 8th album Tic&Tac released on 1980 .

The guitarist Paolo Tofani, arrived on the stage alone to introduce the concert. He joined the band in 1973, just one year after the singer Demetrio Stratos and the drummer Giulio Capiozzo, started the band. Paolo left the band in 1977 to become an Hare Krishna’s monk. Now still a Hare Krishna devotee, he has been touring again since 2010 with bassist Ares Tavolazzi and pianist Patrizio Fariselli two of the old pals, plus the newcomer drummer Walter Paoli.

The concert started with an introduction by Paolo Tofani talking about the difference between Eastern and Western music, and his experiences in India meeting musicians like Zakir Hussain and Ariprasad Chaurasia. Paolo went on playing alone for 10 minutes demonstrating the possibilities of his unusual instrument “tricanta”, with one body of a guitar with 3 necks/set of strings The other members Patrizio Fariselli, Ares Tavolazzi and Walter Paoli joined Paolo on the first number Arbeit macht frei also the title for their first studio album released on 1973 with singer and founder of the band Demetrio Stratos, Giulio Capiozzo, first bassist Patrick Djivas, sax player Eddie Busnello.

Before they continued with the repertoire they played a recording of a mysterious track which sounded like a kind of deep and dark clusters of noises. It was actually the totality of all the records they'd ever recorded, condensed  into a  one-minute track!

The night continued with a selection of their big hits from the period when Tofani was in the band. They played then Cometa Rossa, a jazz/rock song based on a complex rhythm of 10/14, and a more rock groove based song called Nervi Scoperti where pianist Fariselli played some powerful solos.

As the fifth number of the evening they played a very touching slow original called Efstratoos ( which is Demetrio's real name) with bassist Ares Tavolazzi playing if he was singing on his bass.

The song was dedicated to the late Demetrio Stratos who died in NY at the age of 34 after 7 years of working and experimenting extensively with the band AREA having collaboration with various artist including London percussionist Paul Lytton and US poet and soprano sax star Steve Lacy .

The band played then Gerontocrazia and Elefante Bianco. The seventh song was La mela di Odessa in which Tofani was also reciting the story while playing guitar.

The last number started with Tofani asking the audience to take their house-car keys out of pocket and let them produce a sound. On top this audience generated percussion they started perhaps the most famous song called Luglio, Agosto e Settembre Nero. They left the stage after this number but as the audience clearly wanted more music they played a song called Zyg.

It was indeed a wonderful concert which brought us back in time few decades, were it all started. It was actually a great reunion for me too as I had the pleasure to play with drummer Walter Paoli, when he was 17 years old - incidentally, he did a particularly fine job at this reunion gig. I played with Ares Tavolazzi first on 1983 touring with a famous Italian songwriter, plus several jazz gigs and finally the pianist Fariselli, who very kindly came to join our jazz/fusion band Idra for a short period, back 25 years ago. How time flies.

Renato D'Aiello's AREA album choices:

Arbeit Macht frei 1973 Cramps records
Event 76 Live album feat: Paul Lytton , Steve Lacy
Tic &Tac 1980 feat: Larry Nocella tenor sax