FEATURE: Andrew McCormack (New Album Graviton + Spring Tour Dates)

L-R: Anton Eger, Josh Arcoleo, Andrew McCormack,
Noemi Nuti, Rob Mullarkey
Photo Credit: Mike Hall
Pianist ANDREW McCORMACK has demonstrated fascinating versatility in his career so far, leading his own trio, working in a duo with the saxophonist Jason Yarde and also alongside major artists such as Kyle Eastwood and Jean Toussaint. McCormack speaks insightfully about the differences between the various situations in which he has worked as a leader. Feature by Dan Paton:

"The fewer musicians you have in the ensemble, the more responsibility the pianist seems to have. Weirdly, I find playing duo more exhausting and challenging than playing solo. When you’re playing solo, you’re in control of what is happening. In a duo, you’re responding to what someone is doing as well as providing the rhythm and the harmony - the reaction and surprise whilst simultaneously trying to hold everything down is a big challenge."

His latest album Graviton (released on PIAS Jazz Village last year) emphasises particular facets of Andrew McCormack's leadership, including his strengths as a composer (partially honed through working as a composer and arranger on a number of film soundtrack projects) and further pushing the rhythmic possibilities of his music. Utilising a slightly larger all-star ensemble, the music on his new album Graviton explores intricate lattice-like structures, varied textures and thrilling knife-edge tension. There is a breathtaking vitality and urgency to the uptempo pieces and the ballads are characterised by poignancy and beauty, whilst also incorporating lithe and subtle grooves. Some of the music draws from world rhythms and perhaps even from dance music and electronica.

When asked about the album’s rhythmic qualities, and the role played by drummer Anton Eger (Phronesis, Marius Neset) in particular, McCormack explains that he has "become a lot more interested in some of the musicians exploring rhythm a lot more". Offering some examples, he identifies Phronesis ("Anton is a world class musician and someone I’ve always admired") but also mentions pianist Tigran Hamasyan. This musical investigation seems to have flourished during McCormack’s three years spent living in New York. "I would check out the musicians who would play with Ari Hoenig at Smalls every Monday night – they are exploring that side of playing and improvising," he explains.

McCormack’s experience in New York seems to have encouraged a period of intense self reflection that informed his focus on composition as well as his interest in rhythm and improvising. "New York really forces you to figure out what your strengths are," he suggests. Why is this? "The environment is very competitive," he argues.

"It’s not enough to be an excellent piano player because there are countless excellent piano players – so it’s about what is special about you in particular. My idea in going to a different city, and to New York specifically, was to develop myself a little bit and to keep growing. This gives you a lot of focus and direction, and Graviton is the result of that."

In fact, some of the New York preoccupations that inform Graviton might not be immediately apparent to listeners. "It got me to explore even deeper what Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk were doing, even if you wouldn’t necessarily hear it on this record. Being in the place where they created bebop – it has a different meaning. It makes it more real. It’s a bit like a pilgrimage – there is something about that hallowed ground."

Perhaps London now has enough of its own lineage to be similarly informed and competitive though? McCormack feels that the main distinction between the two cities is "volume". "It feels like there’s so many more musicians there because the whole world goes to New York. You do get a lot of European musicians coming to London but in New York, you’ve got people coming from Asia and South America - there are a lot of Israeli musicians there too."

One intriguing facet of McCormack’s composing on Graviton is how carefully he integrates the vocalists into his musical structures. "I wanted to have a female vocalist," he explains. "It’s an element I think that sounds really beautiful and it’s actually a fairly classic line-up too." (He cites the examples of Chick Corea’s Return To Forever and Django Bates’ Human Chain as other well known ensembles that have utilised the female voice.) In writing for this new element, he considered his broader compositional aims too. "I wanted to have voices, whether that be a horn player or a singer, doing something fairly integrated and compositional, offering a variety of sound and colour within this genre of rhythmic jazz playing." Whilst the opening track Breathe might provide the most immediately striking example of this integration, there is also the remarkable Andromeda, described accurately and succinctly by McCormack as "a choir of Eskas" – it’s one of the album’s deepest and most satisfying surprises.

Another way in which the album offers new dimensions to McCormack’s work is in the emphasis on production and mixing. The mixing process had to contend with a range of sound worlds, incorporating piano and electric keyboard and Ralph Wyld’s percussion. "Rob Mullarkey (who also plays bass on the album) spent more time than agreed mixing," McCormack states. "He poured his heart and soul into it and really took the time to make it right. It’s a new way of working for me – usually I’ve done more of a jazz session and there the mixing can be relatively straightforward because once you have the overall sound, it may not change much from track to track. Here, each track needed to have its own story. The extra element of the mix was able to bring out these other colours and other sounds in addition to what the individual personalities provided. The results were more than I ever expected."

The broad sonic palette of the music, together with the inherent challenges in playing it, might make for a tough but exciting experience when McCormack and his ensemble tour it, starting in Manchester on 1 February.

"It’s a roast," McCormack admits. "We’ve done a handful of dates over the past year but this is the proper tour – the one where we can really get our teeth into the music and I’m really looking forward to it. At the London Jazz Festival, we were starting to find things we could do as a group that were not written or pre-determined, anticipating what the other players are like and what they will do."

Whilst the line-up of the group has shifted, the inevitable result of the many logistical and availability issues with which all jazz bandleaders are familiar, McCormack’s variety of touring groups are also tremendous. "The album was an all star line-up," McCormack explains, "and with Shabaka (Hutchings) and Eska, there was always an understanding that they were not going to be available for live touring." McCormack’s partner, Noemi Nuti, helped him demo a lot of the music from Graviton and steps in as sole vocalist for the live dates.

"She has always been a part of this project and has now come in and really made it her own gig, which is great to see." He also highlights some of the vocal processing and looping Nuti uses to "create new clusters of sound" as part of the live group, a different way of presenting some of Graviton’s wide range of sound worlds. Saxophone duties will be split between Josh Arcoleo and Leo Richardson, who also worked on the Graviton demos. McCormack praises Richardson as "a really virtuosic, well-rounded musician". Bassist Rob Mullarkey might be less widely known but, as McCormack suggests, "he’s probably a part of a lot of the music people are listening to and they may not realise that it’s him" One example of this is his role as bass player with Jacob Collier as and when he deploys a band set-up. Of Mullarkey’s playing, McCormack proclaims that "he’s as groovy as a… I can’t swear, can I?!" Anton Eger and Josh Blackmore (one of only a handful of UK drummers potentially able to reflect Eger’s intensity, speed and dexterity) share the drum seat. The tour also offers some new personal milestones in McCormack’s career, including his first headline show at Ronnie Scott’s in London.

The process of recording, rehearsing and performing Graviton certainly seems to have ignited new fires in McCormack. Whilst he claims to have a new solo piano album "in the can", it seems this may have to wait a while. "Graviton has opened my eyes and ears to a new way of working," he enthuses. "I would like to develop it more and see where it takes me. I want to keep growing and not rest on my laurels. All the musicians I really admire and respect keep working on their music. Even someone like Keith Jarrett still practises every day, even after all the music he has created. It’s astonishing and a great example of someone who wants to call themselves an artist.

It’s an example that McCormack is no doubt setting himself for an even younger generation. (pp)


1 February 2018 - Band On The Wall, Manchester (+Tryon Collective)
2 February 2018 - Wakefield Jazz, Wakefield
3 February 2018 - Southport Jazz Fest, Merseyside
5 February 2018 - Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham
6 February 2018 - The Stables, Wavendon
7 February 2018 - Ronnie Scotts, London (+Camilla George Qrt)
22 February 2018- Bonnington Theatre, Nottingham

13 March 2018 - The Venue @ DMU, Leicester
21 March 2018 - Ropetackle Arts, Shoreham Sussex

5 May 2018 - Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford On Avon

28 June 2018 - Harwich Festival Essex

LINK: Andrew McCormack's website


REVIEW: The Jazz Repertory Company's 100 Years of Jazz in 99 Minutes at 2018 South Coast Jazz Festival

100 Years of Jazz in 99 Minutes at South Coast Jazz Festival
Photo credit: Lisa Wormsley

The Jazz Repertory Company's 100 Years of Jazz in 99 Minutes
(South Coast Jazz Festival, Ropetackle Arts Centre, Shoreham-by-Sea, 20 January 2018. Review by Charlie Anderson.)

The fourth South Coast Jazz Festival sees a line up that embraces a wide array of jazz styles, so what better way to kick off the festival than a concert that presents 100 Years of Jazz in 99 Minutes, performed by The Jazz Repertory Company.

Beginning with pianist Nick Dawson’s rendition of Maple Leaf Rag, the band then entered performing some classic New Orleans marching music, followed by early jazz classics Livery Stable Blues and Cake Walking Babies (From Home).

Trumpeter Enrico Tomasso was the stand-out performer for the first set performing in the contrasting styles of Louis Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke whilst saxophonist Pete Long impressed the most in the second set with his ability to re-create the sounds of Charlie Parker, Gerry Mulligan, Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane. The addition of trumpeter and vocalist Georgina Jackson illustrated her versatility, singing tunes made famous by Billie Holiday and Chet Baker, and also playing trumpet on tunes such as Birdland.

It was fascinating to see each member of the band regularly changing instrument to suit the particular style, but the most impressive thing about the band is its unique combination of energy and humour together with a thorough knowledge of the jazz tradition. Leader Richard Pite has ensured that each classic tune is reproduced with close attention to detail, as was illustrated by their performance of So What, which included the rarely-played Bill Evans introduction and some beautiful bass playing from Dave Chamberlain.

Sponsored by the ever-jovial promoter and manager John Billett, this was a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining evening in what is set to be another great South Coast Jazz Festival.

Charlie Anderson is the founder and editor of Sussex Jazz Magazine.

The South Coast Jazz Festival runs from 20 – 27 January - website 

LINK: Preview feature South Coast Jazz Festival 2018


FEATURE: Daniel John Martin - (at Pizza Express Dean Street with ‘Romane’ on 25 February 2018)

Daniel John Martin and Romane
Photo Credit: Didier Portal

Renowned violinist DANIEL JOHN MARTIN is making two special appearances in the UK in February alongside his lifelong friend and guitarist extraordinaire ‘Romane’. Leah Williams speaks to him on a cross-Channel call to find out all about this duo’s upcoming gigs.

Born just outside Manchester to a British mother and French father, followed by formative years in Africa (Senegal and then South Africa), and finally settling in Paris in his late teens, Daniel John Martin knows more than a little about the nomadic life. Was this what eventually drew his destiny to the gypsy jazz music founded by Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grapelli in the 1930s, or was it simply a natural path taken with the instrument he readily confesses he is “totally mad about”? Per-haps a little of both. But first, Daniel hastens to point out, there really is no such thing as ‘gypsy jazz’.

“The term ‘gypsy jazz’ has been popularised and we use it because it’s well known but, in reality, the music that Django Reinhardt and others were making was so much more than any narrowed term. I think Reinhardt is comparable to someone like Thelonius Monk; his music was ahead of its time and its legacy still is in many ways. He was a jazz man first and foremost who found a way to express himself and his desire for liberty in a new and refreshing way,” says Daniel.

Of course, the fact that he was a gypsy, from the Manouche clan (a reason ‘gypsy jazz’ is also sometimes referred to as ‘Manouche jazz’), would have naturally influenced his playing and his music now forms a part of the rightly-proud gypsy community’s identity. However, as Daniel points out, it’s still “just jazz” and doesn’t need to be limited by any other label.

Starting on the violin aged six in South Africa, Daniel has nurtured a lifelong obsession with the in-strument, admitting that when he’s not practising, he can often be found hanging out with modern luthiers learning more about the violin’s workings and anything new on offer: “I love playing on modern instruments and staying up to date with everything that’s available to push the boundaries of the sound. It’s why I’m such a fan of the Wittner fine-tune pegs and other accessories that allow me the freedom to do this.”

This desire to explore every aspect of the violin’s capabilities is perhaps one of the reasons he fell so hard for jazz and the ‘gypsy jazz’ style in particular. When he was first introduced to it as a young violinist in Paris, being taken to gypsy camps all over France by young gypsy friends from the Mayer, Weiss and Reinhardt families, he was simply whisked away by this sound that opened up so many possibilities for him and his fiddle.

“Jazz is like a virus really and once you’ve got it, you can’t get rid of it! It’s a very complex musical form that I find represents life especially well. It has a lot to do with ego; you’re always expressing yourself instead of at the mercy of someone else’s will, which is great but also brings its own com-plications. You’ve got to remember to share, share the music and the emotions with the audience and your fellow musicians.”

During this early jazz awakening was also when he met ‘Romane’, now one of the world’s foremost guitarists flying the flag for this style of jazz and with whom he has been dear friends and musical comrades ever since.

“Romane and I started out playing as a duo on a boat on the Seine. We would just jam and play for hours on end; it was a very happy period of my youth,” Daniel remembers fondly. “He really is one of my favourite people to play with. His ears are always wide open; he really listens, is very calm and never overbearing, giving everyone space.”

The duo have been invited to showcase their special partnership at the Liverpool Philharmonic on 24 February and, luckily for us, they’ve decided to come to London the following night. Audiences can expect to hear some Django Reinhardt favourites, of course, but also a wide array of other jazz standards and perhaps even some originals.

Citing Coltrane’s Giant Steps, amongst others, as another strong influence, Daniel emphasises again that ‘gypsy jazz’ is part of the wider jazz repertoire and that it’s not just the recognisable tunes that can benefit from its stylings: “It’s not so much about the notes themselves as the orchestral formula and the intrinsic sound of the music. Within that, we love to just play our instruments and find ways of integrating modern harmony and other influences into this form.”

Daniel John Martin and Romane will be joined at Pizza Express on 25 February 2018 at 8pm by Andy Crowdy on bass and Ducato Piotrowski on guitar. (pp)

LINK: To buy tickets, head to the Pizza Express website: Pizza Express


CD REVIEW: Stefanos Tsourelis Trio- Native Speaker

Stefanos Tsourelis Trio- Native Speaker
(Bandcamp, iTunes. CD Review by Alison Bentley)

Stefanos Tsourelis speaks many musical languages on oud and guitar: jazz, rock, music from his native Greece and traditional music for the oud.

He’s now London-based, and his acoustic trio is partly inspired by John McLaughlin’s trio, (the one with percussionist Trilok Gurtu and Dominique Di Piazza.) You can hear the influence in Nostalgia: gently funky jazz chords, and dazzlingly fast runs on Tsourelis’ silvery semi-acoustic guitar, in unison with Dave Jones’ deep-toned electric bass and Eric Ford’s subtle cymbal rushes. Phrygian Major, named for a Greek scale, introduces the oud, with its strongly percussive oriental sound. His oud was made in Turkey and he’s taken on the intricate time signatures of Turkish music here, with an urgent groove. The three trade fours: a spacious moment in the maelstrom to reveal their individual virtuosity.

The tracks have contrasting moods. Calm Sea evokes a Greek beach, written before Tsourelis moved to London, cymbals surfing on the lilting, circular chords – there’s no sense that the harmony wants to pull us anywhere. The folk-edged guitar hints at bop phrasing, yearning and laid back but coiled like a spring, Metheny-esque. The Desert has an Arabic flavour, the oud trilling maqams, rock and blues grooving together in 7/8. Jen’s Tune has a funky Latin groove (fab staccato slap bursts from Jones) interspersed with sweet, quieter, almost ragtime moments. The guitar is sometimes low and fluttery, as if Tsourelis’ oud-playing has influenced his guitar style.

The thoughtful Leafy Gardens has a slow, ecstatic mood, initially recalling John Renbourn but with dizzying time signatures. It’s lovely as the guitar solos bluesy, counterpointed lines over the bubbling bass line, delicate sticks on cymbals following the bass patterns. Mystery Blues has a solid rocky groove, bringing together blues and traditional oud sounds in Dhafer Youssef style. Tsourelis switches to guitar to solo; a hint of distortion in the emotive sweeps reminds us of his Hendrix influences. Native Speaker juxtaposes rocked-out sections with delicate details. The rhythms are nervy, negotiated by Jones as if he’s jumping over the cracks in the pavement, culminating in a superb solo from Ford.

In Squares bass harmonics circle the sliding oud notes, in a grungily Arabic groove. The bass solo is full of jumpy slap and Ford’s solo spills out into the full kit after the restrained percussive sounds. Dreamy, liquid guitar arpeggios open Fluid. Ford often has a wonderfully deadened cymbal sound; here it has a plaintive whine that could be from the Peking Opera. Darker jazz chords drift into a bright, ambient end.

Although Tsourelis has written the tunes, all three musicians have been involved in the arrangements. It sounds as if the music has grown organically. There’s a balance of energy and calm and sheer enjoyment as these many musical languages are brought together.


FEATURE: Andy Sheppard Quartet New Album on ECM Romaria

Andy Sheppard Quartet (clockwise from top left): Andy Sheppard, Eivind Aarset, Michel Benita, Seb Rochford
Photo credit: D Vass/ECM
“The album Romaria" says ANDY SHEPPARD  is like a mood captured in time. And albums should be listened to as a whole, enjoyed... like a book.” Feature by Martin Chilton.

Andy Sheppard is a beautifully shapely saxophone player and his usual pure sense of melody shines through on his new album Romaria, which was recorded with his quartet in Lugano, Switzerland.

Its predecessor, Surrounded By Sea, was a contemplative album and although Romaria is more robust and energetic, Sheppard still infuses the smallest inflections with expressive lyrical power, as on the haunting title tune.

Of the eight tracks, Romaria is the only one not composed by 61-year-old Sheppard. It was written by the Grammy-nominated Brazilian composer Renato Teixeira. The song was originally a hit in the 1970s for Elis Regina, considered one of Brazil’s finest singers and whose premature death – in 1982 aged only 36 – robbed the musical world of a real talent. The idea to record Regina’s hit as an instrumental was suggested by Sheppard’s wife Sara. He explained: “My wife has great ears for music and she suggested I tackle Romaria. It started as a nice tune for an encore in concerts and everyone loved it so it became a regular part of the live repertoire. I took it to the recording session and the producer, Manfred Eicher, loved it. He was adamant we named the whole album after it.”

Veteran German arranger Eicher, who founded ECM Records and was earning producer of the year awards four decades ago, has always allowed his musicians to go with their instincts and, at 74, his approach is clearly still working a treat. In the creative space Eicher encourages, Sheppard and his quartet deliver another atmospheric delight. Sheppard says: “Manfred’s suggestions are brilliant. It was an intense couple of days in Switzerland. We used some of the soundchecks at previous gigs to prepare but going in and being spontaneous was an advantage, because it sounded fresh. Our group of musicians know each other well and it was done in a quick and intuitive way. And it’s always interesting hanging out with Manfred and talking about the catalogue of outstanding work he has done. He is really quite inspiring.”

Sheppard says that “sequencing is one of Manfred’s fortes” and the album has a deliberate structure, with the opening track And A Day…, (the longest on the album at over eight minutes) and its companion, the closing tune Forever…, neatly book-ending the whole project. Sheppard believes the album is best listened to as a whole and I would agree. It allows you to savour the melodic lines that run through the album like a golden thread. “The album Romaria is like a mood captured in time and albums should be listened to as a whole, enjoyed in their entirety like a book,” Sheppard adds. “It is a bit of a bone of contention of mine, with streaming and such, that music is now something that is dipped in and out of.”

Surrounded By Sea reflected Sheppard’s long-standing love of folk music, shown in his version of an old Gaelic ballad called Aoidh, Na Dean Cadal Idir, and a bold take on Elvis Costello’s I Want to Vanish – but his new album is also full of innovation.

His composition With Every Flower That Falls was part of a suite he wrote for the Bristol International Jazz Festival to accompany a screening of Fritz Lang’s 1927 science fiction dystopia classic Metropolis. Sheppard explains: “I was able to edit the film, with the help of Sara, and write the music for the festival presentation. The tune played itself. It comes at a point in the film when a character is falling in love so it has a romantic mood, despite the slightly worrying title. That screening version was more elaborate so I did a new arrangement for the album.”

The arrangements are for a quartet that has a distinctly international flavour. Wiltshire-born Sheppard is joined again by French-Algerian Michael Benita, Scot Seb Rochford and Norwegian guitarist Eivind Aarset. “I never think about their nationalities, I always think that music is our main connection,” Sheppard says. The musicians blend so expertly with Sheppard’s saxophone melodies. Benita’s double bass playing is centred to the music, while the drumming of Polar Bear’s Rochford deftly underpins the music with beguiling and complex patterns. Aarset adds haunting electronic textures and lines. Just as with Surrounded By Sea, the rapport between the core trio is electric. “They brought the right sensitivity to the project,” says Sheppard.

Unlike many who double up on saxophones, there is little to choose between Sheppard’s tenor and soprano playing. Ben Webster said of the soprano that “it is a hard instrument to play in tune”. Asked if that rings true, Sheppard replies: “I do see myself as more of a tenor player. I don’t practise as much on the soprano but it adds another colour to the music. And he was right. It is incredibly difficult to play in tune and it’s hard work for the embouchure, like wearing uncomfortable shoes! But Music is always a work in progress,” Sheppard adds cheerfully.

Romaria is a thought-provoking and reflective album and Sheppard’s tenor and soprano sax sound as sweet as ever. (pp)

LINK: Pre-order the album


RIP Hugh Masekela (1939- 2018)

Hugh Masekela, Kippies Stage, 2012 Cape Town Jazz Festival
Photo credit: Terry February
Today's full statement from Hugh Masekela's agent Dreamcatcher on behalf of the Masekela family is as follows: 

"Ramapolo Hugh Masekela (4 April 1939 – 23 January 2018)

"It is with profound sorrow that the family of Ramapolo Hugh Masekela announce his passing. After a protracted and courageous battle with prostate cancer, he passed peacefully in Johannesburg, South Africa, surrounded by his family.

"A loving father, brother, grandfather and friend, our hearts beat with profound loss. Hugh’s global and activist contribution to and participation in the areas of music, theatre, and the arts in general is contained in the minds and memory of millions across 6 continents and we are blessed and grateful to be part of a life and ever-expanding legacy of love, sharing and vanguard creativity that spans the time and space of 6 decades. Rest in power beloved, you are forever in our hearts.

"We will, in due course, release details of memorial and burial services. Hugh Masekela was someone who always engaged robustly with the press on musical and social political issues.

"We laud the press for respecting his privacy through his convalescence, and during this, our time of grief. Our gratitude to all and sundry for your condolences and support."

We will have a full tribute later. In sadness.


REVIEW/FEATURE: Brot & Sterne (Franz Hautzinger, Matthias Loibner, Peter Rosmanith) at Jazzit:Musik:Club Salzburg

Brot & Sterne (Franz Hautzinger, Matthias Loibner, Peter Rosmanith) 
(Jazzit:Musik:Club Salzburg, 14 January 2018. Review/feature by AJ Dehany)

Obeying a wanderlust born of a lack of inner resources, I found myself on the jazz trail in Salzburg—the birthplace of Mozart and the setting for The Sound of Music. The mountain vistas are astonishing. The architecture showcases Baroque excellence. The music is wonderful. The people are kind. The food is… well... fragwürdig. I sustained myself with a performance of Offenbach’s opera Tales of Hoffmann in German for the incredible price of three euros. I missed The Sound of Music, and heard no Wolfgang Amadeus, but I’ve worked out a definitive answer to the burning question “What nationality is Mozart?” If that question particularly exercises you, jump down to the postscript. Otherwise, let us proceed!

Salzburg, at the northern rim of the Alps, is wet, with a particular kind of summer drizzle known in the local dialect as Schnürlregen. Essentially, Salzburg is Austria’s Manchester. Like Manchester it is 200 miles from an attention-grabbing sibling capital city (however dissimilar London and Vienna might be) and it too makes a decent show of asserting itself. There’s a popular autumn jazz festival, “Jazz & The City” (2017 reviewed here).

It is in the quiet area of the Bahnhofsviertel that Jazzit:Musik:Club has established itself as a hub for improvised, experimental, jazz and world music, with an impressive roster of visitors including Paul Motian, Roscoe Mitchell, John Zorn, Christian Scott, and Pharoah Sanders. Since 1981 Walter Struger’s concert series “Jazz in the Theatre” has booked international musicians. In 1988 Andreas Neumayer started “ars nova - association against cultural stagnation”. The two ventures merged in 1990, putting on concerts in venues all around town. In 2002 Jazzit:Musik:Club found a permanent home on Elisabethstrasse in the basement of the Volksheim of the Austrian Communist Party.

The club is directed by Andreas Neumayer, a quietly mannered, friendly man with an ear for great music and an eye for spotting and encouraging new talent. The chilled-out bar area serves affordable cocktails and beer, with open sessions in the bar and concerts in the versatile studio theatre space. At five o’clock on a brisk Sunday evening, Vienna-based trio Brot und Sterne brought their lyrical atmospheres and their unusual but compelling constellation of hurdy-gurdy, trumpet and percussion, with a warm electronic sound helmed by the unfamiliar textures of the hang’s melodic patter and the hurdy-gurdy’s violin-like versatility.

The stage set with hurdy-gurdy and Hang drum
for Brot & Sterne
The three played compositions from their album Tales of Herbst with generous seasonings of improvisation and studied three-way banter and stories in between. Their close friendship was evident in these exchanges and in the generosity and trust they put into their playing together. The album has a darkly electronic atmosphere reminiscent of Nils Petter Molvær and Marilyn Mazur. Live performance brought out the subtle melodic beauty of the compositions and gave an extended insight into the delicacy and restraint of the trio’s richly layered unity of improvisation. It was fascinating to see how such a modern sound is created with these instruments.

The hurdy-gurdy is associated with European folk music, but brings a versatile textural and melodic responsiveness to jazz playing under the fingers of Matthias Loibner. It’s like a monster violin bowed by a hand crank, with a set of keys (or tangents) to pitch the strings, allowing for violin-like melodic playing, enriched by a set of resonating drone strings, and another set that Loibner can pluck for a taut guitar-like sound.

The Hang (don’t call it a ‘hang drum’) is the UFO-shaped metal idiophone that was produced by the PANArt company between 2000 and 2013. More familiar to jazz than the hurdy-gurdy as the signature melodic-percussive heart of Portico Quartet’s music, it’s vibrantly tonal and sounds like a cross between a marimba and a steelpan. It makes everything sound like an underwater forest of coral. Played by Peter Rosmanith alongside his subtle and responsive touch on percussion it adds a shimmering warmth to the group’s mixture of acoustic and electronic sounds.

Introducing In a Silent Way, trumpeter Franz Hautzinger explained that they perform fellow Austrian Zawinul’s meisterwerk “a little in Ave Maria style”. As a youth, Hautzinger had to play Ave Maria in church and was always nervous during weddings. As soon as he could, he never played it again. When the group was recording their own In a Silent Way he said he realised “we had a new Ave Maria”. The composition’s beauty and delicacy is captured perfectly in the trio’s atmospheric sound with drones, tonal drums, and Hautzinger’s fragile trumpet tone and use of electronic pedals, microtonality and ‘noise’ effects blowing away from the mouthpiece. Their evocation of Ave Maria is subtle beyond explanation, but when I listened back to the album, I knew exactly what he meant.

Final applause for Mattias Loibner, Peter Rosmanith and Franz Hautzinger

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

POSTCRIPT/FOOTNOTE: Pop quiz. What nationality is Mozart? Austrian? German? No, you cry, Mozart is universal! Well okay, since you ask. Mozart was born in 1756 in Salzburg, which was at that time capital of the Archbishopric of Salzburg, an ecclesiastical principality of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. In 1803 the archbishopric was secularised by Napoleon and transferred to the Grand Duke of Tuscany. In 1805 it was annexed by the Austrian Empire, but in 1809 transferred to the Kingdom of Bavaria, who gave it back to Austria after the Congress of Vienna in 1816. It became part of Austria-Hungary in 1866. When the Empire was dissolved following World War I, Salzburg was briefly part of the new German Austria before the establishment of the First Austrian Republic in 1919. It was annexed into the Third Reich in 1938, and after World War II returned to Austria. So the real answer to the question “What nationality is Mozart?” is probably “Don’t ask.”


Franz Hautzinger : Trumpet (pedals, Roland cab and Fender miniamp)
Matthias Loibner : Hurdy-gurdy (mac)
Peter Rosmanith : Hang & percussion (cajon, large drum, small drum, gourd, 2x crash, small ride, mini hihat, chimes made of chubb keys)


1. Aufbrechen
2. Improvisation
3. Kleines Halali
4. Schlafmohn
5. Improvisation (Intro-Franz-Wind)
6. Standlicht
7. Karussell

1. In a Silent Way
2. Improvisation (Intro Matthias)
3. Mostbirnenbaum
4. Improvisation
5. Kamelschlittenfahrt
6. Improvisation
7. Habibi
8. Hawara (encore)
9. Heimweg (encore)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LINK: Matthew Read's website with full touring details


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

Poster for the 2012 Guiness Cork Jazz Festival

Sebastian writes: 

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 LINKS: Full details of the concert

The Peter Evans/Sam Pluta duo



REVIEW: Julian Lage Trio at Pizza Express Dean Street

Julian Lage
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


CD REVIEW: Andreas Schaerer A Novel of Anomaly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Elon Turgeman
Publicity picture

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

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

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

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

Turgeman explained how Climb Up came about:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q&A with jazz author Debbie Burke


CD REVIEW: Elliot Mason – Before, Now & After

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Sebastian writes: 

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

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

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

The evening with  Pee Wee Ellis is also sold out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC Young Jazz Musician winner Alexandra Ridout (Thur 25)


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

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

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

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

WED 24 JAN - Pee Wee Ellis ‘Funk Assembly’

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

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

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



CD REVIEW: Maciej Obara Quartet - Unloved

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

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

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

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

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


REVIEW: Samba Azul at the Jazz Café

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

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

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

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

Samba Azul with Joy Ellis (keyboards - right)

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

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