PREVIEW: : Jazz Repertory Company presents Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller at Carnegie Hall 1939 (Cadogan Hall Saturday, 18th June)


Bandleader PETE LONG, and RICHARD PITE of the Jazz Repertory Company talked about their evening of Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller at Carnegie Hall 1939 at Cadogan Hall on Saturday June 18th to Peter Vacher.

No Mystic Meg reincarnations, no Ouija board séances could summon up these past heroes of white swing. Let’s face it, BG and Glenn won’t be able to make it on the 18th but we have the next best thing – the magisterial Pete Long and his 14-piece orchestra now re-imagined for the day as the Goodman-Miller Tribute Orchestra. Their role? To re-create the minute-by-minute programme played by these titans on a memorable New York night in October 1939.

Curated and presented by the Jazz Repertory Company, as ever concerned for authenticity, this is a celebration of an historic encounter between two giants of popular music, then at the peak of their fame, both ensembles driven by a musical perfectionist, with star sidemen occupying each and every chair. If Goodman, the sometime King of Swing, had the pick of the jazzmen of those days, Miller knew how to drill his more workmanlike orchestra into a streamlined musical entity which, with the aid of skilled arrangers, produced a body of work that still resonates today. Think of the Glenn Miller estate’s clever husbanding of his legacy through their orchestral franchises which enable successive generations to marvel at the likes of ‘In The Mood’ and Chattanooga Choo-Choo.

Concentrating on the present day, we can safely claim that Pete has the pick of the best musicians around as he transforms Cadogan Hall’s lofty expanse into a packed yet always stately Carnegie Hall. Harking back, America and New York in particular, were not yet at war and knew only one thing: whatever problems might be looming in those heady days, swing was the music of the moment. If Goodman had already arrived then Miller was seen as up-and-coming, already a million-seller in his own right. As was the habit in those far-off times, what better way to establish status than to have a battle of the bands?

Let’s get the setting right - the America Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers decided to celebrate its 25th Anniversary by hiring Carnegie Hall for a week-long series of concerts, with the October 6 date devoted to our two challengers [plus Fred Waring’s society band and Paul Whiteman’s mighty orchestra, for added gravitas]. Goodman had already breached the Hall’s stuffy indifference to jazz the year before; Miller was newer to this game. We know the ever-competitive Goodman entered first, all guns blazing, every man striving, before Miller countered, parading his panoply of hits.

The JRC’s re-creation of this fascinating night’s music was debuted at the London Jazz Festival in 2014 and proved to be a SRO attraction, filling the Cadogan Hall to the brim. Expect something of the same this time; after all, where else will you hear diligent application to the principles of big band bravura with star turns from the soloists and ensemble playing of umbilically-connected precision? More to the point, you’ll experience all the vicarious pleasures of great creativity deployed to killer effect and doubtless feel an upsurge of swing fever.

If Goodman thought he’d won the day back there in October 1939 with an over-the-top version of ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’ with Lionel Hampton on drums, he was caught out as Miller came back with ‘Bugle Call Rag’, this like a master class in crowd-pleasing swing intensity. All of this will be replicated on the 18th under Pete Long’s benign leadership. What’s more, trumpeter Enrico Tomasso will be the band’s special guest as he recalls two numbers from Louis Armstrong’s appearance earlier in the ASCAP series. There’ll even be a selection of Count Basie pieces, these taken from the band’s celebrated Spirituals to Swing concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall.

When it comes to the Goodman sextet numbers, Anthony Kerr will be featured on vibes and Dave Chamberlain, always a stalwart at JRC events, will don the mantle of Charlie Christian, the first great exponent of the electric guitar with head-man Richard Pite on drums. Chris Dean [who knows a thing or two about band-leading] will be playing in Long’s trombone section while taking his chance to emulate the Miller vocalist Ray Eberle with ‘Stairway to the Stars’. Look out too, for sterling work from the trumpeters Ryan Quigley, George Hogg and Georgina Jackson, each a playing powerhouse, and Sammy Mayne, Robert Fowler and Dean Masser starring in the saxophone section.

So, veritably, something for everyone and more to the point, a peerless opportunity to cheer on your favourites. Is it to be Goodman or Miller who wins the day? You’d best be there to find out. You know it makes sense. (pp)

LINK: 18th June Cadogan Hall Bookings


CD REVIEW: Misha Tsiganov - Spring Feelings

Misha Tsiganov - Spring Feelings
(Criss Cross Jazz 1384. Review by Eric Ford)

Devotees of the warm, confident and rhythmically-strident playing associated with the Blue Note catalogue of the fifties and sixties, but who would like to hear that kind of material metrically and harmonically updated, but without losing any of its warmth, should look/listen no further than pianist Misha Tsiganov's Spring Feelings and its precursor, Artistry Of The Standard.

Whilst some of Tsiganov's arrangements must be intimidating to play - especially his version of ''Yes Or No'' and the opening ''You And The Night And The Music'' - they're scintillating to hear. A languid and stretched-out ''Infant Eyes'' and a playfully-complex The Night Has A Thousand Eyes round out the standards ; the remaining five tunes are Tsiganov's own. Alex Sipiagin describes Tsiganov as ''bright and positive'' and that description works equally well for his compositions.

To do this material justice, Tsiganov has re-assembled the same top-notch cast as on the previous cd but with Austrian uber-bassist Hans Glawischnig (familiar from his prodigious output with New York's leading names in contemporary Latin Jazz) replacing Boris Kozlov. Trumpeter Alex Sipiagin ( of the Mingus Big Band, Michael Brecker's Quindectet etc ), unassuming tenor titan Seamus Blake and drummer Donald Edwards are their customarily exceptional selves. Tsiganov too has that blend of technique, taste and imagination which makes his albums exciting, surprising and rewarding to listen to.


CD REVIEW: Kenneth Dahl Knudsen - We'll Meet In The Rain

Kenneth Dahl Knudsen - We'll Meet In The Rain
(Two Rivers Records TRR 008. CD review by Adrian Pallant)

There is something profoundly enriching about Danish double bassist Kenneth Dahl Knudsen’s new orchestral jazz release. Full of vibrant jazz episodes as well as restrained, emotional tension, this is original, often filmic music which indubitably wears its heart on its sleeve.

Having already worked with artists such as John Scofield, Aaron Parks and Gilad Hekselman, Knudsen explains he harboured a strong desire to share his own compositions which are inspired by unspecified encounters with people and their personal stories, as well as the expansive, natural landscapes of his homeland. In fact, the bassist’s analogy is that we often meet people through other people, “like the drops of rain running down a window; meeting new drops; splitting into new groups; forming beautiful patterns.” Hence the album title, We’ll Meet In The Rain.

To realise his ambition, he gathered together nineteen musicians from across Europe (essentially a mid-sized big band congruously fused with string quartet and wordless vocalist); and this collaboration has resulted in an engaging, hour-plus journey. The notable variety of the arrangements draws the attention more and more as they become familiar and, rather than constantly taking the spotlight, Knudsen generally integrates his own playing into these accessible, luminous arcs of sound directed by conductor Malte Schiller.

Like much of his music, opener Light Unfolds awakens to feature a memorable, horn-clustered theme, made all the more attractive by Marie Séférian’s flexible vocalisations; and rich improvisation is invited from both trumpet and tenor sax. Perhaps it’s Knudsen’s detailing which defines his broad imaginings so distinctively – the dynamic ebb and flow of ideas, the clarity of his bass lines, the unexpected sectional turnings; but his touch is certainly masterful. Krig og Kaerlighed possesses a highly-charged earnestness – easily soundtrack material; and the swirling flute and plucked rhythms of Dapo, gyrating with crisp, animated big band textures, combine to produce fizzing, solo-enhanced grooving (and the snap into fast piano swing is delectable).

The Camera Man is tender, Séférian’s affecting, plaintive vocal drifting above choral simplicity, brass band-style arrangements, strings and piano, before building to closing-title, cinemascopic breadth; and centrepiece A Merry Song (at over ten minutes’ duration) has a similar impact, Séférian again creating beautifully inflected vocal colour, plus an enchantingly lyrical violin oasis amidst the orchestral solidity. Mettelody features the most achingly emotive high double bass melody from Knudsen over string quartet and piano, conjuring images of gossamer morning mists, whilst electric bass-propelled Victoria’s World positively bustles to its relentless tempo and fabulously spirited horn syncopation.

Title track We’ll Meet In The Rain – a folksy lament with a pinprick of light at the end of the tunnel, and subtly reminiscent of both Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel – proceeds winsomely with sensitive violin and trombone soloing; and end-piece Tucked In is quietly triumphant, again with such absorbing, shifting orchestration.

With its ethos of providing a platform for artists to release brave, unrestricted new music, Alya Marquardt's Two Rivers Records is proving itself in these early stages to be a consistent source of surprises. This album is a particularly rewarding one.

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


CD REVIEW: Andreas Loven – District Six

Andreas Loven – District Six
(Losen Records LOS 152-2. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

Jazz music has a tendency to be fleeting and ephemeral, but District Six, a new album from a quartet led by pianist Andreas Loven, is music captured in a happy moment which is now completely, and perhaps regrettably, gone for ever. A few weeks after having recorded the album last August in Cape Town, where he had lived for several years, the pianist moved back permanently to his native Norway.

As Leah Williams found out in her interview with Loven (LINK BELOW), he combines a Norwegian heritage and aesthetic, notably a huge inspiration from Tord Gustavsen, with a deep absorption of the South African heritage, and the Cape Town vibe, through having lived there, and become a part of the community of musicians.

The title of the CD, District Six marked an important anniversary, an ever-present dark moment in the collective memory of the Mother City. Fifty years ago this February, the Apartheid regime designated the district of Cape Town a Whites-only area, and forced 60,000 people to re-settle.

A review by the doyenne of South African jazz writing Gwen Ansell was drawn to what is perhaps the emotional heart of the album, the track African Piano. She describes in her review a special moment near the end of that track, where saxophonist Buddy Wells plays:

“In a spine-chilling moment at the end, Wells’s saxophone harmonics reach back far beyond that history, to the overtone singing of the Xhosa-speaking peoples and the bow music of the Khoi and San.”

For those of us without that heritage and background, there is simply a uniquely expressive use of the saxophone to be savoured and enjoyed. I don’t think I have ever heard the harmonic series on the saxophone being used as a means to such gentle expression. Indeed one of the most remarkable things about the album is how well the recording has caught Wells’ unique, and uniquely appealing tenor saxophone sound. He is a Cape Town-based musician is in his mid-forties, and really has a tone like no other player, and at the sensual level for the listener, just living in and loving his sound and vocabulary is enough to keep me very happy. He has an emotional range too, from calm to very excitable and angry, and can switch mood vividly, quickly, mercurially.

The album reveals Loven’s compositional talent in the Cape Town idiom. Fans of Abdullah Ibrahim, or of more recent pianists like Kyle Shepherd, will be completely on home territory. Another track Inside District Six, which happens to be Track 6, has that kind of riding grooving syncopation which Capetonians call goema (they are distictly reluctant to define it accurately/ musically). Drummer Clement Benny is given delightful free rein in several places, notably in the final open section of a tune called The Boiler. Bassist Romy Brauteseth anchors the Cape grooves of Loven’s compositions with authority, and even reinforces one of her bass lines, by doing what comes naturally to Capetonians - singing it.

A delightful and absorbing album which grows in stature with repeated listens.

LINKS: Losen Records website
Gwen Ansell’s review
Leah Williams’ interview with Andreas Loven


LP REVIEW: Jack DeJohnette, solo piano - 'Return'

LP review: Jack DeJohnette, solo piano - Return
(Newvelle Records, vinyl only: NV002LP. LP review by Geoff Winston)

Jack DeJohnette's first-ever solo piano album, Return, is a beautiful record in every sense, and, in DeJohnette's words, 'one of the best musical endeavours I've ever done.'

Inspired by the approach from evangelising vinyl perfectionists, Newvelle Records a new composition opens each side of the LP. One is dedicated to Erik Satie, setting a tranquil, thoughtful mood, and the other, Dervish Trance, takes its cue from the whirling dances of Sufi dervishes. With seven pieces from DeJohnette's songbook revisited in a deeply illuminating manner, and one from Milton Nascimento to put the seal on the sequence, the listening experience is a pure delight.

DeJohnette is known foremost as the lynchpin drummer with jazz luminaries including Keith Jarrett, Miles Davis and Bill Evans and is ECM's longest established artist, yet he started out as a pianist. This was the starting point for Newvelle's co-founder, pianist Elan Mehler, whose formative live jazz experience was the Gateway Trio of DeJohnette, Dave Holland and John Abercrombie, including a piano sequence from the drummer.

Return is the label's second release, available only as one of their subscription package of six releases over a year, and is a connoisseur venture through and through. From the consistency of their elegantly designed, oversize gatefold sleeves with a curated monochrome cover photo from the legendary Bernard Plossu's portfolio and a poem selected for the inner sleeve from Pulitzer Prize-winner, Tracey K Smith, the tone is set. And when the clear vinyl LP hits the turntable, the result is stunning.

'One of the things that I love about vinyl is that it slows you down,' says Mehler, and what comes through overridingly on DeJohnette's playing is the slow power of his compositions and the rare privilege of a revealing insight into the musician's creative meanderings, uniquely captured as he plays.

As co-founder, Jean-Christophe Morisseau explains, 'We want to achieve the best at every level of the chain. The artist, the studio, the engineer, the mastering, the pressing.' Newvelle's recording is in the expert hands of Marc Urselli at East Side Studios in Manhattan where, he explains, 'I use mostly vintage and some tube microphones, all analogue and some tube pre-amps … the sound is never converted to digital within the mixing console.'

The pressings are made at top pressing plant, MPO, about 200km west of Newvelle's Paris base - and with the bar set impeccably high with Newvelle's first release, Frank Kimbrough's Meantime, mastered by Scott Hull in New York, DeJohnette's is the perfect follow-on.

Recorded on a nine foot Fazioli grand which Herbie Hancock and Geri Allen raved about to Dejohnette, the sound is extraordinary. As his lyrical peregrinations of rediscovery unwrap hidden layers from well-travelled pieces such as Lydia, lovingly dedicated to his wife, and Silver Hollow, celebrating his home in upstate New York, there is an extra depth and warmth to the sound quality that surpasses even the expectation that vinyl brings with it.

As Mehler puts it, 'The Fazioli flashes clarity in parts of the register that are uncharted on most pianos.' And sound engineer, Urselli, working with every nuance in DeJohnette's playing, maintains lingering decays to bring out the feeling of being in the presence of the most intimate and personal of solo recitals.

This really is a very special record, a desert island disc.

LINK: Newvelle Records


PREVIEW: Pete Hurt - A New Start (Trio Records, Album Launch at Spice of Life, Weds 1st June)

Pete Hurt. Photo credit: Trio Records

Sebastian writes:

Some artists make albums in profusion, and make a lot of noise about them. This, by contrast, is a genuine rarity by one of the most unassuming figures in British jazz. Saxophonist Pete Hurt was born in Nottingham. 

In the late seventies he was in the band of composer Graham Collier in the 1970s, and later a member of George Russell’s Living Time Orchestra, the Andy Sheppard big band and bands led by Carla Bley. Pete Hurt was one of the closest colleagues of the late genius Pete Saberton, and has been a regular writing member of the London Jazz Orchestra through most of its existence.

Hurt last produced an album of large ensemble music in 1984: Lost For Words on the Spotlite label, with Ray Warleigh, Chris Biscoe, Pete Saberton and Henry Lowther in the band.

Norma Winstone sums up "Pete Hurt's arrangements are beautiful and sensitive and really pay attention to the meaning of a song."

The band on the album crosses generations, and is an amalgam of some of the top big band and studio players in the UK:The album is dedicated to the memory of Pete Saberton and Eddie Harvey

Saxes: Tori Freestone, Martin Hathaway, Josephine Davies, Mick Foster
French Horn: Jim Rattigan
Trumpets: Noel Langley, Robbie Robson, Henry Lowther
Trombones: Nick Mills, Owen Dawson, Richard Henry
Tuba: Dave Powell
Piano: Kate Williams
Guitar: Nick Costley-White
Bass: Andy Cleyndert
Drums: Jon Scott
Conducting and solo Tenor Sax Solo: Pete Hurt

Spice of Life Bookings


FEATURE: Off The Cuff (new venue in Herne Hill)

Sign for the Heads Up Jazz Jam

A new venue in Herne Hill SE24 has caught the eyes, ears and affections of Stephen Graham. He writes about OFF THE CUFF:

There's a real buzz about Herne Hill spot Off the Cuff. The music venue featuring two spaces housed in what was an old timber yard close to the thundering railway lines has Kamasi Washington playing in July (9th - he is also appearing  on that day at the Sunfall Festival in Brockwell Park) and is fast building a grass roots following with a Monday night jam and regular musician friendly nights across genres.

Chloe Edwards and Tony Porter

Run by Geordie music fan Tony Porter, and booked by Chloe Edwards (pictured) Off the Cuff under the arches set back from Herne Hill's popular Railton Road, has good sightlines and an easy intimacy, the free entry Monday jazz jam, which has been running for a couple of years, exuding a welcoming vibe to punters and musicians alike. Up and coming singer Becky Handley, a Polly Gibbons in the making, one of the new talents you'll hear, is a regular guest with the house band. One to discover south of the river.

ADDRESS: Arch 645, 301-303 Railton Rd, Herne Hill SE24 0JN
PHONE: 07853 476235


BOOK REVIEW: Andrew Cartmel - The Vinyl Detective: Written in Dead Wax

Andrew Cartmel - The Vinyl Detective: Written in Dead Wax
(Titan Books, 477pp., £7.99. Book Review by Chris Parker)

From Lesley Thomson’s cleaner sleuth Stella Darnell to Brian Eastman’s gardening detective Rosemary Boxer and Elizabeth Peters’s Egyptologist Amelia Peabody, the specialist, amateur investigator has provided a rich seam in crime fiction ever since G. K. Chesterton first set Father Brown loose against the criminal underworld in 1910.

Andrew Cartmel will be familiar to visitors to this site, courtesy of his erudite reviews of vinyl releases, and to the wider world via his involvement with TV classics such as Midsomer Murders and Doctor Who (for which he was a script editor), so his charity-shop-haunting, record-fair-regular vinyl obsessive with an encyclopaedic knowledge of jazz is a natural and welcome addition to the genre’s pantheon.

As early as page three, indeed, we are deep in a discussion of deep grooves and flat-edge pressings, triggered by a Gil Mellé Blue Note featuring Max Roach, Red Mitchell and George Wallington, and the plot itself centres on our intrepid and resourceful hero’s increasingly fraught and dangerous search for a series of albums released by an obscure (fictional) Californian label at the height of the West Coast jazz boom. It also involves a highly entertaining cast of supporting characters ranging from a feisty mystery woman and an obnoxious DJ to a dope-growing sound-reproduction technician and an accident-prone stoner with a grape addiction – not to mention a pair of utterly convincing cats which effortlessly steal every scene in which they appear.

Of course the success of such novels depends on the degree of naturalness with which the specialised knowledge of its protagonist is deployed in the service of the plot, and here Cartmel scores heavily, weaving his obsession with the minutiae of vinyl fetishism uncontrivedly into a racy account of amateur derring-do opposed to corporate ruthlessness. In short, this is a sharp, amusing and compulsively readable detective yarn packed with witty asides dealing with everyone from Sun Ra to Elvis Presley, as enjoyably accessible to the jazz obsessive as it is to the general reader.


PREVIEW/ INTERVIEW: Alison Eales (Guide for Glasgow Jazz Festival Walking Tours, June 24-6)

The Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow

For the fist time, Glasgow International Jazz Festival 2016 will have a jazz heritage walking tour. The guide will be ALISON EALES. Sebastian interviewed her:

LondonJazz News: This sounds an interesting idea. Tell us about your background and about what has persuaded you to organise a walking tour during the Glasgow Jazz Festival

Alison Eales: I’m now in the final stages of my PhD, which is a critical history of Glasgow Jazz Festival focusing on the relationship between the Festival and the city.

Last summer, Glasgow Music City Tours was launched, and Jill Rodger – the Director of Glasgow Jazz Festival – recommended me to them as a potential guide. As the name suggests, the company offers guided walking tours celebrating Glasgow's rich musical heritage and culture. The tours are led by a team of lively and knowledgeable guides, and the company is now developing bespoke tours alongside its regular Friday and Saturday outings. Having run successful tours for Celtic Connections, they approached me about writing and delivering a walking tour as part of Glasgow Jazz Festival.

The Festival started in 1987 and is still going, making it Glasgow's longest-running annual cultural event – so the theme of the tour, naturally, is '30 Years of Glasgow Jazz Festival.'

LJN: Where will you be taking people?

AE: The tour starts at the Scottish Music Centre, who are very kindly opening up at the weekend to accommodate us. We’ll kick off there with a bit of background, and hopefully have some archive materials for people to browse before heading down Candleriggs and King Street. The star venue will be the Old Fruitmarket, which Glasgow Jazz Festival has championed ever since first using it in 1993.

LJN: With all the brownstones, Glasgow is New York in disguise, right?

AE: Actually, there are some parallels between Manhattan and the Merchant City area of Glasgow where the Festival takes place. Manhattan was rezoned so that artists could live and work in its old industrial loft spaces; the Merchant City’s old wholesale markets, like the Old Fruitmarket, are now home to performance spaces, arts organisations, and places to eat and drink. We’re still waiting for a Merchant City equivalent to Ornette Coleman’s ‘Friends and Neighbours’ though!

The Old Fruitmarket has also been compared to Bourbon Street, with its beautiful ironwork and cobbles. It's a great little hub for the Festival, and has a fantastic acoustic for all kinds of music.

LJN: Who are the interesting characters who stand out?

AE: We have some great stories about Dizzy Gillespie, Tony Bennett, Sarah Vaughan, George Melly, Jimmy Smith, Frank Sinatra, George Benson and Slim Gaillard.

LJN: Any chance of a spoiler - just one good story?

AE: I will just say this: I was amazed at how many stories involve Jill having had to take people clothes-shopping.

LJN: There's a rumour it rains in Glasgow. Are there places to shelter?

AE: We’ll never be too far from shelter, and we hope that the Festival weekend offers us some nice weather - but waterproofs are recommended, as are comfy shoes!

LJN: Do the walkers end up with a nice cup of tea? Or what? George Benson singing "Kisses in the Moonlight" in Kelvingrove Park?

AE: We're still finalising the route, but we're going to try to include some live music, and end the tour somewhere where people can indulge in a cheeky dram if they would like to!

Alison Eales

LINK: Virtual Tour of the Old Fruitmarket

Glasgow Music City Tours have organized these walking tours in partnership with Glasgow Jazz Festival. The tours will take place each afternoon from Friday 24th June to Sunday 26th June. BOOKINGS at the Glasgow Jazz Festival website.


PREVIEW / INTERVIEW: Philippe Ochem (Jazzdor Berlin 2016 - May 31- June 3)

The tenth Jazzdor Berlin Festival will run from May 31st-June 3rd. Its eclectic line-ups have included Maggie Nicols in 2013 (above). Philippe Ochem, director of Jazzdor, spoke to Alison Bentley about the line-up for the forthcoming Festival in Berlin  and the origins of  Jazzdor in Strasbourg: 

London Jazz News: Congratulations on the 10th anniversary of Jazzdor. What special events have you organised?

Philippe Ochem: As usual, we’ll premiere some new projects, especially German-French ones. First of all we have [drummer] Dejan Terzic’s new band, Axiom: it’s with [US saxophonist] Chris Speed, pianist Bojan Z and [New Zealand-born US bassist] Matt Penman. The French and German musicians are originally from the eastern part of Europe: Bojan lives near Paris and Dejan has lived in Berlin for a long time. This project was created especially for the Festival. There’s also the duo featuring Joachim Kühn and Émile Parisien. We’ve been working together with Émile and Joachim for a long while- I’ve known Joachim for more than thirty years. We’ve worked with Émile every year for the last four to five years. We put on the premiere of his new quintet, so now we have the opportunity to present this duo with Joachim for the first time.

LJN: Do you choose all the bands?

PO: Yes.

LJN:  And you’re a musician yourself?

PO: Yes, even though I’ve stopped playing for the last two or three years. I was a professional musician for more than twenty-five years.

LJN: Do you think that affects your choice of bands and musicians?

PO: I’m sure yes, because it’s something different if you are a musician and a festival and concert organiser.

LJN: What do you look for when you choose the musicians?

PO: For me, the main thing is for them to play for the first time to the audience in Berlin- young musicians from the French scene. Then every year I try to put some musicians together, some French, some German. I try to be open-minded. Sometimes I’m able to book some totally improvised music but also a different kind of aesthetic. It doesn’t matter whether the musicians play written or improvised music. For me the most important thing is to try to present to the audience a special reflection of what jazz is today. You can see a lot of young musicians coming from France, Germany, the US, from everywhere in Europe, who are now playing together.

LJN: Are you planning to take Jazzdor to more cities as well as Strabourg and Berlin?

PO: No, I don’t think so. We have two festivals, [Strasbourg and Berlin] and a concert series during the year, in Strasbourg and the area around.

LJN: To talk about the Berlin Festival. This year you have some very long-established bands like Bernard Struber- his band has been together since 1988?

PO: His composition La Symphony Déjouée is something special. We were commissioned by the Ministry of Culture and the City of Strasbourg. We got some money from the city and the Ministry of Culture, so we’re working for the Bernard Struber Jazztett, which means we are doing business for him: we’re scouting for concerts; we try to commission him to write new music – we’ve done this job for two years now. Bernard Struber lives in Strasbourg. Some of his musicians still live in Strasbourg, such as Michael Alizon, and Raymond Halbeisen, but all the others live in Paris. And for the first time since last October the newcomer is Svetlana Kochanas the singer.

LJN:  [French violinist] Dominique Pifarély has a long-standing band too- and he’s just recorded a new CD for ECM. Will he be playing some of that music?

PO: It’ll be the German premiere of this quartet, and the official CD launch. I don’t know if [ECM boss] Manfred Eicher will come to Berlin, but it’ll be a special evening.

LJN: And you also have some young bands- [multi-reeds player] Sylvain Rifflet’s band Mechanics and the Ceccaldi brothers, and qÖÖlp.

PO: That’s the third German-French project we have in our programme It’s a strange name- I don’t know exactly what it means! The aim was to put together these two young French brothers Theo Ceccaldi [violin] and Valentin Ceccaldi [cello] with those fantastic musicians from Berlin, Ronny Graupe on guitar and Christian Lillinger on drums- he’s well-known now in Europe. And, by the way, we will do this premiere in Berlin and then again in Strasbourg in November.

LJN: Christian is a very dynamic drummer and the Ceccaldi brothers sometimes make me think of Erik Satie. It’s a really interesting combination.

PO: Yes, that’s right. It also shows something about these young musicians, because they’re very well-trained in a classical way, but also in new music and improvised music. Theo Ceccaldi and Roberto Negro are also playing as a duo. They created a fantastic work based on Ligeti’s Quartets. It’s a mix of improvised and composed music. They’ve really worked on Ligeti’s music and reduced the Quartet for a duo: violin and piano. It’s really exciting.

LJN: And there’s world music- Naïssam Jalal and Electric Vocuhila, for example.

PO: Naïssam Jalal- her parents were born in Syria. She’s from Paris but she has a strong connection with her home country. She’s also a real jazz flute-player, very talented, and I like her band very much because all the musicians are from different countries: they’re German, French and Tunisian, so it’s a really nice mix. It’s a kind of post-Coltrane conception of music, and at the same time, into world music: really jazz, but also really ethnic.

Regarding Electric Vocuhila, it’s not easy to say in a few words but it’s a kind of ethno-jazz, Afrobeat too- they’re very energetic, and it’s a great band. And for the first time because of our tenth anniversary we’ll organise a dance floor, for Le Bal des Faux Frères.

LJN: Un Poco Loco seem to have the strongest connection with American jazz.

PO: Yes, because they play standards, but it’s really interesting to listen to it in detail. The general form is more or less classic jazz but inside it’s more complex. You can find some details in the writing which are really more from now.

LJN: And there’s a link with Jimmy Guiffre’s trio style?

PO: Yes, it’s not far from this kind of aesthetic.

LJN: What gave you the idea to begin the Jazzdor Festival?

PO: The funny thing is- it was not my idea! It was about 11 years ago, I had a phone call from Le Bureau d’Export de la Musique Française in Berlin. In those days it was Patrice Hourbette. He called me because I was supposed to be a kind of specialist regarding German-French cooperation in music, because of organising things in Strasbourg and Germany. He said, ‘Hey, Philippe, what do you think about organising a new festival in Berlin?’ I said, ‘Patrice, just wait for a day or two for me to think about it,’ because we had no money. We had to build something new from nothing. And so finally, we found a small amount of money at the beginning to make it possible. We had great support from the Bureau d’Export, and our first partner was SACEM- the alter-ego of the PRS in Britain. We got the support of the City of Strasbourg and the Ministry of Culture, and step by step we found the money to make it real.

LJN: What does ‘Jazzdor’ mean?

PO: The first edition of the Festival was in a small club, a Café-Concert called L’Ange d’Or, the Golden Angel. That’s why they called the Festival ‘Jazzdor’. But now that’s forgotten and everybody knows what kind of jazz it is. The main thing is for the Festival to be a platform for young French jazz, and for promoting French-German jazz projects, which is really important for us. It’s also a platform for music professionals, which means every evening we have 70-80 people there: musicians, booking agents, label managers, festival directors. We invite them into our network from France and Germany and sometimes from the UK, Holland, Denmark and some Eastern European countries too.


May 31st


June 1st


June 2nd

22:00 to 23:15 ELECTRIC VOCUHILA

June 3rd

21:00 to 22:00 UN POCO LOCO

LINK: Youtube Playlist for Jazzdor Berlin 2016



These are busy and successful times for EMPIRICAL - Nathaniel Facey, Lewis Wright, Tom Farmer and Shaney Forbes. They have just done a successful pop-up jazz lounge at Old Street underground station - the video above tells the story. They won Best Ensemble at the Parliamentary Jazz Awards. Sebastian asked bassist Tom Farmer to explain more:

LondonJazz News: Tom congratulations on the award - it looks like you have had a great year - does it feel that way in the band?

Tom Farmer: Thank you, it’s always good to have the music recognised by official institutions! Over the years I’ve grown a bit cynical toward awards and competition in music, but if it helps Jazz reach a wider audience then great.

That’s been the focus of the past year for Empirical. We have a bit of a mission to reach and develop our audience. We’ve found that the model of album release and UK tour is becoming saturated, spreading the potential audience quite thinly amongst many competing artists and musicians. So this year we’ve tried to start some projects that move outside of the usual routines – much like our musical endeavours!

LJN: What have been the highlights?

TF: For me the highlight has been creating a bit of a 'team Empirical', and developing relationships in the wider scene. There’s a sense of achievement in coming up with an artistic idea, and working with talented people to make it happen. In particular we’ve been working with an old friend of the band, and between her and me, and the band, we are self-managing and self-producing everything, including the Pop-up Idea. We’ve got a new US record label involved – Cuneiform, which is cool, a very different way of working than we are used to – much more artist driven, which suits our goals.

LJN: How did the pop up idea get going?

TF: In Febuary 2015 we did 6 nights at Foyle’s Bookshop in the marvellous auditorium they have now. We wanted to connect with our audience in a profound way and use the experience to create our 5th studio album, Connection, which we recorded the week after. The experience was great – in terms of the music developing, the audience engagement and making long lasting relationships. So we thought, let’s do it again…except bigger, better and more ambitious!

Our reasoning was on two levels. Artistically the repeat performances develop the music – much in the way that our heroes would have had multiple sets a night in the 60’s. An also a focus on audience building that doesn’t rely on clubs and festivals.

Our friend Claudia, who has been a long supporter of the band, offered to help us put our idea into a strategy, which eventually involved applying to the Art’s Council (our first time), and finding an amazing space. After the ACE said yes, we realised we actually had to deliver the project! So two months of hard work ensued, involving shop fitting and countless meetings with potential partners…not to mention shedding with the band and getting the music together.

LJN: What was the biggest surprise greatest joy of doing the popup?

TF: We knew the music would be on fire by the end – we played 18 sets in a week – but the best part was engaging with people who had never heard us, or in some cases had never heard jazz music! It was hugely encouraging to see people connecting with this music who had never do so before- proof the concept works and that there is an bigger audience out there.

LJN: Tom you are also busy with other projects what are the main ones / anything big coming up?


- One of the great things about being a bass player is you it allows one to be various! This year I’ve been playing with Anoushka Shankar, touring to promote her new album. She wanted an improvising bass player who could also piano and Launchpad so it’s a very different challenge for me.

- I’m also involved with Joe Stilgoe’s new show Song’s on Film the Sequel, which involves a lot of singing and acting! It’s great fun, heading to Australia next month and Edinburgh in August!

- I’ve been working with a great singer, Atila, and have produced his recent album – a tribute to the Nat King Cole Trio called 'King for a Day' – check him out, he’s been around a while and I consider him to be one of the best old school jazz singers we have.

- The Big Screen Trio are recording again – that’s with Dave Newton and Matt Skelton, playing some of my arrangements in a new self-produced album coming out on Linn (we hope!).

- And also continuing my work in other people’s projects – I’ve been touring with Sarah McKenzie – a singer pianist from Australia, Rick Simpson has a new album coming out ‘Klammer’, I’m playing with Marco Marconi, Ant Law and all my favourite cats!

LJN: What plans does Empirical have now e.g. new pop up lounges?

TF: The short answer is we are exploring more funding opportunities! We will hopefully have some concrete plans and big announcements shortly, including a project to celebrate 10 years of the band (I KNOW!!!) in 2017, another pop-up in London and also starting to develop them around the UK – Brighton is looking likely, and a collaborative curation project with Kings Place! Watch this space.

LINK: Empirical website


REVIEW: Branford Marsalis solo at Bath Abbey (2016 Bath International Music Festival)

Branford Mardalis in 2011
Photo credit: Darlene Susco / Creative Commons
Branford Marsalis solo
(Bath Abbey, Bath International Music Festival, May 21st 2016. Review by Jon Turney) 

Bath Abbey, with its expanses of stained glass and astonishing fan vaulting high above, invites a particular kind of performance. It's not the ornateness, but the atmosphere - it's one of those spaces that offers a larger kind of silence. That, and the fat echo, suits Branford Marsalis'intentions well. He has long had an affinity with slow tempos, and sought a focus on melody. His solo performances, on his customary tenor and soprano and, unusually for him, alto saxophone, give free rein to both impulses.

They were woven into a programme of classical pieces played more or less straight, all pure tone and clear articulation, jazz standards, and one-off improvisations. It was intimate - unamplified, the saxophone sound accompanied only by the light clacking of keys and the occasional audible breath - and intense, but in a curiously relaxed way. In this space, Marsalis used lots of pauses at the end of a phrase to savour the echo, which allowed both performer and listener to prepare for the next one. Not subtle but, moment to moment, reliably effective.

There were no announcements -  a rueful "sorry"after a single fluffed note was the only word to the audience - but over two sets we heard a great range of music. There were classical pieces on soprano sax, an Ellingtonian ballad on tenor, some Bach (I think), a bebop-tinged tenor improvisation that leant toward Sonny Rollins, and new improvisations on each of Marsalis' other horns. The most arresting of those began with long tones on alto, moved into more urgent mood, with flurries of notes ascending into the far reaches of the Abbey, and came to an emphatic conclusion with some controlled foghorn blasts. 

Marsalis’ achievement, aside from keeping us all rivetted with solo horn playing for 90 minutes or so, lay in blending idioms as they suited the moment - from those pure tones to a full range of jazz vocabulary and effects, finishing with some good old-fashioned gutbucket tenor blues. There was a jazzy encore, too. I won't name it, in case he chooses the same tune again in London tomorrow, but it was, let's say, appropriate for the space.

Branford Marsalis plays solo in London at Union Chapel on Monday May 23rd and on Tuesday in Norwich Cathedral.

LINKS: Podcast interview with Branford Marsalis from 2013
Review of Branford Marsalis Quartet at the 2014 London Jazz Festival


REVIEW: Nik Bärtsch & Sha Duo plus OY at Rich Mix

Nik Bärtsch and Sha

Nik Bärtsch & Sha Duo plus OY 
(Rich Mix, Bethnal Green. 20th May. Serious Space Festival. Review by Liam Izod)

The penultimate night of the Serious Space festival offered a duo double header, with the zen funk of Nik Bärtsch & Sha counterpointed by the surreal electronica of OY. Both acts orbited around jazz as it is traditionally understood, taking a rapt Rich Mix crowd on rewarding explorations into the genre’s borderlands.

Nik Bärtsch possesses that much coveted musical commodity – a sound that is uniquely his own. His compositions have the intricacy and mystery of a perpetual motion machine, with mesmeric grooves underpinned by ever-evolving metres. The pieces have been honed over decades of experimentation, and a near-telepathic tightness exists between Bärtsch and bass clarinettist Sha as a result.

The duo format lends a new intimacy to compositions originally intended for the larger Ronin outfit. Breath alone has never felt so dramatic. Sha conjures hisses and growls from his instrument, engaging in entirely percussive passages in duet with Bärtsch’s prepared piano. This is music as a philosophical statement, but Bärtsch never forgets his most revelatory tenet - that art-music can be funky. The audience hang on every subtle shift throughout a series of ten minute plus ‘moduls’. As the groovy minimalism of Modul 35 concludes the set, the crowd are clear converts to Bärtsch’s ritualistic rhythms.

Art-electronica duo OY share a shamanistic quality with Nik Bärtsch, though their approach is considerably more madcap. Arriving on stage dressed as if they had come straight from the set of surrealist comedy The Mighty Boosh, OY delivered a captivating performance pitched somewhere between preaching and performance art.

A preview from their forthcoming album ‘Space Diaspora’ reveals irresistibly wonky grooves that front-woman Joy Frempong bounces off, delivering satirical sermons about a tongue-in-cheek utopia in a far galaxy. Drummer Lleluja-Ha lends the symphony of samples an organic element; his outlandish costume no impediment to endlessly inventive drum patterns.

Although contrasting in approach, the evening’s two acts share an experimental spirit, and yet they never forget the need to entertain and to engage an audience. Both serve as ideal ambassadors for the Serious Space festival’s mission to break down the boundaries surrounding jazz and other great music outside the mainstream, opening it up to new audiences.


ROUND-UP REPORT: moers festival 2016 (Germany)

Festival banner - Photo credit Henning Bolte

Moers festival 2016 (Germany)
(Moers, May 13 – May 16, 2016. Report and all photos by Henning Bolte)

The saints which the Germans call Die Eisheiligen (the ice saints) St. Servatus, St. Bonifacius and ‘Kalte’ Sophie (of Rome) clearly manifested themselves during this year’s edition of the moers festival at the German city of Moers (pronounced like the name ‘Reuben’) at the periphery of the Ruhr area close to the Dutch border in the federal state North Rhine-Westfalia . They sent a chillingly cold wind to this renowned Whitsun weekend event. It seemed that even the rabbits had hidden and were not discernible anymore.

The Programming

moers festival as a music festival bears a strong personal signature of its artistic director Reiner Michalke (links to reports on his earlier editions are below). The festival is accustomed to making clear, forward-looking and eclectic choices which are full of contrasts.

There was a strong component of vocalists including singer songwriters: Hildur Gudnadottir, Stian Westerhus, Sam Amidon, Maja Osojnik, Arve Henriksen, Natalie Sandtorv, Carla Kihlstedt, Becca Stevens, Jacob Collier, Cassandra Wilson

There was also a strong electronica presence: The Liz, Stian Westerhus, Warped Dreamer, Maja Osojnik, Hildur Gudnadottir).

- Notable too was the portion and distribution of string instruments


Looking at the programme certain clusters of musicians/groups can be discerned, clusters that show which territories and musical approaches this year’s edition covered. I prefer to review performances using these categories and not in chronological order of appearance during the four festival days.

Firmly Fast Forward: NO BS! Brass Band, Subway Jazz Orchestra, Tim Isfort Zapptet. Lisbon Underground Music Ensemble (LUME)

Stark Contrasts: Warped Dreamer, Maja Osojnik/Patrick Wurzwallner, Amok Amor, Stian Westerhus, Schnellertollermeier

Playful Particles: Kaja Draksler/Susana Santos Silva, Medusa Beats, Carolin Pook “pezzettino 8”, Not On The Guest List

Repetitive Rounds: Dawn of Midi, Hauschka&Kosminen, Moon Hooch, Doglife

Narratives: Johann Johannson “End of Summer”, Hildur Gudnadottir, Jeremy Flower “The Real Me”, The Liz,

From The Deep South: Harriet Tubman feat. Cassandra Wilson, David Virelles’ Mboko, Harold López-Nussa Trio

Personal highlights

If I had to choose my personal memorable highlights of the performances I saw, it would be:

-  The church concerts of Stian Westerhus and Hildur Gudnadottir at the Stadtkirche Moers on one hand and David Vireilles’ Mboko, the Draksler/Santos Silva duo and the Lisbon Underground Music Ensemble (LUME) at the festival hall on the other hand.

Every one of these performances - and the music - would have made the visit to the festival worthwhile on its own.

Stian Westerhus - Photo credit Henning Bolte

Stian Westerhus and Hildur Gudnadottir

Stian Westerhus, known for his dark scattering sounds and his strong physical involvement within, created a completely new kind of flow and reshaped it in utterly captivating ways together with the characteristics of the room, the receiving readiness of his audience and the spirit of the moment. On a unconscious level the daylight in the white room of the church turned the music into a Whitsunday Trance. Westerhus was based on his just released album Amputation (House Of Mythology). His music carried souls to a higher place. It applied to Hildur Gudnadottir’s music making too although in a different pace at a different temperature. The subtleties of her sampling and looping the cello sounds along with her voice’s patient singing worked out irresistibly in the long run. It left a deep and overwhelming trace.

Kaja Draksler/ Susana Santos

The duo of Amsterdam based Slovenian pianist Kaja Draksler and Porto/Stockholm based Portuguese trumpeter Susana Santos Silva performed on the huge stage of the festival hall – a tough challenge in terms of attracting the audience focusing attention, keep it and increase it. Draksler and Santos Silver performed three pieces based on their compositions Hymn To The Unknown, This Love (both from their recent duo-album of the same title (Cleanfeed) and Geringonça which is on Santos Silva’s album Impermanence (Bandcamp).

Beautiful strange sounds (inside-piano techniques and nose flute for example) were embedded in or connected to melodic motifs (with some folk music allusions) in a continuously clear gestalt that Draksler and Santos Silva morphed and contoured progressively in ways that were also musically highly connected. They are two young musicians who are currently making big leaps musically, which makes one look forward to what they will want to do next.

David Virelles’ Mboko

The music of David Virelles’ Mboko dispensed with the fireworks commonly associated with Cuban music, but was naturally captivating because of its rich spiritual and conversational quality. It opened a space imbued with intermingling voices and rhythms. At the centre were the sacred and mundane Cuban hand drums played by Roman Diaz and the framing piano of Virelles, zooming in and out, connecting and uniting shouts, recitation, prayer and chant in a lively rich flow. Drummer Eric McPherson and bassist Thomas Morgan bridged and coloured the space in sensitive ways.

The music conveys traits of the inner life and practises of the Santeria (Regla de Ocha) with its orishas (saints), a syncretistic system in which sacred and mundane things closely intertwined are flourishing exuberantly. The ‘system’ is not easily to catch or fathom for outsiders but - as a kind of fictitious documentary – the music’s quality provides possibilities of just sensing it.

LUME (Lisbon Underground Music Ensemble) 

As opener of the last festival day 15-piece LUME (Lisbon Underground Music Ensemble) violently crashed into the festival hall and exploded in fast forward mode. A crossing of Count Basie, Frank Zappa, Naked City and colossal head banging its music even buried and ousted Kalte Sophie’s chilling coldness in a fire-and-ice clash for a while. The frenzied dynamics emerged from a rock solid base of sound giving leeway to heavy crisscrossing as the musical equivalent of a  massed free fun run in a park. LUME was able to burst into and jump between different modes rapidly, fluently and colourful, for example giddily switching between brightly shining horn riffs and mighty sound avalanches. Pianist/composer Marco Barroso has developed LUME into a uniquely functioning sound organism discernible also at Barroso’s minimal way of conducting. He can get by with a short starting or switching sign. The rest then emerged directly from the ensemble’s organism. It proved that LUME is one of the most thrilling and dynamic large ensembles among the still growing number of this kind of units.

'Firmly Fast Forward'

The first night finished with the 12-piece NO BS! Brass Band from Richmond, Virginia. With its 5 trombones, 4 trumpets, sax, tuba and drums a line-up was deployed which could make a big sound. It was a fast forward big sound, but it also revealed itself as rather tight and one-dimensional, with a lot dull repetition in lieu of crackling, scraping and scuffing layers. Almost nothing was left of New Orleans’ second line beat, rather it was a kind of house version of it. This band apparently is an offshoot of notorious and now defunct unit Fight The Big Bull led by guitarist Matt White. White launched a successful career in pop music and this band with two of the original trombonists of Fight The Bull Reggie Pace and Brian Hooten took a different track. This also reflects recent developments in the music business.

A kind of opposite, with careful and sophisticated arrangements was the 18-piece Subway Jazz Orchestra from Cologne that opened the next day. As a kind of laboratory for the youngest generation of the Cologne scene it serves an important function. The unit’s music, a suite entitled State of Mind came up with some interesting ideas flawlessly performed on a decent level but it was not cracking nor especially tasty or in terms of dynamics gripping. The orchestra delivered solid work but as a whole a bit too obediently. It would be something to have the capacities of these skilled musicians transformed towards the level and daring vitality of for example a unit as the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra.

Maja Osojnik - Photo credit Henning Bolte

'Stark Contrasts'

As a sharply contrasting element Slovenian electronic musician and vocalist Maja Osojnik and Austrian drummer Patrick Wurzwallner performed right after the duo of Draksler/Santos Silva music that had a quite temperament and temperature. With the performance entitled Let Them Grow (named after her recent solo-album)

Osojnik/Wurzwallner entered darker and more violent realms at times sounding like a grunting and howling wolf pack, like fluttering bats in the dark, like a squealing sawmill or like a kind of distorted version of The Doors’ Break On Through (to the other side) finally ending in a vocal Reiβwolf. In a highly energetic set she navigated through electronic fields, radically morphing her often lo-fi electronic sounds to even the amorphous. Osojnik did not hide in violent electronics. Rather the ferocious electronics triggered the expressiveness of her angry voice. She acted as a nimble master/mistress of the switching button board, the mike and the voice in her hands. It revealed as a powerful as well as enigmatic performance that aroused curiosity.

The Belgian-Norwegian foursome of Warped Dreamer hit the stage on Sunday, in between David Vireilles’ Mboko and Dawn of Midi. Warped Dreamer is the two Belgian musicians of drummer Teun Verbruggen and keyboardist Jozef Dumoulin and the two Norwegian musicians  trumpeter/vocalist Arve Henriksen and guitarist Stian Westerhus. The Warped Dreamer musicians work without a net of preconceived material. Their concerts are fully improvised. Simply spoken Warped Dreamer’s music is a matter of extremes witness their latest album Lomahongva. Parts of utmost serenity alternate with violent outbursts that at times can get extremely loud. The dramaturgy of transitions between the two sides is a crucial element.

After an extremely slow, lingering start the group rose up to an intensely twitching motion, a peristaltic, head banging movimento grandioso that was acted out in a longer turn all of the fibres in. After an interlude by keyboarder Jozef Dumoulin on the piano the group entered an ethereal zone where Henriksen started singing. Stian Westerhus meanwhile bowed his guitar echoing Henriksen’s singing whereas Verbruggen’s drums detonated. Henriksen then started to use different hybrid instruments as a recorder and a trumpet with a clarinet mouthpiece. After a violent percussive attack of the piano by Dumoulin the music entered calmer waters. Westerhus started singing softly into the guitar in combination with Henriksen’s muted and softened trumpet sounding very much like a shakuhachi, the Japanese bamboo flute. The music with its electronics, extended techniques and vocalizations captured a wide range of sound(s) and thereby touched upon cosmological dimensions. The transitions and shaping of the sound remained unpredictable and enthralling, the modus operandi and the roles of the four musicians tended to remain more or less fixed. Arve Henriksen was the most agile of the group, angelic at one moment and hobglobin at the next. Stian Westerhus was the crushing, crunching, grinding spirit. Jozef Dumoulin whose electronic equipment got lost on the airport so that he was restricted to the acoustic piano and a lent mini electronic device plumbed the depths, beat the dust and fathomed the plains and plateaus. Teun Verbruggen was the draught, the storm, the rain and the thunder.

'Playful Particles'

Like other cities have a ‘poet in residence’, since a couple of years Moers has an “Improviser in Residence’ living and working in town for a year to ‘carry the spirit of the festival’. It has become a tradition that the IiR opens the festival with a work of her/himself and performed by a line-up chosen by the IiR her/himself. This year’s IiR is violinist/percussionist Carolin Pook, a German musician living in Brooklyn. The work she came up with is a prototype of ‘playful particles’, of playing to gather and playing together. She designed a work for eight violins and a drum entitled Pezzettino 8 (Snippet 8) manifesting the tension of the individual and the social group, the self and the norm, the prescribed format. Each part was specifically arranged for each musician. The different parts kept on merging into a collage of pulsing sounds with individual solo passages breaking out. It was set up as a process piece in which the process of the creation of a whole that is more than the sum of its parts can be experienced. Pook had invited seven violinists to prepare and perform the work with her (Hannah Weirich, Yael Barolsky, Sabine Akiko Ahrendt, Lola Rubio, Irene Kepl, Zuzana Leharová, Una Sveinbjarnardóttir). For a performance there is the inner effect between/on the musicians and the outer effect to/on the audience – in this case a huge stage in a quite huge hall. Before the group set sails Pook charmingly expressed her enthusiasm about the inner effect. The musicians played eagerly and with urgency but the performance fell short a bit on the outer effect, regrettable in view of a great idea. Maybe a mobile spacial arrangement would have helped.

Repetitive Rounds

Repetition and repetitive structures are a crucial feature in music, narratives, religious practice and life. John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, Miles Davis’ All Blues, Velvet Underground’s Venus in Furs, Kraftwerk’s Autobahn (a unit from neighbouring city of Düsseldorf), Terry Riley’s In C, Steve Reich’s It’s Gonna Rain or Piano Phase are just a few prominent and famous examples. At the beginning of the century Swiss pianist Nik Bärtsch created a Zen-inspired form of repetitious, modular groove music. Christian Wallumrød’s Stompin at Gagarin and Craig Taborn’s Beat The Ground are other examples. Especially Craig Taborn who closely collaborated with Detroit techno originator Carl Craig has integrated elements of techno deeply in his playing. Actually also the music of Moon Hooch and Dog Life, groups that both performed this year at the festival has repetition as a central feature, Moon Hooch as a high voltage head banging dance unit and Dog Life as a rough, textural variant of repetitive music. Dog Life and Dawn of Midi are wild antipodes of each other, the first trio playing (loosely) to gather, the other trio playing together in forced neat synchronization – each with different effects on the audience.

Presently various kinds of motivic repetition formats represented by en vogue groups as Portico, GoGo Penguin or Plaistow are up and coming as a kind of light (maybe even trivialized) version of minimalism. Dawn of Midi belongs to this wave too but is much tighter, more thorough and coherent in its approach. Its performance on Sunday evidently met receptive souls and fell on fertile ground among the Moers audience. The same happened with the lighter version of the performance of the duo Hauschka&Kosminen on Monday. Was Moers, as usual, in touch with the Zeitgeist? The answer is yes. It is hoped that moers festival will also go beyond these forms of horizontal reductionism and pick up new forms of rich layering and spiral looping (not represented this time) in future editions.

Carla Kihlstedt - photo credit Henning Bolte


Narratives confirm or make sense of experiences or reported events. In getting narratives across musical elements can play an important supportive role or music can be the medium to convey narratives. Besides Johann Johannson’s multidisciplinary End of Summer narrative there were two more profiled narratives. The first one was Jeremy Flower’s The Real Me about the different sides of ageing. It took the form of a song cycle and was conveyed in the form of traditional song. Together with the EOS chamber orchestra Jeremy Flower and his fellow musicians delivered a pretty intense, vivid and poignant piece of music strongly driven by the passionate singing of violinist Carla Kihlstedt.

The second one, the Book of Birds by The Liz, adopted a more heterogeneous, multidisciplinary scenic approach with electronics, instrumental interventions, recitations, masks, grime, lighting, and puppets. All three musicians, Liz Kosack, Korhan Erel, Liz Allbee, acted their roles as musicians and narrators in a bird like appearance. The three Bird-Lizes were statically grouped in a flat triangle with trumpeter Liz Allbee as the most mobile part. The narrative arose from a loose patchwork with texts from Kathy Acker, Jean Cocteau, antiquity, and the musicians themselves. It developed rather slowly thereby heavily deconditioning the spectators’ expectations/habits and at the same time arousing their attention, triggering curiosity. It has a big potential and The Liz offered precious moments where things coincided but the dramatically force of the mise-en-scene did not hold strong enough to draw in more people of the audience. Possibly physical movement and lighting might reinforce and heighten the outer effect of the core’s set up.

Cassandra Wilson - Photo credit Henning Bolte

From The Deep South

moers festival offers a broad range of non-classified music. As part of its distinguished approach music close to the southern origins of Afro-American jazz could not be missed.

As its incarnation guitarist Brandon Ross, bassist Melvin Gibbs, drummer J.T. Lewis and none other than vocalist Cassandra Wilson made their appearance under the name of eminent Afro-American Underground Railroad slave liberationist and civil rights activist Harriet Tubman (1822-1913), a group founded by Ross in 1998. Harriet Tubman figures prominently in the narrative of Afro-American history even if her name is less known in mainstream media discourse. Looking at her life story a lot of still virulent traces can be discerned. As Melvin Gibbs emphasized identification of these and identification with Tubman’s activities is still highly relevant.

The electrified body of Harriet Tubman went off laid back on a heavily rumbling vibe interspersed by deeply resonating vocals of Mrs Wilson. All guitar riffin’ and banjo picking was deeply drenched in gospel and blues to make the Black Sun Rollin’ before they ran the shimmering Voodoo Down:

I got High John in my pocket
And mud in my shoes
Walked all the way from Mississippi
Just to spread the news
Don't care for idle conversation
I'm not your girl about town
But when it comes to make music
I run the voodoo down
And here in this quiet place I own
Worlds are born

They lingered on the intersection of the real world and imaginary worlds, where things get turned around, are evasive and glorious, hidden and clear. In quite casual way with Wilson’s sparse but effective guitar playing they got the Zwischenwelt, the twilight zone, opened up and glowing. It was Cassandra Wilson down to earth and exalted as well as exalting.

Die Röhre (The Tube/Roaring Voice)

Die Röhre, a small basement, is a ‘Jazzkeller’ relict from the early days of the festival that has been preserved until now. Here three days midnight sessions took place traditionally organized by a guest programmer. This year Louis Rastig, pianist and young artistic director of fresh Berlin A L’Arme festival (July, 27-30) curated the program of Die Röhre. Swiss power trio Schnellertollermeier would have been a hot contender for the main stage (see my review of the group). It was an ingenious set of Louis Rastig to choose the group for Die Röhre besides two other profiled young groups, Norwegian vocal-drums duo Natalie Sandtorv and Ole Mofjell and Swedish trio Doglife with saxophonist Anna Högberg, bass guitarist Finn Loxbo and drummer Mårten Magnefors. It was a well-chosen, clearly contoured, attractive program providing a good exposure for young musicians.

Dangers / politics

During its history renowned moers festival has been repeatedly in peril. The threat of stopping it has been a permanent companion of the festival and its artistic director. This year it was there again but in a quite alarming and damaging way – there was/is turmoil both before and after the festival. What is most remarkable: this time the thread goes together with growing artistic success and reputation as well as commercial stability. The festival received the award of the Europe Jazz Network recently, was visited this year by two international delegations, one initiated by German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Goethe Institute and Initiative Musik, the federal government’s funding agency in support of rock, pop, and jazz music from Germany and another one by federal state Nordrhein Westfalen’s Kultursekretariat. Moreover the festival received an extra grant for the next three years from Germany’s Federal Government. In March when the program announced the board did not even know if the festival could and would take place.

Nonetheless and even despite extremely cold weather the ticket sale stabilized on the high level of last year. After a well-received festival it was no real surprise that Reiner Michalke offered immediate termination of his contract to the board of Moers Kultur Ltd. during the final press conference. His message was clear. First, he is not willing to continue under the same circumstances as this year with its distracting, disrupting and threatening background noise. Second, by offering his resignation he wants to ensure that an open discussion of clear and workable solutions for the festival’s future can continue.

Wrap up

The festival with its 20 concerts in one night and three days offered a manifold and coherent programme of considerable range, a programme full of colour, contrast, challenge, controversy and (re)discovery. It was again a programme that not only bribed on paper but mainly by its sequenced unfolding on the spot with improved sound and light. As the review indicates the Stadtkirche concerts had a high significance of their own – a potential to consider and develop for the future. The shared programming revealed as a strong component of the festival. It is however highly questionable to maintain Die Röhre for purely nostalgic reasons as a venue for the night concerts. A better place closer by would be desirable and advisable.

The festival has reassured its profiled status as one of the leading independent and artistically interesting festivals in Europe. Its possibilities are by far not exhausted. There is certainly an audience of sufficinent magnitude to make it viable -  it is up to dedicated and resolute spirits to make it happen.


Moers Festival website

Hennig Bolte's  past reports on the moers festival: 

The 2015 Festival
The 2014 Festival
The 2013 Festival

ARTE recorded/filmed several of the concerts and the coverage is online


NEWS: Herts Jazz Festival full programme announced / Early Bird Tickets on Sale (Welwyn, 16-18 Sep)

The stage set for the Herts Jazz Festival
Photo credit Melody McLaren 2015

The full programme has just been announced for this year's Herts Jazz Festival, which runs from September 16th to 18th and takes place at the Hawthorne Theatre in Welwyn Garden City.

Early bird tickets for the whole weekend are now on sale. These tickets have a designated seat. Booking link below.

With so many fine pianists on show - and playing the festival's magnificent Fazioli piano, (Nikki Iles in the Printmakers, Keith Tippett, Julian Joseph, Neil Angilley, David Newton...) keyboard side is definitely recommended

For more detail on individual gigs, try Simon Spillett's preview. (pp)


Friday evening 16th

8.30-11.00 Tim Garland Quartet - £25/£22 Herts Jazz members/£10 students
11.00-12.30 Late night set – Bryan Spring Trio - FREE!

Saturday 17th

11.30-12.30 Herts Youth Jazz Ensemble - FREE!
1.00-2.00 The Printmakers - £15/£12/£5
2.00-3.00 In the foyer - Neil Angilley Trio - FREE!
3.15-4.30 Dunmall/Tippett/McCredie/Tracey - £15/£12/£5
5.00-6.15 Ernie Wilkins’ “Top Brass” Revisited - £15/£12/£5
6.15-7.30 In the foyer - Dave Newton/Andy Cleyndert Duo - FREE!
7.45-10.15 Gilad with Strings - £25/£22/£10
10.30-12.00 Late night set - Introducing Sean Payne - FREE!

Sunday 18th

11.30-12.30 Derek Nash’s Picante - £15/£12/£5
1.00-2.00 Gerd Dudek - £15/£12/£5 -
2.00-3.00 In the foyer - Nigel Price Organ Trio - FREE!
3.15-4.30 Laurie Cottle Quintet - £15/£12/£5
5.00-6.15 Julian Joseph Trio - £15/£12/£5
6.15-7.30 In the foyer - Daniel Casimir Trio - FREE!
7.45-10.15 Mingus/Monk Big Band tribute - £25/£22/£10

LINKS: Herts Jazz Festival website
Early Bird Bookings


PREVIEW/ FEATURE: Olie Brice Quintet tour (May 24th June- 9th)

The Olie Brice Quintet at the Vortex
L-R: Mike Fletcher, Alex Bonney, George Crowley
Olie Brice, Jeff Williams

Bassist Olie Brice is about to embark on a tour with his quintet. Starting at the Spotted Dog in Digbeth in Birmingham next Tuesday May 24th, they will play nine gigs in ten days, culminating in a homecoming gig at the Vortex on June 2nd. Olie writes:

The line-up of the quintet about to set off on tour is Alex Bonney on cornet, Mike Fletcher on alto sax (and maybe some C-melody), George Crowley on tenor sax and the great Jeff Williams on drums. I'm really delighted with this group – I've been through a few permutations of this project, all of which have been fun, but this is definitely the best yet. None of the musicians should need introducing to regular readers of LondonJazz News – all of them are among the most exciting improvisers on the scene.

  -Alex Bonney has been in more incarnations of my bands than anyone else – I love his sense of melody and his capacity to be completely free while always lyrical.

- George Crowley must be one of the busiest saxophonists around, as well as playing a vital role running two of the best regular gigs for this music in London. He brings a great tone and serious roots in the jazz tenor tradition while sounding just as great playing free as he does playing standards and original compositions.

- Jeff Williams is one of the greatest jazz drummers in the world – he has been a hero of mine for much longer than I've been playing with him, and it's an absolute joy and honour to have him in the band.

- Mike Fletcher originally joined the band as a one-off dep, but it was such fun having him involved that I asked him to join properly. One of my favourite musicians to play with, I couldn't be happier to have added him to the mix.

I've written a set of new material for this tour, which we'll be recording shortly afterwards. There's quite a range of influences and approaches in the music – we play melodies drawn from Jewish liturgical music I experienced as a child, completely freely improvised sections, an old and rarely played standard, some graphic scores, rhythmic transcriptions of some of my favourite poets, and much more besides. I think the whole thing comes together in a personal whole though, rather than a cut-and-paste mishmash! I wrote a blog article about going into more depth into my composing and influences, especially the Jewish influence (see link below)

The tour has been made a lot more straight-forward by the generous support of Arts Council England –  thanks to them and to Corey Mwamba, Cath Roberts and Dee Byrne for their help with my application.


24/05/16 – The Spotted Dog, Birmingham
25/05/26 – Dempsey’s, Cardiff
26/05/16 – Soundcellar, Poole
27/05/16 – Fusebox, Leeds
29/05/16 – Future Inns, Bristol (afternoon gig, 4.30pm, with special guest Nick Malcolm)
30/05/16 – The Wonder Inn, Manchester
31/05/16 – Jazz Café, Newcastle
01/06/16 – The Lescar, Sheffield
02/06/16 – The Vortex, London

LINK: Olie Brice writes about his composing, and about influences
Olie Brice's website including a recent interview with Peter Bacon


REVIEW/ DRAWING: Cory Henry - The Revival Project at Union Chapel

Cory Henry at Union Chapel.
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2016. All Rights Reserved

Cory Henry - The Revival Project
(Union Chapel, 17 May 2016; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

Cory Henry, keyboard maestro with Snarky Puppy, flies the flag for the Hammond B3 in the most personal of his ventures, The Revival Project. Alongside funk drumming perfectionist, TaRon Lockett, who sits in on Henry's other band, The Funk Apostles, the duo ripped up the Union Chapel with a cruise through a generous selection of Henry's favourite songs, kicking off with his deep church and gospel roots, and diving in to the jazz, r&b and popular songbooks with a repertoire put together on the fly, adding personal twists to every song, which he does in response to each audience and setting on the night.

Brought up in Brooklyn, Henry started playing organ aged two, encouraged by his father and church-going, gospel chorister mother. He was in talent contests at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem at six. The church organ at The Greater Temple of Praise was one of the springboards to his becoming a youthful master of the Hammond, and, twenty-plus years later, was the venue for his live recording of The Revival. Finding himself at the Union Chapel - maybe the most beautiful church he's played in, he reflected - made it the perfect venue for this non-stop two hour gem of a concert.

Opening with the full-on contemporary gospel of I'm a Soldier (in the Army of the Lord), Henry was in jaw-dropping Hammond mode, welling, vamping and diving, scraping the keys, drizzling light jazzy phrases, paddling bass lines, to recall Jimmy Smith's early Blue Note church-and-blues inflected style. Lockett kicked in with a tight, fat, rolling drum beat worthy of the late Richie Hayward of Little Feat, and they never looked back.

There's a great video of the self-taught four-year old Henry in full flow on Amazing Grace , the first song he learnt to play, which he revisited in dynamically bluesified manner - even Lockett couldn't suppress a broad smile at Henry's pyrotechnics!

In the most memorable rendition I've encountered, Coltrane's Giant Steps was taken right out of the box, obliquely stretched and skewed, distorted elastically off-key, then power-accelerated with Lockett's fine clattering drive. Henry was letting his hair down, having fun, waving arms in a mini-dance at its conclusion.

Henry brought in his vocals for the first time on a slow, emotional version of the great I'll Drown in My Own Tears - 'I don't want to be drowning by myself, baby,' he sang. His grainy vocal delivery was powered up as he went through the ritual of splitting the more-than-enthusiastic audience in to two halves to share the vocals on a gospel-style 'song that never ends', Naa Naa Naa.

There were a few surprises from the popular canon, just to prove that there are no boundaries - only fine songs! Yesterday emerged after a folkie intro and ended up sounding like it had always been an American soul staple! God Only Knows gracefully crossed secular with religious and Bill Withers' Lovely Day was reduced, dismantled and re-engineered with sharp, riffy runs and a blues edge. With a heavy beat, Marvin Gaye's Inner City Blues stood up as a song for our times, deep-down dirty and echoey - 'Trigger happy policemen, Only God knows where we are heading'.

And no better way for a funk devotee to sign off than by exploding in to Parliament's hefty Give Up The Funk and to encore with a heartfelt When Doves Cry in tribute to Prince, whose overwhelming impact Henry acknowledged, also mentioning that virtuoso percussionist Lockett had been one of Prince's last drummers.