NEWS: Winner of LetterOne ‘Rising Stars’ Jazz Award announced: French pianist Adrien Brandeis

Adrien Brandeis
Publicity photo by Florence Ducommun
(supplied for use by competition organisers)

Sebastian writes.

The second winner of the LetterOne ‘Rising Stars’ Jazz Award has been announced. The inaugural winner of the competition last year was French guitarist Tom Ibarra, and the second, from a field of over 230 entries, is another young Frenchman, pianist Adrien Brandeis. The prize for the winner is to appear at seven festivals and to receive a year of PR and marketing support. 

The full text of the press release is as follows :

PRESS RELEASE

ADRIEN BRANDEIS is a French jazz pianist and composer born in Annecy in 1992. After having studied at the Conservatory of Nice and the Conservatoire de Paris with Robert Persi and Manuel Rocheman, he produced and released his first album Euforia in 2018. Influenced by Michel Camilo, Bill Evans and Chick Corea, the young, award winning and highly versatile pianist is steeped in Jazz, Latin and Afro-Caribbean music and strives to combine traditional jazz with modern influences. On Euforia, Adrien displays great lyricism in his playing, combined with an urban pianistic approach. The jury – consisting of radio host Alex Dutilh (France Musique: Open Jazz), Norwegian journalist Karen Frivik (NRK), Wulf Müller from ‘OKeh Records’ , England’s Jazz superstar Jamie Cullum and chaired by Mikhail Fridman – awarded Adrien with the “LetterOne ‘RISING STARS’ Jazz Award” Europe Edition 2018.



The jury said: “Yet again the “LetterOne ‘RISING STARS’ Jazz Award” produced a list of 25 highly skilled and talented musicians who made it to the final round. Finding the winner was not an easy task but Adrien Brandeis convinced us with his outstanding musicianship and innovative approach. We are certain that we will hear a lot about him in the future.” As winner of the “LetterOne ‘RISING STARS’ Jazz Award” Adrien will embark on a tour along seven major jazz festivals in Europe: Love Supreme (GB), Leopolis Jazz Fest (UA), Kongsberg Jazzfestival (NO), Nice Jazzfestival (FR), Umbria Jazz (I), Jazzopen Stuttgart (D) and Heineken Jazzaldia San Sebastian (E) In addition, he will receive a full year of PR and marketing support through Air Artist Agency.

From 1st of August until 27th of October 2018, Jazz artists could enter their submissions via a dedicated website (www.l1risingstarsjazzaward.com) to be considered for the “LetterOne ‘RISING STARS’ Jazz Award” Europe Edition 2018. Over 230 artists submitted their entries! A first round of voting was done by the participating seven festivals, which found the 25 best contenders. The final vote was done by a professional jury.

Producing the Award is the award-winning Air Artist Agency, whose director Burkhard Hopper has a long-standing experience in introducing new artists. For 9 years Burkhard Hopper ran the Rising Stars concert series in Europe which – among others – introduced artists such as Diana Krall, Brad Mehldau, Benny Green, Jane Monheit, David Sanchez and Esbjörn Svensson to the European audiences.

The “LetterOne ‘RISING STARS’ Jazz Award” is a significant event in the international jazz calendar that benefits from the sponsorship and backing of Mikhail Fridman, an international businessman, philanthropist and most importantly a huge jazz fan. Besides being a frequent visitor of Jazz festivals around the world, Fridman is also the founder of the Leopolis Jazz Festival (formerly known as Alfa Jazz) in Lviv (Ukraine).

LINKS: Letter 1 Rising Stars website
Andreas Brandeis website

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REVIEW: Joshua Redman's Still Dreaming at the Barbican

Still Dreaming at the Barbican
Photo: Nadworks
Joshua Redman – Still Dreaming
(Barbican Hall, 18 February 2019. Review by Chris Parker)

Sparked by a memorial concert for bassist Charlie Haden, at which Joshua Redman played, this quartet project is inspired by the music of Old and New Dreams, a band of Ornette Coleman alumni formed to perform music in the Coleman acoustic tradition after the great saxophonist/composer went electric. Straightforward re-creations of Old and New Dreams material, however, were never part of Redman’s conception of the band’s approach. Instead, while the spirit of the music made by his father Dewey Redman, trumpeter Don Cherry, Haden and drummer Ed Blackwell infuses all the new quartet’s material, the band has a distinctly contemporary sound, everything they play – whether in-band originals or older material composed by Dewey Redman, Cherry or Coleman himself – coming out new-minted, fresh, original and spontaneous.

The quartet Redman has assembled for this purpose could not have been better chosen. Ron Miles, like Cherry an exponent of the intensely human-sounding cornet, is a perfect front-line foil, his wistful but sure-footed contributions by turns questioning, even eccentric, yet always wholly appropriate; the rhythm section, bassist Scott Colley and the virtuoso drummer Brian Blade, springily propulsive yet subtle and adventurous. Their music, like Coleman’s, is at once complex (some of the ensemble theme statements almost laughably tricksy) and direct in its emotional appeal, somehow contriving to combine the most adventurous, out-on-a-limb playing with a straight-to-the-heart quality more often heard in folk music, or even nursery rhymes. The distinctive blend – a sort of affecting, mewling cry – of the front-line horns to some extent acounts for this effect, but this is undoubtedly a thoroughly democratic outfit in the true Coleman tradition, each player a vital component in the creation of a unique group sound.

Colley and Redman himself provide some of the quartet’s most powerful material, the former’s Haze and Aspirations a particular evening highlight, with its carefully sculpted theme giving rise to a spirited four-way exploration; the latter’s haunting It’s Not the Same sinuous, almost serpentine, yet punchy, immediately accessible. Two Dewey Redman compositions, Walls-Bridges and Rush Hour, plus the odd Cherry piece and an encore blues (Coleman’s Turnaround), round out the 90-minute set, but whatever they play – whether apparent “repertoire music” or originals – this stellar but unfussy quartet triumphantly succeed in performing a supremely difficult feat: firmly rooting their approach in an immediately recognisable tradition, yet producing vigorous, wholly original and compelling music.

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REVIEW: Walthamstow Jazz Festival 2019

Binker Golding at Walthamstow
Picture: © Mochles Simawi

Walthamstow Jazz Festival
(Walthamstow Assembly Hall, 16 February 2019. Reviews by Gail Tasker and Mark Kass)

Gail Tasker writes: Walthamstow Assembly Hall is a tall, white, imposing building of art-deco style, preceded by a Great Gatsby-esque fountain and neat lawn. Whilst the wood-panelled interior hall brings to mind school assemblies, this was in fact the rather surreal setting of the inaugural Walthamstow Jazz Festival last Saturday. Presented by local label Byrd Out, the line-up was a refreshing compendium of intergenerational musicians playing varying styles of jazz from across the UK – something for everyone.

Free jazz and the avant-garde seemed to dominate the proceedings. Evan Parker’s set, with John Edwards on double bass and John Russell on guitar, was an attack on the senses. Edwards’ use of extended techniques was especially impressive; frenzied bowing transformed into jarring bass chords, and at one point he detuned his low bass string, which produced deep, reverberating notes. Russell was equally committed, snapping a string in the first tune. The trio have released an album, Walthamstow Moon (‘61 Revisited), in homage to Coltrane’s 1961 performance at the Granada Theatre; Saturday’s performance must surely have been in the same spirit.

Thurston Moore’s performance with Steve Noble was along a similar vein. With an array of pedals at his disposal, Moore was imaginative in his use of distortion and feedback, producing spine-tingling wails and shrieks from his guitar that sounded as atonal and discordant as possible. Noble in comparison was less interesting, preferring to maintain a constant heavy beat and only changing his rhythms incrementally and very rarely. Yet the duo drew a large audience, hypnotized by the unearthly sounds of Moore’s guitar.

A true highlight for me was the duo performance by Binker Golding and Elliot Galvin. It was hard to tell to what extent the pieces had been planned, though Golding clarified that by explaining that it was all “made up” on the spot. This was not self-evident however, such was the symbiosis between the two musicians. Galvin’s use of extended piano techniques was extremely memorable; amongst various tools, he stuck Scotch tape to the piano strings, creating a muted, harpsichord-like sound which Golding responded to with hiccupy, fast notes on the soprano saxophone.

Javi Pérez of Cykada
Photo: © Mochles Simawi
The younger, more hip hop-oriented bands were a welcome breather throughout the evening. Bristol-based Snazzback, with an extended line-up of keys, guitar, horns, percussion, double bass, and drum kit, played on the basement stage. Chris Langton was impressive on the drums, playing tight rhythms with Cory Fonville-esque flair in partnership with Myke Vince on percussion. Project Karnak, a duo made up of Dominic Canning on keys and Sam Ouissellat on drums, were reminiscent of Yussef Kamaal in their heady use of hip hop rhythms and modal synth progressions. London-based Cykada, on the main stage, were the eccentrics of the night. Their on-stage theatrics brought to mind Led Zeppelin, with bass player Jamie Benzies falling to his knees during a bass solo and trumpeter Axel Kaner-Lindstrom dancing around for the majority of the performance. Despite the laid-back attitude, the musicianship was top notch; the rhythmic interplay between Tilé Gigichi-Lipere on electronics/synth and Tim Doyle on drums was a highlight.

The main drawback of the afternoon was the poor acoustic, to the point of distraction. With most performances, the drums and bass often seemed undefined and muffled. Galvin’s piano was barely audible at points whilst Kaner-Lindstrom’s trumpet was echoing and loud. This could have been due to the high ceilings, swift line-up changes, or constant murmur of people talking in the background. However, the atmosphere in the hall and the masterful playing of the musicians was such that the performances were always enjoyable – hopefully the first edition of many more Walthamstow festivals to come.


Dylan Jones of Pyjaen
Photo: © Mochles Simawi
Mark Kass writes: Following the musical theatricals of Messrs. Galvin and Golding was always going to be a challenge but jazz fusion youngbloods Pyjaen pulled it off. Headed up by super-hot trumpeter Dylan Jones, the horn man of Ezra Collective, Pyjaen are yet another ear-inspiring jazz crew of hot musos emanating from the Trinity Laban/Tomorrows Warrior/Ghost Notes stables. With the two Bens – Vize on sax and Crane on bass – and Charlie Hutchinson on drums, the band were drawn together by the very funky “blaxploitation” guitar of Dani Diodato, creating some very danceable sounds and wiping the eyes back to normality of those still in shock from Evan Parker and Thurston Moore!

Followed on to the main stage by Vels Trio who were also sadly hit by the curse of the day, (a pretty unstable sound system that seemingly struggled to get the on-stage monitor balances right for most of the acts), these Brighton boys produced a sound not dissimilar to GoGo-Penguin-meets-Bill-Laurence. When we finally got to hear Jack Stephenson-Oliver’s keys they proved to be a tight trio with a resonating groove sound created by Cameron Dawson’s bass and Dougal Taylor's drums with some mellow electronica reminiscent of a very cool Miami Vice soundtrack.

Between the main stage acts, the real jazz club happenings took place in the basement of the awesome Walthamstow Assembly Halls. With walls literally dripping with condensation, ceilings just grazing the scalps of the audience and barely accommodating a double bass, the real-feel of those stereotypical jazz clubs of the '50s came alive again in 2019… all that was missing was a carpet of used chewing gum! An amazing range of bands and performers including the diminutive Harry Potter-esque producer, composer and trumpet/tape phenomenon known as Emma-Jean Thackray, the fiddle-fronted Hey Fish and South London-based drum and based driven Project Karnack.
Timings of the main stage and the basement gigs meant your reviewer couldn’t cover everything but even if we could, the crowds in the basements meant it would have been an aural review rather than a visual one!

Ginger Baker at Walthamstow
Photo: © Mochles Simawi
Back on the main stage, and billed as the festival headliner, expectations of seeing Cream drum legend Ginger Baker in action were extraordinarily high amongst those who knew who he was! Baker has always said he was always a jazz drummer first and his African influences such as Fela Kuti and a variety of “my other experiences” as Baker puts it over the years are clearly the forerunners of the jazz Afrobeat resurgence of today.

Expectations rose even higher when Baker’s wizard-like drum technician wheeled out his voluminous drum kit onto the stage alongside a second smaller kit for the co-billed Nigerian drummer, Tony Allen and following yet another sound set-up issue, the stage was set for what we’d all come for…Ginger Baker’s Jazz Confusion. And I think that’s just what we got!

Sadly, the now 80-year old and rather frail Baker was led onto the stage by other band members and into his kit and having made his apologies and promises to do his best, having just left hospital that morning -– which didn’t bode well – you had to admire the man for a) turning up and ) absolutely having a go! Supported by a band that hadn’t played together for six months, Baker, bassist Alec Dankworth, saxman Pee Wee Ellis and percussionist Abass Dodoo revisited their earlier 2014 jazz album, Why?.
Tony Allen
Photo: © Mochles Simawi
After a handful of tracks, where Baker still manged to deftly demonstrate some of his trademark floor-tom work, he introduced fellow octogenarian Tony Allen for a very quick drum duet before leaving the drum work for the rest of the set to Allen as he left the stage clearly feeling the worse for wear. Heart-breaking to see but you have to applaud the great man. For one known to be “feisty”, he could easily have gone home from hospital instead of trekking over to Walthamstow but ever-the-musician, he honoured his obligations, played to a largely appreciative audience but many of whom we’re heard to be muttering on the way out: "Ginger Baker’s Jazz Confusion? Why?”

Mark Kass is the founder of the London East Jazz Network

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INTERVIEW: ELDA (Andrew Woodhead and Aaron Diaz) (new album Shiny/Things and touring 7-14 March)

Aaron Diaz and Andrew Woodward with Kari Eskild Havenstrøm
Publicity picture
ELDA is two Birmingham-based musicians, pianist Andrew Woodhead and trumpeter Aaron Diaz. They have a new album out which features Norwegian vocalist Kari Eskild Havenstrøm, and are about to go on the road as a trio for a few dates around England. Andrew and Aaron spoke to Peter Bacon:

LondonJazz News: The core of ELDA is the two of you. How did you meet and what is it that keeps you playing together?

Andrew Woodhead: Aaron and I started playing together about five years ago when he came back to Birmingham from Gothenburg. We’re struggling to remember exactly how we met but suspect it may have been through mutual friend (and incredible bassist) Chris Mapp.

We have a lot in common musically, and I see ELDA as a distillation of all those aesthetics and influences, as well as a vehicle for the electronic side of our musical personalities. We started bringing in special guests to play with us as a way of pushing the music in new directions and bringing an element of unpredictability and excitement to the gigs.

LJN: The band’s new album Shiny/Things features Kari Eskild Havenstrøm. How did you meet her and what does she bring to the band?

AW: I met Kari in 2013 when we played together at Cheltenham Jazz Festival as part of the Trondheim/Birmingham Exchange, we had a great time working together on that project and I’d been looking for an excuse to bring her back over to the UK ever since.

ELDA seemed like the perfect fit for Kari’s amazing vocals; I think her presence really 'grounds' the music and gives the electronic elements something to crystallise around. Her versatility makes her great to work with, and on this record you can hear her moving between beautiful melodic passages, textural/'noise' based sounds and (on the last track) creative phrasing and rephrasing of lyrics.

LJN: I first heard the two of you separately and playing acoustic instruments. You are both increasingly using electronics, as does Kari on the album. What drew you to the 'knob-twiddling' side of modern music? Do you regard it as 'just another instrument' or is it more than that?

Aaron Diaz: I got into electronics as a way to harmonise and ‘multitrack’ the trumpet in live performance after recording an album with lots of brass accompaniment in the arrangements. At the time I was really influenced by the sounds of trumpeters such as Neil Yates and Arve Henriksen who always incorporated electronics as part of their sonic palette, and I kept adding elements of their technique to my set-up.

Recently, the biggest jump I have made is from analogue equipment (mixing desks and ‘pedal’ loops) to a laptop set-up, which has blown so many musical and sonic possibilities wide open.

I guess electronics could be seen as an instrument-in-itself, one approach is to use it as a way of broadening one’s instrument (in my case the trumpet), being able to place it in different musical situations.

As a horn player improvising in a traditional, acoustic setting, you're given your space to improvise until ‘your time's up’ or physical fatigue sets in, then you often become removed, and/or inactive from the collective music making you were once a part of. Electronics allow me, through the use of reverbs, delays, looping and sampling to remain musically active and in the moment throughout the entirety of the performance, not limited by the acoustic instrument.

AW: I think the tipping point for me delving into the world of electronics was being asked to do a freely improvised solo gig for the first time. The venue in question didn’t have a piano and I really didn’t feel like I could get the same kind of nuanced response from a keyboard-with-a-piano-sound, so I decided to do the gig on a minimal set-up of Pocket Piano (a tiny lo-fi synthesizer with a handful of keys and a few different synth modes) plus a Loop pedal. This set me off on a year-long project exploring this set-up which eventually culminated in my first solo album, Pocket Piano Improvisations.

ELDA in performance
Publicity picture
I really enjoyed working within/against/around the limitations of the hardware set-up during this time and added a few bits to it gradually, but now like Aaron I’ve embraced the laptop as a way of massively expanding the possibilities of what I can do musically. The pitfall of the laptop though is that its limitlessness becomes its own limitation in a way – it’s easy to get caught up in what is possible as opposed to what is the most musical thing to do in a given situation, so I’m constantly having to check myself in that regard.

Where Aaron’s electronic set-up is an extension/addition to his trumpet, I see my electronics and synths as a completely separate instrument to the piano; on the face of it there’s a keyboard shaped thing in front of me but the actual physics of the sound production are totally different and as a musician you have to change your approach.

LJN: You are very busy on the Birmingham scene, but do you get much chance to tour with a band? Are you looking forward to being on the road?

AW: The last tour I did was for my solo album in 2016, and it’s a very different feeling being on the road with a group. I love the way the music develops over the course of consecutive dates, you start to feel some of those almost-telepathic musical moments creeping in, and it really makes you collectively think about the essence of what you’re trying to say – I always think the music gets a lot leaner and more to-the-point as a result.

We recorded Shiny/Things at the end of a short run of dates in 2016, and I think you can hear some of that empathy/collective energy in the record.

LJN: I know from the regular gigs you organise under the name Fizzle that you are not a fan of labels – every line-up is described as 'Improvised Music'. But how would you describe ELDA’s music to someone who had never heard it? And what are the influences the three of you explore in this group?

AW: You’re right, I don’t really believe in labels! I think genre has ceased to be relevant for so long now that it’s almost become a bit of a music-interview trope to say that…

AD: I’d say… freely improvised electronic music, taking inspiration from such Scandinavian art/sound labels as Rune Grammaphon and Hubro.

AW: The Hubro label is a big one for both of us, we’re always swapping CDs of theirs between us. I love Morten Qvineld’s album Personal Piano, it kind of smushes together two really different worlds, mixing quite gristly lo-fi texture-based stuff with hooky almost-pop elements. I like that he’s not afraid to make music that’s 'pretty' as well as challenging, often within the same track; I think that’s an idea we’re striving towards with ELDA. Soundwise I’d say we definitely take inspiration from groups like Supersilent and Food.

LJN: How much of Shiny/Things was pre-composed and how much created in the moment? And how will the live gigs compare to what one hears on the CD?

AD: We approached the recording a bit differently to how we had performed together before, which was pretty much plug-in and play. We had recorded an EP previously in 2015 and were conscious not to gravitate to the same sounds in the making of Shiny/Things. We put together a bunch of short composed sketches that we could use as platforms for collective improvisation and some of them made it through to the final album.

On the gigs that followed the recording of Shiny/Things we would allow some of that material to creep into our sets whilst playing, be it a melodic line or chordal pattern, but there were no ‘tunes’ added to a setlist.

AW: I would say every gig will be different! We have our Sheffield acoustic gig, in Leeds we’re doing a brand new double-trio collaboration with the incredible Treppenwitz, and our Birmingham and Oswestry sets might feature some very special guests (watch this space…)  We’ll revisit some of the album material on this tour, but will be doing some new stuff too.

LJN: Might there be another album as a result of the tour?

AW: There aren’t any studio plans this time around, but we’ll be recording the gigs (especially the new collaborations) so you never know!

Me and Aaron are always cooking up the next ELDA plans though, we recently premiered a new collaboration with mbira player Millicent Chapanda and vocalist Didier Kisala at Ideas of Noise Festival in August 2018. They brought a much more direct, groove-based energy to the band and we’d love to explore that more.

AD: We also recently spent an afternoon in the studio with Chris Mapp and Sam Wooster, and their expansive electronic set-ups. We’re sifting through the sessions with the same approach to our last two sessions with Kari, with a view to put another record out in the year sometime along with some live shows. (pp)

ELDA, featuring Kari Eskild Havenstrøm's Shiny/Things is out now. The band is playing the following dates:

7 March: Notes and Sounds, Sheffield
8 March: Open Source Arts, Leeds
10 March: Hermon Chapel Arts Centre, Oswestry
11 March: Improv's Greatest Hits, Bristol
12 March: The Lamp Tavern, Birmingham
13 March: The Vortex, London
14 March: The Noise Upstairs, Manchester

LINK: Andrew Woodhead's website 

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CD REVIEW: Jim Mullen – Volunteers



Jim Mullen – Volunteers
(Diving Duck DDRCD027 – CD review by Mark McKergow) <

Veteran Scottish guitar virtuoso Jim Mullen returns in great form with this cracking CD featuring his ‘dream project’ – a nine-piece all-star line-up performing nine originals and standards with arrangements by flautist Gareth Lockrane.

Following a seriously debilitating illness which took him off the scene for most of 2017, Mullen is back on the bandstand at the head of his new Volunteers outfit. How he assembled this group is not clear, but whatever call went out has clearly received an enthusiastic response – the cream of the UK’s jazz talent put their hands up, and so this CD offers the chance to hear a superb range of soloing. Coherence to bring the group together comes from the new arrangements from Gareth Lockrane, who also provides flute and alto flute which adds to the other horns in giving a full and up-beat tone to the proceedings.

The opening track Medication shows Mullen’s finely honed skills at constructing a melody in the hard bop style, bouncing along and tumbling into a fine flute solo from Lockrane. The leader follows with his own solo, the rich thumb-picking tone to the fore as always, with the band setting up some nice backing figures and interludes before Mark Nightingale strides to the mic with his trombone showing urgency and energy. Tristan Maillot takes some drum solo interjections with the band again stabbing away – Lockrane has clearly worked hard on using the band’s resources to the full.

This very much sets the tone for what is to come, with each track carefully worked and giving space for some impressive solos. When I Fall In Love is taken in a loping 5/8 time which works splendidly, the flowing lines underpinned by the burbling bass clarinet of Julian Siegel, whose voice comes to the fore on several of the tunes. Steve Fishwick is typically smooth and elliptical on flugelhorn and trumpet, then the spotlight swings onto Gareth Williams’ rich and stretching piano soloing. Mullen’s Spare Change follows, its bluesy swaggering piano introduction leading into an ensemble that sounds much larger than nine voices strong. Julian Siegel appears here on tenor sax, effectively shouting from the upper registers as the band clicks along behind him.

Rodgers and Hart’s Spring Is Here is given an outing with an upbeat Latin reading, Lockrane’s flute taking the theme over band harmonies, Mick Hutton’s double bass holding down the swinging beat. Alan Barnes steps forward on Smart Money for a squalling turn on alto saxophone which contrasts nicely with Mullens ever-clear guitar sounds. Back In The Day, a tune from US keyboard player Larry Goldings, is nicely groovy in a Theme from Taxi kind of way with more delicious bass clarinet and another fine trombone solo.

My wife put her head around the door while I was listening to this album and exclaimed “Ooh, that’s happy music!” And she’s right – a thoroughly optimistic tone prevails throughout. Following a sell-out launch gig at Ronnie Scott’s (with Nigel Hitchcock subbing for Alan Barnes – a fair swap in anyone’s book), Mullen is hoping to take the band on the road so that the rest of the country can catch this jam-packed treat of top jazz talent. In the meantime, get the album – it’s a very good listen with the feelgood factor and a great deal to enjoy.

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CD REVIEW: Carsten Hein – This



Carsten Hein – This
(Unit Records. CDreview by Rob Mallows)


I first came across German bassist Carsten Hein playing on Taken from the Skies by Marcus Klossek. In my review of that album, I described him as the ’secret sauce’ lifting that album above the ordinary.

What would he be like in his own band, when his hand is on the tiller, I wondered? Based on this output, a skilled navigator of contemporary European jazz sensibilities.

He’s supported on this album by drummer Bernd Oezsevim, reeds player Eldar Tsalikov, keyboardist Hendrik Stiller and trumpeter Johaness Böhmer. Upon first listening, I had a vague sense-memory of the group dynamic heard on Jasper Høiby’s Fellow Creatures a few years back, which was a good sign.

The first cut is Unter Pinien (under pine trees), which starts with a single bass note held with heroic sustain, over which Oezsevim's drums slowly but inexorably draw up to full height. This opener shows a group that’s modern in outlook, laid-back about tempo and studiously avoids cliché.

The clarinet is something of a rarity these days in jazz, but in Tsalikov’s hands it has a sufficient raspiness to make its presence felt. It would normally be a sound I steer clear of, but alongside the caramel trumpet of Böhmer, it’s sharp edges added a contrasting flavour to the sound, the musical equivalent of a lick of salt after a tequila

On a track like Alpha Hydri, the clarinet’s squeaky presence comes into its own, as Tsalikov ruminates over a limpid-stream-like piano while duelling with Böhmer’s trumpet, over which Hein’s languid bass hums, each note being given all the space to breathe it needs. This is the slowest tempo track: it inches along at the pace of spilt water on a tabletop, Tsalikov’s clarinet squawking as the trumpet slowly takes over the tune, amid subtle cymbal work from Oezsevim.

Fifth track Recon represents a change of pace and mood. It's more urgent; a touch of funk – but not too much – is bled in through Stiller’s electric piano and Hein’s hypnotically impressive groove, which stop suddenly, allowing Böhmer and Oezsevim a minute to just duke it out, shirts off. Both players win.

Ocean’s Song is restorative, each piano note picked out and laid down carefully by Stiller with all the patience and craft of someone building a pyramid from a pack of cards. Underneath, Hein’s picking and muting provides a dry counterpoint, until the track opens out into a lovely trumpet solo, bringing to mind a playful Mathias Eick.

As a bassist, Hein doesn’t over-play on this album and gives space to his band: his first solo doesn’t come until two thirds into the second track. He’s the sort of player, evidently, who would offer the last biscuit on the plate to the other musicians before taking it himself. He’s willing to take risks, with tracks you won’t find on radio: Maximaltoleranz explores some marginal voicing and themes which unsettle, before resolving into a warm piano solo.

When Hein does solo, his electric bass has a pure tone. His playing is unfussy and always serves the needs of the song. On 604,22, his bass in the second half is all about drive and propulsion, steadiness in contrast to the sax and clarinet whirling around in a vortex of passing notes and squeaks. As for the overall mix, it felt a little thin, like it could benefit from a filled out lower register to make the sound more lush, but that’s a very minor quibble.

So, well worth a listen. While there’s nothing particularly ground-breaking here – yet – there is plenty to grab the ear and keep the listener interested to the end.

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CD REVIEW: Ronnie Cuber – Straight Street



Ronnie Cuber – Straight Street
(SteepleChase SCCD 31860. Review by Peter Vacher)

US baritone-saxophonist Ronnie Cuber is a kind of first responder in jazz: up for anything, it seems. As likely to be seen fronting a quartet as in this 2010 recording or soloing with the Mingus Big Band at Ronnie Scott’s or, indeed, working with Latin bandleaders like Eddie Palmieri and making the New York session scene. He has toured with Aretha Franklin and the R&B saxophonist King Curtis and taken his place in big bands led by Lionel Hampton and Woody Herman. So, you could say, to paraphrase an old headline, that when Cuber plays, he embodies the totality of the jazz experience. All jazz life is here. In other words, he is recognized as one of the leading proponents of his sometimes cumbersome instrument, as good for a full-on live set like this one as for a stand-up solo in a big band.

Here he’s teamed with a very lively rhythm section starring the mercurial pianist George Colligan, on fire throughout, with bassist Cameron Brown, always steady, and drummer Joe Farnsworth, another luminary of the New York scene. They open with Groovin’ High, its familiar shape like a launch pad for an extended extemporization by the gruff-toned Cuber, then 69 years of age and full of vim as he doubtless is still, the flow of ideas quite unquenchable. Whether these are all cogent and pertinent is a matter of opinion, of course, his very prolixity as much a barrier as a benefit. Colligan, on the other hand, impresses at every point, with his exciting, Peterson-like facility, and a level of keyboard fecundity that explains his popularity with leaders like Cuber and so many others. They move on to Miles’ Mode by John Coltrane, a fast-moving post-bop piece that induces some of Cuber’s most adventurous harmonic forays and allows Colligan to unleash his inner-McCoy Tyner, the energy quite palpable, the outcomes exhilarating, as Cuber deploys the top end of the baritone’s range, nearer to Coltrane himself than Gerry Mulligan, say, ever was.

As sleeve-note writer Neil Tesser says, "the muse of Coltrane hovered close on this particular gig" with two more Coltrane themes each given a lengthy exploration. The counterbalance to all this advanced playing comes with a ballad reading of Summertime and the rather lovely Gloria’s Steps by Scott Lafaro.

So a strong set revealing Cuber’s mastery of the idiom and of his instrument, his harmonic propensities unfettered as is his technique. Clearly something of a SteepleChase favourite, Cook and Morton cite Cuber’s sound as ‘gruff and monstrous’ at times and I’d add porcine, too: Colligan, though, can do no wrong. Quite why it has taken nine years for the recording to emerge on to CD is unexplained. Good sound.

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NEWS: Finalists announced in 2019 Jazz World Photo competition (Trutnov, Czech Republic)

Roscoe Mitchell (foreground) and Don Moye. Berlin 2018
Photo credit and © Ralf Dombrowski
Sebastian writes:

The jurors of the 2019 Jazz World Photo competition have announced the 30 finalists, out of a total of 353 entrants. The winners will be announced on 23 March 2019 at the Jazzinec Festival in Trutnov, Czech Republic.

We at LJN are particularly pleased to see the name of our regular contributor RALF DOMBROWSKI among the finalists. He was chosen for his picture of Roscoe Mitchell (above). Describing the photo, Ralf writes: "The photo was taken at the rehearsal for the Art Ensemble's concert during Jazzfest Berlin 2018. I was hopping around between chairs because I really wanted to get Don in the background... luckily it worked out."

The link below is to a photo gallery displaying all of the shortlisted entries.

The finalists come from the following countries: Italy (9), Poland (5), France (4),Ukraine (2), Austria (2) and Germany, Argentina, Turkey,Chile, US, Greece, Slovenia, Czech Republic (1 each)

The competition was set up by Patrick Marek in 2013. Pictures have to have been taken during the calendar year prior to the competition. Past winners were: Didier Jallais, France (2014 and 2018), Andrea Rotili, Italy (2015), Marion Tisserand, France (2016), Oleg Panov (2017). The shortlisted pictures constitute a touring exhibition, and the winners receive a trophy designed by Jan Činčera

LIST OF 2019 FINALISTS

Adriano Bellucci
Gérard Boisnel
Mariusz Buczma
Roberto Cifarelli
Arturo Di Vita
Ralf Dombrowski
Serhiy Horobets
Jiří Hrbek
Aleksandra Kasztalska
Marcin Masalski
Adriana Mateo
Flavia Matta
William Monaco
Resul Muslu
Sandro Niboli
Sascha Osaka
Oleg Panov (past winner)
Sobiesław Pawlikowski
Didier Peron
Jože Požrl
Pablo Reyes
Rainer A. Rygalyk
Don Saban
Fabrizio Sodani
Antonio Sollazzo
Didier Taberlet
Pierre Vignacq
Kostas Voultsidis
Jaroslaw Wierzbicki
Alessandro Ziantoni

LINK: World Jazz Photo site with  photo gallery and details of all the 2019 finalists

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FEATURE/INTERVIEW: John Turville (new album Head First out 22 Feb, and touring)

John Turville
Photo Credit: Rob Blackham
The pianist John Taylor, who died three and a bit years ago, left behind not only a discography of great recordings and a fine catalogue of compositions, but also a band of disciples in his former students. John Fordham singles out the most admired of that cohort, JOHN TURVILLE, who  has a new album out and is touring it around the UK.  

When the great British pianist John Taylor died suddenly at 72 on a concert in France in 2015, shock and sadness at the loss of this most wittily diffident of master musicians reverberated all over the jazz world, across Europe and beyond. Taylor was not only a byzantine but vividly accessible improviser – deservedly regarded as being in a league alongside his own early heroes Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner – but also a composing original who could bridge jazz and modern-classical methods in pieces that challenged improvisers with fascinating choices, whilst remaining as seductive as good songs.

Taylor left a unique body of work behind, but also – like such piano inspirations as Evans, Hancock, Tyner, and Keith Jarrett – a new generation of creatively liberated young devotees. John Turville, the 39 year-old Nottingham-raised pianist/composer and educator, is one of the most assured, admired, and versatile of Taylor’s student flock. He studied classical music at Cambridge University, and then jazz at London’s Guildhall in the early 2000s, and has worked widely as a sideman and teacher – but his new album Head First is only his third as a leader. On the evidence of this idiomatically varied and beautifully-played venture, Turville has made creative leaps in both the breadth of his repertoire and the richness of his ensemble sound – now fully exploring the classic small-band jazz format of a brass and reeds-led quintet, with no less a luminary than Loose Tubes co-founder and long-time John Taylor sidekick Julian Arguelles on saxophones.

The programme embraces the riffy, percussive Fall Out (once a big-format arrangement from the pianist’s work with Walthamstow’s E17 workshop band), the cinematic, free-jazzy Seahorses, the bright samba of the Fred Hersch-inspired title track, the English rural calm of the Tayloresque Ennerdale, and affectionate homages to two personal favourites, Buenos Aires modern-tango composer Diego Schissi, and Brazilian guitarist Toninho Horta. Head First launches with a 15-date UK tour this month.

John Turville is an enthusiast, and it shows in the irrepressible eagerness with which he will discuss anything and everything musical, from the influence of French composers Olivier Messiaen or Maurice Ravel on postbop harmonic conceptions, to Joe Henderson and the 1960s Blue Note hard bop sound, or the connecting tissue between Bill Evans and Thelonious Monk in the work of another big personal influence, the great American pianist Fred Hersch. The title for Head First is a playful juggle with Hersch’s name, but the starting point for this new phase in John Turville’s career was the Jazz Piano Summit in Taylor’s honour at London’s Southbank in September 2015. The gig had been booked as a showcase for Taylor himself, and some of his favourite pianists including the German prodigy Michael Wollny, and Britain’s Gwilym Simcock. In the event, it turned out to be a valediction, performed in solos and duos by eight Taylor-influenced pianists in all, including Turville.

"I wrote a piece for the Summit I called A Perfect Foil," Turville recalls, "which referred to a tune of John’s just called Foil, based on a 12-tone row. It got me thinking about doing some more writing – not just to explore that blend of jazz swing and chamber-music that John played so well, but also perhaps to reflect my own ways of mixing all the stuff I liked, the French classical thing, the Blue Note bebop thing, Brazilian samba and Argentinian tango, John’s and Kenny Wheeler’s influences, and so on. Then Julian came into the picture, who was so close to John and Kenny. I’d already had a play with him with the bassist Dave Manington and drummer Tim Giles, which he was nice enough to say was the most musical thing he’d done in a while. So I wrote some new pieces, asked Julian to join me and was in a dream when he accepted, and brought in Robbie Robson on trumpet, who I’d known since my Guildhall days."

John Turville Quintet
Photo Credit: Rob Blackham
With Dave Whitford on bass and James Maddren on drums, the quintet met for two days in April 2017, at the Artesuono Studio in Udine, where Turville had recorded his 2009 trio album Midas. If the leader had had any doubts about how new material and a new band might gel, they soon vanished.

"The vibe was there from the start," Turville reports with feeling. "The place, the piano, the wonderful engineer Stefano Amerio, and above all the musicians. Julian can hear the Taylor harmonies in my writing, and responds to them as he’d done so unbelievably well in his amazing duo with John, and though he and Robbie – who has both a Kenny Wheeler and Miles vibe to his sound – play completely differently, they both have incredible ears and play some wonderful improvised counterpoint together. I can’t wait to get on the road with them all, playing all those back-to-back gigs for a fortnight, sharing all the ways they’ll develop this music as we go.’

John Turville’s Head First is out on Whirlwind Recordings on 22 February 2019. The quintet tours the UK until 9 March.

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REVIEW: Mike Westbrook Uncommon Orchestra at Ronnie Scott's

The Uncommon Orchestra in Birmingham in 2017
Photo credit: © John Watson/jazzcamera.co.uk
Mike Westbrook Uncommon Orchestra
(Ronnie Scott’s, 12 February 2019. Review by Richard Lee)

First, let’s clear the air: i) this is going to be one of those jazz reviews that finds no fault; ii) Mike Westbrook is our greatest living composer/arranger. Don’t even begin to discuss. Because in this scintillating but all-too-rare metropolitan performance by the Uncommon Orchestra, revisiting key moments in the Westbrook catalogue, we heard a lifetime project to take the thing called jazz and make it a truly English thing. Mike has taken the American tradition, melding it with European influences from cabaret, folk song, rock (more XTC than R’n’B), Victorian poetry and Dada. His arrangements of Ellington, Rossini and Weill have a peculiarly English sound, which manifests itself most powerfully in his settings of William Blake. But he also gathers round him English musicians that deliver world-class playing. Most of the Orchestra are gathered from Mike & Kate’s home area in the South West, and while they may not be household names, they are clearly among England’s Finest. What was clear from the start was how at home this massive band was on the Frith Street stage. (24 must be one of the biggest line-ups at the Club). I saw them at King’s Place when they launched A Bigger Show and, spectacular though that was, a real buzz and energy were palpable tonight.

Commencing with a pair of “roll-up, roll-up” pieces from 2016’s A Bigger Show, the Uncommon Orchestra announced itself with gusto. The ever dependable Kate Westbrook, John Winfield, Martine Waltier and Billie Bottle drove the powerful choral presence in Gizzards All Gory, enjoining us as “Friends!” but finding a darker tone in the following Juxtapositions with its “disasters yet to come”.

Winfield led on Long John Brown and Little Mary Bell which sure has developed from its first outings, here gaining even more poignancy with Dominique Pifarély’s plangent violin. The most English of arrangers then gave us Brazilian Love Songs layered in Mingus-like arrangements giving way to the most Latin Latin I’ve heard in ages from non-Latin players, followed by the first of Jesse Molins’ tremendous guitar solos, and then to a Surabya-esque vocal outro from Kate: a veritable world tour in one number. The beautiful Tender Love & Bebop de Rigeur from Citadel/Room 315 featured the phenomenal Roz Harding on alto. She is such a powerful, confident player, easily holding her own with regular Westbrook reeds Alan Wakeman & Pete Whyman who themselves played magnificently throughout. I really enjoyed the use of Marcus Vergette’s stand-up and Billie Bottle’s electric bass in unison, and while Mike focused on conducting tonight, was equally impressed with Billie’s terrific work, depping at the keys. The first set closed with Lu Me Sceccu, because Mike was “determined we’d play some Italian folk songs” on last year’s tour to revisit Catania, the release of which eponymous album (recorded in 1992) was what we were celebrating tonight. Quite right too…

A re-working of Ellington’s Tulip or Turnip gave one of the younger members of the band, trombonist Samuel Chamberlain-Keen, an opening to shine. And then came Alabama Song, versions of which I’ve enjoyed in a variety of forms from Kate & Mike over many years; but I think we reached peak-Weill here. Perhaps it was Graham Russell’s horn solo, followed by stalwart Dave Holdsworth’s sprightly pocket trumpet (all the more theatrical while he’s entwined in his sousaphone); perhaps it was the arrangement, the most sumptuous ever; or was it Kate out-Lotte-ing Lenya? Whatever: it felt like a whole musical in itself, demonstrating that Mike is one of the finest theatre arrangers.

OK, so in this most English of bands, there’s one French musician here and violinist Dominique Pifarély took centre-stage in D.T.T.M, a number re-worked by Mike from On Duke’s Birthday for his beautiful Paris solo album. How delightful to hear it here in Dominique’s sensitive hands. His slow blues propelled by that ever-powerful choir was deeply moving, hugely appreciated by a really warm, thankfully entirely non-corporate audience. Billie Bottle took the lead on another Bigger Show number, the textually bleak but musically fulsome Gas, Dust, Stone, notable for another time-splintering solo from Roz Harding while Coach York fearlessly drove the 12/8 from the kit.  As Ellington’s messenger on earth, Mike gave Alan Wakeman room to stretch out on tenor in Strayhorn’s Something To Live For, while Pete Whyman’s alto & Dick Pearce’s trumpet led the charge in a thundering Graffiti from The Cortège.

The evening ended with “a couple of English pieces” as Mike termed McCartney’s Golden Slumbers, John Clare’s The Toper’s Rant and I See Thy Form from the 1982 Westbrook Blake. In between, they took the William Tell Gallop at a heady pace which even had the usually indifferent waiters bopping behind the bar. But the English pieces were each, in their own way, the kind of anthems we need right now, delivered with such depth of emotion. A wonderful uplifting way to end a unique show.

Why on earth, in the 50th anniversary year of Abbey Road a major concert hall isn’t snapping up the Westbrook Off Abbey Road beggars belief. England’s Finest? I think my use of “English” throughout is too restrictive. The Westbrook Project travels the world for its sources (see The Cortège) and, in that, is a truly European one: outward-facing, co-operative, collaborative - and before you @ me – audiences for this band last year mustered thousands, not hundreds, in Sicily & Italy. Of course Ronnie’s was completely packed but where are the UK audiences for jazz in their thousands…? Mike is a prophet in his own land, shamefully ignored, hugely treasured by those who know.

The evening started with an uncomfortable apology for not presenting Mike at Ronnie’s more; Mike in his turn generously ended the evening saying what a joy it was to play the club, and how ever grateful he was to Ronnie who gave him his first gig. So we went home thinking of "yesterday", but like the upcoming movie of that name, where a musician finds himself in a world that never knew the Beatles, I imagine a world where we all wake up after a power-cut and whenever you type “jazz” or “music” into your web-browser, it comes back with “Mike Westbrook” as its first hit.

UNCOMMON ORCHESTRA

Mike Westbrook - piano
Kate Westbrook, John Winfield, Martine Waltier, Billie Bottle - vocalists
Coach York - drums
Marcus Vergette - double bass
Alan Wakeman, Pete Whyman, Rosalind Harding, Sarah Dean, Ian Wellens - saxes
Stuart Brooks, Graham Russell, Dave Holdsworth, Dick Pearce, Sam Massey - trumpets
Stewart Stunell, Joe Carnell, Ashley Nayler, Samuel Chamberlain-Keen- trombones
Jesse Molins, Matt North - guitars
Dominique Pifarély - violin

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INTERVIEW: Ariel J Ramos (The Jazz Standards Progressions Book and mDecks.com)

Jazz Standards Progressions Book
Publicity Photo Front Cover

“Without music, life would be a mistake.” US musicians Ariel J Ramos and Mario Cerra quote Nietzsche on their educational website, mDecks.com. The two have developed The Jazz Standards Progressions Book, with chords, scales and analyses of over 1000 tunes. (Available in Concert, Bb and Eb versions, as PDFs or paperbacks). Alison Bentley emailed Ariel. 

LondonJazz News: Can you tell us about your musical background?

Ariel J Ramos: We both went to Berklee College of Music in Boston. Mario graduated with a degree in performance (saxophone) and I have a degree in Film Scoring. We have always loved and played jazz. I have written music for independent films, TV, chamber music and jazz ensembles, while Mario has concentrated more on performing. I think our different points of view, mine being more harmonic and Mario’s more melodic, was a great combination when we analyzed the jazz standards.

LJN How did the mDecks organisation come about?

AJR: mDecks was founded in 2008. I had been teaching music for many years at the time, and had developed a few “tricks” and methods to teach harmony and improvisation which were really effective when trying to explain some of the concepts; such as a map to explain harmony and graphing scales over the circle of fifths to explain modes and upper structure triads. Since I had studied computer science before becoming a full-time musician, I thought it would be a great idea to turn those methods into apps and books that other teachers and students could use.

LJN: How did you choose which tunes to include?

AJR: Since we used our Mapping Tonal Harmony app as a tool to create the analyses, we were limited to tonal progressions, although we expanded the options of chords and chord-scales quite a lot to fit all the borrowing from other modes that occur in a jazz tune. We took the harmonic concepts represented in the map as far as possible to allow the analyses of many tunes that try to escape the boundaries of tonality. A typical example would be the use of a 1 7 as a tonic, which you see in blues progressions all the time. We chose the tunes based on the Real Book volumes.

LJN: What level of jazz musicians are the books aimed at? Could a beginner use them?

AJR: These are books for intermediate to advanced players who are used to reading from a lead sheet, understand chord changes and have played quite a few jazz tunes. Also, a beginner might immediately interpret the chord-scales included in the analyses as something they must play when improvising, which is not at all the intention of having them included in the analysis. An advanced jazz player will know these (the chord-scales) are extensions of the chord symbols, indicating the amount of tension created by the different notes based on the current harmonic function.

LJN: You demonstrate ideas on piano in your YouTube videos. Can other instrumentalists use the books too?

AJR: Mainly because I am a piano player, but any instrumentalist can benefit from the analyses. Even arrangers and composers will find them extremely useful. I think it is crucial to understand and hear harmony from a functional perspective. In tonality, every chord implies a harmonic function. This creates a certain amount of tension, and tendencies which are best understood when we analyze the chord in relationship to the key of the moment.

LJN: I like the way you have everything together on the same page! Can you explain a bit about how you’ve done that? (I imagine visual learners would find your graphics especially helpful.)

AJR: We created the analyses using the map in Mapping Tonal Harmony Pro, which organizes the entire set of harmonic functions based on fundamental harmonic rules. Using the app you can input the chords, from the map, as functions (not as chord symbols.) Every function is associated with a chord and a chord-scale. You have to decide which function best represents a chord. The app then creates the chart, finding important cadences and bass-lines that are essential in a well-constructed harmonic progression. All these cadences are represented by the standard arrows and brackets symbolism used in many jazz harmony books. Yes, symbols are a great device to see right away what’s going on in a progression.

LJN: You’ve also brought out the Jazz Standards Progressions Book Reharmonised. Could you tell us how you’ve done that?

AJR: The re-harmonizations were created using standard re-harmonization techniques, such as substitutions, borrowing from minor, interpolating secondary functions, etc. The re-harmonizations are mostly a way of offering the player an alternative version of a standard that derives from the original, works harmonically and at the same time gives the player the opportunity to play the same standards using a fresh harmonic progression.

LJN: In your videos you recommend we “consider the melody as much as you can.” Do you have any plans to bring the books out with melodies included?

AJR: We would love to include the melodies but it is really hard (not to mention costly) to get the rights from the proper copyright owners. Hopefully, in the future, we might be able to afford it. In the videos we mention melodies, because when creating the analyses we were always considering what the melody was doing, to decide which was the best functional analysis.

LJN: The charts also come as XML files to be imported into your Mapping Tonal Harmony Pro app and can be used as backing tracks. Is the app part of the package or bought separately?

AJR: The app is independent from the book. Users of the app can just get the XML files, which include all the same Jazz Standards, and then view them and play them from within the app, without the need to have the PDF version of the book. Of course, loading the XML files into Mapping Tonal Harmony gives the user the chance to interact with the analyses using all the features included in the app, from the play along, to the voicings panel, the map, etc.

LJN: Your apps are for iPad and Macs but I only have Windows and Android! Can I adapt them?

AJR: At the moment the apps ore only for macOS and iOS, but we are working on the Android and Windows versions of the apps. (pp)

LINK: The Jazz Standards Progressions Book and the apps are available at mDecks.com

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REVIEW: Thrill Festival 2019 (Scottish and Belgian musicians in Edinburgh)

Michel Michel Massot of Mâäk Quintet on sousaphone
Photo credit Patrick Hadfield

Thrill Festival 
(Various venues in Edinburgh. 7-9 February 2019. Review by Patrick Hadfield)

In the otherwise gloomy days of mid-February, the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival and Visit Brussels decided to brighten things up by programming a three day festival in Edinburgh featuring Scottish and Belgian musicians. Each bill featured bands from each country or collaborations between the two.

Irini Arabatzi
Photo credit: Patrick Hadfield


On the first night, the Jazz Bar featured one such collaboration, the Thrill! Sextet - three young musicians from each country, working together for the first time. This was their second gig - they debuted recently in Brussels. Mark Hendry, a familiar face to Edinburgh audiences playing double bass, lead the band jointly with Belgian reeds-player Tom Bourgeois; together they provided the tunes. The music was engaging and assured. Irini Arabatzi provided mostly wordless vocals, her voice soaring and shining like another horn. The one piece with lyrics, Bourgeois' Familiar Note had spoken as well as sung words as Arabatzi narrated a tale of alienation as if she were describing a Hopper painting. The other musicians were similarly adept. Joining Bourgeois on tenor was Sylvain Debaisieux, who made his sax scream. Drummer Stephen Henderson was playing better than I'd seen him, both forceful and subtle. Together, the sextet sounded like they'd been together much longer than a month or so - and I hope this is the start of a long productive relationship. They were followed by Mâäk Quintet, who were something else. Featuring four horns and a drummer, there was a ferocious anarchic streak running through their music. Providing the foundation was Michel Massot's serpentine sousaphone; it towered over the musicians. Whilst Massot worked hard on the bassline, Samuel Ber's drumming was frenetic but precise: full of energy, he drove the other musicians, pushing them harder and harder.

The three frontline horns were lead by trumpeter Laurent Blondiau, who directed the band. He used a variety of mutes on his trumpet, bending the sound. The saxophones - Jeroen Van Herzeele on tenor and Grégoire Tirtiaux on alto - were impassioned, screaming and soaring. The music the Mâäk Quintet created was exciting and felt risky, balanced on the edge of chaos but never quite crossing the line.

Grégoire Tirtiaux, Laurent Blondiau, Jeroen Van Herzeele
Photo credit: Patrick Hadfield


The following night marked the first show of a new partnership between EJ&BF, Creative Scotland, City of Edinburgh Council and the Scottish Government, who together have established the St Brides Centre as a space for jazz all year round. A converted church, it has seen gigs before, but its relaunch marks a new venture, and one that bodes well for Edinburgh's music scene. Fittingly, the first set was by one of Scotland's most exciting young bands, Graham Costello's STRATA; it was also the first night of their short tour celebrating the release of their new CD, Obelisk. St Brides is a larger space than I'd seen them in before, but it suited their full sound, somewhere between electric jazz, classical minimalism and progressive rock. Maybe with a bit of psychedelia thrown in for good measure.

Mark Hendry - this time on electric bass - filled the hall with sounds like an organ. Joe Williamson's guitar chopped and shimmered, sometimes drone-like, whilst his solos provided a gentle break. Saxophonist Harry Weir provided emotional depth with his soulful solos. Behind it all, Costello's high energy drumming and Fergus McCreadie's repetitive piano patterns drove the music along. They played without pause, barely leaving time for the audience to show their appreciation before moving onto the next theme, and without introducing the tunes, all written by Costello. Watching STRATA is an intense and exhilarating experience, full of contrasts.

Another drummer-lead ensemble, Belgium's Antoine Pierre URBEX played the second set. Starting from a similar point as STRATA, their sound was a lot cooler and, at times, impressionistic or abstract. The music was a slow-burner, ending up with the appropriately named Closing Off being full of frantic guitar and an angular, jagged sound. Jean-Paul Estiévenart's trumpet had an open, spacey sound, reminiscent of Tomasz Stanko. Drummer Antoine Pierre's band ends up sounding like avant garde post bop, with quirky time signatures belying a strong groove.

The last day of the festival - dubbed "Saxturday" in honour of Adolphe Sax, the Belgian-born inventor of the saxophone - saw another Scottish-Belgian double bill at St Brides. The Colin Steele Quintet opened the show. Steele is no stranger to Edinburgh audiences, but his soulful, folk-infused melodies are always welcome. The set covered several years of his repertory, starting with I Will Wait For You from good most recent CD and working backwards to an extended suite, Down to the Wire, originally commissioned by Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival more than a decade ago. His tunes are lively but hint at a deep Celtic melancholy. The quintet is comprised of Scottish jazz stars: Konrad Wisniewski played some blistering, bluesy tenor whilst also evoking Highland pipes; bassist Calum Gourlay, making one of his frequent visits back to Scotland, is always welcome for his warm, lyrical playing; drum star Alyn Cosker. And at the heart of the band, Steele's long term collaborator Dave Milligan played some forceful but elegant piano solos, and was particularly elegaic on Steele's romantic tune Bacharach on Lochwinnoch.

Toine Thys Trio featuring Hervé Samb
Photo credit: Patrick Hadfield


The second set was courtesy of the Toine Thys Trio featuring Hervé Samb, which, for the avoidance of doubt, made it a quartet. With Arno Krijger providing a funky groove on the Hammond B3 organ and Hervé Samb adding a slinky, choppy touch of Afrobeat with his guitar. The organ sound brought to mind 1970s soundtracks and late nights in smokey basements. Toine Thys played tenor and soprano, the notes cascading from the horn.

It's hard not to put the collaboration between Scotland and Belgium that produced such musical highlights in the context of the political backdrop. Brexit risks make such enterprises far more difficult to produce, as freedom of movement to and from Britain has restrictions placed on it. The benefits of working with others – the cross-fertilisation of ideas – were plain to see at the Thrill Festival.

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

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NEWS: Cheltenham Jazz Festival programme announced (1-6 May 2019)

Joshua Redman
Photo: © Jay Blakesberg
Peter Bacon reports:

The line-up for this year’s Cheltenham Jazz Festival (1-6 May 2019), one of the biggest outside London, has been announced, and although the move from serious jazz to its pop relations continues to leaven the offering, there is still enough to keep all but the most curmudgeonly happy.

Leading the jazz vanguard this year are pianist Fred Hersch and Joshua Redman, and Abdullah Ibrahim with Ekaya, Scandinavian piano trio Rymden, The Bad Plus and John Surman, John Warren and the Brass Project Live. Then there are Dan Weiss’s Starebaby, Nikki Yeoh and Zoe Rahman, Partisans, Rachel Musson, Michael Formanek’s Elusion Quartet, David Sanborn’s Acoustic Band, the Hanna Paulsberg Concept and Hermia Ceccaldi Darrifourcq.

As usual, many of these performances will be held in the terrific but not huge Parabola Arts Centre, part of Cheltenham Ladies’ College, so early booking is advised. Opening the Paraboloa sessions is a particularly intriguing trio of Soweto Kinch, Andreas Schaerer and Kalle Kalima.

Charenee Wade
Publicity picture
Now named as Associate Curator, Jamie Cullum will be appearing, as will his successor in the Artistic Curator role, Gregory Porter. According to the festival’s press release, Porter’s choices in the line-up include Charenee Wade, Alina Engibaryan and Kandace Springs.

DJ Gilles Peterson is presenting a fine selection from the youthful UK scene including Nubya Garcia, Vula Viel, Alfa Mist, Vels Trio and Cherise Adams Burnett.

Moving towards the pop end of the programme, big names include Sergio Mendes, Swing Out Sister and Katy Melua, while the older demographic will be happy with Georgie Fame, especially as he has the Guy Barker Big Band for company, and Curtis Stigers with the Ronnie Scott’s Big Band.

Other notable gigs include: Incognito, Madeleine Peyroux, Omar Sosa & Yllian Cañizares, and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble.

Tickets go on sale to Members at 10am on Wednesday 27 February 2019 and on general sale from 10am on Wednesday 6 March 2019.

LINK: Cheltenham Jazz Festival website

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NEWS: 2019 JazzFM Awards Nominees Announced

Winners at the 2018 Awards
Photo from JazzFM
The nominations for the Jazz FM Awards 2019 are announced. (Full list below)

The Awards ceremony with live acts yet to be announced will take place at Shoreditch Town Hall on International Jazz Day (30 April). The hosts will be Chris Philips and Jez Nelson. Three awards, the PPL Lifetime Achievement Award, PRS For Music Gold Award and Impact Award recipients will be announced later.

Public voting is open now for three of the awards (listed and website link below), and will close on Monday 12 March 2019.

Full list of 2019 Nominees:

Breakthrough Act

Cassie Kinoshi
Emma-Jean Thackray
Sarah Tandy

The Digital Award with Oanda

Blue Lab Beats
Louis Cole
Moses Boyd - 1Xtra Residency

The Innovation Award with Mishcon de Reya

Orphy Robinson – Freedom Sessions at Vortex
Steam Down
Tomorrow’s Warriors

Instrumentalist of the Year

Camilla George
Jean Toussaint
Rob Luft

International Jazz Act of the Year with Lateralize

Jamie Branch
Makaya McCraven
Wayne Shorter

Soul Act of the Year

José James
Leon Bridges
Poppy Ajudha

Blues Act of the Year

Eric Bibb
Errol Linton
Roosevelt Collier

Vocalist of the Year

Cherise Adams-Burnett
Ian Shaw
Judi Jackson

UK Jazz Act of the Year (Public Vote) with Cambridge Audio

Jason Yarde
Joe Armon-Jones
Nubya Garcia

Album of the Year (Public Vote) with Arqiva

Charles Lloyd & The Marvels + Lucinda Williams – Vanished Gardens
Jean Toussaint Allstar 6Tet – Brother Raymond
John Coltrane – Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album
Sons of Kemet – Your Queen Is A Reptile
Various Artists – We Out Here
Wayne Shorter – Emanon

Live Experience of the Year (Public Vote)

Jason Moran: The Harlem Hellfighters – Tour
Jazz Re:Fest 2018: Brighton Edition
Makaya McCraven and Nubya Garcia – EFG London Jazz Festival
Orphy Robinson presents Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks – Tour
Steam Down featuring Kamasi Washington
The Cookers – Church of Sound




The Jazz FM Awards 2019 is a partnership between Jazz FM and Serious and is made possible with the support of PRS for Music, PPL, Shoreditch Town Hall, Mishcon de Reya, Lateralize, Cambridge Audio, British Airways, Arqiva, Oanda, Warsteiner, Savile Row Gin, Denbies and Yamaha UK.

LINK : JazzFM Awards website

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PREVIEW/INTERVIEW: Lara Jones of J. Frisco (Jazz North Presents Alt-Shift-J in Middlesbrough)

J. Frisco. L-R: Megan Roe – Guitar/Voice, Jemma Freese – Keys/FX/Voice
and Lara Jones – Saxophone/FX/Voice
One of the highlights of this weekend's Jazz North Presents Alt-Shift-J will be a set from the trio J. Frisco (The Crypt, 7pm, Saturday 16 February 2019). The band describes itself as an "avant-garde jazz trio featuring soprano saxophone, electric guitar, keyboards and vocals, creating improvised genre-fluid soundscapes and noise drawn from emotion, political, and gender issues." AJ Dehany, who will be attending the event, talked to Lara Jones:

LondonJazz News: You are a young trio of guitar, sax, electronics, vocals, samples, and you've just released your debut album Naked - how would you explain what you do? What is the essence of the mooted 'J Frisco Experience'?

Lara Jones: Well we say we make avant-garde jazz, others say it's jazz, experimental, film, electronic, ambient, noise... we get lots of different tags, but we're just about making music that responds to the world around us and love to explore new sounds where we can. Aha, the 'J Frisco Experience' – I guess this is something that can only be understood if you've seen us live... we're quite theatrical with our performance and assume this is what people mean!

LJN: The album in particular sets up a kind of opposition between the salty sweetness of the soprano sax and the darker textures alongside it – is this sort of textural yin-yang a conscious dynamic?

LJ: The contrasts we create in the music is definitely a conscious dynamic, particularly in the first album Naked, it was written/recorded in a time when we were frustrated at a lot of things, there's a polarisation in the music that was a polarisation we felt in ourselves at that time. We describe it as constantly being pulled under water and fighting to come back up above it...



LJN: The unperformed text accompanying previous ten-minute track Meditative encourages us to take a zen-like or yoga-like moment of stillness "in a world filled with constant noise". Is there a tension between this and the 'noise' elements of what you do, particularly with regard to the use of sampling on the album?

LJ: This track is absolutely about taking a moment of pause and reflection and to take in all the noise around us. I suppose much like our music, the world and its sounds are constantly changing and evolving and this track gives the listener and ourselves a chance to take it back to something minimal. Listening, really listening is the key!

LJN: What's your relationship with Jazz North? Do you see yourselves having a 'northern identity'? 

LJ: Jazz North have been incredibly supportive of us. We were Jazz North's Introduces Artist in 2017, this gave us the opportunity to play at lots of different Northern Jazz Festivals and hone our sound and performance. Ever since we feel we've become a part of this really beautiful northern scene of jazz/improvisation musicians. We met lots of other bands, musicians and promoters through this scheme and as a result we've had a a brilliant couple of years, performing and workshop leading! As individuals we are from all over and spend time in lots of different places but as a band we absolutely have a Northern identity we are really proud of. There are brilliant things happening up here and we couldn't be more grateful to Jazz North for their support.

LJN: Omg, right, so you collaborated with Archipelago! I'm going to see them next week at the Vortex (birthday present to self). The Archipelago J Frisco double trio 'superband' is a monumental collaboration. How was that, especially working with a 'rhythm section'? Will it be reprised/given a live treatment? Is this experimenting with expanded formats something you're keen to continue?

LJ: ARCHIFRISCO! I'm so glad you know about this! We actually originally met Archipelago at a Jazz North showcase; we fell in love with what they did... somewhere along the line they become our friends. We did a gig at the Basement in York put in by an amazing promoter Harkirit Boparari, where we were supporting Archipelago and at the end of their set, they got us up on stage to play with them; there was this really powerful connection that happened when we played together, one of those that can't really be described in words, it was unexpected too but beautiful! The wonderful Faye MacCalman decided to put us in for the Lancaster Jazz Festival Commission and we ended up getting it, so she wrote us a full set of music and we performed it... honestly we had the most amazing time doing it together and we've met since to record some of the material. We're gigging in Leeds at the Fusebox Festival in June and hopefully at Sage Gateshead, we're also looking to get all material recorded at released as an album if we can secure some funding!

We love collaboration and expanded formats is absolutely something we are keen to continue, both with our own set up and in future collaborations... we do love a good drummer!

LJN: What do you have planned for the Alt-J gig curated by Jazz North this weekend?

LJ: Soooo... we're planning to play some of our NEW material... we just recorded our second album. We're really really proud of this one and can't wait to share it with the world, hence playing some of the material before its release, haha! We're so excited for the gig on the weekend and look forward to seeing and working with all the other wonderful people.

LINKS: J Frisco website
Interview explaining the origin of the band's name
Jazz North Presents Alt-Shift-J in Middlesbrough

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NEWS: Leeds Jazz Festival line-up announced (18-21 July 2019)



Peter Bacon reports:

Headlining this year's Leeds Jazz Festival is saxophonist Andy Sheppard, who will be appearing with the Norwegian piano trio led by Espen Eriksen. Also on the bill is Sheppard's ECM stable-mate, Israeli pianist Shai Maestro who brings his trio with sometime Lee Konitz drummer Ziv Ravitz and Peruvian bassist Jorge Roeder.

Other festival highlights include:

The Electric Lady Big Band. This 16-piece, star-studded ensemble includes Laura Jurd, Yazz Ahmed, Nathaniel Facey and Iain Ballamy and will be playing jazz arrangments by guitarist Denny Ilett inspired by Gil Evans' reworkings of Jimi Hendrix tunes in the 1970s. The result? Electric Ladyland as you've never heard it before.

A Jazz Celebration of Windrush. Pianist Trevor Watkis's musical retrospective of the jazz trumpeter Dizzy Reece and the lasting impression of the Windrush generation on the UK jazz scene, with an Anglo-American band.

Young UK bandleaders in the form of pianist Sarah Tandy, saxophonist Leo Richardson and double bassist Misha Mullov-Abbado.

Leeds' place in the music is celebrated with a 90th birthday party for drummer and bandleader Ronnie Bottomley; a film about the late trumpeter Richard Turner; the premiere of a new album by trombonist Kevin Holborough; and Simon Thackray's Mrs Boyes Bingo which promises prize bingo with simultaneous drumming disruption from Mark Sanders and John Edwards...

Early Bird tickets are now on sale.

LINK: Leeds Jazz Festival website

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