FEATURE/INTERVIEW: Blues Kids Foundation Camp London

This week the Blues Kids Foundation, coming at you direct from the south side of Chicago, has been holding is first ever course outside the US. The course finishes today at the Premises Studios in Hoxton. It was aimed at teenagers, who all participated in the course for free. Blues Kids Foundation, and the camps it organizes, are the creation of singer and guitarist Fernando Jones. Buddy Guy has described him as “one in a million that's trying to get to the bottom of the barrel on the Blues.” We talked to him before a day of teaching at the camp on Wednesday:

What started him? “I wanted to be just like my two older brothers who were playing the blues. The sound of the blues gave me a familiar feeling - that’s what hooked me. Fast forwarding - when I was at university I produced a few landmark blues festivals at my college - University of Illinois at Chicago.

“When I got out of university I had a conversation with a blues artist and it sparked the book, “ I was there when the Blues was Red Hot.” I started teaching in 1988. In 1989 I established the Blues Kids of America programme. And from that I would go around to different school and social organisations and teach and demonstrate the blues.”

 In 2009 Fernando Jones came up with the idea for Blues Camp.”I came up with that idea because I would run into different student musicians throughout the country who wanted to play, but had no place to go and to play. “The cool thing about blues camp when I created it was that I said it would have to be free. Because I did not want to have any from of discrimination whether a kid was rich or whether a kid may have a financial challenge I wanted to have it as a place where kids who wanted to play the blues could be."  The Foundation is philanthropically supported by a range of sponsors who include Chicago's Donnelley family. This support enables all children to attend without paying tuition fees.

“And the original concept was to pretty much target intermediate or advanced players, but instead we ended up getting entry level players, intermediate players as well as advanced players. So it has worked out for the best that way.” The policy is normally to have mixed ability groups.

The concept has grown, and week-long courses now take place at various locations in the US. “As the camp grows we are looking at doing things in the spring or maybe even doing a weekend blues camp in certain places with definitely bigger markets, Chicago, LA, Miami, London -definitely a full week experience.”

Jones describes Blues Kids as very much his baby, and he takes the lead at every camp: “I am always on site. Because when I started it, I was fine doing it at Columbia College (where he has a teaching post) because it was Chicago, but it took off, and the way it grew to other places was by invitation - such as I want to do a camp here - how do I do it? Most of those invitations came from the suggestions of parents who love their kids and wanted to have something in the town where they live so their kids can form bands.”

I was able to eavesdrop on a session. The whole camp assembled for the daily notices and information. The day began formally with a 'blues pledge', recited by heart by one of the younger participants. The students also were asked to reflect on having witnessed blues in an authentic London setting, Dove Jones' Tuesday blues night at the Spice of Life, an outing all fixed and carefully/caringly supervised by the staff of the Premises Studios. The children all seemed to have enjoyed their outing, a lot.

Once they had been broken down into combos, they were asked to think about what they liked about the Blues Camp context, in particular comparing it with the school context. One said he found it “unpressured”, another that he had “more freedom”, another that she had “more chance to make mistakes than at school.” I left them as a group of teenagers dug deep into the grooves of Hello Stranger, the Barbara Lewis hit from 1963.

(With thanks to Michael Underwood for interview transcription)



REVIEW: The Original Blues Brothers Band feat. Steve Cropper and Lou Marini at Ronnie Scott’s

The Original Blues Brothers Band feat. Steve Cropper and Lou Marini
(Ronnie Scott’s, early show, 21st August 2014. First of six shows over three nights. Review by Andy Boeckstaens)

The Blues Brothers began in the late 1970s as part of the legendary, long-running American comedy sketch show Saturday Night Live. The various incarnations of the band have recorded about a dozen albums, and the 1980 film – which starred John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd as brothers Jake and Elwood Blues, and featured unforgettable contributions from the likes of James Brown, Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin – has its place as one of the very greatest feel-good movies ever.

With the death of Belushi in 1982, and, much more recently, of both bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn and trumpeter “Mr Fabulous” Alan Rubin, the initial band line-up has been consigned to history. Nevertheless, the current crew showcases two original and significant members: guitarist Steve “The Colonel” Cropper and tenor saxophonist “Blue” Lou Marini.

Cropper led out Leon “The Lion” Pendarvis on organ, Eric “The Red” Udel on bass guitar, and drummer Lee “Funkeytime” Finkelstein for the opening Green Onions. The tune – originally made famous by Booker T. & the M.G.’s in 1962 – was guaranteed to get the audience nodding and in the mood for a set of rocking blues. Part-way through, guitarist “Smokin’” John Tropea, trumpeter Steve “Catfish” Howard, trombonist Larry “Trombonius Maximus” Farrell and Marini marched in to provide a rich, beefy backdrop.

The rousing Peter Gunn Theme by Henry Mancini followed, and contained fine solos from Farrell and Marini. Cropper enthused, “It’s all about energy; take a bagful of that home with you”. And with that, vocalists Tommy McDonnell and Rob “The Honeydripper” Paparozzi bounded onto the stage in the black suits, hats and shades that you’d expect from Jake and Elwood, and launched into Going Back to Miami. She Caught the Katy was notable for the emotional, Randy Newman-like voice of Paparozzi and the harmonica-and-horns train effects.

Flip, Flop and Fly was distinguished by a piercing solo by Marini. A third singer, Bobby “Sweet Soul” Harden, mingled with the audience and won them over when he returned – prowling and mugging in a dazzling white suit - for the evocative song immortalised by Cab Calloway, Minnie The Moocher.

A mid-set highlight - the slow Shotgun Blues - had a beautifully restrained solo from Tropea that was punctuated by the brass section. Cropper seemed to be content to play quiet rhythm guitar while others took the spotlight, and was blown away by Tropea on Sweet Home Chicago.

The encore, Everybody Needs Somebody to Love, saw all three vocalists having a ball and high-kicking while the crowd clapped on the “on-beat”. It was the last of 15 songs that were crammed into a slick performance of just 70 minutes.

It was a perfectly respectable show by any standards, but one could have wished for a few rougher edges, a slightly less sanitised portrayal of the seamier side of life.


REVIEW: Chris Corsano at Cafe Oto

Chris Corasano at Cafe Oto.
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2014. All Rights Reserved

Chris Corsano
(Cafe Oto. Day 1 of 4-day Summer Residency, 20 August 2014; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

New Jersey-born drummer Chris Corsano was eased in to his 4-day residency at Cafe Oto in an adventurous programme devised by Ilan Volkov, focusing primarily on works for strings.

Corsano made his first appearance as the lynchpin of a trio performing Lovers Ritual with Maya Dunietz on vocals and piano and Volkov's violin scourging the room of the delicate afterglow of the evening’s first two pieces for large string ensemble by Howard Skempton and Yoni Silver, respectively.

Silver was one of the ensemble which was dispersed throughout the room to create a 'surroundsound' ambience in Skempton's 1969 Piece for Strings - Waves, Shingle, Seagulls, allowing the musicians to interpret the words, resulting in a coalescence of gentle tensions taking in a mesmerising range of taps, scrapes, slides and scratches.

Silver's own wonderfully titled composition please please please let me bask in the sun for a while - you can come back in about 10 minutes continued in a similar spirit, opening with a whiff of Appalachian Spring that was gradually rerouted to take on a purposefully discordant flavour. Volkov crouched on the floor following the score, intermittently standing to give hand signals, Dunietz added low-key piano while the bassists ran subdued plucked sequences underneath the quietly humming strings of the massed group.

At the start of the second half, Volkov asked for all lights to be extinguished to help the audience - and performers - become immersed in Pauline Oliveros's Out of the Dark (1988), with the 82 year-old composer's 'Deep Listening' principle in mind. Again the string players were not only onstage but scattered throughout the room to intensify the aural experience, at times akin to being within a beehive.

Corsano's constantly surprising solo set rounded off the evening. With constructed instruments and a set up imbued with a Heath Robinson quality he mashed up percussion with electronics and wind, starting off with an instrument comprising clarinet mouthpiece and bell at either end of a short tube to which a horizontal slider was attached, through which he blew on to a small snare – demonstrably extending his range beyond that of conventional drumming.

With inspired creative spirit he moved on to mountainous drum rolls - touches of Ginger Baker and Elvin Jones, piling it on - as a reminder that percussion is at the core of his practice - bright clicks and clacks on wooden blocks, feedback, a short sequence with two of the woodwind contraptions played simultaneously, ending with electronic distortions of every element of his drum kit as he played over them.

This ended with just the right focus, enticingly setting up the next three nights of Corsano's residency with an impressive roster of improvising collaborators.

Chris Corsano: percussion, electronics and misc instruments

Ilan Volkov: conductor, violin, electronics

String Ensemble: Jennifer Allum, Robert Ames, Mira Benjamin, Oliver Coates, Rebecca Davies, Michael Duch, Lina Lapelyte, Dominic Lash, David Lasserson, Marcio Mattos, Aisha Orazbayeva, Daniel Pioro, Noura Sanatian, Yoni Silver, Benedict Taylor, Tom Wheatley

Maya Dunietz: piano, vocals


REVIEW: Bebop and Beyond double bill: Sheila Jordan and Peter King Quartet at Ronnie Scott’s

Shela Jordan in 2011. Photo Credit: OhWeh/ Creative Commons

REVIEW: Bebop and Beyond double bill: Sheila Jordan and Peter King Quartet
(Ronnie Scott’s, 19th August 2014, first of two nights. Review by Andy Boeckstaens)

Sheila Jordan is that rarity, a jazz singer who is not only revered by other vocalists, but also by dyed-in-the-wool jazz fans who can be dismissive of singers. At Ronnie Scott’s she demonstrated why.

Ian Shaw introduced Jordan and pianist Brian Kellock, and immediately Jordan pounced on Shaw’s failure to identify the other two musicians on stage. So she created a partly-sung, rhyming welcome to “Calum Gourlay on bass, with his smiling face” and “Steve Brown, the hippest drummer in town” before launching into Hum Drum Blues.

Jordan crafted lyrics about the things around her, her early days in Pennsylvania and Detroit, and her beloved cohorts from the jazz scene. Usually it worked (“Sonny-Rollins-Sonny-Rollins-Sonny-Rollins-Sonny-Rollins”....you had to be there); and when it didn’t, she improvised on the mistakes. Her vocal dexterity has diminished with the passing of the years (she doesn’t shy away from saying that she is now 85¾), but her scatting on If I Should Lose You was as wonderfully daring as ever. Jordan’s joie de vivre was communicated with the equanimity of someone who has seen and done everything, yet it came with a delightful openness to novelty and just a smattering of vulnerability.

There were too many highlights to relate in detail. Peace was performed for its recently-departed composer, Horace Silver. “I gave him his first piano when he moved to New York City”. The Crossing - written after Jordan recovered from serious problems with alcohol and drugs - told a story of healing and redemption, and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress was witnessed in silence by a crowd that was completely under her spell.

The child-mimicking Dat Dere - delivered with astonishingly accurate enunciation and intonation - was dedicated to the great Peter Ind, who was in the club. Ian Shaw was called to the bandstand for Workshop Blues, during which the audience was invited to sing along (it was very nicely done, too).

Jordan is adored not just for her longevity and first-hand connection to Charlie Parker. Her elegance, sass, wit, steely resilience and – above all – her fierce love of music and its irreplaceable practitioners pierced the hearts of everyone in the room.

Prior to the American’s appearance, another legend was on stage. Although he is Jordan’s junior by more than a decade, saxophonist Peter King is her British counterpart in many ways: an intelligent, urbane stylist who is central to his country’s jazz history, and similarly unbowed by personal adversity.

King delivered a fine set that ranged from a turbulent Inner Space to an almost-unaccompanied Lush Life. His delivery may have been less forceful than it used to be, but its impact was as powerful as ever.

The long suite/medley The World of Trane was introduced by the rich bass of Geoff Gascoyne. The Coltrane-inspired melody was followed by a magnificent feature for pianist Gareth Williams that included “Naima”, “Giant Steps” and “After the Rain”, then the quartet returned for “My Favourite Things”. Drummer Mark Fletcher was right on the money throughout, and contributed an assertive and logical solo to the concluding, simmering Joshua.

One might have wished that King and Jordan could have shared the stage for some playful bebop, but it probably wouldn’t have been as satisfying as hearing them work their socks off with their respective bands. It was certainly a night to remember.


BOOK REVIEW: Iain Maloney - First Time Solo

Iain Maloney - First Time Solo
(Freight Books, 224pp., £8.99. Book review by Chris Parker)

Debut novelist Iain Maloney refers to this story of a group of RAF recruits training for participation in the Second World War as ‘a tiny pebble added to the memorial cairn for a truly special generation’. Intelligently assembled from first-hand accounts given him by his grandparents and published histories edited by Hugh Morgan and Godfrey Smith, leavened with a fair amount of imaginative plot construction and characterisation, First Time Solo also contains a good deal of jazz-related material: the formation of a band, scenes set in wartime London jazz clubs, ENSA concerts, the dawn of bebop etc.

The novel’s central character, Scottish farmer Jack Devine, is a Louis Armstrong-obsessed trumpeter, and his bandmates are a hardline Communist, a Welsh black marketeer and a Yorkshire poet. The plot follows the progress of this disparate (and quarrelsome) quartet through training, initially in London, but subsequently in Babbacombe and Wiltshire, charting not only their transformation into pilots but also their internecine conflicts, which inevitably result in tragedy and violence. Both worlds, the military and musical, are vividly portrayed, and the resultant novel thus throws welcome light on both a neglected aspect of Second World War history (the transformation of raw civilians into fighting men) and the beginnings of the bebop movement in UK jazz. Its characters are deftly and compassionately drawn and are convincing enough to carry, credibly and entertainingly, a tight plot that compels attention throughout. In short, First Time Solo is an engrossing, consistently readable debut from a skilful and sensitive writer.


CD Review: Mitch Shiner and the BloomingTones Big Band - Fly

Mitch Shiner and the BloomingTones Big Band - Fly

(Patois Records PRCD 016. CD Review by Donald Helme)

If you take casual note of the education of current American jazz musicians, you could be forgiven for thinking there is only one school - Berklee in Boston. That would be an underestimation of the abundance of jazz faculties that exists in the U.S., and the large number of student bands there are across the country, often of startling quality.

I mention this because Mitch Shiner’s Big Band comprises recent graduates of Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, based in Bloomington, Indiana (Blooming Tones...geddit). And it has all the polish and snap that you’d expect from a well-drilled group of enthusiasts at the start of their careers. It swings hard at every opportunity. The leader, a fine drummer who drives the band in, dare I say it, an old-fashioned way, also features on vibraphone on several tracks, playing vibes in the school of the Indiana-born Gary Burton.

Mitch Shiner (forgive the pun) obviously shone very brightly at college, and attracted, for his debut album, many of his former teachers - including the Grammy-nominated trombonist Wayne Wallace whose own record company (Patois Records) is releasing the album.

The music consists of a mix of Shiner’s own compositions and a few covers, the latter with new slants on non-jazz pieces like When You Wish Upon a Star and Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head. Though interesting, the mawkishness of the original compositions can weigh them down. Of much more interest are the six compositions by the leader himself, which include a strong Latin jazz piece and a compelling boogaloo shuffle, 6.20 Shuffle. The title piece, Fly has some of the best writing, with perhaps the best of already tight ensemble playing throughout.

His arrangements call for the conventional core instruments of an 18-piece big band, but also extend to french horns and tuba on several pieces. And there is a cadre of substitutions when Shiner takes up his vibes mallets and calls in more drummers and percussionists.

There is plenty of young talent on solo display, although inexperience shows through at times. Some of the best solo work is taken by the faculty members, notably a fine trombone solo by Wayne Wallace on An Evening Thought, a tune composed by David N. Baker, a former stalwart of the IU jazz department, who these days has an emeritus chair there.

If you are a collector of big band music you’ll enjoy this album’s considerable strengths. It’s a real American swing band, playing modern music. And Mr Shiner himself? Well, he’s certainly a talent to watch out for . He’s been playing drums and writing music since he was 9 years old and this first recording as a leader should show off his talents to great advantage.


CD Review: Neil Cowley Trio - Touch and Flee

Neil Cowley Trio - Touch and Flee
(Naim Records. NaimCD206. CD Review by Rob Mallows

What do you do when, like Neil Cowley, you’ve created an exciting new sound and cornered the market in radio- and audience-friendly, chords-by-the-dozen, riff-friendly pop jazz?

Judging by the mix of sounds on Touch and Flee, their fifth album, you take a step back, breathe, take the piano out of overdrive and set out charting some new paths to extend the exciting musical journey the band’s been on over the last decade. You get a bit more introspective, evidently. And the sound becomes all the better for it.

You can detect a subtle shift in Neil Cowley Trio’s sound comparing opening track Kneel Down to one of their earlier hits, such as the thumping crowd-pleaser His Nibs. Kneel Down still offers up simple, luscious chords, but now separated by long quiet gaps over a simple drum pattern, miles away from the pyrotechnics of their earlier sound. Fans of his earlier work may be surprised at this as the choice for an opening track but it sends a strong signal - there’s a change in the direction Neil Cowley Trio see themselves heading in keeping the piano trio format relevant and on top.

More varied keyboard sounds, more space for the melody and a tighter overall band sound - that’s the formula they seem to be adopting. Bryce is rather lovely, a slow meander with little in the way of right-hand acrobatics but full of charm nonetheless. Mission is an oddity, kicking off with unexpected (for this band) electronic keyboard pulses before relaxing into a recognisable rhythm, with Cowley's incessant piano motifs now augmented with new contours. The last track, Art, is a ballad which demonstrates the musical territory the band feels it can now conquer. It’s no crowd-pleasing, up-off-the-piano-stool gig closer - it’s a tune to lie back and luxuriate in.

There still plenty of the recognisable Neil Cowley Trio sounds here: Sparkling is replete with the repeated arpeggios which evolve and build imperceptibly into something new, with the drums and bass providing the harmonic interest. But there’s more here, evidence of a band and artist evolving to ensure that keep their first-mover advantage without losing the fans who’ve come this far with them. The overall mix of tunes is rather good and - disturbing cover image aside - I found myself wanting to revisit the band’s earlier albums after listening to this great fayre.

The recording is also of excellent quality - Evan Jenkins’ drums sound lush with pin-point sharp cymbal sounds and Rex Horan’s bass has a lovely twang to it - Neil Cowley’s piano is mixed very well so it sits nicely between the two. Full marks then to producer Dom Monks.


VIDEO: Chucho Valdes (EFG London Jazz Festival, November, Kings Place)

This is Cuban giant Chucho Valdes being interviewed by Moira Gil of Kings Place (who also did the transcription and the translation) about his EFG London Jazz Festival appearances, three nights in November at Kings Place.

Just watch the powerful gesture as he describes the synthesis, the combining of different kinds of music, see how the fingers of those huge hands interlock. He does it twice:

FIRST[2: 03] : "Y si lo ves en conjunto, la musica afrocubana y afronorteamericana a partir de la misma raz Africa, simplemente se fusionan muy bien: ritmicamente, armonica- y melodicamente, el jazz y la musica cubana son compatibles..."

Translation "And if you look at the big picture, the whole of Afro-Cuban and Afro-American music are from the same root, Africa, they simply merge well. Rhythmically, melodically harmonicaly, jazz and Cuban music are compatible"

SECOND: [8 :05 ]"Yo cogi los elementos que yo conozco que son compatibles, tome elementos de la contradanza cubana, de la conga cubana, del Jazz, del romanticismo de Chopin, del neorromanticismo de Rachmaninoff, del barroco de Bach, del Flamenco, de la musica arabe (risas) de todo! Hay un tema que es Afro, que se llama "Tabu". Y entonces como integra todas estas cosas, bueno, bueno, rompimos las fronteras."

Translation: "I took the elements that I know and that are compatible, elements from the Contradanza cubana, the Cuban Conga, Jazz, the Romanticism of Chopin, the Neo-romanticism of Rachmaninoff, the Baroque of Bach, Flamenco, Arab music... (laughs) from everything! The record (Border Free) integrates plenty of influences, well, we broke boundaries.!


INTERVIEW/ PREVIEW: Joining the Dots Conference, Cecil Sharp House 12th Sept

Julia Payne

In anticipation of the Joining the Dots One-Dayer at Cecil Sharp House, we interviewed the driving force behind it , Julia Payne, Director of The Hub:

LondonJazz News: Julia you've been involved in marketing and audience development for non-mainstream music most of your working life...

Julia Payne: Yes, that’s right. I started out – and got my jazz education – working at The Stables, the venue started by John Dankworth and Cleo Laine. Then I moved onto London’s Barbican, where I was their first ever marketing manager for what was then called non-classical music! After that I had a couple of great years at the Jazz Development Trust, where I promoted a conference called – rather boldly - ‘How to develop audiences for jazz. Or die”. What can I say? I was (relatively) young! After a spell at the Arts Council I co-founded the hub in 2002, and since then I’ve been involved in all sorts of audience building projects. It’s about awareness; make people aware of really great music, take it to them, and for some it’ll be the start of a lifelong love of it. That’s what I try to do, and help other people do.

LJN: So tell us a bit about your latest project, Joining the Dots. What’s it about?

JP: So Joining the Dots is based on two premises. Firstly that if the music industry continues to cling to old models we’ll all be a bit, well, buggered. And secondly, that we’d all be a bit savvier if we shared what we know with each other. Joining the Dots is basically about encouraging people to take action, find new models, new ways of making a living from the music we love, and new ways of getting people to love it as much as we do. We’re doing that in two ways. First up, we’re funding people to test new, potentially ‘game changing’ ideas. And secondly, we’re running a load of live events and webinars focused on technology, marketing and fundraising.

LJN: And why is it called Joining the Dots?

JP: Well, because that’s what we’re trying to do... join people up and get them sharing more, and fill in the picture, help people get inside stuff that might be unfamiliar to them.

LJN: And the themes you'll be developing at the Joining the Dots - One Dayer conference on in Camden on 12 Sep, what are they?

JP: So the #OneDayer is for anyone who works in independent music: artists, promoters, managers, labels, everyone. In a nutshell it’s about three things: where technology is going to take us, where the money’s going to come from, and how we can grow our audiences. Why these three themes? Well, because they’re what people working in the industry told us they needed to know more about. It’s difficult to keep up sometimes, when you’re busy running your own career or business, so The One Dayer is about galvanising people, helping them grab a lot of information in…one day. We’re hoping to create a Festival experience – one where you rub shoulders with other really interesting people, learn things easily and quickly, hear brilliant new ideas and come away with lots of new contacts.

LJN: You've trawled wide for your speakers. That's a sign that you see quite a lot of common threads which can be developed across genres?

JP: I don’t really ‘do’ genres – as a punter or professionally! I think that the challenges and opportunities for jazz musicians or promoters are broadly similar to those for people working in other ‘beyond mainstream’ genres. That’s reflected in the breadth of the speakers we’ve booked. So, there are people who your readers will definitely know – say, Laura Jurd, and also Gavin Sharp from Band on the Wall - but also people from other areas of music, and beyond. For instance, Nicholas Lovell, who’s written a great book called The Curve, which is about turning your fans and customers into ‘superfans’. He’s from a games background, but everything he says is bang on from a music point of view. I’ve booked people who have something new to say, people who can inspire and offer something practical. I can’t wait. I’m going to learn so much, and I hope everyone else will too.

LJN: So, what would you hope a musician would gain from attending?

JP: Well, my goal is for everyone to go away feeling three things. Firstly galvanised, that they’ve picked up loads of really practical stuff that they can take home and make happen straight away. Secondly, that they’ve stepped out of the day-to-day and got inside the ‘big stuff’. And finally that they feel better equipped to face the future, more confident and enthused about the change around them. If I had to pick one word I hope people will leave feeling galvanised.

LJN: And what about promoters or people with an involvement in marketing? 

JP: The same really. That they have picked up lots of really practical tips, have had time to ‘zoom out’ and think about that bigger picture that tends to disappear when you’re focused on keeping a programme going. Really good conversations and ideas happen when you mix people up who have different skills and approaches – that’s what we want the #OneDayer to be for people – a swap-shop of ideas, a space to question things, and lots of different viewpoints on the industry so that we’re not creating silos. (A FULL LIST OF SPEAKERS IS HERE
LJN: You also are known for knowing what funders want to see in applications. Will people alien to the funded sector be able to gain insights here?

JP: Absolutely. Totally. Most of our speakers come from a world that isn’t about funding, and this isn’t a conference aimed at fundraisers. This is about the everyday business of making a living from music, and how we can all get smarter about doing that.

LJN: When you were looking for people with genuinely new ideas to fund you invited submissions by video. I assume you can't name a favourite but did one take you by surprise? 

JP: You’re right, I can’t have a favourite! The really great thing about the four projects we’re funding is that they’re so diverse.

- Cafe Oto are building a digital subscription service around the recordings they make of their gigs;

- Eventbox are making an app that lets you listen to listings and working with venues like the Vortex to test it.

- Daredevil Project are making a mobile game designed to increase interaction between bands and fans.

- Un-convention are building a gig-swap platform that has its own trading ‘currency’ built in.

Coming from a venue background I’m fascinated to see how other venues could build on what Cafe Oto are doing, and as a punter I love the idea of Eventbox. All four of them will be at the one-dayer showing people what they’re doing.

LJN: And how much does it cost, and where can people get tickets?

Julia Payne: Aha, the plug! A standard ticket is £40 for the whole day on 12 September, and you can get it via Eventbrite. But, as the MU are one of our project partners, MU members can get in for just £25 (just check the last newsletter for details of the special offer). We want as many independent promoters and musicians to come as possible, so it was really important to us that the event was affordable.

the hub website / Joining the Dots website
Follow the conference on the day via Twitter: @tweetsatthehub #OneDayer 


NEWS: Catching up with Michael Gibbs...

Michael Gibbs

Sebastian writes 

 The eminent, even pre-eminent composer arranger Michael Gibbs dropped by to Kings Place yesterday to chat. What an absolute pleasure. He is a fascinating, lucid and great man. We talked about all sorts of things from the dim and distant past to projects under way....

- His two years of university study in Pietermaritzburg - of chemistry.

- How what has always interested him is harmonic possibilities, making things work, rather than the harmonic rules he was taught many years ago at Berklee.

- A wonderful, incredibly exhaustive, indispensible discography run by Helsinki-based guitarist Esa Onttonen.

- The most durable impression he left yesterday was the series of contented smiles and utterly delighted spontaneous "Aaaaah"'s which came over him when I played him something he hadn't heard before: Dancing Sunlight from the Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra's debut CD Treelines (it's like jazz, you had to be there).

He also mentioned four things to watch out for: three CDs with Hamburg's NDR Big Band, at various stages of the production and release process, and a major concert in Stuttgart :

- (1) His arrangements of Pink Floyd will feature on an an album by Nguyen Le "Celebrating the Dark Side of the Moon" scheduled for release on ACT (30th October Germany, 3rd November (UK)

- (2) He has had arrangements commissioned for an astonishing two-night star-studded celebration of Eberhard Weber in Stuttgart next January (nur auf deutsch)

-(3) and (4) Cuneiform Records have, somewhere in their pipeline, two albums with a likely spring / summer 2015 release date: In My View features recent compositions, including a homage to Paco de Lucia. Mike Gibbs and the NDR Big Band Play a Bill Frisell Setlist.

LINKS: See also a recent interview about Joni Mitchell's Paprika Plains 
Our interview about the recent Whirlwind album celebrating Gil Evans


BOOK REVIEW: Andy Fry - Paris Blues: African American Music and French Popular Culture, 1920 –1960

Andy Fry - Paris Blues: African American Music and French Popular Culture, 1920 –1960
(University of Chicago Press, 290pp., $30.00. Book Review by Chris Parker)

In an attempt to ‘provide a more nuanced account of the French reception of black music from the 1920s to the 1950s by contextualizing it in ongoing debates about race, nation, and culture’, Andy Fry’s Paris Blues undertakes ‘a series of focused inquiries … case studies of various kinds’, ranging from Josephine Baker to Sidney Bechet, Jack Hylton to Django Reinhardt. In the process, courtesy of scrupulous and perspicacious examination of contemporary discourse, Fry replaces widely held assumptions – that the French appreciated and understood jazz before Americans did, that African American musicians experienced little racism in Paris, that the music performed a clandestine subversive role during Nazi occupation etc. – with a much more subtle account, alive to the many ironies, internal contradictions and occasional instances of downright hypocrisy and deliberate obfuscation which permeate the subject.

Fry’s intention, however, is not ‘simply to contest the affirmative view of African Americans in Paris’, but both to ‘actively contest received wisdom’ and to ‘present complementary stories that complicate current understanding’.

Thus, in the chapter ‘Rethinking the Revue Nègre’, the 1927 show Black Follies featured ‘French-speaking Africans imitating black Americans pretending to be Africans – and all this for the sake of a purported authenticity’; while Blackbirds of 1929 (featuring Adelaide Hall) drew this comment (oddly reminiscent of Wynton Marsalis’s contemporary strictures concerning gangsta rap) from the Baltimore Afro-American: ‘It is giving to Paris the wrong idea of the typical American Negro … The danger in such shows … is that they will give generally to white people, the [derisive] attitudes [toward Negroes] of the southerner’.

Again, the chapter ‘Jack à l’Opéra’ quotes intriguing contemporary claims concerning the ‘Frenchness’ of jazz (a word supposedly itself derived from jaser, to chatter or babble), resting not only on assumptions that America was created by ‘the French genius as much as the [Anglo-] Saxon genius, the gallant, amiable, gay spirit of our culture as much as the puritanical, grave spirit of old England’ but also on the fact that the music’s chief instrument, the saxophone, was invented by a Belgian, patented in Paris in 1846, and first championed by a French composer, Hector Berlioz.

Three iconic figures – Josephine Baker, Django Reinhardt, Sidney Bechet – serve to embody a great number of the complexities and ambiguities Fry is delineating throughout this fascinating and thought-provoking book: ‘Baker’s skin colour may have remained the titillating sign of miscegenation, but her performance [in a 1934 revival of La Créole, an Offenbach operetta] left no doubt that she was on the path to naturalization. In other words, to invoke colonial terms, Baker evinced the continued effectiveness of France’s mission civilisatrice’; Reinhardt’s concerts, rather than being ‘a protest against the German boot, trampling the Parisian culture of jazz’ [William Shack: Harlem in Montmartre], were actually characterized by the fact that ‘some Germans trampled no farther than seats in the auditorium’; ‘the gap between Bechet’s self-representation [in Treat It Gentle] … and representations of him in the French press [as a national treasure] is … most telling’.

Intelligently illustrated by carefully chosen photos, contemporary cartoons and playbills, and the odd musical example, Paris Blues throws valuable new light on a still contested area of jazz (and social) history, and – as one reviewer states – it ‘urges us to be a little smarter about how we talk and write about the place of jazz in the world today’.


NEWS: Shirley Smart hosts new jazz night at the Blind Bee EC3 (starts Aug 21st)

Shirley Smart

Sshh. Cellist Shirley Smart and Middle East music specialist has quietly got on and set up a discreet new jazz series, under the banner Jazz Nights at the Blind Bee. The band descriptions below are hers. It will be held at an exclusive members club (with a broad-minded well-stocked cocktail bar) near Bank Station. in the City. Entry is free but you need to either get on the bandleader's guest list or email the address below

Upcoming dates :

August 21st - Alex Hutton
Acclaimed pianist and composer brings his lively originals to Blind Bee

September 4th - Will Butterworth
Jazz based on Oscar Wilde's story 'The Nightingale and the Rose' from the imaginative and original pianist

September 18th - Maurizio Minardi
Accordion-led jazz with influences from tango, rumba, classical, minimalism and penguins....another intriguing combination

October 2nd - Al Scott
Firey and virtuostic pianist whose influences include Bill Evans, Herbie Hancck, Charles Mingus and Miles Davis

October 16th - Last Summers Tealights
A unique sound combining marimba, saxophone, cello and percussion in beautiful groove-based hymnal jazz compositions

October 30th - Heidi Vogel
Acclaimed lead singer of the Cinematic Orchestra brings her Quartet.

GUEST LIST: Email : jazz (at) eightmemberclub.co.uk
FACEBOOK PAGE :https://www.facebook.com/blindbeejazz


INTERVIEW: Mark Jennett (Album Launch 16th September)

Mark Jennett. Photo credit: Charlotte Knee

Singer Mark Jennett has been a fixture on the London Jazz circuit for a while. Writer and singer Tamsin Collison interviewed him about his route into jazz, his influences, and his forthcoming album ‘Everybody Says Don’t (Release date September 15th, launch September 16th).

Tamsin Collison: Mark, writing about your new album, Ian Shaw describes you as a singer “who sideswipes the deluge of post Sinatra crooners – yet homage to the great swinging vocal tradition is ever present.” How much have you been influenced by the American Swing tradition?

Mark Jennett: My Mum listened to music a lot and my two favourites when I was little were Frank Sinatra and Dusty Springfield. Mum had the EP of ‘Songs for Swingin’ Lovers’ and I learned ‘It Happened in Monterey’ note for note from the record. I loved Sinatra’s phrasing and I guess I learned from him that you don’t have to be confined to the original notes and phrases of a song, although it was a while before I could put a name to that and call it jazz. I think what I loved about Dusty was how she always told a story and that there was always so much honest emotion in her singing.

TC: Any other key influences?

MJ: Anybody who sings in their own voice, who doesn’t fake it. I loved Julie Andrews as a child, I think because she was so unaffected, and I was also an Aretha Franklin fan. I particularly loved the background harmonies on her records. My childhood ambition was to be a backing singer for Aretha, or better yet, for Gladys Knight. I really, really wanted to be a Pip. The first instrumentalist who struck a real chord with me was Dexter Gordon.

TC: So how did you move from aspiring soul diva into jazz fan?

MJ: I loved music, but at school I just couldn’t find anybody to play it with! I was into pop, soul and American swing, but everyone else was in punk bands. Much later, I began attending jazz courses at the City Lit. I think all the years of listening to Frank & Co had given me a stronger technical foundation than I realised and I found that things like responding to what an instrumentalist plays – and that they will also respond to your choices – felt very natural. Then I went on some intensive residential course where I finally found other people to play with and things took off from there.

TC: When did you start to perform in public?

MJ: I started out on the open mic circuit, which is absolutely terrifying. I have the greatest respect for anyone who does that – it takes real guts. Then, ignorance being bliss, I managed to blag my way into a playing gig at the Vortex pretty early on.

TC: How did your first album come about?

MJ: Things were starting to happen in terms of gigs when I suddenly got seriously ill and had to stop performing for a while. While I was recuperating, Anita Wardell suggested that I try putting an album together which she would produced. That album, The Way I Am, was a quite a learning curve. We had the basic arrangement ideas and then the band fleshed them out in the studio as we recorded. We only had one properly formal arrangement - pianist Rob Barron set Paper Moon for me. I loved that but it’s only now that I've had the opportunity to do another album entirely composed of tailor-made arrangements.

TC: Which leads us neatly onto ‘Everybody Says Don’t.’ Tell us a bit about this new release.

MJ: Everybody Says Don’t came about as a result of my meeting Geoff Gascoyne who, as well as being a great bass player, is a brilliant arranger. Like me, Geoff is influenced by a huge range of musical styles, and I knew he had done a couple of albums featuring jazz arrangements of pop tunes. Originally I just asked him to arrange a couple of songs I was struggling to put together myself but, when we started work, it was clear that we had a lot in common musically (and that I could learn a lot from him!) and we decided to develop an album of new arrangements together. We both have very eclectic musical tastes, so the tracklist combines songs that come from the fields of pop, soul and musical theatre as well as American standards. We have tried to take familiar songs and invite people to maybe think about them a bit differently.

TC: Some examples of those familiar songs? 

MJ: Quite a few: while some people see Wives and Lovers as just patronising and sexist, I’ve always thought it’s more of a ‘be-careful-what-you-wish-for’ song – maybe Hal David was thinking of all those unhappy wives we now see in ‘Mad Men’ - so now it’s in 5/4 with some wonderfully dark harmonies. We’d both separately had the idea of doing Just One of Those Things as a ballad. Geoff reharmonised it brilliantly and, for a change, it now comes from the viewpoint of the person being dumped rather than the dumper. You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught from South Pacific has important things to say about how prejudice develops and I think bringing out the prettiness of the tune somehow makes the message starker. It’s amazing how a new arrangement can transform the interpretation of a familiar song.

TC: Did you have a concept for this album?

Mark Jennett: Originally, it was just a personal take, musically and emotionally, on some songs that I feel very close to. However, reviewing the final tracklist, I realised that a lot of them question whether people should need or have to conform – and to whose rules – which is something I feel quite strongly about.

Tamsin Collison: Thanks, Mark. A pleasure chatting to you and best of luck with the launch.

ALBUM LAUNCH: Everybody Says Don’t (Jazzizit) will be launched at St. James Studio, Victoria on Tuesday 16th September at 8.00pm with Geoff Gascoyne, Tom Cawley, Sebastiaan de Krom, Martin Shaw and Josephine Davies.

ARTIST WEBSITE: http://www.markjennett.com.


CD REVIEW: Minimal Klezmer - Oy Oioi

Minimal Klezmer - Oy Oioi
(Janus Sounds JSL005, download only. Review by Andy Boeckstaens)

Minimal Klezmer are getting bigger. Although it’s unlikely that they will ever play Wembley Stadium, the band has recently had an enthusiastic reception in Italy and the UK, and are gearing up to tour Germany next month.

On their second recording, Oy Oioi, the sound is expanding, too. The trio of Roberto Durante, Francesco Socal and Martin Teshome is enhanced by three guests on a few tracks, and the inclusion of piano provides a new harmonic depth.

There are dances and dirges, ecstacy and agony, and a healthy degree of improvisation. You’re never quite sure whether the original arrangements of (mainly) traditional music are serious or tongue-in-cheek, and you never know what will happen next.

Durante’s piano-led crescendo on the opening title track is broken by the jaunty rhythm of Socal’s clarinet and Teshome’s ‘cello, then the vocal refrain kicks in (yes, the lyrics are “Oy Oioi”, repeated quickly many times). With the addition of Pietro Pontini on violin and the ear-catching drumming of Jimmy Weinstein, a good instrumental head of steam is built up, but the music eventually collapses into a heap of melodica, bells and a squeak.

The bigger group – this time with Alex Turchet on double bass - is also featured on Grichisher Tanz. Despite its moniker and eastern European melody, it has an unexpected Latin lilt and is the most “jazzy” piece on the album. Turchet also interacts well with Teshome on the track Fun Tashlakh + Hora Batrineasca. Doina is a short but powerful duet for tremulous ‘cello and muffled piano.

The core trio is heard on the bulk of the album. A soaring and “laughing” clarinet distinguishes the moody Haneros Halallu. The Yiddish song Bei Mir (Bistu Shein) is led by Socal’s passionate vocals, and its processed crackle and distant quality make it sound as if it were being reproduced on 1930s shellac.

The Minimal Klezmer style is typified by the dance of Aidiniko and the stately Rumenishe Fantaziye, which contains the beat of a tuned jerrycan and a tinkling glockenspiel. Epitaph has a skilfully-played kazoo and a bit of clattering. After half a minute of silence, the gentle “hidden track” A Rumenishe Nign concludes the set, and it’s greatly affecting.

Oy Oioi is a roller-coaster ride of furious energy, pathos and non-stop entertainment.

LINK: Review of Minimal Klezmer's 2013 debut album.


REPORT: Kenny Wheeler Benefit Concert at Epic, N16.

The Reuben Fowler Big Band at the first Kenny Wheeler Benefit Concert
Alto saxophone soloist Sam Mayne. Epic N16, August 2014 

Kenny Wheeler Benefit Concert
(Epic, N16. August 15th 2014. Report by Jamie Safiruddin)

Friends, colleagues, family, fans and devotees of the venerable Anglo-Canadian legend Kenny Wheeler gathered on Friday. Their common purpose was to raise money for the man himself who has been unable to work for most of this year for health reasons. The evening was held at Dalston’s ‘Epic’, an unusual and spacious hall that also hosted a projector screen presenting photos of Kenny from projects throughout the 60s/70s and 80s, reminding us of the scope of his career. The evening was arranged and programmed by Evan Parker who has been a friend and colleague of Wheeler’s since their tenure together in the Spontaneous Music Ensemble during the 1960s.

The evening began with a characteristically brief introduction from Parker, who, avoiding a gushing homage as might be tempting, merely told us all the Kenny could “really use some money”. Parker commenced the musical proceedings with a short but brilliantly intense and engaging set of three improvisations, alongside Steve Beresford on keyboard, Olie Brice on double bass and Mark Sanders on drums. The quartet was intimately empathic and synergistic, so clearly starting and ending pieces and phrases together, allowing each member and combination of instruments ample time to explore the music.

The second group was the Alison Blunt Ensemble, an unconventional line-up consisting of five violins, two violas, flute, two double basses and drums. The concept behind the group's performance was improvisations on a number of Wheeler themes and as Alison explained, a free treatment of the melodies “as though they were paintings”.

Ray Warleigh’s Quintet played for an hour after this, taking us through a relaxed and playful set of originals. Warleigh, a long time collaborator of Wheeler's, played warm alto nimbly alongside technically accomplished trumpeter Steve Fishwick. The interactive rhythm section showcased a solid Chris Laurence on double bass, a graceful and well-poised Sam Leak on piano and a masterfully attentive and innovative James Maddren on drums.

Last onstage was the epic Reuben Fowler Big Band, Fowler being the recipient of the Kenny Wheeler Prize at The Royal Academy of Music in 2012. The twenty-plus strong group played a programme entirely of Kenny’s music including pieces from 1990’s ‘Music For Small & Large Ensembles’ and the entirety of the 2005 suite known fittingly as the ‘Long Suite’. Kenny’s part was in turn played by George Hogg, Martin Shaw and Steve Fishwick, each demonstrating an individually impressive take on the leading Flugel role whilst Norma Winstone’s part was sung elegantly and faultlessly by Brigitte Beraha. There were many strong and engaging solos across the band, which was fearlessly led through the many metric modulations and seismic musical shifts by conductor, Fowler, although I would have loved to have heard his flugel taking the role of Wheeler at some point.

This fitting tribute to one of the most important figures in jazz history raised £1,100 in donations on the night, impressive for an event put on at such short notice.

THE CAMPAIGN TO ASSIST KENNY WHEELER NOW HAS A PAYPAL ACCOUNT: friendsof kennywheeler(at) gmail (dot) com

LINK: Richard Williams' write-up of the evening


RADIO PREVIEW: Ben Norris and the Misha Mullov-Abbado Quintet Radio 3 - Weds 20th Aug., 10pm)

Ben Norris is a slam poet. Confession. I had to look it up in the Oxford Dictionary: a slam is "a poetry contest in which competitors recite their entries and are judged by members of the audience, the winner being elected after several elimination rounds", (it sounds for all the world like a Camden Town version of welly-throwing). So a slam poet must be someone who keeps winning them, which is what Ben Norris seems to do quite regularly. On the evidence of Friday night's show, one can understand why.

The topics in his poems are university life (at Birmingham University) and the complexities of making the transition from uiversity into a distinctly unappealing place often referred to as the "real world." He has a vivid imagination, and provides a convincing voice for a generation with a lot of cards stacked against it.

The Proms Plus Late in the Royal Albert Hall's Elgar Room on Friday featured a set from Misha Mullov-Abbado's Quintet. We reviewed them a few months ago, and it was essentially the same but stronger and more convinced, and more convincing.

The music was interspersed with poetry reading and reciting from Ben Norris. And then there was the unexpected bit, for both the poet and the musicians a case of jumping into the unknown, with the additional buzz/adrenalin/pressure of doing it for national radio.  The trio of Mullov-Abbado, Jacob Collier sitting at the Elgar Room's bright red piano, and Scott Chapman at the drum kit interwove music to work around the poems. The poems got more space around them with music as background and mood-setter and sparring partner. Norris was able to dig deeper into the strong speech-rhythms of his poetry. For a first, competely untried and experimental outing, it was VERY impressive.

There were two sections of it, and I hope the radio transmission picks up both of them.

This session will be broadcast - edited - on Wednesday 20th August at 10pm. LINK.



PREVIEW: A Tribute to Jazz at the Philharmonic (Cadogan Hall, Sunday afternoon, September 14th)

Drummer/promoter Richard Pite writes about next month's tribute concert to Jazz at the Philharmonic (Cadogan Hall, Sunday September 14th): 

This year is the 70th anniversary of the first ever Jazz At The Philharmonic. In 1944, jazz impresario Norman Granz hired the Philharmonic Auditorium in Los Angeles and booked a dozen or so jazz luminaries such as Nat “King” Cole, Les Paul, Illinois Jacquet and Buddy Rich. The debut was a great success and for the next 40 years Granz took his entourage around the world whilst also selling millions of live and studio recordings featuring many of his star performers including Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Oscar Peterson, Gene Krupa, Ben Webster, Benny Carter, Stan Getz and Dizzy Gillespie.

Around 18 months ago Pete Long and I, unbeknownst to each other, started up our own gigs based on the Jazz At The Philharmonic concept (his in an upstairs room of a Croydon boozer and mine at Boisdale Canary Wharf). The concept’s quite simple – get a bunch of young turks, pitch the trumpet players against each other, likewise with the saxes, limit the number of choruses they can all take to two or three maximum and get them to generate as much excitement as they can. We were both surprised by the fact that we’d been doing the same thing at opposite ends of London and amazed at the great reaction it got from the audiences. So we teamed up to bring it to Cadogan Hall.

Granz booked tremendous virtuosos and showmen – JATP was no place for shrinking violets. We’ve brought along some marvellous talents (young and not so young) to our Sunday afternoon tribute – including saxophonists Ray Gelato and Dean Masser, young trumpet demons Tommy Walsh and George Hogg, the great guitarist Nigel Price, piano maestro Nick Dawson and Buddy Rich disciple Elliot Henshaw on drums.

We’re following the JATP format of small bands in the first half and featuring singers Georgina Jackson and Nicola Emmanuelle in the respective roles of Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. In the second half it’s the JATP inspired jam session and cutting contest. Should be great fun – hope you can make it.

The Jazz Repertory Company's Tribute to JATP is at at Cadogan Hall, by  Sloane Square tube on On Sunday 14th September at 3.30 pm (WEBSITE)


LINK: Review of Tad Hershorn's Norman Granz biography 


REVIEW : Lume Presents . .Madwort’s Menagerie and Overground Collective at the Vortex.

Overground Collective at the Vortex. Photo credit: Bartosz Dzidowski

LUME Presents . .. Madwort’s Menagerie / Overground Collective 
(Vortex. 3rd August 2014. Review by Alya Al-Sultani)

LUME is the brainchild of two saxophonists who are making their names in the free jazz and improvisation circuits, Cath Roberts and Dee Byrne. They have been organising weekly performances that focus on improvisation and original music under the LUME banner since July and have recently been awarded the PRSF Jazz Promoters Award.

The Vortex has shown exceptional foresight in offering LUME this monthly opportunity on the first Sunday of every month until the end of 2014, not only for the reason that Roberts and Byrne are informed and careful curators, but also because they have a real knack for audience development and promotion. Their first LUME Presents … At the Vortex sold 21 advance tickets and turnout totalled 82 people, many of whom had to compromise British standards of personal space at the back of the room.

It was difficult not to come in with very high expectations. The Overground Collective is essentially a 19-piece big band of outstanding soloists and improvisers. Its founder, Paulo Duarte, is a Portuguese composer and guitarist who has been in London since 2003. This performance preceded the Collective’s first recording together and was the first outing of several of Duarte’s new compositions. The balance of instrumentation allowed both great intimacy and enormous energy, often creating an exhilarating wall of sound. Duarte’s ability to write music that is at once melodic and accessible but highly challenging and unexpected where the improvised elements hold primacy, is the key to the inevitable success of this music.

The performance was intended to be performed as a suite, with no breaks, but this was difficult to execute because of the audience’s need to show its appreciation. This is an element Duarte could consider leaving aside for future performances. Ben Bastin on bass made a gallant conducting effort supported by key members within the band. The complex counting required in this music was evident in the occasionally anxious faces of the performers but none of that anxiety could be heard in the confident, energetic and fully committed execution. Jon Scott (drums), Ben Bastin and Danny Keane (piano) provided an unshakable base which is vital for a score where grooves take sudden U-turns and tension is created with frequent stops and changes. The perfect execution of these was heart-stopping. This is a big band that I would make time to see again and again.

Tom Ward, a saxophonist with the Collective, started the evening with his own project, Madwort’s Menagerie, which incorporates woodwind, bass and cello into his previous format of sax quartet.

This is the third in a family of Madwort bands, exploring Ward’s compositions through differing instrumentation. Many of his compositions take root in Ward’s fascination with mathematics, creating music by taking a prime decomposition of the date he sits down at the piano to compose. To my ear, what could be heard in his music was both the randomness and the clear thinking and structure of its birth. It was music that was also thrilling in the simplicity of its everyday inspiration and humour, a favourite being Fish Biscuit Standoff, a composition that emerged from an experience trying to get his discerning cat to eat the food it had been served. It sounded like more could emerge over time from the compositions as the musicians spend more time together and as Ward’s communication as bandleader takes hold. It occasionally felt that some of the instruments were underused, perhaps because of being additionally incorporated into existing compositions or simply because it is a new project and an integrated sound takes time. 

Overall thought-provoking, entertaining with clever instrumentation and the beginning of something utterly unique.

The next LUME presents…At The Vortex takes place on Sunday 7th September, featuring Corey Mwamba and Deemer. 

 LUME resumes its weekly programme at the Long White Cloud (151 Hackney Road, E2) on Thursday 4th September. 



NEWS: Crowdfunding for a Blue Plaque in honour of Sidney Bechet

Some folk are trying to crowdfund the costs of a blue plaque in honour of Sidney Bechet, to be placed at 27 Conway Street W1T 6BW. MORE DETAILS HERE. (H-T Telegraph Jazz Facebook Page)


REVIEW: Susanna at the Vortex

Susanna Wallumrød, Helge Sten, Fredrik Wallumrød
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2014. All Rights Reserved

(Vortex, 12 August 2014. Review and drawing by Geoff Winston.)

The intimacy of the Vortex brought out the best in Norwegian singer Susanna Wallumrød's trio. They were performing as part of the venue’s ‘Trio Trip’ season. An affecting, dream-like sadness pervades her repertoire - which she only half-jokingly described as ‘Norwegian gloom’ - and characterises her underlying artistic strengths as both performer and songsmith.

Whether self-penned, or songs she fondly picks out as ‘faves’, in the perfectly attuned company of her partner, Helge Sten on guitar (of Supersilent, and aka Deathprod) and her brother, percussionist Fredrik Wallumrød, she imposed a formidably assured imprint on a set which stretched back to the first of her ten albums, and included heartfelt covers of 70s and 80s gems, and extracts from her poetry and song collaborations with fellow Norwegians.

Susanna first set out her stall in 2004 with the ever-committed left field Rune Grammofon label, where Sten is a key producer. More recently she has initiated her own Susanna Sonata label on which she has just released her haunting duo album with Jenny Hval, Meshes of Voices, and Sten’s album with John Paul Jones, Cloud to Ground (under the moniker, Minibus Pimps), as well as her own acclaimed The Forester album.

There was an appealing simplicity to the way she blended her vocal and piano delivery that allowed the clarity of her vision to surface. She imposed an additional layer of vocal richness on songs such as Her Eyes and Oh, I am Stuck from the Wild Dog album, and the evergreen Jailbreak, which she imbued with the desolate quality of Springsteen at his bleakest. Her carefully crafted keyboard style was carried off with a natural confidence to highlight the emotional and melodic interplay in the songs.

Sten added gently atmospheric undercurrents, floating chimes and slices of echoing, spatial intensity to underpin subtle turns in direction, and picked his moments to offer bright counterpoints of shimmering tension. Fredrik was the model of supportive restraint, utilising the soft mallets and brushes to build up the undertow with Sten, and his gentle vocal harmonies complemented the strength of Susanna’s distinctive voice with a natural ease.

The trio’s uniquely moving handling of Love Will Tear Us Apart eschewed Joy Division’s driving rhythms, to get under the skin of the lyrics and melody with slow deliberation to reveal the heart-rending poignancy at its core. This was matched for emotional intensity by their rendition of Dolly Parton’s Jolene, in a strenuously demanded encore, where it seemed that a knife was being dragged through every word to bring out the bitter twists of its desperate narrative.

Support was ably provided by Matt Stevens with a set of layered guitar excursions that interposed Spanish and folk with power chords and the edgy tones associated with John Martyn’s explorations.

The concert was a special highlight in Dalston’s summer, and the Vortex and its typically rapt audience clearly delighted Susanna. As she said, paying us a compliment: ‘It’s wonderful to play for you – listening!’

Susanna Wallumrød: vocals, piano
Helge Sten: guitar, electronics
Fredrik Wallumrød: drums


VIDEO: Fascinatin' Rhythm, new from Jacob Collier

Arrange the words "ridiculously" and "talented" into a phrase.


INTERVIEW: Seamus Blake

Seamus Blake
New York based tenor saxophonist/composer Seamus Blake is at the forefront of contemporary jazz. His music is known for its sophistication, bold improvisation and sheer swagger.  John Scofield, who hired Seamus for his “Quiet Band,” called him “extraordinary, a total saxophonist.”

Seamus Blake was born December 1970 in England and raised in Vancouver, Canada. After graduation from Berklee, he moved to New York, where he rapidly established himself on the scene. He has released six albums as leader on Criss Cross Records,  including his 1993 debut The Call. 

He continues to work with his fine quintet (David Kikoski, Lage Lund, Bill Stewart, Matt Clohesey) and on his ongoing explorations of electronic applications in jazz, especially with the EWI (electronic wind instrument).

=   *   =  *   =

Michael Underwood interviewed Seamus Blake about his new album, memories of Berklee and his inspirations:

Michael Underwood: When did music first feature in your life? Are you from a musical family? What were your early influences?

Seamus Blake: I began playing music on the violin. I played classical violin until I was about 15 years old. Some of the first music I heard that I wanted to play was Bach solo violin. My parents are not musicians but always had a deep appreciation for the arts in general. They love cinema, art, plays, books etc. and have always been very encouraging and very supportive.
MU: At what stage did you choose the saxophone?

SB: I began playing the saxophone around the age of 15

MU: Did any other career paths interest you - in reality or just as dreams?

SB: For a couple of years I was very interested in Theatre improv comedy. I was a member of an acting troop in Vancouver called Theater Sports.  Improvising in theatre is similar to improvising in jazz such as openness and thinking on your feet, devoting a narrative not blocking a teammates ideas. These were important skills that I learned from improv comedy.

MU: What effect did doing a jazz degree at Berklee have on your playing and your musical perceptions?

SB: I feel that I basically taught myself how to play although whilst at Berklee I was exposed to many great young student musicians as well as some good teachers and I got a lot of playing opportunities. 

MU: Are there friendships/musical relationships from that time which have lasted?

SB: Yes quite a few. I am still in touch with several friends from that time. Recently I was collaborating with Guillermo Klein for my newest cd. Scott Kinsey also played keyboards on my latest CD. Scott was at Berkeley at the same time as me along with Chris Cheek, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Mark Turner and Jordi Rossy whom I have played with over the years. I think I was very lucky to be at Berklee during a very fertile period for the school. There were many great young players in my generation and I still play with many of them.

MU: After studying, was there a single moment which got your career going, or a person, or was it gradual?

SB: It was gradual although drummer Victor Lewis gave me my first recording session with his band in New York while I was still in college. It was a beginning of sorts. A lot of my early gigs can be traced back to Victor and his group.

MU: Was the Mingus Big Band important for you?

SB: I played with the Mingus band for several years from about 1995 to 2004. I like Mingus’s music a lot and I made many great friends in the band such as David Kikoski, Alex Sipiagin, Boris Kozlov and Donald Edwards.

MU: You recently released Reeds Ramble with Chris Cheek, what was the inspiration behind this album and why did you pick these musicians?

SB: Chris and I go back to college days. Chris is a great friend and we had a band together for many years called The Bloomdaddies. I always enjoy playing with him and we have a good rapport. We picked the members of the band together. They are all friends that we have both played with over the years.

MU: You have made a great contribution to Helen Sung’s new album on Concord. Was that an enjoyable album to make? Are there other recent albums where you are a sideman which stand out for you?

SB: Yes it was enjoyable. Helen writes interesting challenging music that is rewarding to play. I also played on Alex Sipiagin's CD for the 5Passion's label as well as Gonzalo Rubalcaba's CD. I am looking forward to recording with Bill Stewart and Antonio Sanchez in the fall.

MU: You were in the studio at the beginning of June recording a new album on the 5Passion label, could you tell us more about this album?

SB: Yes, this new album should be available sometime this fall, I hope. It is a combination of some electric quartet songs with Scott Kinsey, Matt Garrison and Nate Smith, and some tunes with a large ensemble (woodwinds and strings) on some songs. John Scofield and Gonzalo Rubalcaba are both special guests.

MU: The instrumentation for this album looks very exciting. What inspired you to bring these musicians together and what writing have you been doing for this ensemble?

SB: It was the first recording for a label where there was a budget that allowed me to do some more daring and interesting things. I wanted to feature some orchestral songs to contrast with some more electric songs. My wife is a great arranger and partly her influence has inspired me to push for a larger ensemble sound.

MU: Are there any more projects in the pipeline? 

SB: I am recording another Opus 5 CD next week. I will also continue to record more CDs for the 5Passion Label.  

MU: Tell us about your singer/songwriting? Is that something you want to develop?

SB: I worked at songwriting and playing the guitar for many years although recently it is taken a bit of a back seat due to my interest in electronic music. I hope to find some more time soon to rekindle that passion

MU:  Do you have any advice for up-and-coming jazz musicians?

SB: Play and practice as much as you can learn the tradition develop your rhythm and strive for a beautiful sound. Discover your likes outside of jazz try to bring them together in a total, complete, unified way. Develop your ears try to play what you hear.

MU: If you could only listen to 5 albums for the rest of your life what would they be?

SB: Led Zeppelin III - Led Zeppelin
       Revolver - Beatles
       8:30 - Weather Report
       Speak No Evil - Wayne Shorter
       Coltrane's Sound - John Coltrane

MU: What inspires you outside of music?

SB: Lately science and space. Shows like Cosmos and the movie Particle Fever. Emotions and experiences. Traveling and living life.

MU: Do you have projects in their early stages or things that you'd like to do but haven’t started yet?

SB: I am finishing my CD and then will be working on the next one. I will be touring with Antonio Sanchez next year and doing a record with him as well as Bill Stewart.

Michael Underwood: When will you next be in the UK? What musicians over here do you know/ like to work with? 

Seamus Blake: No UK plans. Ross Stanley, Chris Higginbottom, Mark McKnight and James Maddren. 


REVIEW: Matt Telfer Quintet at Pizza Express Dean Street

Matt Telfer
Matt Telfer Quintet
(Pizza Express, Dean Street. 12th August 2014.Review by Sarah Chaplin)

Energetic front man and jazz jam host, tenor saxophonist Matt Telfer put together a strong line-up last night to play a selection of Wayne Shorter tunes from the Blue Note era.

Shorter’s tunes still sound so fresh and new half a century later, and it was with evident enjoyment that Telfer tucked into this feast of characteristically modal and non-diatonically inspired creations. We had Armageddon, which Shorter considered the focal point of his album Night Dreamer, Witch Craft with its two bars of heart-stopping silence mid form, then the amazing tune he wrote for Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Lester Left Town. Telfer concluded the first set on soprano with a beautiful rendition of Ana Maria, the haunting tune Shorter wrote in memory of his wife who died in 1996 aboard the TWA800 plane crash while en route to see Shorter play in Italy.

There’s something very unassuming and almost apologetic about Telfer’s style of playing, but if his own Shorter-inspired composition Newark Flash is anything to go by, he’s not only a good musician, he’s also a talented writer. He projects great empathy with every piece, whether playing the tune itself or in his improvisational commentary, communicating the inherent wit or emotional appeal of each piece with verve and precision. This same attitude to the material was also shown by the rest of the band: Chris Jerome on piano produced some memorable solos despite being jetlagged from his long-haul flight home earlier in the day' Ben Bastin on bass created a wonderfully tight and inventive backdrop, and drummer Saleem Raman was strikingly dynamic yet laid back. On the front line, Andy Davies was on fiery good form on both trumpet and flugelhorn, as was Fliss Gorst, whose solos were full of gorgeous phrases.

By the time they got to Footprints, their last number of the evening, the audience was baying for more, proving to me at least that we’re always short of a bit of Shorter.


Yiddish Twist Orchestra (2014 Canary Wharf Jazz Festival -15th-17th August/ Prize Draw for Newsletter Readers)

The Yiddish Twist Orchestra (YTO) are one of the bands at the free Canary Wharf Jazz Festival this weekend. They're performng on the final day, Sunday 17th August at 5pm.

They are: Natty Bo – vocals; Ben Mandelson – guitar; Simon Edwards – bass; Roy Dodds – drums; Robin Harris – keyboards; Dave Bitelli – saxes; Simon Finch – trumpet; Paul Taylor – trombone.

Their debut album, for release in January 2015 is called Let's. We have a very early (probably available in September!) copy as this week's prize draw for newsletter readers.


7-8pm Ed Barker & Friends
8.30-10pm Riot Jazz Brass Band

1.30-2.45pm GoGo Penguin
3.15-4.30pm Zara McFarlane
5-6.15pm Hidden Orchestra with special guest Phil Cardwell
6.45-8.15pm Ciyo Brown’s The Motown Sound featuring Gwyn Jay Allen and special guest James Morton

1.30-2.45pm Nostalgia 77
3.15-4.30pm Polar Bear
5-6.15pm Yiddish Twist Orchestra
6.45-8.15pm Andy Sheppard Quartet


CD REVIEW: Orbert Davis’ Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Chamber Ensemble-Sketches of Spain (Revisited)

Orbert Davis’ Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Chamber Ensemble-Sketches of Spain (Revisited)
(3Sixteen Records. CD31607. CD Review by Alison Bentley)

Trumpeter Orbert Davis has taken the bull by the horns in Spanish style, and re-orchestrated the two longest pieces from the classic Miles Davis/Gil Evans 1960 album, Sketches of Spain, for this superb 19-piece ensemble. He’s also replaced the three shorter pieces with his own compositions and arrangements. Orbert Davis is no relation to Miles- but he’s been playing the Miles role in this music with the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic since the 90s. This final version was premiered in 2011. ‘My thespian friends…advised me to simply act the part of Miles through my trumpet…’ he says, but this is no slavish imitation.

Sketches of Spain and Solea, the former by Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo and the latter by Gil Evans, were both arranged by Evans. Both draw on traditional Spanish scales (especially the Phrygian mode). Orbert Davis explains how he’s developed these, in fascinating liner notes. The number of musicians is about the same as the Miles/Evans version- but he’s kept the woodwinds, upped the percussion, dropped the bassoon and harp, and brought in a string quartet and piano. From the start of Sketches of Spain it’s clear that Orbert Davis has his own sound and feel. He seems to blend in more with the orchestra than Miles did: he aims to play the written parts with a ‘classical aesthetic’. But his solos are very distinctive and full-toned, more like Wynton Marsalis perhaps. There are wonderful dynamics in the writing, from a duet between Davis and Leandro Lopez Varady’s piano to huge brassy crescendos; from swing to almost military drumming; from tender cadenzas to lush harmonies.

Miles called Solea a ‘…song about loneliness, longing and lament. It’s close to the American black feeling in the blues.’ Orbert Davis’ version keeps the drama, with deep strings and melodramatic trilling on the piano. The groove builds, a little like Ravel’s Bolero (there are even what sound like tiny quotes from the melody in Orbert Davis’ solo), with African and Middle Eastern percussion as well as castanets. He plays passionately and chromatically over the backing harmonies, rather than just using Flamenco scales. There’s a delicious section where he improvises along with flute and piano, as the strong rhythmic strings riff on Flamenco phrases.

Orbert Davis declares his love of Spain in his own compositions, Muerte del Matador and El Moreno. The former (‘Death of a Matador’) was originally a reworking of Miles’ Saeta from the 60s album, but has become something new and exquisite. The trumpet improvises like a vocal lament, straight to the heart, with Suzanne Osman’s oud and percussive washes from Ernie Adams and Jonathan Reid. El Moreno, inspired by a famous Flamenco singer, celebrates Moorish influences. The writing is dense and exciting, in 6/8 with swirling strings, jumpy piano phrases and a big back beat. Steve Eisen’s tenor solo combines a Flamenco throaty energy with fine modern jazz.

In contrast, El Albaicín shows how imaginatively Orbert Davis writes for string quartet: his arrangement of this piano piece by Isaac Albéniz has the staccato energy of Shostakovich. The clashing harmonies implicit in Flamenco, and the daredevil dance rhythms, evoke nothing less than classic themes of love and revenge. This is a fine ‘revisitation’: fresh, engaging- and immaculately-recorded. The excellent Chicago Jazz Philharmonic gives strength to Davis’ powerful arrangements and compositions and his fiery playing.

This is one of a triptych of recordings. Proceeds from the CD go to support the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic’s artistic and educational work.