REVIEW: Punch Brothers at the Barbican (2018 EFG LJF)

Punch Brothers
iPhone snap by Leah Williams

Punch Brothers
(Barbican, 17 November 2018. EFG London Jazz Festival. Review by Leah Williams)

Wherever Chris Thile goes, inventive sounds and lyrics, unbridled joy and energy follow, and the progressive bluegrass quintet Punch Brothers is no different. And Thile was most certainly on full form last night, keeping the audience raptly attentive with his virtuosic playing and singing, his trademark writhing body and priceless facial expressions. But it isn’t all about him and to proclaim so would be to do the collective an injustice.

The Punch Brothers are so unique and successful precisely because of the incredible skill and personality of each member. Alongside Thile on mandolin, banjo ace Noam Pikelny, bassist Paul Kowert, acoustic guitarist Chris Eldridge and fiddler Gabe Witcher make up a unified whole where at times it’s difficult to distinguish from where each sound is emanating.

The music is incredibly intricate and complex, with each instrument being stretched to its full capacity. Yet, crowded intimately around one mic with nothing but relaxed, happy expressions on their faces, the quintet masters each note, rhythm and twist and turn with enviable ease. Whether weaving in and out or playing in faultless synchronicity, they take the audience on a musical rollercoaster. Each song journeys through precision perfect highs, lows, soft moments and moments filled with frenzied energy, leaving you with adrenalin pumping and heart melting at the same time.

They played pretty continuously in this high-octane fashion for almost 2 hours, blending old favourites with new tunes from their latest album All Ashore. Songs from this album are reliably varied in tone and content, with subjects ranging from “odes to great Tiki cocktails” through to ruminations on isolation and relationships in the modern day. Pikelny simplified this with a witty introduction, saying the concept was widely based on the ‘“circus back at home”, with a very simple message of “help, help us please”. This led nicely into tunes very clearly inspired by a political backdrop we can all relate to, the aptly named Just Look at This Mess fully highlighting the quintet’s ability to seamlessly blend virtuosic playing with satirical sentiments.

A much-deserved standing ovation acknowledged the impassioned, generous performance of this music, the kind of music that is made to be heard, seen, experienced live. For their two encores, the quintet managed to do the impossible and create an even more exposed and intimate atmosphere, abandoning the microphone for softly mesmerising acoustic moments.

An excellent showcase of the kaleidoscope of sounds, textures, colours and emotions you can create with 5 stringed instruments and a lot of soul. A fantastic gig to kick off the ever-widening scope of the EFG London Jazz Festival.


Dave Douglas's UPLIFT at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (2018 EFG LJF)

Dave Douglas, London 2018
Photo credit and © John Watson/

Dave Douglas's UPLIFT
(Queen Elizabeth Hall, 16 November 2018. EFG London Jazz Festival. Review by Jon Turney)

Man-of-many-projects Dave Douglas’s latest band is an edgy electro-acoustic ensemble. Two amplified guitars, Rafiq Bhatia dealing in a range of effects and Mary Halvorson with a slightly sharper, cleaner tone and Bill Laswell’s effortless depth on electric bass, as much felt as heard, thicken the sound. Ches Smith adds to it, with drums miked to deliver a cavernous echo and sharp cymbal work. Douglas on trumpet and Jon Irabagon on reeds throw unprocessed sounds over the top.

The pieces they play are from Douglas’s UPLIFT series, conceived as a response to dire political events worldwide. The opener has a fittingly uneasy turbulence, guitars furnishing organ sounds, the bass grumbling and growling, thrashing drums, and some Milesian trumpet peals over the top before a screaming tenor sax solo and then interweaving guitars, Halvorson raising the temperature with some bottleneck exclamations.

Dave Douglas's  UPLIFT. L-R: Mary Halvorson, Bill Laswell,
Dave Douglas, Ches Smith, John Irabagon, Rafiq Bhatia (hidden)
Photo credit and © John Watson/

There were calmer interludes later: sombre muted trumpet, softly suspended at times, beautiful alto clarinet from Irabagon, and occasional nods to more conventional jazz styles. But the dominant sound blend was the more minatory mix they began with - with an underlying current of unease the more positive declamations from the front line almost, but not quite dispelled.

This is wordless artistry, and there was little spoken exhortation, after one impassioned reminder from Douglas that “we’re at a difficult moment for our species”. So how does the musical statement relate to the worldly matters that the players want to highlight? This wasn’t exactly good time music (which is a fine thing but you don’t want it all the time). Nor did it amount to a call for action (ditto). I guess the political charge lies in pointing to such issues, then using each of them as a jumping off point for a piece that does leave you feeling good - among other things. Antidotes to despondency, created afresh, are always worthwhile.

Political engagement? You tell me. Musical brilliance? Sure. Uplift? Yes, I think so.


Sara Colman – What We’re Made Of

Sara Colman – What We’re Made Of
(Stoney Lane Records. SLR1968. CD Review by Alison Bentley)

Jazz singers have often relied on the Great American Songbook and professional songwriters’ compositions for their repertoire. Jazz singer-songwriters are less common. Sara Colman grew up listening to the classic '70s singer-songwriters, and has written some striking songs, saturated with jazz.

Two covers pay tribute to her heroes: Joni Mitchell’s All I Want, and Paul Simon’s Still Crazy After All These Years. The first is less folky than the original: a guitar-led Afro-Latin feel (Steve Banks) recalls Lionel Loueke. There’s strong bass work from Ben Markland and a satisfyingly Herbie-ish Fender Rhodes solo from Rebecca Nash. The voice is deep and full-toned, with lots of space for the lyrics to sink in. Paul Simon’s song concludes the album strongly, with Colman’s own gospel-tinged piano, and smoothly-layered live backing vocals from Emilia Martensson and Anthony Marsden.

Two contrasting songs by Colman open the album. It Begins slips the vocals in among Delius-like strings (the Carducci String Quartet, playing arrangements by Jonathan Silk, are on several tracks.) Part of the song’s pleasure is the contrast between the languid, impressionistic vocals and Percy Pursglove’s spirited flugel improvisation. The Latin What We’re Made Of seems to melt Nash’s Fender Rhodes and Colman’s voice together. Its Brazilian-style backing vocals and strong lead vocal sent me back to Flora Purim and Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66, but this song has its own sound. The chorus has been running through my head since I first heard it.

Colman has co-written most of the other songs with her fellow musicians. Heartsafe, Open and Be Careful are jointly by Banks, whose baritone guitar is folk-edged, Bert Jansch-like on the first. There are strong overtones of Magazine-era Rickie Lee Jones, with the circling string quartet and unhurried, bluesy vocal. Open has an intriguing melody and steel-string guitar part; like Kevin Eubanks’ work, it has complex rhythms that flow completely naturally, here teased out by subtle strings and backing vocals. Be Careful is underpinned by a delicate drum and bass groove from drummer Jonathan Silk. Colman spent weeks in the recording studio, working on the album with owner Nick Dover. This track has layers of lush sound, and Dover has a writing credit.

Echoes and Dreamer have a melancholy feel. Colman studied at, and now teaches at, the Birmingham Conservatoire, and many of the musicians on the album have a close association with Birmingham. The phrase: “There you go” recurs in Colman’s Echoes: both an expression of resignation, and a commentary on the demolition of the old Conservatoire building, paralleling the death of a close musician friend. She sings with an understated emotion which catches you unawares. Dreamer, co-written with Nash, has lovely John Taylor-esque piano, and an extended vocal solo, with an expressive tone that brought Liane Carroll to mind.

Strange Meeting adds lyrics by Colman and Hannah Hind to Bill Frisell’s slow tune. An old man looks back on his life; his ballroom dancing is a metaphor for long-lost love. The volume pedal eases long chords from Banks’ guitar, enhanced by percussion from Adriano Adewale. Pursglove’s trumpet begins and ends the piece freely. Trouble Out There has perhaps the most modern jazz feel. It’s co-written with Jules Jackson, who doubles on bass and string arranging. The song looks at humans’ propensity to self-destruct: the loose, unsettling groove heightens the mood. “Would we recognise the ending of the world?”

There’s a strong group feel to this fine album. What We’re Made Of has the emotional openness of classic singer-songwriter recordings, allied to considerable musicality and a modern jazz sensibility.

LINK: Interviews with Sara Colman are HERE and HERE.


REVIEW: Fire! Orchestra + Sly & The Family Drone at Tufnell Park Dome

Sly & the Family Drone in the round at
Tufnell Park Dome
iPhone snap by AJ Dehany

Fire! Orchestra + Sly & The Family Drone
(Tufnell Park Dome, 14 November 2018. Review by AJ Dehany)

This is not a funk session. The amps are pointed inwards on the ground in the middle of the floor. It’s like a boxing ring. We’re spilling into the square and sniffing up against the four guys in the band. The drummer looks like my mate Prof 5000 and I’m tempted to send him a photo. I don’t, ‘cos my photos are shit and I’d feel like a twat, even though filming has been normalised at gigs now – whether you like it or not. Sly & The Family Drone probably don’t care. We’re jumping up and down. The drummer is battering out solid blocks of rhythm with improvised fills. The saxophonist is screeching and skronking, then searing high like a whistling steam kettle. The other two guys are twisting knobs on their mixers, distorting and transforming the sound from their mikes and from more drums in a punishment of feedback.

Reaching out across his amp the guy in front of me tries to give the mike to our mate Grace. She isn’t having it. Anthony the promoter declines too. Then he offers me the mike, fool. OHHHHHYEEAASSSS. For the next few minutes I’m in the band. Does that make me Sly to their Family Drone, the Echo to their Bunnymen? Bending forward I’m screaming into the mike, not just a scream but a high slicing swipe slathered in echo and reverb and chlorine gas. I do a low drone for a bit, then settle into raps of percussive cawing and I’m sure I’ve knackered my throat. After that we keep dancing and then they stop and we realise we’ve lost all our hearing and we’re not pretty no more.

This is a night organised by Baba Yaga’s Hut, the UK’s foremost promoter of noise, improv and psych music from the dark end of the left-field, but you never know quite what to expect from Fire! Orchestra, who take to the main stage next. It’s Mats Gustafsson’s Fire! Trio with Johan Berthling and Andreas Werliin, augmented by two vocalists, a string quartet, a horn section and a piano. There are 14 now but last time they were spotted there were 28 of them. I wasn’t even there but my ears are ringing thinking about it. There were also about four times as many people in a smaller venue. Are people not going out as much in today’s Brexit days? It’s no use saving your money, when the economy crashes into the sea it won’t buy you so much as a gold toilet in a carpet warehouse.

This is the third iteration of the Fire! Orchestra. They’re playing a new piece, or a suite, or a concept, called ARRIVAL, with lyrics by Mariam Wallentin. The acoustic elements of strings and clarinets give the music an ancient ritual sense, especially with the European folk feel of the paired female vocalists. The core Viking trio of Gustafsson, Berthling and Werliin are as fierce and driving as ever, and the extended horn section is sheer diesel poured on the fire. The piano carries the music into classical harmony, and there are intense bouts of semi-free extended group improvisation, as well as typically ferocious baritone sax work from Mats Gustafsson. He makes a great show of conducting the horns and the strings, ducking between them, gesturing rhythms for them to follow or waving to indicate waves of sound or gaggling patters of discordant ruckus. The atmosphere and energy are sustained for a whole hour. Then we all go home. Our mates moan the whole way back about how there’s no good music any more in this day and age until I just want to whack them round the head with an orchestra – which is basically what just happened. But everyone’s a critic.

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

Fire! Orchestra: Mats Gustafsson (baritone sax), Johan Berthling (basses), Andreas Werliin (drums), Mariam Wallentin (voice), Sofia Jernberg (voice), Josefin Runsteen (violin, percussion, voice) Anna Lindal, Katt Hernandez (violin), Leo Svensson (cello), Per Texas Johansson, Christer Bothén, Isak Hedtjäm (clarinets), Alexander Zethson (piano), Susana Santos Silva (trumpet)

LINKS: Family Drone on Bandcamp
Fire! Orchestra
Baba Yaga's Hut website
Interview with Mats Gustafsson from 2014


PREVIEW: Toulouse Lautrec 10th Anniversary Celebration (27 November)

Appearing at the 10th anniversary celebration:
Francesca Confortini and her jazz group.
Clockwise from left: Matteo Busti, Filippo Galli, Giovanni Cresseri,
Alex Otta, Toby Allen, Francesca Confortini (seated, centre)
Photo credit: Andy Porter

Peter Jones looks forward to a special evening celebrating ten years of Toulouse Lautrec in Kennington:

A grassroots jazz venue is something to be cherished, even more so if it’s putting on live jazz and cabaret seven nights a week, but that’s exactly what Kennington’s Toulouse Lautrec has been doing for the past decade. And on Tuesday 27 November, they plan a celebration to mark that tenth anniversary.

For those who have never been there, Toulouse Lautrec is a family-run enterprise based on three floors of a converted pub. The ground floor is a restaurant, the middle floor a piano bar, and at the top is a jazz club. Brothers Florent, Oliver and Nolan Régent divide up the management duties: Oliver is head chef, Florent the restaurant manager, and Nolan is in charge of the entertainment. The Régent family have been a part of the local community for 27 years, ever since the parents of the three brothers opened The Lobster Pot, two doors away.

Even I can work out that Nolan Régent must have put on 3,650 gigs since 2008. I asked how on earth he manages to keep on top of it all.

“It’s easier once you’ve got the infrastructure in place – particularly the ticketing company and the website. The thing about us is, we’ve got a unique booking policy: we’re half cabaret and half jazz. We try to preserve the Moulin Rouge spirit. So our anniversary event will reflect that: in the jazz club we’ve got Francesca Confortini with her six-piece jazz group, plus some burlesque performers, dancers and cabaret artists. In the piano bar we have the singer and trumpet-player Karl Charity, plus the singer and pianist Pete Saunders, who used to be in Dexy’s Midnight Runners.”

On the night, guests will have the freedom of the whole building, and can help themselves to a lavish dinner spread. Downstairs, they can have their picture taken – with showgirls – via the gloriously-named Vintage Selfie Frame. “It’s going to be great fun,” predicts Nolan. “The whole point of the evening is for people to experience what the venue’s all about.”

In fact, it’s about more than just putting on food and entertainment. Toulouse Lautrec has become a stalwart member of the local community, providing a much-needed venue for music students from the Guildhall to perform on Monday nights. And they support the London School of Musical Theatre and the Southwark Playhouse Theatre, whom they supply with food and rehearsal space, and who are about to move into larger accommodation in nearby Uncle Tower.

Any more news for 2019? “Yes – we’re going to be staying open all day, serving breakfast and lunch as well as dinner.”

Early Bird tickets for the 10th Anniversary event are priced at £29, including food. 

During the EFG London Jazz Festival Toulouse Lautrec is hosting BOPFEST
Toulouse Lautrec is at 140 Newington Butts, London SE11 4RN, tel: 020 7582 6800.


FESTIVAL ROUND-UP: 2018 Leipziger Jazztage in Germany

Maggie Nicols
Photo credit: Susann Jehnichen

The 42nd Leipziger Jazztage (Leipzig jazz days) took place from 11 to 20 October – with a focus on the British jazz scene. Martin Laurentius attended the last few days of this East German jazz festival, which has its own rich tradition:

City of Heroes

Leipzig is nicknamed the Heldenstadt (city of heroes). On 4 September 1989, prayers for peace in the Nikolaikirche segued into a Monday demonstration, and a peaceful revolution started which was to sweep the old DDR regime from power in just a matter of weeks, and cause the fall of the "Iron Curtain".

So the people of this metropolis in Saxony definitely know a thing or two when it comes to wanting to tear down barriers. And that's why the curators of this year's Leipziger Jazztage came up with the idea that the programme of this, their 42nd edition, should feature the UK, and be placed under the motto "Fish'n'Chips", in honour of the British fast food staple and clichéd national symbol. On 29 March 2019 the United Kingdom is expected to leave the EU – with unforeseeable consequences for cultural practitioners in general and jazz musicians in particular on both sides of the Channel.

Goldberg Tangents & Brexit Big Band

I could only be there for the last three days of the Leipziger Jazztage, and therefore missed Michael Wollny's Goldberg Tangents experiment. However, the informative programme book does explain the background. The pianist had a double objective with this project to establish a reference to Johann Sebastian Bach's important keyboard work, the Goldberg Variations, written in Leipzig, and also to incorporate the festival’s British theme by doing an experimental collaboration with the electro artist Leafcutter John. I also never got to find out whether the English polymath Matthew Herbert with his Brexit Big Band could find a visionary way to set the forthcoming exit of the UK from the EU to music. And another omission was the panel discussion of journalist/publicist Wolf Kampmann with Matthew Herbert and Rachel Launey from the British Council about the "Brexit Big Bang".

Of grandparents and grandchildren

These days the events of the Leipziger Jazztage are decentralised. There are concerts in the opera house, aimed at a rather older, "classical" jazz audience, at which the younger audience – and that includes the students of the jazz department of the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Felix Mendelsohn Bartholdy – are not to be seen. There is the naTo socio-cultural centre, on Leipzig's nightlife mile, the Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse south of the city centre, and that feels closer to the median point, certainly in terms of audience structure’s demographic. But when a concert was announced with the guitarist Helmut "Joe" Sachse, a pioneer of the so-called GDR-Jazz who has just turned 70, with the British vocalist Maggie Nicols, who is the same age, then the audience was full of their age group, notwithstanding the fact that the second part of the evening presented players who could more or less be their grandchildren, Anna-Lena Schnabel (saxophone), Florian Weber (piano), James Banner (bass) and James Maddren (drums). Faced with an onslaught of Sachse's riffs and grooves on semi-acoustic guitar, increasing the intensity even more with loud drone noises, Nicols didn’t seem to have the vocal means on this occasion to offer much of a response.

Max Andrzejewski
Photo credit: Susann Jehnichen

In the wake of Robert Wyatt

On the penultimate festival evening we went to the Westbad in the district of Lindenau. This indoor venue, opened in 1930 as a public swimming pool, is today an event centre and this year was a festival venue for the Leipziger Jazztage, presenting a newly commissioned composition. The festival organizers had originally tried to persuade the young Berlin percussionist Max Andrzejewski make a homage to the work of David Bowie. But with his quartet HÜTTE, augmented for this Leipzig premiere by keyboard player/guitarist Jörg Hochapfel and vocalist Cansu Tanrikulu, he decided he would prefer to work on Robert Wyatt's songs, with their reputarion for being cryptic.

Andrzejewski arranged ten songs and stayed surprisingly close to the originals. Only sporadically did extraneous noises disturb the peculiar pull of the Wyatt songs. The sound pressure and volume, which Wyatt's songs require in order to experience the depth of the different levels of meaning and the streaks between text and music, did prove to be a problem acoustically in the tiled, former indoor swimming pool. It is worth noting that the band which followed this premiere, the quartet/ collective James Farm – Americans Joshua Redman (tenor saxophone), Aaron Parks (piano), and Eric Harland (drums) and US-based New Zealander Matt Penman (bass) – didn’t have these difficulties. These four kept tight, communicated at a high dynamic level, and simply let their improvisational ideas run their course.

Eric Harland
Photo credit: Susann Jehnichen

Queen's Jazz

Harland was also at the drums in the Aziza quartet of bassist Dave Holland, which opened the final evening of the Leipziger Jazztage at the Leipzig Opera. The musical setting of this band was very different from that of James Farm: instead of modern jazz, there were jazz-rock experiments that risked degenerating into cliché.

Harland's pressure and powerful drumming was the constant in both bands. But it was only through the interaction with the deep-rooted grooves of the British-born bass player that his rhythmic flow got a further ingredient, and subtly shifted between concrete beat and shimmering pulsation. Aziza's jazz rock was also roughened up and contrasted by the single note lines of Lionel Loueke's guitar, which were reminiscent of the music of his homeland Benin, and by the expressive narratives of tenor saxophonist Chris Potter, performed at exhilarating speed.

Following this concert, the Leipziger Jazztage seemed to test the borders of audibility in the opera with two quiet sets: first with the deliberately intensive performance of the quartet around the Israeli trumpeter Avishai Cohen, who lives in New York, followed by the concentrated, quiet performance of film music by the English vocalist Norma Winstone and her trio.

But it wasn't over yet. From midnight on, there was to be ‘Jazz’ in the Telegraph club in the centre of Leipzig – in fact a revamp of the 40-year old record of that name by Queen, from Berlin guitarist Christian Kögel. With the two tenorists Peter Ehwald and Uli Kempendorff, and with his instrumental colleague and dobro player Kai Brückner and the drummer Rainer Winch, he unpacked the 13 songs on this album. They succeeded in extracting every last ounce of kitsch, opulence and camp out of them that they could. Chapeau!

Martin Laurentius is a Contributing Editor at the magazine Jazz thing and works extensively on jazz programmes for German broadcaster WDR 3 and other stations in the ARD network.

LINKS: Leipziger Jazztage 
There will be a link to Martin Laurentius' original German when available


CD REVIEW: Omar Sosa & Yilian Cañizares – Aguas

Omar Sosa & Yilian Cañizares – Aguas
(OTA Records OTA1032. CD review by Peter Bacon)

The Cuban pianist Omar Sosa is a committed collaborator. Throughout his recording career albums in his name have featured musicians from diverse musical heritages: Tunisian oud player Dhafer Yousef on Mulatos; New England Americana  multi-instrumentalist Tim Eriksen on Across The Divide; most recently Senegalese kora player and singer Seckou Keita on last year’s Transparent Water.

Here the collaboration is a closer one in the sense that violinist/vocalist Yilian Cañizares is Cuban-born, but the influences that she brings to the music are as diverse and global as Sosa’s – she studied classical violin in Cuba, and has lived in Venezuela and Switzerland since, and her music feeds on her Yoruba ancestry.

With the exception of percussion from Inor Sotolongo all the sounds you hear on Aguas are from Sosa and Cañizares, but that doesn’t stop it having an expansive soundscape since Sosa uses a variety of keyboards and both musicians are well versed in the use of programming and samples. Sosa sings also.

The combination of acoustic piano, violin and voices in amongst the lushness of synths and digitally altered ambience is tastefully handled and reflects perfectly these two musicians as delighted to be working in their musical tradition as they are to be dressing it with all the modern technologies at their disposal.

All the compositions are jointly credited and take in original songs which could just as easily be decades-old folk melodies, so compelling are they as ear worms, gently funky grooves and jazz improvisations of the fusion kind. The album takes water as its theme and there is a flow and fluidity to the way it slips and slides along.

Omar Sosa has an extensive discography and has built up a substantial fanbase; Yilian Cañizares may be a less familiar name but her 2016 album Invocación indicated that her star is surely on the rise and she blooms even more richly in this collaboration. Aguas is a hugely generous album with many moments of pure gorgeousness.

Omar Sosa and Yilian Cañizares are appearing at the EFG London Jazz Festival as part of the Jazz Cubano! triple-bill on Friday 23 November at the Barbican.

LINKS: Booking for Jazz Cubano!
Preview: Jazz Cubano
Peter Bacon's review of Yilian Cañizares' Invocación


BOOK REVIEW: Arthur Elgort – Jazz

Arthur Elgort – Jazz
(Damiani. ISBN 978-88-6208-608-0. Book review by Andrew Cartmel)

In an age where books of jazz photography tend to be of the mammoth, coffee table-hogging variety, this handsome collection of Arthur Elgort’s work bucks the trend. Published by Damiani, an Italian firm specialising in stylish volumes of photography, it’s an elegantly compact and solid hardcover, beautifully produced and designed to last for a lifetime of browsing. The cover has embossed golden metallic type over an image of saxophonist Illinois Jacquet in full flight, and indeed Jacquet features frequently throughout — perhaps most memorably portrayed grimacing as he chews on a reed at the Selmer factory, and generally looking splendidly moody and autumnal, in Paris in 1990.

Other luminaries to be found in these pages include a gritty depiction of Joshua Redman in action in 1996, a grizzled, silvery and distinguished Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon blowing ecstatically (both 1988), George Benson with his Ibanez guitar in 1987 and Sonny Rollins looking positively Buddha-like in 1991. There’s also a particularly beautiful study of Wynton Marsalis playing, which occupies the rear endpapers of Jazz and also comes as a print with the deluxe, limited edition of this book.

Black and white is Elgort’s forte — almost all of these images are in luminous monochrome, with the sort of glow and fine-grained detail which reminds us that classic analog photography relied on the light sensitivity of compounds of silver. But there are also some lush full-colour shots including a striking one of Ornette Coleman looking dapper astride a shiny red motorbike in 1988.

While the book depicts some of the giants of jazz, Elgort is himself a giant of fashion photography, enjoying a particularly long and fruitful association with Vogue magazine. Some of his most celebrated shoots featured Christy Turlington at the Red Army barracks in Leningrad and Stella Tennant diving into a swimming pool in tweeds and wellies. Elgort’s use of natural light was pioneering in the field, and he favours spontaneity over carefully contrived composition — and both of these qualities come across strongly in Jazz.

Contact sheet showing musicians and modelsin Harlem
Photo  © Arthur Elgort
Elgort’s association with the world of fashion leads to a certain degree of crossover, with supermodels such as Jenny Howorth and Liya Kebede cropping up in some of the same shots as the musicians in this book — and it has to be said that elder statesmen of jazz don’t look to be suffering too much at having such high calibre arm candy inflicted on them. And one the most gorgeous images in the book has Liya Kebede framed by the serpentine curves of a saxophone. It’s the epitome of jazz as glamour.

A little more information wouldn’t have gone amiss — there’s no index in the book, and a few of the portraits aren’t easy to identify — but this is a sophisticated little volume rich in jazz imagery seen through the lens of a master. And it’s arrived just in time for Christmas.

LINK: Jazz at Damiani Editore


PREVIEW: Jazz Cubano (23 November, Barbican, 2018 EFG LJF)

Pianist Alfredo Rodriguez
Publicity Photo by Anna Webber

Latin jazz specialist, French journalist Yannick Le Maintec of Le Monde, tells us that he will be making a special trip to London for just one show in this year's EFG London Jazz Festival. He explains his strong imperative for him to be here for Jazz Cubano:

On Friday 23 November, 2018 the EFG London Jazz Festival is offering a triple show, Jazz Cubano, three opportunities to discover the vivacity of Cuban jazz.

Let's face it. Comfortably settled in its tradition, Latin jazz, like its jazz cousin, can sometimes be lazy. But isn't innovation part of its DNA? Weren’t Dizzy Gillespie, Mario Bauza and Chico O'Farrill innovators?

When it came to making the choice between tradition and invention, Arturo O'Farrill (performing at the Barbican with his sextet) chose not to make a decision. Every Sunday at Birdland, he celebrates the work of his father Chico. His own recordings are formidable inventions. (website)

You never know what to expect from an Alfredo Rodriguez album. The Little Dream is no exception to this rule. Even the Besame Mucho, which has been sung into the ground, is getting a new lease on life. (website)

They were meant to meet. Two kindred spirits, Omar Sosa and Yilian Cañizares, the pianist and the violinist. Aguas, the result – almost mystical – of their musical union is an object of infinite beauty. (Facebook)

One violinist, three pianists, as many degrees of creativity. This is what we expect from this Cubano Jazz! scheduled for 23 November on the Barbican Hall stage. Expressing your creativity on stage, isn't that what jazz is all about?

Yannick Le Maintec's original French text:

Vendredi 23 novembre 2018, le London Jazz Festival propose un triple show, Jazz Cubano !, trois occasions de découvrir la vivacité du jazz cubain.

Reconnaissons-le. Confortablement installé dans sa tradition, le latin jazz, à l’instar de son cousin jazz, se fait parfois paresseux. L’innovation ne fait-elle pas partie de son ADN ? Dizzy Gillespie, Mario Bauza, Chico O’Farrill n’étaient-ils pas des inventeurs ?

Entre tradition et invention, Arturo O’Farrill a choisi de ne pas choisir. Chaque dimanche au Birdland, il célèbre l'oeuvre de son père Chico. Ses propres enregistrements sont redoutables d’invention.

Vous ne savez jamais ce qui vous attend dans un album d’Alfredo Rodriguez. « The Little Dream » ne déroge pas à la règle. Même l’usé Besame Mucho retrouve une nouvelle jeunesse.

Ils étaient faits pour se rencontrer. Deux âmes sœurs, Omar Sosa et Yilian Cañizares, le pianiste et la violoniste. « Aguas », le résultat -quasi-mystique- de leur union musicale est un objet d’une infinie beauté.

Une violoniste, trois pianistes, autant de degrés de créativité. Voilà ce qu’on attend de ce Jazz Cubano ! programmé le 23 novembre sur la scène du Barbican Center. Exprimer sur la scène sa créativité, n’est-ce pas le propre du jazz ?

LINK: Barbican bookings for 23 November


INTERVIEW: Deelee Dubé (Elgar Room, Royal Albert Hall, 29 November and new album Tenderly early 2019)

Deelee Dubé
Photo credit: Bob Meyrick
South London vocalist DEELEE DUBÉ was the winner of the 2016 Sarah Vaughan Competition in New Jersey, with a judging panel that included Dianne Reeves and Christian McBride. She has an Elgar Room appearance with her group on 29 November, and will launch a new album early next year. Having interviewed her when she won the competition (link below), Sebastian found out about what has been happening since, and her current plans:

LJN: In the time since you won the Sarah Vaughan comp in Jan 2016 you've been studying, I understand. A course? A thesis?

Deelee Dubé: Yes. I was offered a one-year placement and scholarship to study an MA in Voice studies at the Royal  Central School of Speech and Drama, which I have just completed. It has been a transformational experience, which has challenged me intensely on both a performative and academic level.

LJN: Was it more practical or more theoretical?

DD: It entailed both, practical and theoretical experiences which have enhanced my perspective on vocal pedagogy on so many levels, with a different lens in which to view my voice, craft and the art of performance and all that it encompasses. I have embraced this opportunity to fully immerse myself and engage with my voice and truth on a comprehensive level which I have not had the chance to do before, and in doing so I have observed my growth and development, and acquired/generated some logic and context behind the doing which is undoubtedly empowering.

LJN: Do you feel the studying has helped you as a singer/performer?

DD:  Absolutely. I enjoy learning, and believe that the moment we stop learning is the moment we stop living. Life is a learning experience in itself which sees and enables the constant evolution and development of self. In learning about the embodied voice, I have benefited from gaining and developing an informed understanding of my craft on a holistic level and consider this process as part of my overall make-up as a vocalist and as an individual and I like to utilise and apply what I learn to further enhance creative processes and abilities as a performer and individual respectively.

LJN: You have a new album due out early next year? When was it recorded?

DD: That's right. The Tenderly album was recorded prior to my studies at the RCSSD.

LJN: Who is on it and what will you be playing?

DD: Renato D’Aiello on tenor saxophone, who also produced and arranged the record, Bruno Montrone on piano, Nicola Muresu on double bass, and Gasper Bertoncelj on drums, a great line-up and rhythm section. For the most recent project I have worked with a great US-based rhythm section which include: Benito Gonzalez (piano), Corcoran Holt (acoustic bass), Mark Whitfield Jnr (drums) and Russell Malone (guitar)

LJN: Has the Vaughan comp win opened doors?

DD: Yes, it has, as much as I have enabled it to. I’ve also yet to see what other possibilities may unfold. The competition was an amazing and humbling experience and opportunity for myself as an artist and I especially feel honoured to have been chosen as the first British winner by a trailblazing panel of judges, it is a transformational experience.

LJN: What have been highlights since you won?

DD: I have performed at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2017 which was an amazing experience, and also performed at the Teatro Auditorio Revellin in Ceuta, and received an amazing reception both from the audience and Spanish press.

I performed as part of the Royal Albert Hall’s 150th anniversary series which included Celebrating Women and the Hall series (which will see the hall 150 on 29 March 2021) which was in honour of Sarah Vaughan who performed at the Royal Albert Hall on the 22 February 1953.

Besides my residency at Ronnie Scott’s Acoustic Jazz Lounge, I have also completed a mini-tour of the US prior to beginning my recording project for Concord, and have been recording whilst studying, so things have been pretty intense, but I’m not complaining!

LJN: What new repertoire or approaches to songs have you been getting into recently?

DD: I have also been listening the late South African jazz singer called Sathima Bea Benjamin (Ibrahim Abdullah’s late wife and jazz artist) and currently have an intrigue for improvisational vocal artforms such as vocalese and scat singing which have led towards exploring word-based art forms, listening to pioneers and studying their approaches such as Jon Hendricks and Allan Harris, Eddie Jefferson, Bobby McFerrin as well as listening to the magnificent Shirley Horn, Jobim and Carmen McRae, Alice Coltrane, Abbey Lincoln, Ernestine Anderson, Dena Derosa, Rene Marie and Meredith D’Ambrosio.

I believe it’s important to find the fun and excitement as well as the challenge within a musical moment, and the simple approach always seems to be effective, so in saying that I still enjoy listening to the likes of Diana Krall, Eliane Elias, Nora Jones and Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves, Abbey Lincoln, Roberta Flack, Bessie Smith. I also enjoy listening to Sarah Vaughan’s creative approach to interpreting songs of The Beatles' catalogue.

LJN: You also have a role in Alex Webb and Tony Kofi's Cannonball show. How does all that work?

DD: Yes, I am currently working and touring with Tony Kofi and Alex Webb on a great project which celebrates the genius of Cannonball and Nat Adderley. My feature is based on the Cannonball’s 1961 studio album collaboration with Nancy Wilson, and we have an upcoming performance at the 606 Jazz club on 21 November 2018 as part of LJF, followed by the Hideaway on 17 January 2019

LJN: The Elgar Room show... will it be based on the material on the album?

DD:  We will be performing material from my repertoire which incorporates some new songs, compositions and arrangements. It’s going to be exciting!

LJN: Will you go back to North America ? 

DD: Yes I hope, soon!

LJN: And other plans?

DD: I am going on tour and also curating ideas and material for my next album project. I will also be graduating in December, and look forward to also developing my practice as a voice practitioner and emerging voice pedagogue. 2019 will see the development of new projects and music related ventures. Watch this space.

LINKS: Deelee Dube's website2016 Interview with Deelee Dube after her win at the Sarah Vaughan Competition
Elgar Room Bookings for 29 November


REVIEW: GoGo Penguin at the Royal Albert Hall

Gogo Penguin at the Royal Albert Hall
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska

GoGo Penguin
(Royal Albert Hall, 12 November 2018. Review by Sarah Chaplin)

Jazz gigs are not generally synonymous with large, oval, grandiose spaces that have too many associations with flag-waving prom-lovers, and looking at GoGo Penguin’s list of tour dates, it seemed that the Albert Hall was something of an anomaly in amongst their other ports of call, both in terms of capacity and style of venue. So when the three Mancunian musicians, pianist Chris Illingworth, bassist Nick Blacka and drummer Rob Turner, trooped onto the stage, they seemed a tad daunted by the vastness of their audience and the space they were about to fill with music.

But fill it they did, mostly with tunes from their latest album A Humdrum Star, released on Blue Note earlier this year. Things typically build up from a single hammered note from Chris, or from the slightest hint of a riff by Nick, or in response to a darkly persistent pulse laid down by Rob, and then slowly but surely they build an edifice of sound from this foundation. Their ideas mutate, spreading from one musician to the other, as they mould each simple motif into a cosmic landscape. The inspiration for their latest album came from Carl Sagan, but while his comment was intended to play down the importance of the sun in the context of our galactic neighbourhood, GoGo Penguin seem to regard it more as a challenge; their music seems to want to explore and celebrate our being here.

So in the first stretch we were treated to Prayer, Raven, Bardo and A Hundred Moons from this new album, then One Percent from their previous album v2.0. Halfway through the tune Ocean In A Drop, I began musing about the secret to GoGo Penguin’s success, about what makes them more than a drop in the jazz ocean. Was it their choice of name – apparently selected in the green room just before they performed their first gig, as their eye fell on a strange grubby item in the room that looked a bit like a penguin? Or was it their fortuitous sequence of signings, first to Gondwana, then Blue Note, and all the attendant publicity this has courted? Without meaning to sound churlish, there are plenty of other equally unassuming, self-effacing, non-commercial, hard-working, accomplished and talented jazzers on the circuit, so what’s caught the attention of a much wider audience, that’s enabled this trio to reach a level of success other jazz line-ups can only dream of? Lacking an obvious answer, I simply allowed myself to tune into my senses like every other person around me seemed to be doing, and be mesmerised.

Chris Illingworth of GoGo Penguin at the Royal Albert Hall
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska
GoGo Penguin lure you into a trance-like state, they toy with your emotions, feeding some primal need with jolts of energy, artfully varying the tension, the volume, the texture and creating a sense of expansiveness, all the while playing instruments that look completely conventional, yet leading you to suspect that somehow they’ve been souped up into another dimension. True, Illingworth’s grand piano had a strange ridged protuberance sticking out of the top and a weirdly sonorous quality at times, and Blacka’s acoustic, sometimes bowed, bass often had a reedy, synthy sound. Meanwhile, Turner seemed to be wielding more than two sticks, but it might just have been an illusion, because his hands were moving so fast. Then there’s the attention to visual detail: they have a nifty logo, which was repeated on three luminous disks above their heads, and a backlit band of LEDs that when combined with the smoke and cut through with pinpoints of coloured light, silhouetted and dissected the band in a way not often attempted at a jazz gig.

They claim their music sounds like who they’ve been listening to, and it seemed to me that must have encompassed a fair amount of classical minimalism, especially given the fact they recently toured with their new score to accompany the film Koyaanisqatsi, whose original soundtrack was written by Philip Glass. The one-set show concluded with tunes like Reactor and Transient State, by which time I was definitely in an altered state myself. Drifting back to the tube, I could hardly recall the two engaging support acts from the early part of the evening, Andreya Triana and Sunda Arc. But no matter, I got what I came for: a taste of the dizzy heights a humdrum jazz outfit from Manchester can rise to, given half a chance. London, we need to up our game!

Sarah Chaplin is Founder and Managing Director of JAZZLONDONLIVE

Rob Turner of Gogo Penguin at the Royal Albert Hall
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska


LP REVIEW: Eric Dolphy – Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions

Eric Dolphy – Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions
(Resonance Records vinyl limited edition with booklet. LP review by Geoff Winston)

This three-LP vinyl set, drawn from the full Eric Dolphy sessions produced by Alan Douglas that gave rise to the Conversations and Iron Man LPs is, without reservation, extraordinary. The sound quality on these vinyl pressings is exceptional, using the surviving mono masters as the source for revisiting the sessions recorded on two days in July 1963.

The masters are from the priceless possessions entrusted to Hale and Juanita Smith by Dolphy before his fateful trip to Europe. He tragically died in a German hospital due to a misdiagnosis of his diabetes. Thanks to the tireless efforts of flautist James Newton, a Dolphy devotee and close friend of the Smiths, and the agency of LA-based Resonance Records' Zev Feldman, via Jason Moran, these tracks have been lovingly restored and enhanced by Resonance, in the hands of the company's president, George Klabin, and engineer Fran Gala, for release on vinyl on 23 November 2018, followed by CD release early in 2019.

Accompanying the tracks from those LPs is a carefully compiled selection of 85 minutes-worth of alternate and unissued takes along with a booklet of in-depth essays, interviews and photos which shed further light on Dolphy's unique talent, his personality and the stories behind these recordings.

What is amazing about these mixes and vinyl pressings is the clarity and tingling, bright definition achieved, which enhances the listening experience significantly, especially when compared to earlier, perfectly acceptable releases of the two albums. It is a sparkling, full sound, imbued with a tactile precision that brings out the underlying detail as never before. When you listen, you really do hear the range and subtleties of each musician's individual contribution in the acoustic separations, with the resulting whole very much a fulfilling sum of its parts.

The profundity of Eric Dolphy's genius is no more deeply articulated than in his duets playing bass clarinet with bassist Richard Davis on Muses For Richard Davis (previously unissued; two takes) with their inescapably powerful, emotional reach, and their two spiritual interpretations of Alone Together. The richness of the bass hums with breathtaking resonance from the opening notes of Alone Together. A bassist to whom I played these tracks said that's how he's always wished his bass could be recorded. These are not just recordings, you feel as though you are in the room together with Dolphy and Davis.

Dolphy's mental and technical dexterity, vision and virtuosity are revealed in the pin-sharp renderings of the three different takes of his intense, virtuosic solo forays on alto saxophone on Love Me. This pressing ensures that every note carries its full weight as one follows the tumbling intricacies of each astounding interpretation, which immediately bring to mind the pioneering invention of Coleman Hawkins' unaccompanied tenor solo, Picasso, on which he laboured for two four-hour sessions, a month apart in 1948, before deeming one take to be suitable for release – which it was as part of Norman Granz's monumental vinylite set, The Jazz Scene.

Eric Dolphy
Photo credit: Lee Tanner
Photo authorised for re-use by Resonance's distributor 

The range of the ensemble pieces is a delight. As Newton notes, "these recordings are testament to Dolphy's ability to assemble ensembles that could delve deeply in to his compositional language and his visionary approach as a bandleader". Original Dolphy compositions and interpretations of those of others are heard as though for the first time, and with repeated listening the subtle variations of alternate takes can be appreciated alongside the originals. The outtake of Jitterbug Waltz features a quirkily off-beat flute passage from Dolphy which brings out a smile. In both versions the merest hints of drum and cymbal touches are positioned so discreetly. The humour and joyfulness of the Mexican-inflected Music Matador is captured to a tee both times.

The Iron Man tracks, originally issued four years after Dolphy's death, comprising mainly Dolphy pieces, with its loose, almost messy, 'live' feel to the three larger group works (the title track, Mandrake and Burning Spear), were initially deemed 'too futuristic' by the record company, sadly echoing the fate of his recordings of Ellington with Chico Hamilton, when the record company had the suite re-recorded with Buddy Collette in his place. Luckily, the Dolphy recording was subsequently discovered by chance. In Burning Spear, it is still a surprise when it becomes obvious that there are two bassists playing, Davis and Eddie Kahn!

The brass work is superb, with the 18-year old trumpeter, Woody Shaw, given his break by the ever-generous and insightful Dolphy, rewarding the faith in his talent with truly mature and inspired contributions, while the section work utilised the talents of Sonny Simmons and Clifford Jordan. The ethereal, unearthly qualities of Bobby Hutcherson's vibraphone playing are refined with great sensitivity, shimmering ever deeper within the sound strata that Dolphy created.

A special bonus in this set is the only other recording of the unnerving Personal Statement aka Jim Crow which exists outside of that released on Other Aspects in 1987. Robin D.G. Kelley, in his illuminating essay, explains the fascinating story behind these recordings made in March 1964. Kelley also discusses Dolphy's Town Hall concert, sharing the bill with poet Ree Dragonette, around whose poems he wrote several compositions, including those that became Hat And Beard on Out To Lunch!, and Mandrake on Iron Man.

The insights offered by musicians who played with Dolphy are revealing. Herbie Hancock, drafted in as a 22-year-old to Dolphy's group, says, "Playing with Eric pried open my brain as to what was possible in jazz." Sonny Simmons movingly comments, in one of the publication's July 2018 interviews, "It was sad how they treated Dolphy … It broke my heart. … He couldn't work in New York." Which is why he went to Europe. McCoy Tyner remembers Dolphy's pockets "bulging with mouthpieces"! There is also a lovely conversation between Newton and bassist Davis which gets to the nub of his and Dolphy's special musical relationship.

This major collection of recordings is, in effect, the bridge between the adventurous exuberance of Out There, the loose, confident energy of Outward Bound and the daring leap that was Out To Lunch!, Dolphy's last studio recording as leader. It really is a joy to hear these sets entirely afresh, with the extra dimension that ultimately focusses on Dolphy's outstanding talents and playing. David Murray puts his finger on it when he harangues against a commentator who describes Dolphy's choice of notes as “unresolved”. "But those are the notes that make people great, in fact. The ones that he doesn't seem able to define."

I have one question, after reading in the touching reminiscences of Juanita Smith that Dolphy's last telephone goodbye before leaving from the airport was to the Hale's dog, Mitzi, adored by Dolphy. What kind of dog was Mitzi, and are there any photos of her, ideally with Dolphy?

The limited edition vinyl set, Eric Dolphy, Musical Prophet, is an absolute 'must have' for any Dolphy fan. Start queueing at your local record store now (or ‘Get in line, now,’ for American readers)! It should be noted that the Dolphy Family Trust is the beneficiary of the proceeds from this release.

Eric Dolphy, Musical Prophet will be available to selected independent stores only on 23 November, Record Store Day’s Black Friday event, where they can continue to sell the set after this date for one week only. After this initial period the set will then be made widely available for as long as stocks of the vinyl version last. The 3-CD version will be released on 25 January 2019.

LINK: Information on Record Store Day’s Black Friday event.
Eric Dolphy at Resonance Records


REVIEW: Buck and Billie: Julia Biel and The Buck Clayton Legacy Band at SJE Arts, Oxford

Julia Biel as Billie Holiday
Photo courtesy of Ushaw Jazz Festival, Durham

Buck and Billie: Julia Biel and The Buck Clayton Legacy Band
(SJE Arts, Oxford. Wed 7th Nov 2018. Review by Alison Bentley)

"What a lovely live acoustic," said bassist and bandleader Alyn Shipton from the front of the church. "Imagine you’re in a Kansas City Dance Hall, where Buck Clayton started his career in halls with a similar resonance." It wasn’t till the second half that a couple started dancing in the aisles, but from the first piece (the boppy Outer Drive, with which Clayton began his own gigs) the joint was jumping and the audience was smiling. In the breakneck The Jeep Is Jumpin’, Adrian Fry’s trombone solo stood out, with its vocal phrasing and rich tone. Four-part horn harmonies traded licks with the bass, like delicious treats. Shady Side was a downbeat take on the chords to On The Sunny Side Of The Street, with some sweet swooping alto from Alan Barnes.

Billie Holiday was a friend of Buck Clayton – they toured together in Count Basie’s band and recorded many albums. Resplendent with signature white flower in her hair, the excellent Julia Biel joined the sharp-suited band for Back In Your Own Backyard (“It’s the duty of the musicians to be neat about the neck,” Clayton used to say.) With her strong stage presence, the crying tone of Biel’s voice was very like Billie’s; Biel had Billie’s way of singing way behind the beat, so making the band’s immaculate grooves even more exciting. The original string arrangement of I’m A Fool To Want You had been pared down to four horns (hats off to Menno Daams and Adrian Fry who had shared arranging duties for the band). Fry’s trombone weaved gorgeously in and out of Biel’s vocals, whose emotional delivery made the big space feel intimate.

The pulsing minor swing of My Man allowed Biel to phrase freely alongside Jonathan Vinten’s sparkling piano trills. What A Little Moonlight Can Do evoked Benny Goodman with Alan Barnes’ and Michael McQuaid’s clarinet duet. In These Foolish Things, the voice was exposed, supported by just piano, bass and drums. Biel closed her eyes and drew us into the mood. At times, you could hear a more modern sensibility in her tone – the way, say, Erykah Badu has her own distinctive voice along with some of Billie’s gamine timbre.

The second set featured more songs associated with Billie: the instruments were fewer than in the originals, but the arrangements never lacked intensity or variety. The vocal line skated on the sumptuous four-horn harmonies; in the thrilling Swing Brother Swing it sounded relaxed, with a fierce energy mirroring Clark Tracey’s powerfully swinging drums. Ian Smith’s trumpet came to the fore in two ballads, Good Morning Heartache and Easy Living. The first had a slow thoughtful solo, while the muted trumpet circled the vocals bluesily in the second. The punchy swing of I Hear Music sparked an exceptional solo from McQuaid’s tenor.

Billie’s own co-written God Bless The Child was sung with an astringent bluesy twist, using the voice as an instrument, the way Billie did. The harmonised horns were like a personality all by themselves, interacting in You’re My Thrill. The taut swing of Now Or Never with its Basie-esque horn riffs, had the audience yelling for an encore. Shipton called My Old Flame “a hymn to amnesia” ("I can't even think of his name.") But this was a gig to remember, and the audience was reluctant to let the band go. This tribute to Buck and Billie was never pastiche, but played and sung with a very present vitality and personality.

LINK: Interview with Alyn Shipton about this project from 2017


REVIEW: Allison Neale Quartet at Lauderdale House

Allison Neale
Publicity Photo by Benjamin Amure

Allison Neale Quartet 
(Lauderdale House, 8 November 2018. Review by Brian Blain) 

"Nice to hear some really melodic stuff" was the verdict of one woman as an all-smiles audience exited altoist Allison Neale's Art Pepper-inspired evening at Lauderdale House last Thursday Maybe Neale's sound is a bit less robust than Pepper's but this was nothing that intelligent use of low level PA couldn't fix and the overall band sound was immaculate all evening. Every other aspect of Pepper's playing - the long flowing lines, the bite and passion, the beautiful understated swing and complete understanding with the other musicians – pianist Alex Bryson, a great new find with deep Bud Powell roots, bassist Darren McCarthy and drummer Matt Fishwick, whose mastery of dynamics in what can be a tricky room for drummers, was real quality-meant that this was a jazz experience to savour and roll around the tongue.

Some of the material was from the classic Meets the Rhythm Section (Miles Davis's, Red Garland Philly Joe Jones, Paul Chambers) sets with Pepper's original, Patricia, a beautiful ballad with real depth and that yearning melancholia that was such a feature of the writing of the bop era. Other tunes followed the typical formula of the era based on standards such as Suzy the Poodle (Indiana) and the brilliantly volatile (and flying) Straight Life (After You've Gone). Tin Tin Deo was a really attractive theme that put part of its toe in a heavily rimshotted Latin feel that was typical of West Coast exotica of the period but which was the only part of the evening that to my ears sounded a tad dated.

As all you hipsters say, 'Big Up' to Allison for including Begin the Beguine an unusual long form standard that is rarely heard, although –oddly enough – Elaine Delmar did include it in her show the previous week. A massive hit for Artie Shaw, but then he was one of the most brilliant, if acerbic, musicians in the history of the music.

Footnote: Allison and vibist Nat Steele have put together a festival within the EFG London one.It's at Toulouse Lautrec in Kennington, a fine French bistro and brasserie, with an upstairs cabaret-style room for the main bands. Unashamedly straight-ahead it will feature musicians from the US and Europe as well as some of the best of the UK. Music will roam both West and East Coast and includes tributes to Art Blakey and Sonny Rollins with the MJQ.

Brian Blain is a programmer at Lauderdale House

Brasserie Toulouse Lautrec is at 140 Newington Butts, London SE11 4RN – Website


PREVIEW: Two London Exhibitions of Photography by William Ellis (Cadogan Hall and Omnibus Clapham, 16-26 November)

Roy Hargrove at the Brecon Jazz Festival,2008 (*)
Photo credit and © William Ellis

Sebastian writes:

One of our regular contributors - music photographer William Ellis is presenting two exhibitions which run during the EFG London Jazz Festival. They focus on two distinctly different aspects of his work. He has an exhibition of photographs from his "One LP" project in which artists are photographed with an album which has been signifcant to them, at Cadogan Hall. There is also an exhibition of his jazz photography entitled Miles and Beyond at Omnibus Theatre in ClaphamWilliam has provided the remainder of the explanation of the two shows. He also pays tribute to Roy Hargrove(*):

Sheila Jordan : at home New York City, 2014
Record: Charlie Parker's Now's the Time
Photo credit and © William Ellis


One LP

One LP is a unique and critically acclaimed portrait photography project that explores the inspirational qualities of jazz recordings and the impact that they have on people’s lives. Each portrait features the subject holding a recording that is of fundamental importance to them. The photograph is accompanied by a short interview that explores the meaning and value of the selected album.

The exhibition consists of around 50 portraits from the ongoing project. The artists range from innovators whose provenance reaches back to the birth of the jazz genre and moves through to those at the cutting edge of contemporary composition and performance. Including Al Jarreau, Annie Ross, Benny Golson, Chris Barber, Gary Crosby, Gregory Porter, Jimmy Heath, Marcus Miller, Norma Winstone, Robert Glasper, Terri Lyne Carrington, Tierney Sutton and Ron Carter.

Commenced in 2010 the musicians have been photographed at home, in venues and hotels throughout the UK, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Kansas City MO.

The premiere exhibition was hosted by the ARChive of Contemporary Music in New York,

"British photographer William Ellis is perhaps best known for his impeccable photos of jazz musicians. Now his One LP Project comes to New York. Truly cool interactive exhibits like this don't come around too often" - Time Out New York

Cadogan Hall, 5 Sloane Terrace, Belgravia, London SW1X 9DQ
16th - 26th November. Opening times - contact venue, 020 7730 4500

LINKS: OneLP website 
Cadogan Hall


Miles and Beyond: Jazz Photographs

A collection of black and white portraits and performance photographs dating from 1989. This is music on a chink of light - including - Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Kurt Elling, Miles Davis, Nancy Wilson, Omara Portuondo, Roy Hargrove and Stan Tracey

“There is a unifying thread to Ellis' work, whether it be a performance shot in a club, a concert hall or festival, or a portrait of the musicians he so admires; that common denominator is intimacy. Action shots, per se, are not what he's about. Many of the subjects of Ellis' photography are captured, revealing a softer, more vulnerable side to their often larger-than-life personas on stage. “ Ian Patterson, allaboutjazz

Omnibus Theatre, 1 Clapham Common North Side, London SW4 0QW
16th - 26th November. Opening times - contact venue, 020 7498 4699

LINKS: William Ellis website
Omnibus Theatre website

William Ellis remembers Roy Hargrove (*)

The first time I saw Roy Hargrove was at City Hall Glasgow in 1992 where he and his young band entranced the audience - scintillating, utter brilliance. I heard him play a number of times after - he was always on top form whether in a small group or big band setting in Brecon, Havana and Wigan. The last time I saw Roy was at the Blue Note in New York when I invited him to be included in the One LP Project. “Sure - later” was his reply, said with a little smile, then made his way downstairs to the stage.

We both knew ‘later’ did not relate to that evening, but to another time we thought we’d share.

We love you and miss you madly Roy.


CD REVIEW: Emile Parisien Quintet – Sfumato Live in Marciac

Emile Parisien Quintet – Sfumato Live in Marciac
(ACT 6021-2. CD/DVD review by Brian Marley)

Soprano saxophonist Emile Parisien’s rise to prominence isn’t surprising given the strength of his recent releases: Chien Guêpe (Laborie, 2012), Spezial Snack (ACT, 2014), and the much lauded Sfumato (ACT, 2016). He’s not quite avant-garde, nor is he mainstream, but, more importantly, he’s never boring. What he offers is a music that seems familiar because it emerges from the well-stuffed vaults of jazz tradition (albeit of the more European than American kind) with adventure writ large. His compositions are memorable, and even though the ensemble work is super-tight it’s always loose enough for soloists to strike a spark or three.

Sfumato brought out his best qualities as both a composer and improviser, and it spotlit the role of pianist Joachim Kühn, an ACT label stalwart. Sfumato Live in Marciac, recorded in 2017, very slightly reduces Kühn’s role, but that serves to focus the listeners’ attention on what a good team player he is and how well the quintet navigates Parisien’s often complex charts. On the Marciac concert, guests Vincent Peirani (accordion) and Michel Portal (bass clarinet) stand out, as they did on Sfumato, but the surprise guest is trumpeter Wynton Marsalis who, on Temptation Rag (played by a witty trio of Marsalis, Parisien and Peirani), helps to evoke New Orleans trad as filtered through a distinctly Gallic sensibility.

Apart from the suite Le Clown Tueur de la Fête Foraine, a feature for Peirani (check out Belle Époque, his excellent duo CD with Parisien, where Temptation Rag first aired), which contains broad hints of both circus and cabaret, and the two-part Balladibiza, the Marciac concert doesn’t strictly follow Sfumato’s programme, either on CD or DVD. One or two tracks have been dropped and new ones introduced, which certainly keeps things fresh. Transmitting is one of the new pieces (featuring Portal, and, this time in more expansive mode, Marsalis) that easily earns its place in the new running order: a terrific composition. The expanded DVD programme fills in a few gaps, giving a welcome place to Poulp (in which double bassist Simon Tailleu and drummer Mário Costa finally get to solo) and Préamble. And let’s not neglect guitarist Manu Codjia, who plays splendidly throughout.

If you already own Sfumato and wonder whether buying the Marciac recording is really necessary, I’d say yes. Musically it’s an advance on Sfumato in certain respects, and the DVD – multi-camera, well-shot, capturing the musicians’ infectious interplay – is worth the price of purchase alone.


PREVIEW: The Edge of the Abyss: EFG London Jazz Festival performance featuring Club Inégales (Royal Academy of Art, 16 November 2018)

Death and the Maiden by Egon Schiele, 1915
Public Domain

The Uncertain Hour is a five-concert series including two dates at the London Jazz Festival presented by Club Inégales. AJ Dehany spoke to director Peter Wiegold.

One of the flashpoints in the creation of the modern world, fin de siècle Vienna was the crucible in which the nineteenth century transformed itself into the twentieth. Vienna’s creative jouissance and role as a place of artistic, musical and intellectual foment will be celebrated and explored in the forthcoming concert The Edge of the Abyss at the Royal Academy of Art on the first night of the 2018 London Jazz Festival.

The concert is named after a quote from Stravinsky, who wrote that while composing the Rite of Spring between 1912-13 he felt “on the edge of an abyss.” During the concert presented by Club Inégales, director Peter Wiegold will discuss the wider sense of rupture leading up to this. He says “I’m going to talk about 'From Certainty to Uncertainty’: you have the class system challenged by Marx, the work of Darwin, science challenged by Einstein, the nature of the persona challenged by Freud. I love reflecting on that time, from fixed ideas of humanness and social status to the fluidity of the twentieth century."

The concert will be performed by a quartet with Peter Wiegold and Martin Butler on pianos, saxophonist Diane McLoughlin, and vocalist and violinist Alice Zawadzki. “We're going to start from two of the breakaways of the twentieth century, Schoenberg and Stravinsky. We’ve got this rather interesting idea where we play an old recording of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire (1912), and then it fades and we carry on improvising so it's like playing with a ghost of it. We'll play off the motifs and the sounds of Pierrot Lunaire, all representing the unpredictable night of the new century.”

The concert will include Stravinsky’s short piece from 1918, Ragtime. “Stravinsky blew harmonic language completely open with the Rite of Spring,” he says. “We go off from Ragtime into more classical and jazz-funk approaches meeting together, and there's the other side—there's the chromatic avant-garde side and then there's the rhythmic side of the twentieth century and both of them launched at that time.”

Last year Club Inégales presented a sell-out show at the RA performing original graphic scores inspired by an exhibition of painter Jasper Johns. The Edge of the Abyss is in part a response to the RA’s current exhibition Klimt / Schiele: Drawings from the Albertina Museum, Vienna. “You've got the gold and the glitter and the sumptuousness of Klimt, who in a way represents the richness of Vienna, and you have the absolute bare human beings of Schiele who represents its tortured soul."

The Edge of the Abyss is part of a series of five concerts called The Uncertain Hour. The name is taken from TS Eliot’s Four Quartets:

"In the uncertain hour before the morning/ Near the ending of interminable night/ At the recurrent end of the unending.” 

The lines encapsulate not just the feeling of beginning and ending in fin de siècle Vienna, but other historical flashpoints too. Last week the series opened with a concert of Brecht & Weill. “I've often been interested in text, image and the social place of music, how music tells us about society or even speaks of society like Brecht does." In planning the series, he says, “once we had the 'uncertain hour' of just before the Second World War with Brecht and Weill, suddenly the whole series fell into shape."

Following the concert at the Royal Academy the series will continue with Expect The Unexpected II presenting original collaborations on the Thursday of the Festival. Then we travel a long way from Europe with a concert from Peter Knight, director of the Australian Art Orchestra, about getting lost in the Australian desert. The series concludes with the launch of folk-singer Sam Lee’s album Van Diemen’s Land. Referencing the attenuated figures in Egon Schiele’s paintings, Peter Wiegold says that the series as a whole is "about these stretched human beings going beyond, going into the unknown, the uncertain."

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

LINKS: The Edge of the Abyss at the RA website
REVIEW: Visualising Music: The Art of the Graphic Score at the RA in the 2017 EFG LJF


REVIEW: Denys Baptiste's The Late Trane in Tampere, Finland

Denys Baptiste with Larry Bartley
Photo courtesy of Tampere Int Jazz Happening

Denys Baptiste, The Late Trane
(Tampere, International Jazz Happening, Finland, 3 November 2018. Review by Mike Collins)

Denys Baptiste landed in Finland with his band, fresh from receiving the well-deserved accolade ‘Album of the Year’ in the UK Parliamentary Jazz Awards, arriving in Tampere, two hours north of Helsinki, in the middle of the city’s 37th annual International Jazz Happening. The festival is at the start of winter, positioned to cast light and warmth into the lengthening days and long winter months ahead. The quartet delivered an incandescent set on the Saturday night, based on their album The Late Trane, to a rapturous reception in the main hall of the city centre’s Old Custom House.

They are a formidable unit, with Rod Youngs on drums, Larry Bartley on bass and Nikki Yeoh on keyboards driving Baptiste on. The repertoire of the late Coltrane years was reworked in their hands to give it a contemporary and personal edge. Yeoh conjured growls, ghostly choirs and squelching, funky voices from her keyboards and laptop as often as she turned to the piano on stage, whilst Baptiste extended yet further the emotional range of his horn with judicious use electronics.

Living Space was introduced with atmospherics and shifting textures, before the rubato theme uncoiled, and bustle and accompaniment thickened. It morphed into a funky groove with a snappy, pulsing bass riff for Ascent, Larry Bartley really digging in. Peace On Earth saw an extended piano intro from Yeoh before an affecting duo with Baptiste. After The Rain was given an easy, delicate, lilt and a twist with a country flavoured chord progression providing a platform for lyrical soloing.

If these were the prepared templates, what set them on fire was the energy and interaction the band poured in. On Ascent the tenor swirled and swooped, squawked and screamed as the rhythm section goaded Baptiste into an ever more impassioned statement. On Vigil it was Youngs unleashing a firestorm from the drums before Yeoh and Baptiste found a medley of effects and voices.

It was a thunderous, emotional performance and the packed hall loved it. They were the lone UK band in a diverse, layered programme that encompassed all points of the musical as well as the geographic compass and in which, The Late Coltrane was a festival highlight.

Mike Collins is a pianist and writer based in Bath, who runs the jazzyblogman site. Twitter @jazzyblogman

LINK: Round-Up of the 2015 Tampere International Jazz Happening