PHOTOS: Prom 46 (NYJO/ soloist Benjamin Grosvenor / conductors Mark Armstrong & Guy Barker)

NYJO performing Laura Jurd's The Earth Keeps Spinning
Photo credit and © BBC/ Chris Christodoulou

This is the complete set of 10 official photos of last night's late night Prom from the Proms' official photographer Chris Christodolou. We will have a review to follow.

1-3 are of the premiere of Laura Jurd's piece The Earth Keeps Spinning with a substantial role for Jonny Mansfield on vibes, 4-7 are of the Ferde Grofe band version of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, and 8-10 are of the Johnny Richards 1961 arrangements of West Side Story for the Stan Kenton band.

The concert is available on the BBC iPlayer HERE.
All these photographs are copyright BBC and permission should be sought before reproducing them.

NYJO /Mark Armstrong
Photo credit and © BBC/ Chris Christodoulou

Laura Jurd
Photo credit and © BBC/ Chris Christodoulou

4-7: Rhapsody in Blue

Benjamin Grosvenor
Photo credit and © BBC/ Chris Christodoulou

NYJO and Benjamin Grosvenor
Photo credit and © BBC/ Chris Christodoulou

Benjamin Grosvenor
Photo credit and © BBC/ Chris Christodoulou

Guy Barker and Benjamin Grosvenor
Photo credit and © BBC/ Chris Christodoulou

Photo credit and © BBC/ Chris Christodoulou

NYJO/Mark Armstrong
Photo credit and © BBC/ Chris Christodoulou

Mark Armstrong
Photo credit and © BBC/ Chris Christodoulou


NEWS: RIP Aretha Franklin (1942 - 2018). Family Statement in Full

Aretha Franklin at the Obama inauguration in 2009
Photo Cecilio Ricardo, U.S. Air Force, Public Domain

Aretha Franklin's family have issued the following statement today: 

“In one of the darkest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart. We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family. The love she had for her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and cousins knew no bounds. We have been deeply touched by the incredible outpouring of love and support we have received from close friends, supporters and fans all around the world. Thank you for your compassion and prayers. We have felt your love for Aretha, and it brings us comfort to know that her legacy will live on. As we grieve, we ask that you respect our privacy during this difficult time.”

Sebastian writes:

I was lucky enough to hear Aretha at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2014, and to review the concert. We will have a tribute from a major UK-based singer in the next few days.


NEWS: Bauer Media acquires JazzFM

It is announced this morning that Hamburg-based Bauer Media is to acquire JazzFM. Financial terms have not been disclosed. Here is the Bauer Media press release in full:

The Bauer Media Group has agreed to acquire Jazz FM - the UK's leading national commercial radio service for jazz, soul and blues.

Jazz FM is a respected and influential brand, with strong growth potential. The quality of the service, its distinctive personality and popular and respected presenters underpinned its great RAJAR performance with the station now reaching 672,000 people weekly.

Jazz is currently experiencing a resurgence, and Bauer plans to further enhance the specialist offering of the station which is already hugely respected, via its celebration of music of new and classic artists such as Gregory Porter, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Kamasi Washington, Ezra Collective and Nubya Garcia.

The addition of another high-quality brand, with its deep music and commercial partnerships, extends Bauer Radio's audience and its portfolio of pop, urban, and rock stations to a new music genre. Through its cross promotional ability and strong client and agency relationships Bauer Media looks forward to further developing Jazz's unique offering to advertisers and commercial partners and to growing its high quality, passionate ABC1 audience.

Paul Keenan, CEO Bauer Media commented: "Jazz FM is a much loved, respected and influential brand, with strong growth potential, we look forward to developing it further. Jazz music is seeing an unprecedented resurgence, and this extends us into an entirely new and complementary radio audience."

He continued, "Jazz's community of digitally savvy music lovers is thriving and I believe that Jazz FM's expertise combined with our knowledge and experience in digital and personalised advertising technology such as Bauer's InStream+ will propel the brand for both listeners and advertisers. We look forward to working with the team to grow the business."

Jonathan Arendt, Jazz FM CEO said, "Jazz FM is a well-established and trusted brand, curated by passionate and expert presenters and producers - and I'm delighted that it will sit within the Bauer Radio family, where they are respectful and mindful of individual formats and listener groups."

The Jazz radio business will be managed by Bauer's Steve Parkinson, Group Managing Director of National Radio.

About Bauer Media UK:

Bauer Media UK reaches over 25 million UK consumers through a portfolio of world-class, multi-platform media and entertainment brands including heat, KISS, Grazia, Empire, Magic and Absolute Radio. It creates and curates entertaining media content that audiences love whenever, wherever and however they want through a multi-channel strategy and a focus on product excellence and audience insight. The result is an exciting array of influential brands, content and talent which provide compelling and engaging advertising opportunities with valuable audiences for UK commercial partners. Bauer Media UK is part of the Bauer Media Group, one of the world's largest privately-owned media businesses with media assets all over the globe.

About Bauer Media Group:

Over 400 digital products and more than 100 radio and TV stations reach millions of people across the globe. The corporate portfolio extends to include print shops, postal, distribution and marketing services. The Bauer Media Group's global positioning underscores its passion for people and brands. The message "We think popular." illustrates the Bauer Media Group's self-perception as an organisation with a range of popular media, creating inspiration and motivation for its global workforce of some 11,000 employees in 20 countries.


CD REVIEW: Chet Baker – Live in London Volume II

Chet Baker – Live in London Volume II
(Ubuntu UBU0014.2 CDs. CD Review by Peter Jones)

Chet Baker completists need deep pockets: he recorded over 100 albums during his lifetime, and many more have been released since. A couple of years ago Ubuntu added to this long list with the first double CD set of live material from a week of London shows Baker played in late March 1983. Now here comes a second collection from the same residency. The venue was a short-lived jazz club in Great Queen Street, Covent Garden, called The Canteen – previously Blitz, headquarters of the New Romantic movement.

Given the state of Baker’s health at the time, it’s amazing he could play at all. Cocaine, cigarettes, and most of all heroin had ravaged him physically. His singing features on only two tracks, My Ideal and When I Fall in Love, and it’s frankly rather painful to listen to, sounding, as James Gavin puts it in his biography of Baker, “as pinched and nasal as a kazoo.” Yet by some miracle, his trumpet-playing had somehow survived the drug-fuelled battery of thirty years. Apart from some split notes on the opening track, Horace Silver’s Strollin’, his chops sound in great shape.

The tunes mostly unspool at an unhurried pace, each lasting around the ten-minute mark, and only Stella by Starlight and Just Friends are played at anything above mid-tempo.

As lyrical as Baker’s trumpet sounds, for me the real revelation is the piano-playing of John Horler. Bill Evans is his role model, and he shares with Evans the elusive combination of dazzling fluency, richly-layered harmony and sweetness of melodic invention. Despite also having Kenny Wheeler and John Dankworth on his CV, Horler still rates the Chet Baker gig as a highlight of his career, and rightly so.

Along with him here are Jim Richardson on bass and Tony Mann on drums, both of whom provide excellent, unshowy support. It’s Richardson we have to thank for this album: he put his Sony cassette recorder on top of his bass cabinet at the start of each gig, and pressed ‘Record’. Instead of the thin, hissy, unbalanced result we might expect, the tape has been cleaned up and enhanced to an extraordinary degree. The quality is outstanding, and in terms of human technical achievement surely ranks with landing a man on the moon.

My favourite cut is the beautiful Richie Beirach ballad Broken Wing (also caught on video below); the same composer’s Leaving appears on Volume I.

LIVE GIG: Chet Baker – Live in London Volume II receives a belated launch at the Jazz Café on 18th September. (BOOKINGS). This date features the original rhythm section, plus Quentin Collins (trumpet), Leo Richardson (saxophone) and Cherise Adams-Burnett (vocals).


NEWS: Pizza Express announces its 45-gig EFG London Jazz Fest Programme (16 to 25 November)

Sheila Jordan - who will be celebrating her 90th birthday
Photo credit: OhWeh/ Creative Commons

Pizza Express has just announced its most extensive programme ever for the EFG London Jazz Festival: forty-five gigs at its three live music venues in Central London - Dean Street, Kings Road and Holborn), all of which are now on sale: 


- Jeff 'Tain' Watts Trio with Kurt Rosenwinkel
- Dave Liebman and Marc Copland Duo
- Christian Sands Trio
- Cyrille Aimee
- Clarence Penn (with Klemens Marktl)
- Jeff Williams Trio
- A celebration in person of Sheila Jordan's 90th Birthday at the Pheasantry
- Andy Sheppard
- Logan Richardson
- ECM artist Wolfert Brederode
- Spanish harmonica player Antonio Serrano

Dean Street also has free lunchtime gigs from Monday 19 to Friday 23, including guitarist Ant Law, Swedish saxophonist Thomas Backman. There are also four midnight shows there hosted by Jay Phelps - with special guests.



Friday 16 (7pm) – Christian Sands Trio
Friday 16 (10pm) – Christian Sands Trio
Friday 16 (midnight) – Jay Phelps and Friends

Saturday 17 (1:30pm) – Harry Bolt Quartet
Saturday 17 (7pm) – Marc Copland & Dave Liebman Duo
Saturday 17 (10pm) – Marc Copland & Dave Liebman Duo
Saturday 17 (midnight) – Jay Phelps and Friends

Sunday 18 (1:30pm) – Phil Robson Quartet featuring Jed Levy
Sunday 18 (8pm) – Antonio Serrano

Monday 19 (1pm) – Ant Law Quartet featuring Scott Flanagan
Monday 19 (8:30pm) – Maria Chiara Argiro Group
Tuesday 20 (1pm) – Alyn Cosker Group
Tuesday 20 (6pm) – Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts Trio featuring Kurt Rosenwinkel
Tuesday 20 (9pm) – Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts Trio featuring Kurt Rosenwinkel

Wednesday 21 (1pm) – Lorraine Baker’s Eden
Wednesday 21 (8:30pm) – Wolfert Brederode Trio
Thursday 22 (1pm) – Al MacSween
Thursday 22 (8:30pm) – Klemens Marktl Four
Thursday 22 (midnight) – Mark Kavuma
Friday 23 (1pm) – Thomas Backman
Friday 23 (7pm) – Shez Raja
Friday 23 (10pm) – Shez Raja
Friday 23 (midnight) – Jay Phelps and Friends

Saturday 24 (1:30pm) – Duncan Eagles Quartet
Saturday 24 (7pm) – Andy Sheppard with Espen Erikssen
Saturday 24 (10pm) – Andy Sheppard with Espen Erikssen
Saturday 24 (midnight) – Jay Phelps and Friends

Sunday 25 (12:30pm) – Jeff Williams Trio
Sunday 25 (6pm) – Cyrille Aimee
Sunday 25 (9pm) – Cyrille Aimee


Friday 16 – Hanna Svensson
Saturday 17 – Laila Biali Trio
Sunday 18 – Sheila Jordan with Cameron Brown
Monday 19 – Sheila Jordan with Cameron Brown
Tuesday 20 –Ast /Gutierrez Duo with Tori Freestone
Wednesday 21 – Zoe Francis and Jim Mullen Trio
Thursday 22 – ISQ
Friday 23 – Julia Biel
Saturday 24 – Briežkalns Quintet featuring Kristine Praulina
Sunday 25 – Cecilia Stalin


Friday 16 – Seven Eyes + Randolph Matthews
Saturday 17 – Natacha Atlas
Sunday 18 – Omer Avital Qantar
Monday 19 – Vula
Tuesday 20 – Itamar Borochov
LINK: Pizza Express programme with booking links


CD REVIEW: Matthew Read Trio - Anecdotes Vol. II

Matthew Read Trio - Anecdotes Vol. II
(BOD: 002. CD review by Nick Davies)

Mathew Read’s music has been described as a multitude of styles: jazz, folk, country, hip hop, dance, European and ‘American Church music'. It’s difficult at times to appreciate how a musician could take all these styles and produce a great sounding album. A listener might expect confusion or a mixture of melodies but, in Mathew’s case, this is not an issue. The end product is a record of contrasting rhythms that takes you on a journey into the musical mind of Read and the result is sublime.

Anecdotes Vol. II follows on from the trio’s debut release – Read’s response when asked about the record: “I decided to write music for the trio that told stories. I felt early on that this band was one that would respond well to slightly more left-field forms of inspiration than other bands.” Read’s music has been coined as the harmonious collaboration possible only by a Kendrick Lamar and Kurt Rosenwinkel collaboration.

This album sees Read reunited with Benedict Wood on guitar and Arthur Newell on drums. Each member of the band contributes by the playing rather than the writing. This is evident on track two: Many Roads Travelled. Woods' guitar leads with Read’s bass, creating an entwining crescendo. This is then followed by a drum solo from Newell driving the beat even faster. Delivery is unusual but no less enjoyable.

Looking for an easy listen? Then I would suggest that this album is not for you. The music is complex and delivers Read’s ideas in an unfamiliar way. Most of the tracks start slow before picking up tempo. They are full of influences so, at one point, you are hearing jazz, then country, then folk; not easy on the ears but your reviewer is convinced that Read intended it to be that way… for the music connoisseur.

Case in point: track five, When She Leaves. Starting at a slow pace with the beat of Read’s bass, followed by the other instruments and maintaining that slow pace, it is the bass that dominates throughout this song. When the listener is expecting it to burst into life, it doesn’t. Instead, the track continues to mooch along, showcasing the superb, seamless interaction between all three musicians. They all have an understanding of Read’s ideas and deliver it in the way he would expect it to be heard. Music like this is rarely produced and, despite (or thanks to) its intensity, it is most enjoyable.

Overall, a really good album that pushes the boundaries. The sound is fresh and, amazingly, incorporates several ideas and genres into each of the 11 tracks. It is one of those records that takes a while to get used to but, when you do, the musical journey soon becomes a memorable one. The standard of music excellence suggests that Mathew Read will be snapped up by a discerning label in the near future. His musical genius is most deserving of that accolade.

LINK: Matthew Read interview


REVIEW: Joanna Wallfisch – The Great Song Cycle Song Cycle at The Space, Surgeon’s Hall (Edinburgh Fringe)

Joanna Wallfisch at Big Sur in 2016
Publicity picture

Joanna Wallfisch – The Great Song Cycle Song Cycle
(The Space, Surgeon’s Hall, Edinburgh. Festival Fringe. Review by Mark McKergow)

Joanna Wallfisch brings her beautiful voice and multi-instrumental talents to the Edinburgh fringe with her performance about cycling over a thousand miles along the west coast of America. The result is an intense, focused and reflective collection of songs, images and evocation of moments in time.

Wallfisch’s latest album Blood and Bone was also on the theme of journeying, but this show features new material alongside the jaunty song Road Trip. Using a collection of portable instruments and a looping pedal, she quickly and skilfully builds backgrounds and textures which support the songs and also provide intermission sounds. The opening When We Travel sets the scene perfectly – Wallfisch’s journeys are always mental as well as literal and she succeeds in drawing us in to her endeavour to travel from Portland, Oregon, to Los Angeles on her bicycle not simply to arrive but rather to travel hopefully.

Joanna Wallfisch has an outstandingly beautiful voice – pure of tone and lithe of spirit. Her songs build from patterns, often using ukulele and voice as a starting point, ebbing and flowing like the Pacific tides. Her imagery is enchanting – whales and dolphins on the coast, a moustachioed man and his son at a campsite, a lifeguard in a truck with some unusual cargo… each of these leads to a song, with some unexpected accompaniments on stage from melodica, a toy piano, whistling, and a really juicy kazoo solo on Rex The Travelling Dog.

As the 50-minute show comes towards a close with the haunting Final Flight, we all arrive together at… well, not the end. You’ll have to go see it to find out. Joanna Wallfisch’s show is a reflective, haunting and sustained performance, a very personal take on the outdoors which brings an unexpectedly quirky part of California to the Edinburgh Fringe.

The Great Song Cycle Song Cycle is at The Space, Surgeon’s Hall at 12.05pm until 18 August 2018, and again at The Space Triplex at 8.35pm from 20-15 August 2018. 

LINKS: The Great Song Cycle Song Cycle at the Edinburgh Fringe website (BOOKINGS)
Review of Joanna Wallfisch’s Blood And Bone CD 
Review of Joanna Wallfisch at Sofar Sounds
Interview from 2016 after the 1147-mile bike ride


CD REVIEW: Mike Gibbs Band featuring John Scofield – Symphony Hall, Birmingham 1991

Mike Gibbs Band featuring John Scofield – Symphony Hall, Birmingham 1991
(Dusk Fire DUSKCD116. CD review by Peter Bacon)

Listening to this double disc of a complete concert in what was at the time the newly-built showpiece Midlands concert hall, it’s easy to succumb to rose-tinted nostalgia.

Back in ’91 the Contemporary Music Network – remember them? – was still a thing. A thing supported by the Arts Council, no less. And thanks to the CMN, a 12-piece band which included Kenny Wheeler, Steve Swallow, John Taylor, Julian Argüelles, Bill Stewart, Tony Coe and more, could get a 12-date UK tour. And it could be led by Mike Gibbs with John Scofield as the featured soloist.

Seems like another world, eh? Well, outside of London it does. But, it really happened, and here is the proof.

The tunes come from Gibbs and Scofield, more from the latter, but one Gibbs composition was new on the night: Blueprint, written for Berklee, the alma mater of both trombonist/arranger/composer and guitarist/composer, but getting its first outing in Birmingham, England.

The excitement level on the night must have been high because, nearly 27 years later, it fairly crackles from the speakers. Scofield was riding high on the success of his Blue Note quartet albums – the first two pieces, here in Gibbs arrangements, were from his Meant To Be album released earlier in 1991. The guitarist is given (overly?) generous solo room throughout the programme and is on blistering form, ever inventive, uniformly absolutely committed.

But, if Sco’ dominates, he’s not the only reason to check out this release. The other main attractions include: the solos of pianist John Taylor, always pushing that envelope, always intriguing the ears, often amazing them too; the driving groove and support of electric bassist Steve Swallow, offering so much harmonic richness and lyrical counter melody in addition to that faultless time; the swagger of tenor saxophonist Tony Coe, especially in dialogue with Scofield on Gibbs’ Roses Are Red; and the soaring squeeze and release in the sublime solos of Kenny Wheeler – the trumpeter/flugelhorn player really is on spectacular form here.

And then, of course, there is the composing and arranging of Mike Gibbs. His wide experience of writing for film brings wide-screen scope to this music, heard to most dramatic effect, possibly, on Scofield’s Science And Religion, but seemingly effortlessly melding jazz sophistication with rock fusion power all through the evening. Gibbs is also part of the ‘bone section along with Chris Pyne and Dave Stewart. The gruff low brass and bass riffing behind the guitar solo on Gill B643, then expanding to take in the trumpets and French horns, is just one of my favourite moments, and a touch that is just so-Mike Gibbs.

There have been other memorable jazz gigs in the grand surroundings of Symphony Hall – Michael Brecker, Wayne Shorter, DeJohnette, Branford Marsalis all come to mind – but, the Maria Schneider Orchestra aside, they are all a long time back. Will we ever see such times again, the nostalgic muses.


TRIBUTES to Ken Pickering (1952-2018), Co-Founder and Director of the Vancouver Jazz Festival

Ken Pickering
Photo from @coastaljazz

The TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival @coastaljazz put out this sad message on Saturday 11 August on its Twitter account:

"Today is the worst, saddest day. After a short battle with cancer, founding artistic director @ken_pickering passed away peacefully early this AM. We will miss him terribly."

Since then there have been tributes from far and wide, testifying to the high regard in which Ken was held.

Darcy James Argue described him as "a passionate, knowledgable, and tireless advocate for creative music, and one of the kindest, most generous, most genuine individuals I have ever encountered." Philippe Ochem, director of Jazzdor in Strasbourg wrote in praise of "my dear colleague and friend". Pianist Alexander Hawkins wrote: "...not sure what to add, except that I’m sure all of us fortunate enough to have a gig this evening will be playing for you."

 A broader selection of these tributes has been collected by Peter Hum in a piece for the Ottawa Citizen.

 At LJN we will remember him as someone who was a pleasure to meet, supportive of what we do and an avid reader of our newsletter, often thanking us for bringing things to his attention.

Two friends from the Canadian scene, pianist/composer Marianne Trudel and Heidi Fleming of Fam Group remember him in tributes. First, Marianne Trudel writes (*):

Ken Pickering

Kindness personified

A genuine love of music as the theme that ran through everything he did

A sincere and lasting commitment to those who make it

A dynamo, a beacon, a pillar, a point of reference:

For both the Canadian and the international music scenes

A smile, a sparkle, someone always reliable and always delightful.

Ken Pickering: an example of human nature at its best.

His irreplaceable contribution has been precious and unique:

For musicians, for the public, and for music.

For the survival, for the life of the Music he loved so much.

Thank you so much

We will miss you


Ken was one of the first Canadian broadcasters who gave me the chance to present my music outside Quebec,

A man whose craftsmanship has shaped the whole scene, and whose passion, integrity and commitment were immediately palpable,

A man who recognized and encouraged my work as a pianist and composer for over ten years,

He played an important role in my development.

I'll be forever grateful.

Goodbye Ken.

For the love of music, then, now and forever...

Marianne Trudel

(*) Marianne Trudel's tribute was originally written in French:

Ken Pickering 

La bonté sur 2 pattes

Un réel amour de la musique comme leitmotiv

Un engagement sincère et durable envers ses artisans

Un moteur, un phare, un pilier, une référence:

tant pour la scène musicale canadienne qu’internationale

Un sourire, une étincelle, une présence fiable et agréable

Ken Pickering: un exemple de la nature humaine à son meilleur

Son apport incontournable est précieux, unique:

tant pour les musiciens, le public, et la Musique

Pour la survie et la vie de cette Musique qu’il aimait tant.

Merci milles fois

Tu nous manqueras


Ken est un des premiers diffuseurs canadiens à m’avoir donné la chance de présenter ma musique hors Québec,

un artisan important de la scène dont j’ai immédiatement senti la passion, l’intégrité, l’engagement,

un homme qui a reconnu et encouragé mon travail comme pianiste et compositrice pendant plus de 10 ans,

Il a joué un rôle important dans mon essor.

Je lui en serai reconnaissante à jamais.

Au revoir Ken.

Pour l’amour de la musique, toujours et encore…

Marianne Trudel

A remembrance, by Heidi Fleming:

As I scroll though the various social media posts about Ken I realize (no surprise there) that he was as loved in the jazz and improvised/creative music world all over – especially in Europe – as in Canada. He had many friends, both artists and colleagues, in Holland, Norway, Germany, the UK, France and Sweden, as well as across North America and even beyond.

Ken was always the first one you wanted to convince when you wanted to bring an artist on tour here: if he was in, that would often lead the way for his colleagues to buy in as well, thankfully. Ken was the conscience, in a way, of the group. One could accept a decision made by Ken, as it was understood to have been made in all honesty and with the music ultimately in mind. Over the years I was lucky that several bands I proposed were indeed chosen and thus were able to establish footholds or even become celebrated in North America.

Ken loved not only music and musicians, but he loved a good prank, had a wicked sense of humour, and was just a great down-to-earth guy. Ken, you are gone too soon and you will be missed tremendously: you were the glue that held us together! I am just sad that we won't be following your exploits anymore... reading your informative and informed yet anything-but-dry posts and seeing your smile.

Rest well, you have left us in good hands. Your work here is done.

LINKS: Obituary from the Vancouver Sun
A tribute by Alexander Varty in the Georgia Straight


NEWS: Andrew Robb wins First Prize in the jazz bass competition at BASS2018 LUCCA

Congratulations to Andrew Robb, originally from Edinburgh, who has just won first prize in the jazz bass competition at BASS2018 LUCCA, the sixth European Bass Congress. All the events of this year's congress took place within the medieval walls "Le Mura" of the city of Lucca.

Andrew Robb had previously come second in the 2016 competition in Prague, at which the winner was another Brit, Freddy Jensen. The full results of the 2018 competition were as follows

1st Prize: Andrew Robb, United Kingdom
2nd Prize: Grzegorz Wlodarczyk, Poland
3rd Prize: Dario Piccioni, Italy
Award - Remarkable Originality: Pau Lligadas, Spain

The jury comprised of Adam Booker, (USA) Wayne Darling (USA/Austria) and Furio Di Castri (Italy).

Andrew Robb was born and grew up in Edinburgh, where he attended George Heriot’s School and St Mary’s Music School. He led the double bass section of the (classical) National Youth Orchestra of Scotland. He did a Bmus in Jazz at The Guildhall School. He won the BBC Radio Scotland Young Jazz Musician of the Year in 2009. He is a member of (fellow St Mary's former pupil) Alan Benzie’s piano Trio - (their CD Little Mysteries won album of the year at the Scottish Jazz Awards this year), of Henry Spencer’s Juncture, and Renato D’Aiello’s Quartet. He also has a short tour of Scotland coming up next month with Norwegian guitarist Bjørn Solli.

LINKS: Full results of all three competitions at BassEurope 2018 in Lucca
BassEurope 2018 website
Background to the European bass congresses


NEWS: Third Drayton Court Jazz Festival Programme Announced (17-19 August. London W13, free admission)

The Drayton Court Festival ad Dusk
Photo credit: John Ross Photography

Dick Esmond, who for many years ran the Ealing Jazz Festival, and Andrew Butcher have announced the programme for the third Drayton Court Jazz Festival, which this year runs for three days from Friday 17 August until Sunday 19 August 2018. Admission to all events is free. The organizers describe it as "more than a Jazz Festival: an outdoor party with a wide range of ales, hog roast etc."

Their release states:

"Following on from the success of last year’s Jazz Festival at the Drayton Court in Ealing, the line-up for this year’s extended three-day event features many of the UK’s best jazz musicians.

The Drayton Court Festival is a now hugely anticipated jazz event for West London: accessible and popular jazz from well-known bands with local connections, and FREE admission.

Dick Esmond who was the co-founder and artistic director of the Ealing Jazz Festival for 30 years says “the line-up for this third year is as strong as ever, bringing locally led bands to a key local event without parallel in the borough”.

The Festival was established in response to overwhelming demand from local fans and musicians following widely expressed disappointment at the removal in 2016 of popular local musicians from the council-run Ealing Jazz Festival. Now, in the attractive setting of the pub’s spacious garden, the unique community spirit has been restored. In addition to the main stage bands that run through each day, there are performances between sets by a series of jazz duos in the bar area, making for a music filled vibrant weekend of Ealing Jazz at its festive best.”



6.00pm Ken McCarthy Duo
7.15pm Chris Hodgkins Quintet
8.15pm Ken McCarthy Duo
9.00pm Matt Wates Sextet


1.00pm Alan Berry Duo 2.00pm Pete Cook Quintet
3.00pm Alan Berry Duo
3.45pm Frank Griffith Quintet
4.45pm Max Brittain & John Coverdale
5.30pm Nick Mills` Blue Note Project
6.30pm Max Brittain & John Coverdale
7.15pm Gill Cook Quintet
8.15pm Max Brittain & John Coverdale
9.00pm Jack Honeyborne & Company


12.00pm Jon Taylor`s JT4tet 1.00pm Jack Honeyborne Duo
2.00pm Ken McCarthy Quintet
3.00pm Jack Honeyborne Duo
3.45pm Winston Morson`s Off The Cuff
4.45pm Nigel Fox Duo
5.30pm Andrew Butcher & Butcher`s Brew
6.30pm Nigel Fox Duo
7.30pm Dick Esmond`s Sound of 17 Big Band

The festival is at Drayton Court Hotel, The Avenue, West Ealing, London, W13 8PH


CD REVIEW: New York All-Stars (featuring Eric Alexander and Harold Mabern) – Burnin’ In London

New York All-Stars (featuring Eric Alexander and Harold Mabern) – Burnin’ In London
(Ubuntu UBU0012. CD review by Mark McKergow)

This hard-hitting quartet led by tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander and piano master Harold Mabern produce a full-throttle set of virtuosic mainstream jazz recorded live at London’s Pizza Express club in November 2017.

Eric Alexander is a frequent visitor to these shores from America, sometimes in tandem with British musicians such as Dave O’Higgins. A prolific recording artist, he has worked for many years with pianist Harold Mabern, a genuine legend in his own right (anyone referenced alongside Duke Ellington and Jay McShann in Ben Sidran’s superb tribute song Piano Players must be worth a listen!). Lately they have teamed up with French-domiciled American bassist Darryl Hall and Austrian drummer Bernd Reiter as the New York All-Stars. This CD emerged from a conversation while the band were playing a short residency in London – a chat one night became a recording the next!

As we might expect, this is very much a live performance from a ring-ready band whose chops are clearly well-exercised and who have found a groove together. Alexander leads into the opening Almost Like Being In Love at tremendous pace, with Mabern providing a full backing style with a fair amount of sustain pedal evident. I Could Have Danced All Night is tackled at an even faster tempo,  with interestingly ambiguous rhythmic shifts which have the listener reaching for support and Alexander’s tenor sax gaining fluency and clarity though the performance.

Mabern leads into his own Nightlife In Tokyo with a nice piano introduction before the straight-eights tune and bass ostinato arrives. Hall and Reiter provide solid backing here as elsewhere, and Mabern takes the chance to introduce an extended quote from Steely Dan’s Do It Again using his ten-fingered full-on style. With six tracks of around 10 minutes apiece, there is space to stretch out and Hall gets a nicely-judged solo here. It’s Magic provides a welcome breather as the band moves into ballad territory with Mabern again quoting liberally from a range of sources including a classically-rooted coda with Alexander.

This is a lively collection of witty and high octane jazz recorded live by practitioners at the top of their craft.

You can hear them for yourself on their forthcoming European tour including September dates at Manchester’s Band On The Wall and the Guildhall School, and three nights' return to the Pizza Express in Soho (17-19 September 2018) as well as shows in Italy, Germany, Norway, Austria, Switzerland and France.  


CD REVIEW: Nat Steele – Portrait Of The Modern Jazz Quartet

Nat Steele – Portrait Of The Modern Jazz Quartet
(Trio Records TR598. CD review by Simon Scott)

The sleeve note for this album advises that the musicians recorded most of the tracks in one day, after a Late Late Show gig at Ronnie Scott’s. Without that information, the listener would have no clue to the circumstances that were involved in putting together this hugely enjoyable collection. There is not a hint of tiredness or apathy from the first note to the last. The sprightly bop rhythms are convincingly underpinned by Steve Brown’s unobtrusive but utterly sublime drumming. Mingled in with the equally vital but understated double bass playing from Dario Di Lecce, the two provide a musical bed for Nat Steele’s vibraphone and Gabriel Latchin’s piano to lie on and luxuriate in comfort.

By the time the band hit the La Ronde Suite, it sounds as though everyone is firing on all six, possibly seven or eight cylinders, judging by the awesome dexterity demonstrated by each musician as they weave in and out of the melodies.

There are two ways to listen to this album. The first is simply to enjoy the wonderfully melodic joyfulness which the band bring to their selections. It is an uplifting sound, each track underlining the pleasure of the last, and then building more pleasure as the record unfolds. The second way to enjoy it is to play it again and concentrate on each individual musician’s contribution – the interaction that sounds so effortless and simple but, as experienced jazz fans will know, indicates that it is actually anything but. Each player gets to step out from the ensemble format and showcase his own unique abilities, but it is never done with any sense of ego or grandstanding; these musicians are far too aware of their individual and collective abilities to need to play in a way that ever approaches showing off. They play with ease, verve, and skill, but they constantly serve the melody and sharp bop timing that runs through this album like gold thread through a colourful tapestry.

The vibes-playing on the deliciously swinging Django provides a sense of musical mischief that the maestro would have appreciated, and the following Bags Groove, Milt Jackson’s classic, once again showcases the way the players interact as though by instinct, which it probably is, and by experience and pleasure of playing, which it certainly is.

If this album sends new converts out to explore the MJQ’s catalogue, and brings new fans to this wonderful combination of joy and skill, then it will have done its job. If it stands alone as a classy piece of ensemble playing on its own merits, then that’s just fine too.


REVIEW: Prom 35: New York: Sound of a City

Nitty Scott
Photo credit: BBC/Chris Christodoulou

BBC Proms 35: New York: Sound of a City
(Royal Albert Hall, 8 August 2018. Late night Prom. Review by Dan Bergsagel)

It was clearly an intriguing premise: a full orchestra accompanying hip hop, dance and singer-songwriters. At 21h00 around the Royal Albert Hall the traditional suited elderly Prom cohort morph into a more eclectic younger group to see what the Heritage Orchestra has been cooking up. It's an excitingly unusual range of experiences for the audience, and it's also clearly a very different experience for the performers themselves.

Photo credit: BBC/ Chris Christodoulou

serpentwithfeet (Josiah Wise) walks on stage with conductor Jules Buckley, and after a brief confusion over who stands where, is brought in by conductor and then let loose to sing, with musings on names and an engaging bless ur heart. Alone upfront looking around the cavernous space imploringly for a connection, Wise comes across as a story-teller who might thrive off more casual and intimate scenarios than the formality of the RAH.

He is one of a pair for the opening brace of songs, alternating between two tender and earnest singers. Sharon Van Etten swaps in with tinges of melancholy with a clean Americana vibe on Skeeter Davis's The End of The World, and occasional angst on Memorial Day. Accompanied by restrained arrangements with regulation string sweeps and held horns, her songs were pinned on the drumbeat and small traditional format rhythm section, with Van Etten herself looking a little lost without a guitar to clutch centre stage.

Sharon van Etten with Jules Buckley and the Heritage Otchestra
Photo credit: BBC/ Chris Christodoulou

The Heritage Orchestra are meticulous and accomplished, but the pared back songwriting lent itself to pared back arrangements. It was only when Nitty Scott arrived that the tone of the orchestration changed.

Joyous and natural, Scott is seemingly comfortable on any stage, and the percussion and arrangement that accompanied her on Flower Child gave a hip hop kick to the atmosphere. She addressed the crowd with defiant honest messages on Still I Rise, and called for participation on La Diaspora. With these songs there was real meat for Buckley to arrange – whether the first violin playing the opening lick loop, the muted trumpet high lines, or carefully layered percussion.

Andy Butler instead opted to blend into the orchestra and hide at his keys, but from comparative anonymity he contributed a genre-crossing Hercules & Love Affair mini dance set of his own with Krystle Warren, Van Etten or the three backing singers taking on vocal duties. Referencing Prince, Madonna and shoegaze, in this format they delivered the richest moment of the evening with Hercules Theme, a romping '70s dance funk theme to make Quincy Jones and Isaac Hayes proud.

It takes a bold enterprise to claim to be able to distill the sound of such a melting pot of a world city. And while the diverse genres and featured collaborators could claim to represent much of New York, the Heritage Orchestra probably cannot claim to represent a diverse London.

Singers Vula Malinga, Brendan Reilly, Sam White
Photo credit: BBC/ Chris Christodoulou

But the Heritage Orchestra aren't masquerading as such. Indeed they're not masquerading as anything except a contemporary experimentation outfit with talent and depth in numbers, and an aim to bring different music together. It is partly up to the audience to decide how to react.

In the RAH, cowed by the environment, it started as a respectful hush with an occasional well behaved heckle/declaration of love. With the arrival or return of each performer, there was nearly as much polite clapping as for your improvisation-heavy jazz quintet. But by the end of the set musical barriers were broken, and the crossover between a classical orchestral format and any contemporary popular music available to hand had won over a crowd. It's exciting variety-show stuff – and I hope continues to be a Sound of the Future.

Prom 35 is available for 28 days on BBC iPlayer


CD REVIEW: Mimika Orchestra – Divinities Of The Earth And The Waters

Mimika Orchestra Divinities of the Earth and the Waters
(PDV029. CD Review by Peter Jones)

Think of them as the Art Ensemble of Zagreb. Mimika are far more than a conventional big band; the territory they inhabit is closer to Sun Ra’s Arkestra, with a large and constantly shifting membership, a devotion to science fiction, fantasy and folklore, strange theatrical make-up and costumes. Often sounding more like jazz-inflected 20th century ‘classical’ than pure jazz (previous reviewers have mentioned Stravinsky and Bartok), the tracks mostly clock in at over ten minutes, each developing into mysterious mini-epics.

Mimika is a vehicle for the fertile imagination and music of the prolific composer and saxophonist Mak Murtic. Since its foundation in London eight years ago, the Anglo-Croatian outfit have received plenty of attention, winning Jazz FM’s Discovery competition and appearing at the Love Supreme festival, which is where I first saw them, and was blown away by the excitement and power of their live show.

The music of this new album, their fourth, was premiered in London in 2016, and the recording features no fewer than 30 musicians. So original is their sound that one struggles to describe it: in fact, no words come close to encompassing the sheer scale of Murtic’s musical ambition. Mimika’s rhythms and musical scales are rarely straightforward, from a Western European perspective: this is the sound of the Balkans, after all, as on the whirling folk-dance sections of Song of Sorrow.

The instrumentation varies – tuba, sousaphone, guitar and electronics augment the usual big band line-up, as well as the Cretan lyra (a three-stringed violin-like instrument) and Croatian tamburitza (a long-necked lute). Mimika is fronted by singer Maja Rivic, alongside one or more others (I seem to recall there were at least four at Love Supreme). At times the voices come to the fore, as on Pantheon, although God alone knows what they’re singing or chanting about. On this track, the impression is of someone having an extraordinarily vivid dream, shading into nightmare by the end. According to the sleeve, the album as a whole is a psychedelic funeral ceremony dedicated to former band member Oberon King, who died in 2015.

Avant-garde and strident though it often sounds, Divinities of the Earth and the Waters is often highly melodic too, particularly Colonnade Beneath the World. As with most large ensembles, the strangeness of Mimika is best experienced live. In the meantime, this album paints a wonderful picture in sound.


CD REVIEW: John Bailey – Oneiric Sounds

John Bailey - Oneiric Sounds
(Outhøuse Records Outhouse 03. CD review by Patrick Hadfield)

Oneiric Sounds is the latest record by guitarist John Bailey, comprising two suites – one featuring bassist Arild Andersen, the other saxophonist Julian Argüelles playing soprano. Interspersed between tracks of both suites is a series of four improvisations, Oneiric I - IV, featuring Bailey and Argüelles.

Bailey takes inspiration from both the natural world and artists who observe it, such as Dürer, Turner and Bruegel. Several tracks have a bucolic feel. "Oneiric" means "relating to dreams and dreaming", and Bailey explains that some of the tunes were influenced by dreams; these two strands come together in Durer's Vision, a piece that is based on Dürer's painting "Dream Vision".

This may sound cerebral, but the tunes are accessible, warm and engaging. Despite using different musicians on the two suites – notably Garry Jackson (bass) and Eryl Roberts (drums) on those tracks featuring Argüelles, and Richard Kass (drums) on those with Andersen – the record has coherence, achieved in part by Bailey's effective scoring for a small string section of violin (Simon Chalk), viola (Mark Chivers) and cello (Nick Stringfellow).

Richard Iles plays flugelhorn and Tim France tenor saxophone on many tracks, also contributing to a consistent sound as well as providing fitting solos. Andersen and Argüelles understandably make the most significant contributions. Andersen's bass brings depth and richness to the tracks on which he appears, whilst Argüelles' soprano is light and playful.

As a whole Oneiric Sounds has an open, luminous quality, perhaps fitting to a record that takes paintings and dreams as a starting point.

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


REVIEW: Empty Room by Miriam Gould at the Cockpit Theatre

Miriam Gould as Rachel Gould
Photo credit: India Roper-Evans

Empty Room by Miriam Gould
Cockpit Theatre, Marylebone, 8 August 2018, 2nd night of 3. Review by Sebastian Scotney) 

Is this a coincidence, or possibly something spookier? This week I have witnessed not just one but TWO dramatic re-enactments of the same symphony, Shostakovich’s 9th.

Monday night’s Prom with Aurora Orchestra had broadcaster Tom Service and conductor Nicholas Collon probing the work's double nature, its light-and-dark, its tragi-comedy, followed by a wonderfully energetic live performance played from memory. Gripping stuff. Tonight I went to the second of three nights at the Cockpit Theatre of Miriam Gould’s one-woman show Empty Room. It also dealt with the very same music, which the actor was seeing through the eyes of one of the three characters she plays, herself as a teenager obsessing about the Russian symphonist.

Miriam Gould is London-based, and a regular member of the Little Bulb Theatre Company. (I reviewed their Orpheus show in which she is a cast and band member.)

This show is a family memoir in which, with great candour, she explores the legacy that her parents have left her. It is a powerful exploration of how an involvement in music overshadows everything  – relationships, grief, personal identity – in the lives of a family.

Her father – whom she also portrays as a shivering, fast-talking, intense character dealing with heroin addiction, was the saxophonist Sal (Salvatore) Nistico. He was born of Italian-American extraction in Syracuse, New York State, in 1938, and died in Berne in 1991. He was a member of one of Woody Herman’s herds, and a blistering presence on tenor saxophone (try THIS !!) Her mother is the renowned singer and educator Rachel Gould, the child of two holocaust survivors, who made a classic record with Chet Baker, All Blues, and has also been a prominent educator in the Netherlands for several years. The two of them, plus the angsty teenager obsessing about Shostakovich 9 are the three characters played by Miriam Gould as she tells the story of her family. 

I had reservations before going to this show. Would an actor narrating something quite so personal come across as anything other than self-indulgent? Well, the answer is that the show can and does transcend all that. The issues which it takes on will fascinate anyone interested in the psychology of music. And Gould's acting craft, notably the deft way in which she transitions and transforms from one of her three endearing characters to another, is miraculous. And she also sings and plays the violin – very well.

There is one more night. This is a jazz show in a space that through the involvement of NYJO and Jez Nelson's Jazz in the Round has its own jazz identity, and is familiar to London's jazz fans. For whom there can surely be only one option, and one night left: note the early start time, 7pm, and GO SEE!

Miriam Gould as herself

Cockpit Theatre Bookings


NEWS: Applications now open from bands for "Made in the UK" 2019

Gwyneth Herbert with Ned Cartwright at one of their four shows
in Rochester in 2018. Sam Burgess is off-camera.
Photo courtesy of CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival 

The 'Made in the UK' concert series at the CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival(*) has been running since 2008, and provides a springboard for bands to get bookings at the major Canadian festivals (eg Montreal and Ottawa, which happen at around the same time). It has just been announced that applications are now open for 2019. We reproduce the statement from Made in the UK, which is run by Sue Edwards, in full:


Musicians/bands who would like to be considered for the 2019 ‘Made in the UK’ concert series at the CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival should read the information below.


‘Made in the UK’ is an annual showcase of British jazz at Rochester International Jazz Festival (RIJF), which takes place in late June each year. The series was founded by John Ellson (ESIP) & John Nugent (RIJF) in 2008.

The series aims to:

- Present a varied nine-night programme representing the highest quality jazz (& related genres) from the UK as part of one of the largest jazz festivals in the USA

- Provide a high profile platform in North America for UK bands who are export-ready to begin or further their career in North America.. Bands chosen to perform at RIJF will also all be proposed to the programmers of the Canadian Summer jazz festival circuit for possible inclusion in their 2019 programmes. Although there is no guarantee that groups will be offered dates in Canada, over the past 10 years many Made in the UK groups have succeeded in putting together tours in Canada around their RIJF performances. In the 2017 series, six of the nine bands completed an additional 22 performance dates between them and in 2018, five of the bands performed an additional 10 dates between them on the Canadian festival circuit.



All bands will require a valid USA 'P' or 'O' category performance visa in order to take part in the festival.

USCIS operate strict guidelines as to who is eligible for these visas. If you do not already have a valid USA ‘P’ or ‘0’ category performance visa you will need to be able to provide the following (amongst other information) to RIJF by November 2018 in order for the festival to apply for a visa on your behalf.

The USCIS (Department of Homeland Security U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) requires the following:

1. Proof of a sustained career: If you’re an ensemble, we need some DATED documentation that is more than 12 months old, which shows that the group (with exactly the same line-up) has existed for more than a year. This can be CD releases/press reviews (from established sources) naming all band members.

2. Press: Press from the UK and from abroad. The USCIS ask for proof that you are an “internationally recognised artist/group,” so we also need press that is not from your home country. It need not be in English, but if it is not, we may need you to secure official translations of some or all of your press. We need old and new press as we have to prove that the artist/group has sustained international success. To do this we need a mixture of press from throughout your career - ideally six good reviews, features, or interviews from the UK, and five pieces from other countries (ideally five different countries).

3. Awards and Prizes: Any documentation you can give us that shows that you have won significant awards or prizes.

For further information see


Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond the completion of your proposed trip to the USA. If your passport expires sooner than that, you must renew your passport before RIJF can apply for a visa on your behalf.


Currently this project is not publicly funded, but groups who fulfil the PRS Foundation's International Showcase Fund criteria will be eligible to apply for funding support:

“PRS Foundation’s International Showcase Fund offers vital support for music creators based in England, Scotland and Wales who have been invited to play an international showcasing festival or conference. If you are invited to play at the Made in the UK showcase in North America, you can apply for support of up to £5,000 as a contribution towards travel, accommodation, visa and per diem costs. We grant up to 75% of your trips budget. The remaining 25% should be covered by the artist, label, manager, publisher, etc.”


RIJF will provide accommodation in Rochester for up to two nights (for members of the band only), local ground transport (from and to ROC airport & between hotel and venue), backline (subject to festival approval - substitutions may be required), festival catering on concert evenings & a contribution towards expenses (please note: RIJF do NOT cover flight expenses).

RIJF will apply and pay for US work visas for the chosen bands (value $1,500 -$2,000 each) if required. These visas are generally for up to one week’s duration and are only valid for your performance at RIJF. If your group intends to perform elsewhere in the USA in addition to Rochester, you will need to apply for your own visa through a US Petitioner such as (affiliated with Covey Law) and RIJF will provide a pro-rata financial contribution towards the cost of this (up to a maximum of $750). Please see visa information above to check that you are able to fulfil the visa petition criteria.


Groups must be prepared to fund their own international flights, US visa embassy costs in the UK (approx. £130 per musician) and any additional expenses themselves, or by applying for funding from the PRSF or other sources.


Please ensure that you understand the visa and funding information outlined above and are available from 21-29 June 2019.

Send an email to expressing your interest in being part of the 2019 series. Please include links to website, biography and recent & past press, plus links to videos & streaming of the exact project/line-up you are proposing by Thursday September 6th 2018.

The final Made in the UK 2019 programme will be chosen by the CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival Artistic Director and selected bands will be notified by November 2018.

The programme will be announced in March 2019 at the RIJF press conference.

(*) The Festival recently announced a new title sponsor 


NEWS: Large UK presence in Leipzig (Leipziger Jazztage 11-20 October)

Matthew Herbert's Brexit Big Band
Publicity picture

The Anglo-Saxons will be heading for Saxony in the Autumn. Peter Bacon reports on a German jazz festival honouring British jazz:

Leipziger Jazztage presents its 42nd “edition” from 11 to 20 October this year, and an awareness both of the media noise surrounding the new British jazz thing, as well as the impending sad farewells as the Brexit tug drags SS UK away from the Euro-quay for destinations unknown, have led to two interesting themes running through the festival.

First up is Fish And Chips – a set of performances by British bands and musicians. The first fish supper is served up by Empirical on the opening day of the festival, 11 October, and is followed by Kit Downes playing church organ on Saturday 13, Matthew Herbert’s Brexit Big Band in a double bill with Yazz Ahmed on Wednesday 17, and the Elliot Galvin Trio on Friday 19. Other British-led bands include Dave Holland’s Aziza and the Norma Winstone Trio, both on Saturday 20 October. Soweto Kinch is on Friday 12.

Then there is the innovative Across The English Channel strand which features UK-European collaborations. So, German pianist Michael Wollny is joining forces with UK electronics manipulator Leafcutter John on Saturday 13 for some further variations on Bach’s Goldbergs, guitarist Helmut Joe Sachse and vocalist Maggie Nicols team up on Thursday 18 as do saxophonist Anna-Lena Schnabel and pianist Florian Weber with bassist James Banner and drummer James Maddren. Swiss, Berlin-based singer Lucia Cadotsch teams up with UK’s Tricko (Lucy Railton, cellist, and Kit Downes on Hammond) on Sunday 14, and Max Andrzejewski’s Hütte and guests play the music of Robert Wyatt on Friday 19.

Leipziger Jazztage’s big names from further afield include Joshua Redman with James Farm, and the quartet of trumpeter Avishai Cohen.

LINK: Leipziger Jazztage website


CD REVIEW: Kris Davis & Craig Taborn - Octopus

Kris Davis & Craig Taborn - Octopus
(Pyroplastic Records. CD Review by Alison Bentley)

Kris Davis and Craig Taborn on this new album of piano duets sound as if they’re playing with at least eight arms and probably a few legs too, such is the virtuosity and intensity of their playing. The six tracks on this intriguing CD are drawn from three live gigs, melding free jazz, blues and modern classical music. They build on their contribution to Davis’ 2016 album of duos (Duopoly) where her duet with Taborn seemed special. Davis: “From the moment we started playing I felt instantly transported and free within the music, and had the sense we could go anywhere.”

Americn Taborn has contributed three Interruptions, “small composed pieces… to redirect or recondition the musical environment.” Interruptions One sounds almost mimetic: notes like water drops coalesce, or drop a fraction of a second apart like echoes, as the atmospheric pressure builds with huge abstract chords. A heavy storm bursts and subsides with tiny drops and circling atonal riffs. There’s constant movement, and what Taborn in one interview calls “multiple motion.” Cecil Taylor has been a big influence, and there’s something of his angular freedom here.

Canadian-born Davis’ Ossining (a village in the Hudson Valley) is about missing her family’s house move while on the Octopus tour. The cross rhythms of her prepared piano have a kind of emotive urgency that locks into grooves reminiscent of Steve Reich’s Octet, but more playful. (Davis studied West African music with drummer Abraham Adzenyah.) High percussive kalimba-like sounds run over Taborn’s deep repeated phrases; then a gorgeous meditative section resolves the tension. Her Chatterbox evokes an aviary of dissonant sounds and rhythms. It’s an impassioned conversation with many emphatic phases, full of incredibly agile speeding notes, strutting crashes and glissandi.

One of the album’s covers is Carla Bley’s 60s Monkish tune Sing Me Softly of the Blues, suggested by Davis. This version opens with a drawling bluesiness, trills and blue notes tripping over each other. The melody fragments into crazy phrasing and impossible disharmony, then returns, spikily melodic. Davis spent a lot of time transcribing Keith Jarrett: “It felt like his solos were one long melody,” she told one interviewer. “That was always a big influence for me, even if it veered off into other things.” There’s a jump cut into Taborn’s Interruptions Two, with emphatic rock-edged chords and delicately clinking high notes. Interruptions Three almost seems to be falling down Ligeti’s Devil’s Staircase, with jazz chords like double-speed Ravel on a loop. Defiant flourishes, rumbling bass doodlings and crashing chords seem to react instinctively to jumpy phrases. Taborn chose Sun Ra’s '60s Love in Outer Space and plays an exquisite intro, like Messaien through a jazz lens. His ostinato bass lines almost recall Abdullah Ibrahim’s African Piano, as Davis brings in the Romantic theme and develops the dreamy mood.

It doesn’t seem to matter what’s composed and what’s improvised, and as Taborn says elsewhere, “With improvisation you are composing at the same time as you're performing.” It’s as if they’ve absorbed an unimaginable amount of jazz, classical and improvised music, and use their formidable technique to play with a childlike spirit of inventiveness and playfulness.


INTERVIEW/PREVIEW: Sara Dowling (new album Two Sides Of Sara released 10 August)

Sara Dowling
Photo: © Steven Tagg Randall
Vocalist Sara Dowling is about to release her second album, Two Sides Of Sara. She spoke to Sebastian about the complexities of heritage, the power of two, the enduring beauty of the American Songbook and finding stories in their dramatic verses.

London Jazz News: Please clear up one thing....are you SAH-ra or SAY-ra?

Sara Dowling: It’s pronounced Saaaaaaa ra. Ha ha ha! Not Sarah.

LJN: You sing “I’m from Missouri too” in You came a Long Way from St. Louis. I was convinced – but where are you actually from?

SD: That’s a very good question! Audience members often ask me, “Where are you from?”  My response is always, “Ummm, are you asking which part of London I live or where I grew up or where I was born or what is my heritage?”  This response is usually met with, “Jeepers, OK, I’m going to guess alright, you’re Italian aren’t you? Spanish? Iranian?” And the list goes on, which makes this question all too entertaining for me at gigs and usually gives me a chance to have a good old natter with these crazy jazz lovers.

I am half-Palestinian half-Irish. I was born in Muscat (Capital of Oman). I moved to the UK when I was seven, and lived in Land's End, Cornwall. Then, I moved to Manchester to go to a music school from age 12 and stayed there until I moved to London at 30 and have been here ever since. Voila!

LJN: And for a time you were a professional cellist?

SD: Yes, the cello was my ticket to Manchester where I attended Chetham's School of Music from age 12-18 and subsequently continued my studies at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM).

LJN: And this is your second album... how is this one different from the first?

SD: Well, firstly, this album is a duo album. Tracks 1-7 are (Vocal and Piano) and tracks 8-14 are (Vocal and Hammond Organ), whereas my first album is with a rhythm section. Therefore, this album is very exposing and a true picture of where my voice was at then. Lord knows, I think my voice has changed since March and June 2017, which was when I recorded the two sessions. In my heart, I felt before recording another big quartet album like my first, I’d like to make a statement. If listeners who buy this album truly love it, then they genuinely like my voice. There are no original compositions, just standards that immediately expose the voice’s ability... and ability to portray sincere emotion with just a piano or an organ to hide behind. As a duo record there is so much room for me to use a great dynamic range and colour… and I like that!

LJN: You know a lot of standards – what led to this selection?

SD: Well, the standards chosen with organ were songs in my mind that I felt I could either give a bluesy delivery or songs that would allow me to sustain the melody and build to a point that I was able to show the biggest outpour of emotion possible. The organ can facilitate that kind of delivery. It is a mammoth instrument with a wide sound palette; it pushes the voice to a place with no borders.

The standards chosen with the piano were songs that I imagined Ella Fitzgerald and Ellis Larkins would have chosen. Songs that sit on a tempo that allows the pianist to play at a slow lilting stride. That style of playing leaves me teary. I also chose songs that Gabriel (Latchin) and I were often playing at the time and seemed to really suit us.

Of course it is important to feel an affiliation with the lyrics but I also need to have as deep connection with melody and harmony as I do with lyrics. I’m not a vocalist that learns songs that just suit who I am. That’s why I’ll sing "I’m from Missouri too” like I mean it.

On a tangent here: I like to learn huge lists of songs that belong to one composer in order to get the feel of the composer and his style. You can find beauty in all songs if they are written by one of the greats. That’s the beauty of the American Songbook.

LJN: The verses of these songs… you seem to always find treasures in the words. You must enjoy telling stories…

SD: I love delivering lines in the way an actress would. The verses of standards are the moment for a vocalist to shine in terms of their ability to sing and act/deliver.

LJN: Two Sides... why that title?

SD: I am a pretty unpredictable person (I’m nervously laughing by the way) so I have many sides to my character, ask mama. However, two sides of Sara are showing the beauty of piano and organ. How the instrumentation alone can bring out a different side of my voice.

LJN: What led you to want to record with Gabriel Latchin?

SD: I’ve been working with Gabriel since May 2015. I adore his playing and I think he’s an exceptional musician who is making great movements in his own right. He seems to know how to cope with me.

LJN: And (organist) Bill Mudge?

SD: Well Bill Mudge is very special. He is an extraordinarily sensitive and thoughtful musician. When you get someone like that playing the organ it’s very special, especially in terms of his ability to accompany too. He has great time. To be honest there was only one person for me that could have done a duo album and that was Bill.

LJN: And how and where were the sessions?

SD: The first session: 8 March 2017, Talbort Studios Bermondsey – Recorded by an amazing organist called Steve Pringle. You will hear how well he recorded the organ. He knew exactly what he was doing. It was recorded to tape too. Steve had to take his shirt off in the control room where the tape machine was placed. It reached 27 degrees Celsius in March! We finished recording at 2am-ish finishing with When It’s sleepy Time Down South. Steve Pringle being a musician is the only kind of person that would agree to be in the recording studio at 2am, but it was special recording at that time of night. There were tears of joy, emotion and fatigue from Bill and I, and memories I’ll cherish always.

The Second session:  30 June 2017, Fish Factory in Willesdon – Fish Factory is an incredible space, with high ceilings and lots of wood. I love the old desk there but most of all I love the piano. Many people want that modern pristine sound from the piano but I preferred the Fish Factory’s lovely old Steinway. It’s sound is dark and heavy. That sound for me is reminiscent of all these old jazz records. That’s the piano sound I want to hear when I sing. I made sure to get Gabriel the biggest sandwich possible. He has a fear of being hungry. Go figure!

LJN: Song choices… How rare to hear Irving Berlin’s After You Get What You Want – er, don’t you  have to be Marilyn Monroe to do that one?

SD: Well, I’m impressed... you know your broadway Mr Scotney! Well I’m NO Marilyn, I’m more of a ‘Monica from Friends’ but I do LOVE that song. There’s something about it. Innocent, childlike and sad… “After you get what you want you don’t want it / If I gave you the moon, you’d grow tired of it soon.”

LJN: Do you have a residency anywhere? Where’s the most likely place people will hear you?

SD: The only regular thing I have going is a monthly appearance with Gabriel at the Wellesley Hotel in Hyde Park on a Friday. My gig calendar is pretty varied and I do a lot of clubs out of town like Susan May’s Clubs. When, I’m in town I mostly sing at the 606 – about three to four times a year, I do the odd warm-up set at Ronnie Scott's and a few times a month I sing at the NED.

LJN: Would you do this programme live too?

SD: Not sure yet.

LJN: You’ve got a live George Shearing programme – and a Jerome Kern set too. What’s the story there?

SD: Well I adore George Shearing mostly because my father listened to him a lot and I’ve enjoyed taking his quintet arrangements of song with vibes and mould them round a vocal.

As for the Kern show, well I have several different shows: Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, George/Ira Gershwin, Judy Garland. This is my crusade to maintain the beauty of the American Songbook and not allow that incredible collection of songs to be lost. I love composing and I wrote two originals on my first album, but right now, where I’m standing I think a jazz singer should have a healthy repertoire. It’s part of the job description and part of being a jazz musician. Call me a traditionalist!

LJN: How/where do people get hold of the album?

SD: Well my website (see LINK below) is the best place to go at the moment. ITunes and Amazon will be the next part of this journey. You can buy physical copies from my site or download the digital version from 10 August 2018.

LINK: Sara Dowling's website