PREVIEW/ INTERVIEW: Leszek Możdżer (London Piano Festival, Kings Place, 5 October)

Leszek Możdżer
Photo credit Lukasz Gawronski

Pianist and composer Leszek Możdżer is one of the great revelations of the last decade in Polish jazz. His most successful album to date, Komeda, released on the ACT label in 2011 went to No.1 in Poland and achieved double platinum sales..He will be performing solo in  Friday 5 October at London’s Kings Place as part of the London Piano Festival. Interview by Tomasz Furmanek:

LondonJazz News: In your 2012 interview with LJN (link below) you shared the following reflection: "I don’t think I’ve recorded an important cd yet, my best recordings are still ahead of me". Has the important album appeared already, and if so, which one would it be?

Leszek Możdżer: I think that such an important album may be the one recorded last year with the Holland Baroque band. This is my first CD recorded in a style that I have always dreamed about and which I intuitively imagined. This album, entitled Earth Particles, it’s a first step towards music inspired by the disciplines of classical and jazz, where the goal is to achieve a high temperature of emotions while maintaining a sophisticated form. I have the impression that on this album I managed to achieve it for the first time!

LJN: You were predicting "the great come back of classical music in the charts" some time ago, and always emphasized the importance of combining classical music with other genres, especially jazz. Is Earth Particles the fulfilment of your idea on how to incorporate classical music into your work and present it to the contemporary listener?

LM: I realize that the audiences that listen to music are masses of people that are very diverse in terms of intellectual development, spiritual development, etc ... I had such a rather unwise dream that classical music would become its own form of popular music, but it probably will never get so popular because of the fact that it is simply much more refined and advanced formally and sonically, and it fully exploits the twelve-tone system, which is a twelve-unit mathematical system. Substantially, in order to fully receive messages encoded in this system, one needs to have experienced classical music ideally from the childhood.

LJN: So, for a person who has not absorbed the matter and form of classical music, the reception could be difficult or, to some extent, impossible?

LM: It can be quite complicated. It should be noted that the harmonic and melodic substance of pop songs, mainly American, are based on the pentatonic scale, which consists of only five sounds. The 12-voice system, due to the fact that it is more advanced, becomes slightly less understandable for people who have not had time to get used to it. And pop music of today has become hugely simplified in comparison to what we listened to in the 1960s and 1970s. Mathematically speaking, modern popular music has fewer components than popular music in the 60s-80s so it provides fewer operations to be processed by the mind during listening.

LJN: There are quite a few albums in your discography devoted to Chopin and his music. Is Fryderyk Chopin the most important composer for you?

LM: Chopin is important for every Pole, and he is an extremely important icon in our collective consciousness, same as Paderewski, who was one of the most important prime ministers in Polish history, and yet he was also a performing pianist. Chopin's music is very close to many Poles... I will be honest with you and say that the impetus for recording Chopin came from outside influences and if not for this, I would not have begun a project to play Chopin as jazz. I, of course, love Chopin's music no more and no less than any other pianist, but I made these records only because I received such orders from the producer.

LJN: You are valued for your sublime style of playing. There are often opinions that your music has something mystical about it, and you seem to be a quite spiritual person. Do you also see yourself that way?

LM: I am interested in everything that happens in the sphere that I only can sense. For many people it is clear that there is some mystery in the process of life, and that the matter, that is what we see, is not everything we participate in - and this of course is very interesting to me. I realize, however, that you have to be specific in a world of matter, that is, do very specific things here on planet Earth. We can talk about spirituality, with the proviso that we will never come to any significant understanding on this issue, because the higher dimensions always contact a single person only with the help of concepts that the person has already developed, and each person has a different set of concepts, other language will speak to him, words cannot be reached on matters of spiritual reality. Spiritual reality is only and exclusively an idea to each individual person. Each person who speaks about his own spirituality in their own language is right.

LJN: Can we then say, that you are a sensitive man who keeps his feet firmly on the ground, but sometimes you are able to touch some higher sphere too?

LM: Music is a promise of a better world and is an expression of some sort of reality that is beyond the material world- good music! I myself sometimes do not quite understand what is going on during my concerts, but very often I have intuitive vibes from the audience that something that could be called a spiritual event happens. But this is not a merit of mine, nor do I have any influence on it.

LJN: Is there any difference, from your point of view, between playing at a venue with a small audience or one where you have many thousand?

LM: I have the impression that the number of people that come to a concert does not determine the quality of the event. I do not know exactly what components are necessary for a good concert to take place. I must admit that the amount of people from my point of view does not matter, although I think I prefer to play in larger halls.

LJN: What are your interests or passions away from music?

LM: I am interested in the issue of consciousness itself, I try to read a lot about it, because the phenomenon of consciousness is fascinating for me and I would like to know as much as possible about it. In addition, I am fascinated by nature. Simply nature, and its contact with creation, the world of animals and plants. I am fascinated by every natural phenomenon and I must admit that I am more and more amazed by the perfection of the world around me, the number of plant and animal species, the perfection of the human body structure ... It truly fascinates me, amazes me and delights me!

LJN: You manage to continuously maintain that very important element of enthusiasm and fervour, which, at the beginning of your career on the “jass scene” in Poland, made the audiences love you! It is still there?

LM: Yes, yes! ... however, it seems to me that it is impossible to develop as an artist without reaching for spiritual practices. Show business will disappoint you, the partners will let you down, the money will turn out to be made of paper, the system will turn out to be tricky - the only thing that can be grabbed at least for a moment is the spiritual reality that allows you to preserve the zealousness of performing music, which is necessary to make people want to buy a ticket at all.

LJN: What is your spiritual reality like? How does it manifest itself? 

LM: I practice self-observation, i.e. I try to actively and consciously participate in all processes that take place in my body and in my consciousness.

LJN: So the key to learning about the world around us is self-knowledge? Looking at yourself you deepen your contact with the world?

LM: Yes. The best portal to enter into spiritual reality is simply your own body.

LJN: Going back to music. You have participated in a huge amount of musical collaborations with many outstanding musicians, but you often come back to working with Lars Danielsson. What do you value most about him?

LM: First of all, he is a musician who has a very classical approach to sound. He is interested in noble sound, and he has respect for the sound of his instrument. We are looking for beauty in the same areas because we were both brought up on classical literature, we perceive similar things as beautiful, and all that makes it easier to communicate on stage. He also has such a beautiful persona - he is a very friendly musical partner, very supportive. This is the thing that actually promotes his genius and that you want to play with him. There are many musicians to whom I will not call again, because they are busy fulfilling some plan of their own, while Lars is an extremely supportive musician on stage. This is something that I value in him the most, in addition to his incredible technique, melodiousness and control of the instrument – his kindness which actually is an aspect of his soul.

LJN: At King’s Place you will perform solo - what will you play and what kind of repertoire can we expect?

LM: I do not know! I do not know what will I play yet ...

LJN: So you'll decide the very last minute...?

LM: I have that pleasure and privilege that I can create the course of the concert spontaneously, depending on the atmosphere, what form I am in, in what mood ... It also gives me a possibility of expressing various emotions that would keep appearing… Most often, the concert organizer has enough confidence in me not to require from me a program of the show in advance -  which is the case here. I will just create the course of the concert spontaneously!

The London Piano Festival runs from 3-7 October 2018 at Kings Place. BOOKINGS
The Leszek Możdżer concert is sold out/ returns only.
LINK: 2012 Interview
Earth Particles is available from Holland Baroque


PHOTOS: New York All-Stars - Burnin’ in London album launch at Pizza Express Jazz Club (Seamus Blake, Eric Alexander, Mike LeDonne)

L-R: Mike LeDonne, Eric Alexander, Seamus Blake Erik Soderlind
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska

Sebastian writes: 

Monika Jakubowska caught the final high-energy night of a three-night residency on 17-19 September 2018, marking the release of Burnin’ in London by the New York All-Stars.

The band is slightly different from that on the album. Pianist Harold Mabern, originally from Memphis and bassist Darryl Hall, originally from Philadelphia, were both obliged to cancel.

The group was a two-tenor powerhouse of Eric Alexander and Seamus Blake, with the Hammond/piano of Mike Ledonne, Aldo Zunino, bass and Bernd Reiter, drums. On this third night there were also guests, Swedish guitarist Erik Soderlind and Welsh vocalist Ian Shaw.

Monika's pictures capture the concentration, the electricity, the joy of this session played before a packed house.

Seamus Blake  (foreground) and Eric Alexander
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska

Seamus Blake and Erik Soderlind
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska

Eric Alexander, Aldo Zunino
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska

Seamus Blake Erik Soderlind, Eric Alexander
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska

Mike LeDonne
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska

Bernd Reiter
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska


REVIEW: Isaac Waddington at Servant Jazz Quarters

Isaac Waddington
iPhone photo by Kate Delamere

Isaac Waddington
(Servant Jazz Quarters, Dalston. 12 September 2018. Review by Kate Delamere)

Isaac Waddington, former head chorister at Chichester Cathedral, hit the headlines for having the voice of an angel when he appeared as a 15-year old contestant on Britain’s Got Talent in 2015. He came 5th and was signed by Simon Cowell’s Syco label. Four years on, he continues to make waves in the music business.

He showcased his expansive singer song-writing talent at London’s Servant Jazz Quarters in Dalston on 12 September in the wake of the launch of his EP Borselli. Blasting out sophisticated jazz numbers in a 10-track set list, from the slow seductive To the Moon to the African beat of Mornings in Africa, with tender soulful lyrics tripping from his tongue in Fly With You, Wanted you Today and Insane.

The small venue had people standing in every available space including on staircases craning their necks to see this boy wonder. And it was easy to understand why.

Isaac’s enigmatic versatile voice straddles musical genres from jazz to pop. He confidently worked the crowd, slowing and speeding up the tempo of the audience at the hint of a change of key.

But despite a commanding presence, he never strode out too far into the spotlight on his own. He was flanked by the protection of his band; made up of an enthusiastic and playful Joe Beard on keyboard, carefree Casper Miles on bass and Matt Mason on drums who indulged in heated, galloping patterns rousing the audience. Together they played a blinder, creating an atmosphere of youth and hope that suggested an open road of positive possibilities ahead. A sense of optimism in the upbeat rhythms was communicated to the crowd by these young competent musicians who were accomplished and tight. When Isaac played Doing Wrong, it became patently obvious that this boy could never do any wrong in the audience’s eyes, despite some cheeky and witty musical flourishes that flung them out only to reel them back in moments later.

No doubt Isaac’s boyish good looks and whimsical charm will add to his appeal  and lead to a few broken hearts. His is a precocious talent. We’ll be hearing much more of him for years to come.

Isaac Waddington, Matt Mason, Casper Miles
Kate Delamere is a national journalist in TV, newspapers and magazines, and writes creatively for theatre, radio and print.

Borselli on Spotify.


BOOK REVIEW: Brian Gruber: Six Days At Ronnie Scott's – Billy Cobham On Jazz Fusion And The Act Of Creation

Brian Gruber: Six Days At Ronnie Scott's – Billy Cobham On Jazz Fusion And The Act Of Creation
(CreateSpace. 201pp. Book Review by Frank Griffith)

Brian Gruber's new book has the hallmarks of one of the greatest tomes about perhaps the most influential drummers and bandleaders of this or any other era. Gruber has captured Billy Cobham's insights, humour and straightforwardness to an extent that no one else has previously achieved. One major reason for this is Gruber's approach of interweaving the texts of one-to-one interviews with Cobham with his observations of the Billy Cobham/Guy Barker Big Band during their 2017 six-day residency at Ronnie Scott's. This allows the reader to move between the two kinds of narrative in a balanced way, avoiding the need to absorb too much of either in one go. Not unlike a radio host playing frequent tracks interspersed with interviewing a noted guest, Gruber clearly gets the balance right, keeping the reader's attention as he makes each new angle on how Billy ticks emerge into view.

Gruber's chronicling of the dialogue with him and Cobham virtually puts the reader in the nightclub, the cafe or a moving car hosting an interview. There are cameos from a plethora of jazz legends like Ron Carter, Jan Hammer, Randy Brecker and fellow drummer Bill Bruford (also an innovative figure in jazz/rock fusion). Their comments and insights convey not only their respect for Cobham but acknowledges his playing with Dr Billy Taylor, Horace Silver and Miles Davis to his bridging the transition to his trailblazing bands and recordings in the 1970s. In addition, Gruber's interviews with a younger generation of his current band-members like Steve Hamilton, Carl Orr, Mike Mondesir and arranger and bandleader, Guy Barker are inspiring as well. They not only reveal their feelings about playing under Cobham but their own journey and hopes and dreams as well.

Cobham left an indelible impression on the jazz, jazz-fusion and drum worlds when he came to wider prominence with the Mahavishnu Orchestra in 1971. Led by Doncaster-born guitarist John McLaughlin, with violinist Jerry Goodman and Czech-born pianist Jan Hammer, it was probably the first international jazz supergroup. Hammer playfully refers to the music as "Indian Improvisational Olympics" in his interview but despite this, no drummer had fused pinpoint jazz articulation, four-way independence with acute melodic tuning and 16th note and swing grooves in equal measure. He changed the direction of jazz percussion influencing a generation of players in the process.

One minor quibble is the rather spartan discography. It lists the titles, labels and (mostly) years of Cobham's fifty recordings, but omits any mention of the personnel or locations or dates. I realise that this information is probably available elsewhere online, but it would have been useful to be able to refer to it alongside the recollections.

Six Days provides a terrific insight into the music and life of a world-class drummer resulting in a unique and challenging document for fans of Cobham, jazz, fusion and the culture of the 60s and 70s. A must and thoroughly enjoyable read.

LINK: Gruber Media website


REVIEW: Chet Baker Live in London Vol II album launch at the Jazz Cafe

L-R: John Horler, Jim Richardson, Quentin Collins,
Leo Richardson
Photo of launch from Ubuntu Music

Chet Baker Live in London Vol. II album launch
(Jazz Cafe, Camden Town, 18 Sept 2018. Review – and Interview with Jim Richardson – by Kate Delamere)

The ghost of Chet Baker was in the room when pianist John Horler's trio from the 1980's re-formed for a last time to launch Chet Baker Live in London Volume II. The trumpeter’s haunting legacy sounded in every plaintive note that spoke of empty caresses and unrealised dreams to the mixed crowd of young and old, who were left wanting more. Horler’s light mesmeric touch flattered percussive flurries from drummer Tony Mann that were complemented by Jim Richardson’s rhythmic and scurrying melancholic melodic runs on the bass prompting whoops from the audience.

The original trio were joined by Quentin Collins on trumpet paying homage to Chet’s fierce mellow style, a-league-of-his-own Leo Richardson on saxophone and special guest Cherise Adams-Burnett whose laid-back vocals were reminiscent of Chet’s and made for a truly special night.

Cool jazz cats in the audience couldn’t help toe-tapping along to tunes such as Horace Silver's Strolling and  I Remember You, The Touch of Your Lips, For Minors Only (Jimmy Heath), Sam Rivers' Beatrice and Just Friends.

And of course, the night would not have been complete without a poignant rendition of My Funny Valentine (Richard Rodgers) – the song synonymous with Chet's moody singing style.

But even the encore of It Could Happen To You didn’t satisfy this baying crowd.

A fitting tribute to the man whose life was a bittersweet refrain to wasted promise that ended abruptly aged 58 on Friday 13th May, 1988 when Chet fell to his death from a hotel room in Amsterdam. His companions in death as in life - heroin and cocaine.

Tuesday’s tribute nevertheless was one that would never have happened but for Richardson having the foresight to record Chet’s performances with the trio on his Walkman recorder in 1983 when Chet played six consecutive nights at The Canteen in London.

"Poignant...moody": My Funny Valentine
with Cherise Adams-Burnett
Photo from Ubuntu Music 

Jim, 77, from North London, recalled: ‘We got a call to work with Chet and it was nerve-wracking because he had a bad history using narcotics. He upset a great deal of people being a smack user and banging it in his arm. It blighted his life. But he’d say it helped him musically to hear better even though it made a bit of a wreck out of him.

‘When we met him he didn’t look well. But he sounded well when he put that horn to his mouth. There was no drama, he was quiet and polite. He sat side on to the audience totally focused, the trumpet next to the microphone so he’d get a close sound.

‘I nervously asked Chet in between sets if he’d allow me to record our performances. I wasn’t sure how he’d respond. He looked at my Walkman that I wanted to record it on and into my eyes then said ‘f*** you…!’ and pulled me into a big bear hug, which was his way of saying ‘of course!’

‘And the results on the Walkman were amazing!’

Jim attributes Chet as the reason he got into music and forged a successful global career as a bassist.

‘I fell in love with Chet when I heard him on the radio as a fourteen-year-old schoolboy. I was a big fan from then on, and loved his lyrics and melody. Chet’s Dad insulted him telling him he sung like a girl but I loved his sound. It was genderless, a soft sound, evocative.

‘When I left school and worked as a hod carrier on a building site I’d often find myself whistling some of Chet’s solos. They were beautiful. He had a melodic romantic warm style and fire in his belly. As far as music was concerned he was a big hero of mine. After listening to him I’d mess around with wire brushes and a tea chest playing along to records. Then in 1958 when I was 17 I got a double bass and turned professional five years later playing with big bands.’ And thanks to Jim’s cheeky request 35 years ago, a second selection from those performances has now been released as a two-CD set Chet Baker Live in London, lovingly restored under the supervision of Martin Hummel, Director of Ubuntu Music, and with an eloquent sleeve note by Richard Williams.

Jim said: ‘I’m so very proud to have been alongside John Horler and Tony Mann to form the rhythm section for Chet’s performances. Whatever issues Chet may have had throughout his dramatic life, he certainly came up with the goods in grand style at these shows. I think we can safely say we made Chet proud. And an old geezer a very happy man.’

And if the ghost of Chet Baker could talk, I bet he’d be saying ‘Back at ya, Jim!’

The launch at Jazz Cafe
Photo from Ubuntu Music

Kate Delamere is a national journalist in TV, newspapers and magazines, and writes creatively for theatre, radio and print.

LINKS: Chet Baker in London Vol II album at Ubuntu Music
CD Review: Chet Baker in London Vol II


FESTIVAL ROUND-UP: 2018 Lagavulin Islay Jazz Festival

Fergus McCreadie
Photo by Patrick Hadfield

Lagavulin Islay Jazz Festival
(Islay, Scotland.14-16 September 2018. Round-Up and photos by Patrick Hadfield)

Islay is an island off the west coast of Scotland, famous for its birdlife and its whisky. For the last twenty years, for three days each September the geese and barrels are joined by jazz fans from the island, across Scotland and throughout Europe, gathered for a remarkable festival. The island's relative remoteness make it special: both musicians and audience have to really want to get there, most travelling by ferry to join the appreciative islanders. Without regular music venues, the promoters - Islay Arts and Jazz Scotland - and their volunteers are adept at turning unlikely locations into intimate spaces: community halls, distilleries and an RSPB nature reserve visitor centre all played host to exceptional gigs. There's something about Islay that draws superlative performances from musicians, and the audience - both visitors and locals - have a real sense of community: one sees the same people at gigs throughout the weekend, and many people come back year after year (this was my eighth visit). The organisers mix and match musicians, creating new and surprising ensembles just for the festival.

Soweto Kinch (foreground) with Nick Jurd
Photo by Patrick Hadfield

Friday night saw Soweto Kinch play an impassioned set with bassist Nick Jurd and drummer Jonathan Silk at Lagavulin, sponsors of the festival. Aided by an array of pedals and a recalcitrant Mac which declined to play at one point, he sampled his own playing to loop riffs and play with prerecorded samples, creating a choir of saxophones. Despite the technology, the music felt personal and organic: Silk, playing this music (largely taken from Kinch's latest album Nonagram) for the first time, worked with the recorded beats, adding a real sense of swing. The samples acted as a starting point for the musicians to improvise. Kinch also rapped two numbers, the heartfelt Forecast, during which he got the audience to chant the chorus, "What's it all for?", and a freestyle number in which he demonstrated his quick imagination as he worked in words suggested by the audience.

Lagavulin, the distillery which sponsors the festival (and provides a warm welcome at each gig), was also the venue for Graham Costello's STRATA, who played a set on Saturday lunchtime. I'd seen this band play during the summer, and had been so impressed that I thought I might be disappointed this time. Not a bit of it: for ninety minutes, this band of young musicians - they're students or graduates of the jazz programme at Royal Conservatoire of Scotland - gave their all, playing intense, intricate music; their musicianship is highly accomplished. A mixture of jazz, prog-rock and classical forms, with a bit of folk thrown in for good measure, they've synthesised a powerful but subtle music. They played straight through, without any announcements - so I've no idea what they played, or which of them composed what. Harry Weir's ecstatic, wailing tenor and Fergus McCreadie's repetitive, rhythmic piano over Joe Williamson's textured guitar build up an emotional ferocity, driven by Graham Costello's polyrhythmic drumming; Liam Shorthall brought depth with his trombone. A superb start to the musical day.

Pete Johnstone and Mario Caribe
Photo by Patrick Hadfield

The young musicians from STRATA made appearances in other bands across the weekend. Shorthall was part of Mario Caribe's lively New Mambo band. Caribe has played every Islay Jazz Festival bar one - he clearly has an affinity for the island. (Someone shouted "welcome home!" as he came onto the bandstand.) I'm not a fan of latin jazz - or so I thought. But in the hands of Caribe, the rhythm was infectious: this late night show was immense fun. The band - including Pete Johnstone on piano and Mike Butcher on tenor, together with Shorthall students of Caribe's from the RCS ("People ask me why I teach... It's so my students can get me gigs", quipped Caribe) - were exuberant and hugely entertaining.

McCreadie played several gigs in various bands across the weekend. His own trio played some beautifully understated piano music, much of it from their recent CD Turas, together with new, yet to be named pieces. His piano playing is engaging and introspective, exploring ideas and melancholic moods. Though comparatively quiet, the trio are emotionally powerful - after the gig, one member of the audience explained how one of the new pieces had brought tears to her eyes.

McCreadie also played in the Stephen Henderson Quartet, augmented to a quintet for one show only with the addition of Graeme Stephen on guitar. But it was his guest appearance with saxophonist Tommy Smith that really impressed. This duo, opening for Smith's quartet, played some exquisite standards: Ellington's Single Petal of a Rose stood out, achingly beautiful. The Tommy Smith Quartet, playing music written or inspired by John Coltrane, played an exhilarating set of high powered, energetic music. They're a formidable force, driven by Sebastiaan de Krom's drumming and Pete Johnstone's forceful piano. Tommy Smith seems to get better and better: part of the international jazz scene for over three decades (and the educator behind the RCS's jazz programme), his saxophone playing was a tour de force.

With so much talent on hand, it says a lot that neither the Tommy Smith Quartet, nor STRATA, nor Soweto Kinch played my favourite gig of the festival. That was instead a show at the Outback Gallery, named for its remote location at the end of several single-track roads, on the north-west coast of Islay - next stop west is Newfoundland. Reedsman Martin Kershaw explained that he was asked who, if he could choose anyone, he'd like to play with: and so this one-off gig found him playing with percussionist Corrie Dick and Graeme Stephen in a wholly improvised set. Kershaw played alto and soprano saxophones, but mostly bass clarinet - a haunting, mournful sound. Dick's drumming was humorous and creative, using various implements on his drums to create rhythms. Stephen utilised a variety of pedals to sculpt his sound. The music was engrossing, moving from abstract to melodic, shifting in inventive and imaginative directions. They held the audience enthralled for fifty minutes before drawing the piece to a close. Then, with a few minutes left, they played a straight blues, Kershaw on alto, proving they could swing with the best. It was a truly special event.

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


FEATURE: Impressions of music in Baku, Azerbaijan

A muqam trio in a restaurant
Photo: Mary James

One of LJN's regular contributors, Mary James recently spent a few days in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. Here are some impressions, plus a few photos she took of the music scene there.:

It’s easy to experience the resonant and deeply emotional mugam music in Baku, capital of Azerbaijan. From the tantalising snippets of music which introduce each metro stop to well-attended formal concerts in stunning modern venues, its slightly melancholy sound is everywhere, the backdrop to everyday life and enjoyed by all ages.

Nisbat Sadrayeva
Photo: Mary James
At the Muqam Centre we heard the singer Nisbat Sadrayeva captivate an audience which included small children whose dancing and clapping was unforced and enthusiastic. Her voice was extraordinary powerful without any obvious effort, many songs deeply moving, especially those with just voice and dilli kaval (a flute like instrument). Sometimes the audience broke into applause mid-song – it was hard to work out why – maybe there were words they loved or maybe it was in response to a particularly difficult vocal technique. After many songs, audience members proffered bunches of real and artificial flowers, each gracefully received by Sadrayeva.

The sound of muqam tempts you into restaurants. A trio of tar (that interesting figure-of-eight shaped instrument played horizontally), qaval drum and kamancheh (played with a bow like a cello) plus male voice provided plenty of variation from traditional tunes to the score from the Godfather. And in a small jazz club, a trio of Azerbaijan musicians led by drummer Elvin Bashirov, played a mix of Western standards which sounded very far from home and quite possibly exotic to the local audience (who sadly for us and the trio, talked loudly throughout the show).

Young people sing by the Caspian Sea
Photo: Mary James

On the shores of the Caspian Sea, small groups of young people gather most nights to sing and play guitar against the magical backdrop of Baku by night. They may have been singing the latest Azerbaijan pop tune but somehow I doubt that, there appeared to be improvisation and response between guitarist and singer. One singer adopted a stylish nonchalant air, another was more impassioned. It felt very natural and deeply rooted in their culture and people stopped to watch and listen.

There is a Baku Jazz Festival 14-28 October with artists from France, Brazil and Norway, and it features a jazz day dedicated to Parviz Rustambeyov, a young jazz saxophonist who died in mysterious circumstances in prison in 1949, a reminder that this young nation has had a difficult political past.

Mary James, who lives in Gloucestershire, is a jazz promoter working with John Law, Maciek Pysz and others. Twitter @maryleamington


CD REVIEW: Barre Phillips – End to End

Barre Phillips – End to End
(ECM 6725184, also available as LP. CD review by Olie Brice)

In 1968 Barre Phillips recorded the first ever album of solo double bass. Initially intended as source material for composer Max Schubel to manipulate electronically, the results were so musical and beautiful that Schubel persuaded Phillips to release them. Variously entitled Journal Violone, Bass Barre or Unaccompanied Barre on different releases, the recording remains one of the most vital and influential releases of solo improvised music.

Throughout a rich and varied career, always at the cutting edge of improvised music, Barre Phillips has led his own ensembles and collaborated with Archie Shepp, John Surman, Eric Dolphy, Evan Parker, Mal Waldron and Derek Bailey amongst countless others. He has also played a groundbreaking role in pushing the possibilities of multiple double bass improvisation, recording duos with Dave Holland, Peter Kowald, Barry Guy, Yoshizawa Motoharu and Joelle Leandre, and even double bass trios and quartets. Throughout, though, the solo voice has remained a constant, with Journal Violone being followed by Call me when you get there in 1983, Camouflage in 1989 and Journal Violone 9 in 2001. Now, 50 years on from the initial recording, Phillips has released End to End and has announced that it will be his final solo album.

The new album is gorgeous. Beautifully recorded, Phillips’ sense of form, sublime tone and harmonic imagination take us on a gradually unfolding journey. This is mostly freely improvised music – Phillips mentions in the liner notes that he had “five areas of prepared material, five ‘songs’ I wanted to explore” - but tends to a very tonal and compositional approach. The 11 tracks are grouped into 3 sets, entitled Quest, Inner Door and Outer Window and some material re-occurs clearly – part 4 of Quest and part 4 of Inner Door for example are working with the same idea. Most pieces explore one sound area patiently for the duration of the track. The pieces are fairly short for freely improvised music, mostly under 3 minutes with the longest just over 6. The overall impact is a meditative, entrancing experience – a fully mature artistic statement from a musician who has reached the summing up of his solo development. I’m reminded of a chronological retrospective of Joan Miro at the Tate a few years ago – the first room of the exhibition had paintings rammed full of exhilarating detail. By the final room, the paintings were washes of colour with simple lines, yet the same emotional charge and intensity were compressed into these sparse paintings. While I wouldn’t call Phillips a minimalist, there is something here of the same condensed clarity.

Fifty years after inventing the genre, Phillips continues to push the solo double bass into new and beautiful territories. Thank you, Barre, for all the music.

LINK: Artist profile at ECM Records


INTERVIEW: Sara Colman (new album What We’re Made Of out 28 Sept)

Sara Colman
Photo: Ian Wallman

Sara Colman has her new album, What We’re Made Of, coming out later this month, and will be performing music from it, as well as some arrangements of Joni Mitchell, in Birmingham in November. The new CD is a real step up for the vocalist and composer. In the second of two chats (the first is here), Sara and Peter Bacon discuss the results:

LondonJazz News: This new album feels very strongly like just that: an album! Did you always have that structure in mind? Or was it a happy accident after the event?

Sara Colman: Whilst I think it was a happy accident, it’s possible that something subconscious was going on. I think the singer-songwriter/‘70s pop albums I listened to a lot as a young person were often very crafted in terms of song sequence, they were organised in the knowledge that listeners would most likely listen to one side and then the other... I think that has happened here and although it wasn’t deliberate maybe it was inevitable!

LJN: Most of it is original material of yours, with various collaborators. I know you did some serious song-writing studies a few years ago. Are we seeing the fruits of that here? Writing comes easily to some, and is a really hard process for others – which are you?

SC: Writing definitely does not come easily! Collaborating made it much more productive and I really enjoyed working with my co-writers and arrangers on the songs – they all have very different ways of working and that was an intriguing process.

Some songs have been evolving for years. Heartsafe, for example, started off as a song called Eyes Wide Open several years ago. I played it live and it worked but it wasn’t complete – playing songs live often shows you what works and what doesn’t. In that instance, one of things the song needed was a bridge – I’m a big fan of the bridge! I think a bridge gives you a chance to say something in a way that a verse and chorus aren’t set up for. It allows you to speak from a different perspective – Rickie Lee Jones says it’s where you tell the secret about the song. I agree!

Studying showed me how to get past a block and how to craft a song. It showed me the aspects of songwriting that I do naturally and, crucially, holes that I fall into, things I do habitually, and how to helpfully critique my own work, how to re-write.

I loved that MA – I wish it had been a continual course rather than just two years! I think I was very wary of collaborating, now I want to do more!

LJN: Your band is very much the opposite of one meeting for the first time in the studio on the day. There are strong bonds between you? Tell me about your fellow musicians.

SC: Well, it goes without saying that I think they are all wonderful musicians and talented in so many ways! Steve Banks (guitar) is my partner and so that makes for an interesting collaboration. Thankfully he is very patient as I can be very, very impatient! As I don’t play guitar he has to translate my ideas even when they are half formed! His piece Open is one of my favourites on the album. We had moments of joy expanding that from a solo guitar piece to the much bigger work it’s become.

I have worked with Ben Markland (bass) for 20 years. He is a rock and such a stickler for detail. His ears are incredible and having him as an MD is a gift. He listens and plays a lot of different kinds of music so is always up for trying out new ways of approaching songs. He has also been a big part of the production of this album.

Rebecca Nash (piano) is a new friend by comparison and a very important one. From the first time we played music together I knew we had lots more to do! She is so musical and so very creative and supportive. And she sings beautifully too! We wrote Dreamer together and we are collaborating on some songs for her new album with her band Atlas.

Jonathan Silk (drums, string arrangements) is a new collaborator – he’s such a great guy and will go to all lengths to get things done and done right!

The same with Jules Jackson – we co-wrote Trouble Out There and Jules did the string arrangement for that song. Another amazing player who I got to collaborate with for the first time. I was stuck with that song and he helped bring it to life!

Adriano Adewale is the only person I had never really played with before. He’s such a gentle soul with a fierce lion of a musician inside! I love what he brought to the album. For this singer, drums can be troublesome – but not with AA and JS.

We recorded the acoustic piano and the strings at the new Conservatoire in Birmingham. It’s a gorgeous space to record in and Ben engineered and ran the sessions. We asked the Carducci Quartet to come and play the four songs which have strings and they played beautifully.

Percy Pursglove is such a brilliant musician, lyrical and dramatically expressive, perfect for these stories. He is such an inspiring improviser, I enjoy that so much in live gigs too. He also sings (he kept that quiet)!

The invisible member of the band is definitely Nick Dover who owns Canyon Sound. Over a period of about six months I spent several weeks in the studio with Nick. I had never made an album like that before and it wasn’t my intention to do so until I had experienced working with him at that studio – then I knew that it would be a big part of the evolution of the sound.

LJN: Among What We’re Made Of’s many strong attributes is a) the strings, and b) the stacked harmony vocals. Tell us about these.

SC: Emilia Martensson and Anthony Marsden came and sang bvs on several songs – two strongly unique voices, equally beautiful, both with haunting and emotional qualities as well as being very different to mine. I wanted to be able to hear the character in each of the harmony voices rather than a homogenous bv pad sound, for this music – they were both amazing. [Paul Simon’s] Still Crazy After All These Years was a last minute idea and we recorded it around the piano, all together – live if you like. I love having a bit of that scruffy stuff on an album, a song where you can hear the pedal creaking on the piano and the parts are deliberately loose.

For the song Strange Meeting I asked the band to sing too. They had to be a village! I also wanted that vibe on What We’re Made Of.

The strings idea came in the development of Steve’s piece Open. I guess both strings and bvs add depth and texture. They also give the writer another chance to colour in the musical picture, they can reinforce a message, expand a theme, and in the arrangement of Heartsafe for example, the strings add to the rhythmic dynamic. It was a new experience and a treat to have time and space to experiment with strings and vocals.

LJN: There are strong stories in these songs and it’s tempting to get the background on each, but let’s, for reasons of space, focus on just one: Echoes. It has its inspiration in one person and in a specific place, yes?

SC: Yes. My very dear friend William Joss died in August 2015. We studied together at the Birmingham Conservatoire and he was a talented composer and songwriter. Around the same time the old Conservatoire building was being slowly demolished – sometimes that was quite brutal to witness, big metal machinery gouging out great chunks of the building I had sort of grown up in, I had known for more than 25 years as a student and a teacher.

Will and I spent a lot of time making music together in that building and I imagined that it had all been absorbed by the walls and as they came down, so that music was released into the atmosphere – a bit fanciful but somehow a pertinent image. We had recorded that song at the studio in the old building with the intention of re-recording in the new one. We set a date and Rebecca and I went into record and that day I just couldn’t do it. We used the original recording for the album.

LJN: There is that cliched idea that the deepest art comes from tortured souls, etc. But there is something about this album that suggests an underlying contentment, maybe a sense of arrival after years of searching? Or am I imagining things?

SC: No, I don’t think you are imagining that! I find it so interesting that all of that comes across in these songs – perhaps not in any one but as a group this is more apparent?

I’ve definitely been collecting snippets of stories for a little while, little character studies maybe. As my experiences and my perspectives have changed, so those stories became more fully formed  – so I’ve been a bit more able to write from the perspective of someone else. I think what happens as you get a bit further down your own path (aka older!) is that you are less inside the drama of your own life…

I had a grant from the Arts Council to help make this album. It allowed me to take my time to be exploratory and ambitious with the sounds I wanted to achieve. That was so important and a real boost to my confidence – I shall be ever grateful for the opportunities that decision continues to offer me.

You know how you can hear something, a philosophy or idea that sounds so simple and you must have heard it a hundred times before and yet that one time you hear it again, it is peculiarly relevant and everything you need? I had a conversation with a fellow musician about writing music and she said that she simply writes music that she likes - if other people don’t, it doesn’t really matter as long as she does. It was like huge lightbulb going on in my brain! It sort of gave me permission to do that and that’s the benchmark for all of the music on this album. (pp)

Sara Colman’s What We’re Made Of is released on Stoney Lane Records on 28 September 2018.

This month Sara became a Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Recording Artist in Residence.

Sara and her band play music from What We’re Made Of and celebrate the songbook of Joni Mitchell at the CBSO Centre in Birmingham on Saturday 10 November for Jazzlines, Town Hall Symphony Hall.

LINKS: Stoney Lane website
The Jazzlines CBSO concert


PREVIEW/INTERVIEW: Dakhla Brass Murmur album launch (Kings Place, 6 October)

Dakhla Brass at the 2016 Montreal Jazz Festival
Photo: FIJM

Bristol’s DAKHLA BRASS already contrived a richly orchestrated sound when they were a three-horns and drums four-piece. Now they are exploring a richer sound palette, live as a sextet, and in the studio with producer Ben Lamdin. The results are on their fourth recording, Murmur, which they launch at Kings Place on 6 October and in Bristol on 18 November. Jon Turney asked drummer Matt Brown and baritone saxophonist Charlotte Ostafew about the band’s evolution.

London Jazz News: You began as a four piece (Brown, Ostafew, Sophie Stockham on alto and Pete Judge, trumpet), then added Liam Treasure’s trombone. Now bass player Riaan Vosloo is on board too, how is that changing things?

Char: It’s interesting because for this album, the double bass parts were added after most of the album had been written. Riaan managed to find space within the music to add the double bass lines. As we approached writing in the same way, we haven't compromised our sound at all. The double bass adds a new dimension and tone.

LJN: What else is different on the new album?

Matt: Even though a lot of our pieces are intricately written and full of weaving melodies and rhythm we felt interested in exploring sonic space that was available to fill.

Just horns and drums is a brilliant thing that we will continue to enjoy. However one thing you can’t get acoustically from that line up is smooth bass frequencies and long smooth drones.  In the studio Riaan ended up playing synth, vibraphone, double and electric bass and I added percussion and timpani as well as a Marxophone (a kind of zither) on one song. When we got to the mixing those extra ingredients were used very subtly and sometimes covertly. This helped create aurally comforting roots for angular horn lines to flourish on top of.

LJN: But it’s still recognisable as Dakhla’s signature sound?

Matt: It still has the ingredients that make Dakhla but working with Ben Lamdin we have developed a wider cinematic spread aided by the extra instruments, added percussion, deeper grooves as well as some free textural approaches in solos and accompaniment. Ben’s input was super valuable and really helpful to have that extra set of ears to enhance compositions written before we got to the studio.  We are really excited to get this album out.

LJN: And how about the live set?

Matt: The bass adds roots and more groove to the sound live and we are currently working on adding bass to a bunch of old songs but we aren’t recreating the added parts from the new record (synth, vibes, percussion etc).  We are getting enough with bass and want to explore just that and keep things fresh with live versions of songs that grow with us.

LJN: Dakhla weaves many influences together beautifully. Is the “jazz” word a help or a hindrance? Should we say something else?

Matt: We have no idea what you should say! We’ve thought about it a lot and given up – though we’re open to suggestions if anyone wants to help… We just like to make music and keep everything as open as possible. We are six musicians that have hugely eclectic listening tastes and musical backgrounds from classical and jazz education to self-taught and it all goes together to create Dakhla.

As for the J word it has mostly helped and mildly hindered I think.  We are all massively influenced by jazz music and you hear that in our instrumentation and our improvisation in terms of horn solos. And as the drummer I get to explore and improvise different ideas every night. However the horn arrangements are very through-composed, and set in stone, which isn’t so jazz.  The problems have mostly been with gig bookings: some venues say we are too jazz and some say we aren’t jazz enough… We love playing in intimate sit down and listen ‘Jazz’ venues because we can explore our dynamic range, but we can tailor our set to festivals too.  We just hope people are moved, challenged and transported when we play our compositions.

LJN: The last two recordings have each increased personnel by one. You’ve commented on the more expansive production this time. Where might you take the band next? Do you have any dream collaborations, perhaps?

Matt: It will always be Dakhla Brass - we have no plans to bring in more members. But at some point I think all of us would like to explore a much bigger ensemble. And yes, we dream. Anything to do with Bjork, Thom Yorke, Tin Hat Trio, Tom Waits, Yo-Yo Ma and Medeski Martin and Wood would be ace. Studio Ghibli would have been fun too.

LJN: And in the meantime?

Char: In terms of future writing, I'm very intrigued about the next album, knowing that we have the bass now. In theory it frees me up a lot to move away from the bass lines, so I could explore other roles within the band. Then again, part of why and how the band formed was because I love playing the role of the bass, so I can't imagine stepping too far away.

Matt: We have a London and Bristol album launch booked. Oct 6th at Kings Place in London and November 18th at The Wardrobe Theatre in Bristol,  Also we are playing in Cardiff on November 1st.  We will be getting on booking more gigs next and then a tour but that is just in the planning stages. We are proud of this album and excited to be exploring new approaches and sounds with the new line up so we want to get touring and writing!

The Dakhla Brass Murmur album launch is at Kings Place on 6 October


REVIEW: Michel Legrand and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – 60 Years of Music and Movies at the Royal Festival Hall

The standing ovation for Michel Legrand
iPhone snap by Sebastian Scotney

Michel Legrand and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – 60 Years of Music and Movies
(Royal Festival Hall, 18 September 2018. Review by Andrew Cartmel)

Sixty years indeed. This sampling of the vast output of the French jazz prodigy Michel Legrand kept proceedings to manageable proportions by presenting highlights from just his film composing career.

On stage at London’s South Bank were the massed forces of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – or, the Michel Legrand Big Band, as I like to think of it – with a jazz rhythm section nestling at their centre, featuring the maestro himself on piano supported by long-time musical accomplices Geoff Gascoyne on upright bass and Sebastiaan de Krom drums. Accompanying the musicians as they played were neatly coordinated and smoothly edited sequences of clips from the movies themselves.

Ice Station Zebra demonstrated the mastery of film composition that Legrand had achieved as early as 1968. The pointillist mystery of the introduction, comprising cross-hatched strings and glockenspiel, yielded to supple shoots of woodwinds springing up, subtly and adroitly conjuring the mood before the brass section injected a stab of menace. If the film itself, a Cold War thriller set in cardboard snowfields, is now forgotten, Legrand’s music for it remains compelling, absorbing and masterful.

Providing an impressive contrast, and a first hint of Legrand’s extraordinary range, Gable and Lombard was an American pastoral, conveying a sense of loss and nostalgia from the opening notes, with Helen Tunstall’s harp adding delicate pastel splashes. Sebastiaan de Krom’s ticking drums and Gascoyne’s bass were at the heart of the piece which suggested the sweet insistence of a memory which is always just a little out of reach.

Michel Legrand left the conductor’s podium to sit at the piano, leaving conducting duties to Paul Bateman, and there was an audible sigh of appreciation from the audience as he played the opening bars of The Summer of ’42. His solo carried the piece with casual authority until the orchestra joined in with a flood of colour and emotion, but Legrand unequivocally maintained the theme. Casualness and authority were again paired in his insouciant announcement, “Now I’m going to play a couple of songs that I wrote with Miles Davis.” These were from the film Dingo and Legrand’s piano was rapid-fire bop played to perfection, like bright water flooding between stones. The trio dominated here, with the glittering cadence of Legrand’s playing, de Krom’s mesmeric and measured drums and Gascoyne’s throaty, sinewy bass all providing a spellbinding setting for the mass deployment of the brass.

The encore for the concert was Legrand’s ravishing solo on Brian’s Song, a perfect jewel of a composition and one which will have lodged in the minds of every listener  more than a few will have walked from the hall humming it. But the ultimate statement of this evening came a little earlier, with the music from The Thomas Crown Affair. The Windmills of Your Mind was like a controlled series of explosions from the orchestra until arpeggios from Michel Legrand led us into a sublimely slinky trio rendition. His piano performed a melancholy, thoughtful monologue before the final orchestral flourish, as though reflecting on the long decades of a great career.

The concert was presented by Ronnie Scott’s and Fane Productions, in association with City Lights Entertainment UK.

Michel Legrand
LINKS: Review of Michel Legrand's autobiography
Review of his Ronnie Scott's debut in 2011
Review of an appearance at Ronnie Scott's in 2015


REPORT: Don Weller Tribute at the 606 Club

Don Weller at the 2015 Herts Jazz Festival
Photo credit: Melody McLaren

Don Weller Tribute
(606 Club. 10 September 2018. Report by Brian Blain)

If you wanted to catch up on the unpretentious heart of 'modern' mainstream jazz then the place to be last Monday week was the 606 Club when 10 of Britain's finest came together to play for free in tribute to one of the truly great English players, tenorist Don Weller, now in retirement.

Great to see Dick Pearce, a trumpeter currently in Shropshire, once a member of Ronnie Scott's Quintet and the author of the most authentic account of a jazz musician's life that I have read, in the first band, along with Dave Newton (piano), Arnie Somogyi (bass), Dave Barry (drums) and the irrepressible Alan Barnes (alto). Kicking off with a brisk trot through It's You Or No-one, Newton roused the crowd with a thundering solo while the band laid out, giving a lift to the evening which seemed to kickstart everyone else. Pearce was sweetly melodic on Misty, in a ballad medley, but for me it was Barnes, on the superb Detour Ahead, that provided the emotional high in this first set. Janine was good; a great jazz standard and a tempo that gave the rhythm section a chance to settle into a nice easy flowing groove. How these guys – and the next band as well – can pull all this varied material together with no rehearsal and just experience and ears to make it all work is really quite remarkable and something we all take for granted, always expecting a new musical peak that must be scaled to justify the claim of 'artist'.

Next up two tenor titans Art Themen, who got the ball rolling with the original Phone Calls, and Mornington Lockett, with John Donaldson (piano), Jim Mullen (guitar), Andy Cleyndert (bass) and Clark Tracey (drums), and into the set with a Dexter Gordon tune, one of Art's favourites, and a brisk It Could Happen To You, with Mullen's unique sound and biting attack providing an astringent contrast to the bustling voices of the jousting tenors. One of the really subtle blues lines , Charles Lloyd's Third Floor Richard, with its slightly Monk-ish overtones, gave John Donaldson the chance to get down to some head shaking stuff. By the time we got to the closer, a roaring Just One of Those Things, Tracey and Cleyndert were really flying, giving the feeling that they could have gone on all night. Club owner Steve Rubie had brought his flute to the party on the Charles Lloyd tune and –  while thanking everyone for the music and their support for Don Weller – let's not forget his role in donating the club for the evening to make it possible. This was the jazz community at its best.

LINK: Art Themen's preview of the Tribute Night


NEWS: London Jazz Festival gets EFG backing to 2023

Peter Bacon reports:

Long-term commitment to jazz music from the big world outside it is not an everyday occurrence so it is worthy of hurrahs to note that EFG Private Bank has renewed its title sponsorship of the London Jazz Festival for another five years to 2023.

The announcement was made last night at the EFG LJF’s Mayfair Hotel launch party where the full programme for this year’s festival (16 – 25 November) was also revealed.

John Williamson, Chair of EFG International, said at the event:

“2018 also marks the 10th anniversary of our partnership with the EFG London Jazz Festival, during which time we have seen the Festival go from strength to strength. As an organisation, we aspire to share and celebrate the distinctive qualities which make jazz such an exceptional art form, embracing creativity and innovation, freedom of individual and collective expression, diversity and collaboration. Through our sponsorship programmes we also strive to help up and coming talent establish their voice on a global stage.”

Claire Whitaker, Director of Serious, responded: “We are delighted that EFG Private Bank has renewed their partnership with the Festival. EFG and Serious share a passion for jazz, the excellence of the music and the diversity of the audiences it attracts. We are thrilled that their commitment to the music we love ensures that the reach and scale of the festival can be sustained and supports the next generation of talent.”

It was also announced by James Stirling, BBC Music's Head of Content Commissioning, that Soweto Kinch will be hosting some TV coverage from the festival on BBC4.

LINK: EFG London Jazz Festival website with full programme


PREVIEW: Margate Jazz Weekend (21 – 23 September 2018)

Paul Booth and the Bansangu Orchestra
Publicity Photo/ Pathway Records

Ahead of the Margate Jazz Weekend, AJ Dehany interviewed Adam Sieff, one of the Margate Jazz Festival team involved in this year’s event:

Margate has a longstanding grubby artistic cachet. The painter Turner was a lifelong regular visitor and it is here where TS Eliot drafted much of The Waste Land: “On Margate sands I can connect nothing with nothing.” The town became pretty depressed in the 20th century, but particularly since the opening of the Turner Contemporary gallery in 2011 its profile as an artistic hub has risen. It still retains a rather grungy character; “Somebody summed up Margate beautifully,” says Adam Sieff. “It’s like teenagers; they have all sorts of faults and don’t clean their rooms – but you love them.”

In 2005 the founder of London’s Vortex, David Mossman, moved to Margate and set up the Big Sky Festival, which morphed into the Margate Jazz Festival with a new team including Martin Goodsmith and Adam Sieff. The 2018 Margate Jazz Weekend is a three-night special organized by Olby’s Soul Cafe, with a supporting programme of fringe events over the weekend. “There’s so much happening in Margate now!” Adam says, noting regular events at Ales Of The Unexpected and the weekly jazz jam at the Lifeboat, where “people who had never been before have said ‘I had no idea how much fun Margate could be!’”

Courtney Pine is a huge draw, performing with his House Of Legends project, an exhilarating mix of Caribbean influences. Cuban violinist Omar Puente’s unique sound also appeals to crossover audiences, and the Bansangu Orchestra draws on a breathtaking range of music from Brazilian to Middle Eastern, led by Thanet-based saxophonist Paul Booth. The 18-piece lineup will include Jason Yarde, Alex Wilson, Shanti Paul Jayasinha, Trevor Mires, Barnaby Dickinson, Steve Fishwick, Rod Youngs and Gemma Moore. The band – Bansangu! – is named from a running together of “The band sound good!”

Free daytime events include the Simon Treadwell Jam Session, the Mampama six-piece featuring Ray Otu Allen, Jo Doolan and Richard Rozze, the Three Plus Trio, and a conceptually appealing event involving a conversation between sax and trumpet positioned at opposing ends of the harbour. “It’s gonna be fun!” says Adam. “The weather forecast isn’t looking too bad. You have to work on the basis that everything is gonna be fine. Let it roll!”

I asked Adam what his Desert Island line-up drawn from living musicians would be. “Who would I love? Ethan Iverson and Mark Turner, but that would be difficult! I would love to see Kenny Burrell, one of my all time heroes. Probably the way to do that would be with Martin Taylor playing together. I would love to see the Argentinian Chivo Borraro—that big fat saxophone tone, he’s wonderful. I would have Wynton with a small line-up. When he was doing that septet in the ‘90s it was unbelievable.”

Adam has longstanding links in the music industry, and is himself a guitarist. He was a session musician for years, working on a string of classic '80s TV shows and, as a producer, with artists from the sublime to the ridiculous, from Italian rock royalty Edoardo Benato to Splodgenessabounds.

“Ah,” I recalled, “Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps Please!

“Not that one,” he laughs. “I did In Search of the Seven Golden Gussets… It’s subtle stuff.”

As our REVIEW of last year’s single-serving Margate Jazz Weekend pointed out, Adam Sieff is an ardent champion of younger musicians. He is working with the Jazz Re:freshed organization to promote regular programming with an emphasis on quality. “The London movement (if you want to call it anything): it’s very exciting but at the moment I’m not seeing quality control. It’s the things that surprise me that are great.” He admires people like Binker Golding who is not playing what the scene expects them to play.

“As soon as you see something exciting people latch on. More mainstream crowd-pleasing stuff comes through, which is a shame because at the heart of this whole movement is musicians playing the music they’ve been surrounded with, with skill. Its very easy to say ‘Yeah, integrity! We’ll have some of that!’”

AJ Dehany is based in London (with frequent trips to Margate) and writes independently about music, art and stuff.

LINKS: Margate Jazz Weekend
Programme at Olby's website


Friday 21 Sept – The Bansangu Orchestra (Doors 7.00pm Show 8.30pm)

Saturday 22 Sept – Courtney Pine ‘Black Notes From The Deep’ (Doors 7.00pm Show 8.30pm)

Sunday 23 Sept – Omar Puente ‘Best Foot Forward’ Doors 7.00pm Show 8.30pm)

Free gigs 

Saturday 22 Sept

14.00 The Lifeboat - Three Plus (Ginger Bennett/Ian East/Daniel Cano)
16.00 Margate Harbour - Call Across The Harbour (sax and trumpet at opposite ends of the harbour) 18.00 Buoy & Oyster - Jo Doolan & Richard Rozze (table bookings)

Sunday 23 Sept

14.00 The Glass Jar - The Simon Treadwell Jam Session
16.00 The Cinque Ports - Mampama (Kevin richards 6-piece High Life band feat Ray Otu Allen)


Full Weekend Friday to Sunday Inclusive £37.50
Friday Evening Show, £15.00 plus 10% booking fee
Saturday Evening Show £27.50 plus 10% booking fee
Sunday Evening Show, £15.00 plus 10% booking fee


REVIEW: Ian Shaw Quartet at Ronnie Scott's

Ian Shaw
Publicity picture by Gerhard Richter

Ian Shaw Quartet
(Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, 15 September 2018, Second House. Review by Kate Delamere)

Hailed as one of the world’s leading male jazz singers, Ian Shaw hit London’s Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club with a frenetic energy that refused to abate on Saturday night. The award-winning artist from Wales, the ‘land of song’ – and something of a stand-up comedian to boot – he was unafraid to entertain. The packed audience was hanging on his every note and word from the moment he set foot on stage.

The legendary jazz club was the perfect intimate setting for a charismatic Shaw who had the untamed vigour of an exuberant puppy. He showcased an impressively extensive vocal range and unique musical arrangements paying homage to greats including Joni Mitchell (In France They Kiss On Main Street), Leonard Cohen (Dance Me To The End Of Love), Peggy Lee (I Don’t Know Enough About You), Hal David and Burt Bacharach (A House Is Not A Home) and Stevie Wonder (All In Love Is Fair).

His self-deprecating humour at times may lead the uninitiated to question whether he takes himself seriously despite being the recipient of two BBC jazz awards for Best Vocalist. "I’m a wet shabby old Labrador reaching for notes that don’t belong in my range," he confessed at one stage to the audience. But this was all part of his charm. A seasoned performer but with a sweet humility that suggests he’s still pinching himself as to the reasons why he has an audience eating out of the palm of his hand!

His voice is an instrument that deserves to be heard, complemented by Barry Green’s masterful piano with its broad range of style, while Mick Hutton expertly kept the tempo on the double bass allowing drummer Dave Ohm solo flourishes infused with seductive pitter-patter rhythms.

At times it was fun to witness the friendly sparring between drummer and bassist, only made possible by the familiarity of their relationship. Shaw and his band are a tight unit, having performed all over Europe following their appearance in 2014 at the prestigious North Sea Jazz Festival and Hamburg’s Elbjazz in 2015 where they showcased Shaw’s new work. They are indeed a formidable team with an easy, natural rapport that adapts well to Shaw’s random flights of fancy as he interrupts his own vocals to heckle the audience! No doubt it will soon become common parlance in the best jazz salons across Europe to talk about a good night out in the vernacular of being ‘Ian Shawed!’

But this man isn’t to be under estimated. Not only did a flamboyant Shaw pay homage to past artists, he also offered up a few of his own compositions – 42, My Brother and Shine Sister Shine, written with Tanita Tikaram – that revealed his original talent.

Grab any opportunity to be ‘Ian Shawed!’ His most recent album Shine Sister Shine is internationally released this month.

Kate Delamere is a national journalist in TV, newspapers and magazines, and writes creatively for theatre, radio and print.

LINK: Ian Shaw's website


NEWS: Claire Martin and Scott Stroman to get BASCA Gold Badges

Peter Bacon reports:

Jazz singer and broadcaster Claire Martin and conductor, composer, trombonist/singer Scott Stroman are among 11 individuals being celebrated for their “exceptional talent in the UK music industry” with Gold Badge Awards from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA).

The 2018 gongs will be handed out at a ceremony at The Savoy, London, on 19 October. Broadcaster Janice Long, a previous Gold Badge Award recipient, will be the host. These awards are for “individuals who inspire or support creativity and the professional lives of BASCA members” and “acknowledge contributions to the worlds of jazz and classical, film, television and theatre music, and songwriting”.

The 11 Golden Badge wearers are described thus in BASCA’s press release:

Annette Barrett, highly respected music publisher and Managing Director of Reservoir/Reverb Music.

Martyn Brabbins, acclaimed conductor and Music Director of the English National Opera.

Jackie Davidson, multi-faceted, award-winning music entrepreneur and manager. This award is presented in association with PRS for Music.

Chris Difford, Grammy nominated and double Ivor Novello Award winning lyricist, Squeeze co-founder and solo artist.

Guy Fletcher OBE, Ivor Novello Award winning songwriter and former Chairman of BASCA and PRS.

Guy Garvey, lead singer and lyricist of elbow, renowned DJ for 6 Music and solo artist. This award is presented in association with PPL.

Claire Martin OBE, critically acclaimed jazz singer and broadcaster.

Sarah Rodgers, composer who has dedicated herself to championing music creators.

Matthew Scott, composer, arranger, producer and former Head of Music at the National Theatre.

Scott Stroman, inspirational conductor, composer, trombonist and singer in a uniquely broad range of musical styles.

Nick Wollage, respected and sought after engineer working across a diverse collection of projects from major Hollywood film scores to individual artists.

Crispin Hunt, Chair of BASCA, said, "The Gold Badge Awards always provide a fantastic opportunity and platform to recognise those who have achieved excellence in their chosen fields whilst contributing to the betterment of the wider musical community. This year’s list of recipients is full of inspiring individuals who we are honoured to celebrate.”

The 45th Gold Badge Awards are presented by BASCA and sponsored by PPL and PRS for Music. They take place at The Savoy in London from 11.30am to 4.30pm on Friday 19 October. The award ceremony follows a three course lunch and tickets are currently on sale. For more information contact Cindy Truong at BASCA (