CD REVIEW: Stefano Bollani - Joy In Spite Of Everything



Stefano Bollani - Joy In Spite Of Everything
(ECM 378 4459. Review by Mike Collins)


Only the stoniest of hearts could resist the charm of Easy Healing, the opening track of this album from a dream transatlantic quintet, formed for the occasion from Stefano Bollani’s regular trio combined with two of the most individual voices from the other side of the pond: Mark Turner and Bill Frisell. The atmosphere is somewhere between the Caribbean and central Africa with Frisell sounding like he might be channelling the legendary Franco, dropping pretty phrases over Bollani’s muted, rock steady left hand stroking out a calypso. This was quite plausibly a loosener, as none of Bollani, drummer Morten Lund or bass player Jesper Bodilsen had met Bill Frisell before the session and Lund had not played with Turner previously, but it’s a delight with eddies of notes from Turner mingling with answering flurries from the piano over an extended collective vamp out,to set the tone for the rest of a set packed with conversation and interaction.

There is no doubting this is a Stefano Bollani release with the compositions reflecting his expansive approach. After the calypso, No Pope No Party is a straight-ahead swinger, all Monkish motifs and displaced phrases. Rhythmic jousting between piano and tenor gives way to a burning Turner solo. Alobar e Kudra, a piano trio number, is a dancing piece with a middle eastern flavour to the theme, Las hortensias a dreamy tune with a melancholic chant-like theme that develops a steady, even pulse for a vintage tenor solo and extended duo conversation with the piano. The piano and guitar duo Teddy is a playful saunter but the haunting, delicate and balladic Ismene really makes the most of the blending of Bollani and Frisell’s fertile imaginations. There are some extended pieces, Vale and Tales from the Time loop which give the full quintet opportunity to stretch out. Lund and Bodilsen get relatively few features, but they are breathing as one with Bollani and bring life and colour to the music throughout. The closing trio number, the title track Joy In Spite Of Everything, is a trademark Bollani tour de force, taken at break-neck tempo threatening to become blistering bop, now a samba, now hinting at a Kurt Weill like galloping cabaret.

This album is a real treat. If this is what a single meeting creates, the prospect of a few live performances would be truly mouth-watering.

Read More...

REVIEW: Max Luthert - Orbital CD launch at Pizza Express Jazz Club

Max Luthert. Photo credit: Rob Blackham
Max Luthert - Orbital CD launch
Pizza Express Jazz Club. 20th October 2014. Review by Sarah Chaplin)

On the whole debut album launches tend to be rather tight and self-conscious affairs, where tunes from the album are aired rather than explored, and players seem to be doing their level best to reproduce the studio ambiance - instead of enjoying the presence of a live audience. No so with this debut: young bassist and composer Max Luthert reassembled his six-strong crew to mark the arrival of his CD Orbital, in a vivid display of musicianship.

Perhaps signalling his intentions towards the British jazz scene, Luthert opened with Grand Designs, although throughout the gig he was diffidently minimal in his verbal commentary, preferring to let the music speak for itself. Which it did: Pacific Before Tiger was a big-hearted waltz-time piece featuring exciting solos from Séb Pipe on alto sax and Gareth Lockrane on flute, followed by the dreamy ballad Quiet December, played with immense control and exquisite dynamics by Duncan Eagles on tenor.

Luthert’s writing takes into account the register and timbre of each instrument at his disposal, as evidenced by Metro Moodie, a cleverly constructed tune in 7/4, where Luthert had Lockrane joined him in stating the main melody matching bass to bass flute. The first set closed with the title track, Orbital, also written in 7/4, beginning innocently enough with pianist Matt Robinson setting out a languid intro, over which the horn section laid a tight and busy tune. The bridge involved a series of off-beat harmonized horn stabs which continued into the first part of the solos and returned in the coda at the end, to allow Dave Hamblett to work his magic on drums in an epic solo. This is a hugely effective signature piece whose robust structure enables the musicians to change tack at will and free up completely.

The second set was equally subtle and well-paced, with something of a landscape theme going on. The Edgewall has the horn section playing over each other, weaving together ideas while Hamblett builds up the rhythmic energy and intensity. It feels like a tour through a mature garden where the planting is densely overgrown in places. Assam had exotic terraces of melody and counter melody going on, allowing Luthert scope to take an intricately balanced solo himself, while Moving Fields grew from a series of cymbal crashes into a solid vamp. This functioned as the bedrock for solos by Pipe and Robinson, who both veered exuberantly off-piste before Lockrane cut through on piccolo to bring the whole thing to a riveting and sparky close. Luthert seemed relieved they’d all pulled that one off so well, and followed it with the sensual Cloud on Cloud. The night ended with Luthert’s newest tune, a fast-paced extravaganza that reminded me of a Michael Giacchino piece for Pixar.

Max Luthert is thoroughly convincing - an unassuming force to be reckoned with - who has set out his stall with music of singular depth and maturity. He will prove a real asset to Michael Janisch’s flourishing Whirwind record label. To my mind Luthert is someone who will be running rings around many of his peers, and for many years to come.

LINK: Interview with Max Luthert

Read More...

FEATURE: Way Out West 10th Anniversary Celebrations

Top Row Left to Right: Vasilis Xanopoulos, Nete Robinson, Tony Kinsey, Tony Woods
Second Row: Kate Williams, Pete Hurt, Chris Biscoe, Flo Moore
Third Row: Dave Jones, Jimmy Hastings, Emily Saunders, Tim Whitehead
Last Row: Mick Sexton, Tom Millar, Matt Wates, Gary Willcox, 


The  Way Out West Wednesday musician-led gig series has become one of the cornerstones of the London jazz scene. It has been in existence for ten years, and now in its third venue at the Bulls Head in Barnes.

CHRIS BISCOE has been an active member of the collective from the start. Not only has he run his own gigs across a range of styles, he has also given consistent time and effort behind the scenes. Here, Chris writes about the current tenth anniversary series: 



Way Out West is a west London based collective of jazz musicians, composers and bandleaders. Founded by Tim Whitehead in 2004, with a membership including Kate Williams, Stan Sulzmann, Tony Woods, Nette Robinson, Chris Biscoe, Tony Kinsey and the late Eddie Harvey, The membership has grown to 16, More than 200 musicians have taken part in gigs. Just a selection from the many saxophone players who have appeared for us gives a clue to the strength and diversity of our promotions: Bobby Wellins, Ingrid Laubrock, Evan Parker, Tony Kofi, Sir John Dankworth, Alan Barnes, Karen Sharp, Don Weller.

In October Way Out West celebrates 10 years of promoting jazz concerts in west London. In more than 400 concerts it has presented music from mainstream through bebop, cool, Latin, free jazz and improv, fusion and contemporary sounds, reflecting the wide-ranging interests of the members no less than our uniquely diverse membership, ranging in age from 21 to 85.

We started at the Bull’s Head, Barnes on October 8th with a celebration of the music of Eddie Harvey, one of the founder members of Way Out West. There are weekly gigs at the Bull plus two concerts at the Café Posk in Hammersmith. Current.  Past members including Tim Whitehead, Emily Saunders and Larry Bartley play new original compositions, and the collective comes together during the London Jazz Festival on November 14th and 19th with a fresh look at music past and present.

WEBSITE: www.wowjazz.org

PROGRAMME:

Wednesday Gigs at The Bull’s Head, 373 Lonsdale Road, London SW13 9PY start 8.30pm

October 8th – A celebration of the music of Eddie Harvey
October 15th – Emily Saunders ESB
October 22nd – Tony Kinsey Quartet
October 29th – Vasilis Xenopoulos
November 5th – Nette Robinson
November 12th – Larry Bartley – Just Us!
November 19th (EFG LJF)– Way Out West Collective re-imagines music from 1959 –
the year the Bull’s Head opened for jazz.

Concerts at Café Posk, 238-246 King Street, London W6 0RF start 8.30pm

October 10th – Tim Whitehead and Cleveland Watkiss – JazzLiveDance
November 14th (EFG LJF) – Way Out West Collective new music for large ensemble - SEE FEATURE BY TIM WHITEHEAD

Read More...

REVIEW: Evan Parker and The Necks at Cafe Oto



Evan Parker at Cafe Oto
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2014. All Rights Reserved
Evan Parker and The Necks
(Cafe Oto, 20th October 2014. Review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

To celebrate his 70th birthday, Evan Parker has curated a week of back-to-back gigs at The Vortex and Cafe Oto which pair him with some of his favourite musicians. The festivities kicked off in grand style on Monday with his sell-out concert with masters of acoustic trance-jazz improvisation, the Australian trio, The Necks, at Cafe Oto.

The Necks invited him to record a BBC Late Junction session with them last autumn, a rare event, as the trio has only asked 3 musicians to play with them over their 26 year history. Evan Parker's return invitation indicates the respect each holds for the other. Their rapport in two powerful sets was underscored by a shared musical language, which saw them reaching out to cement creative bonds, and in their finely honed abilities to respond to the inputs that each brought to this musical journey.

Their two sets had the feel of a two-part epic poem in their scale and ambition and in the ways the quartet - as it had briefly become - collectively built on, supported and ceaselessly refined the underlying melodic and repetitive themes that the saxophonist, principally, introduced to the dialogue.

On soprano sax, Parker soared skywards, invoking the massed callings and chatterings of feathered flocks in circular, multi-dimensional figures, and then, more grounded, the crowing of cockerels. Chris Abrahams on Cafe Oto's Yamaha piano, intuitively picked up on the structures and rhythms that Parker brought in to the mix, mimicking, echoing and using them as springboards for both glissando runs and thunderous excavations in the lowest register.

Drummer Tony Buck combined the interplay between percussive rhythm and melody in the expressive foundation that he and bassist, Lloyd Swanton, continually burnished as the atmospheric ambience took on different shades and intensities. Swanton, flipping from bowed gyrations to deft changes of pace, complemented Buck's palette, which included the hollow, oceanic timbres of nut shell shakers and a hand cymbal wheeled to glance the top of the tom's metal structure with uncanny, machine-like regularity.

The second set offered a slightly softer counterpart to the sharper tones of the first, and a fleet, brightly articulated passage initiated by Evan Parker suggested the flowing momentum of a Cyril Power linocut. Humour was not absent either, as variations on piano scales were played out by Abrahams.

Epic, welling drama was never far from the flow, and a pulsating, hammering sequence preceded a richly crafted, lyrical passage from Parker which directed the saga to its close, an understated episode that had the quartet rowing at a gentle pace to the tranquility of the shore.

Swanton looked forward to the next visit of the Necks - ‘In April!’ came the shout from the back. And Evan Parker’s demanding week’s schedule promises to be as fulfilling as its first, very special showcase event.

Evan Parker - soprano saxophone

The Necks:
Chris Abrahams - piano
Tony Buck - drums, percussion
Lloyd Swanton - double bass

Read More...

VIDEO INTERVIEW: Fini Bearman talks about her new album Porgy & Bess - Launch Forge 28 Oct



Fini Bearman came to Kings Place to talk to Sebastian about her new album Porgy & Bess on the F-IRE Presents label. Launch gig is at the Forge, Delancey Street, Camden Town, Tuesday 28th October. (pp)

Read More...

NEWS: Pete Long's Echoes of Ellington Band in the Recording Studio

The sax section of the Echoes of Ellington Band
Front to back: Alex Garnett, Paul Nathanael, Colin Skinner, Pete Ripper, Jay Craig
Peter Vacher writes:

After a significant lull, Pete Long’s Echoes of Ellington big band is set to roll once again. With trumpet newcomers like the iron-lipped Ryan Quigley and high-note specialist Louis Dowdeswell, plus trombone soloist Callum Au now on board, alongside such holdovers as Long himself on clarinet, trombonist Chris Traves, trumpeter Rico Tomasso, drummer Richard Pite and baritone star Jay Craig, the band is super-fit and rarin’ to go. A successful recording session was completed this week at London’s Angel studios, and Long is already lining up concert engagements. His concern for Ducal authenticity is well-known, as anyone who heard the earlier editions of Echoes can attest. He’s determined to make this re-launch work; his track record suggests that he will.

Read More...

REPORT: Fifth Revoice! Festival / Carmen Lundy/ An Urban Myth about the Jazz Cafe?

Carmen Lundy (with Patrice Rushen (left)
Photo credit: Roger Thomas

Georgia Mancio's Revoice Festival which ended last night has felt like a real coming of age. This well-programmed vocal jazz series, now in its fifth year, has that air of being solidly established. The work-load has probably gone up, but one can also sense that the hard graft in the earlier years is now bearing fruit. The festival has branched away from its home at Pizza Express Jazz Club in Dean Street, out into other venues, even making its mark beyond the M25, in Dorking and Bury St Edmunds. It has been the catalyst for a good discussion to get going about the state of vocal jazz HERE. And perhaps the best tribute it could have is that an artist whose London audience was initially built by her appearance at Revoice, Becca Stevens, is now back in her own right later in the week.

Another thing to be valued is that Georgia Mancio has created a good listening audience at these gigs. The sets she does at the opening of each concert definitely help to set the tone, to prepare the ground for the headliners. She has also progressed in assuredness, confidence and range as a singer. It's all positive: the broader responsibilities of running an increasingly complex festival venture seem to reflect back into the scale and aura as a performer, and maybe vice versa too. The night I went she was in duo with Dave Newton. Their deliciously slow-and-even-slower I've Grown Accustomed to His Face was a highlight.




There was a forceful reminder of how bad audiences can be - or once were-  when one audience member took the microphone at the end of the Carmen Lundy gig that I went to, and told the story that the proprietor of the Jazz Cafe -presumably Jon Dabner - was so incensed by the noise punters made during Carmen Lundy's performance there, that he had the bright yellow sign (above) made. So, is Carmen Lundy genuinely responsible for the uncompromising acronym that has looked over a quarter of a century of cohorts of Camden youth traversing their growing-up rites?  I'm not sure. We may have a genuine piece of London's live music history here, or a new urban myth.

Carmen Lundy's memories of the places she has played at here certainly are a chronicle of the exploits of imaginative promoters in London. She remembered a first appearance at Peter Ind's Bass Clef. She remembered the Jazz Cafe. Her show, showcasing the material of her fourteenth album Soul to Soul brought out a loyal crowd to Pizza Express Jazz Club.

For me the highlight was Grace, a number co-written with South African vocalist Simphiwe Dana. The South African vibe opened up a whole new vista, a different way of living deep in a friendly groove. A singer normally happiest when she tests out the extremes of her impressive vocal and dynamic range was fully contented starting off her scatting on a monotone. Her band, fresshly flown in from Los Angeles were impressive, pianist Patrice Rushen and drummer Jamison Ross, both of whom made beautifully subtle backing vocal contributions, and the impeccable-every-time top bassist Darryl Hall.

Read More...

REVIEW: Mingus Big Band at Ronnie Scott's

Charles Mingus


Mingus Big Band
(Ronnie Scott's, 20th October 2014. First House, first night of six-night Residency. Review by Joe Stoddart)

A great tradition has been invented: this time of year has become synonymous with the Mingus Big Band spending a week at Ronnie Scott’s. This year they will perform twelve shows, with Michael Richmond  in the bass chair - rather than Boris Kozlov, and the MD role taken by saxophonist Douglas Yates.

At this, the first show, the band began with Gunslinging Bird, an up-tempo rambunctious 6/4 blues which immediately unleashed the power and scope of the band with a mixture of unison figures underpinned by Ronnie Cuber’s sonorous baritone sax and interspersed with expert fills from trombonist Andy Hunter. Solos from band MC, London-born Wayne Escoffery (tenor sax) and trumpeter Alex Norris were followed by a move to 4/4 for David Kikoski‘s piano solo before Donald Edwards (Drums) set up the head out.

Next up was Invisible Lady, a beautiful composition with a clear debt (musically as well as in name) to Duke Ellington’s ‘Sophisticated Lady’ that was originally recorded in 1957 as a trombone feature for long-time Mingus collaborator Jimmy Knepper. Conrad Herwig takes the lead here contributing both the melody and a solo of incredible virtuosity which more than lives up to the original recording.

Some apparent onstage sound issues that had been occurring during the opening two numbers seemed to be cleared up and the band stepped up another notch with Pinky from Mingus’ magnum opus Epitaph. Pinky does a fantastic job of underlining what an incredible composer Mingus was, winding between melodies, counter-melodies and rhythmic feels while also showcasing some fantastic solos from Scott Robinson (Tenor Sax), Alex Norris, Ronnie Cuber and Brandon Wright (Alto Sax).

Douglas Yates featured on Profile of Jackie, a lesser performed work from Pithecanthropus Erectus that was written for alto saxophonist Jackie McLean. The lush arrangement by Sy Johnson combines exceptionally well with Yates’ saxophone to create the best sound of the evening.

Ronnie Cuber’s arrangement of Nostalgia In Times Square followed before the band finished with another composition written for a fellow musician, the Oscar Pettiford inspired O.P. Both pieces displayed the impressive interplay of the ensemble and remarkable improvisational talent that had been present all evening with Cuber’s solo on Nostalgia in Times Square, one of the finest solos of the evening. A sting of Better Git It In Your Soul bought the set to a close all too soon, leaving the near-capacity crowd wanting much, much more.

The week is nearly sold out but some tickets are available HERE.

Set List:
Gunslinging Bird
Invisible Lady
Pinky
Profile Of Jackie
Nostalgia In Times Square
O.P./Better Get It In Your Soul

Full Personnel:
Trumpets: Lew Soloff (lead), Alex Norris, Philip Harper
Saxes: Douglas Yates (MD, Soprano, Alto, Flute), Brandon Wright (Alto), Wayne Escoffery (Tenor), Scott Robinson (Tenor), Ronnie Cuber (Baritone)
Trombones: Conrad Herwig, Andy Hunter, David Taylor (Bass Trombone)
Piano: David Kikoski
Bass: Michael Richmond
Drums: Donald Edwards

Read More...

Discuss?

Read More...

REVIEW Roberts Menzel/Clemens Poetzsch Quartet in Islington

Robert Menzel. Photo credit: Christian Debus
Review: Roberts Menzel/Clemens Poetzsch Quartet
(198, St. John St., 18th October. Review by Alison Bentley)

Have you ever imagined inviting your favourite jazz musicians to perform in your living room? Promoter and singer Alya Marquardt has done just that, organising concerts in her Islington apartment- and bringing in audiences to join her. It’s part of the Two Rivers Foundation for music, ‘…a space where musicians can experiment with new projects and get feedback…’ says Marquardt.

Among the anonymous windows of St. John St. there’s one that invites you in, with coloured lights, and the faint sound of a grand piano. This gig featured Berlin-based tenor-player Robert Menzel and pianist Clemens Poetzsch from Leipzig, augmented for the first time by the UK’s Calum Gourlay (bass) and Dave Hamblett (drums). They played unamplified in this minimalist space, chosen by Marquardt for its wooden floors and ceiling- a perfect acoustic. And there were soft, sprawling seats to enjoy it all from.

Menzel and Poetzsch have known each other since they were kids, and studied jazz together in Dresden. Their extraordinary rapport was evident from the opening Just in Tune (by Menzel). The rich tenor tone unfolded the Kenny Wheeler-like tune, and Poetzsch’ solo was full of glittering clusters of notes tumbled together. There were McCoy Tyner-ish robust chords and restless bass and drums. Menzel’s Kühl und Distanziert (Menzel translated it as ‘Very Distant and Cold’) had a triphoppy feel, as bass spelled out the harmony and Poetzsch played percussive single notes (he admires electronic musician Flying Lotus). Sax gusts blew over a spacey groove, the grace notes evoking Gabarek- but on tenor. Poetzsch’ composition Stange Ways drifted through dreamy b5 chords- Hamblett’s delicate brushes barely touched the cymbals, coaxing out the lightest of sounds.

There were folk and jazz covers. Poetzsch had arranged a traditional tune from a ‘German minority people’ Mej ty dobru noc (Night Song) had a gospel treatment with decisive bass strokes. Gourlay’s solo had a luxuriant Charlie Haden-like sound. The tenor tone was heart-melting, with its slow-burn vibrato. Beatrice by Sam Rivers (appropriately, a leading light in 70s New York ‘jazz loft’ gigs) had the most traditional sense of swing. Menzel sounded very like Joe Lovano, whom he admires.

Three unexpected covers revealed Menzel and Poetzsch’ playful and endearing sense of humour- and their musicality. The theme song to a German soap- Good Times, Bad Times- had been given a makeover. Menzel: ‘Now it’s very aggressive- it’s meant to be soothing…it has a nervous pulse, nervous bassline.’ The nervy groove was worthy of Steve Coleman as the gap between sweet piano and dark bass lines grew wider and wider- though neither sounded tense on its own. With delicious irony, the 90s Aqua hit Barbie Girl was renamed Barbie’s 55th Birthday. Bubblegum pop met dark modal jazz brilliantly- especially in the 11/8 bars! Menzel’s mahogany tone was punctuated with affecting high split notes. Nick Kamen’s pop hit I Promised Myself wrapped up their set in a funky minor mode far from the original. The audience loved it, as Hamblett and Poetzsch had a rhythmic conversation, the drums picking up the piano ripples in shivery cymbal sounds.

And there was more: Senegalese singer/songwriter Biram Seck's band were heating up- they were virtually playing in the kitchen, after all. No-one could resist dancing to the West African grooves- Seck mixed traditional instruments (talking drum on the shoulder, tall sabra drum on the ground) with deeply funky 6-string electric bass and drum kit. Seck accompanied his own beautifully fragile, throaty singing on acoustic guitar, while the electric guitarist played twirling soukous lines.

A momentous gig in a living room. Why not join them?

Next St. John St. gig, Sat. 1st November 8 pm: Sorana Santos. Details on Two Rivers Records Facebook page. 

Robert Menzel/ Clemens Poetzsch Quartet will be on 21st Oct at Luna Lounge and on 22nd Oct at the Ajani Grill & Jazz, London

Read More...

NEWS: Julian Argüelles, Django Bates, John Butcher announces as finalists in 2014 British Composer Awards

The three finalists in the Contemporary Jazz Composition section of the British Composer Awards have been announced today

Julian Argüelles for Hocus Pocus
John Butcher for Tarab Cuts 
Django Bates for the Study of Touch

The 2013 winner of this category was John Surman, in 2012 Christine Tobin ,and in  2011 Tommy Evans

Other composers with jazz connections shortlisted in other categories this year are Kerry Andrew, Jon Opstad  and Mark-Anthony Turnage.

DIARY DATES

Monday 20 October  BBC Radio 3, In Tune, 4.30pm - shortlist announcement
24 – 28 November    BBC Radio 3, Live in Concert Series - preview of BCA shortlisted works
Tuesday 2 December British Composer Awards, Goldsmiths Hall, 5.30pm
Saturday 6 December BBC Radio 3, Hear and Now, 10pm

Read More...

CD REVIEW: Bob Stewart - Connections - Mind The Gap



Bob Stewart - Connections - Mind The Gap
(Sunnyside Communications, SSC 1394. CD review by Andy Boeckstaens)


Tuba maestro Bob Stewart – now just a few months shy of his 70th birthday - has had a long career (frequently in big bands) alongside the likes of Charles Mingus, Lester Bowie, Gil Evans, Carla Bley and David Murray. His work as a leader (mainly with smaller groups) has produced just a handful of albums, although he has led various incarnations of the scintillating brass-heavy First Line Band for over a quarter of a century.

Connections – Mind The Gap is performed by The Double Quartet, which comprises two ensembles: the First Line Band, and the strings of the PUBLIQuartet. Stewart and his violinist son Curtis Stewart appear in both groups. The former also includes guitarist Jerome Harris, drummer Matt Wilson and, on a couple of tracks, trumpeter Randall Haywood and Nick Finzer on trombone. The latter is completed by Jannina Norpoth on violin, Nick Revel on viola and ‘cellist Amanda Gookin (mis-spelt “Goekin” on the CD).
The PUBLIQuartet plays In Color, a chamber piece in five short movements, commissioned by Stewart and composed by violinist Jessie Montgomery. Blunt, foghorn-like tuba blasts grab the attention at the start of Red, and give little indication of the variety and deftness that marks this suite. The strings swoop and swirl on Aqua, and provide a steady backdrop to the tuba for The Poet. Their combination with tuba assumes a slightly eerie quality on Purple, and the rhythmic tapping and scraping of Makina evolves to a beautiful conclusion.

Each movement of the In Color suite is punctuated by a song or two by the First Line Band. There’s Simone, a dancing blues by Frank Foster, and the sublime, passionate sway of Astor Piazzolla’s Libertango. Harris sings on a couple of tunes: Henry Thomas’ gently suggestive Fishin’ Blues, and his own Hand by Hand, which – along with Charles Mingus’ Jump Monk - is augmented by Finzer and Haywood. The deep seriousness of one of Monk’s greatest conceptions, Monk’s Mood, is retained in the leader’s relatively loose arrangement.

Highlights include two distinctive compositions by Arthur Blythe: Bush Baby has an off-kilter swing and assymetric lines, and Odessa, which has a Central European flavour. “Black Arthur” has been incapacitated by illness for several years, and these numbers are a potent reminder of his huge importance in the jazz world.

Stewart’s tuba is the primary voice, and he impresses with quiet authority rather than volume or overt virtuosity. He contributes just one composition, and it’s a good one. Nothing to Say sticks in the memory like an old standard.

Played with commitment and an admirable lightness of touch, Connections – Mind The Gap is a triumph for Stewart and both of his ensembles. It is deeply satisfying, frequently moving, and one of the finest albums I have heard for ages.

Read More...

REVIEW: Japanese New Music Festival at Cafe Oto

Tatsuya Yoshida at Cafe Oto
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2014. All Rights Reserved


Japanese New Music Festival
(Cafe Oto, 16 October 2014. Review and drawing by Geoff Winston)


The over-reaching title, Japanese New Music Festival, was just part of the irreverence. The trio of Tatsuya Yoshida (aka Ruins Alone), and Atsushi Tsuyama and Makoto Kawabata of Acid Mothers Temple (AMT) served up eight 'projects', as Tsuyama called them: two duets, three solo features and three trios, which together formed a single, intense and concentrated two-hour set.

'Too old to rock and roll, too young to die!' muttered Tsuyama-san - and, yes, Spinal Tap and Cheech and Chong were never that far from their repertoire. They were taking on and ironising music culture with all its formality and tribalism, yet underlying it all was deadly serious musicianship.

Delivered with exceptional virtuosity, and a cabaret troupe's sharp timing, they revelled in a mixture of creative leaps and an infectious, wacky humour born of a total immersion in the ins and outs of myriad musical genres. They took in and blew out noise, free improv, heavy rock, fusion, pop, traditional Japanese, and throat singing - the roll-call was endless!

What made it work was the way they unearthed the potential humour lurking in the recesses and turned it in to an asset. Amid much mirth, Tsuyama insisted that they 'respect British rock very much - why you laugh? Deep respect!'. Who else could get away with a totally convincing version of Deep Purple's Smoke on the Water, 'Captain Beefheart-style', and Rod Stewart's Maggie May, likewise? They delight in re-envisioning 'Very, very famous songs', not only deconstructing, but reconstructing them - and AMT, in their time, have meted out this treatment to entire concept albums - leaving Pink Floyd and Miles Davis floundering in their wake.

Yoshida kicked off proceedings with a complex drum, vocals and electronics set that, single-handedly, got close in feel to Magma's unearthly bombast. Kawabata then took off where Jimmy Page left off, with violin bow coaxing out echoes on guitar in his solo piece. They would move on to respectfully trash Zep's Immigrant Song, infusing it with a touch of Death Metal. Tsuyama's lightly melodic bass runs took cues from Stanley Clarke, whereas his double recorder playing with accompanying leg actions, thumbed a nose at Tull rather than at than Kirk.

Their own trio jams, including a witty a cappella number, Zubi Zuba, with a spot for old shoe soles, had an irresistibly vibrancy to them - interspersing choppy, jazzy bass beats with searing psych-rock guitar, yet, especially in the confines of Cafe Oto, it was the inspired duetting by Yoshida and Tsuyama that brought out the widest grins - amplified toothbrushes, trouser zips, an SLR camera and a daikon radish being grated; it had to be done brilliantly to get away with it - which they did!

Tatsuya Yoshida (Ruins): drums, electronics, vocals, misc instruments
Atsushi Tsuyama (Acid Mothers Temple); electric bass, guitar, recorders, vocals, misc instruments
Makoto Kawabata (Acid Mothers Temple); guitar, electric bass, electronics, vocals, old shoes, misc instruments

Read More...

NEWS: Philip Achille's album Kickstarter is open



London's harmonica wizard Philip Achille, originally from Olton in Warwickshire - seen here sliding out of Take Five into So What on a busking pitch at Green Park tube station - is going to make a debut album. His "Help me off the Underground into the Studio Kickstarter is open. A seriously talented musician. Watch him really let loose, from 5:43 to 7:28 here

Read More...

LP REVIEW: Sun Ra and his Arkestra – In the Orbit of Ra



Sun Ra and his Arkestra – In the Orbit of Ra
(Strut/Art Yard STRUT109LP. LP review by Andrew Cartmel)


It’s a hundred years since Sun Ra — née Herman Poole ‘Sonny’ Blount — arrived on our planet (although Sun Ra never really admitted to being of this Earth). And to celebrate his centenary, the Art Yard and Strut labels have collaborated to produce this stonking compilation, a whistle-stop tour through the universe of Ra. Available as a double CD, it is also being thoughtfully offered on vinyl, as a double LP pressed in Germany, complete with copies of the CDs thrown in for good measure.

This compilation is a painstaking labour of love, put together by the current leader of the Arkestra, Marshall Allen, working with Peter Dennett of Art Yard, a label which has been responsible for numerous outstanding Sun Ra reissues over the years. In the Orbit of Ra features a treasure store of Ra rarities — drawing on previously unreleased and extended masters which haven’t appeared before on either CD or vinyl.

Not surprisingly, Marshall Allen has the inside track on all things Sun Ra and as a result of his decades of collaboration with the man (or alien) himself, he has assembled a remarkably cogent and coherent collection unlike any previous compilation of the Arkestra’s music. Most of the tracks cluster around the late 1950s and early 60s — certainly a golden age for the Arkestra — but also features a handful of tunes from the late 1960s and early 70s, an equally fertile period.

The collection kicks off with Somewhere in Space, a slow interstellar march punctuated by John L. Hardy’s drum and cymbals, which begins with the saxes and Phil Cohran’s cornet in lockstep before John Gilmore’s lyrical tenor and Marshall Allen’s precise flute rise above the ensemble playing, like smoke signals in alien skies. The elegiac mood yields to the irresistible rhythmic pulsing of Lady With Golden Stockings featuring Sun Ra himself on Wurlitzer electric piano, supported by haunted house saxophones and cowbell percussion. The punchy and compelling Somebody Else’s World again showcases Ra’s electronic keyboards (this time playing ‘intergalactic organ’) laying down tapestries of sound as background to June Tyson’s piercing vocals.

Anyone who thinks Sun Ra’s music might be unapproachable and bristling with avant-garde mannerisms should have a listen to Spontaneous Simplicity (a CD-only track) with the gorgeous melodic lyricism of its flute and the fine lace filigree of Sun Ra’s piano. Or new listeners could start with the equally accessible, although in an utterly different way, Plutonian Nights which features the fat baritone sax of Pat Patrick and is as funky and infectiously swinging as you could ask, with sinuous figures being carved out in smoky nightclub air, somewhere in a pressure dome on everybody’s favourite dwarf planet. Robert Barry’s drums provide a dense background and then drop back to minimalist timekeeping while Ronnie Boykins’s bass provides a coolly groovy, angular commentary.

On Island in the Sun Marshall Allen’s flute is doubled with the alto clarinet of Danny Davis, set against the tantalising fragments of Sun Ra’s piano and sparse percussion from John Gilmore and Pat Patrick, taking a rest from their reeds. It is Ben Henderson who is the bass hero here, plucking and strumming simple strains as a backdrop for the flute and clarinet. Given the title, the piece has an appropriately calypso feel, but with a cosmic Arkestra slant.

The vinyl version of this album, mastered and cut by Peter Beckmann, has an impressive deep-space acoustic and a three dimensional quality which puts digital versions in the shade. And it’s not just the music which is exemplary here. The gatefold sleeve that houses these records is a gorgeous package, lavishly illustrated with rare and unpublished by photos by the great Val Wilmer and featuring an in-depth interview with Marshall Allen conducted by Peter Dennett.

In the Orbit of Ra is a sumptuous release, a marvellous starting point for new listeners and a box of delights for old fans. And it has a serious claim to being the finest Sun Ra compilation yet released.

Read More...

CD REVIEW: Shalosh - The Bell Garden



Shalosh - The Bell Garden
(www.Shalosh.net & Bandcamp. CD review by Mike Collins)


A staccato burst of power chords from the piano grabs the ear to launch this set by Israeli trio Shalosh. Pianist Gadi Stern returned to Israel from New York to rekindle a collaboration with old school friends bass player Daniel Benhorin and drummer Matan Assayang. The trio have popped up in UK recently at Lancaster Jazz Festival and the Spice of Life showcasing the result, this thoroughly contemporary trio album, blending all sorts of cultural and rhythmic references without obscuring strong melodies, catchy hooks and arresting grooves.

The opener Computer Crash moves from those attention tweaking opening chords through inexorably looping sections that build to a climax before switching to a rocky riff or a contrasting section. It’s a compositional template they use liberally and the title and others like Brain Damaged Pumkin Pie hint at the energy and verve with which they are played. There's a big sprinkling of lyricism with finely crafted melodies. Leaving Maine's elegiac theme creates a powerful mood over gently rippling arpeggios before giving way to a lovely melodic bass solo. Eulogy's theme, doubled by piano and arco bass, unfolds over a march like tattoo from the drums. It's all beautifully played with moods and melodies allowed to develop and unfold gradually with repeating elements building intensity, the group dynamic as important as overt solo sections. There are a few surprises and a playful air at times. Everything Passes, Even the Trees develops a delicate melodic fragment into dramatic rolling arpeggios before bursting into poppy hook and a drum groove that wouldn’t sound out of place on 70s disco album.

Gadi Stern’s piano is a fluent and expressive voice throughout but this is a distinctive set of originals from a trio that places as much emphasis on their collective sound as individual virtuosity with satisfying results.

Read More...

NEWS/ INTERVIEW: Sam Healey wins first prize at the Johnny Raducanu Jazz Festival in Braila, Romania

Sam Healey, the trophy, and his Romanian translator


Sam Healey, alto saxophonist with Manchester band Beats and Pieces has just been to Romania and won First Prize and a cheque for €5000 in the Johnny Raducanu International Jazz Festival competition in Braila (October 10-12 2014). We interviewed him:

LondonJazz News: Congratulations Sam, first please tell us about yourself.

Sam Healey: I was born to a musical family attended Chethams, The Purcell School, and the Royal Northern College of Music, where I'm currently studying just composition, I'm also working on original material with the Sam Healey Quartet (featuring Stuart McCallum, Luke Flowers and Richard Hammond. We made our debut at Manchester Jazz Festival 2014. I also continue to play lead saxophone in Beats and Pieces Big Band and alto in Paradox Ensemble - and I play piano in a pop band.

LJN: So how does it feel to have won the competition?

SH: I'm feeling over the moon! It has been my first solo competition and so a real honour to not only win the grand prize but have the opportunity to gain experience in competitions and meet like minded musicians making connections all across Europe. (And win €5000 of course!)

LJN: What gave you the idea to enter? Did anyone tell you you might win?

SH: I was called about two months before the competition by a Romanian bass player living in Manchester called Michael Cretu. The competition is named after his uncle, the famous Romanian pianist Johnny Raducanu (1931-2011) and so he was actively seeking competitors to participate in the second year of the competition. He asked me if I would be interested and due to the high level of hospitality provided by the Romanians I agreed to participate, Michael did believe at the time of the call that Manchester has a strong selection of jazz musicians who all have the potential to be successful in the competition.

LJN: What form does the competition take?

SH: The competition was split over 3 days and is held in Braila, a town in Eastern Romania close to the Black Sea,  to coincide with the Johnny Raducanu Jazz Festival. Contestants played a 15 minute slot that required two pieces, one of which was a jazz standard, the other a composition of one's own (or of more personal repertory) or a piece by Johnny Raducanu. There was a large audience in attendance at the theatre in the Braila and the judges were hidden amongst the audience. All competitors' performances were televised live and the final results were announced in the form of a gala on the 3rd evening (Sunday).

All contestants were called to stage and certificates of participation were handed out to contestants who didn't win a prize, we were all then sent backstage. One by one contestants were called to receive one of 5 awards and perform another short set. I waited for an hour in the dressing room as each prize was called until a very fine pianist (one to watch out for) Julia Perminova 23 of Russia and myself were sat waiting. There was only best instrumentalist and grand prize left.

LJN: So then came the big moment?

SH: As everything was called out in Romanian I was only the one who did not realise I had won by process of elimination. After Julia's musical performance I was awarded grand prize and performed a 20 minute set live on TV followed by addressing the live and TV audience whom I thanked for giving me the opportunity to experience the beautiful Braila and for supporting live music and having such passion for jazz and it's continued development (€15,000 in prize money was given out overall).

LJN: What was your overall experience?

SH: With the whole competition taking place over 3 days it was hard to relax at any point, although the best part of this was how friendly all the competitors were to each other, all socialising together in the evening and making friends beyond the element of competition. It is very apparent how important music and sustaining performance are to the Romanian public, they see the importance in being able to artistically express oneself and retaining their culture and wisdom through music.

LJN: Were you a  bag of nerves?

SH: I definitely felt nervous at certain points during the completion, most of all stood on stage during announcements. With it all being in Romanian I had no clue what was going on. Overall, this experience has changed my perception of what it is to get involved in a competition. Away from the incredible opportunity to win and compete it is a different way to experience parts of Europe that I wouldn't otherwise have the chance to see, and meet such a wide selection of musicians. From music students to the director of the national big band, all in the one hotel.

LJN: How was Romania- and the food ?

SH: I'm a vegetarian, and Romania isn't the most prepared country for such things, but the willingness to try and help only added even more kudos to the wonderful Braila people who are very kind and honest. There was no pretentiousness and a noticeable lack of judgement towards anyone they meet. A refreshing people who perhaps have been, fortunately, slightly less bombarded with the anonymity of globalisation.

LJN: Congratulations!

Johnny Raducanu Festival Website (in Romanian and English) 

Read More...

NEWS: Richard Williams to take over as Artistic Director of Berlin Jazz Festival from 2015

Richard Williams

The Berliner Festspiele has just announced that the new artistic director of the Berlin Jazz  Festival from the 2015 festival onwards will be the British music and sports journalist Richard Williams, in succession to Bert Noglik, who has been in charge for three years, and who is responsible for this year's 50th Anniversary Festival, running from October 30th until November 2nd.

In the press release Thomas Oberender, director of Berliner Festspiele, says: “When it comes to the evolution of jazz, Richard Williams has kept an eye on the most varied paths of musical development over the past decades. His attitude is fresh and cosmopolitan. He comes to Berlin as a specialist who is familiar with all the jazz conventions but has nonetheless remained unconventional himself.”

Richard Williams, born 1947,  was the first presenter of the BBC TV’s The Old Grey Whistle Test, and from 1973 - 76, head of A&R at Island Records. As a music journalist  he has been on the staff of several newspapers, including The Times, The Independent and The Guardian, and magazines, such as Melody Maker and Time Out. For the past 20 years, while retaining his interest and involvement in music, he has also written extensively about sport. He is the author of books including The Blue Moment, about the genesis and influence of Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, and biographies of  Bob Dylan and Phil Spector,.  Since leaving the staff of the Guardian, he has been writing  a regular and influential blog about music - and in particular jazz: thebluemoment.com.

 Richard Williams says: “I ask myself not what jazz was but what it is, and what it can become. For me, the Berlin Jazz Festival has always represented a platform for possibilities and provocations. The festival has a duty to continue that work by bringing the public into contact with the artistic vitality and diversity of the present day.”



Berlin Jazz Festival Website

Read More...

PREVIEW: Kai Hoffman at the Met Room in New York (Nov 23rd)



LondonJazz News: Kai, tell us about your New York gig.

Kai Hoffman: I'm very excited to be performing my first ever New York show at the internationally-acclaimed jazz cabaret venue The Metropolitan Room. (DETAILS BELOW). The show will be based on my latest album 'Do It While You Can,' along with vintage jazz, original numbers and cabaret. There'll be some pretty good stories too...

LJN: When was the last time you sang in NY?

KH: This is my very first show as a singer in New York... first show in the USA since 1997, I'm a complete ex-pat! Having said that, I made a preliminary trip to New York this September and was very kindly invited to sing with the Grammy-winning Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, with David Ostwald's Louis Armstrong Eternity band at Birdland, and at Jim Caruso's Cast Party, also at Birdland, so technically the last time I sang in New York was September... it was quite a visit!

Although I am originally from Boston, MA., I have lived abroad since 1997 and this is my first time back in 'the mother country'!

LJN: Have you ever lived there?

KH: Yes. I studied at Manhattan School of Music from 1994-1997 as a French horn player.. so my last show in New York was as a horn player many years ago! I lived in Harlem in the early '90s when it wasn't exactly a safe neighbourhood.. it's really trendy now! I sang in an amateur jazz choir back then but only did one show with them in a church hall so it doesn't really count.. and then I moved to Germany in 1997. I didn't start singing as a soloist until I joined NYJO in London back in 2000.

LJN: What's your best New York story?

KH: I remember some pretty wild and random things going on when I was there as a student - everything from being held up by a homeless woman on the subway with a banana (yes, this happened!) to trying to jam (badly) on French horn with some friends in the 24-hour practice rooms at our student digs at 3am.. going to class in my pyjamas.. Seeing Betty Carter at Birdland and being completely enthralled. Watching the entire season worth of shows for nearly three years running at the Metropolitan Opera House - I used to study with the principal horn player Howard T. Howard. Always loved singing jazz but was too afraid to try it! Of course that was a while ago, and things have changed...

LJN: What's the progamme?

KH: Based on songs from my album 'Do It While You Can', I have created a show with background stories and tidbits, songs about lovers, litigation, and loss - whilst proving that laughter really is the best medicine. I'm including my favourite tracks from 'Do It While You Can,' including the title track (I wrote it.. and I still like it, so it's in!) , the wonderful 'Some Boys' by Beat-poet extraordinaire Fran Landesman & Simon Wallace, 'Pure Imagination' from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the fabulously swingin' Blossom Dearie number 'Long Daddy Green' and more. There will be some finger-snapping... and definitely some fun. Can't help it...

LJN: Who are the other musicians?

KH: I am working with the fantastic rhythm section of Tedd Firth, piano (Michael Feinstein, Marilyn Maye), Tom Hubbard, double bass, (Liza Minnelli, Sheila Jordan), and Daniel Glass, drums (Brian Setzer, Bette Midler). It's going to be SWINGIN'! Can't wait.

LJN: What New York food are you going to find hard to - or fail to - resist?

KH: A pastrami sandwich from Katz's Deli and a slice of cheesecake from Carnegie Deli in midtown... The rest of the time, CAKE! Ha...

DETAILS: Sunday, November 23rd at 4pm at the THE METROPOLITAN ROOM, 34 WEST 22ND ST., NEW YORK, NY, 10010 (betw.5th&6th Ave.)

Subway: 23rd St - TEL. 212-206-0440. - TICKETS





Read More...

INTERVIEW/ PREVIEW: Becca Stevens ( Pizza Express Dean Street 22nd October, forthcoming albumPerfect Animal)



Nicky Schrire interviewed American vocalist / bandleader Becca Stevens, who starts a nine-date European tour at Pizza Express Dean Street on Weds October 22nd, and about her new album 'Perfect Animal' which is to be released next year:

LondonJazz News: Welcome back to London. What has BSB been up to since you last appeared at Pizza Express in March 2013 ?

Becca Stevens: We've been making a record! We started tracking in January of '13 with producer Scott Solter, and I continued to work on the record with the band and alone for almost a year, taking breaks to tour and make a living. I was super hands on in the making of this one, which was a very informative, fascinating, strengthening experience. I did a lot of the editing myself in hotel rooms on the road, at home, on planes, and wherever I had a moment to myself. Once I finished the editing, mixing (with Matt Pence), and mastering (with Dave McNair), I did a long label search and ended up deciding to partner with Pledge Music to help fund releasing the album independently. I've really enjoyed the process of sharing photos, videos, and stories from the recording adventure with Pledgers, as well as recordings I made at home of all the songs that no one else has ever heard. The campaign is still open if you want to get access to that stuff.

LJN: You appear to enjoy collaborations and working as sideman. Where has that taken you recently?

BS: That's right! I really enjoy collaborations. It keeps me balanced. Lately I've been performing a lot with Billy Childs, who just released a record through Sony Masterworks of his "re-imaginations" of Laura Nyro's music, produced by Larry Klein. The record is teaming with unbelievably talented musicians. I've also premiered a work by/ performed with/been collaborating with classical pianist/composer Timo Andres, and wrote songs for both José James' and Ambrose Akinmusire's new records (both on Blue Note). I've recently collaborated and performed with Gerald Clayton, Dave Douglas, John Ellis, and others, and recorded with Aya Nishina, Dayna Stephens, New West Guitar Group, Gideon Van Gelder, Wolfgang Muthspiel, Levin Deger, Guilhem Flouzat, Thomas Bergeron, and Tillery (a band I'm in with Rebecca Martin and Gretchen Parlato) among others.

LJN: Journalists tend to ask you about the challenge of categorization and  your viewpoint on being included or excluded as a “jazz” artist. Have your  recent collaborations with people more clearly rooted in the jazz world changed your perceptions about genres?

BS: I wouldn't say that it changes my view per se. I cherish my jazz roots and experience, and the opportunities that has brought into my career. I don't mind that much when people (journalists, fans, friends, family, whoever) categorize me in a way that I don't agree with. More than anything it's just interesting. Different people taste different things in food, especially when it's made of a lot of different ingredients. I do believe though that the new record with my band, Perfect Animal has moved even farther from being able to just be categorized as "jazz", and to me exists comfortably without being categorized as any one specific existing genre.

 LJN: It’s been three years since you released your sophomore album 'Weightless' (Sunnyside, 2011). How has your writing and arranging  changed since then?

BS: I'm more focused as a composer now, and I hope to always be honing that focus throughout my career. When I was writing the music for Perfect Animal, I really pushed myself to craft a set of songs that stood alone, but complemented one another, and to create a balanced work of art. There were sparks of inspiration/realization that would start a song or move it along, but I wouldn't say that the writing for this record was easy. A lot of songs on Perfect Animal I labored over for months, or even years.

LJN: You met your BSB “brothers” Liam Robinson, Christopher Tordini and Jordan Perlson ten years ago, mostly while studying together at the New School in New York. Did you know then that this band would have such longevity?

BS: I met Chris and Liam at the New School, but Jordan we met and joined forces with a few years later. When I was putting together the first version of the band back in 2005, I chose to hire people who were open minded, committed, and versatile. I chose some of my favorite players and people who were at the New School at that time, but more importantly I chose people who were open to collaborating and rehearsing to develop something special. Liam and Chris were in that first version of the band.The fact that they're still committed to my music after all these years, and Jordan too, is something I thank my lucky stars for every day.

Becca Stevens Band performs at Pizza Express, Dean Street, on Wednesday 22nd October.

LINKS:  Becca Stevens Website

October 2012 Interview with Becca Steevens

March 2013 Review of last London gig

Read More...

NEWS: Public Memorial Service for Kenny Wheeler announced for Friday October 31st

Kenny Wheeler. Photo credit – Luigi Pretolani

Kenny Wheeler (Jan 14th 1930 – Sept 18th 2014)

St. James Church, Sussex Gardens, Paddington, London W2 3UD
Friday October 31st - Service commences at 2.30pm. Free Entry.

There will be a memorial service organised by the friends and colleagues of Kenny Wheeler to which everyone is invited who wishes to pay their final respects to the great musician, who sadly passed away last month.

The service will featureKenny’s big band, quintet, brass music and the London Vocal Project.

Musicians performing include John Taylor, Evan Parker, Norma Winstone, Stan Sulzmann, John Hollenbeck, Glauco Venier, Martin France, Chris Laurence, Julian Arguelles, Henry Lowther and many, many more.

There will also be some readings and remembrances by some of Kenny’s close friends and colleagues.

Kenny’s daughter Louanne and son Mark have said:

“Our family has been so touched by the outpouring of emotion and support over the last month. We invite everyone who would like to come along to celebrate the life and music of our Dad, and say a final farewell to him in the company of a great number of his favourite musicians.”

LINK: Our post from last month, with links to several tributes and obituaries

Read More...

CD REVIEW: Dewa Budjana with Jimmy Johnson & Vinnie Colaiuta - Surya Namaskar


Dewa Budjana with Jimmy Johnson & Vinnie Colaiuta - Surya Namaskar
(MoonJune Records 24/96kHz. CD Review by Eric Ford)


Dewa Budjana is the leader of multi-million-selling Indonesian pop/rock band Gigi, but also something of a guitar hero in his own right, and on this CD sounds like he's having a dream trip to L.A.to play in the style of and with some of his own musical heroes.

Perhaps most apparent amongst these is Allan Holdsworth, whose fans will already have recognised that on this album Dewa has enlisted the services of the same great bass and drum team, Jimmy Johnson and Vinnie Colaiuta, which graced Holdsworth's 1989 album Secrets. The similarity even extends to the presence of Gary Husband on keys on track 1 of both albums. Twenty-five years since "Secrets" was recorded (and in Dewa's fiftieth year), it's a smart move on his part. They're given the freedom to do what they do so brilliantly; it's certainly not a run-of-the-mill session for these guys and Vinnie Colaiuta, especially, is given much to chew on. Drummers will enjoy his across-the-barlines inventiveness in 6, 7, 9 and 11 (amongst other time signatures) and the general ferocity of his ( potentially disruptive) rhythmic onslaught. Dewa manages to sail unperturbed through the mayhem, and Gary Husband produces a scorching solo. It's generally exciting, "macho" L.A.fusion and you'll know from that description whether or not it's likely to appeal to you. A couple of the slower tracks border on cheesiness in places but there's an unexpected soundscape from the Far East on track 5 (with more guest musicians) and some tasty acoustic guitar from Michael Landau on track 7.

If you like chopsy guitar fusion, or are a fan of Jimmy Johnson or Vinnie Colaiuta, you will enjoy this album. I would especially urge anyone who likes Vinnie's playing to treat themselves to this. It's spectacular even by Vinnie's standards.

Read More...

CD REVIEW: Bugge Wesseltoft - OK World


Bugge Wesseltoft - Ok World
(Jazzland Recordings 376 365-5. CD Review by Eric Ford)



From Norwegian pianist Bugge Wesseltoft's liner notes it's clear that this isn't supposed to be a "jazz meets world music" project but rather a forum for assembling a bunch of musicians who operate in traditional music in Spain, India, the Lebanon and Mozambique and showing how readily compatible these traditions are, rhythmically and harmonically. Bugge adds some sparkling Chick Corea-esque piano but doesn't hog the limelight, although I'd have been pleased if he had!

Anglo-Indian Shrikant Shriram's Jaco-esque bass- and flute-playing also stand out on this CD, adding a groovy, funky element and some fretless pathos to the slow, moody tracks, including his own Always Hopeful. In fact Sriram has co-writing credits on another 6 of the 10 pieces, making him (as he sounds) Wesseltoft's single most important musical collaborator on this project. The three percussionists (there's no drumkit on the album) work impeccably together and get their most interesting workout on Sharanagati, a 9/4 opus by Indian mridangam and cangira exponent Vivek Rajagopalan. Guitarist Josemi Carmona brings a flamenco influence and there are ruminative Arabic vocals (added after the music was recorded) from Maryam Saleh on track one and Georges Nehme on tracks one and five, which add atmosphere but which-having been added "after the event"- don't seem particularly central to proceedings.

Whether all of this makes the CD too jazzy for "authenticity"-obsessed world music fans but not jazzy enough for jazz fans is open for debate. Certainly, everybody except Wesseltoft and Shriram is playing entirely within traditional contexts and not doing anything they wouldn't normally (except perhaps playing in 9/4!). The music serves to demonstrate commonalities within the African, Indian and European traditions. Wesseltoft and Sriram have simply superimposed some simple melodies and jazzy harmony every now and then. It's limited collaboration with most of the musicians only being asked to do what they're already comfortable with, rather than full-on immersion by each member in the others' traditions such as was the case with, say, John McLaughlin's trios with Trilok Gurtu and Dominique di Piazza / Kai Eckhardt. That said, this is a nice album with a positive vibe and message and an appeal beyond jazz circles.

Read More...

RIP Brian Lemon (1937-2014)



Following earlier reports, it has now been confirmed that an indispensable, influential, and - for several decades and in so many contexts - a ubiquitous figure in British jazz, pianist Brian Lemon (biography), passed away at Bexhill at midday on Saturday, 11 Oct. As a result of the consequences of osteo-arthritis, he had been unable to play for the past decade, but the legacy of this adaptable, wonderfully musical player is massive. In sadness.

Read More...

NEWS: ACT Music celebrates 20-year association with Nils Landgren with Hamburg concert

Klaus Konstantin of Medecins sans Frontieres, Swedish Ambassador Staffan Carlsson,
Nils Landgren, Siggi Loch (ACT), promoter Karsten Jahnke . Photo credit:Isabel Schiffler


Two years after celebrating the 20th anniversary of the ACT Music label in 2012, a special concert at the almost-full 2,100 seat Laeiszhalle in Hamburg took place on Saturday October 11th 2014. The evening marked both a twenty-year association of the label with Swedish trombonist Nils Landgren, and 750,000 Landgren albums sold. Their first collaboration had been at Jazz Baltica in 1994.

Siggi Loch also handed over a cheque for €20.000, made over to Medecins sans Frontieres, which Landgren supports with his  "Funk for Life" project.

The concert featured two bands featuring Landgren. His Baltic Gang with Iiro Rantala (piano), Marius Neset (sax), Adam Bałdych (violin), Dieter Ilg (bass) and Robert Ikiz (drums), dedicated their first half to the memory of Landgren's late compatriot, and much-missed ACT label-mate Esbjörn Svensson. The second half featured Landgren's Funk Unit with singer Ida Sand.

Read More...