NEWS: Georg Graewe receives the 2015 Rheinland-Pfalz/SWR Jazz Prize

Georg Graewe receiving the prize from Dr. Johannes Weis, Head of Programming at SWR2
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski 

Ralf Dombrowski reports:

Pianist / composer Georg Graewe, orignlly from Bochum, has just received the Jazz Prize jointly awarded bv the Rhineland-Platinate region and by broadcaster SWR. The prize is the longest-running in Germany, now in its 35th year, and worth EUR15,000 to the recipient.The ceremony was held last night in Ludwigshafen as part of the Enjoy Jazz Festival.

The citation singled out Graewe's extensive musical output in general and the development of a distinctive personal style, and also his profound influence over many years on the rising generations of young musicians who work on the borders of jazz, improvisation and the contemporary avant-garde.

Georg Graewe receiving the prize
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski
In his short acceptance speech, he remarked how pleasing it was for him that the award was coming from a broadcaster, and from SWR in particular. His generation had been able to discover a lot of music via the radio, thanks to the efforts of courageous editors such as Joachim-Ernst Berendt, who had ensured an output of unfamiliar and extraordinary music

He also presented contrasting facets of his musical world in each of the two halves of the concert. In his solo set, his improvisations brought a range of textures, fragments and rhapsodies, but with an anchor of tonal and structural centres underneath.

In the second half he joined by the cellist Ernst Reijseger and drummer Gerry Hemingway – their trio has existed for 26 years. Their set was compact and full of energy. Their familiar ways of communicating with each other led to a captivating and delightful spontaneity. This was music beyond category, imbued with drama, energy and, above all, with freedom.

Ernst Reijseger
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski 


PREVIEW: Fats Waller & Jelly Roll Morton in the series "The Wonderful World of the Jazz Greats" (St James Studio - 12th Nov.)

Keith Nichols

Two pioneers of jazz piano, Fats Waller and Jelly Roll Morton are in the spotlight at a special concert at St James Theatre, the third of the series The Wonderful Music of the Jazz Greats (other dates below). Leading the performance is pianist Keith Nichols, one of Britain’s chief exponents of early jazz styles, this concert follows on from a successful ragtime-themed event last year. Stephen Graham writes

Keith Nichols, who also teaches early jazz styles to students on the jazz course of the Royal Academy of Music, admits it’s not a straightforward style to master. Speaking on the phone to me earlier this week, he explained:

Both that of Jelly Roll Morton and the stride style of Fats Waller are technically quite hard to do. A lot of young musicians are not really encouraged to play that style unless they have really made an effort to study the whole period of music. Morton goes back to the ragtime era. 

I suppose chronologically you go through Morton into the early jazz styles and then Fats Waller in the mid-1920s. If you listen to Fats Waller he was able to ape James P. Johnson’s style. He was thoroughly obsessed with learning the style which he did do very well and he took it on a little bit more than James P. But James P. Johnson was an absolutely fantastic composer and of course he developed the style of stride himself. 

Other people like Willie ‘the Lion’ Smith came through James P. Johnson but Fats Waller was James P’s first pupil really. Johnson had written rags before. But by that time pianists had started to swing from about 1914 and that’s how James P. invented stride piano in the fact that it wasn’t straight playing like Scott Joplin but the whole rhythm moved.”

Nichols has firm ideas about how the two players are utterly distinctive.

“Jelly Roll Morton had a totally unique style because of his background. The mother’s side of his family were Afro-Americans and that provided the ragtime part and his father came from the French so you have that Creole side and I do believe he didn’t copy anybody – it just evolved. I consider him to be the first composer of jazz. I consider him very important and it’s wonderful to play any of his pieces like ‘King Porter Stomp’ later taken up by Benny Goodman.

“Fats Waller was a totally different type of person. He was slightly more self effacing than Jelly Roll who thought a great deal of himself. Fats was a totally different character beloved by everybody. When he heard Art Tatum he said: ‘This man is god!’ He wasn’t arrogant about his own stuff. Waller wasn’t inspired by Jelly Roll, Fats was such a follower of James P. Johnson. He would probably have played Jelly Roll’s pieces but not in his style. His style was reserved for Jelly Roll himself. Jelly Roll himself did not approve of stride and did not like Duke Ellington and probably Fats Waller, who was much younger, would be relegated by Jelly Roll as one of those young upstarts. Fats was so much into James P. Johnson and before him Eubie Blake.”

Nichols is joined at the concert by sax/clarinet player David Horniblow of the Chris Barber band (replacing an indisposed Trevor Whiting) and guitarist/banjo player Martin Wheatley. The concert will featuring music by Jelly Roll in the first half, and by Fats Waller in the second.

Nichols says: “We will also be doing pieces by their mentors. If Jelly Roll had a mentor it was Tony Jackson who was one of the early ragtime players and Jelly Roll approved of him. And we’re playing some James P. Johnson in the Fats Waller set.”

The Wonderful Music of Fats Waller & Jelly Roll Morton, featuring Keith Nichols and friends, is at St James Studio in SW1 on 12th November. TICKETS / DETAILS

This concert is part of the series The Wonderful Music of the Jazz Greats. The other dates in the series are:

Thursday 15th October
The wonderful music of George Shearing featuring Simon Brown

Thursday 29th October
The wonderful music of Duke Ellington featuring Alan Barnes

Saturday 21st November
The Wonderful music of Louis Armstrong featuring Simon Nelson’s DixieMix


LP REVIEW: Tim Garland - Return To The Fire

Tim Garland -  Return To The Fire
(Edition Records EDNLP 1063. Review by Peter Jones)

It must be rather gratifying to be described as a genius by no less a figure than Chick Corea, but that’s the burden Ilford-born saxophonist Tim Garland is saddled with. And after a performance of astonishing virtuosity at the 606 Club a couple of weeks back, one is forced to agree with Chick: Garland can stand alongside the very best in the world.

These recordings reunite the band that played on his 1995 album Enter The Fire. And although that wasn’t the first release under his own name, it was a highly significant one for Tim Garland: Corea heard it through a mutual friend and decided there and then that he must have the Englishman in his own band.

Now Tim Garland’s quintet from Enter The Fire - Gerard Presencer on trumpet, Jason Rebello on keys, Mick Hutton and Jeremy Stacey on double bass and drums respectively - has recorded these new tracks. There are four new Garland compositions, plus JJ Johnson’s Lament and McCoy Tyner’s Search For Peace. The result is fresh, cool and invigorating, often evoking classic period Wayne Shorter, particularly on Abiding Love, which opens Side A. This is a bold, swinging, beautifully-crafted piece with a great doubled melody from the horns, and fine soloing from Garland, Presencer and Rebello. It’s full of dynamic variety, and long enough at over nine minutes to create moods both light and shady.

Lament is simply gorgeous, Garland’s playing suggesting the agonized human voice to an uncanny degree, particularly when it soars to the top of its range. Jason Rebello features on the title track, which starts off as an upswing workout that blows the dust off like nobody’s business. Rebello’s comping alone should be compulsory listening for all aspiring jazz pianists.

Side B begins with two slower, strongly melodic tunes: Valse Pour Ravel, featuring Garland on soprano, and Search For Peace, a Kind Of Blue-type ballad clocking in at just under ten minutes. The solos on both tracks are played with considerable feeling, demonstrating that when you’ve got nothing left to prove in terms of technique, it’s about having something to say with every note.

In a slight change of style as well as personnel, the album closes with the muscular, fusion-inflected All Our Summers, Garland on soprano joined by James Maddren on drums , Lawrence Cottle on electric bass and Ant Law on guitar. Tom Farmer also plays double bass somewhere on the album, but it’s not clear where.

Return To The Fire is released on vinyl and download.

Tim Garland is about to embark on a lengthy European tour with Chick Corea and The Vigil, ending with two nights at Ronnie Scott’s on 10th and 11th November.

LINK: Tim Garland interviewed about the genesis of Return to the Fire


RIP Ray Warleigh (1938-2015) - UPDATED with funeral details

Ray Warleigh at the 2012 Ealing Jazz Festival

Sad to report that the Australian-born saxophonist and flautist Ray Warleigh died of cancer yesterday September 21st, He moved to the UK in 1960 and was a ubiquitously in-demand session musician in jazz, blues, rock and commercial music. He was a regular member of Paz for over 40 years.

Recent great moments which will stay in the memory were his inspired solo-ing on the title track of Kenny Wheeler's The Long Waiting: solo starts at [2:04], and a duo album with Tony Marsh released in 2009.

Geoff Castle has written:

"Very sad news.......... My dear friend in music for many years Ray Warleigh died yesterday. I first saw Ray perform in 1966, when I was 16. He was playing with a big band possibly the Ray Pemru and Bobby Lambe band, for a BBC Jazz Club radio broadcast at the Paris Studio in Lower Regent Street. I was immediately struck by his beautiful soulful alto tone. A few years later in 1973 I was knocked out when he joined our Latin band Paz playing every Sunday at the Kensington pub for 8 years. Ray was a true improviser, a master of melodic invention. Some of my favourite recordings with Ray were the free tracks that we used to improvise in the studio with Paz on the early albums such as The Buddha, Where is Ron and The Horrors. His flute and piccolo playing was also absolutely beautiful. Ray was a wonderful person to know as a friend and an inspiring player to work with. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him..... RIP."

FUNERAL DETAILS - as received

The funeral of Jazz Musician RAY WARLEIGH will take place on THURSDAY 8th OCTOBER at 4.00pm at MORTLAKE CREMATORIUM TW9 4EN. Afterwards there will be a celebration of Ray's life at THE BULL'S HEAD, BARNES. No flowers by request. Donations in Memory of Ray Warleigh, HELP MUSICIANS UK 7-11 BRITANNIA ST. WC1X 9JS
FUNERAL DIRECTORS. T.H. Sanders and Son. High Street Barnes SW13 9LP


REVIEW: Christian Muthspiel/Steve Swallow plus Black Top / Magic Science Quartet plus Jeff Herr Corporation at the Vortex

L-R: Matthieu Michel, Franck Tortiller, Christian Muthspiel, Steve Swallow
Unterfahrt Munich September 2015
Photo credit Ralf Dombrowski

Christian Muthspiel/Steve Swallow Quartet plus Jeff Herr Corporation plus Magic Science Quartet / Black Top
(Vortex. 30th September 2015. Reviews by Sebastian Scotney -first two sets, and Paul Bradshaw - late night set))

Christian Muthspiel described what a siginificant and emotional moment it was, finally to bring his Dowland / Seven Teares project for a premiere in London, Dowland's own city.The band he had brought to play it here, and which also appears on the album (on ACT), were, in his words, the 'dream team,'  Hearing bassist Steve Swallow's miraculous way with this repertroire of finding exquisite shape for every phrase, for every ground bass figure, every hint of melody, it was easy to understand why as bandleader Muthspiel was finding such fulfilment in the moment.

This quartet has many possibilities and has a unique sound. Muthspiel himself plays trombone - sometimes electronically assisted and also with a range of extended techniques, and piano, recorders and Fender Rhodes. When the piano was in the mix there was a hint of a bassless variant of the Modern Jazz Quartet. When there were more brass in play, the sound world approached that of the great album, Carla Bley's Christmas Carols.  It is a particular sound, taking the world of Dowland's polyphony and extending it, helping us to listen to it properly. This project deserved to be heard more widely.

The two nights at the Vortex were (so far) it's only UK outing, which is a shame. I can't help thinking projects like this help us as Brits to listen to it deeply and properly to the music of our own country. Why are we so hidebound, buttoned up and heritage-industry-led about it...?

The opening set of this special evening at the Vortex had presented a short set from drummer-led pianoless trio based in Luxembourg, the Jeff Herr Corporation, with tunes from hi album Layer Cake. This was cultivated, stylish, well-schooled, immaculate drumming from the leader, and compositions well worth re-hearing. Adrian Pallant has described the music extremely vividly in his review of the CD 

Paul Bradshaw describes the late set 

This late night 'Benefit Session' for the Vortex promised a tantalising ‘sound clash’ between the Black Top duo of Orphy Robinson and Pat Thomas and the wonderfully named Magic Science Quartet. Following a feverish onstage swap over of kit and minimal sound check, 91-year old Marshall Allen, forsaking any formal introductions, stepped up to the mic to hush a room full of cosmic music devotees with an intense flurry of sound that couldn’t have come from any other horn player on the planet. Tucked away behind Pat Thomas, who was bouncing on his seat as he sought out a myriad of sounds from that self programmed keyboard of his, was Swiss pianist and ‘spirit drummer’ Ka. Her playing demonstrated both grace and lyrical attack while the bass of the legendary Henry Grimes quietly but confidently shape shifted beneath the drums of Avreeayl Ra feeding on the dynamics of what was swirling around him,

Orphy Robinson delivered cascading waves of sound or stark repetitive grooves on the xylosyth. So focussed was Robinson on the furious dynamics of what was going on around him that the triggers and samples which normally characterise a Black Top performance were left for another day. Just when I thought it might just be all over, Henry Grimes laid down his bass but swapped it for a violin. An ethereal and memorable exchange, punctuated by bamboo flute, ensued. The shadow of the blues closed the night and Marshall’s response to Grimes’ easy snappin’ bass lines was, as ever, sonically mesmerising. His right hand fluttered across the keys of his horn, the sound of which simply grew in power. Overall, it was a dazzling demonstration of purely improvised music where science and magic produced a profound and pure energy!

LINKS: Interview with Christian Muthspiel about Seven Teares
Interview with Jeff Herr
Review of Magic Science Quartet at Cafe Oto


NEWS: Fourth Jazz at Lincoln Center Barbican residency, Wayne Shorter concert announced for February 2016

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra

The Barbican Centre has just announced details of a fourth residency for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, as part of the centre's International Associate programme. Three concerts in Barbican Hall will run from 18 to 20 February 2016.

The first concert of the 2016 residency (Feb 18) is a concert with the full JALC orchestra and Wayne Shorter with arrangements of Wayne Shorter compositions for full band.

The middle night (Feb 19) features the Young Jazz East Big Band, "created for the 2014 residency and coming together once again to participate in workshops leading up to a Creative Learning Day". Vincent Gardner of JALC has the artistic reins of this part of the residency.

The third night (Feb 20) will be the European premiere of a new project: Our Love is Here to Stay - The George Gershwin Songbook (20 February).



PREVIEW: Leroy Jones (UK tour Oct 23rd - Nov 11th )

Leroy Jones. Photo credit: Katja Toivola
“I keep a foot in the past and one in the present,” says trumpeter Leroy Jones, one of the stars of New Orleans' Preservation Hall, who will shortly be on tour in the UK. This feature by Peter Vacher, who has heard him frequently in New Orleans and interviewed him there, gives some background, and places Leroy Jones within the New Orleans trumpet lineage. Peter Vacher writes: 

New Orleans has always been a trumpet town. The lineage goes way back to the near-mythical beginnings of jazz, first, with Buddy Bolden, its later heroes and crowned kings including Freddie Keppard, King Oliver and the greatest creative genius of them all, Louis Armstrong. And there the legacy starts to falter in the eyes of some, until, that is, the arrival of Leroy Jones.

African-American jazz music in the post-war era in New Orleans had largely reverted to a small-town affair, any player looking to make a mark usually forced to leave the city. It took the famed guitarist Danny Barker to change things when he created the Fairview Baptist Church Christian Marching Band and picked out 13-year old Leroy Jones to join the other youngsters he’d recruited and eventually to lead them. Within a few years, Leroy was on the move as a soloist, sitting in with veteran players but also cocking an ear to more modern jazzmen like Lee Morgan and Clifford Brown. As he says, “I keep a foot in the past and one in the present” and this has marked his musical concept to this very day.

Where his fellow-townsman Wynton Marsalis took the high road to the Big Apple, Leroy stayed home in the Big Easy, earning his spurs in r&b club dates and brass band gigs, strictly a down home musician who was intent on building his own style. It took another New Orleanian, popular pianist/vocalist/actor Harry Connick to transform Leroy’s career, when he hired the trumpeter as part of his touring ensemble, this taking in four years of world-wide travel, including an appearance in London in 1995, their association still in play. From this stemmed a CBS/Sony recording contract, the formation of the Leroy Jones quintet and a burgeoning world-wide touring schedule.
These days, he works with his wife Katja Toivola who plays trombone in his band.

Jones has a clear sense of where he stands in that distinctive trumpet lineage, one among many perhaps, but very much a leader of the pack. He’s 57 now but still based in his home city, often appearing at Preservation Hall and always a major festival attraction in the US and abroad, his clipped attack, relaxed vocals and flair for assertive phrasing pleasingly contemporary yet still rooted in his city’s traditions.

Leroy knows how to re-invigorate familiar material and his Connick experiences make him a fine accompanist to singers. This new UK national tour is a treat in store, combining Leroy and Katja with some of our most open-minded local musicians and sparked by the presence of two stars of vocal and piano jazz, Ian Shaw and Joe Stilgoe. As they say in the Crescent City, good to the last drop!


23rd – 27th October Pizza Express Dean Street
*Ian Shaw on 27th only *No Joe Stilgoe for Pizza Express dates

29th October St Albans Arena, St Albans

1st November Harrogate Royal Hall, Harrogate

2nd November Rose Theatre Kingston, Surrey

3rd November Malvern Festival Theatre

4th November The Concorde Club, Southampton
*Leroy Jones Quintet only

5th November Assembly Hall Theatre, Tunbridge Wells 

7th November The Lighthouse, Poole

9th November The Apex, Bury St Edmonds
11th November Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester 
*Lizzie Ball as guest in place of Joe Stilgoe

The Leroy Jones UK 2015 tour is produced by United Agents Music


INTERVIEW/PREVIEW: Julian Argüelles Tetra (album and tour dates Oct 26 - Nov 7)

Tetra at Herts Jazz Fest 2015. L-R: Ivo Neame (replacing Kit Downes),
Julian Arguelles, Sam Lasserson, James Maddren
Photo credit: Melody McLaren

Julian Argüelles has been performing with distinction in jazz outfits large and small since the late 1970s. Broadening his work into the areas of composing and arranging, Argüelles was recently reunited with fellow alumni in Loose Tubes, and also has a new quartet CD, the aptly entitled Tetra, coming out shortly (Whirlwind Recordings). Tetra will be on tour from October 26th to November 7th.  Julian Argüelles spoke to Andrew Cartmel at the end of September:

LondonJazz News: Your surname is unusual. Is it Spanish?

Julian Argüelles: Catalonian, actually. My mother was from Catalan, although she considered herself Spanish. She wasn’t nationalistic in the way the people of Catalan often are. I grew up in Birmingham, although I’ve lived and played in Germany a lot.

LJN: You’ve worked extensively with big bands throughout your career, more recently alternating with small combos.

Julian Argüelles: The big bands are a way to express your writing chops — they’re a great palette to have. As a performer I like a small group sensibility and the fact that things can change quickly. In the slightly bigger small bands you have a greater range of colours — texturally there are more possibilities — but still have very much the small group mentality. I have a septet at the moment; septets or octets are great.

But I started out in big bands. It’s a British tradition to play in youth jazz orchestras and at the age of 12 I was with NYJO. By 14 I was in the European Youth Jazz Orchestra. They were all quite influential on me, but it was the European one that was really a turning point. I was suddenly among other musicians who were less traditional, more avant-garde in their outlook. Also, these were people with a small group background. I’d listened to small group recordings of course — Parker and Coltrane — but I hadn’t played in small bands as these guys had. They had a different experience to mine. They weren’t necessarily such great readers, but they were great improvisers. My experience was formalised and controlled. These guys were freer.

Regarding big bands, later when I moved to London I was lucky enough to be involved with some important ones. Not in any particular order, these were Loose Tubes, naturally, Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath, the Carla Bley Big Band and Kenny Wheeler’s band.

LJN: Kenny Wheeler has recently passed away. Do you have any particular memories of playing with him?

JA: Kenny was a Canadian but he was such an important figure in British jazz we embraced him as one of our own and thought of him as British. I remember the first few times I played with him was in small groups but one of the important events we shared together was playing on his 60th birthday tour with some really great musicians like Dave Holland, Evan Parker, John Abercrombie, John Taylor and Peter Erskine. It was beautiful. I was part of their two- or three-week tour. I was 23, very much the young person in that band. It was great for me to play with these musicians. We recorded this group for an album on ECM, Music for Large and Small Ensembles.

LJN: That’s an album distinguished by particularly fine arrangements. Do you do much arranging yourself?

JA: I’ve been doing a lot, for instance for these radio big bands in Germany — you can’t keep going over to work with them and just playing your own music! So I’ve recently arranged the music of Phronesis, a Scandinavian/British jazz trio, for the Frankfurt Radio Big Band. These German bands are well funded and can afford to pay for an arranger.

Arrangers I most admire, again in no particular order, include Chris McGregor, Kenny Wheeler, Mike Gibbs and the guys from Loose Tubes, — Django Bates and Eddie Parker… Gil Evans I love. Duke Ellington, too, but Gil Evans resonates with me more — he’s more impressionistic. I like classical music, too. Composers like Vaughan Williams or Stravinsky. And Takemitsu, there’s a bit of a jazz sort of tinge to his stuff, quite impressionistic in a way.

LJN: You’ve got a new quartet CD coming out that consists of all original compositions. Tell us a bit more about it.

JA: It’s entitled Tetra and that’s the name of our group which features Kit Downes on piano, Sam Lasserson on bass and James Maddren on drums. These guys were relatively new to me — a different generation, in their 20s (I’m in my 40s). I came across them in the last four years. They’re all fantastic musicians and I love playing with them. As a composer I can write tricky stuff for them and they have no trouble playing it; I’ve been writing probably the most complicated small group music lately, quite densely written with odd metres and they’re not fazed by it. I’ve been playing with them for quite a few tours and we have a two-week tour coming up in Britain in October. We’ve previously done Canada and America and Portugal. It feels like a real band; it feels comfortable.

LJN: Did you enjoy your recent appearances at Herts Jazz?

JA: I was there on Friday with Loose Tubes, and also there with Tetra on Sunday. It’s great to see everybody in Loose Tubes and hear everyone playing so well. The band still sounds good. It was very much a band of the 1980s and we were all young men then so we were all curious to see how it would play out in the 21st Century, when we were that much older. But it’s still vibrant and it still works.

LJN: You had a CD in 2010 called Ground Rush. People who’ve parachuted will recognise that as a sky diving term. Are you a sky diver?

JA: I parachuted once when I was 18, for charity, and I suffered from a bit of ground rush. I hit the floor really badly and did my back in. I was very winded at the time and I got up and got myself together. A couple of years later my back started playing up, though I’m fine now. It was a lot of fun, actually. The term refers to when the parachute first opens, and you seem to be moving quite slowly so you’re caught unawares in the final moments when you approach the ground, and everything seems to accelerate. You can be unprepared and land not quite right. I had that title for many years and didn’t know what to do with it, but it kind of suited that band.

LJN: We understand you’re about to start a new teaching job in Graz .

JA:That’s right. I’m off there next week. It’s very exciting. I’m in the middle of chaos, getting stuff together before I go. I’m really looking forward to that — it will be an exciting life change.


Monday, October 26 @ 8:00 PM - Sage Gateshead, Sage Two, Gateshead, UK
Tuesday, October 27 @ 9:00 PM - Spotted Dog, Birmingham, UK
Wednesday, October 28 - Workshop - University of York, York YO10 5DD
Thursday, October 29 @ 7:30 PM - Arthur Sykes Rymer Auditorium, York YO10 5DD
Friday, October 30 @ 7:45 PM- Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, Cardiff
Saturday, October 31 @ 8:00 PM - Turner Sims, Southampton SO17 1BJ
Tuesday, November 3 @ 8:30 PM - East Hastings Sea Angling Association , East Sussex TN34 3FJ
Wednesday, November 4 @ 7:30 PM - Capstone Theatre, Liverpool L6 1HP
Thursday, November 5 @ 8:00 PM - Bonnington Theatre, Nottinghamshire NG5 7EE
Friday, November 6 @ 8:30 PM - The Verdict, Brighton BN2 0JB
Saturday, November 7 @ 8:30 PM - Vortex, London N16 8AZ


CD REVIEW: Kaos Protokoll - Questclamationmarks

Kaos Protokoll - Questclamationmarks
(Prolog. PRCD002. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield.)

Swiss trio Kaos Protokoll have produced an interesting record of modern jazz influenced by a variety of modern musics. Produced by Django Bates, it displays much of his eclecticism, as well as his whimsy.

That said, it's not as ground-breaking as their publicity would have one believe. Their use of dance rhythms brings to mind early Polar Bear and Led Bib, a feeling which is emphasised by their saxophone-driven melodies, and, in truth, it is sometimes hard to discern an individual voice among their magpie's nest of influences. .

They clearly know how to groove, thanks to Benedikt Wieland's sometimes slinky bass lines, and Flo Reichle can turn his hands to any number of drum styles, from hard rock through dub and reggae to off kilter jazz. The drums and bass support Marc Stucki's forceful saxophone, though I found that the repeated use of effects to add texture to the melodies proved tiresome by the end of the record.

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


REVIEW: David Gordon Trio - Alexander Scriabin’s Ragtime Band at the 606 Club

L-R: Paul Cavaciuti, David Gordon, Jonty Fisher 

David Gordon Trio
(606 Club, 30th September 2015. Review by Alison Bentley)

Alexander Scriabin’s Ragtime Band is the title of the David Gordon Trio’s forthcoming CD. Russian composer Scriabin died 100 years ago, around the time Russian émigré Irving Berlin wrote Alexander’s Ragtime Band for Tin Pan Alley. The trio were performing Gordon’s arrangements of pieces by Scriabin and others, bringing together elements of modern jazz and ragtime, and Latin tunes from the era.

The first Scriabin piece was his Prelude for left hand, (op.9 no.2, renamed Prelude for both hands.) Gordon’s singing piano sound took us into a melancholy rubato as the bass sketched the arpeggios. A fast Latin tempo emerged, like Corea playing Romantic music, Paul Cavaciuti’s drums echoing the piano phrases. Gordon is an accomplished classical pianist and was putting the rhythm first here, with a fiery Russian feel.

The trio’s e-flyers show the original sheet music to Alexander’s Ragtime Band, with the trio’s photos replacing Berlin’s, and the exquisite humour carried through into their version of the song. With authentic ragtime beats, the trio sang new words by Gordon- the Swingles meet Flanders and Swann. (‘In our dotage we tend to do strange things,’ joked Gordon.) They really did sing the notes of Scriabin’s dissonant ‘mystic chord’ in the middle of the song before mutating into boogie woogie and a minor rumba- all huge fun. The </ Prelude op. 51 no. 2 (renamed Scriabin’s Depressed) took energy from a simple bass pedal from Jonty Fisher which allowed for some complex, delicate cymbals work lightening the dark harmonies. There was some very Russian drama in the tightly-controlled dynamics as a Latin groove developed. It wasn’t always clear where one solo ended and another began and it didn’t seem to matter, as they played together so seamlessly.

Tres Lindas Cubanas, a 1915 Cuban danzón by Antonio María Romeu lifted the mood, with its simple, joyful harmonies, loping bass lines and taut drum sounds. Scriabin’s Mazurka op. 25 no. 3 became a Brazilian choro, slow and melancholy with cymbal sweeps that seemed to last forever and yearning bass lines that developed into a thoughtful solo from Fisher.

Scriabin’s original op. 74 no. 2 (here Praeludium Mysterium) has Schoenberg-like dissonance, which the trio exploited to the full (taking us ‘into the land of the weird’, as Gordon put it.) Their CD version has e.s.t.-like electronic effects, where the cymbals sizzle from ear to ear, and distorted sounds from guitarist Calum Heath. The live version conjured an eerie mood redolent of Michael Wollny: the bass rumbled funkily like an impending storm, the piano strings struck from within like flashes of lightning.

Two of Gordon’s tunes from their ‘Second Language’ CD opened and closed the first set: Greenland and Salsova. The first was funky with a touch of Corea’s Spain. The cymbals accented the crest of each piano phrase beautifully. Salsova, a ‘Hungarian Gypsy ragtime salsa’, had the audience cheering their sheer virtuosity.

Improbable Hip, or Prelude op. 67 no. 2, wrought one of the greatest changes to the original presto movement. The chords descended darkly over speedy bop drumming and running bass. Crashing McCoy Tyner-esque chords punctuated the powerful swing. The mood changed again in Francesco Canaro’s El Pollito, its striding tango piano lines underscored by the bass, recalling Piazzolla. Mazurka op. 25 no. 4 (or River) was moody, with drifting Bill Evans-like piano, while George L Cobb’s Russian Rag (based on Rachmaninov’s C# minor Prelude) was irrepressible fun with call and response between piano and drums. Gordon’s English Isobars, from an earlier album, was so absorbing, I realised I’d stopped analysing and was just caught up in the music, as it blended with the Romantic intro to Nuances (op. 56 no. 3). The trio kept the pace moving: suddenly Gordon was on sparkly melodica, Fisher on acoustic bass guitar playing rock and roll bass lines, and Cavaciuti on tamborim, all singing bop harmonies. The instruments (but not the energy) had shrunk, and the effect was very funny. Back to the piano and some Monk-ish Latin dissonance, a funky, groovy take on Debussy’s Cakewalk. The strongly rooted bass held the tension as piano and drums sparked off each other.

Gordon’s solo Passinha (an exquisite choro by Pixinguinha) seemed to draw together the Latin, classical and jazz themes of the evening, and the audience was silent with concentration. Scriabin’s op. 8 no. 12 (the ‘Famous Etude’) danced from tango to fast samba, with sparkling montunos drawn straight from Scriabin’s lines behind the powerful drum solo. They concluded with Gordon’s folk-edged Mister Sam, the first tune the trio ever recorded. The written details had become indistinguishable from the improvisation, as the trio have played together for so long- the music has become intuitive.

It was an evening of good feeling, and tremendous musical skill at the service of powerful emotions; jazz, Latin, ragtime and classical.

Alison Bentley is a singer and teaches singing. Her music is on Soundcloud

LINK:  50th birthday interview with David Gordon

The CD by the David Gordon Trio, Alexander Scriabin’s Ragtime Band is released on 11 December 2015 on Mister Sam Records.


RIP Coleridge Goode ( 1914-2015)

Coleridge Goode

Gary Crosby's website carries the sad news that a hugely influential and much-loved figure in British jazz, bassist Coleridge Goode, passed away on Friday October 2nd at the age of 100. The full story, and details of a page where tributes and memories should be placed is HERE

In advance of a tribute which Gary Crosby organized for Coleridge Goode's centenary on the South Bank last year, he wrote this very personal tribute for LondonJazz News. In sadness.


PREVIEW: Dan Nicholls (with Petter Eldh and Dave Smith, Vortex - Tues 6th October)

Dan Nicholls

Keyboard player DAN NICHOLLS will be performing at Vortex on October 6th with bassist Petter Eldh and drummer Dave Smith, sharing the bill with a band led by Philip Gropper from Berlin. Dan explains how these groups are typical of the cross-city cross-border collaborations in which open-minded musicians from different European countries find new inspiration. He writes:

There's a newly optimistic feel to musical relations between Berlin and London - both cities are host to lively and eclectic musical niches which also, perhaps most importantly, differ from each other. While there's no denying the trend of artists of all kinds giving up the claustrophobia and escalating prices of London in search of a more free and easy existence in Berlin (a move which is most often well justified), there is also a reciprocal partnership growing between residents of both cities, which is spawning new music and the potential for a more involved place for the UK in the activities of the wider European scene.

During my two year spell studying in Copenhagen, I noticed an exodus by many of my fondest and most inspiring musical collaborators to the cheaper, more diverse and far larger streets of Germany's capital, and felt that the already thriving scene there was sure to become even more exciting in the near future. Five years down the line and sure enough we are seeing an explosion of weird and wonderful new music, much of which has thankfully managed to attract the attention of UK promoters and audiences.

Acts like Hyperactive Kid, Philm, Schneeweiss und Rosenrot and Starlight (who play at this years London Jazz Festival joined by trumpeter Peter Evans) have all begun to make waves on these shores, and London musicians are taking note too. Several new groups are forming featuring musicians from both cities, including Kit Downes' new trio featuring bassist Petter Eldh, trumpeter Tom Arthurs' numerous projects and also some groups of my own.

On October 6th I'm performing with a new trio featuring two long-time collaborators - Petter Eldh and Dave Smith. Featuring Synths, sampling and other gadgetry, the music is in my mind a synthesis of some my favourite elements of what goes on in both Berlin and London.

We're sharing the Vortex stage with a dazzling group from Berlin led by saxophonist Philipp Gropper (of Hyperactive Kid fame). For those interested in hearing a little slice of Berlin creative music this gig is well worth checking out, as are all of the groups mentioned above. Let's hope this two-city partnership continues to flourish...



NEWS: Laura Jurd announced as the fifth BBC New Generation Artist from jazz, for 2015-2017

Laura Jurd Quartet at Match & Fuse Warsaw 2015
Photo Credit: Thuy Duong Dang

It has been announced today at a Radio 3 season press launch that the next BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist from jazz, for the period 2015-2017 will be trumpeter LAURA JURD. This role includes developing a variety of projects including commissions with the BBC's performing groups.

The previous New Generation Artists from jazz have been

- Saxophonist Trish Clowes (2012-2014)

- clarinettist/saxophonist&nbsp Shabaka Hutchings(2010-12, see our news piece giving some
more background about the scheme HERE)

- trumpeter Tom Arthurs (2008-10)

- pianist Gwilym Simcock (2006-08)

BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists website


CD REVIEW: Uwe Oberg - Twice, At Least

Uwe Oberg - Twice, At Least
(Leo Records LR 733. Review by Dan Bergsagel)

German pianist and composer Uwe Oberg is often found nestled in a duo, trio or quartet, so his solo album Twice, At Least gives an intriguing insight into his own musical motivations. Twice, At Least is comprised of live recordings in which original compositions are blended with treatments of Monk and others. He creates an open solo structure in which there is scope both to indulge in playful thoughts and to lay bare powerful emotions. These patient, searching free improvisations develop into a very rewarding listen.

The opening piece, Chant II/Kelvin, dovetailing two Oberg originals, begins minimally: a neutral key lightly played before sliding into discord. We swing between light taps and a rolling bass absorbing all before it. He presents innocent themes with sinister undertones - imagine a gambolling fawn picking its way along the hard shoulder of the M4. These cinematic snippets appear cut between jaunty themes as over a dozen minutes Oberg sets out his stall: intense, unpredictable, yet coherent.

The abrupt, high-energy arrival of Enzym & Eros brings bravado and old empire pomp. Repeating and alternating between defiant cries and grand flourishes, Oberg rumbles and rolls, deconstructing the composition plank by plank before he abandons the piece disappearing amongst a hyperactive tinkled flurry. The reimagining of the solo piano continues in Magnetic Wood, where the introduction of a Mbira (thumb piano) – an instrument as much a part of southern African sounds as it is becoming part of Dan Nicholls' north London electronic stylings – adds a more percussive approach.

The understated high point is the Monk/Oberg combination Brilliant Corners/Twiyed Place arriving with a tinkling steely wash, echoing and reverberating gently behind the clean piano. Among the searching chords we settle into a fresh atmospheric piece, looping and re-referencing phrases with an unexpected Kieran Hebden lilt. The delicate drawn out chords at the opening of Pannonica and the care which follows encapsulates a style which delights in leaving a respectful space amongst the notes when needed – a contained, sparse melancholia.

Interspersed amongst Oberg originals and Monk adaptations (which Oberg evidently feels equally at home with) are changes in compositional tone. Touching provides the time and separation for some beautiful phrasing and clear tones, while the chunky King Korn - high speed and tumbling over itself much like Mingus at the bench - remains an exciting counterpoint.

Oberg possesses a unique approach: at times frugal, at others erratic or classical. Here is a man as comfortable with one hand on the keys and the other in the belly of his grand piano beast as he is delicately playing by the rules with both hands on deck. The liner notes by Claus Gnichwitz of Hessischer Rundfunk refer to his “density and intensity”, a texture drawn out through the continual establishment of themes. Each theme is rolled out, laid aside and lost, only to be unearthed again with a fresh, exciting perspective. To build and develop as Oberg does, everything must happen twice, at least. "


NEWS: 2015 MOBO Awards nominees announced

Binker and Moses at Jazz in the Round this week

The five nominees for the jazz cattegory of the MOBO Awards are announced. The awards are celebrating 20 years this year. The winners will be announced at an event at the First Direct Arena, Leeds, on 4th November which will be broadcast live on ITV2.


Binker And Moses
Julia Biel
Courtney Pine
David Lyttle
Polar Bear

Kwabs is also nominated in the Best RnB / Soul Act category


RIP Phil Woods (1931-2015)

Sad to learn this evening of the death of alto saxophonist Phil Woods, officially confirmed HERE. He was a four-time Grammy winner, a NEA Jazz master in 2007, carrier of the bebop flame, he leaves behind a mass of educational material in digital form, and one of many indelible marks as a player on Billy Joel's Just the Way You Are in 1977 . RIP


REVIEW: Barry Green / Chris Cheek / Gerald Cleaver at the Vortex

Barry Green / Chris Cheek / Gerald Cleaver
Vortex, 24th September 2015, first night of two. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

Pianist Barry Green is a highly adaptable pianist, who can be heard frequently - because he is a quality player and therefore in demand -  in any number of contexts around London. One might conclude that, because he is such a fixture on the scene, he has to be a known quantity. Think again.

Last Thursday night, in the company of  the incredibly resourceful. persuasive and melodic saxophonist Chris Cheek, and that drummer with an exquisite sense of both shape and drama Gerald Cleaver, the focus turned to Green's strengths and individual style and character  as a composer. My main response last night was the wish to hear some of those compositions - like Great News and Probably Not again, to get a better idea of their shapes an contours, to understand how Green combines a clear delight in bringing unexpected asymmetries into song forms,

There was also contrasts in the tunes by others they selected: one sequence started in the sweet candied atmosphere of Cheer up Charlie by Leslie Bricusse, and ended up in the in-your face anarchy of Ornette Coleman's Happy House. On Chris Cheek's tune Vine, the sharing of melody between Green and Cheek also led to particularly felicitous results.

There was also a solo moment to treasure from Barry Green, when he played John Taylor's joyous and intricate Clapperclowe as a homage to the late great pianist for whom the grieving, the remembering still have further to go.

If the very best test of hearing music for the first time is whether one wants to hear it again straight away, then most of last night's gig - and in particular those constantly intriguing compositions of Barry Green's  - succeeded.


LP REVIEW: Tubby Hayes Quartet – Live at the Hopbine 1968 Vol.1 The Syndicate

Tubby Hayes Quartet – Live at the Hopbine 1968 Vol.1 The Syndicate
(Gearbox GB1532. LP review by Andrew Cartmel)

The Hopbine — it took some wrestling with the word processor to prevent this from becoming ‘The Hipbone’ — was a cavernous pub in north London where British sax legend Tubby Hayes often played. Gearbox Records have previously issued a 1972 Hopbine session by Tubby (reviewed here), but this latest release is particularly interesting. It is closer to what most regard as the tenor player’s prime period — indeed 1968 is the year Hayes released his immortal album Mexican Green. And this recording also has a somewhat unusual line-up in that, along with Kenny Baldock on double bass and Spike Wells on drums, it features the Irish guitarist Louis Stewart, who has played with George Shearing, J.J. Johnson and Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen. It’s a firecracker of a quartet and one which could never before be heard on a legitimately released recording.

The record goes from nought to sixty in the blink of an eye with The Syndicate, a Tubby Hayes original offering no-nonsense, fast, breezy bebop. Out of the dense, flashing intro Tubby emerges sounding sweetly tuneful and incisive. Louis Stewart smoothly supports the leader on electric guitar before launching into a chunky, fuzzy, chopping solo. The Gentle Rain, a bossa nova classic by Luiz Bonfá, is a radical change of pace and a gem of a selection, with Tubby showing what he can do in territory that Stan Getz seemed to have staked out as his alone. He blows airy bossa strains, effortless and affecting. Stewart’s racing, ringing electric guitar alternates fast bop lines with strumming in a modified flamenco style. Spike Wells keeps shimmering time on cymbals and Kenny Baldock plays twisting, full bodied bass.

Gingerbread Boy, a Jimmy Heath composition, is a feature for Stewart in a very different mode, playing lightning boppish lines which puts the leader on his mettle. Hayes rises to the occasion and shows his extraordinary speed and agility with Spike Wells galloping like a race horse alongside him. Tubby concludes with some good humoured Dizzy Gillespie style flourishes. The Inner Splurge is another Tubby Hayes original, and the title is an irreverent reference to The Inner Urge a 1966 composition, and Blue Note album, by Joe Henderson. Tubby’s tune is fierce and frantic hard bop with Stewart and Wells alternating in bursts of machine-gun-fire riffing. Hayes remains the master of ceremonies, though, always guiding the music back to the theme, and performing a tyre-scorching stop to conclude the piece.

This is a desirable rarity, fleshing out Tubby Hayes’s all too slender discography. There are some limitations to the original source used, including the occasional hint of a ghostly echo (tape print-through?), but considering the age of the recording the sound is remarkably strong and clear. The album has the standard Gearbox bonus of attractive packaging and comprehensive, informative liner notes by the estimable Simon Spillett who has literally, and quite recently, written the definitive book on Tubby Hayes


Magic Science Quartet at Cafe Oto and Barbican freestage

Henry Grimes at Cafe Oto
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2015. All Rights Reserved

Magic Science Quartet
(Cafe Oto, 22 September 2015 and Barbican with Guidhall students, 27 September 2015. Reviews and drawings by Geoff Winston)

The Magic Science Quartet are bound together by a unique chemistry. The majestic jazz and improvising bassist, Henry Grimes, since his reemergence on the scene in 2002, has teamed up on over thirty occasions with the mercurial Sun Ra Arkestra director, saxophonist, Marshall Allen. Grimes is approaching his eightieth birthday, Allen recently celebrated his ninety-first, yet both are flourishing in the company of the dynamic Chicagoan, ex-Sun Ra drummer, Avreeayl Ra, and artistic force, activist and pianist KA, whose achievements include the creation of the Uncool Festival at her Swiss mountain base.

Marshall Allen playing kora
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2015. All Rights Reserved  

The Magic Science Quartet do jazz and improvisation - but not quite like anybody else. Magic Science? Clues are in 'Space is the Place', Sun Ra's biography by John Szwed; '[Sun Ra] told tales of a future when science would become one with music …', and Sun Ra's assertion that 'You're not musicians, you're tone scientists.' ... and Grimes' powerful, recent solo album on KA's Uncool label is entitled 'Tone of Wonder' (REVIEWED HERE) .

There's something special in the quartet's language which goes very deep - and much that they don't need to say. The resonances in their playing are more like reverberations from an earthquake, emerging as spontaneous statements with unique inflections and deflections that draw on their rich and unpredictable lives in jazz and art. Grimes, Ayler's favourite bass player, with his thirty year hiatus, never losing hope; Allen's total immersion in Sun Ra's world to eventually take on the mantle of the Arkestra's director; Av Ra embracing the healing potential of music, learned from Phil Cohran (father of Hypnotic Brass Ensemble) and KA, a visionary artist who took naturally to the piano, acquired twenty years ago.

Onstage, their multi-hued, sequinned attire was straight out of the Arkestra wardrobe. Avreeayl Ra has talked of how Sun Ra would write 'music in different colours [with] notes pertaining to the vibration per second of the color [to] open up our consciousness …' A focus on the spiritual dimension dusted their performance.

At Cafe Oto, two sets, burning the midnight oil, a testament to their stamina, and love of the music. Allen inaugurated proceedings with the lightest of touches on a kora (on which he'd been practicing for hours on end), then swapped between the bleepy atmospherics of the Casio palm-keyboard, the EVI, and explosive bursts on alto sax. Grimes took the bass for a walk, exerting a subterranean, gravitation pull, KA turned the piano into a supercharged harp, with echoes of Tyner and Cecil Taylor, and Av Ra exuded joy, energy and rhythmic precision, which extended to the foursome's spells of dry desert scratching, with shakers, reed pipe and micro-sonics.

Magic Science Quartet with Guildhall students - 23 piece big band on Barbican freestage
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2015. All Rights Reserved 

On the Barbican Freestage, after two days of workshops with the quartet, Guildhall students and youngsters from east London joined them to make up a joyous, twenty-three piece Magic Science Arkestra, exuding life and energy, with Allen in full conduction mode and Grimes at its fulcrum. KA and Ra drove from the back with 4 guitars, 6 saxes, 3 keyboards, 2 percussionists, bass, Alpine horn, flute and trumpet in tow, sounding somewhere between JCOA, a Mingus Orchestra - briefly playing two tunes simultaneously, and the riffy, chugging confidence of a Basie bunch, motoring with some of the fiercest grooves around, some great solos - sax and flute, notably, and memorably, Grimes' immaculate solo spot where he didn't skip a beat, but just skipped along. Pure jazz. And Allen was totally in control, with graceful gestures and an unfailingly positive, life-affirming musical vision that imbued every note played. Brilliant!

Henry Grimes and Marshall Allen
Photo credit: Paul Wood

The Magic Science Quartet will be playing late gigs at the Vortex on Tuesday 29 and Wed 30 September, kicking off at 11pm - be there!

The Magic Science Quartet

Henry Grimes: acoustic double bass, violin
Marshall Allen: alto saxophone, flute, evi, casio vl-tone
Avreeayl Ra: drums, bamboo flute, kalimba
KA: piano, shaman drum


NEWS: Help Musicians 25th UK Peter Whittingham Award open for applications

2010 Development Award Winners Peter Edwards and Max Luthert
2015 Montreal Jazz Festival
Photo credit: Benoit Rousseau / FIJM 

One of the main UK awards for a young UK Jazz act, the Peter Whittingham Awards produced by Help Musicians UK (formerly the Musicians Benevolent Fund) is in its 25th year, and is now open for applications HERE. Deadline is 2nd November.

Winners in the past have included Soweto Kinch, Scott Stroman, Errollyn Wallen MBE, Dave O’Higgins, Gwilym Simcock, Empirical, and Led Bib. Here is a list of the recent winners, with our news stories from each year:

World Service Project / Peter Edwards Trio / Joe Wright and James Maddren

Roller Trio, Chaos Collective, Ayanna Witter Johnson

Reuben Fowler, Ollie Howell

Phil Meadows , Elliot Galvin

Stretch Trio , Mark Pringle


NEWS: EFG London Jazz Festival to include Keith Jarrett Solo Concert on Nov 20th

Keith Jarrett in Antibes in 2008.
Photo credit: Olivier Bruchez /Creative Commons

Keith Jarrett last played a solo concert in London in February 2013 (reviewed here). It was announced at the festival launch party last night that he will be playing the Royal Festival Hall on 20th November as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival, (incidentally the same night as the Dave Holland solo concert at Wigmore Hall), and that tickets will go on sale on Friday October 2nd at 10am on the Southbank Centre website.


NEWS: BBC Radio, Jazz FM + EFG LJF will launch temporary digital station BBC Music Jazz

BBC Radio has announced that it will be working with Jazz FM and EFG London Jazz Festival to launch a temporary Jazz Pop-up digital radio station, BBC Music Jazz. BBC Music Jazz will run from 12th November to 15th November offering continuous jazz content.

The service will be available on digital radio platforms, online in the UK and globally and via the BBC iplayer radio app labelled as BBC Music Jazz. It will also be available on demand for 30 days. 

The lengthy press release also flags up - among other things -  the following:

- This is a ground-breaking BBC Music collaboration with Jazz FM.

- It is the first time BBC Radio will work with Jazz FM to offer shared content for audiences

-Presenters include; Jamie Cullum, Julian Joseph, Clare Teal, Craig Charles, Helen Mayhew, Jez Nelson, Geoffrey Smith, Claire Martin, Chris Philips, Alyn Shipton and many other household names.

- ‘50 Greatest Jazz Figures’ vote will be launched. BBC Radio 3’s Geoffrey Smith with special guest and Jazz FM presenter Helen Mayhew will present the ‘50 Greatest Jazz Artists’. The programme will be broadcast daily on the pop-up station with audiences invited to vote.

- BBC Radio 3’s live coverage of the EFG London Jazz Festival 2015 to be simulcast

- Jazz FM’s rare archive coverage of Ella Fitzgerald in concert from the 1990s available.

- Temporary jazz pop-up station to be called ‘BBC Music Jazz’ and to run from 2pm on Thursday 12th November 2015 – midnight Sunday 15th November 2015.BBC Radio 2’s Jamie Cullum will open proceedings at 2pm on Thursday 12th November with a celebration of live performance

- ‘BBC Music Jazz’ will also feature jazz masterclasses with leading figures such as sax with Tommy Smith presented by Julian Joseph, bass with Lawrence Cottle presented by Kevin LeGendre and trombone with Dennis Rollins presented by Jez Nelson.

-  A programme ‘BBC Jazz around the Country’ will also be a celebration of UK jazz highlights from Gateshead to Belfast, Brecon, Manchester, Glasgow and Glynde.

- There will also be programming on the eve of the search for BBC Four’s BBC Young Jazz Musician 2016. ‘BBC Music Jazz’ will include performances from the award’s inaugural winner from 2014, Alexander Bone.


CD REVIEW: Jeff Herr Corporation - Layer Cake

Jeff Herr Corporation - Layer Cake
(Igloo IGL 259. CD Review by Adrian Pallant)

Luxembourg drummer Jeff Herr's Corporation has been in existence for some twelve years, though only since 2012 in this energetic acoustic trio format with saxophonist Maxime Bender and double bassist Laurent Payfert.

The concept of the chordless trio is enduringly attractive, its raw, exhilarating power, pulling into sharp focus the technical and expressive attributes of each player, whilst also requiring pin-sharp group co-ordination. Herr, Bender and Payfert clearly have this off to a fine art, injecting much invention into their original compositions and flowing performances – and frequently, it's Jeff Herr's sparky, varietal drumming and percussiveness which provide the foundation.

Listen closely… and this 50-minute recording bursts into life. Opening number The Funky Monkey marks out the terrain with fidgety, clattering drums and peppy, swooning sax – shades of Pierrick Pédron or Depart, but with a decidedly penetrating edge. Pushing things further, And So It Is hits an irresistibly intensifying, raga-like groove set up by bassist Payfert – and the improvised alto sax gyrations of Bender, against Herr's thunderous, perfectly-timed syncopations, seem unstoppable. Multi-coloured percussion in A-Rabi Dub perpetuates the Eastern thrill, as sparkling soprano sax chromatics soar over its bass-and-drum impetus; and Danse Sucrée is politely sweeter, offering Payfert's bass the space to dance en l'air.

More expansive outings are interspersed with miniatures. Wind's breathy, honking tenor and softly-malleted percussion might suggest the graceful flight of geese into the afterglow; and Rain captures a similar mood, as Herr's intensifying rattlings mimic heavy downpour. Melancholy is drenched in tearful sax, as is the arco-bass suspension of Le Regret; and an impressively intense burst of Euphoria, with perpetual-motion snare, crackling percussion and fantastically whining soprano sax, soon becomes drained of its energy.

The gem of a revelation at the centre of this album is a reworking of David Bowie's The Man Who Sold the World. Memories of Lulu's original, husky vocals pale into the background as the familiar melodic lines (stated and then extemporised by Bender's tenor) are gradually twisted out of recognition by tricksy bass-and drum-rhythms, eventually resulting in a satisfying, solid rock-out.

Journey to the Bliss highlights the depth of this trio's creativity, Herr's cicada-like percussion encircling Payfert's smoothly-phrased bass melodies before the entry of an enticing, slow, bluesy lead from Bender's tenor (the crisp production here especially evident); and the ruminations of closing title track Layer Cake are fabulously shot through with calypsonian verve, Bender's fluency echoing the joyful abandon of Sonny Rollins – and Herr almost steals the final word in a suitably resounding, exuberant finish.

Adrian Pallant is a proofreader, musician and jazz writer who also reviews at his own site

Jeff Herr Corporation will play their first ever UK dates:
– 29 September 2015 at Newcastle upon Tyne's Jazz Café
– 30 September 2015. Vortex London



CD REVIEW: Lizz Wright - Freedom and Surrender

Lizz Wright - Freedom and Surrender
(Concord. 7237220. CD Review by Alison Bentley)

American singer Lizz Wright’s heart-stopping voice has covered jazz, rootsy folk, gospel and original songs in her previous four albums. Her last was in 2010, so this new one is eagerly awaited, and draws on all these elements.

She has co-written songs for this CD with a number of seasoned songwriters, but the most compelling track is an arrangement of Nick Drake’s River Man, with its mysterious lyrics and uneasy major/minor shifts. It’s the jazziest on the album, with its ethereal trumpet solo (Till Brönner) and gentle vocals heard through a veil of Hammond.Right Where You Are is an irresistible duet with Gregory Porter in 6/8, the simple instrumentation leaving space for the voices to intertwine, harmonise and improvise together- the voices sound made for each other.

Some tracks have a singer-songwriter feel, such as Somewhere Down the Mystic with its silvery guitars and soft layers of sound. The moving, autobiographical lyrics are about being rescued from a car crash. Real Life Painting (co-written with Maia Sharp) has a strong melody that draws you back, and delicate drumming. Mostly the instruments are there to frame the voice rather than take solos. Here and Now has keyboard fills tumbling between the pure vocal lines.The Game and Lean In are co-written with Jesse Harris (famous for his compositions on Norah Jones’ first album.) It has an earthy feel, more like Wright’s Dreaming Wide Awake album. The voice is surprisingly deep and utterly unforced, the melody rising poignantly as the chords descend.

Several songs have a strong gospel influence (Wright started out singing in the church). The Bee Gees’ To Love Somebody has a fine 6/8 bluesy punch, pulling the lead vocal against the backing vocals and Hammond whorls. In Blessed and the Brave, the backing vocals act like instrumental chords, as guitar and Hammond echo the vocal riffs over the restless bass line. Surrender concludes the album with a gospel choir and huge drum sound.

Larry Klein has co-written five songs along with David Batteau and Wright, and produced the album. Sometimes there’s the ghost of his production of Joni Mitchell’s 80s recordings, with the huge echoing backbeats on the snare, and the vocal reverb (as in The New Game.) The funky Freedom allows Wright to explore the power in her voice, as she addresses freedom itself: ‘Call again and I’ll answer.’ Lizz Wright must have one of the most beautiful voices in existence in any genre, and no-one who has heard her ‘Sing the Truth’ gigs with Dianne Reeves and Angelique Kidjo could deny its power. But to these ears, the voice seems to be fighting the rock production on a few tracks: The New Game, Lean In, You.

The voice still has its arresting intimacy, disarming directness, and dazzling tone though, holding the different song styles together. ‘Songs carry stories that I need to tell,’ she told one interviewer, ‘and I just pick them up and sing them…

Alison Bentley is a singer and teaches singing. Her music is on Soundcloud.

Lizz Wright is on tour in Europe Oct 18-31 (DATES) with Ronnie Scott's on 31st


LP REVIEW: Chris Potter/Underground Orchestra – Imaginary Cities

Chris Potter/Underground Orchestra – Imaginary Cities
(Double LP, ECM 2387. LP review by Andrew Cartmel)

With its elegant black and white covers and often cutting edge material, the ECM label can project a forbidding, austere image and it’s possible to forget that they also record music possessed of considerable warmth, which grooves and swings — like this album written and performed by Chris Potter. Potter was a sax prodigy who made his debut playing bebop with Red Rodney and went on to work with Herbie Hancock, Jim Hall and Ray Brown. He has been recording with ECM since 2000, starting as a sideman for Dave Holland. Potter’s Underground Orchestra grew out of his Underground Quartet, with some significant changes, beyond its obvious expansion in size. Fender Rhodes player Craig Taborn moved on to piano, and after forsaking bass in the quartet, Potter opted to have two players here, Fima Ephron on electric bass guitar and Scott Colley on double bass. There’s also an adroit string section consisting of David Eggar on cello, Lois Martin on viola and Joyce Hammann and Mark Feldman on violin. All this adds up to a very distinctive, powerful and agile big jazz band.

Lament presents Colley’s warm, rounded bass sounding against a shifting curtain of melancholy strings with Potter foregrounded as Nate Smith’s drums kick in softly and Adam Rogers’s electric guitar begins to comment. The violins escort Potter through the changes then drop away as he solos, underpinned by Taborn’s piano. This is a majestic, lovely and haunting piece, moving and coolly romantic in a way that could never tip into Kenny G. territory (Potter plays soprano sax, tenor sax and bass clarinet on the album). Adam Roger’s scant, thoughtful electric guitar brings a country twang to the proceedings. Potter is articulate and heartfelt, his sax is persistent and poetic, chattering and sharp with the strings building in intensity and frequency before everyone flattens out in a smooth, relaxed plateau of sound. Potter offers a shapely, piercing sign-off.

Firefly opens with scattered piano and modernist, elliptical, fractured sounds from guitar and drums. Potter’s boppish sax comes nosing through this futuristic landscape as Nate Smith begins his solid, punchy drumming. There’s a call and response dialogue between the violin and Potter and the mellow chugging of the electric bass by Fima Ephron against Smith’s drums and Roger’s guitar licks. Shadow Self sounds almost like a film soundtrack piece with the suspenseful see-saw bowing on the strings from Joyce Hammann, Mark Feldman, Lois Martin and David Eggar. The violins are elegantly sharp and strident as they chatter, squeal and slide in skittering runs, paving the way for an exultant, celebrant Potter to enter against a backdrop of mesmeric, metronomic percussion (Steve Nelson plays vibraphone and marimba on the album). The strings are to the fore again in Sky, this time with an Indian sound. Taborn plays rainfall piano and there’s an assertive, silvery solo spot from Potter that becomes frayed and fiery.

The ambitious four-part title track Imaginary Cities takes up both sides of the second record in this two LP set. The first movement, Compassion, features some especially tasty sax by Potter and memorable electric guitar from Adam Rogers. The second movement, Dualities, showcases great drumming by Nate Smith. Part three, Disintegration, showers notes like falling autumn leaves, with rolling percussion and sonorous unison playing on the reeds (all by Potter). The final movement, Rebuilding, impresses with the smoothly bubbling flow of Roger’s electric guitar and the acerbic angularity of the string section which make this such a distinctive combo.

Chris Potter comments, “I was hearing a real thick rhythm section sound, also with vibraphone… I didn’t want a classical-meets-jazz feeling. I wanted it all to be completely integrated. And, in places, the lines between the written material and the improvised material would be a little blurred, and the strings would improvise, too.” He’s achieved an impressive piece of writing for large ensemble and has created a big band to be reckoned with.