CD REVIEW: Antoine Fafard - Sphère

Antoine Fafard - Sphère
(Timeless Momentum - TM20161A. CD review by Rob Mallows)

Ah, the joy of discovery! It always gives a fillip to come across an artist and an album right in your listening strike zone, but of whom you’ve heard nothing before. For me, this week, that artist was Canadian-born, London-based bassist Antoine Fafard, and that particularly enjoyable album has been Sphère.
All original material, it is bought to life by the addition of two super musicians, the UK’s own jazz swiss army knife Gary Husband on drums and keyboards, and Jerry De Villiers Jr on lead guitar and co-composer with Fafard of three of the tracks. This trio creates a satisfying sound offering up a range of musical emotions: intense note-smithing, mournful minor-key moments and achingly beautiful progressions.

This album is contemporary jazz-fusion at its tastiest, with a strong mix of great harmonies and hot melodies that spit and crackle like a roasting pig. Across nine tracks, I got the story that Fafard is trying to engender with his music. Bass-led albums can sometimes over-burden themselves with four-string excess, such as unnecessarily intrusive slapping and popping or unnecessarily long soloing that remind you, incessantly, that the composer’s a bassist. I didn’t get that with Fafard, whose playing, while excellent, is understated enough to propel the music without dominating it.

Polished, but not over-produced, the album has more grooves than a workman’s bench and offers up some powerful, beautiful soundscapes. For fans of the fusion end of jazz’s spectrum, it’s all meat, little filler. Opener Reminiscence comes out punching with a heavy sixteenth-note bass pattern over which De Villiers Jr paints the simplest of three note phrases, developed bar-by-bar until it explodes into a chaotic solo, bringing to mind Yorkshire’s Allan Holdsworth in his synth-guitar prime.

Facta Non Verba showcases De Villiers’ tendency for the epic and bombastic, his warm guitar tone using just the right amount of effects to spice up a great solo in the middle that is beautifully book-ended by simple melodic ideas. On every track, not least fourth cut Fur & Axes, Pt. II (I can only assume part one missed the cut), the creative energy from Gary Husband’s keyboard and drum work shines through. Never over-egging the pudding on his drums, he nevertheless creates fascinatingly insistent, foot-tappingly-infectious rhythmic patterns that provide the reinforced steel superstructure on which Fafard and De Villiers build.

Husband excels here in his keyboard work, just as he did on the two solo albums, Dirty and Beautiful Volumes 1 & 2 from earlier this decade. It’s the flux capacitor to De Villiers’ guitar DeLorean, super-charging his sound and providing a colourful counterpoint that raises both above the ordinary.

The keyboard solo halfway through eighth track No-Brainer (LINK TO VIDEO) and the infectious (excuse pun) last track Bubonic Groove are cases in point. Brooding, lightning fast and totally right for the track, it shows how creative great jazz-fusion - sometimes sniffed at by the purists - can be. Add in Fafard’s spirited, efficient playing and you have some great tracks to enjoy.

Fafard is no newcomer: he has released three previous albums over the last fifteen years, each one featuring various luminaries from the fusion world such as Dave Weckl and Scott Henderson. Credit card, this might hurt us both...there is urgent catching-up to be done.


CD REVIEW: Paul Towndrow & Steve Hamilton Duo - We Shine The Sun

Paul Towndrow & Steve Hamilton Duo - We Shine The Sun
(Keywork Records. KWRCD013. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield)

Saxophonist Paul Towndrow and pianist Steve Hamilton have played together for many years; long time alumni of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, Hamilton has appeared on several of Towndrow’s recordings. Hamilton has recently been part of Billy Cobham’s touring band, as well as being pianist with Tommy Smith's fusion band Karma.

This album finds him in a very different mood, representing a one-man rhythm section accompanying Towndrow’s elegant alto playing. In a set comprising five tunes by Towndrow, two by Hamilton and five various others - a mixture of jazz standards and classical pieces - the two Scots have produced a record of depth.

It is at times remarkably bluesy, as on the Towndrow composition Hymn For The 45. Towndrow’s playing on this piece is as rich as any gospel singer, particularly in his solo introduction, which evokes highlands pipes. Though the tune is slow, later in the piece notes fall from his alto in great rapidity. Hamilton's accompaniment is all blues.

Hamilton's own number The Colour Of Your Eyes is a fragile, gentle ballad, with Towndrow playing in the upper register to contrast Hamilton's low, yearning chords. Hamilton's own solo has a touch of mystery, of something remaining unsaid.

Those tunes by other composers are well chosen. Charles Ives’ Songs My Mother Taught Me is a slow lullaby over which Towndrow improvises. Bartok’s haunting Mountain Horn Song is darker: Towndrow’s sax takes on an eastern inflection, wailing into the darkness.

On Jackie McLean’s Little Melonae, the pair swing through the bebop changes with great dexterity, and Towndrow again behind out the blues in the tube. John Scofield’s The Guinness Spot is a typically catchy bitter-sweet melody, Towndrow's solo sprinkling notes with a hint of yearning.

The closing piece, the 1940s ballad While My Lady Sleeps, sees Towndrow playing in the lower register before soaring higher and higher, building the tension before xalming things down. Hamilton's melancholic solo draws the listener in, before Towndrow returns with the theme, finishing on an optimistic note.

Paul Towndrow & Steve Hamilton Duo are at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Dean Street on 31 August 2016 at 8.30 pm, in a doubld bill with Paul Towndrow’s London Scots

LINK: Interview with Paul Towndrow


REPORT: Celebrating Chet Baker at Ronnie Scott's

Sebastian writes:

Store this away for when you next want to play "guess the trumpeter." Play track 5 of the first CD of Chet Baker - Live in London, an up-tempo Rhythm-changes number, Margarine, and start at about [06:15]. The trumpeter is clearly energized by Tony Mann's drum solo, he doesn't hang around soloing for long before wrapping up the number and announcing the break between sets, but in about a minute of playing the energy he releases, the sheer fluency of the fast-running semi-quavers, those blisteringly rapid runs, the sheer positivity... are such that this sounds nothing like the strung-out victim of legend that Chet Baker has become. Yes there are sudden re-thinks and switchbacks and blind alleys in the way he lets the solo happen (rather than constructing it),but bravado and momentum carry the day.

I had the good fortune to attend one of the original gigs in the week of March 28th to April 3rd 1983 when Chet Baker was in residence with John Horler's trio at the Canteen in Great Queen Street. Thanks to the fact that bassist Jim Richardson obtained Chet Baker's permission to record the gigs on a Walkman... and now, thanks to the diligence of producer Martin Hummel in securing the permissions and organizing the sound restoration, there is a fascinating double CD of that residency.

When Martin Hummel asked me to write a short sleeve-note. I didn't actually get the opportunity to hear the album before writing it , so I had to trust my memory of a gig heard 33 years ago. I am mightily relieved. What I remembered of the surprising level of energy in his playing was right. Reality and convenient, handed-down myth can indeed be very different things.

The launch gigs on Monday and Tuesday of this week (August 22 and 23, 2016) re-united the John Horler trio that plays on the album. Quentin Collins was playing trumpet and MC'ing, with Jim Richardson's son saxophonist Leo Richardson, and Norma Winstone (a surprisingly rare Ronnie Scott's appearance) singing the vocal numbers on the album, notably The Touch of Your Lips and My Funny Valentine. Musically, I would single out pianist  Horler for being so unbelievably attentive. Particularly when Norma Winstone was re-shaping and shifting a melody away from the expected line, Horler would let none of her inspiration go unnoticed, and instantly echo it and use the melodic material. Genius.

LINK: Chet Baker - Live in London will be released on Ubuntu Records on October 28th


CD REVIEW: Mats Eilertsen - Rubicon

Mats Eilertsen - Rubicon
(ECM 477 4315. CD review by Henning Bolte)

Norwegian bassist and composer Mats Eilertsen has a special talent for uniting heterogeneous elements, eliciting deep and touching resonances from them, and letting them sound like a family of beautiful and complementary voices.

An impressive example was his recent Memorabilia, a new work commissioned by this year’s Jazz Festival in Trondheim - the town of Eilertsen’s birth - for his trio with Harmen Fraanje (p) and Thomas Strønen (dr) together with the vocals/violin of Trio Mediæval.

Rubicon was a 2014 commission for eight-piece ensemble from Vossa Jazz. In it, Eilertsen places trust in his fellow musicians and their instruments and voices, and makes them find their own place, role and colour as inevitable part of an emerging whole. That is what makes the difference, as does his special talent for giving things an unusual twist with a lightly puzzling and at the same time amiable reshaping. The careful consideration given to the instrumentation of the album, notably the adding of marimba and vibraphone (Rob Waring) shows this well.

The opening piece Canto is a wonderful example of how music both emerges from the swirls of the air, and also arises from the deep ground. The way both spheres cross-fade and intertwine yields a special quality. The circling of Trygve Seim’s curved saxophone and Eirik Hegdal’s dry clarinet, and their eventual merging are provide a truly remarkable moment. When the sky is clearing, the bass enters the scene, plays melodic elements whilst the piano subtly takes a subdued role in which it is simultaneously loose and tight. It finally conjures a sense of timelessness and floating, expanding space. That’s just the introduction - with nine more pieces yet to come.

Having listened to these ten pieces several times the album reveals itself as a masterpiece. The delicate and dynamic way of foregrounding, fading in and out different sections of the eight players, that really matters here. The pieces are built on strong melodic elements the repetition of which goes along with captivating enrichments time after time. In every piece a special space, a special sphere and mood is set. But above all it is the way of expanding that in each piece, which makes it such a great album. The music and the musicians take its/their time to broaden en deepen the resonances, consonances from the centre. There is a remarkable flow, depth, clarity and airiness – not of the far away type but of the type making the listener part of it.

The album contains a combination of lush and more sober pieces. The two sober ones (and shortest pieces), Wood and Water and Introitus, as well as the two lush ones (and longest pieces), September and March, are my personal favourites in the context of the whole album. The humming Intriotus as well as the mysterious Wood and Water witness remarkable playful, with fetching interactions of bass, marimba and bass clarinet. In March the billowy and fanning movements gravitate to Trygve Seim as central player and subsequently are discharged, leaking into the richly layered consonance of the whole. September’s motif is exposed beautifully by Harmen Fraanje’s piano and then “rebuilt” by bass, vibraphone, guitar and drums (Olavi Louhivuori) before the horns arise and a central electric guitar part (Thomas T Dahl) expands. In this piece the way of gaining width. as well as the quiet reverberation in the postlude are especially captivating.

 The particular kind of energy in the music of Rubicon seems to come from a secret place. It has its very own tinge of longing, even of 'saudade.'


PHOTO ESSAY: Canary Wharf Jazz Festival 2016

The Canary Wharf Jazz Festival
Photo Credit: Adrian Los
The Canary Wharf Jazz Festival held its 10th edition over the weekend of 20 September. Photographers Adrian Los and Monika S. Jakubowska caught the atmosphere at London's biggest free open air jazz festival.

Shez Raja at Canary Wharf Jazz Festival
Photo Credit: Adrian Los
Pascal Roggen on Stage at Canary Wharf Jazz Festival
Photo Credit: Adrian Los

The crowd take in the Canary Wharf Jazz Festival
Photo Credit: Adrian Los
Vasilis Xenopoulos at Canary Wharf Jazz Festival
Photo Credit: Adrian Los
Shez Raja Band at Canary Wharf Jazz Festival
Photo Credit: Adrian Los
Commuting to the Canary Wharf Jazz Festival
Photo Credit : Monika S. Jakubowska


INTERVIEW: Cathrine Legardh (London debut with Brian Kellock, Sounds of Denmark Festival, September 17)

Catherine Legardh
Photo Credit: Karolina Zapolska
Vocalist Catherine Legardh is making her London debut at the Sounds of Denmark Festival on 16 September. Sebastian interviewed her by email about the forthcoming gig.

LondonJazz News: You are part Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish, and - if I remember - speak all three languages? How does all that fit together?

Catherine Legardh: My mother was half Norwegian / half Swedish, my father was Danish with Norwegian and Swedish grandparents. I spent all my holidays in Norway as a child. Both of my parents unfortunately have gone but I still have a relatively big family up in Norway, as well as in Sweden. So I basically grew up with a bit of everything when it comes to the Nordic languages. Danish is my mother tongue but in my childhood the Norwegian language played an important role, as my mother spoke it. We would be visiting family up in Sweden as well - but it was not till I started touring in Sweden in 2008 with a local band (doing a Monica Zetterlund Tribute) - that the Swedish language became familiar and relatively effortless to speak and sing.

LJN: And you have been teacher / music educator I think?

CL: Yes, I was a full time music teacher for seven years. It is 10 years ago that I quit my job to go for a professional singing career. So, I actually have my 10th anniversary as an independent musician this very month :)

LJNYou have visited the UK before but is this your debut in London?

CL: Oh yes, it is my first time performing in London. I have previously performed at a few smaller venues around England. I have done the Lescar Jazz club in Sheffield a few times, as well as Matt & Phreds in Manchester and a lovely place called Davenham Theatre in Cheshire back in 2011. As well as Edinburgh Jazz Festival and Glasgow Jazz Festival back in 2009.

LJNDo you have a full schedule in London? 

CL: I will be very busy arriving early on the Friday ahead of the gig. Brian Kellock and I will be visiting Music Sales (the head office of my Record label, Storyville) where we are planning to do a small studio recording. After that there might be a BBC radio interview  and in the afternoon we will be playing to the official opening of the Festival 'Sounds of Denmark'. And we might need to fit in a rehearsal before the gig too.

LJNWe always think Brian Kellock is one of our best kept UK secrets? How did you discover him or he you, and how did your collaboration with him get going? 

CL: He sure is a hidden secret :) I met him over a decade ago attending the Fionna Duncan Vocal Jazz Workshop up in Scotland (in 2004). He was accompanying / co-teaching during that week. We became close friends and colleagues right away. He came to visit soon after that - and since then he has been performing with me almost every year at the Copenhagen Jazz Festival. He is a regular guest here. I am very lucky :)

LJN: I love those Monica Zetterlund-inspired songs on your album Nordisk. Are they part of your London programme? 

CL: I probably cannot help sneaking in a tune or two from my 'Nordic' repertoire - maybe an old Swedish Zetterlund folk tune as well as one or two of my own tunes.

LJNAnd you have won some awards for your albums? 

CL: My album Land & Sky (original music co-written with Icelandic sax player Sigurdur Flosason) was nominated 'Best vocal jazz album of the year' at the Danish Music Awards as well as at the Icelandic Music Awards back in 2011.

LJN: What else will you be singing? 

CL: I think I will be singing a handful of the songs from Brian's and my most recent album Love Still Wears a Smile - which is rare selection of jazz standards with a twist. It will probably be a blend of everything - standards, Nordic tunes, original tunes, maybe I will even sneak in a children's tune (pp).

The Sounds of Denmark Festival runs from September 16 to 22 at the Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho (LINK

Cathrine Legardh & Brian Kellock are on a double bill with Sinne Eeg & Thomas Fonnesbæk on 17 September at 1:30pm


REVIEW: PROM 49 Quincy Jones Prom

Quincy Jones at the Proms.
Photo Credit: Mark Allan

PROM 49 Quincy Jones Prom
(Royal Albert Hall, 22nd August 2016. Review by Peter Jones)

Take one 83-year-old musical titan, add a young, groovy orchestrator and conductor, sprinkle with rising star dust, scrape the whole lot on to a massive stage in an iconic venue, and spread over a great pop orchestra. That was the recipe for this festival of fine trans-genre music, part of the annual Proms season from the BBC.

Quincy ‘Q’ Jones has won 28 Grammys, worked with Ray Charles, Lionel Hampton, Dizzie Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra… oh yes, and Michael Jackson, plus a crew of hiphop stars from Wyclef Jean to Usher. And he’s still at it, nowadays promoting the embarrassingly over-gifted Jacob Collier (you remember him - the ‘talent like no other I’ve seen before’). Jones’s stable also houses Richard Bona, singer and bassist, and pianist Alfredo Rodriguez. Conductor Jules Buckley brought along singer Laura Mvula and Hammond organist Cory Henry, best known in recent years, perhaps, for his work with Snarky Puppy. The orchestra was the Dutch Metropole Orkest.

Pity poor Jules Buckley. It was his job to sift through more than 60 years of music to put together a representative sample of Jones’s output. And it has to be said he made a wonderful job of it: the opening medley was a corker – all blaring trumpets, twangy clavinet, scuttering bongos and wacka-wacka guitar. You almost expected the bust of Sir Henry Wood to sprout a ‘fro and mirror shades. Of course, these were but samples from a few of Quincy Jones’ film scores, and later we were treated to full-length renditions of The Pawnbroker (1965) and They Call Me MISTER Tibbs (1970) – the latter rattling along like an express train with a roaring Hammond solo from Cory Henry at the controls.

Identifying highlights is not easy; it was pretty much all highlight. First half closer Soul Bossa Nova (1962), with its comedic interplay between triangle and piccolo at the top and ‘bones and tuba at the bottom, was the crowd-pleaser to end all crowd-pleasers. The inevitable Michael Jackson mash-up of Human Nature, Billie Jean and Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’(all 1982) made it party time in the hallowed Hall. Instead I will just pick out three personal favourites.

First, Jacob Collier’s spellbinding In The Real Early Morning (2016), from his recently released debut album. This was an exercise in minimalism. You could hear a pin drop in the vast auditorium as this mere lad of 22 sang and played this lovely but difficult tune with a skill and sensitivity you could hardly credit. Second, Manteca (1973), an afro-cuban arrangement of an old Dizzy Gillespie tune, from which Rodriguez teased out an air of sleazy menace, rather reminiscent of Henry Mancini’s famous intro to the film Touch of Evil. Thirdly, a medley of classic funk-disco-r’n’b – Stuff Like That and the Brothers Johnson’s Stomp (both from 1978), featuring a quintet of very fine backing singers.

The greatest roar of the night came as the maestro himself appeared, stage right, to conduct the final number, Let The Good Times Roll. For yea, they had rolled mightily; this was showbiz at its very best.

The Quincy Jones Prom was televised and is available on iPlayer (LINK)


PREVIEW/INTERVIEW : Lauren Kinsella (tour dates September 4-23)

Lauren Kinsella. Photo Credit: Aga Tomaszek

Irish vocalist Lauren Kinsella starts a tour on September 4th. Sara Mitra, a vocalist herself,  interviews Lauren about her forthcoming tour, and explains what she admires about Kinsella's approach to singing and collaborating: 

The Human Voice

Every so often, a singer comes forward with a voice that shifts the vocal possibilities of the jazz tradition. Betty Carter, Bobby McFerrin, Norma Winstone are three very different examples of this class of vocal pioneer. They move art forward. Sharing their gifts, entertaining, challenging and delighting listeners, they educate their audience. They show other singers what the human body can do when improvisation flows unimpeded through the medium of song.

When I first heard the Irish singer/composer Lauren Kinsella live, I was unprepared, had no idea who this singer could be: uncompromising, marble-faced, singing in tongues. A voice in pure, exquisite flight. Responding to and directing the other musicians without drama, but with absolute authority. No simpering, no bullshit, the antithesis of a preening song-bird. My admiration was absolute, and set from that evening on.

Pioneers do not often receive their dues in their lifetimes. Kinsella has had tremendous and well-deserved recognition for her work thus far, most recently being awarded UK Vocalist of the Year at the 2016 JazzFM Awards. I know I am not alone in being moved by her music. There have been many, many others who have heard her voice and felt that same sense of individual connection, that breath of ‘yes’ to her invitation to follow her song. Through her work with groundbreaking ensembles such as Snowpoet, Thought Fox and Blue Eyed Hawk a wide cross-section of music lovers have been reached, and now Kinsella is touring her own ensemble this September across the UK, supported by PRS. I sincerely recommend that you make the trip to your nearest date and hear the future of jazz singing for yourself.

Q and A with Lauren Kinsella

LondonJazz News: You have been involved with a number of groundbreaking ensembles, with different repertoires and vocal techniques.  Do you try to keep your project repertoire separate, or on dates where you are the lead musician, do you bring songs from one group to another? 

Lauren Kinsella: Thank you that’s lovely of you to say. In general, each project that I work on or group that I’m involved in tends to have their own repertoire or language or concept. Having said that I am touring next month with my own ensemble and although we are playing my compositions, I will play / borrow with joy one or two songs that I sing in Julien Pontivanne’s Abhra – a group that I love altogether. Julien’s music is set to excerpts of Henry David Thoreau’s diaries and the words and text are glorious. Poetry is a large feature in my work but I also love to write text too.

LJN: Does it affect your own interpretation of a piece, when not with the ensemble it was conceived for?

LK: With every band or project that I am involved in I try to have a new conversation with each member. This takes time. It involves getting things right and not so right but I am interested and engaged in the process. The risk of it I suppose. And that can be in either written or improvised music for me.

>LJN: Rather than the more usual ‘vocalist as front-person’ I noticed that you favour an inward-looking circle(ish!) set-up. I noticed this in the footage of your song ‘Prime of Life’ with Thought Fox for RTE (video above). In your approach to stagecraft, is there a particular layout that you think affects band communication and dynamics, and the voice as an instrument within that?  

LK: It’s always funny to look at footage from 5 years ago! I had a lovely time that day at RTE studios in Dublin. RTE is the main radio station in Ireland and there are some wonderful presenters working there who champion and support new music including Carl Corcoran and Ellen Cranitch. This footage was from some studio time with Carl and the layout was more got to do with the fact that it was a studio rather than concert with audience if you know what I mean. But yes, certainly the layout on stage or in any physical environment will affect communication and I am interested in this. I am performing at the Dublin Theatre Festival this coming October with Ian Wilson’s The Last Siren and this is a project that involves acting the text and singing words and sound and moving around the stage accompanied by a small wooden horse as my companion. It’s a lot of fun and very exciting to redefine what the stage is for you and how your movement affects both your improvising and treatment of the text.

LJN: What is your languages background?  When you sing freely, are you using a particular set of sounds from any set of languages or is it more ‘as the spirit moves you’?

LK: That’s a lovely way of wording it. It reminds me of a Micheal O’Siadhail poem called ‘Friendship’ and begins like this

No wonder we’re happy just to meet, 
As the spirit moves us, on and off; 
An easy support of nothing to prove 
As we unwind, stretch in the light of 
Each other’s sun.

I was researching his and other poets work for a project that I did last year as a Birmingham THSH fellow and I performed with the superb musicians cellist Hannah Marshall and drummer Mark Sanders. Peter Campion, a great Irish actor also performed with us. We worked with poetry that could be acted, sung, spoken and played. I suppose this is a linguistic angle where I am really drawn too – the nature of speech and it’s movement in sound or how it transmits to sound itself whether from being sung or treating the text ie the syllables, the words, the consonants as sound themselves. Sound (pitch, timbre, resonance, syllabic deconstruction, rhythmic and harmonic information) always moves through the word for me – but it’s important that it comes first. I love working with lyrics and text of all kinds but I am fanatic about the treatment of the sound / noise / emotion through these mediums.

I have never tried to corner myself into singing just one thing or style. That would make me sad! I love singing complicated music with a lot of notes, I love singing a beautiful and simple love song based on a few chords, I love improvising freely with either sound or text spontaneously and I love both composing my own work and delving into other’s work that deals with the contemporary treatment of harmony, form and time. I am focused on the nature of the music being about communication and response to that with each other and with the audience.

LJN: And words and books are also important to you...

LK: My Dad has a second hand bookshop in Dublin and I have always been around books from a young age. My Mam and my brother are big readers and we have always shared in conversation about what each other is reading and why. I am forever indebted to my family for their encouragement and interest in what I do. And equally I am about their professions also.

LJN: As an educator with Leeds College of Music, are there any themes that keep recurring in your advice to HE-level jazz students? Do you have any tips for younger singers thinking about next steps after school, what can they do now to be conservatoire-ready?

LK: Each new student that I meet has their own interests and questions about their craft and this is an exciting part of the job – I like working with new students and students who I can work with over their three year course.

I try to encourage them as much as possible to really spend time with their instrument / voice as college life is so precious! I empathise with them too though – I know what’s it’s like to be in college and to be given a million tasks and deadlines. It can be a lot of pressure.

LJN: Any releases on the horizon you want people to know about?

LK: Chris Hyson and I from Snowpoet are writing new material and are very excited about this – stay tuned!

PRS women make music award Lauren Kinsella UK tour dates

September 4 - Chapel Allerton Arts Festival, Leeds 3.30pm 
September 7 – The Lescar, Sheffield 8.30pm 
September 8 – Jazz North East present Women in Music @ The Black Swan, Newcastle 8pm
September 18 – Clapham Omnibus, London 8pm 

September 22 – The Blue Lamp, Aberdeen 8.30pm 
September 23 – Edinburgh house concert (message Lauren via for full details and ticket reservation) 

Personnel: Tom Challenger (sax), Dan Nicholls (piano and electronics), Conor Chaplin (bass) and Simon Roth (drums).

Snowpoet will be also be appearing at the forthcoming Cambridge International Jazz Festival on November 26th 2016. (LINK)


CD REVIEW: Freddie Hubbard - The Hub of Hubbard

Freddie Hubbard - The Hub of Hubbard
(MPS 0211346MSW. CD Review by Peter Jones)

Another in the welcome series of remasterings from the German MPS label. Freddie Hubbard fans will be interested in the date this was recorded: January 1970 – immediately before he signed with CTI and, in what we might call his golden era, made eight classic fusion albums with them, including Red Clay, Straight Life, First Light and Sky Dive.

The album begins with a longish exploration of Without A Song played at a brisk tempo, Hubbard fencing with the young Eddie Daniels (tenor) as the rest – Louis Hayes (drums), Roland Hanna (piano) and Richard Davis (bass) drive the tune along with furious energy, Davis even getting slightly ahead of the beat in places. (Hanna, Daniels and Davis were at the time all members of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Big Band.)

The tightness and empathy Hubbard’s touring group had achieved on the road is very evident (they cut these tracks in Villingen, southern Germany, during a break between European engagements). Yet despite the joyous sense of freedom, you might also detect a certain frustration, a suggestion that there were might be places to go other than continuing to lash away at these old standards. Just One Of Those Things is a case in point: they can hardly be bothered to play the head before launching into a suicidally fast über-bop rendition, overladen with lots of splashy cymbal from Hayes. The head out is perfunctory.

The pace relents with Hubbard’s only original composition on the album, Blues for Duane, which he plays with a Harmon mute. The final track on this short (36 minutes) collection is the ballad The Things We Did Last Summer, beginning with a dreamy little solo passage from Hanna, who later thrums the piano strings under Hubbard’s initial statement of the theme, after which Freddie solos lyrically throughout the tune.

Not only does The Hub of Hubbard feature some dazzling and varied music, it also offers a fascinating glimpse into the last moments of Freddie Hubbard’s bop period.


PHOTOS: Prom 49 The Quincy Jones Prom

Quincy Jones. Photo Credit: BBC/ Mark Allan
These images are a selection of the official BBC photos from Prom 49, the Celebration of Quincy Jones. Our review will follow.

Jules Buckley directing the Metropole Orkest
Photo Credit: BBC/ Mark Allan

Jacob Collier
Photo Credit: BBC/ Mark Allan

Richard Bona
Photo Credit: BBC/ Mark Allan

Alfredo Rodriguez
Photo Credit: BBC/ Mark Allan

Cory Henry
Photo Credit: BBC/ Mark Allan

Quincy Jones
Photo Credit: BBC/ Mark Allan


TRIBUTE: Jef Neve remembers Toots Thielemans

Toots Thielemans - Photo from

Belgian pianist Jef Neve has written this tribute to Toots Thielemans (*):

Toots Thielemans is of course a big name in jazz, and very great musician, but for myself, I will remember him as someone who inspired our generation, and who made us dream of what was possible. He had gone off to the US, he had played with Charlie Parker and Miles Davis - the greatest of them all. He proved to us that anything is possible if you follow your dreams.

He deliberately kept up very good contacts with the younger generation. He wanted to know what we were doing, being the godfather of Belgian jazz. Even though he collaborated with the biggest names, he was never self-important. I remember him leaving a message on my phone on January 1st some years ago: He played some notes on his harmonica first and said: „Jef, Toots here, happy new year man!”. That was so typical of him.

Musically, to me, Toots was the man of the big melodies. He had a gift for working wonderful melodies into a piece of music, without making it artificial. And also the way he introduced the harmonica in the jazz was something ground-breaking, nobody thought that it could happen. I played a few times with him on private occasions and in jam sessions and I remember from these moments how communicative he was. Some artists on stage just want to be the shining star; he made others shine.

Of course, his death wasn’t really unexpected. We all knew what we could expect it sooner or later, once he had announced that he would to retire from performing two years ago. He just had to be on stage, no matter what. That became very clear when he -several months after his announcement, during a hommage for him at Jazz Middelheim he suddenly appeared on stage and played - even though his management advised him not to play. Luckily for us, he always followed his own instincts.

(*) This tribute appeared in slightly different form in Dutch in the Belgian newspaper De Standaard, and is reproduced here by permission of Jef Neve

LINK: RIP Toots Thielemans 1922-2016


RIP Toots Thielemans (1922-2016)

The Belgian harmonica player Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Isidor Thielemans, universally, affectionately known since the 1940's as Toots, and who last played in public in 2013, died yesterday at the age of 94, as his official website confirms.

He worked with many of the very greats of jazz from Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, Bill Evans and Pat Metheny. He also played with Stevie Wonder, was on albums by Billy Joel,  Paul Simon and played the theme on the film Midnight Cowboy. He acquired American citizenship in the 1950s, and was made an NEA Jazz Master in 2008. He was very proud to have been made a Baron by King Albert of Belgium in 2001, and to have given a concert for his 90th in the Royal Palace in Laeken. There will be a celebration of his life and music on the Grand'Place in Brussels at 6pm today.


FEATURE: Binker Golding writes... (second Binker & Moses album just recorded)

Binker Golding. Photo credit: Sam Mardon

Saxophonist BINKER GOLDING and drummer Moses Boyd are a multi-award-winning saxophone-and-drums duo from London. Their first album, ‘Dem Ones’ on Gearbox Records, put them on the map, and they have just recorded an eagerly-anticipated second album, for release next year.

We asked Binker Golding to write about the experience of making that new recording. He has gone right back to basics, and de-constructed the acts of recording, of listening to recordings, and of writing about music. Here are some personal reflections:


(or “Playing with words [notes] and structure for no apparent reason”)

by Binker Golding – 17.08.16

The editor of LondonJazz News has asked this of me:

“...if you wanted to write about what the experience of recording the second album (‘Binker & Moses’) was like – while those thoughts are still fresh – I would be very privileged indeed to publish it.”

This was approximately three weeks ago. My thoughts on these recording sessions are almost as fresh now as they were then; but despite having the greatest interest and enthusiasm for undertaking the task in a very practical fashion (for example, “The music sounds like this”, “We asked him and her to be on the album”), I have decided not to take that approach and have done this instead.

I would prefer not to do what editors [record-labels] would usually expect someone to do in this position, tempting as it is. That has been done to death and I question just how much the reader [listener] benefits from this, and also how much interest they would really take in reading [listening to] such an article [album]. Not that I don’t have faith in editors’ [record labels’] judgement – I simply have more faith in mine. But I’ll attempt to fulfil the request by doing the opposite of what I presume the editor [record label] expects. However, there’s a great chance the editor [record label] and you, the reader [listener], will read [listen to] the article [album] and respond by raising an eyebrow and saying “IS THIS HIS SHIT?”

If you change the words ‘editors’ to ‘record labels’, ‘reader’ to ‘listener’, ‘reading’ to ‘listening’ and ‘article’ to ‘album’ in the above paragraph, it will explain the philosophy of the making of the album itself. Now that the ‘Binker & Moses’ philosophical outlook to creating albums has been dealt with, I’ll move on to attempting to tackle the heart of the request, which is dealing with the experience of making this recording.

“Sonate, que me veux-tu?”
“Sonata, what do you want of me?”
“Sonata, what do you ask of me?”
and sometimes
“Sonata, what do you mean to me?”

Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle (1657-1757)
(winner of the pretentious European names award – French division)

This infamous statement of his most likely occurred in the 1740s. He was trying to draw our attention to what he saw as the lack of meaning in music without words.

(“Nobody’s known what the f*** James has been saying for years” – Eddie Murphy – ‘Raw’)

Europeans generally looked down their noses or didn’t take music without words seriously until about the middle of Beethoven’s lifetime – so around 1800ish. Most people I come across still find it slightly harder to process music without words than music with (one exception is dance music). Most would even prefer to have the most nonsensical words making up nonsense than none at all. To most people, verbal-nonsense-music makes more sense than music without words altogether. Wagner’s librettos, trap music and James Brown are all proof of this. So what is the experience of making a recording of music with no words when you’re aware that most people will find it harder to process? You can probably answer this yourself.

To some extent, most people are like Bart Simpson. As if music devoid of words wasn’t already difficult to follow, said music becomes even more difficult to follow if improvisation is at its core. Loosely speaking, it’s because improvisation lacks overt, blatant, repeating melodic statements or motifs and development contained in most music; improvisations seem to possess less of a recognisable continuity, frequently described as narrative. Often, commonly recognisable musical [literary] objects seem to come in an incorrect order and it can be disorientating to a listener [reader] unless one follows a recording/ performance [piece of writing] to its natural conclusion. Disorientation and confusion can be injected in very subtle ways to music [text]. For example, the letter ‘h’ is absent from my last nine lines of text. You didn't notice it during a first reading, but possibly noticed a disorientating effect due to an extremely subtle alteration in writing style. You noted ‘said music’ as a peculiar option. ‘Said letter’ is still absent, even now as you read. None of it ever contained ‘said letter’ at any point. Now you’re intrigued to look for mistakes.

(“Ahhh, cartoons. America’s only native art form. I don’t count jazz because it sucks” – Bart Simpson)








Faculty –




The wheel, an extension of the foot.

The book, an extension of the eye...


An extension of the skin...

Electric circuitry,

An extension of the central nervous system.

Media, by altering the environment, evoke in us unique ratios of sense perceptions. The extension of any one sense alters the way we think and act – the way we perceive the world.





Men change.”

“The medium is the massage” {sic}

by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore

Music these days is mostly communicated through recorded mediums (as opposed to live performance, public or domestic). Therefore, musicians are forced to alter their art in order to fit the medium. This process alters the way artists working in the medium of music think. They end up making music for a device rather than for the endless mat of silence provided by the concert hall and attentive listeners. What is the experience of recording onto a restrictive piece of media? You can probably answer this yourself.

BG: “So I’ve explained to you this “novelty”, as you put it, of recording. What are your first impressions of it?”

LvB: “I usually have a strong opinion on everything, and I do on this; I’m not in favour of it.”

BG: “Why?”

LvB: “What? Speak up.”

BG: “WHY!”

LvB: “There is one simple reason for my disdain – the restrictions imposed on the music by the recording itself. With a score, a piece can be as long as one wishes. With these recordings onto.... what was the material you said it was made out of?”

BG: “Vinyl.”

LvB: “Yes, vinyl. You have a tremendous time limit. The whole thing is over in around 45 minutes, which is too restrictive. So you see, this invention of recording [writing] is, in many ways, a step backwards. It’s neither realistic nor honest. A score and live performance is far less restrictive.”

BG: “Please expand upon this.”

LvB: “It seems to me that, around ninety or so years after my death, there have been a number of developments in the preservation of sound. But none of them seem to be true, or honest. For example, the first recording devices were very limited in capability, in regards to both how long they could record for and the sound quality with which they played back. Both of these qualities, which were negative in the case of this device, distorted the way the listener perceived the music. Then came recording media, which could contain more recorded sound at a better quality. But these, too, had their drawbacks – time restriction and ‘sides’. The side of a vinyl or cassette alters the way the listener perceives the music as it imposes its own type of binary form on the recording. The artist has to either ignore it or work with it. So it either influences the artist or the listener in a way that wouldn’t initially have been intended. Then comes the CD, which is my personal favourite, as only the time restriction is present. Then the download, or digital, which in theory is the greatest, as it has no time restriction or ‘sides’. But what has happened to the people of the age? They ‘skip’ tracks, as you call it, because they are so used to interacting with the world around them, thus changing it. They skip to the bottom of articles, halfway through, to look at the ‘comments’ box. They chop and change the way the art was conceived by the composer [writer], thus destroying the whole experience. The live performance [spoken word] is the only true medium for music [communication]. The others all lack purity in one way or another and alter the way listeners’ [readers’] minds function over time. In the case of digital, the possibility of the listener [reader] interacting with the recording [article] changes the listener's [reader's] approach to listening [reading] and the work is altered.

A recording is a type of media and, therefore, recordings are some kind of extension of a human faculty. It’s an extension of the ear. The ear and memory work together to remember and store sounds in the brain. A recording is an extension of this process, as it stores the sounds precisely and doesn’t forget them.

What is your experience of me making an extension to you, the listener’s [reader’s] ear [eye] and memory [mind]? You can probably answer this yourself. This is why there is a ‘comments’ section below practically everything in the current age. By writing in it, you will change how others perceive this article and, thus, change the article. When one makes a recording, for better or worse you change the way the listener perceives sound to a minute degree. This is the experience. Or, is this the experience? Or, IS THIS HIS SHIT?

o - o - o - o

In the period since the release of their debut LP, Dem Ones, Binker Golding’s duo with Moses Boyd has received a MOBO Award, two JazzFM Awards and a Parliamentary Jazz Award.

Binker and Moses are support for The Bad Plus for four November dates:

Monday 7 November – Colston Hall, Bristol
Tuesday 8 November – Sage Gateshead
Saturday 12 November – Howard Assembly Rooms, Leeds
Sunday 13 November – Scala, London

LINK: Binker Golding's website


CD REVIEW: Vimala Rowe, John Etheridge - Out of the Sky

Vimala Rowe, John Etheridge - Out of the Sky
(Dyad. DY028. CD Review by Alison Bentley)

John Etheridge’s wonderfully versatile guitar is familiar, from his Django-style work with Stéphane Grappelli to the jazz-rock of Soft Machine. Singer Vimala Rowe is relatively new on the scene, but on this duo recording, she matches Etheridge in her range of jazz and world music styles.

Rowe studied Hindustani classical singing in India, which colours many of the songs. In Etheridge’s arrangement of Ya Kundendu/Saraswati Sloka, a Sanskrit song for the goddess Saraswati, her voice has a lovely meditative stillness over the sitar-like guitar drone. Etheridge’s solo plays beautifully with a Lydian scale like an Indian raag. Rowe sings the Syriac Aramaic Prayer [Lord’s Prayer] with a soft strength, over Etheridge’s electronic washes and Oriental trills. He pulls the time around over simple chords, creating an atmosphere of mystery. In the Swahili love song Malaika [‘Angel’] Rowe sounds declamatory rather than rueful, while the guitar lines curl sensuously around the vocals.

Rowe has three of her own songs on the album: Blue Breeze (jointly composed with Etheridge) opens, with the a cappella voice strong- a little of Abbey Lincoln’s dramatic power: ‘…how the wicked weave, they won’t let us breathe…’ It’s especially effective with Etheridge’s plaintive desert blues note bends, and ethereal multi-tracked harmonics. The excellent Dudley Phillips joins on double bass for Sometimes We Have to Part and Drive (written by Rowe/Evol.) The first has a gentle Latin-inflected groove and an infectious chorus hook (a hint of Amy Winehouse’s R&B.) Rowe sings the high notes with power then suddenly dips down into ghosted deep notes. One of the album’s highlights is Etheridge’s overdubbed gypsy-ish solo at the end of the track- it fades out all too soon. Drive opens with Indian-style vocal improv and a warmth in the voice: ‘My heart’s come in from the cold.’ The fleet-fingered guitar solo has a Spanish tinge, while the way bass and guitar tumble over each other recalls the classic John Martyn/Danny Thompson pairing.

Rowe has sung with Alex Webb’s musical show Café Society Swing, set in the 30s and 40s, and she is clearly influenced by jazz singers of that era. In Solitude she sings gently with a lightness of touch, steel-strung guitar following, colla voce. The voice has a fluttery vibrato that recalls the early blues singers, the way Cécile McLorin Salvant does- though Rowe is less playful. Etheridge weaves his solo lines beautifully among the chords. Earl Coleman’s Dark Shadows has a bluesy swing and Rowe’s phrasing has a behind-the-beat insouciance; Etheridge frames the voice with juicy voicings.Detour Ahead has some Lena Horne in the phrasing; intimate and breathy: ‘Turn back while there’s time,’ she sings, pulling the voice right back to almost a whisper. The guitar tone shimmers as the frets creak in Etheridge’s lovely solo.

It feels as if the musicians are bringing new influences to each other and developing something different out of their many styles. A chance meeting led to Out of the Sky, and it’ll be fascinating to see how their music develops.

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


RIP Louis Stewart (1944-2016)

Louis Stewart at Certaldo in 2005
Photo credit: Andrew Condon / Courtesy of GMF

Irish guitarist Louis Stewart passed away earlier today at the age of 72. He passed away peacefully in a hospice, after a short battle against cancer.

His career from the late 1960's onwards took him to the highest level worldwide, but his loss is most deeply felt today in the Irish jazz community. As a self-taught home-grown musician who had unquestionably made his mark internationally, Stewart is - with very good reason - utterly revered by the Irish jazz community.

New York-based guitarist David O'Rourke has described him on Facebook page as "my hero, my mentor, my influence, MY FRIEND!"

Ronan Guilfoyle has written: "For young aspirant jazz musicians of my generation Louis was a God - the man who had done it all, the first Irish jazz musician to be of a level with the very best in the world, and as such he was an example and inspiration to all of us."

Oliver Dowling who promoted him for the past 11 years, and organized his last appearance on October 4th, 2015 says: "It was an honour and a privilege to have known him, a true gentleman and a amazing musician. He enjoyed his pints of Guinness, his favourite Irish whiskey (Paddy), and his cigarettes. A very quiet and humble man, who was extraordinary when he played his guitar. He was one of the last to not own a mobile phone or have access to the Internet. He often talked to me about his time in London playing with Ronnie Scott and Tubby Hayes. I will miss him."

LINKs: Louis Stewart website
Biography at Irish Rock


REVIEW: René Marie at the GMF Festival at Pizza Express Jazz Club)

René Marie with Bruce Barth (left)

René Marie
(Pizza Express Jazz Club. 19th August 2016. Part of GMF Festival. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

“It just takes time, just a little more time to get it right,” sings René Marie in Home on her album Sound of Red. The lyric is about something completely different, but it set me thinking. What does it take for a musician to find the precise pulse and pace and balance where the act of making music becomes as natural as that of breathing? How do musicians focus themselves, settle into into that place where an instinctive flow takes over? As Marie sings these songs, all of which she has written herself, she conveys in the words and in the music what stages she has been through (“We sort, we sift, sometimes we just drift.”) to get to the point where she is now completely centred as a performer.

Perhaps that centring is the true miracle of René Marie’s craft. Marie is a rarity in that she did not start to perform professionally as a singer until her early forties - maybe that has something to do with the conviction, the flow, she has as a performer. (She tells that story in the INTERVIEW she recently did with Tessa Souter) The end of the song form is often a cue to be completely free, to take the band on an open-ended excursion. Each one of those was a moment of magic last night.

Marie has a regular working band in the US, with whom she has recorded the album, but there was never a sense that last night's GMF band was anything less than comfortable and in sympathy with the varied repertoire. Her association with pianist Bruce Barth goes back many years, and the other members - Arnie Somogyi, Perico Sambeat and Stephen Keogh -  with whom she works as a GMF tutor, also seem to know instintively how to balance together and what directions to take, and to pinpoint all kinds of moods from the summer-night romanticism of Certaldo, to the fun innuendo of Colorado River Song, to the foot-to-the-floor exuberance of Joy of Jazz.

The GMF week comes to an end tomorrow night with the Rising Stars concert (SEE OUR FEATURE).

The Foundation's team led by Stephen Keogh have also had another majot triumph during this course, and one which has gone virtually unreported. They managed to persuade the great Peter King, who has cancelled every other gig since an operation in May, to return for the very first time - by all accounts in complete triumph - to the stage.


CD REVIEW: Baden Powell - Images on Guitar

Baden Powell - Images on Guitar
(MPS 0211343MSW. CD Review by Peter Jones)

Brazilian guitar master Baden Powell died in 2000; this is MPS’s remastering of an album he made for them in late 1971 with French singer Janine de Waleyne, plus occasional backing from Ernesto Gonsalves on double bass, Joaquim Paes Henriques on drums and Alfredo Bessa on percussion. All the tunes are his own compositions, some written in collaboration with de Waleyne, others with the poet and lyricist Paulo César Pinheiro.

As a player who stuck with the nylon-stringed guitar, Baden Powell had a precise, classical style, particularly prominent on Petit Waltz, Conversação Comigo Mesmo and Sentimentos – Se Voce Pergunta Nunca Vai Saber (‘Feelings – if you have to ask, you will never experience them’), the latter a stunningly beautiful piece for solo guitar. The voice of de Waleyne might not be to everyone’s taste: it’s a world away from the breathy impressionism of Astrud Gilberto or the dark romanticism of Joyce Moreno, but with its clarity and cool, operatic swoops, as on Violao Vagabundo, it’s a good fit with the music.

Hard to believe, but most of these tunes were created in the studio. The only weak track is the long, mostly improvised Blues à Volonté, in which de Waleyne attempts scatting, with somewhat toe-curling results. But she’s great on Canto, just singing wordlessly in the gaps between Baden Powell’s spacious guitar phrases.

(In case you were wondering, Baden Powell de Aquino was his real name: his father was a big fan of the founder of the scout movement. And in the mid-eighties he did make his home for five years in... Baden-Baden.)


TRIBUTE: Joe Locke writes about Bobby Hutcherson

Bobby Hutcherson, performing at the Berkeley (CA) Jazz Festival in 1982.
Photo by Brian McMillen /Creative Commons

This piece was vibraphonist Joe Locke's tribute at 'Vibes for Bobby Hutcherson', a major tribute night held in July 2012 at Birdland in NYC. With thanks to Joe Locke for the permission to publish it here - in sadness:

About Bobby Hutcherson :

My life would undoubtedly have taken a different path were it not for Bobby Hutcherson. His approach to the vibes set me on a course of trying to understand ..... How can you pull so much beauty and energy out of 37 cold metal bars? I still thrill every time I hear him play those signature intervallic patterns of his, staggering them up and down until the instrument sounds like its 6 octaves long. Or to hear him play a ballad ..... to be witness to his own waiting, waiting to play that one phrase that will make you feel your own heart inside your chest. I wanted to play like THAT ..... wanted to figure out what he was doing and make it my own. Of course, I never did!

I found my own voice by trying, and failing miserably, to sound like Bobby. I reached and fell, reached and fell. And in falling found myself. It was Bobby, more than anyone, who made me want to reach.

Over the years, and because he is a kind and gracious man, I've had the opportunity to sit with Bobby and talk, or have a pleasant chat on the telephone. Each time was a gift and a lesson, and each time let me further understand that the great music I loved was a reflection of the great person who created it.

I still aspire to be like Bobby, but maybe now in a different and deeper way. I still wanna be like him because to me Bobby Hutcherson represents the best of what being human is all about. And isn't it funny that, after all the recordings, all the concerts, all the MUSIC ...... I'd love him, even if he had never played a note.

Joe Locke
July 4, 2012
San Diego, CA

LINKS: Guardian obituary of Bobby Hutcherson by Richard Williams
New York Times obituary by Nate Chinen
More about 2012 'Vibes for Bobby Hutcherson' at Birdland
Video - Bobby Hutcherson and Joe Locke's 'Homage to Milt Jackson' at Jazz Baltica in 2007


REVIEW: Enrico Pieranunzi Trio and Shalosh at the Ronnie Scott’s International Piano Trio Festival

Enrico Pieranunzi Trio/ Shalosh
(Ronnie Scott’s International Piano Trio Festival. 18th August 2016. Review by Mike Collins)

Can this really have been Enrico Pieranunzi’s first appearance at Ronnie Scott’s? The Italian pianist has been a towering figure in European jazz for 40 years. He worked with Chet Baker back in the day, recorded a live album at the Village Vanguard in July 2010 with regular collaborator Marc Johnson and legendary drummer Paul Motian, and is a performer whose touch at the piano and melodic and decorative flourishes are utterly distinctive signatures.

Much of his work and recording has been with trios, so the club’s now annual International Piano Trio Festival was a fitting occasion for the debut.(I heard the first two of the three trios appearing on Thursday, the fourth night - John Crawford's trio played the late set.)

Pieranunzi's current trio with Dutchman Jasper Somsen on bass and veteran French drummer André Ceccarelli eased into a gentle latin groove in Come Rose Dai Muri to launch the set. A typically hummable Pieranunzi melody floated over the subtly shifting harmony. Glancing grace notes and angular descending routes through scales wove a path between wistfulness and unbridled exuberance. Their performance ebbed and flowed either side of that line reaching a boiling climax with Pieranunzi’s own Tales from the unexpected and The Surprise Answer. He has knack for ear-tweaking melodic lines, often developed over an extended written form, interspersed with rhythmic feints. Improvisations exploded in cascades of notes and then distilled into two-fisted percussive duelling with a responsive and explosive Ceccarelli behind the kit.

It was a dramatic finale after plenty of demonstrations of a more reflective and romantic side. Blue Waltz, one of several pieces in three, a favoured time signature it seems, had an unashamedly filmic quality to it. BYOH’s flowing lines and even quavers hinted at neo-romantic sources and showcased Somsen’s facility and melodic fluency on a singing bass solo. I’m sure I heard someone whistling the melody of Tales from the unexpected as we left, a tribute to the power of the writing. This was joyous, uninhibited music making, punctuated by engaging, shoulder shrugging and occasionally hilariously divergent announcing from Pieranunzi. It may have been a first visit, it surely won’t be the last.

The contrasting first set from Shalosh showed why the trio of Israeli musicians have been catching the eye and ears of promoters. Interlocking rythmns and chiming melodies, alternated with the most delicate of rippling arpeggios and singing melodies . Three-way interaction built to roaring climaxes as they darted between thunderous rocky vamps and relaxed funky grooves. Gadi Stern on piano led the dance. There was a collective twinkle in the eye as his left hand hinted at a familiar theme in Bond Villain and drummer Matan Assayag launched into what sounded like a raucous disco vamp on the finale Everything Passes. Daniel Benhorin’s bass was as often another piece of the rythmic jigsaw as harmonic underpinning. They are thoroughly contemporary trio, absorbing and making their own the approach of everyone from the Bad Plus to EST. By the time they had everyone clapping along to Even Cowgirls get the Blues they’d made their mark. Another set of visitors who we are sure to see again.


CD REVIEW: Sean Foran - Frame of Reference

Sean Foran - Frame of Reference
(Jazzhead 222. CD Review by Peter Jones)

Crashing waves. A deserted pebble beach in February. Hail lashing the windows of an empty bed and breakfast hotel. These are the images that come to mind when listening to Australian-born Sean Foran’s Room With A View, a bleak yet emotional 5/4 tune featuring the mournful cello of Ben Davis and warbling tenor saxophone of Julian Arguelles. Towards the end there’s a flurry of drums from Joost Hendrickx, and the track fades with gentle arpeggios from pianist Foran. On Une Fille, guitarist Stuart McCallum (in whose band Foran also plays) solos with his trademark chromatic runs, while Arguelles switches to soprano.

Sean Foran wrote the tunes with these players in mind, which gives the album its strongly individual flavour, within an overall style that is very much à la mode (no swing, lots of complex time signatures). Even after five or six plays, I can’t say the melodies were lodged in my head. But that isn’t to say the album lacks melody – on the contrary, the soloists don’t go ‘out’ of the scales suggested by the chord sequences. But these are musical ‘pieces’ rather than songs, and they evoke a certain consistency of mood. That mood is often sombre and reflective, occasionally neurotic. I particularly like the murmuring Dare To Dream, its rhythmic underpinning shared by Foran and McCallum as Hendrickx adds colour with beaters and Davis carves out another heartfelt cello solo. With no track running shorter than six minutes, there’s time to establish an evolving structure for each tune.

A pleasing lightness of touch is maintained throughout. The absence of a bass player is compensated for by strong left-hand playing from Foran and bass string work from McCallum. Foran’s playing style reminds me of Jamil Sheriff and Dominic Marshall, all three of them closely associated with Leeds College of Music, which has produced so many fine players in recent years.

Frame of Reference is released on 2nd September. Tour dates in October:

3rd – Pizza Express, London
4th – Watermill, Dorking
5th – Lakeside, Nottingham
6th – Future Inns, Bristol
7th – Turner Sims, Southampton
9th – Newcastle Jazz Steps (Foran/McCallum duo only)
11th – Capstone Theatre, Liverpool.


CD REVIEW: Euan Stevenson & Konrad Wiszniewski - New Focus On Song

Euan Stevenson & Konrad Wiszniewski - New Focus On Song
(Whirlwind Recordings WR4690. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield)

This is the second CD from Scottish musicians Euan Stevenson and Konrad Wiszniewski in the guise of New Focus. The first, inspired by Focus, Stan Getz’s collaboration with composer and arranger Eddie Sauter, had imaginative and compelling string arrangements backing a jazz quartet. This latest record builds on that, but brings out a more folk-influenced side to the compositions.

Pianist Stevenson and saxophonist Wiszniewski are joined by the ever-exciting Alyn Cosker on drums and Andrew Robb on bass, which makes up their regular touring quartet. The strings come from the Glasgow String Quartet, and further textural variety is added by Nicola Wiszniewska on flute and Alina Bzhezhinska’s harp.

Stevenson provides most of the compositions, with Wiszniewski contributing three tunes; Stevenson also arranged the pieces, which he does with skill: the balance between the jazz instruments and the string quartet is such that they reinforce each other rather than competing for attention. This is exemplified by Green Park - named after a place in Pitlochry rather than the Queen’s front garden - is bright and open, the strings picking up the rhythmic drive over which Wiszniewski plays the theme and then solos.

The strings feature on Ascension - not the John Coltrane piece of the same name - which is given in two rather different arrangements. The first starts with the strings, a classical sounding waltz worthy of a tea dance, before Stevenson takes an impressionistic solo before a lush climax leads into the Satiesque Piano Interlude. The Ascension Reprise has the same elements with particularly rich strings, but features Wiszniewski’s soprano and a cello solo, and wouldn't be out of place on a nineteen forties film noir score.

Other numbers bring out the Celtic folk music influences - the worlds of jazz, classical and folk music are close in Scotland, musicians regularly crossing genres. On his tune Sophia’s Song, Wiszniewski plays a haunting low whistle as well a saxophone, accompanied just by the quartet. Little Allegory seems to have all the different elements - jazz, folk and classical - bound together in a very catchy riff.

The album stands on the quality of the writing, musicianship and the relationship between the two principals. Stevenson and Wiszniewski occasionally perform these tunes as a duo, stripped of all adornment; more often, it's with their quartet. Stevenson’s arrangements for the extended ensemble add many layers without obscuring the tunes, and the jazz at their heart.

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

The album launch is on Saturday 20th August at The Jazz Bar, Edinburgh as part of the Edinburgh Fringe


NEWS: Lineups announced for inaugural Drayton Court Hotel Jazz in the Garden Festival (August 21st)

The line-up for this Sunday's Drayton Court Hotel Jazz in the Garden Festival (see previous feature for all the details - and a story about Ho Chi Minh). 

Programmed by Dick Esmond, it follows the ethos of the original Ealing Jazz Festival as conceived by him – a combination of local leaders and a well-conceived event that also brings in great British players who are not necessarily local, such as Pete Hurt, (whose recent album A New Start has received glowing reviews)  Martin Shaw, Leon Greening, Andy Panayi...



Andrew Butcher – trombone
Pete Hurt – tenor sax
Andy Skinnard – piano
Pete Billington – bass
Elliot Toms – drums


Martin Shaw – trumpet
Winston Morson – guitar
Nathan Morson – piano
Rob Statham – bass
Darby Todd – drums


Liz Fletcher - vocals
Andy Panayi – sax/flute
Leon Greening – piano
Rob Statham – bass
Marc Parnell – drums


Willie Garnett – tenor sax
Bruce Adams – trumpet
Ken McCarthy – piano
Peter Morgan – bass
Adrian Macintosh – drums

DICK ESMOND`S SOUND OF 7 7.00 – 8.00

Sarah Moule – vocals
Jimmy Hastings – tenor sax/flute
Ed Benstead – trumpet
Nick Mills – trombone
Alan Berry – piano
Jim Richardson – bass
Dick Esmond – drums


REPORT:17th International Guitar Festival in Hersbruck (Germany) , August 13th-20th

Tommy Emmanuel. Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

Ralf Dombrowski reports from the opening days of the International Guitar Festival in Hersbruck near Nuremberg in Germany (*) 

Once a year, music instrument retailer Uwe Trekel makes his way southwards in a van from his shop in Hamburg to Hersbruck in Franconia.  where he lays out his trays full of guitar accessories for the week. "There is a high percentage who re-book," he told me, casting an eye over the participants in the workshops at the local convention center AOK. "I have known many of these faces for a long time. People keep coming back. "

These are enthusiasts who enjoy their opportunity to concentrate for a few days on the guitar. There are relatively few distractions in this town just to the east of Nuremberg, so the event really does revolve around the roughly two dozen renowned lecturers who give individual lessons, master classes, sessions and lectures.

So, in the evening, when the fingers are suffering from all that practice, one can venture out into the town, and check out on-stage what the elite of the guitar world on have to offer. The festival concerts have evolved over the years and have become both a cultural magnet and a source of pride throughout the region.

For the opening night of this year's 17th International Guitar Festival Hersbruck, the stage was graced by a world star of fingerstyle guitar, Tommy Emmanuel from Australia, who is normally to be found in halls that are significantly larger than the 500-seater GERU-Halle, a new venue inaugurated this year. Emmanuel presented his audience a panopticon of entertainment which shone in every detail, but veered more in the direction of perfection rather than genuine inspiration. As a technician Emmanuel is in the top echelon in the world. He first took up the guitar at the age of four and can scarcely have put it down in the intervening 57 years. His fluency is stunning, as is the extent to which he can vary his interpretations. He ranges from subtle harmonic arrangements through effective body percussion to rough Guitar Boogie and humorously oblique takes on Beatles songs, his pieces oscillate between a masterful de-construction of the well-known and a profound respect for the repertoire.

The contrast with the second evening's concert could have been greater. Whereas Tommy Emmanuel was a hurricane whose force swept over the audience, the gentle  breath of clarinettist Giora Feidman created sounds close to the borders of silence.

In fact he was which  playing so intently with the ​​fragile that he was almost overworking the idea and diminishing its meaning. He was also giving himself permission to turn the show into Vaudeville, larking about with his backing band the Gitanes Blondes. Things took a much more serious - and better - direction when Feidman was in a duo with guitarist and director of the festival Johannes Tonio Kreusch.

This pairing captured some fine, intimate moments, drawing inspiration from a range of sources from Franz Schubert to Egberto Gismonti, Theirs was a strong dialogue, a forceful act of creation by the two of them, celebrating the beauty of music. The message of that music has the power both to beguile and to set free was emphasized by Feidman in his announcements - and their playing was a demonstration of that fact..

There are now concerts running till  Friday. There is a Blues/Jazz Summit on Wednesday and flamenco with Paco Peña as the finale. Worth a trip.

Johannes Tonio Kreusch and Giora Feidman
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

(*) Ralf Dombrowski's original German text appeared in the respected Munich broadsheet Süddeutsche Zeitung.

LINK: International Guitar Festival Hersbruck website