REVIEW: Andrew McCormack Trio with Mark Lockheart at Cambridge Modern Jazz

L-R: Andrew McCormack, Mark Lockheart, Sam Lasserson, James Maddren
Hidden Rooms, Cambridge, April 2015

Andrew McCormack Trio with Mark Lockheart
(Cambridge Modern Jazz, Hidden Rooms in Jesus Lane. 16th April 2015. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

"An object that is at rest will stay at rest unless an external force acts upon it," once decreed Isaac Newton from his place of work in Cambridge, just a few streets away from last night's gig. Andrew McCormack's compositions,mostly from the 2014 album First Light (reviewed here) often have a way of starting with an assertion of calm, of staying neatly within bar-lines, it's the state of being of a steady soul. That mood, expressed at its clearest in a quiet solo introduction to Vista, is the base from which things start to happen. As the tension, the volume the aggression all rack up, there is an open invitation to all members of the group to amaze, a challenge to find unexpected ways to respond and to transcend. It is an offer which all four members of quartet were repeatedly taking up with relish last night, and to great effect.

Perhaps the best example in the first set was a solo by drummer James Maddren on the tune The Reluctant Gift. Maddren is at all times supportive, watchful, alert, responsive, but when the limelight falls on him he has that capacity to do something utterly memorable. Pushing against a steady ostinato riff from bassist Sam Lasserson, he was letting go thunderbolts, violent interjections, the kind of playing that has the other band members' eyes out on stalks, and spreads an energy field throughout the room. When Maddren produces a moment like that, it explains why he is now starting to assert his rightful place alongside other young drummers like Jonas Burgwinkel and Sylvain Darrifourcq, to form a small elite coterie at the pinnacle of European jazz.

Pianist Andrew McCormack builds his solos differently each time, but build them he certainly does. He starts simple and sparse, often with either a straightforward or a quirky right hand figure and only then brings his considerable armoury and technical facility into play, for example in a contrapuntal episode at the end of Gotham Soul which was quite remarkable.

McCormack is more often heard in the role of sideman to Kyle Eastwood or Jean Toussaint than as leader, so it was fascinating to observe how in the latter role he prefers to dominate by example and by determination rather than by right. He never over-dominates. It is as if he wants to earn the right every time to enjoy the view from on high by demonstrating that he has got to the summit through his own efforts, that he has climbed to the top by having started at the base.

Mark Lockheart also produced fine moments, and his new composition A Shorter Story is an absolute gem. A long song form, it has a way of following its own logic, and yet reflecting back in on itself as it proceeds. The test of it will be when Wayne Shorter himself gets to hear it - he cannot fail to approve. Lockheart showed a very different side of his playing in a blistering series of choruses on the standard Just in Time, which had the expressive fluency of Hank Mobley or Sonny Stitt.

Bassist Sam Lasserson has a wonderful way of underlining, repeating, provoking and reinforcing the asymmetries, kinks and instabilities in McCormack's tunes, most notably on Junket. He also has ferociously fleet fingers, above all on Just in Time, where his solo had a clever insistent repeated quote from Now's The Time. 

Listeners seemed to come away from this gig energized and spiritually nourished. Cambridge Modern Jazz, now in their 42nd year, and stepping boldly forth without the cushion of funding from Cambridge City Council, do a remarkable job in their cosy and inviting subterranean venue.

18th April Vortex
24th April Stoke by Nayland, Leavenheath
8th May Riverhouse Walton


Prospect Park
Second Circle
Gotham Soul
The Reluctant Gift


A Shorter Story (Mark Lockheart)
First Light
Adagio - after Mahler
Just in Time (Jule Styne)


CD REVIEW: Piero Umiliani – Intrigo a Los Angeles

Piero Umiliani – Intrigo a Los Angeles
(Beat. BCM 9514. CD review by Andrew Cartmel)

Chet Baker resided in Italy from 1959 until 1964 — including a spell in prison after the trumpeter had the misfortune to overdose in the toilet of a gas station in San Concordio. Baker managed to talk his way out of the police station in Lucca, and appeared to be in the clear. Unfortunately a local public prosecutor went gunning for the American, blithely breaking laws in a campaign to nail him. So Baker ended up on trial, and was convicted of drug smuggling and forging prescriptions. He was incarcerated in the Penitenziario San Giorgio but, thanks to the tireless campaigning of his friends, was released after serving eight months — less than half his sentence — at the end of 1961. Just in time for Christmas. Almost immediately, Baker threw himself into recording a strong new album in Rome, Chet is Back, and resumed his fruitful collaboration with the Florentine soundtrack composer Piero Umiliani.

The last film which Umiliani and Baker collaborated on was 1964’s Intrigo a Los Angeles, a nuclear espionage thriller pseudonymously directed by Romano Ferrara. The movie would probably be forgotten today if not for its fine jazz score. The music was originally released in 1964 on a mono LP which is now impossibly rare and expensive. But assorted tracks have surfaced over the years on CD, including on Umiliani’s own Liuto label, and recently on the Moochin’ About compilation Italian Movies (reviewed here).

Now the Roman label Beat records have issued the first official CD dedicated solely to the score in its entirety, featuring detailed notes about the movie and about Chet Baker in both Italian and English. They have also, importantly, used the analog mono master tapes from the original sessions for this CD. The result is some fine trumpet from Baker, and excellent piano from Umiliani, the two musicians who absolutely unequivocally play on these tracks (the other names are derived from Moochin’ About’s best-guess list).

The title of Movimento con Swing is self explanatory and this is both one of the longest tracks on the album and one of the jazz highlights. Umiliani unrolls a carpet of piano and Baker spills out of it like a smuggled harem girl, playing an incisive, silvery solo. The tight knit drumming is likely by Ralph Ferraro or Roberto Zappulla and the bass by Berto Pisano (later to become a soundtrack composer in his own right) or Beppe Carta.

The adroit bass playing also conjures the noir feel of Tipi Sospetti (‘Suspect Types’) until Baker cuts through the shadows like a police spotlight. The conversation between the trumpet and the baritone sax here (probably Gino Marinacci) is a reminder of what a fruitful collaboration Baker had with Gerry Mulligan. Jazz Bar has an easy, loping feel that shows Umiliani’s Dixieland roots, with some first-rate use of brushes on the drums and beautiful, considered flute playing (no one else has any suggestions about who this might be, so I’m going to nominate the multi talented Marinacci again).

Other tracks like Agguato (‘Ambush’) use the jazz vocabulary to conjure suspense, with the horns providing brief, throbbing stabs (the trumpeters here are likely to be Noni Rossi, Beppe Cuccaro or Baldo Panfili), while the flute weaves patterns in the air like sparklers on Bonfire Night and the guitar (quite likely by Enzo Grillini) provides a pulsing structure to the piece. And there is also some characteristically inventive (and advanced) use of electronics by Umiliani in the appropriate context of Ritmo Neutronico (‘Neutron Rhythm’), which sounds like an avant-garde classical piece until the jazz bass and drums kick in, and the seriously spooky and queasiness-inducing Contagio Atomico (‘Radiation Sickness’).

Half a century on, there are some inevitable limitations to the aging master tape, and one of the tracks sounds a bit distant. But for the most part the sound here is startlingly sharp and Beat have done an outstanding job of audio reconstruction. They are to be congratulated for the world premier release of the definitive version of this important jazz document. For Baker and Umiliani aficionados alike..


REVIEW: Loose Tubes at the 2015 Gateshead Festival

Loose Tubes with John Parricelli (centre)

Loose Tubes
(Sage Gateshead, 12th April 2015. Tour report and Review by Jon Carvell)

Jon Carvell travelled with the Loose Tubes and saw their show at the Gateshead International Jazz Festival. This is his tour diary, review, and preview of forthcoming dates. He writes:  

It’s just after 7am on Sunday morning in a side street in Euston. Members of Loose Tubes are congregating ahead of their seven hour journey to Gateshead to play the closing show of the festival. The smell of coffee and porridge fills the bus as space is found in the hold for an enormous box of music in between Dave Powell’s two tubas and Steve Watts’ bass.

On the way out of central London, more band members are collected. Ashley Slater arrives resplendent in shimmering sequin Converse high tops, camouflage jacket and handlebar moustache. Julian Argüelles takes up a position near the driver, donning a large pair of headphones. Chris Batchelor and Julian Nicholas shoot the breeze debating self-taught vs music college. John Eacott explains how to compose using tidal wave patterns- (LINK to his Floodtide project). There is a great sense of warmth; old jokes are revived and zing around the bus.

A few hundred miles later we arrive in Gateshead amidst heavy rain, entering the backstage of the Sage through a cool curve in the building’s futuristic shell. Sound check begins almost immediately and, by the time I figure out my way into the main auditorium, Django Bates, Steve Watts and Martin France are already on stage grooving through Children’s Game. Django has alighted on some new voicings for the middle eight and eagerly tries them out whilst Watts and France lock in as if they’ve been on tour together for the last six months.

Soon all 21 members assemble on stage. Jeremy Farnell manages proceedings, not only organiser in chief for the band, but trusted with the unenviable task of perfecting the sound for one of the most diverse ensembles around. As the line checks start, the sax section finds a boom in the sound system on the lowest note of Steve Buckley’s alto, and Django can’t help but riff along as the note is repeated over and over.

The stage takes some getting used to for the band – it’s much larger, much more of a live acoustic than Ronnie Scott’s and it takes a while for things to fully click. Dressed all in white, with hair down to his shoulders, Eddie Parker takes the reins (“Ok guys, seven of your earth quavers in!”) to rehearse his fiendishly difficult Bright Smoke, Cold Fire before the doors open. As the show begins it’s clear that the mood has changed since the afternoon – the analytical focus of the rehearsal has been replaced with an effervescent energy. Django Bates, wearing not one hat but two, can hardly stay seated at his keyboard. He positively wills the opening tune Yellow Hill onwards, seemingly with a direct line to drummer Martin France’s subconscious.

Last Word’s reggae vibe is pulled off flawlessly, with Paul Taylor taking a storming trombone solo. A band favourite Would I Were, composed by trumpeter Chris Batchelor, features powerful solos from Batchelor himself and guitarist John Parricelli. Parricelli had one of those evenings when he couldn’t play a bad note if he tried – Shelley, later in the set, was another fine example. Creeper, another of Batchelor’s compositions, was also a highlight - one of four new works commissioned by BBC Radio 3 which have been added to the pad. We also heard Steve Berry’s exquisitely crafted Smoke and Daffodils, as well as Django Bates’ classic Like Life. Squeezing every last minute out of their allotted time, the band gave an encore of Arriving (a tune from their first album, and also the title of the recording from 1990 which will be released in July this year) - Django Bates taking up his tenor horn for this hugely fun gospel romp.

So what’s new with the Loose Tubes? Well, this is just the first of a number of dates in 2015. They will be at the Herts Jazz Festival in Welwyn and at Ronnie Scott's, both in September, they are nominated and can be voted for in the Jazz FM Awards. They have another recording from 1990 due out in July, and to top it all off there are rumours of a potential collaboration with the Jazz Warriors – the band that saw the emergence of Courtney Pine, Cleveland Watkiss and Orphy Robinson. Django Bates says “I keep on mentioning this in interviews because I really want it to happen, and so do quite a few members of the Jazz Warriors. We want to do a double bill.”

We need to celebrate Loose Tubes and the richness they bring to our musical life: we were lucky to have them in the 80s and we’re even luckier that they’re back now.

 Loose Tubes’ concert at Gateshead International Jazz Festival was recorded for BBC Radio 3’s Jazz Line Up. Broadcast date 2nd May.


INTERVIEW: Julian Argüelles - New CD with the Frankfurt Radio Big Band Let It Be Told (Basho)

In this interview about his new album Let It Be Told with the Frankfurt Radio Big Band (Basho), Julian Argüelles explains some background...

LondonJazz News: How did Let It Be Told Come into being, and were your brother Steve and Django Bates both involved frm the start?

Julian Argüelles: I've been fortunate to be asked to go to Germany to compose and arrange music for German Radio Big Bands and this project was an idea I put to the Frankfurt Radio Big band in 2010. Originally it was going to feature my Loose Tubes colleague percussionist Thebe Lipere, but he went back to South Africa and was unavailable for the first gigs. The natural choice was to get my brother Steve involved on percussion (actually a drum-percussion hybrid setup), and as activity for this project in Germany developed it was suggested to use Django Bates on Keyboards. Both Steve and Django were long time musical associates of Dudu Pukwana (and others from the SA scene) and the music became so much more vibrant when they got involved. It was for the three of us a labour of love.

LJN: How did you first get to know South African music?

JA: I moved to London in 1984 and it was shortly after this that I became aware of the South African scene. The awareness probably came from my connection to Loose Tubes (which was a band I was depping in before I joined them in 1986). My brother Steve, Django, Dave Defries, and Chris Batchelor were all active performing with South African exiles living in the UK and in about 1986 I got a call from Chris McGregor asking me to join his group the Brotherhood Of Breath.

LJN: How was that?

JA: I was immediately attracted to the music from these South African exiles. I am uncomfortable with generalising about the music from one country like this: although there are similarities I feel, especially at that time, that the music by Louis Moholo, Dudu and Chris and others was not alike, it was hugely varied. Their music had everything I love: it had an uninhibited quality; it was emotionally charged, dangerous and sophisticated, yet also very accessible. I could hear the connections to music that I was already influenced by (Ornette, Monk, Duke, Coltrane etc).

This music has been a big part of me from those early years and I feel very lucky to have heard, played and toured with those great musicians. My first CD as a leader, Phaedrus (1990) included Chris McGregor's beautiful ballad 'Maxine'.

LJN: So what music did you choose for this album, and what has been your approach to it?

JA: I chose music from these great South African composers: Dudu Pukwana, Chris McGregor, Mongezi Feza, Abdullah Ibrahim, Johnny Mbizo Dyani, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Miriam Makeba. The music is written for a normal sized big band (8 brass, 5 saxes, 5 rhythm). Usually when I arrange the compositions of others, I deconstruct the music so that it contains a lot of my identity and plenty of fresh ideas. Recreating or reproducing doesn't usually interest me, but with this music I tried to keep more of the original music than I might with other material because I have such a love for this music. I wanted the focus to be on the people who originally created it without trying to redefine it too much.

LJN: What are you hoping might happen when people hear this album?

JA: Interestingly, it seems there are a huge amount of knowledgeable and talented young musicians who are not aware of this beautiful music. This might be because there are so few of these South African exiles still living and playing in Europe. I hope Let It Be Told can help to keep this important and powerful music known and enjoyed by both listeners and musicians. Their music is certainly going to live on in the hearts of the people lucky enough to experience it.

Let it be Told is released on Basho Records on April 27th
LINK: Store at


REPORT: Nicolas Simion at the Romanian Cultural Institute

Nicolas Simion playing tarogato

Sebastian reports from an evening at the Romanian Cultural Institute in Belgrave Square:

An all-too-brief set of music with liveliness,  humour and devil-may-care was a very welcome antidote and complement to more than two hours of speeches and earnest discussion dedicated to the distinguished Romanian poet and political figure Ana Blandiana.

We need levity. Just as the WDR Big Band at the WDR Jazz Prize concert in Dortmund chose to bring on multi-reed hero Nicolas Simion to bring informality to their proceedings and to send hundreds of people away happy, here he was again, to remind people that there is a brighter side to life, if you know where to locate it. Simion, however, brings a great deal more to this role than just  his humour, than the smile that resides deep in his musical personality. He is an extremely eloquent improviser, mood-setter and story-teller, with a range of improvising vocabulary which co-inhabits the jazz sphere and Eastern European music. And as an improviser on the Hungarian tarogato (an instrument which both Charles Lloyd and Joe Lovano have shown interest in), he is probably out in front of the pack. His sound on all the reed instuments he plays is focused, characterful, a delight. (Try his funky Transylvanian bass clarinet playing).

Guitarist Sorin Romanescu from Bucharest was an indispensable partner who also knows every twist and turn of the music they play together. And hats off to the Romanians for reaching out to two guitarists who both happen to be instigators right at the heart and soul and the centre of jazz in London Hannes Riepler and Nigel Price. The former played, the latter on this occasion just lent an amplifier. With the positive spirits of can-do musicians like all of these involved here, good things, fascinating collaborations can definitely start to happen.

Nicolas Simion on simultaneous tenor and soprano saxophones

Hannes Riepler, Sorin Romanescu, Nicolas Simion playing the closing number,
Belgrave Square Blues

Nicolas Simion and Hannes Riepler will both be playing next month at that tiny gem of a European Festival INNTOENE, held in the barn of a working pig-farm in Diersbach in Austria


PHOTOS/ REPORT: Ben Williams Group at Bayerischer Hof, Munich

Ben Williams Band. L-R Christian Sands, Ben Williams, John Davis,
Marcus Strickland, Matt Stevens Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

Ralf Dombrowski heard a band currently touring in Germany last night, led by bassist Ben Williams. Williams was Thelonious Monk Prizewinner (in 2011) and is a member of Pat Metheny's Unity Band. Ralf writes:

Photos from the sound-check and from the concert by the Ben Williams Group yesterday at the Bayerischer Hof in Munich. The band were Marcus Strickland (Sax), Chistian Sands (keys), Matt Stevens (guitar), John Davis (drums) and Ben Williams ( bass). On this occasion he was just playing electric bass, because the organizers hadn't supplied him with an upright bass - but on balance that led to the show having even more of the modern fusion sound, which is how Williams' music is conceived anyway.

Ben Williams. Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

What was fascinating is the ease with which this generation of musicians incorporates everything in their surroundings: Nirvana or Wayne Shorter, Jaco Pastorius, as well as standards.

Ben Williams,  Matt Stevens John Davis,
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

 The quintet was acting symbiotically, like a jazz organism, groovy, but they were also focused on that kind of collegial fun that musicians have.

Christian Sands,  Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

We can expect to hear a lot more about keyboardist Christian Sands. Everything flows in the way he plays: melodic intuition, the joy of communication, a powerful harmonic conception. It's very American, this music, with real presence.

LINK: Extensive interview with Ben Williams in For Bass Players Only


RIP Mick Collins (1938-2015)

Photo of Mick Collns by kind courtesy of Patricia Collins

Dave Gelly writes:

MICK COLLINS 1938-2015

Trumpeter Mick Collins, who died on 9th April, aged 76,was one of that rare and indispensable class of musicians who give substance to every jazz scene. They play at a high professional level, assemble bands (and,what's more, manage to keep them together), and teach generations of young players – all through the exercise of sheer enthusiasm.

Through the 1960s and '70s, Mick played with, among others, Mike Westbrook, the Brotherhood of Breath, Centipede, and Midnite Follies. Beginning in the 1970s - the days before music colleges took much notice of jazz - the bands he put together at various venues around London gave young musicians essential experience of ensemble playing. Among them were Stan Sulzmann, Alan Barnes, Guy Barker, Mark Nightingale, Nick Weldon, Chris Laurence, Bryan Spring...the list goes on.

Mick formed his own band, the Mick Collins Modern Jazz Orchestra, more than 40 years ago. It continues playing its regular gig, on the first Monday of each month, at the HG Wells Centre, Bromley.

Mick's funeral takes place on Tuesday 5th May at Hither Green Cemetery, SE6 1JX, at 1pm. 
LINK: Mick Collins Modern Jazz Orchestra on Facebook


CD REVIEW: Spectrum Orchestrum - Suburbs

Spectrum Orchestrum - Suburbs
(Own label/bandcamp - CD Review by Peter Slavid)

I enjoy finding new bands. and there’s a special pleasure in coming across one that doesn’t seem to appear anywhere on the radar.

Spectrum Orchestrum released their album Suburbs in October 2014. They are William Hamlet : saxophone alto & flute, Olivier Vibert: guitar, voice; Benjamin Leleu: keyboards, Philippe Macaire: bass, percussion, voice; and Adrien Protin: drums & percussion.

After extensive sleuthing on Google I have learnt only that the band is based in Lille and that most of the musicians have appeared in this band without any visible history.

And yet they seem to have been in existence since 2007, when their first CD “Improvisarium I” came out. In the intervening eight years they have appeared at a number of festivals, and Improvisarium II and III have also been released, and now we have this extended EP available in a limited edition.

There is evidence of a slightly odd sense of humour: the band that puts out promotional literature littered with invented quotes from Professor Abronsius – a character from the cult film The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck.

So what of the music? Somewhere between free jazz and prog-rock would probably be their own description - they quote influences of Zorn, Sun Ra, King Crimson, Robert Wyatt and others. For me it has more subtlety than that and a lot more wit – and this EP at least is definitely more jazz than rock.

For a start there’s a lot of variety of tone, with delicate guitar and keyboards as well as heavy rock beats, especially on the standout Ornette Coleman composition “Lonely Woman”. And there’s some fine sax playing over broken rhythms on the title track too.

Given that London is closer to Lille than it is to Manchester, it’s a shame that we don’t know more about the jazz scene over there, and it would definitely be great to see bands like this live in London.

Peter Slavid is the presenter of the ukazz radio show, available via Mixcloud


REVIEW / DRAWINGS: The final weekend of Christian Marclay at White Cube

Christian Marclay at the turntables
on the final day of the White Cube Exhibition
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2015. All Rights Reserved 

Ryoji Ikeda, Elliott Sharp and Christian Marclay 
(White Cube gallery, Bermondsey, 11 and 12 April 2015; final weekend of Christian Marclay's exhibition programme; reviews and drawings by Geoff Winston)

To cap off the magnificent three-month series of improvised and commissioned pieces performed on weekend afternoons as part of Christian Marclay's exhibition at White Cube, Ryoji Ikeda, Elliott Sharp and, in an unscheduled final performance on the Sunday, Christian Marclay, each gave the exhibition's sounds of glass theme a unique interpretation.

Ryoji Ikeda filled the gallery with extreme, disorientating sound, Elliott Sharp and a London Sinfonietta quartet offered a lively, delicate, interpretation of his commissioned work, Glass Call, and Christian Marclay retrieved test pressings of the vinyl LPs of each of the concerts in the series to impose his own intense turntabling treatment in an emotional farewell to this exceptional series of music/sound events.

For Ikeda it was a case of less is more - with the most minimal of electronic devices on the work table he turned the gallery into a massive sound chamber packed with unnervingly clear and ultra amplified hums, thrums, signals and recordings of glass rolling, tinkling and crashing - as well as barely audible micro sounds layered in the background. The sound forces physically moved within the space, swirling from side to side with the heaviest barrage in the entire series, unavoidable and compelling.

Ryoji Ikeda performing on the final
weekend of the White Cube Exhibition
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2015. All Rights Reserved

Elliott Sharp revisited his composition, Glass Call (it had been premiered month earlier at the gallery), with a subtly balanced interaction, alongside Sharp's pre-recorded glass sounds track, from Sharp, on guitar, discreetly guiding the woodwind, string and percussion quartet through bowings, stretched notes, fiercely articulated bursts of vibrating energy and light lacunae of breaths and resonances to deliver a rounded and nicely open-ended performance.

Christian Marclay, in an inspired and personal gesture, chose to work with the raw material that had formed the substance of his curated programme, the vinyl records that had been manufactured by The Vinyl Factory in the gallery, from the live recordings of each concert. With just two turntables and much electronic licence he showed no mercy to the physical objects which he scraped, scratched and slung, twizzed and turned. Yet, he also showed the greatest of respect for the qualities of the sounds made by his commissioned performers by extracting, distorting, selecting on the fly, to construct a dauntingly percussive and hands-on, improvised response.

It was a 'thankyou', in a most personal way, to everybody who had contributed to the success of his visionary venture.

Cellist Zoe Martlew performing Glass Call
on the final weekend of the White Cube Exhibition
Drawing by Geoff Winston © 2015. All Rights Reserved

- Saturday afternoon improvisation, 11 April, 3pm - Riyoji Ikeda

- Sunday afternoon commissioned work, 12 April, 3pm
Elliott Sharp and London Sinfonietta, commissioned work, Glass Call
Elliott Sharp (electric guitar) London Sinfonietta - Scott Lygate (clarinet/bass clarinet); Daniel Pioro (violin); Zoe Martlew (cello); Oliver Lowe (percussion)

- Bonus improvisation, 12 April, 4pm Christian Marclay (turntables, electronics).


REVIEW: Kai Hoffman's 50s Jamboree at Ronnie Scott's

Kai Hoffman's 50s Jamboree
(Ronnie Scott’s. 12th April 2015. Review by Fliss Gorst)

The beauty of what Kai Hoffman does as a vocalist and performer is that she tells a story, transports you to another world. You may be feeling cosy on the plush red seats of Ronnie Scott's, but in your mind you’re off to wherever this persuasive singer wants to take you. In her version of Old Cape Cod I could taste that salty sea air, feel the sand in my toes and the sea breeze on my face. Her rich, smooth glossy and effortlessly relaxed vocal was a dream. Light fills, sensitively played by guitar, sax and keys, ebbed and flowed around the vocals with a beautifully lyrical solo from Dave O’Brien on double bass.

Having established a wonderful, restful mood like that, Kai didn’t let the audience relax for long. She launched into Reet Petite giving us a glimpse of both her raunchy red petticoat and her fiery, resplendent spirit.

She has a band that never fails to delight. Never overpowering, always full of vibrant energy, they treated us to effortlessly inventive piano solos (Liam Dunachie) and authentic blues guitar (Simon Picton). Dan Faulkner’s wailing sax was happily reminiscent of saxophone giant Sam Butera. A cooking double bass and drums combo kept the energy level high throughout.

It’s hard to believe that this was the very first outing for Kai Hoffman’s new "50s Jamboree" line-up. This super-tight band has a fabulous grasp of the different styles and feels. The mood never stopped changing, highlighting the enormous variety of popular music in the 1950s as well as Kai Hoffman's clever programme-planning. A debut this good can only lead to a dazzling future.

Kai Hoffman- Vocals
Dan Faulkner- Tenor Saxophone
Simon Picton- Guitar
Liam Dunachie- Piano
Dave O’Brien- Double Bass
Mez Clough- Drums


CD REVIEW: Tore Brunborg - Slow Snow

Tore Brunborg - Slow Snow
(ACT 9586-2. CD review by Jon Turney)

Tore Brunborg hasn’t had the international acclaim of other Norwegian saxophonists such as Jan Garbarek, from an earlier generation, or Marius Neset, from a later one. But a career stretching over more than three decades has seen him perform with stars including Manu Katché and Pat Metheny. British audiences have heard him with John Taylor in the Anglo-Scandinavian trio Meadow or, more likely, in pianist Tord Gustavsen’s quartet. His typical contribution to a Gustavsen gig is to supply whisper quiet accompaniment to the leader’s devoutly devotional piano, then bring things to a long-awaited climax with some relatively unrestrained tenor sax preaching when Gustavsen eventually finds his gospel groove.

The first track here replays that arc rather precisely, with Brunborg himself furnishing the soft piano chords that establish the atmosphere, fully two minutes before the saxophone joins in. It sets the style for much of the set. Pleasant if not especially striking themes and simple motifs. A disinclination to use three chords where two will do. Harmonic or even melodic movement emerging slowly. Unhurried, understated, and a thousand miles from the clattery rhythms and bustling lines of contemporary New York post bop.

It is a familiar musical neighbourhood – most jazz listeners would take this for an ECM recording in a blindfold test – perhaps even a little too familiar. Steinar Raknes on bass has some fine grooves. Per Oddvar Johansen on drums is not given a lot to do much of the time, but does it unobtrusively well.

The secret sauce here is Eivind Aarset’s guitar, whose sound has so many dimensions it must arise from some kind of fractal process. The easiest contributions to peg are the ocasional Frisell-ish twangs and brief fuzz-filled outbursts. But there are a host of other subtle colourings and commentaries. His constantly changing additions to the soundscape are an excellent, electronically enhanced complement to the solidly rooted lyricism of the saxophone. Like Brunborg, he is more likely to hint at deep feeling below the surface than indulge in anything more demonstrative – sometimes Scandinavian jazz can seem very English that way. But the combination is transformative, producing a carefully wrought session that is more than the sum of its parts.


PREVIEW / INTERVIEW: Matt Skelton (Close to You, Cadogan Hall, May 16th)

Matt Skelton

On 16th May at Cadogan Hall,  ‘Close To You: Sinatra and the Hollywood Quartet’ will present a reinvention of "Close to You", one of the great Sinatra recordings. In this feature about the project, Héloïse Werner interviewed drummer Matt Skelton:

LondonJazz News: What is your role in the project? 

Matt Skelton I'm the drummer and producer of the project. Brushes, count-ins and telephone.

LJN:  How did you come up with the idea?

MS: I've known the album Close To You for years. It's a masterpiece setting and telling of popular song. It's very special to me. About ten years ago violinist Andrew Haveron approached me with an idea to perform the CTY material featuring the quartet of which he was then a member. Somehow it didn't quite happen. Diaries, touring, money etc. I kept the project in mind aiming to locate a stylistically perfect fiddler with a fine sounding quartet. Enter John Mills and the Tippett Quartet. Matt Ford required little persuasion AND James Pearson got back to me. Around this time I'd also become aware of Callum Au, young genius arranger and a fellow 'make it happen yourself' kind of a person. Understandably, he loves this music and having asked him nicely, one afternoon in January, he transcribed it all off the record for us.

LJN:  Can you tell us about what the ensemble has already been up to so far?

MS: Thanks are due to both Cole Mathieson and Richard Pite for giving us our first dates last year making it possible to establish the group. I'm thrilled and somewhat relieved that the reaction from audiences & promoters has been so positive. I organised a showcase of CTY at Dean St Pizza last June. The audience reception was very enthusiastic indeed. It was a very memorable gig. Our current EPK on YouTube is composed of clips from this gig. We're hugely grateful to Stewart Collins who has been so very supportive of the project. He has provided us with some pretty fantastic opportunities to preform at festivals such as Henley and Petworth last summer. We also had great concert at the West Malling Festival in September.

LJN:  Seeing that the set up includes a classical string quartet, do you feel that performing as part of this ensemble is any different from performing with a more standard jazz group, and if so, why? 

MS: I love playing drums in orchestras & chamber groups. In the best circumstances it heightens your awareness of rhythmic placement and dynamics. Not just in terms of accompanying the singer, framing the song and aiming to help make the time feel comfy & groovy. I love the added responsibility of aiming to make the drums & rhythm section element properly homogenous with the string quartet, harp etc. Ilove this group for that… Everyone's heads up and fully invested. They have to be, it's often mercilessly exposed & delicate chamber music, oh yes, with drums & bass.

LJN:  Apart from the Cadogan Hall concert, what else have you got in the pipeline? 

MS: We're looking forward to performing at the Cheltenham Festival, Snape Proms, Newry Chamber Music Festival, Newbury Spring Festival and Thaxted Festival this year. I'm also looking into recording the group later this year. Yes, I have been on the phone quite a bit. We're also premiering a new project this summer with Claire Martin with the same ensemble. This new programme features material from the Shirley Horn - Johnny Mandel masterpiece record, Here's To Life. It features some pretty artful arranging by our very talented friend, Tommy Laurence.

LJN:  If you were to describe the project in five words, what would they be? 

MS: Worth the stress and hassle.

LINKS Cadogan Hall Tickets
Callum Au Interview
Tippett String Quartet Interview


Joshua Redman, Reuben Rogers, Gregory Hutchinson; Andy Sheppard & Rita Marcotulli at 2015 Gateshead

Joshua Redman, Reuben Rogers, Gregory Hutchinson
Photo Credit: Sage Gateshead
Joshua Redman, Reuben Rogers, Gregory Hutchinson; Andy Sheppard & Rita Marcotulli
(Gateshead International Jazz Festival 2015. Review by Phil Johnson)

A sharp-suited Joshua Redman began proceedings with a sociological observation. "Have you noticed that people here start drinking really early ?", he confided , explaining that he'd nipped out in search of an espresso and found himself surrounded by garishly costumed Stags and Hens. "Maybe I should have a couple of pints myself", he added later, and in retrospect, yes he probably should have done.

Unfailingly charming as a frontman , a selfless bandleader and a terrific saxophonist, all Joshua Redman needed to do was to light the blue touch paper of his group, stand well back and let the combustion begin . With a hotshot trio renowned for the intensity of their performances , featuring one of the most exciting drummers in the world - the fearsomely accomplished Gregory Hutchinson - and a recent album, 'Trios Live' apparently dedicated to exactly that piratical swagger associated with the Village Vanguard trios of Sonny Rollins, everything seemed set up perfectly yet it took a good hour to stoke up some heat.

They began with a quietly forceful Surrey with the Fringe on the Top, the gorgeous tune - once a memorable scatting feature for Betty Carter - made into a series of short staccato blasts by Redman's tenor sax, with Hurchinson grounding the stop-start tempo with powerful shuffle-rhythms . As an opener , it was great but several of the original Redman compositions that followed failed to imprint themselves on the memory and the gathering intensity rather stalled.

A tune by Mat Penman, Redman's colleague in James Farm, and a standard ballad, Never Let Me Go were impeccably tasteful, but it was late in the day before anyone did any serious sweating , or Hutchinson showed us how truly monstrous a drummer he can be.

Not that jazz needs to be judged by sweat and brute force alone, of course. But when you've got one of the great cooking trios in front of you (and I'd seen them play at triple the intensity at a previous show a few years ago), you can be forgiven for wanting at least a little more heat than we got, solid enough performance as it was.

o - o - o - o

Andy Sheppard, who opened for Loose Tubes in Hall One on Sunday Night, playing in a duo with the marvellous Italian pianist Rita Marcotulli, delivers intensity in a kind of slow release drip. His playing on either tenor or soprano saxophones specialises in the gradual accretion of expressive effects, from big breathy gouts to little hiccup-like chirps.

It's a familiar method, as he's been perfecting such an approach for years, but this doesn't render it any less effective. The longstanding occasional partnership with Marcotulli also represents perhaps his most successful musical setting, as the playfulness of her customary style allows her to combine the essential role of foil with unusual gracefulness and wit, while delivering solo after solo with unerring conviction. She's a fascinating composer, too, and twenty years ago produced one of the best of all post-modern jazz albums, The Woman Next Door, an imaginative suite dedicated to the films of Francois Truffaut.

They played for 45 minutes, moving from chasing each other's melodic tails with mirrored sounds suggestive of birdsong, to grand sensitive ballads, Sheppard alternating tenor and soprano throughout the set.

If at times they seemed to spread themselves a little thinly between the musical jokes and bagatelles, the performance more than fulfilled its essential function as a pleasing opening diversion before the evening's main event.

Gateshead Jazz Festival website


REVIEW: David Sanborn Band plus John Scofield/Jon Cleary at the Barbican

David Sanborn. Soundcheck at the Barbican April 2015
Photo Credit: Paul Wood

David Sanborn Band/John Scofield & Jon Cleary
(Double Bill,  Barbican Halll, 11th April 2015. Review by Rob Mallows

This double bill was a gig of real contrasts. On the one hand, Sanborn’s return to his fusion heyday and his renowned electric live sound of the 'eighties and 'nineties; on the other, the stripped back, down and dirty New Orleans sound of Jon Cleary and John Scofield. Massively different sounds and moods.

Jon Cleary and John Scofield’s duet was a pleasant surprise. Jon Cleary is steeped in the New Orleans blues-y jazz sound. His booming iron-fist-in-a-velvet-glove voice straight out of Basin Street, non-stop stomping right foot rhythm and rootsiest of piano sounds, all left-hand swing and right-hand pyrotechnics, dominated the stage. Scofield was content at times to just harmonise with Cleary’s groove, before breaking out his angular, horn-like guitar lines and sonorous harmonic chords. Sco’s guitar tone was the right side of dirty and complemented Cleary’s more conventional sound, so that they worked surprisingly well as a duo.

There were few surprises in the set list of Cleary songs, the ballads and up-tempo tunes all conveying his signature sound, but it was his brio and showmanship on tracks like opener Fever, Cuttin’ in and My baby’s in love with another guy which cut through. Scofield’s playing was exemplary - the loss of a string on Soothe me made no difference and he made do with five for the rest of the set - and full of groove, the ecstatic whoops from the audience at the end of each solo demonstrating that whatever genre he plays, he brings a sense of adventure and out-on-a-limb tonality in his playing. Yet, he was clearly prepared to give much of the spotlight to Cleary (literally, in many cases moving out of the beam into the shadow).

Jon Cleary. Soundcheck at the Barbican April 2015
Photo Credit: Paul Wood
Scofield Cleary’s simple stage show was something of a musical palette cleanser to the fusion pyrotechnics of the David Sanborn Band.

Jazz fusion may not be the coolest of jazz genres - particularly not its clean, precision-engineered ‘eighties/‘nineties variant - but when it’s done well it has the capacity to blow an audience away as it did at the (surprisingly not full) Barbican Hall. David Sanborn is now 69 and subject to, in his words, the odd “senior moment’ on stage, such as forgetting the title of second track Brother Ray. Yet, put an alto sax in his hands, and feed it through an effects mixing desk, and he blows with just the same soul, groove and pin-point definition of 1988’s Grammy-winning Close Up album, which provided the musical fulcrum for this journey back to his electric-fusion heartlands, hinted at by set opener Coming home. Buoyed up by a new album, the recently released Time and the River full of smooth studio-friendly sounds and produced by Marcus Miller, their first collaboration for fifteen years, on stage Sanborn clearly has more capacity to let rip and give full reign to playing that’s made him the go-to guy for rock, jazz and pop artistes over four decades.

Sanborn was backed by a group of crack musicians - Nicholas Moroch on guitars, Chris Coleman on drums, Karl Vanden Bossche on percussion and Ricky Peterson on keyboards, with standout group member bassist Andre Barry, providing the Marcus Miller-like slap and pop on tracks the Miller-penned Maputo and Camel island and grabbing centre stage for five minutes of Jimi-Hendrix-style bass pyrotechnics on Run for Cover which got the biggest holler of the night from the audience. As a band, they had punch and cut-through (and credit to the sound desk for a fantastic mix!) to conquer such a big venue with their faultless group playing. Alongside the up-tempo crowd favourites were new tracks like Ordinary people, a moving lament to the economic plight of the average Joe, written after watching too much network news back home, alongside familiar ballads like set encore The dream

Scofield and Sanborn. Two old masters, showing how it’s done. A real treat.

John Scofield. Soundcheck at the Barbican April 2015
Photo Credit: Paul Wood


HAPPY 50th BIRTHDAY: David Gordon

David Gordon with Jacqui Dankworth

Nobody active in music in the UK has the same spread of activity as pianist/ harpsichordist/ composer DAVID GORDON, who is 50 years old today. Many happy returns

As a harpsichordist he works with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the English Concert (eg a recording of CPE Bach Symphonies directed by Andrew Manze). As a composer recent commissions have included "Inspired by Bach" for his jazz trio and the London Chamber Orchestra - performed at Cadogan Hall in 2013, a premiere which prompted conductor Christopher Warren-Green to say: “I have played with many great musicians, but tonight I have shared the stage with one of England’s finest musicians and composers – David Gordon.”

He has been guest artist at the Risør Chamber Music Festival in Norway in 2012 and 2014, including appearing as director/soloist with Norwegian Chamber Orchestra; orchestra, and improvising a fugue on a theme chosen by the audience in a Handel keyboard concerto.

In jazz, he works regularly with Christian Garrick and Jacqui Dankworth. His new CD "Alexander Scriabin’s Ragtime Band" will be released in the autumn. Another release on its way is "Butterfly’s Wing", in a quartet with Jacqui Dankworth, Chris Garrick and Ben Davis. 

In anticipation of David Gordon's fiftieth, Sebastian asked him some tricky questions...

o - o - o - o

LondonJazz News: You play in performing contexts with very different expectations? How?!

David Gordon: Like any social behaviour, it’s about horses for courses, and just as I function differently when playing stride or freebop, so it is with different types of earlier music. So for example playing the music of Corelli – it’s textbook stuff, and tends to elicit something of a textbook response.

But when I’m playing, as I do, in a project involving 18th century Brazilian-based Portuguese music, with exotic-sounding Portuguese singers and strumming guitars, why not bring in influences of for example Rubén González?

And early Italian baroque music, by composers like Dario Castello, often calls for a flamboyant approach to keyboard accompaniment, with all kinds of altered and dissonant harmonies, a tumultuous and melodramatic texture, the works.

LJN: And solo playing in the baroque context?

DG: Improvising a fugue – although hard work and requiring discipline – can provide great freedom, and unlike most jazz playing, you have the freedom to determine the ‘argument’, as you’re improvising a whole piece, not just a response to something existing.

LJN: There are so few improvisers in classical music....

DG: Yes, improvisation is so little expected still in a ‘classical’ and even baroque setting that the act of doing it creates a freedom in itself – that’s to say, the boundaries have already been violated, and as in logic anything can be inferred from a falsehood.... I just mean that having done something essentially ‘wrong’ gives the chance for what follows to be more easily accepted - which I find often involves deviating wildly from what’s on the printed page.

I’ve certainly found that performing written music from long ago – which has always seemed a slightly strange thing to do – becomes immediately more engaging if I in a sense collaborate with the piece’s composer and with the times and conventions of its composition.

LJN:  What about the freedoms which some performing contexts give you and the inhibitions imposed on you?

DG: Again I think it’s just about parameters. As musicians we’re constantly testing the boundaries, and after a 20th century where strangeness in art was prized above almost anything, we soon discover that inhibition is less about a struggle with socio-musical norms, and more about inner demons. I think I’d say I have the experience of freedom and inhibition in similar proportions whether playing baroque music or jazz.

LJN: Are there risks?

If you mean in the sense of a short-circuit-in-the-brain, socially-unacceptable jazz red (or blue) mist in the middle of a baroque concert.....No. Or at least I don’t think so – you’d have to ask my colleagues :)

The ‘risks’ are usually subtler in nature, so for example when improvising in the context of a Handel concerto, it’s easy to slip into Mozartian language, and when improvising a Mozart cadenza, it’s very easy to end up sounding like Beethoven. But things have improved in that respect: the first time I improvised a cadenza in a Bach concerto, a friend – who’s now a well-respected writer on music – said that it sounded like Wagner.

LJN: I've wondered where you can have possibly gone to find role models to do what you do?

I don’t know the answer to this question, so I’ll give four different non-answers.

1. Nowhere. I don’t have any. Over the years I’ve briefly got a bit excited to hear that some harpsichordists, such as the great George Malcolm, played jazz as youngsters. But as far as I know most of the classical guys who improvised and were into jazz tended to leave all that behind in order to pursue a ‘serious’ career.

2. Into the past. The composer-improviser-director-keyboard player model inspires me still – before the one role was split into four. And having done a little bit of reading, I’m interested in the way that quite a bit of baroque music is regarded as a mixture of ‘play’ and ‘research’. That’s something that helps me model what I do.

3. Wise friends. I’m very lucky to have a bunch of regular collaborators who see the potential in what I have to offer, and who encourage me to push my boundaries. In addition, some one-off meetings have yielded interesting results – such as playing banjo and harpsichord duo with the amazing Stian Carstensen last summer; doing some writing and arranging for the Brodsky Quartet; and working with visual artists, dancers and so on, encourages me to be a ‘whole’ musician. And then working on projects which involve recasting the music of Purcell, or Bach, or Scriabin, gives me the opportunity – if I’m listening carefully – to what those musicians have to tell me.

4. Appetites. I think this is what it boils down to – using our sensibilities and feelings is the best way of rendering role models redundant. So, whether I’m listening to Miles’s ESP or playing Louis Couperin’s music on the Hatchlands Ruckers harpsichord, I’m equally transported. I can’t really do without these things, and just need to accept that’s part of who I am.

LJN: Finally, are things changing, barriers falling?

DG: I have one 16-year old and a 12-year old student, both of whom seem to be equally happy and able in baroque and jazz worlds, and I’m pinning many hopes on them.


- A new CD Alexander Scriabin’s Ragtime Band, to be released in September

- Romanesque, a concerto for recorder, strings and percussion to be premiered at Ryedale Festival, July 2015 by Charlotte Barbour-Condini and the Fitzwilliam Quartet, plus Adam Summerhayes, Malcolm Creese and Asaf Sirkis.

- Seven Sins of Tango, proposed new suite of tango-jazz for David Gordon Trio and London Concertante, CD and tour Autumn 2015 through to 2016.

- CD Release: Butterfly’s Wing, quartet with Jacqui Dankworth, Chris Garrick and Ben Davis.



REVIEW: Ed Cherry Quartet with guest Jean Toussaint at Pizza Express Jazz Club

Ed Cherry Quartet with guest Jean Toussaint
(Pizza Express Jazz Club, 11th April 2015. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

These two gentlemen in their virtually identical hats (above), hadn't seen each other for about three decades, it turned out. Guitarist Ed Cherry, was leading a quartet on this rare visit to London. He remembered that when he was at the beginning of his decade and a half in Dizzy Gillespie's band, in the early eighties, saxophonist Jean Toussaint had been in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Their paths would often cross when the respective bands were both booked at European festivals, they had got on well and spent time together.

Not only the title but also the essence of first tune they played together, In a Sentimental Mood, captured that joyous moment of re-connection. They took it gently, thoughtfully, respectfully, passing the tune back and forth. Their solos hugged the shoreline of the melody extremely close. At the moment when Cherry finished the first solo, his closing chords to hand the solo duties over to Toussaint had a quiet warmth, an ineffable, featherlight gentleness about them. It was a truly heart-warming moment.

Cherry gave lesson after lesson like that, he is a real specialist in the exercise of soft power. The multiplicity of ways he knows to contribute to a texture imperceptibly, his lightness of touch in comping and accompanying are, in their understated way, sensational. Sometimes he seems to conjure sounds from the guitar by almost not touching it at all. However, when required to step forward, he plays with a leader's conviction, and the baritone register notes resonate heroically. He did that to maximum effect in an unaccompanied solo excursion on Body and Soul, where those stentorian voices dialogued with a melodic higher voice as sweet as any you'll hear.  And he was to left an all-too-brief surprise in store for the end of his 100-minute set. Cherry laid out his guitar slightly more horizontally across  his lap, and as he played a couple of blues choruses to say good-night, he produced a tantalising glimpse of wholly different range of guitar timbre and vocabulary. It was like being transported to another world: Wes Montgomery was in the room.

Cherry had empathetic support from the subtle and sensitive pianist Albert Sanz, from bassist Mark Hodgson on top form and ever-creative drummer/ instigator/mastermind Stephen Keogh.

Ed Cherry needs to come back here, and soon.



REVIEW: Bill Laurance at the 100 Club

Bill Laurance at the 100 Club
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2015 All Rights Reserved.

Bill Laurance
(100 Club, in aid of the Samaritans, 9th April 2015; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

'Last time I did a solo concert was when I was doing my A-levels - which is kinda weird!' announced Bill Laurance, pianist with Grammy award-winning Snarky Puppy, who explained that this one-off gig at the 100 Club, to raise funds for the Samaritans, (previewed here) had come into being because his girlfriend works with the Samaritans.

Laurance, while studying at Leeds School of Music took an international study year at University of Texas, where he met Snarky Puppy's Michael League and, as he has said, 'the rest is history.'

The band's education outreach featured in Laurance's invitation to emerging percussionist, Felix Higginbottom, a NYJO alumnus who came through last year's Wall of Sounds artistic residency with Snarky Puppy in Manchester, to join his second half trio completed by virtuoso acoustic guitarist, Juliano Modarelli, a fellow student with Laurance at Leeds. (We published Kieran McLeod's account of participating in a previous Manchester residency)

Laurance's spellbinding solo piano set had an 'unplugged' intimacy to it. His approach mixed the qualities of peaceful reflection and unabashed sentimentality with the gently dramatic that could burst in to full flow of power salsa or Ahmad Jamal-inspired jazz piano perfection.

The rolling chords of Chia from his first solo album, Flint, set the tone with a sense of filmic drama and a tinge of the middle east. His treatment of mid-50s Mexican folk song Cucurrucucu merged a touch of Satie with chanson, while Denmark Hill, dedicated to his girlfriend, saw his right hand cross over the left to take the bass lines while his left hand took the melody! The charmed lyricism of The Isles written in response to a panoramic aerial view on a tour flight led on to round off with flying glissandos and grin-inducing, syncopated polyrhythms well in to Snarky territory.

The trio adopted Modarelli's immersion in the musical heritage of the Indian sub-continent with demon-fast guitar/piano synchronised runs summoning up the flavours of early Mahavishnu John McLaughlin, circa My Goal is Beyond. Higginbottom bided his time, with the restraint of his minimal percussion adding to the atmosphere of a simmering jam. He watched, hawk-like for each cue, added speed pattering as the trio got on a roll, and when Laurance rang the changes with a honey-sweet 'first bossa' written early in the year and a lilting Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, his tabla hand-drumming swung with the funky drive of Modarelli's Indian-spiced Spanish guitar.

The evening gave a touching, personal insight in to Laurance's playing and the breadth of his palette and to the ambition he has for this budding trio amongst his many projects. It was, too, a very strong platform for the lifeline that the Samaritans offer for those in the most difficult places in their lives.

LINKS: Central London Samaritans
Bill Laurance website


CD REVIEW: Big Screen – Take One

Big Screen – Take One
(Linn Records AKD 504. CD Review by Peter Jones)

Take One is a collection of nine tunes taken from 20th century shows and films. It features the combined talents of this project’s prime mover, the drummer Matt Skelton, bassist Tom Farmer and award-garlanded pianist David Newton. Not bad as an opening proposition, so it comes as no surprise that this highly professional trio have duly delivered a highly polished album, beautifully recorded by Chris Traves in someone’s Eastbourne home.

With the exception of Vangelis’s theme to Chariots of Fire, Take One is solid Hollywood: mainstream, mostly upbeat, toe-tapping stuff that will be extremely familiar to the audience. There’s no truck with European cinema here, no moody ECM-style introspection, nor even any hint of postwar musical dissonance. The album is dominated by that chirpy kind of vibe you used to get from the Dudley Moore Trio, back in the days when there was jazz on TV. The musicians play with that close, listening togetherness that generates intensity, the kind of intensity you only really get with piano trios.

Things gallop off in fine style with the theme from the 1964 nose-twitching TV sitcom Bewitched. According to Peter Erskine’s liner notes, the show’s producers were originally planning to use Frank Sinatra’s version of Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, then realized it would be too expensive, and asked composers Howard Greenfield and Jack Keller to come with an alternative within the week. This tune was the result.

Most of Take One is uptempo, including tunes more commonly performed as ballads, such as Old Man River (from Show Boat, 1927) and On The Street Where You Live (My Fair Lady, 1956). As you would expect with such a Hollywood focus, the quieter numbers are played sweet, pretty and sentimental rather than deep, thoughtful and melancholy: The Heather on the Hill (Brigadoon, 1947), Randy Newman’s When She Loved Me (here mistitled When Somebody Loved Me) from Toy Story 2, 1999, and Wouldn’t It Be Loverly (My Fair Lady again).

Take One… hmm, what are the chances of Take Two: The Sequel?

Big Screen have dates across the UK from now until September. Tour Dates from Linn Records


PHOTOS: Ed Cherry at Pizza Express Jazz Club (first night)

Ed Cherry, Pizza Express Dean St, April 2015
Photo credit: Paul Wood

Photographer Paul Wood caught the first night of this rare, brief visit to London by guitarist ED CHERRY, who was alongside Dizzy Gillespie from 1978 until the trumpeter died in 1993. There is just more chance to catch him tonight. Start time is 7 30pm. 
Albert Sanz, Pizza Express Dean St, April 2015
Photo credit: Paul Wood

Mark Hodgson, Pizza Express Dean St, April 2015
Photo credit: Paul Wood

Stephen Keogh, foreground, with Ed Cherry, Albert Sanz, 
Mark Hodgson.   Pizza Express Dean St, April 2015
Photo credit: Paul Wood


CD REVIEW: Daniel Herskedal - Slow Eastbound Train

Daniel Herskedal - Slow Eastbound Train
(Edition Records EDN1057. CD Review by Adrian Pallant)

Norwegian tuba player Daniel Herskedal turned heads in 2012 with the release of his outstanding duo album Neck of the Woods – a revelatory collaboration with friend and musical compatriot, saxophonist Marius Neset. Now, for much-anticipated follow-up Slow Eastbound Train, it is piano, percussion and chamber string orchestra that join him to broaden the creative possibilities.

The vast Scandinavian landscapes of Herskedal's homeland are never far away in his panoramic compositions, and these latest creations brim with distinct, filmic themes of journeying amidst climatic forces. This is textural, shifting, impressionistic jazz imbued with folkish melodies and improvisation, which Herskedal and colleagues – Eyolf Dale, Helge Andreas Norbakken and Norway's renowned Trondheim Soloists – deliver with clarity and, frequently, a pressing sense of momentum.

It is often remarked upon that the tuba is an unlikely solo instrument (especially in improvisatory spheres), due to its great physicality and, presumably, the wider embouchure required – but there are evidently no such barriers for the Norwegian, which the serenity, fire and apparent confidence of his live performances impressively bear witness to. Herskedal's instrumental capabilities are enhanced by sensitive multiphonics (often generated by his own voice) and effective electronic layering/looping, subtly coaxing from his tuba – as well as the perhaps lesser-known bass trumpet – echoic, transcendent majesty.

Vivid in its storytelling, the title track's elegant rail travel is portrayed by a plaintive tuba melody and gently oscillating cello/string accompaniment, punctuated with percussive 'fishplate' clanking and ingeniously simulated 'track-crossing' quickening. The lilting swell of watery companion piece Slow Eastbound Boat is coloured by evocative, Oriental, unison portamento lines from the Trondheim Soloists whilst, delicately sun-kissed by Dale's spacial piano and Norbakken's crisply glinting rhythms, Herskedal's bass trumpet extemporisations seem to cry to an azure sky. And Snowflake briskly pirouettes to hard-edged upper strings and sparklingly modal jazz piano runs.

Droplet pizzicato strings announce Rainfall, whose bright, exotic cheerfulness is maintained by swirling piano and tuba whilst the intricate, shuffling percussion (rather than drum kit) confirms how well it suits the open timbres of this line-up. The comparative bleakness of The Solar Wind's Effect on Earth, represented by Herskedal's constantly eddying chordal overlays, evolves into a Debussyesque, piano-embellished wellspring before segueing into contrasting miniature Daniel's Dust Devil which bubbles mischievously to the leader's audaciously rapid lower-end technique. Crosswind Landing pulsates to a high-energy groove reminiscent of Kronos's world music adventures; and Mussorgsky's Bydlo (from Pictures at an Exhibition) makes an appearance, the ominous trundling of the original tuba tune improvised up into high vocal range.

An album that reveals more of Herskedal's individualistic intent for this grand master of the brass family, Slow Eastbound Train is, by turns, atmospheric, thrilling and thoroughly enchanting.


NEWS: Carlton Tavern in Kilburn destroyed by developers

All that remained yesterday of the Carlton Tavern

There is a real sense of loss among musicans following yesterday's wanton, sudden demolition by developers CLTX of the Carlton Tavern in Carlton Vale in Kilburn, ahead of a preservation order. The back room hosted hundreds of gigs. FULL STORY FROM THE KILBURN TIMES


CD REVIEW: Mikko Innanen with William Parker and Andrew Cyrille – Song for a New Decade

Mikko Innanen with William Parker and Andrew Cyrille – Song for a New Decade
(TUM Records TUM CD 042-2. Double album. CD Review by Jon Turney)

Jazz is a marginal art form. You won’t get rich. But there are compensations. A young horn player from a small town in the Uusimaa/Nyland region of Finland, for instance, can make his way to New York, and befriend and perform with Andrew Cyrille. A shared wish to record, and a call to William Parker, and a dream team trio is convened a month later.

The result – a player just reaching his prime sharing music with two old masters – is as fascinating for the listener as it must have been satisying for Mikka Innanen. He was a little nervous going in, he writes. But as you’d expect the two old pros made him feel comfortable to just be himself. Not too comfortable. There is plenty of edge to these performances, all but one based on pieces Innanen wrote specially for the date.

There are eight studio tracks on the first of this pair of CDs, and they are pleasingly varied. The title track is a jagged-contoured piece with Innanen’s alto saxophone improvising freely, but it soon gives way to The End is a Beginning, a simple six-figure motif that evokes lyrical, melodic, alto with hints of Ornette in the solo. Karl’s Castle moves to straight time, with the freeboppish theme now on baritone sax. The spontaneously created Look for the Red Door changes the sound again, with Innanen playing Indian Clarinet mournfully over repeated bass and drum figures and gathering intensity over eight minutes of twists and turns. And so it goes on, building a nicely paced and considered set with the fresh, exploratory feel that comes from players working together for the first time.

The presence of Cyrille, a creative marvel since the 1960s, is also a reminder of Jazz’s astonishingly compressed history. Our new generation Finn finds himself in the studio with a drummer whose first recording was with Coleman Hawkins. With Parker’s experience on the bass more than a match for the drummer, Innanen has two colleagues who have played pretty much everything there is to play, but remain eager for more.

The result is not a major addition to the astonishing discography of either player, but it is more than an excellent document of a tradition being re-examined and renewed. Cyrille’s kit is beautifully tuned, and beautifully recorded here, and he in particular does seem to have a special connection with the Finn. That is confirmed by the second CD, a live duo date with the drummer a couple of years later. The six tracks here are taken from a continuous improvised performance that is, if anything, even more varied than the trio set. It’s impressive stuff, and it would be interesting to hear what this collaboration would sound like today – the studio and live sets here were captured in 2010 and 2012, respectively. It is far from clear why Tum have only been able to package them for release now. It probably has something to do with jazz being a marginal art form. But it is very good to have them both.


NEWS: Bridge to our Memories Premiere in Purcell Room on 18 April

Tomorrow's Warriors are premiere-ing a new work Bridge to Our Memories at the Purcell Room on the South Bank. The suite consists of five piees by Ben Burrell, Yazz Ahmed, Peter Edwards, Binker Golding and Nathaniel Facey. The commission is supported by money from the PRS for Music Foundation. Performers are the Tomorrow's Warriors Youth Orchestra directed by Nathaniel Facey. BBC Radio 3 Jazz on 3 are recording the concert for transmission on 4th May.

We are told: : "Admission is entirely free" (apart from the South Bank's £1.75 booking fee), "but you do need to book." 


REVIEW: Stacey Kent at the Royal Spa Centre, Leamington Spa

Stacey Kent - from artist Facebook page

Stacey Kent
(Royal Spa Centre, Leamington Spa. 8 April 2015. Review by Nicolas Pillai)

The sun was setting outside, but within the auditorium of the Spa Centre, a drape decorated with twinkling stars provided the backdrop for Stacey Kent and her band, Jim Tomlinson (tenor saxophone, flute, guitar), Graham Harvey (piano), Jeremy Brown (bass) and Josh Morrison (drums). Over two sets, these musicians essayed sixteen songs and an encore, largely divided between Tomlinson’s original collaborations with Kazuo Ishiguro and the Brazilian love songs that Kent so obviously adores. It was a generous performance, nostalgic without seeming hackneyed, in which the overall tone of the evening was set by Kent’s description of the qualities she admires in a lyric: “longing but also hope.”

Songs were drawn from Kent’s newest album with this ensemble, The Changing Lights, from her 2007 Blue Note release “Breakfast on the Morning Tram” and from her collaboration with Marcos Valle, “Ao Vivo”. There was also a healthy portion of Antonio Carlos Jobim in the repertoire: the haunting Photograph, One Note Samba, This Happy Madness, a vocal duet between Kent and Tomlinson on Águas de Março and, as an encore, So Danco Samba. As ever with Kent, these bright moments lent colour and richness to the melancholy that underpins her voice. She clearly enjoyed inhabiting zestier lyrics, as in the Tomlinson-Ishiguro Waiter, Oh Waiter and Lerner and Loewe’s Show Me from “My Fair Lady”. Once accused of being a static performer, last night Kent was voluble and animated - constantly moving, resplendent in patent wedges.

Similarly active was Tomlinson, whose various roles demonstrated his multi-instrumentalism and his bilingual skills (affectionately mocked for his virtuosity by his wife). Providing tight, unshowy support, Harvey, Brown and Morrison were for the most part at the service of their singer, but each had moments in the spotlight. Morrison - who had provided a percussive pulse throughout - saved his best moment for the encore, with a restrained yet swinging solo on So Danco Samba.

I have seen Kent speak at greater length between songs in the past. Here, she concentrated especially on her recent collaborators. It is evident that encounters with Ishiguro and Valle have expanded her expressive range and her choice of material, and I hope that we will get to see her perform with Valle in this country soon.

In the interval and after the gig, Kent and Tomlinson signed CDs in the foyer, chatting with audience members like old friends. Perhaps it is this open quality which charms her listeners so much, a wry shrug and a step forward into unknown territory anchored by that masterful control of the microphone. In that voice there is longing and there is hope, for darkness had fallen as the audience left the gig, but I am still basking in its warmth the next day.