REVIEW: Peter Brötzmann / Hamid Drake / William Parker Trio at Cafe Oto

Drake, Parker, and Brötzmann,Cafe Oto Jan 2015.
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2015. All Rights Reserved

Peter Brötzmann / Hamid Drake / William Parker Trio
(Cafe Oto, 27th January 2015: day one of a three day residency; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

From Peter Brötzmann's first blast on tenor to Hamid Drake's showers of drum rolls and William Parker's bowed solo at the final curtain, their two sets of rolling intensity in a packed, hot Cafe Oto allowed no compromises. This seasoned improvising trio read each other's playing, and accommodated occasional tangential surprises, with a natural, flowing confidence born out of their long-standing association going back to the early 90s - notably in the Die Like a Dog Quartet with trumpeter Toshinori Kondo.

Brötzmann took the lead in terms of melodic input, in charged repetitions underscored with a dense, rhythmic imperative, but equally capable of lyrical flights on alto and silver clarinet. Parker and Drake wove their ways in and out of these threads with masterly understatement, supplying both the heartbeats and cascading passages to complement Brötzmann's singleminded advance.

At one with the upright bass, Parker, in trance-like mode, would deftly pluck at the strings with his right hand, while briefly resting his left on its body, taking up the bow to supplement the timbres. Drake's rich concatenations of percussive interplay with Brötzmann's explorations added another level of sensitivity to the rhythmic flows.

The deserts of Africa met the mountains of the Balkans when the second set opened with Drake singing a melodic poem as his fingers traced patterns on a hand-held frame drum, and Parker calmly putting down the essential pulse on the two strings of a guembri/sintir, to be joined by the plaintive yearnings of Brötzmann's tarogato, which then took on a North African flavour to add another disarming cross-cultural current to the mix.

The trio never let down their guard for a moment, even at their most relaxed. Their power phrasing was matched by beautiful duet interludes and brief snatches of funky, rock and soul backbeat. There was even a hint of Round Midnight. By eleven fifteen the trio had given their all and garnered a resoundingly appreciative response from an audience that had followed every step of their richly nuanced dialogue.


CD REVIEW: Mike Collins - And suddenly, evening

Mike Collins - And suddenly, evening
(Suitpieces Records spr0002. CD Review by Adrian Pallant)

Those fortunate enough to have viewed the gentle illumination of the city once known as Aquae Sulis, at dusk from higher ground, might easily concur that this new quartet release, And suddenly, evening, offers a fittingly elegant soundtrack.

With a title actually inspired by Salvatore Quasimodo's poem Ed e Subito Sera – 'Everyone stands alone at the heart of the world, pierced by a ray of sunlight, and suddenly it is evening' – Bath-based pianist Mike Collins presents an accomplished programme of three originals and five arrangements which shimmer, mercurially, with subtle diffusions and crisp glints of light. Joining him are the equally adept Lee Goodall (saxophones), Ashley-John Long (bass) and Greg White (drums).

Opening with Pete Erskine's On the Lake (written for piano, bass and drums), the quartet colours  its sublimity differently, with Lee Goodall's softly-phrased and extended soprano sax improvisations; with Mike Collins' amiable piano cadences complemented by Ashley-John Long's delicately hovering bass soloing, and a diminishingly abstract watercolour coda, sundown at the water's edge is beautifully reflected. The 'polite funk' of Collins' own piano trio piece, Grieg is Here, possesses a charming Monkish impudence characterised by the resounding pliancy of Long's bass and the pianist's endearing melodic japes (perhaps a classic in the making); and Cole Porter's Everything I Love exudes, with notable immediacy, the feel-good swing of a good jazz night out, Collins' soloing both bright and frequently unpredictable.

The lyrical melancholy of Alec Wilder's Blackberry Winter is given a more optimistic 'New York smooth' groove in Collins' piano trio format, Greg White's softly brushed kit and Long's sustained bass underpinning crystalline, high piano extemporisation. Flat Six, a buoyant, ticking original from the leader, features fine tenor work from Goodall (phrasing and vibrato reminiscent of both Barbara Thompson and Tim Garland) and a memorable 'head', whilst the piano and bass duo arrangement of Cuban singer/songwriter Silvio Rodriguez's Oleo De Mujer Con Sombrero (inspired by Bobo Stenson's interpretation) dances elegantly and spaciously, Long's accurately decorated bass lines so very appealing.

ReProm highlights, again, the quality and attractiveness of Mike Collins' compositions – a lively, breezy quartet number which all seem to revel in. Here, Goodall brings both animation and mellowness to his sax explorations, as Collins and Long also shine individually over Greg White's brisk percussion. To close, the most delightfully sumptuous reading of Thelonious Monk's classic Ruby My Dear, Goodall's tenor simply magnificent in its deep, carefree deportment, and exquisitely measured all round.

This is a splendidly accessible quartet that clearly thrives on its blend of originals and interpretations of standards. Certainly a satisfying album, indicating a great live experience, too.

The CD launch will be at Bristol's Be Bop Club on 20 February. Further dates are on the Mike Collins Trio website.


STOLEN INSTRUMENT: Rare cornopean from 1849

A very rare instrument indeed, a cornopean from 1849 was stolen from the Spice of Life in Soho last Friday 23rd January. It belongs to Digby Fairweather and was bequeathed to him in the will of sound restorer/ member of the Temperance Seven John RT Davies. If there are any helpful leads, please contact Digby at



Kelvin Christiane and Ray Gelato (tenor saxes) at Twickenham Jazz Club, January 2015

Lesley and Kelvin Christiane have been running Twickenham Jazz Club for ten years. As part of their tenth anniversary celebrations, Lesley has kindly written this entertaining, instructive piece for us about their work as indefatigable promoters at the heart of the London scene: Here, from the people who know, are "The Joys and the Delights of Running a Local Jazz Club:"

New Year, New Venue and wonderful things are happening at Twickenham's long-running Jazz Club which now has a new home The Famous Cabbage Patch in London Road Twickenham in Patchworks night club.

Twickenham Jazz Club has had a rocky old road since we originally conceived the idea of it over ten years ago. We simply wanted to put on some great gigs in our own home town to avoid the journey to central London. The original venue ' The Red Lion' Twickenham, is now a Tesco mini store, another venue a pizzeria and so it goes on, but running local Jazz Clubs can be like that. You have to be dedicated, open hearted, enthusiastic and flexible. To this day and completely against the odds the club presents great music and maintains a very committed jazz following.

The latest venue is inspired with a new purpose built music room. a pub that has a positive attitude to music that gives the couple creative scope to again push the frontiers of Jazz.

So what are the secrets of our success and this longevity?

1) " We try to present a truly varied programme. Jazz preferences are as broad as the genre itself and not everyone will like it all, but the element of surprise is integral to capturing new and different audiences"

2) "We are always hospitable and welcome everyone and have many small clubs are unfriendly and look on newcomers with is so important to be inclusive and create a good atmosphere and be prepared to share your table !"

3) We always vary the rhythm section to suit different musicians. unfortunately some clubs don't do this and it can all get a little stale and very hard for the guest artist to perform at their best. Jazz is mercurial and wants to change shape and wander to where it wants to..its hard if it is stuck in a thermometer.

4) For us. glamour is legitimate..dressing up is such fun and everyone wants to really.

5) We try to really look after our musicians.and never forget that making Jazz is a complex and demanding business, and they have dedicated their life to perfecting their we try to take care of them..because apart from the fact that many of them are our friends.if they feel happy in our venue, they play their very best and everyone benefits.

6) We don't take any of it too seriously ..not really .....!

- o - o - o -

Twickenham Jazz Club

The monthly programme always includes a Big Band Session with the in house Kelvin Christiane All Star Big Band. The Band Session which may include quartets, quintets. even sextets of original musicians with music that ranges from the mainstream American Songbook, to self-penned original music on the cutting edge of modern Jazz. The vocal session which is intimate and almost acoustic featuring our finest vocalists in a trio format, and there are ambitions to create a showcase night to present the new rising stars of Jazz..

Twickenham Jazz Club @ The Cabbage Patch.
Patchworks nightclub
67 London Road, TW1 3SZ.
(opposite Twickenham train station)

Tuesdays 8.30pm-11pm admission £11 concessions £10 


Tuesday 4th February
Kelvin Christiane ‘Allstars’ Big Band
Rousing night with the full Big Band sound, trumpets, trombones, saxophones, clarinets and full rhythm section featuring some of the finest names on the Jazz circuit and music from the roaring 40s to the present day.

Tuesday 10th February
Nick Mill's Blue Note Project
with Martin Shaw, trumpet, Nick Mill's,trombone, Leon Greening, piano, Jez Brown, double bass, Kelvin Christiane saxophone Matt Home, drums. Great all star sextet who's Jazz mantra is to keep the great music of the 60's Bluenote Era alive It Features the sounds of Art Blakeys Jazz Messengers, Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson & Lee Morgan. The sextet performs all over the UK and Europe at festivals and clubs including guests such as legendary US Saxophonist Dave Liebman.

Tuesday 24th February
The Vocal Session
Zoe Francis with Jim Mullen, guitar, Mick Hutton double bass
An intimate, mellow almost acoustic session with this wonderful jazz vocalist and guitarist and gifted jazz legend Jim Mullen.

WEBSITE: PHONE: 0208 286 3242


FESTIVAL ROUND-UP: Bodø Jazz Open 2015

Knut Reiersrud at Sinus, Bodø Jazz Open 2015
Photo credit: Henrik Dvergsdal
Bodø Jazz Open 2015: Festival Round Up
(Bodø, Norway, 21 - 24 January. Review by Jonathan Carvell)

Against a backdrop of elk burgers and biting arctic wind, the 2015 Bodø Jazz Open had a fascinating and broad artistic programme, from established international acts such as the Jan Garbarek Group on the opening night, (link below) to emerging artists like Elle Marja Eira, who writes anthemic songs about reindeer based on traditional Sami melodies.

The festival saw an appearance from percussionist Marilyn Mazur’s group Future Song. Mazur (who toured with Miles Davis in the 80s, image below) and her seven piece ensemble provided a wild ride through compound-time grooves, with plenty of world music influences, and Nils Petter Molvær’s effect-drenched trumpet provided a number of highlights. Contrast this, then, with an interactive dance show from Kartellet, who reinvent and re-imagine traditional folk forms to create performances where the audience are part of the show itself, sitting on stage as dancers whirl around them.

Marilyn Mazur at the Bodø Jazz Open 2015
Photo credit: Henrik Dvergsdal

There were more experimental projects such as 365 Losvik – trumpeter Ole Jørn Myklebust and guitarist Roger Ludvigsen’s ambient duo accompanying a slideshow of Martin Losvik’s photographs of northern Norway. Late night jam sessions took place in a temporary boathouse (complete with working sauna) in a square in the town centre: John-Kåre Hansen (guitar) and Dag Erik Pedersen (bass) ripped through standards on Friday night. The Band Called Oh! (recently nominated for a Norwegian Grammy) provided neo-soul, as part of the North Norwegian Jazz Centre’s wonderfully diverse showcase evening (which saw some 32 performers take to the stage in just shy of 75 minutes). Aleksander Kostopoulos, (photo below) a young drummer, shone as part of a number of groups that night. Knut Reiersrud and his band brought blues to Sinus – the smallest of the three fantastic halls in Stormen. As if that wasn’t enough, the last day saw the arrival of an entire symphony orchestra - the Arctic Philharmonic - for the second ever performance of Django Bates’ bass clarinet concerto, written for Håvard Lund (a founding member of Farmers Market). This was a work of great wit and invention, and more than held its own in a programme completed by Bernstein’s suites from West Side Story and On the Waterfront.

Aleksander Kostopoulos in the Elle Márjá Eira Band, Bodø Jazz Open 2015
Photo credit: Henrik Dvergsdal

As a festival, it didn’t feel like something just put together to sell tickets – although every event was certainly well-attended and well-received. The sense of openness that the festival’s name invokes was genuinely present throughout: audiences in Bodø are as keen to hear a small band romp through Mingus-esque charts as they are to hear traditional folk melodies for violin and harmonium. As the festival went on, these eclectic ingredients came together to create a real sense of the place itself and the cultural vibe.

In this rugged, beautiful, freezing part of the world, in the depths of winter, Bodø Jazz Open celebrates the myriad talents of Norway’s wonderfully diverse and rich musical culture.

LINK: Review of Jan Garbarek at the Bodø Jazz Open 2015


FESTIVAL ROUND-UP: 2015 South Coast Jazz Festival

Bobby Wellins, Geoff Simkins. South Coast Jazz Festival 2015
Photo Credit: Shaun Hines

Neal Richardson has just spent "three perfect, crisp January days by the sea" (January 23-25) at the 2015 South Coast Jazz Festival. He writes:

West Coast Cool? East Coast Hip? This past weekend it was all about South Coast Swagger… The UK’s south coast, that is, which saw the inaugural South Coast Jazz Festival take place in delightful Shoreham-by-Sea. Dreamt up, organised, curated and presented by Claire Martin OBE and Julian Nicholas, it had it all: all ages, all styles, all bases – from educational workshops for beginners, to talks, exhibitions, and masterclass concerts by top stars in the UK jazz firmament… all sharing an affinity of living near the sea.

The Ropetackle Arts Centre itself is excellent, with a foyer café/bar providing good food and a relaxed hubbub of musicians, audience, and locals, with the added majesty of David Redfern’s jazz photos gracing the walls.

- o - o - o -

Eleven Memorable Moments

· The Olympic roster of vocal talents on the opening night.

· Audience in tears (Liane Carroll amongst them) watching the local choir

· “If you make a mistake, don't worry about it - do it again!” . At the jazz workshop run by Sue Richardson and Trudy Kerr]

· Transcendent musicianship of the genre-busting and curiously-named Cloggz

· Cloggz’ 18yr-old guitarist Eden Townend’s perfectly tasteful accompaniment line on banjo (yes, really).

· Vibrant and engaged involvement of lots of young people in jazz (yes, you read that right).

· Audience singing to Bobby Wellins to celebrate his 79th birthday, on presentation of a cake during the gig. Radio 3 Jazz Line-up were there to record it.

· “I’m Glad to be here playing this gig on my birthday. At 79 I’m glad to be anywhere” (Bobby Wellins)

· Gareth Williams’ sublime solo piano introduction to It Never Entered My Mind

· “I can’t read these notes in this light – need my glasses – turns out mother was right all along” (Pete Long)

· Echoes of Ellington closing the Festival on Sunday night – a perfect ending.

- o - o - o -

Impressions of the Festival

I was impressed by the diversity of the programme. As well as the big stars – not least elder statesman Bobby Wellins, jazz headliners Liane Carroll, Ian Shaw, Pete Long, Mark Edwards, Mark Bassey, Geoff Simkins, Joe Stilgoe, Gareth Williams and of course Julian and Claire, there were solo acts up to big band; a local school choir; an improvisation workshop for kids; an all-day vocal workshop; an intro-to-jazz lecture by Kevin LeGendre; a film screening; performers aged 9 to 79; a close-up magician; a Sunday jam session…

The education programme produced, for me at least, a lump-in-the-throat moment at the end-of-workshop concert: 17 kids really having a go at soloing - and loving it. As Julian summed up “That’s not something we see enough of!”. This was sowing the seeds for the next generation of jazz - musicians and audience.

Another aspect to emphasize was the organic nature of it all. No huge company nor agency behind this; no huge PR budget; no corporate sponsorship (just a small Arts Council grant); no multi-level ego passes; no bullsh*t; just a tiny team with big ideas… which they pulled off with aplomb. I don’t know how they did it, but they did! Administratrix supreme Elaine Crouch, production manager Phil “Unflappable” Jackson and Ropetackle Centre Manager Anne Hodgson get a special mention here.

- o - o - o -

In Summary

The atmosphere was beautiful: friendly, supportive, family-friendly, with a focus on the true creativity and love of the music. Walks on the beach...twinkling yachts in the harbour...a laid-back vibe... it was a glimpse of the future of jazz, and jazz festivals – organic, new, friendly, accepting, inclusive. No wonder it was completely sold out… The future’s looking very sunny for South Coast Jazz. More please!

Neal Richardson of Splash Point Music is on Twitter as @splashpointmuse


INTERVIEW: John Turville (visit to Budapest to play the new Boganyi piano)

The Boganyi piano. Photo credit: Tamas Bujnovszky
John Turville has been in Budapest, to see and play the revolutionary new Boganyi piano, and has already talked to BBC Radio 3 Music Matters about his trip. Sebastian interviewed him, and also caught up with his other current projects:

LondonJazz News: You've just been in Budapest, and you've seen the new Boganyi piano?

John Turville: Yes. The first thing that strikes you is how it looks. It's a completely redesigned piano with two legs and lots of curves on the body - the philosophy is that the sound isn't lost through the floor but resonates out. The soundboard is made of a composite material which includes carbon-fibre - one of the results is a much longer sustain which is great for romantic music (you really noticed it on Debussy's Clair De Lune, which the inventor/ designer Gergely Boganyi played, after a Bach transcription)

LJN: And you also heard Gerald Clayton play it?

JT: He played Alone Together and Round Midnight for the journalists. You notice the clarity and immediacy of sound. Since so much mechanical noise is removed, you could say the instrument doesn’t stop connection to the music

John Turville playing the Boganyi
Photo Credit: Amanda Holloway

LJN: But you also you also played it yourself how was that?

JT: The effect when you're playing is almost being enclosed by the sound, but this isn't so apparent from the perspective of the audience.

LJN: And how was the action, the feel of the keys?

JT: You really notice the difference in the action. It was made by the German firm Rener - it's hard to describe but it has a watery feel - less hammer action and more tone and much easier to play. It feels great for jazz as it still has the precision and a great staccato but a lot less noise.

There's a great consistency in the sound, over the whole range - there's no distortion or harshness when you're playing loud. I guess sometimes you might be going for that effect but it feels much more immediate somehow. And there's a beautiful singing quality in the tone. (The idea was to go back to some of the qualities of the early Steinways - around 1910/20 which projected less but produced a more round tone).

LJN: And what other impressions did you get of Budapest?

JT: It's a beautiful city of course - I went there eight years ago and it's just as I remember - beautiful views of the old city from the castle and a great buzz for classical music with practice wafting out of every other window. I didn't experience the Turkish baths this time though, but they're kind of fun if you don't mind a bit of mild hypothermia.

LJN: And what's coming up in your schedule?

JT: I had a bit of a busy December recording three new albums, with Matt Ridley, Alan Barnes/Tony Kofi and a co-run sextet called Solstice (a lovely band featuring Brigitte Beraha, Tori Freestone and Jez Franks). So will be touring those later in the year. In the meantime I'm touring with Tommasso Starace in the Southwest.

LJN: And there's also something called Transtango coming up? 

JT: That's right, we're restarting it. The project (WEBSITE- with sound) originally involved Tim Garland, but this time features two cellos, bandoneon and double bass. I'll be a bit more involved with the writing this time - it's a very creative and multi-disciplinary project with projections and dancers, and the producer wants to try to take it to some unconventional spaces like art galleries. I'm also recording a couple of Tim's notated pieces for classical saxophone and piano in a couple of weeks, which are fiendishly difficult as you might expect!

John Turville  also recorded an interview about the Boganyi piano for BBC Radio 3 Music Matters. The item runs from [21:15] to [27:43] with John Turville talking from [25:45]


REVIEW: The Impossible the Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford-on-Avon

The Impossible Gentlemen

The Impossible Gentlemen. 
(Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford-on-Avon, 24 January. Review by Jon Turney)

A shuffle of brushes, softly-picked chords on guitar, an insistent six-note bass figure: all cushioning a gorgeous melody line from the piano. It sounds exactly like the Impossible Gentlemen, but the opening number is brand new. And so it goes for two full sets. The Anglo-American quartet have two CD's worth of superb music recorded, but Gwilym Simcock and Mike Walker have been composing again, and they have a big helping of new work to share .

This second night of their tour, following a couple of days working over the book with drummer Adam Nussbaum and bassist Steve Rodby, offers the excitement of discovery. The new pieces delight the band as well as the audience. There is a sense of things falling into place, but not always quite where the players expect.

What we do expect from this contemporary supergroup - never mind the large volume of new music - is immaculate performance and impassioned playing. The band bristles with virtuosity, leavened with easy humour and the sense they have always projected of being genuinely pleased to be in each other's company on stage. There are plenty of headlong flurries of notes, but enough variety to balance them out - just when you feel leaving more space would let some air into the music, there is a well-judged change of pace. The brighter, brasher, tunes contrast with the wryly Gothic moodiness of Dark Time, the gentle regrets of It Could Have Been a Simple Goodbye.

It's a beautifully integrated foursome, with Steve Rodby a fine successor to founder member Steve Swallow on bass. He takes few solos but contributes a matchless deep groove. This time out Simcock has two electric keyboards as well as grand piano, and plays some terrific locked hands improvisations on acoustic and electric keys simultaneously. Their rockier leanings are reinforced by Nussbaum's commanding drumming and Walker's guitar, but even when all four go full-tilt there is thoughtfulness in the detail, if you can keep up.

Some of us wouldn't have minded hearing a few of the old pieces from their now extensive book, but there clearly isn't much room for them on this tour. We did get a the raunchy Sure Would Baby, Nussbaum's tune from the first CD, for an encore, though, with Walker delivering a final, tremulous solo that reached the pitch of impassioned restraint that is something of a trade mark- a fine coda to a majestic evening.

In the notes to Internationally Recognised Aliens, their second release - recorded with Swallow but with producer Rodby beginning to size up the bass chair - Walker said he is interested in "blurring the lines between Jazz, Rock, Pop and Classical music in a way that creates a new, organic whole from these tried and tested forms". Here he has the band to do it.


The Impossible Gentlemen are on tour in Britain and Europe until March, and return for the Sligo Jazz Project in July.

LINK: Mike Walker previews the 2015 Tour - with tour dates


PHOTO-ESSAY: Pat Metheny - Inspired premiere at the Eberhard Weber Jubilee Concert in Stuttgart

Pat Metheny. Theaterhaus Stuttgart January 2015
Photo Credit Ralf Dombrowski. All Rights Reserved

Pat Metheny's affecting and beautifully crafted new work "Inspired" was premiered at the Eberhard Weber 75th Birthday Jubilee Concert with in the Theaterhaus in Stuttgart on 23rd January 2015. Ralf Dombrowski photographed the rehearsal.

The final picture is of the dedicatee himself. All photos are Copyright Ralf Dombrowski/ All Rights Reserved.

Pat Metheny. Theaterhaus Stuttgart January 2015
Photo Credit Ralf Dombrowski. All Rights Reserved

Pat Metheny. Theaterhaus Stuttgart January 2015
Photo Credit Ralf Dombrowski. All Rights Reserved

Gary Burton, SWR Big Band Dir Helge Sunde, Pat Metheny. Theaterhaus Stuttgart January 2015
Photo Credit Ralf Dombrowski. All Rights Reserved

Eberhard Weber. Theaterhaus Stuttgart January 2015
Photo Credit Ralf Dombrowski. All Rights Reserved

LINK: Sebastian's REVIEW of the concert (5 Stars) for the Telegraph.


REVIEW: Julien Desprez solo + In Bed With at the Vortex

Julien Desprez solo + In Bed With
(Vortex, 23rd January 2015. Review by Dan Bergsagel)

With so much French spoken it could easily have been the east of Paris, but on Friday the 23rd the Jazz Shuttle had landed in east London bringing exciting cross-channel chaos to the Vortex.

The night started with Julien Desprez perched on stage alone, untrimmed strings waving madly from the end of his guitar like his errant hair as he embarked on his 25 minute solo journey, Acapulco. With overdrive and metal licks accompanied with a strong backing hum, what at first appeared to be a Gallic disregard for musical convention and concert niceties evolved into a deeply enthralling performance. Desprez alternated shredding for France with near silently tapping, the slap of strings on fretboard barely audible yet beautifully controlled. At times the raw industrial sounds partnered the exposed beams and profiled composite construction of the venue better than most of its program. Its not often that an electric guitar is made to sound like an old VW golf trying to shift gears, or a collection of electronic devices from the pre-internet era being abused, but the intensity of the results, and the concentration put into them, was enthralling.

And then there were three, with In Bed With taking the stage. A trio formed by Sylvain Darrifoucq, the musicians are connected by a web of collaborations in recent years, enabled by interfaces between the Loop Collective and the COAX collective and the new Entente Cordiale that is the Jazz Shuttle.

In Bed With are a band with rock at their heart: this sort of evening is the reason that the Vortex sell earplugs alongside cheese and onion crisps behind the bar. Darrifoucq has always reveled in the alternative genre influences that inform his musical approach, and the opening piece's square beats and crashing cymbals provide a sporadic rock backbone to the subterranean organ work of Kit Downes swaying from side to side. They play with the sort of bravado more commonly associated with Rage Against The Machine then a jazz ensemble. In the second piece their unbridled activity was followed by an urgent metronomic clack and submarine sonar sounds as Darrifoucq played with an array of toys. Their cultural reference points shift from 90s US rock and metal to 70s British prog-rock, but with the sharply changing dynamics and hyperactive bursts of a late 80s The Pixies.

Yet instead of a timeline of trans-Atlantic musical homage through a free filter, these sounds are mixed into an “In Bed With” sound, each style sampled and invited into the unconstrained environment that the trio create, molding rock conventions into an avant garde experiment driven by the push of the low organ and hanging chords over sharp machine gun drums. The ensemble are tight like a tiger, and clearly enjoy the experiment, with facial expressions swapping sheepish grins with engrossed concentration.

In announcing their final piece, Darrifoucq thanked the crowd for their curiosity in attending and seeking them out. And while perhaps his declaration of their last “tune” is stretching the limits of conventional interpretation of the word, immersed in his masterful rampaging drums and Desprez's riffage was some deep musicality, dulcet tones and pensive electronics. Certainly drumming was at the fore (if not literally centre stage) but it was Kit Downes' more reserved contributions that provided the necessary coherence to cling onto.

The goal of Jazz Shuttle is to encourage “une dynamique d’échanges culturels, un enrichissement et un élargissement du dialogue artistique entre les deux pays.” and for those pining for more French musical liberation in London, In Bed With were a treat that did just that.

LINK: Sylvain Darrifourcq Interview


CD REVIEW: Quest Ensemble - Footfall

Quest Ensemble - Footfall
(PFT 14001. CD Review by Matthew Wright)

Classical musicians are notoriously reluctant to improvise. So the jazz world generally believes, anyway. It means there’s a gap in the scene for a band that uses the instrumentation and tonal qualities of classical music with the communal spontaneity that improvisation can create. It’s a great opportunity for the right group of musicians, and why should improvised music necessarily involve drums and brass or reeds anyway?

Cue Footfall, the debut album from London Quest Ensemble, a Guildhall-educated trio of Preetha Narayanan (violin), Tara Franks (cello) and Filipe Sousa (piano). They offer an intriguing sense of how a classical ensemble, in this case the (classical) piano trio, might sound playing semi-improvised music. These pieces have roots in both classical music and jazz, and take in elements of country and world music too. Without percussion, the aesthetic is gentler than most jazz trios, but the interplay of musical lines is dextrous and intriguing. It’s melodic and easy to listen to, though its initial accessibility conceals some of the originality.

Quest describe their sound as encompassing Vaughan Williams, Steve Reich and the Esbjörn Svensson Trio, and certainly, those are, perhaps, the sonic outposts of their musical world. The Vaughan Williams can mainly be heard in the warmth of their string tone and the charmingly elastic melodies flavouring the lines of improvisation, as well as the flowing, pastoral quality to tracks such as Willow. The Reich is slightly more of a puzzle: Quest’s approach lacks Reich’s theoretical purity; as noted by other reviewers, a better comparison might be with John Adams, whose interest in repeated patterns of rhythm is tempered with vernacular decoration and melody. Which is certainly not to say there’s a lack of interest in structural experimentation. Chorale, for example, builds to a strikingly melancholy climax of violin and cello over a baroque-sounding piano bass line.

The players are all classically trained, though all also have experience in other genres. They clearly know each other well, and the interplay between weaving lines – in which roles are interchanged much more freely than in a traditional classical trio – generally feels athletic and intimate. Capturing the spontaneity of improvisation on CD, to be played in identical reproduction over and over again, always feels in principle a little incongruous. Some tracks here sound more spontaneous than others, though it’s a varied and appealing collection that will find an enthusiastic audience among both jazz and classical enthusiasts.

Quest Ensemble’s album. Footfall has been available on CD for a few months, and has just been released digitally on iTunes. They perform at The Vortex on February 12


CD REVIEW: Jaco Pastorius - Anthology: The Warner Bros. Years

Jaco Pastorius - Anthology: The Warner Bros. Years
(Warner Bros. Records - 8122795729. CD review by Joe Stoddart)

‘Anthology: The Warner Bros. Years’ is one of many retrospectives of bass genius Jaco Pastorius’ work that have been issued since his tragic death at the age of 35. Containing music from his time with the Warner Bros. label, the vast majority of the album is made up of selections from his sophomore solo studio release ‘Word Of Mouth’ and live albums ‘The Birthday Concert’ and ‘Invitation’.

Among the four tracks which are not from these albums, first up is a live version of ‘Okonkole y Trompa’ from debut album ‘Jaco Pastorius’. This recording comes from the Japanese release ‘Twins I & II’ and stays pretty close to the original as an atmospheric piece featuring some beautiful French horn. ‘Nativity’ from Weather Report and Return To Forever percussionist Airto Moreira’s 1977 album, ‘I’m Fine, How Are You?’, continues in the atmospheric vein before a more upbeat mood is struck on ‘Mood Swings’ from Mike Stern’s ‘Upside Downside’.

While the idea of seeing Jaco in other settings could well provide some interest, if there are only a couple of token examples his work with Joni Mitchell or Pat Metheny would almost certainly lend more insight than the selections here. All three of the tracks here were in fact included on 2003's 'Punk Jazz: The Jaco Pastorius Anthology' alongside some of his work with Mitchell and Metheny as well recordings from the beginnings of Jaco's career in an altogether more cohesive and informative compilation.

The only completely new material is a previously unissued recording of ‘Donna Lee’ from ‘The Birthday Concert’ session. Mainly serving the purpose of trombone feature, it feels like little more than a play through of the standard and you can see why it didn’t make the original album.

What is lacking in new material is somewhat made up for by the quality of the original albums. From the technical virtuosity of ‘Chromatic Fantasy’, to the superb ensemble sound of ‘Liberty City’ and compositional genius of ‘Three Views Of A Secret’, all facets of what made Pastorius such a fantastic musician are on show. However, they have been presented in a vaguely baffling way, presumably shifted around in order to warrant a compilation which is basically a triple album reissue of the aforementioned albums with double performances of tunes removed. The worst example of this is where ‘Chromatic Fantasy’ has been plonked carelessly between ‘Blackbird’ and ‘Word Of Mouth’, having the sole effect of destroying the intensity created by the segue on the original album. The fact that such a glaringly unmusical decision has made it onto this release is extraordinary.

A mercurial talent whose career was all too brief, you may think that there isn’t enough material in his back catalogue to warrant so many compilations. Anthology seems to lend some weight to that argument.

For a Jaco fan, there’s nothing much new here; to check out Pastorius for the first time, you’d be better off purchasing the albums separately and experiencing them as the artist intended.


PHOTO: Curtain-call at the Eberhard Weber 75th Birthday Grand Jubilee Concert

L-R Helge Sunde, Scott, Colley, Jürgen Walther, Gary Burton,
Danny Gottlieb, Paul McCandless,Eberhard Weber.
Jan Garbarek, Manfred Schoof, Pat Metheny
Photo Credit: Theaterhaus/ Jörg Becker

Sebastian writes:

This is the curtain call after the 75th Birthday Concert for Eberhard Weber, including the premiere of a remarkable work by Pat Metheny.



CD REVIEW: Emily Saunders - Outsiders Insiders

Emily Saunders - Outsiders Insiders
(Mix Records. MIXS1501. CD Review by Peter Jones)

It’s a delight occasionally to hear something that sounds genuinely new. Better still when it’s cool, sophisticated, full of space and light, and beautifully performed. Singer Emily Saunders’ second album falls into that rare category. Her music is hip and up-to-date, and even though you can hear her influences, it sounds highly distinctive. She also wrote, arranged and produced the album, which comes out in March, four years after her well-received debut Cotton Skies.

Not surprisingly, given its earworm quality, the title track has been getting airplay lately. Why wouldn’t it be a hit single, with that wonderful syncopated The Beat Goes On riff? There’s an android vocal, followed by a sweet harmony answering vocal; however the bridge is probably too challenging for the charts, featuring Byron Wallen’s squeaky trumpet over a broken rhythm and then a super-cool electric piano solo from Steve Pringle.

If you’re looking for vocal comparisons, you will hear echoes of Gretchen Parlato and Lauren Desberg here, and certainly Bebel Gilberto in Saunders’s glissando style – so apparently effortless as to be Teflon-coated. Yet what she’s singing is often extremely difficult, soaring through rapid chord changes on Brazilian-influenced tunes like Residing. There’s an alien, dreamlike quality to many tracks: You Caught Me, Moon and the tautological Descending Down, with their intriguingly elliptical lyrics and slow, vibrato Rhodes backing from Bruno Heinen.

The musicians are locked into Saunders’ musical vision. She has used two different pianists, two bassists and two percussionists, but such is her control over the arrangements that you wouldn’t know it. Vocally, she does so much more than just sing the songs over a backing. Take Metronomic, which begins with a wordless, snaky improvisation on some Eastern scale before settling into a dark meditation about ‘a man who sought to control’, and ending on a brief cacophony of electronic noise. The album closes with You With Me, a gorgeous, poignant voice-and-piano ballad that’s over much too quickly.

Everything on Outsiders Insiders is drenched in melody, and it’s this, as well as the intimate and deeply-felt quality to the recordings that lifts them above the everyday.

Emily Saunders: Voice
Byron Wallen: Trumpet
Trevor Mires: Trombone
Bruno Heinen: Keys
Steve Pringle: Keys (Outsiders Insiders)
Dave Whitford: Bass
Paul Michael: Bass (Residing, Descending Down)
Jon Scott: Drums
Fabio de Oliveira: Percussion
Asaf Sirkis: Percussion (Descending Down)

Emily Saunders appears at the Bristol International Jazz & Blues Festival on March 5th, and at St James Studio, London on March 17th.  Further dates in March to be announced soon.

LINKS: Live review of Emily Saunders Band from 2012
Emily Saunders website


REVIEW: Jan Garbarek Group at the Bodø Jazz Open in Norway

Jan Garbarek Group at the Bodø Jazz Open 2015
Photo Credit Henrik Dvergsdal

Jan Garbarek Group
(Stormen. Bodø Jazz Open 2015, 21 January. Review by Jonathan Carvell)

Founded in 2011, Bodø Jazz Open is an annual jazz festival which takes place surrounded by the spectacular scenery of northern Norway - the Northern Lights, mountains and sea. Bodø itself is a small city about a hundred miles within the Arctic Circle.The festival happens over the course of five days in January.

This year's Bodø Jazz Open began with a sold-out concert in the town’s brand-new concert hall, Stormen, from the Jan Garbarek Group, and what better way to celebrate this beautiful hall (opened only a few months ago) than with the Garbarek’s first appearance in Bodø for some 15 years. Stormen is a fantastic venue – great clarity of sound, comfortable yet stylish, and also well integrated into the city.

The new Stormen concert hall, Bodø Jazz Open 2015
Photo Credit Henrik Dvergsdal

At 67 years old, Garbarek has been a big name in Norwegian jazz for almost five decades now, but he is someone who still seems keen to go outside of his comfort zone and explore new musical possibilities. Garbarek, as always, brought a broad palette of colours to the tone of his saxophone: sometimes saccharin sweet, other times more plaintive, and his complete technical control found him very much at home as leader of this genre-defying group.

Trilok Gurtu at the Bodø Jazz Open 2015
Photo Credit Henrik Dvergsdal

Trilok Gurtu was a revelation on drums and percussion, with virtuosic playing and a sophisticated fusion-style. Gurtu employed underwater gong sounds (yes, really), hanging spiral cymbals and created some outrageous grooves by playing kit with one hand and tabla with the other. There is something naturalistic and visceral about his approach, often striking the kit with his hands and - for large parts of this concert - vocalising rhythms on a headset mic (evoking thoughts of Airto Moreira).

Yuri Daniel also impressed with agile fretless bass work. During the course of the evening each member of the quartet had an extended solo, and Daniel’s centred on a Jaco-esque chord loop redolent of Portrait of Tracy - complex chords contrasted with passages of scalic fireworks. Rainer Brüninghaus completed the group on piano and keyboards, bringing in classical contrapuntal influences as well as the occasional 80s synth vibe.

All of these different styles were corralled by Garbarek, with Indian musical influences blending into 12/8 South African township grooves; sweet ballad resolutions quickly becoming unison prog romps. Some of the compositions were a little uneven, but the highs which resulted when everything clicked were spectacular.

This was a bold an exciting start to the festival and it was rightly met with a standing ovation by the capacity crowd.

LINKS: Review: Jan Garbarek Group at the Barbican 2010
Review: an Garbarek Group at the 2012 London Jazz Festival


PODCAST INTERVIEW: Tom Green and Tom White Septets (2014 EFG @LondonJazzFest )

The Spice of Life witnessed one of those "You'll-Never-Believe-It- Actually- Happened" gigs, a double bill of septets each led by a trombonist called Tom, each with a surname representing a colour.

But happen it did. The Tom Green Septet and the Tom White Septet played the Spice of Life on 17th November 2014. And Hayley Redmond was there, to interviewed them both. In situ, on the night itself.

The photo of Tom Green above is by Ruth Butler.

LINK: Tom Green Skyline CD Review. The CD launch is at St James Studio on Jan 29th 2015


REVIEW: Harold Mabern Trio at Ronnie Scott's

Harold Mabern at Ronnie Scott's
Photo credit: Carl Hyde/ Ronnie Scott's

Harold Mabern Trio 
(Ronnie Scott's, 21st January 2015. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

Just as Harold Mabern's words in our interview just before Christmas seemed to bring the history of jazz so vividly to life, so his every touch of the piano speaks with authority and authenticity of a piano tradition with deep roots. There are acknowledged influences from both Phineas Newborn Jr. and from Ahmad Jamal, but Mabern is his own man, a highly individual player.

Can a written review explain or even describe the magic of the Memphis-born player's piano sound? Not really. Adjectives (bright-toned, percussive, decisive, emphatic) do help a bit, and Carl Hyde's great picture (above) of those strong hands poised to strike the keyboard helps....but doesn't take you the whole way. Yes, you have to be there, hear it and marvel at how it happens.

One highlight last night came with the most unexpected item, Sting's Fragile, played as an acknowledgement to the fact that Mabern was playing a gig ...sort of vaguely somewhere near where Sting came from.... (Birmingham? he asked), and played as the second set calmer/opener. It was poetic, lived, poised, beautiful, calmly stated, and with no jazz soloing in sight. Daahoud was played as ballad, and as an affectionate tribute to "the most perfect trumpet player" Clifford Brown. Mabern loves springing surprises, knows how to shift the mood and the narrative with masterly panache, and had more to give till the end of the show, not just playing but also singing a powerful and soulful blues as the first encore.

Joe Farnsworth at Ronnie Scott's
Photo credit: Carl Hyde/ Ronnie Scott's
If Mabern is so proudly self-taught, his rhythm cohort is exceptionally schooled. There were quite a few drummers in the house last night, and they had - presumably - come out to catch Joe Farnsworth. Farnsworth was a student of Alan Dawson, the same teacher who taught Tony Williams, and every one of the virtues which Tony Williams talks about in this remarkable lecture from 1989 were there in the drummer's playing, in particular that deep knowledge of the contours of tunes which gave crispness to everything from the sillinesses of El Jarabe Tapatio, (better known as the Mexican Hat-Dance) to his drum feature Bye Bye Baby. As Mabern said, ribbing him: "Joe Farnsworth has fast hands, we have to give him a chance to show off."

John Webber at Ronnie Scott's Photo credit: Carl Hyde/ Ronnie Scott's

The suave and unflappable John Webber has a completely balanced stance on the instrument, and his classical left hand shape looked to me like the living text-book, again well caught in Carl Hyde's photo here.

Ronnie's had taken an informed risk, but the club was completely full, and everybody, and especially those who were able to stay till the final solo encore, Bobby Timmons' Dat Dere,in the darkness, had a genuine treat.


NEWS: Larry Coryell for Pizza Express Dean Street March 26-28

The great, Texas-born guitarist Larry Coryell is announced for three nights at Pizza Express Dean Street at the end of March in a trio with Asaf Sirkis and Patrick Bettison. 26, 27, 28, one show per night - BOOKINGS

Coryell was an original member of The Guitar Trio with John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia. Together (1985) with his wife Emily Remler is a classic album.

Links: Wikipedia entry / website


NEWS: Blue Plaque for Kenny Wheeler Unveiled

A blue plaque was unveiled at the late Kenny Wheeler's home in Leytonstone yesterday.

This had been planned to happen before the great composer / trumpeter died last September, and is a joint initiative of London Borough of Waltham Forest and the National Jazz Archive.Their common objective is to recognize and celebrate "much loved jazz musicians who contributed greatly to The Story of British Jazz" and who are associated with the borough. "To date these have included Sir John Dankworth, [..] clarinettist Dave Shepherd and trombonist Jackie Free."

Yesterday's unveiling was attended by Kenny Wheeler's family and musicians closely associated with Wheeler, including Nick Smart, Norma Winstone, Chris Laurence, Evan Parker, and Dave Holland.


REVIEW: Anthony Braxton Quartet at The Lantern, Colston Hall, Bristol.

Anthony Braxton at The Lantern, Colston Hall, Bristol January 2015
Photo credit: Shotaway / Chris Cooper

Anthony Braxton Quartet
(The Lantern, Colston Hall Bristol. 20th Jan 2015. Review by Jon Turney)

This was a smart booking by Colston Hall, giving us Anthony Braxton’s first UK appearance with his own group for ten years. A bold one too, perhaps, when it transpired that the only show here on a brief tour of Europe was in a provincial city, and not the largest.

Any risks taken were richly rewarded, with a near full-house in the smaller of Colston’s two spaces hearing two unbroken sets of deeply absorbing music. This was Braxton’s Diamond Curtain Wall Quartet, on this date featuring Mary Halvorson on guitar, Taylor Ho Bynum on assorted trumpets, and James Fei on reeds. They are all close colleagues, and it shows in the eye-blinkingly rapid conversational interaction they maintain throughout. There were scores – both Braxton’s unique graphic scores and ones with dots – but the focused cohesion these four maintain made it pretty much irrelevant what was improvised, what prepared, the only sign of the latter being occasional hand signals from the composer.

The music, delivered without preamble, is episodic, another way of saying it has tremendous variety. As soon as one mood or sound combination takes hold, it gives way to the next. It is jazz based, in large part – Braxton, approaching 70, is, after all, officially a Jazz Master now, according to the US National Endowment for the Arts. His sound and many of his melodic figures on saxes continually reference the broad jazz vocabulary – one particularly wide-ranging alto solo seemed to replay pretty much the entire saxophone tradition in miniature. Bynum’s flourishing of assorted mutes and Halvorson’s chiming guitar chords also come imbued with a jazz flavour, if one is looking for it. But there is more going on here too, with some subtle electronic shadings now and then, more abstract sounds from all four players, and a great deal of free counterpoint, two, three or four ways. And the whole thing is freed from regular rhythmic underpinning, although the implied tempos do rise and fall in what must be an organised way.

Anthony Braxton, Mary Halvorson, James Fei, Taylor Ho Bynum
The Lantern, Colston Hall, Bristol January 2015
Photo credit: Shotaway / Chris Cooper

Amid this, there are many striking moments. He is ever the prolific composer, but you get big helpings of Braxton’s own brilliant playing in the quartet, and that is by turns intense and near-lyrical, on three saxes – alto, soprano and sopranino. He does not deploy any of his bass or contrabass instruments tonight, although he reaches an impressively low register on the alto. Bynum is a fine foil, swapping horns and mutes as often as the leader, and a fountain of ideas. Many remain undeveloped, but there are plenty more to try. Fei, using the same three saxes as Braxton, has more to do to make a distinctive contribution, but uses some Aylerish shrieks to offset his purer soprano lines. Halvorson broadens the textures, her effects ranging from a near steel pan sound to the most delicate brushing of the strings.

Together they create sounds now ethereal, now turbulent, now reflective again. For me, it is music that says: don’t worry about the destination. The important thing is to be in motion, and to pay close attention as you go. A good feeling to take away from a superb evening’s sound creation.


INTERVIEW/ PREVIEW : James Maddren - Quartet, Jazz Nursery at the Golden Hind, January 29th

James Maddren.Photo credit: Melody McLaren

JAMES MADDREN's Quartet will have just its second ever outing next week, at the monthly Jazz Nursery gig aboard the Golden Hind (Pickfords Wharf, Clink St, London SE1 9DG). It is on Thursday January 29th. Sebastian interviewed one of London's first-call young drummers by email:

LondonJazz News: Has it been a busy year for you? What have been the highlights?

James Maddren: I guess is has, it’s certainly flown by very quickly. The year started with two album recordings, one with Julian Arguelles’ Band and the other with Ant Law. Both to be released this year. Some playing with familiar faces in Nikki Iles’ Printmakers, And Alex Garnett and Trish Clowes in Tangent - her album with the BBC Concert Orchestra has just been released. (The Printmakers album is also set to be released towards April/May this year).

LJN: And have there been some new departures too?

JM: Yes, there were a few new projects for me in 2014. I got a call from Sam Crockatt who had a date in the studio a few days later and wanted to record an album of some new music with Oli Hayhurst and Kit Downes. I know those guys had been doing that band for a few years, so it was great to be able to join them. It also felt very old school going into the studio having never played with this band before (although obviously lots with Kit !) and sight reading all the music in the studio.. I think It will result in an exciting album. Lots of danger!

This past year I’ve also started playing in Natalie Williams’ band. It’s a great band with Phil Peskett and Al Cherry and bassist Rob Mullarkey, her fiancé as of a few days ago, who she writes a lot of the songs with, and who plays bass in the band. In my opinion is one of the best electric bass players in the world. Absolutely incredible. Sometimes he plays something that’s so amazing I just laugh in disbelief. So it’s great to have my ass kicked in a different way.

LJN: Is this quartet your first project as leader?

JM: Yes. I always have thoughts about other projects too. I do a gig with someone, or hear someone and I think “wow! I want to start a band with you in it”. Then the next day I think the same thing with another group of musicians. I guess I’m very lucky to play with and be surrounded by people that make me feel that way! Just a shame I’m terrible at putting bands together!

LJN: Do you write a lot of music?

JM: No. I think I’ve spent too much time just trying to get some drumming basics together which is a terrible excuse… I should write more, I guess it’s my New Year's resolution. I used to do it a lot at school, almost every day I sat at the piano (I am terrible at the piano) but I loved to experiment with chords and figure things out by ear. Trial and error if you will!

LJN: Who are your composing gods?

JM: I remember the first time I heard Kenny Wheeler’s Music for Large and Small Ensembles I was about 13 or 14 and spent that year almost only listening to that trying to recreate those sounds on the piano. He has to be up there as a composing god of mine.

Monk.. I love his writing. I love the way each melody influences the way in which you want to improvise over the form. So the improvising becomes an extension of the composition. I love that. Makes everything become more relevant!

Obviously there a several others. Wayne Shorter, Ornette, Paul Motian to name a few!

LJN: What made you choose these people Calum Gourlay, Julian Siegel and Mike Chillingworth in particular ?

JM: Well, put simply, I love playing with them. They have all have a great sound, great feel and they are not afraid to make bold decisions when playing music (which in turn can make others in the band have to make a decision). That last one is an important one for me. I want to play with people who aren’t afraid of making strong musical decisions, taking risks and in turn aren’t afraid of me making strong decisions and taking risks. Because we know if the music all starts to fall apart we can find a way to catch each other. So I guess trusting the musicians you're playing with is a big thing.

Also, I think it’s in the risk-taking and strong decision-making to play something, or play nothing. Or to decide to play something and you don’t even know if you can physically do it or not until you’re caught up in it. That is when the music we make becomes more exciting and more human. That’s also very important for me. Those things that often people think of as errors or mistakes. For me they are what makes music honest and are what makes each musician unique... (having said that. as a musician It's very hard to accept what you perceive to be mistakes in your own playing)....Sorry, A little rant there!

So I trust these guys and I love hearing them push themselves and I love the way they push me too!

LJN: No harmony instrument ? What kind of vibe are you going for?

JM: Well I think without a harmony instrument, first of all there is a lot more space, if that's not stating the bleedin' obvious! Calum also has an incredible sound and he plays in tune, which is something I love to hear in bass players. And I guess in playing together for such a long time we have a sound together which I wanted to be the foundation of this band. As well with no harmony instrument, the role of the drums could become more melodic (all non-drummers laugh...). Maybe not in terms of pitch, but in terms of phrasing.

LJN: This quartet has had just one previous appearance right?

JM: We did. It was at the Con a few years ago. At this rate maybe we’ll record in 2035 :)

LINKS: Jazz Nursery
James Maddren at Whirlwind Recordings


PREVIEW: Jivestar (Bob Hope Theatre, Sat Jan 31st)

Jivestar. L-R: John Worth, Dave Boraston, David Ingamells, Fliss Gorst,
Liam Dunachie, Kai Hoffman and Nick Breakspear.

Kai Hoffman writes:

Jivestar are thrilled to perform their debut theatre show at The Bob Hope Theatre in Eltham on January 31st, starting at 7 30pm. This jumpin' and jivin', rock and rollin' nine piece band have gone from strength to strength since their formation in 2012, with a residency at Poppies of Camden, regular gigs at The Spice Of Life, Soho, and a main stage performance at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club.

‘The 50’s Jukebox’ show aims to banish away your Winter blues by celebrating those 50's jukebox favourites! From Elvis to Louis Prima, Bill Haley to Fats Domino, Jivestar are sure to brighten your evening.

The band are led by saxophonist Fliss Gorst, a lively, enthusiastic band leader who likes to ensure everyone in the room has just as much fun as her! Jivestar’s performance will bring together renowned swing vocalist Shane Hampsheir AND me for the very first time! Whilst Shane is a regular favourite at the theatre it will be my first appearance at this fantastic venue - I'm very excited! This really is an unmissable night of live entertainment for the whole family.

Box Office  020 8850 3702 
LINKS : Bob Hope Theatre /  Jivestar website


PREVIEW/INTERVIEW: WDR 3 Jazzfest. 'domicil' and Konzerthaus Dortmund, 28th-31st Jan 2015

In the run-up to the third WDR 3 Jazzfest in Dortmund, Sebastian interviewed (*) Dr. Bernd Hoffmann, Director of the Festival, in early January in Münster Dr. Hoffmann has been Head of Jazz at WDR since 2002. The radio station WDR3 has a higher output of jazz broadcasting every week than any other Europe.

LondonJazz News: This is the third WDR 3 Jazzfest. After Cologne in 2013 and Gütersloh in 2014, this year you are in Dortmund. I remember that last year there was a strong theme of showing the American heritage at the beginning, and then moving to show the diversity of European jazz. What is the story this year?

Bernd Hoffmann: This year is a variation on that, but with a particular emphasis on new and interesting combinations. In the old days these were often a haphazard thing without much thought behind it. Producers would just put musicians together for one recording ,and often nothing would come of it. We try to do better than that. Our experience with the Pablo Held Trio for example has gone very well. The trio wanted very much to do something with John Scofield. That collaboration has led to an album (REVIEWED HERE). We'll be repeating that combination at 10pm on Thursday 29th.

Another combination: we have the good fortune to work with the Austran trumpeter Lorenz Raab. Working with Austrian musicians has been a strong feature because the WDR 3 Jazzfest from the start has been in collaboration with Austrian Radio O1. Lorenz Raab wants to work with the Swiss drummer Lucas Niggli and we've got him on the programme...

We also invited the German composer/saxophonist Niels Klein to do a song project with the Swiss singer Sarah Buechi.

Taking those together, then each evening you have a special project a special combination happening for the first time ever- after which time will tell whether it leads to anything.

LJN: Last year the festival had a memorable setting, the modernist architecture of the Gütersloh Theatre, which is a building with a really strong character. What is the set-up in Dortmund and how has it influenced the programming?

BH: I'm very pleased with the series of solo sets that we've planned for this year, which in part dictated by the constraint of performing on just one stage at the club 'domicil'. It normally fits about 400 people, but we've had to take some places away, to accommodate our broadcasting team.

The solo sets: I received recommendations to find a slot the Slovenian pianist Kaja Drachsler from all sides. Then we will have the guitarist Nguyên Lê, he'll be improvising to a Japanese silent film from 1926 And there's also a solo set from Frank Woeste. He's a very interesting German pianist who lives in France.

In addition to these solo sets we have a lovely band called Jazzpaña . It's a jazz/flamenco project with the Cuban Ramón Valle playing piano., and Swedish guitarist Ulf Wakenius.

LJN: And you will be moving away from the Domicil for just one evening.

BH: Yes, for the WDR Jazz Prize evening, we move to Dortmund's Konzerthaus. The master of ceremonies will be Götz Alsmann he does a brilliant job.

LJN: Those prizes can really help artists to get better known. Who has won them this year?

Nicolaus Simion. Photo credit: Lutz Voigtländer

BH: The winner of the Improvisation Prize is Nicolaus Simion. He was born in Romania. He then had 10 years I which he was very active on the scene in Vienna. And I have observed how since moving to Cologne – I think it was 10-12 years ago - his heritage as migrant, his Balkan tradition has brought something valuable and different to the scene here, a scene in which he has been a pro-active and energetic, and become an essential participant.

The Composition Prize winner is Tobias Wember. The first thing to say about him is that he's very young and represents a new generation. He was a trombonist in BuJazzO (the German National Youth Jazz Orchestra). We were absolutely thrilled with the arrangements he's done. His way of writing for big band is totally professional, but at the same time very unconventional.

For our Next Generation prize (Nachwuchspreis) we have gone to the town of Brühl. Brühl has a music school with a youth band called Curuba. We awarded the Next Generation Prize to the same music director and the same school, but that was many years ago, and he had a completely different band in those days. It's a great school, it does a lot to develop the young people.

The Special Prize has been awarded to Michael Rusenberg the journalist. It's for his lifetime's work.

LJN: I know you like to cut backwards and forwards in the radio output, and that there is always a desire to experiment and to move things on technologically. In past years that desire to try new things out has given an extra sense of excitement, even danger. What will be new this year?

BH: This year it's about live-streaming We'll be working again with the International Film School in Cologne, and we will put each of the 10pm concerts out live on video - onto the internet. The first one will be Kirk Lightsey's trio, amd singer Dee Daniels on Wednesday 28th

LJN: Where will the Festival go next?

BH: Next year we'll be right here, as it happens, in this theatre, Münster. Plans for that festival in 2016 already include a project with Steffen Schorn & the Zürich Jazz Orchestra.

LJN: And after 2016?

BH: Well, from 2017, the Festival could be moving for one last time. If all goes according to plan, it will be held each year from then on in Gütersloh. We know they really want us there, but it's not yet definite.

Dr. Bernd Hoffmann


Wednesday 28th January

20:00 Stephan Mattner BEAM
22:00 Kirk Lightsey Trio & Dee Alexander
23:30 Kaja Draksler
domicil, Konzertsaal

Thursday 29th January

20:00 Sarah Buechi/Niels Klein Wiresongs
22:00 Pablo Held Trio & John Scofield
23:30Nguyên Lê
domicil, Konzertsaal

Friday 30th January.

20:00 The 11th WDR Jazz Prizes (Presenter: Götz Alsmann)

Tobias Wember
Nicolas Simion
Curuba Jazzorchester
Michael Rüsenberg

With the WDR Big Band Köln
Konzerthaus, Saal

23:30 Craig Taborn Quartet

Saturday 31st January

20:00 Thomas Rückert Trio
22:00 Jazzpaña
23:30 Lorenz Raab Quartet
1:00 Frank Woeste (solo)
domicil, Konzertsaal

(*) The interview was done in German, this our translation:

LINKS: Concerts will be available after transmission on WDR3 Konzertplayer
Sebastian's daily blog from the 2014 WDR3 Jazzfest
Jazz on WDR3 Homepage


REVIEW: Kansas Smittys at the Late Late Show at Ronnie Scott's

Giacomo Smith (centre) at the Dead Dolls Club

Kansas Smittys
(Late Late  Show at Ronnie Scott's. 17th-18th January 2015. Review by Erminia Yardley)

Well, that’s not easy. Jazz is free, volatile, flowing and, most of all, innovative, even in its most traditional guise. And yet, there is a band which has managed just that: to put danger back into jazz!

Kansas Smittys, an eight piece band, led by clarinettist Giacomo Smith, are simply talent personified. The moment they start playing on the “Late Late Show” at Ronnie's in the early hours of Sunday 18th, a certain buzz is in the air.

There are twelve tracks played through the session, two of which, need a special mention. Warm Embrace, from the band’s forthcoming album, the title of which is still to be confirmed, and I get ideas are sung both by the magnificent Peter Horsfall, who, apart from playing trumpet, has the most delicious voice this side of the universe.

One only needs to close one’s eyes and is immediately transported back into the ‘30s era. His voice is suave, soft and elegant. Each word is sung with clarity, resembling a silk caress.

Outstanding saxophone playing by Reuben Fox deserves a special mention, too, whilst Joe Webb on piano is fun, innovative and eclectic.

It is just simply a joy to watch the band play together; we are witnessing an ensemble that will go far, very far.

Watching the crowd watch Kansas Smittys is yet another indication of how good they are. They draw us in straight away. Members of Booker T Jones' band, who have played before them, are in the audience too, enjoying the groove!

Swinging towards a different level of jazz, Kansas Smittys are here to stay, but, let it be known, they not only play, but have definitely put danger back into jazz, so beware anyone… this jazz is not for the faint-hearted!

Kansas Smittys play at The Vaults (Leake Street, SE1 7NN) on 31st January 
New album for release soon
LINK: Tiger Rag at the Bird Cafe in Dalston


CD REVIEW: Phil Donkin - The Gate

Phil Donkin - The Gate
(Whirlwind Records WR4668. CD review by Mike Collins)

Phil Donkin moved from London to New York at the beginning of this decade having already established himself as bass player of choice with some of the hottest names on both sides of the Atlantic. He lived on Macon Street in Brooklyn and Macon Groove, the second tune of this varied debut album, is named for it. That street may be known locally as ‘Post-Bop Boulevard’ if the burner with a theme of spikey twisting lines and propulsive little riffs launching solos over seething swing is any indication. Donkin effortlessly doubles pianist Glenn Zaleski’s right hand with the first statement of the theme a reminder, if it were needed, of the fearsome technique at the disposal of this New York based quartet also featuring Ben Wendel on saxes and Jochen Rueckert on drums.

Submerged is all dark, cycling chords and a rolling, cymbal smeared groove from the drums giving it a modal feel, One for Johnny is a sleazy, bluesy swinger with dancing piano solo weaving angular lines through the changes, Butterfingers has an insistent, pulsing bass line and no piano, just sax creating a striking harmony with the bass on the theme and the occasional distorted melodic fragment from All the Things You Are before a beguiling twisting solo from Wendel. Monk’s Introspection is taken at a lively clip and Donkin again plays the head after a viscerally grooving unaccompanied solo to warm us up. If that was all there was to this album it would be a treat: top class players stretching out on some great originals. There’s another thread running through this album however. The title track The Gate also starts with a bass solo, but one that immediately evokes a different harmonic pallete and develops a steady pulse as Wendel unfurls a wistful theme with elegiac shifts of harmony. Both he and Zaleski whose piano solo follows, give their melodic imaginations full rein. It’s a stand out track. Yet other moods are explored. The opener La Jurona has a slightly wonky Latin feel and there are others in that more contemplative vein. The album ends with an arrangement of a Shostakovich Prelude.

This is a top drawer outfit playing mainly Donkin originals. There’s a core of pulsating, contemporary jazz with a thread of thoughtful, lustrous beauty woven through it. The band make light of twists and shifts of harmony and metre with some fabulous soloing. Donkin grabs the ear without being showy. His drive, sound and melodic sense make it clear why he’s in such demand. There is just a feeling at times on this set that these fantastic musicians have got another gear. The live gigs with the launch tour coming up in March should be quite a show.




3rd March - POOLE, SOUND CELLAR - 8:30PM.
4th March - CARDIFF, DEMPSEY’S 9:00PM.
6th March - SHEFFIELD JAZZ - 8:30PM.
12th March - OXFORD, THE SPIN