Interview / Preview: Agata Kubiak - Polarity Album Launch at Jazz Cafe POSK. 10 May

Agata Kubiak
Photo Credit: Dave King. All Rights Reserved


Agata Kubiak is a Polish composer / violinist / singer whose début album Polarity is to be launched on the 10th of May at Jazz Cafe POSK. Agata has had some successes in Poland, with multiple groups and projects. She has appeared on Polish TV and toured through the country, she is now living in the London. Rob Edgar interviewed her.

Rob Edgar: Tell me about the album

Agata Kubiak: Throughout my life, I've tried to focus on one thing at a time: my classical violin playing, my string quartet, and the jazz influences that I have. This is the first time that I realised I don't have to make my mind up about one thing or another, because it is never very satisfying for me as a musician. I connected two projects together and the album and the gig on the 10th of May will be a launch of a whole new project and band, and a new way of thinking.

RE: What's your story as a musician?

AK: I have studied classical violin throughout my life (since I was six), I went through the whole conservatory route back in Poland. Besides that, I got into improvisation early on, I actually played in some punk bands in Poland when I was about fifteen.

RE: Playing violin?

AK: Yes. These guys didn't have any musical education so I had to make up my own parts. Around the same time, I got hugely into sung poetry which is quite big in Poland, I was going to some festivals - writing my own songs and exploring the singing side as well as violin from the classical side. I've always been quite divided.

RE: When did you start singing?

AK: Around the age of thirteen or fourteen. My début was in one of the sung poetry festivals in my home town when I was fourteen. I was too young to compete so they gave me an award for a début. I quickly realised that what I get from singing, I can never get from violin playing. It felt much more personal, I couldn't separate myself from it, and it had that overwhelming 'exposed' feeling that's quite difficult to get on an instrument. I think after years and years of playing it's more possible but it's still not the same: I never think "oh I can just do violin instead of singing".

RE: There are to be a couple of new pieces on the night?

AK: I'm listening a lot to Krzysztof Komeda (a Polish pianist who played with Stańko). I'm really fascinated with the idea of free sections within tunes so I want to explore that and I've been working on some arrangements of Polish folk tunes too, one of which we'll play.

RE: What about the musicians that you're playing with?

AK: It's been a journey so far I can tell you! Polarity was recorded with Sam Greenland on drums, Ralph Brown on piano, Jon Mapp on bass, and several string players. Now, we have JJ Wheeler on drums: he wrote his own charts to tunes before I got the chance to send him any! Unfortunately Ralph is now on a South American cruise, so we have Sam James who I've been working with for about half a year now; he's got a great understanding of what we're trying to get, and we have my Konvalia String Quartet joining us.

RE: They are an Hungarian quartet?

AK:Yes. They've been in London for just over a year now and we've been playing together since June. What's really great about them is that they're open to new sounds and music. We agree that it's important to play new compositions and not to lock yourself in one genre of music. They're really interested in improvisation, and they're looking to explore it further so I don't think this is going to be the end of me using a string quartet in my jazz projects; I'm actually planning to do a record just with strings.

RE: You're doing a bit more work with drummer JJ Wheeler right?

AK: Yes, his project Come Back Stronger will be on at the Forge and he's invited my band to join him as a joint act. One half will be his project and the other half will be my band. It's on the 26th of May

Rob Edgar: What can we expect to hear on the 10th of May?

Agata Kubiak: There will be a mixture of some original compositions and arrangements; each song represent a different period of my life. Obviously the originals are quite recent but there will be an Ewa Demarczyk tune - Tomaszów - I'm hugely inspired by her.

We will also have a special guest at the concert: Tom Millar from Way Out West is writing an arrangement of one of his tunes for my band with strings, he will be joining us for that.

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Montreal Jazz Festival 2014 Indoor Programme Announced

Montreal Jazz Fesstival 2013
Photo Credit Jean-Francois Leblanc/Montreal Int Jazz Fest

The programme of ticketed indoor events for the world's largest jazz festival has just been announced. A few headliners, including some native and some adoptive Brits : Diana Ross, Keith Jarrett, Michael Bublé, Terence Blanchard, Rufus Wainwright, Trombone Shorty, Beck, Marcus Miller, Katie Melua, Jack DeJohnette, Earth, Wind & Fire, Tony Bennett, Ben Harper, Ginger Baker, Tord Gustavsen, Stacey Kent, Brad Mehldau, Dr. Lonnie Smith. 

For the final concert the city will honour one of its own, with a special 80th birthday concert for Oliver Jones.

Ottawa journalist Peter Hum has already published his top dozen HERE, and also reproduces today's press release in full.

Peter Hum's choices are: The Heath Brothers / Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Gamak / Fred Hersch Trio / Keith Jarrett solo concert / Marc Copland, Gary Peacock, Joey Baron/ Danilo Perez Trio with John Patitucci and Brian Blade / Jeff Ballard’s trio with Lionel Loueke and Terence Blanchard Quintet followed by the Orchestre national de jazz de Montréal / the Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra. (pp)
MONTREAL JAZZ FESTIVAL WEBSITE

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Happy 450th Birthday William Shakespeare with Sir John and Dame Cleo. O Mistress Mine (1961)

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Sunday Nights at The Griffin in Whetstone - A Jazz Bar in N20



Stephen Plumb wrote in to tell us about a jazz bar in N20 called The Griffin.

The Griffin is a long established public house on the main drag through Finchley/Whetstone to Barnet - the old Great North Road. The pub is only is a few minutes stroll from Totteridge and Whetstone Station on the Northern Line.

The landlord/manager is a guy named Matt Hope who, when not pulling pints and keeping the Brewery's accounts straight, is a time-served trumpeter and graduate of Leeds College of Music. Simply put, the Griffin is a musician's dream; having as it does, a musician landlord.

Matt has a number of different musically themed evenings in the week including a Monday covers band led by Steve Pearce (the wonderful session bassist) of Fletch's Brew fame. The live jazz takes place every Sunday night at 7.30pm It's a great vibe and its becoming a bit of a "hang" attracting some noted musos at the bar to listen. We've had Geoff Eales, Mick Hutton and Robin Jones pop in on different occasions.

The format is very relaxed and listener friendly with a House Trio of Gareth Hunt on Piano, Wally Shaw on Bass and myself on Drums.

I have worked with Gareth since the 90s; he is head of jazz studies at St Paul's School and is on the staff at the Purcell School. Wally is the house bassist at Googlies jazz club in Enfield.

Since starting last September the Trio has been privileged to back inter alia:

Brandon Allen
Georgina Jackson
Simon Bates
Ashley Slater
Alan Barnes
Brian Corbett
Georgia Mancio
Finn Peters
Dave O'Higgins
Christian Brewer
Derek Nash
Sid Gauld
Kevin Fitzsimmons (vox)
Frank Griffith (jokes)
Gareth Lochrane
Carl Orr (Fletch's Brew)
Nick Newall (The Kinks & Zoot Money)
Dan Foster (Kairos Ensemble)
Gabriel Garrick
Freddie Gavita

This coming week we have John Etheridge.

More information HERE

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Report: 2014 La Linea Festival. 3rd April - 2nd May



La Linea Festival
(Various London Venues. 3rd April-2nd May2014. Report and photographs by John L Walters)


As promoter Andy Wood pointed out as he introduced the bands at Koko, his La Linea festival coincides with the onset of hay fever. Though there are undoubtedly a few within the World Music cognoscenti who claim allergies to ‘jazz’ or ‘world-jazz’, it is hard to imagine the broadly ‘Latin’ music in the three gigs I witnessed stirring mind and body without a strong dose of jazz spirit.

Ed Motta at the Union Chapel, April 2014
Photo credit: John L Walters


Ed Motta (above) is a case in point. Motta’s omnivorous appetite for all kinds of music includes a deep understanding of jazz. For the 7 April performance, pianist Matti Klein took advantage of his bandleader’s immaculate pop-funk material to deliver a couple of two-fisted piano solos pitched somewhere between Victor Feldman and McCoy Tyner. (I reviewed his Ronnie Scott’s gig on this very site last October.)

Motta’s ultra-sharp ensemble sound suffered a little from the lofty acoustic space of the Union Chapel (which seems better suited to more acoustic outfits such as Penguin Café), but his genial personality shone through as he discussed the merits of Magnum P.I. over Knight Rider, and bemoaned the fact that he could never sport the Magnum look – mullet and tight jeans. One long vocal cadenza had a touch of Bobby McFerrin, and guitarist Jean-Paul Maunick – Bluey of Incognito – came on stage to jam with Motta on the hustling ‘Drive Me Crazy’.

Daniel Melingo is a tango bard with a Chaplinesque persona, leading his note-perfect band through a series of vignettes with pathos, drama and wit. Pianist Pedro Ornetto has a delicious neuvo-tango touch, sometimes reaching inside the piano to pluck the strings, while multi-instrumentalist Muhammad Habbibi has an ear for unusual timbres, including a highly melodic use of the bowed musical saw. On guitar, Habbibi has a quiet authority and control that suggests he’s listened to (and learned from) Bill Frisell. The show belongs to Melingo, however, who’s a star – both self-mocking and proud. As an Argentine friend noted, ‘you can’t get more porteño than Melingo’. Their Purcell Room date was on 6 April.

Luzmira Zerpa. La Linea Festival 2014
Photo Credit: John L Walters

In Koko (the venue I remember as the Music Machine) the 8 April gig began imaginatively with the movie Nosotros, La Música (1964), a black & white documentary about Cuban music, which put everyone in a good frame of mind for support band Family Atlantica, led by extravagantly attired vocalist Luzmira Zerpa (above).

Cherif Soumano, La Linea Festival 2014
Photo credit: John L Walters

Headliner Roberto Fonseca performed with a terrific quintet: Cherif Soumano on kora and tama; bassist Yandi Martínez; drummer Ramsés Rodríguez; and percussionist/vocalist Joel Hierrezuelo / Cuban. After paying his dues in Cuba, Fonseca found international fame when he replaced the late Ruben Gonzalez in the band of Ibrahim Ferrer, later co-producing Ferrer’s swan song Mi Sueño.

Blessed with a phenomenal piano technique, Fonseca has a talent for unselfconscious fusion, bringing together the naturally occurring montunos of Cuban dance music with exhilarating, two-fisted pianism. But the inclusion of Soumano’s well mixed kora pushes his band into fresh sonic pastures. Their live arrangement of ‘Bibisi’ (from Fonseca’s excellent album Yo) puts West Africa back into Afro-Cuban music and vice-versa, while Fonseca’s rollicking ‘80s’ is a quirky reminder of 1980s pop’s deep jazz-funk roots.

There is one more gig remaining  in the 2014 La Linea Festival: Friday 2 May - Grupo Niche + DJs Johnny G, Julian Mr M & Fercho KBson - Electric Brixton

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Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in UK, 20 June to 2nd July - Tour Dates and Barbican Residency

Wynton Marsalis in Glasgow 2010.
Photo Credit Willliam Ellis .All rights Reserved
The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra directed by Wynton Marsalis will be in the UK from June 20th  to July 2nd.They will perform seven dates outside London, the programme celebrating the Blue Note Label in its 75th year. The orchestra will then be resident at the Barbican and also be working with the Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning Department for the third time with projects in eight East London boroughs.

Tour Dates

1) OUT - OF - LONDON

Friday 20 June | 8:00PM / Harrogate International Festivals

Saturday 21 June | 7:30PM / CAMBRIDGE Corn Exchange

Sunday 22 June | 7:30PM / BASINGSTOKE The Anvil

Monday 23 June | 7:30PM / MANCHESTER Bridgewater Hall

Tuesday 24 June | 7:30PM BIRMINGHAM Symphony Hall

Thursday 26 June | 7:30PM / BRISTOL Colston Hall

Friday 27 June | 7:30PM / EDINBURGH Usher Hall

2) BARBICAN RESIDENCY


Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis & Sachal Jazz Ensemble
Music from Pakistan
Monday 30 June 2014 / 20:00, Barbican Hall / Tickets £20-35 Find out more

Jazz Inspirations: Wynton Marsalis in Converstion / With Young Jazz East Big Band 
Tuesday 1 July 2014 / 18:30, Barbican Hall /Tickets £5 /Find out more

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis and special guests
The Best of Blue Note Records
Wednesday 2 July / 19:30, Barbican Hall / Tickets £20-35  / Find out more

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Harold Sanditen previews Open Mic 1st Birthday (24/4), Group Show (4/5), Flyin' High (2 & 3/5) - at Crazy Coqs



Sebastian interviewed Oklahoma-born cabaret singer HAROLD SANDITEN who hosts the Thursday Late Night Open Mic at Crazy Coqs, by email:

Sebastian Scotney: Harold congratulations , you've been running the Thursday late night Open mic at Crazy Coqs. Do you have a celebration planned?

Harold Sanditen: Yes - we have our first birthday party on Thursday, 24th April. Doors open at 10 pm when I start taking sign ups for performers, and the music begins at 10.30 on the dot. We normally finish at midnight, but we'll go later than usual, up to 1 am to accommodate all the performers. I have a no "slit-your-wrist" ballad rule, which I relax most times, but on the 24th I will be ruthlessly enforcing it, to make it a party atmosphere! (TICKETS)

SS: London is full of singers, how's it been going

HS: The last few weeks have really begun to hot up. The quality of the performers we get is universally superb, and the worse singers are beginning to weed themselves out. I'm also finding we're getting more and more audience members, who're just there to watch and discover new talent. It's only £5 entrance fee, which is affordable to all the performers, and for the audience is, as many people have said, the best value entertainment in London.

SS: Do you have a regular pianist / bassist ? Have they been the same since the start?

HS: Michael Roulston is our regular pianist and Jonty Fisher our regular bassist. They've been with the Open Mic since the beginning. I needed people who are excellent readers, and cross musical genres and they fit that bill perfectly.

SS: Do you let everyone have a try or how does it work?

HS: I try to give everyone a turn, but I can only get so many people on stage in 90 minutes. As a performer, I make a point of giving each performer a chance to promote themselves - let everyone know what they're up to, bring in promotional material and CDs, etc. I have the system down pat now so that I chat with them while the next performer is discussing their song with Michael and Jonty. That keeps things ticking, and there's no interval in the night, so, depending on length of songs, I can get up to 20 people on in 90 minutes. Still, I'm now having to turn people away. I try to make sure all our "virgins" go on stage, but we have some terrific regulars, and the occasional famous person, who I'll put on instead. Steve Brookstein (first ever winner of the X Factor) came a few weeks ago and did a duet with his wife, Eileen Hunter. It brought the house down. That's another reason punters come along - in hopes someone famous will be there to sing. I don't put people on in order of signing up - I put the show together as the night unfolds, to make it as entertaining as possible and mix the styles.

SS: And it's all sorts of singers /genres?

HS: Being a cabaret singer with jazz influences, I was determined that this open mic would be a place were both could sing comfortably, along with pop, rock, musical theatre and even opera. We've attracted all those genres, which delights me.

SS: Is the mix of people you get performing right or are there types of instrumentalist or singer you'd like more / less of?

HS: We have a great mix of singers, although some nights lean more toward one genre or the other. We have some wonderful original singer/songwriters. We've had quite a few duets and some trios, but a small choir would be fab or a barbershop quartet! We don't get many instrumentalists and that would be nice too. So, I'm really looking forward to having you come along and toot your horn again!

SS: Thanks for the invitation . You'll be showcasing (is that the right word?) on Sunday 4th? What time /who's performing /how were they selected?

HS: Yes - as a natural offshoot of the open mic, four of the best singers are doing a group show on Sunday, 4th May at 7.30 - it's called Open Mic Highights. If it's successful, it will happen at least quarterly. What's really exciting about first showcase is the mix showing the diversity of talent we attract. We have a jazz vocalist - Helen Theophanous, a cabaret singer - Julez Hamilton, a musical theatre balladeer - Gary Bland and a young Ukranian opera singer - Andrij Bukach!

SS: And you're a singer yourself -with a recent album about the colour blue ?

HS: I released Shades of Blue, which was recorded live at The Pheasantry, last August. That was based on my solo show, exploring my fascination with the word blue - from music to sound to colour....and naughty to nice. The CD is greatly influenced by my love of jazz, but still firmly rooted in cabaret. There are revamped jazz standards, like Moondance and Birth of the Blues, along with comedy songs, like my version of Me and Mrs Jones, which goes on to be Me and Mr Jones, and then Me and Mr and Mrs Jones. Equal opportunity cheating. I also jazzed up Coward's Stately Homes of England with new lyrics, but probably my favourite song is a country swing version of a Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me, again with some modern lyrics.




SS: And you have a solo show yourself on 2nd 3rd May.What time?

HS: My new show is my travel show - Flyin' High. It's on 2nd and 3rd May at 8 pm. Travel's always been a huge passion, and when I went to count the number of countries I've visited, I couldn't believe it was 65! As I began to think about all those trips, there were some pretty hilarious things that happened to me. It's going to be a very funny show, covering Albuquerque to the Zambezi! Michael (Roulston) and Jonty (Fisher) will be accompanying me. Michael's writing all the new arrangements, and my favourites are Berlin's I Got The Sun in the Morning which reflects all the glorious sunrises I've seen and a medley of Come Fly With Me and Route 66. Being from Oklahoma, I was born on Route 66! I know how much you love Ann Hampton Callaway - well, I'm doing one of her songs - Never Really Mine to Lose. It has absolutely nothing to do with travel, but I just had to sing it.

Now that things are going so well for me at the Crazy Coqs, it seems like Flyin' High couldn't be a more appropriate title! (FRIDAY TICKETS)

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CD Review: L’Arpeggiata, Christina Pluhar - Music For a While - Improvisations on Purcell



L’Arpeggiata, Christina Pluhar - Music For a While - Improvisations on Purcell
(Erato/Warner Classics 08256 463375 07. CD Review by Alison Bentley)


Baroque music often has elements of improvisation, but in the 14-piece group L'Arpeggiata's new CD, director and arranger Christina Pluhar, born in Graz in Austria, and based in Paris, who founded the group in 2000, has brought jazz into the mix alongside baroque instruments with winsome names like theorbo, cornet à bouquin and archlute, with the presence of Austrian guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel (they went to school together) and Italian clarinettist Gianluigi Trovesi.

Pluhar’s aim is to be ‘..constantly moving between the centuries in the harmonies and styles of the improvisations…’. Although the music was written in the late 1600s, a progression like the descending bass line of When I am laid in earth could have been written for jazz and there are many moments when you could be listening to an ECM jazz recording.

Wondrous machine, with alto Vincenzo Capezzuto’s light, expressive voice, has a wondrous groove. Quivering African-influenced percussion starts alongside trilling clarinet; guitar and piano improvise together over energetic bass lines. Countertenor Philippe Jaroussky brings grace to everything he sings- those long, pure notes with their miraculous crescendos. His phrasing is languorous but always precise, floating on the walking bass and gently swung brushes; the juxtaposition of classical singing and jazz instrumental styles is strikingly original. Trovesi’s jazz clarinet solo wraps itself beautifully around the voice. Here the deities approve opens conventionally, with trailing piano lines (Francesco Turrisi) behind Jarroussky. A Cuban groove emerges behind Muthspiel’s guitar solo. An Evening Hymn Upon a Ground starts with exquisite jazz-edged solo guitar, Jaroussky’s sensuous voice melting into the jazz piano and guitar solos.

Raquel Andueza sings in the same register as the male singers, but with a folkier edge to the voice. Alfred Deller’s 60s version of Strike the viol runs through my head, highlighting the way Andueza phrases freely behind the beat in this version. There’s a kind of 17th Century New Orleans carefree collective improvisation, the clarinet riffing along with Muthspiel’s guitar, with cornet arpeggios and dramatic percussion; Haru Kitamika’s organ could almost be Brian Auger. Andueza sings the melody of When I am laid in earth with poise as Jarrett-esque piano trades fours with Muthspiel. Her Ah! Belinda and A prince of glorious race descended have subtle jazz elements, with piano fills between vocal lines and a Muthspiel outro of great beauty in the latter.

Some pieces blur Early Music and folk. The lively One charming night (just a hint of reggae) and ‘Twas within a furlong are sung with verve by Capezzuto. The latter, a ballad of love and marriage, has a country swing, shuffly percussion and a melodica. Dominique Visse treats Man is for the woman made almost like a comic patter song. The instrumental Curtain Tune on a Ground has robust but subtle percussion, and sounds like a folk dance.

Other pieces are performed in Early Music style, highlights being counterpointed duets between Jaroussky and Capezzuto in In vain the am’rous flute, and Jaroussky and Andueza inHark how the songsters of the grove. Veronika Skuplik’s baroque violin heightens the melancholy of Andueza’s voice in O let me weep. The ensemble playing is so good that you don’t want to focus on individual instruments, as in O Solitude where Jaroussky’s voice rests on a cushion of harps and lutes.

Leonard Cohen’s oft-covered Hallelujah, the ‘bonus track’, is an unexpected conclusion to the album, but I’m sure it goes down a storm as a gig encore.

‘Our listeners find themselves in a timeless music room,’ says Pluhar. The experience of hearing the 17th and 21st centuries (and probably a few in between) in the same songs is a thrilling one. L’Arpeggiata play with such finesse and zeal, that ‘Music for a while/ shall all your cares beguile’.

L’ARPEGGIATA

Christina Pluhar- director, theorbo
Doron Sherwin- cornet à bouquin
Veronika Skuplik- baroque violin
Julien Martin, Marine Sablonnière- recorder
Eero Palviainen- archlute, baroque guitar
Marcello Vitale- baroque guitar, chitarra battente
Sarah Ridy- baroque harp
David Mayoral, Sergey Saprichev, Michèle Claude- percussion
Boris Schmidt- double bass
Haru Kitamika- harpsichord, organ
Francesco Turrisi- piano, harpsichord, organ, melodica

Special Guests

Gianluigi Trovesi- clarinet
Wolfgang Muthspiel- acoustic guitar & electric guitar
Philippe Jaroussky- countertenor
Raquel Andueza- soprano
Vincenzo Capezzuto- alto
Dominique Visse- countertenor

Christina Pluhar at Warner Classics . In addition to the standard CD version there is also a Limited Edition "Casebound Deluxe CD plus DVD" version)

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CD Review: Phronesis - Life to Everything



Phronesis - Life to Everything
(Edition. EDN1050. CD review by Mike Collins)


The reputation of the trio of bass virtuoso Jaspar Høiby, pianist Ivo Neame and drummer Anton Eger reached new heights following their 2012 release Walking Dark and relentless touring including extensive trips to North America and Australia. Their shows at the Cockpit Theatre in the 2013 London Jazz Festival, at which they planned to record this new album, quickly sold out and a third was added. The release of Life to Everything has been keenly anticipated.

The excitement and emotional charge will be no surprise to those sell-out audiences at The Cockpit, but it’s hard not join in with the whoops and cheers as yet another furious climax is reached with Anton Eger letting rip, interacting with an off kilter stop start riff at the end of Høiby’s Wings 2 the Mind or whipping up a solo storm at the end of his own composition Dr. Black before an imperious rocky piano vamp returns to close the set, sounding for all the world like the Bad Plus on steroids. This does indeed feel close to having the live experience in your living room – pay attention now!

The thrilling set is built around ingredients that will be familiar to Phronesis aficionados: complex quick-fire looping riffs; melodic fragments, sections of abstract shifting harmony, and blistering soloing from the piano; propulsive, restless and unfailingly complementary drumming. It’s a potent brew and the band members have each taken turns in piecing together the elements.

Urban Control starts with a typically urgent, stuttering bass riff echoed by descending piano chords. The pattern and a little melodic phrase launching the solos. Ivo Neame’s Phraternal creates a slightly different atmosphere. Meditative, rich, chords introduce it and meandering lines are shadowed by resonant bowed bass adding colour before a flowing more lyrical piano solo builds. Song for Lost Nomads also starts with piano etching out the harmony before a skipping, dance like groove emerges underpinning motifs with an eastern edge to them. The ceaseless flow of ideas from Eger’s kit offer a foil for percussive chord based soloing. Jaspar Høiby’s fluid, rich bass is the ever present beating heart of this group sound and launches his Nine Lives, another jigsaw like confection of rhythms and patterns, its stop-start riffs prompting a blistering workout from Neame. Anton Eger’s Herne Hill starts with the prettiest melodic theme of the set and then proceeds to stretch and maul it with a variety of time feels and thunderous latin grooves in what sounds like a mainly through composed piece.

It all makes for compelling listening and is a great advert for the live band. Buy the CD. Go and see them.

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CD Review: Jon Di Fiore - Yellow Petals



Jon Di Fiore - Yellow Petals
(Third Freedom Music 1003. CD Review by Eric Ford)


Jon Di Fiore is a drummer, classical percussionist, pianist and composer based in New Jersey. He's written nine varied tracks, each on a theme, for the debut CD of his trio with Adrian Moring on bass and Billy Test on piano. All three are recent graduates, and in fact Test is still doing a Masters at the Manhattan School of Music on a full scholarship - which tells you that he's pretty spesh. For me, he steals the show on this CD. There's a Brad Mehldau influence (amongst others) in his playing and he has some serious classical chops to unleash at climactic moments, as well as demonstrating great restraint, sensitivity, swing, imagination and everything else you'd hope for from a jazz pianist at other times.

Despite the modernity of some of Test's playing, it seems to me that this album has a mid-sixties Rudy Van Gelder aura about it thanks to the warmth of the sound, the sound of the drums (like Gretsch drums from that era with the tuning you'd expect to hear on those recordings) and cymbals (eg the infamous Tony Williams ride), the "woodiness" of the bass and the compositions themselves. Who'd have thought a tune inspired by "the low income architecture of New Orleans" could be as wistful and lovely as Shotgun House is? I wonder what Di Fiore would come up with if confronted by some of the 'low income architecture' in London?!

Lots of drummers write tunes around unusual rhythms or figures that they've come up with but -  with the exception of Orange  - that's not the case here. There's plenty of variation of speed and "vibe", a tune in 6/4, another in 7/4, one in 6/8, some moments of abstraction, but still there's a very homogenous feel to the album. Again, I think this has a lot to do with the sound but also Di Fiore's playing, which is always subtle and not "chopsy".

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Cd Review: Roy Assaf Trio - Second Row Behind The Painter



Roy Assaf Trio - Second Row Behind The Painter
(One Trick Dog Records UPC 888295063746. CD Review by Andy Boeckstaens)


Israeli pianist Roy Assaf went to Boston in 2003 to study at the Berklee College of Music, where he met the likes of Richie Beirach and Joanne Brackeen. Since graduating, and moving to New York in 2006 to continue his studies at the Manhattan School of Music, he has played with the Dizzy Gillespie All Stars, the Mingus Big Band and David Sanborn.

Assaf is now in his early 30s, and Second Row Behind The Painter is the début recording by a trio that worked together for around a year before going into the studio last September. The CD is unusual because a series of sets – almost five hours altogether - were taped like a live performance, and the result combines the immediacy of a gig with the clarity of a studio album.

The first pieces by Assaf set the bar very high. The title track has a quasi-classical beginning before a flexible beat is introduced by bassist Raviv Markovitz and Jake Goldbas on drums. The former, who has appeared with Joe Lovano and Makoto Ozone, is prominently featured throughout the set. Goldbas has experience alongside Patti Austin and Dave Brubeck, and his ear-catching hand-drumming makes a distinctive impact on several selections.

Babel is even better than the opener. It has tremendous momentum and beautiful harmonies, and other-wordly bursts of electric piano combine with bells and percussion to add variety to a finely-honed creation that is already bursting with drama.

Frank Loesser’s Never Will I Marry - a rarely-heard melody from the unsuccessful 1960 Broadway show Greenwillow - and It’s a Dance by Michel Petrucciani are attractively impressionistic. A more traditional feel pervades Kvar Acharei Chatzot, a gentle ballad by the renowned Israeli songwriter Naomi Shemer.

Despite the “live” approach, there is a bit of studio tweaking, the details of which were kindly explained to me by the lead engineer, Dev Avidon. The synthesizer on Con Grew is straight out of a ‘70s sci-fi action movie, and its soaring whine tends to overwhelm the underlying piano and rhythm. Markovitz and Goldbas whip up a stonking groove on the longest track, folk-lore, where Assaf’s rollicking, Billy Taylor-ish piano is processed in parts with a Moog filter.

Three uncredited interludes are, presumably, improvised. Interlude #1 is the most meaty, and would succeed as the basis for a fully-fledged composition. The others are shorter, less interesting, and dominated by the harsh backbeat of a snare drum that initially emerges on a quirky version of I Got It Bad.

The trio is unadorned for the closing, magnificent Budvar. It starts with big chords and goes through changes of pace and mood before blossoming into gorgeous raw straight-time, when all three musicians sound at their most confident, relaxed and free.

It’s a great conclusion to an album that is very good by any standards. Second Row Behind The Painter is an impressive showcase for the group, and Assaf deserves special recognition for his compositions as well as his instrumental artistry.

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CD Review: Piero Umiliani - Svezia Inferno e Paradiso



Piero Umiliani - Svezia Inferno e Paradiso
(Digibeat. DGBT 001. CD review by Andrew Cartmel)


The success of the 1962 film Mondo Cane set the trend for sensationalist and rather sleazy semi-documentaries emanating from Italy. The 1968 film Svezia Inferno e Paradiso (Sweden — Heaven and Hell, or rather vice versa) was very much in this tradition, a goggle-eyed glance at permissive Swedish culture —they have motorcycle gangs, they go topless, etc. These films are forgettable, their music anything but.

For Mondo Cane the music was by Riz Ortolani and its song was More. Svezia’s composer was the wonderful Piero Umiliani and the song the wordless, infinitely catchy Mah-Nà Mah-Nà which became a worldwide hit and was covered by the Dave Pell Singers and immortalized by the Muppets.

Piero Umiliani was a formidably talented Italian jazz man who paid the bills by making astonishing music for movies and television. The burgeoning lounge (and bachelor pad) movements have led to a welcome revival of his back catalogue. The vinyl release of Il Marchio di Kriminal (REVIEWED HERE) appeared recently and now Beat Records in Rome have reissued the entire score of Svezia Inferno e Paradiso on CD.

The jazz credentials of the players on a Umiliani session are impeccable, but Svezia has a particularly strong line up, including a core combo on several tracks featuring no less a luminary than Gato Barbieri playing tenor sax. The other musicians are Antonello Vannucchi on Hammond organ and vibes, Carlo Pes on guitar, Maurizio Majorana on bass and Roberto Podio on drums. Umiliani plays piano and clavinet as well as operating a kind of early string synthesiser which he built himself, consisting of a 16 track Ampex tape recorder (probably an MM-1000, given the date) with a keyboard of its own. “Violins were recorded on each channel,” recalled Umiliani. “It was a brand new instrument and I had called it, rather incongruously, ‘Sarchiapone’,” — the name of an imaginary animal from a TV comedy.

Vocals are also an important part of the score, and not just the aforementioned Mah-Nà Mah-Nà. That classic song features Alessandro Alessandroni and his wife Giulia Alessandroni. But also appearing on the soundtrack is Edda Dell’Orso, the eerie goddess of Euro vocals. Edda and the two Alessandronis provide the surreal, interwoven vocal soundscapes conjured in Sequenza psichedelica (surely I don’t need to translate) accompanied by Roberto Podio’s hypnotic bongos, Vannucchi’s haunted Hammond and spectral electronica.

The final featured singer is Lydia MacDonald, born in Edinburgh to an Italian mother and a Scottish father, who performs You Tried to Warn Me as well as the lullaby Sleep Now Little One, The latter track provides material for some of the most notable moments on the album. “Gato used the same theme to create a totally different musical situation,” said Umiliani. “So different that we even changed the title.”

This is re-titled instrumental is Solitudine (Loneliness) which opens with nocturnal and bluesy solo sax from a fluent and expressive Barbieri. Only gradually does Giovanni Tommaso’s bass creep in, accompanied by Bruno Biriaco’s shuffling drums. Barbieri soars aloofly over them, a predatory and proud raptor. Then, just when the listener begins to accept it’s going to be a trio piece, we’re treated to the glassy beauty of Antonello Vannucchi’s vibes. The crystalline loveliness of his playing calls to mind Milt Jackson in vintage MJQ recordings, as Vannucchi duets marvellously in conversation with Barbieri.

The appropriately named Free in Minore is a free jazz excursion by Barbieri’s raw, splintering, wheedling tenor in a moody minor sound-world where the only other inhabitant is Giovanni Tommaso’s adroitly minimal bass, whose strumming provides a kind of smudged charcoal background for the silvery sparks of the saxophone. In utter contrast Piano Bossa Nova is a delightfully warm and sensual workout, with Barbieri’s tone reminiscent of his rasping cries of rapture on Last Tango in Paris. This track again features Tommaso on bass and Biriaco on drums while Enzo Grillini replaces Carlo Pes on guitar. Maestro Umiliani plays the eponymous piano in lilting, dancing style.

Stoccolma, My Dear provides a kiss-off for the Swedish capital in the form of Vannucchi’s rapid, ripe Hammond organ, skipping and skirling against the laid back twang of Carlo Pes’s guitar and solid steady-state drumming by Roberto Podio. Notte di mezza estate (Midsummer Night) rides in on a warm tide of vocals from Edda Dell’Orso and Mr and Mrs Alessandroni before Piero Umiliani steps forward and demonstrates his chops on clavinet. It’s a kind of harmonious collision of baroque and bossa.

Nel Cosmo (In the Cosmos) features otherworldly electronic effects brought back down to earth by Podio’s drums, Vannucchi’s Hammond and Carlo Pes’s fuzz guitar. Pes is one of the heroes of Topless Party (that's the kind of a movie this was), apparently double tracked so that he is playing against himself in a masterful, choppy exchange. This cut is also a showcase for Vannucchi on Hammond. It makes you want to get up and dance — minus your top, naturally — if you can tear yourself away from listening to Alessandro Alessandroni’s virtuosic whistling on La Signora Cameriera (The Lady Waitress).

Beat's Limited Edition CD gives us for the very first time every note recorded for the film Svezia Inferno e Paradiso. This issue represents not just a defining moment for Umiliani, but for Italian popular music of the 20th Century.

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Preview / Interview: Barry Guy New Orchestra at Cafe Oto, 20-22 May

Barry Guy, London, 2014
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2014. All Rights Reserved


Preview: Barry Guy New Orchestra
(Cafe Oto, 20-21 May. Preview / interview and drawings by Geoff Winston)


Virtuoso bassist and composer, Barry Guy, has been a key figure in the British and European jazz and free improvising scenes for over 40 years. Best known as founder of the London Jazz Composers Orchestra and as a fiendishly inventive improviser in the reknowned trio with Evan Parker and Paul Lytton, and in projects with the likes of Mats Gustafsson and Marilyn Crispell, he brings his Barry Guy New Orchestra to Cafe Oto for a 3-day residency on 20-22 May (tickets HERE).

Guy also straddles the jazz and classical divide, with appointments as principal bass player in highly respected chamber orchestras, including The Academy of Ancient Music, over a 25 year period, and concert repertoires that combine jazz improvisation, early music and contemporary classical material.

His adventurous and demanding compositions and recordings have won prestigious international awards and critical accolades, and he attracts commissions from international musicians and festivals of the highest calibre.

He has appeared on several key ECM recordings, with The Hilliard Ensemble, John Surman, Roscoe Mitchell, and Evan Parker's Electro-Acoustic Ensemble, and under his own name with his wife, early music specialist Maya Homburger, with whom he also runs the diverse and esoteric Maya Recordings CD label.

As well being as an acclaimed solo and small group performer, Guy's large ensemble work with the LJCO and, since 2000, the BGNO, has brought together leading improvisers for concerts of unsurpassed dynamic invention and its British debut at Cafe Oto will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of the jazz and free music calendar.

Geoff Winston interviewed him for London Jazz News:


Geoff Winston: The residency of the Barry Guy New Orchestra (BGNO) at Cafe Oto on 20, 21 and 22 May with eleven of the most resourceful musicians around must be an appealing prospect. And an intimate venue, perhaps, offers something different to the more formal concert hall setting?

Barry Guy: Yes indeed. The atmosphere of Cafe Oto is relaxed and, from my previous experiences, there exists an intense concentration coming from the listeners. It’s also rather special to find a place in the audience to hear one's colleagues rather than sitting back stage.

GW: Will you be programming each night along similar lines of residencies in Switzerland, Poland and Germany, facilitating solo spots, performances by duos, trios and other groupings, as well those by the full orchestra? How will it work?

BG: Exactly as you have observed. There are so many possibilities and my main task is to make sure that all of the musicians have adequate space to work out their music with others. There’s also the joy of perhaps putting together an unusual combination which surprises us all.

GW: The line-up of instrumentalists in your New Orchestra makes a very strong case for the strength and depth of European jazz and contemporary music. You are now living in Switzerland and have been working with many of these musicians for quite a number of years, in small groups and in the 18-piece London Jazz Composers Orchestra (LJCO) which you founded in 1972, as well as the BGNO.

Who will be in the BGNO on the night? How did you find them – or do they find you? There must be some interesting stories along the way.


BG: The BGNO line-up will be: Herb Robertson (trumpet), Johannes Bauer (trombone), Per Åke Holmlander (tuba), Trevor Watts (alto sax), Evan Parker (soprano/tenor sax), Per ‘Texas’ Johansson (baritone sax/clarinet), Hans Koch (bass clarinet), Maya Homburger (violin), Agusti Fernandez (piano), Paul Lytton (percussion), Raymond Strid (percussion), and myself (bass/director).

Following a Berlin Jazz Festival performance by the LJCO in 1998, Patrik Landolt, the boss of Intakt Records, suggested putting together a smaller ensemble that could operate when funds were not available for the big group. It took me a while to assimilate the ramifications of such a move since I was still hooked to the LJCO size and orchestration possibilities. After a while it occurred to me that a group of players based upon three working trios (Parker/Guy/Lytton, Guy/Crispell/Lytton and Guy/Gustafsson/Strid – now called Tarfala) with additional musicians who had crossed paths over the years would be a good basis for the BGNO. After the first project and recording (Inscape – Tableaux), Marilyn Crispell got a little tired of transatlantic travelling and suggested Agusti Fernandez as a pianist that could take over from her. It worked a treat, and now of course I have a trio with Agusti and Ramon Lopez. A little later I had the chance to invite Trevor Watts into the band to complete a more balanced orchestra – cementing the connection between the trumpet and the saxophone section. This represented a satisfying and important link with the LJCO since Trevor was a founding member.


Barry Guy, London, 2014
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2014. All Rights Reserved




GW: How do your working relationships with these musicians evolve, given your demanding compositions which mix conventional and intricate graphic scores with improvised tracts, and have you conducting, sometimes in conduction mode, as well as playing alongside them? You must have complete trust in their abilities to respond to the musical structure and to inject their own expressive input in to the whole schema.

BG: That’s the whole idea really and yes, it has been important to compose music that allows the musician’s creative imagination to flourish. Sometimes it is quite tricky to pull the rabbit out of the hat, so to speak, but with my constant analysing of previous scores and their successes and problems, I get to hold the rabbit without too much fuss. The main objective is to write only what needs to be written to balance composition and improvisation.

GW: On the final night the Orchestra will be performing the two major compositions, AMPHI (2010) and RADIO RONDO (2008), that make up the latest CD on your Maya Recordings label. They are quite a contrast, with AMPHI written around Maya’s baroque violin (Maya Homburger, Barry’s wife and musical partner) and RADIO RONDO, around various high energy groupings. Can you tell us a bit about these pieces?

BG: Briefly, AMPHI might be termed as ‘chamber music’, whilst RADIO RONDO looks towards a more orchestral landscape. The listeners must adjust their expectations accordingly since the expansiveness of the grand piano offers an obvious ‘big picture’ in RADIO RONDO whilst the orchestration for the baroque violin in AMPHI is more internalised. Of course I have to thank Maya in the first place for suggesting such a risky but irresistible project. Orchestrating for such a delicate sounding instrument posed some interesting questions, not least in the the balance between her violin and brass, saxophones and percussion. In AMPHI I envisaged the baroque violin being gently embraced by the ensemble (think King Kong gently holding the female atop the Empire State building), whilst RADIO RONDO throws the whole ensemble at the grand piano with Agusti on high alert to deal with whatever comes his way.

GW: Where did you study and practice architecture and how did you make the transition to music?

Do you sense a relationship between the two practices? I know that some of your compositions have architectural inspiration, not to mention form – AMPHI being a case in point, related to the physical structure of Aalto’s Helsinki Technical University. And others have links with artists such as Alan Davie.


BG: A book could be written about this, and I should point out that my musical migration was jazz through to contemporary through to early music projects.

Concerning my architectural activities, I was ‘articled’ to a London-based practice of restoration architects called Caroe and Partners. Their work extended from University College Cardiff through to some of the great cathedrals (Wells and Canterbury for instance), as well as many West Country churches. I enjoyed the work immensely. Whilst working day-times with the practice, I attended music evening classes in composition, playing gigs and generally immersing myself in music until the opportunity arose to go to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. So when the doors opened for me, I dived in with total enthusiasm soaking up whatever I encountered. It was a heady time! My architectural interests however did not desert me, in fact they became stronger, so much so that I found situations emerging where architectural structures influenced my compositional musings.

Additional to architecture, I’ve often found paintings to be quite important. In my day-to-day activities the artists Alan Davie, Bert Irvin and Fred Hellier play a large part in the sense that they constantly stimulate my imagination. The vitality that the canvasses exude represents a daily pleasure and my graphic scores have benefited enormously from their work. My other influence is the work of Samuel Beckett, but that is another story.

GW: Can you say something about the impact on your work for large ensembles of the Jazz Composers Orchestra Association (which Evan Parker has cited as a major influence), and perhaps also about Alexander Von Schlippenbach’s Global Unity Orchestra and the Instant Composers Pool Orchestra, which all started up in the mid-60s?

BG: All of the ensembles you mentioned started before the LJCO and it was the JCOA that I first heard when I had all but completed my first large scale work, ODE. I was so thrilled by the discovery that Michael Mantler was working with a similar type of notation. My desire was then to get in touch with Mike to exchange scores and perhaps to prepare some performances, but my naivety led me nowhere since I was generally so unworldly and without the knowledge or contacts to make a connection. Many years later I met Mike and told him of my hopes. I think he was mildly amused.

As far as Globe Unity and ICP were concerned I knew more about their music from reports by Paul Rutherford and guys that had an international reputation. I concluded that the working methods of these ensembles were just different from my own, so didn’t really research their music. I knew it was very original though.

Geoff Winston: This Cafe Oto residency is a milestone, the first – and long overdue – appearance of the BGNO in the UK. What sort of impression would you like to feel that you will make on those lucky enough to be able to attend any of these dates. What do you hope they will go away with?

Barry Guy: My hope is that we deliver improvised and composed music of a high order that will thrill the audience. The colours are so diverse and unpredictable, so there should be something for everybody. The sounds will come from practitioners who have developed their individual art for many years, so we should be ready for surprises. If the listener goes away with a sense of discovery, then we will have done our job.

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Led Bib Preview (Tour 22 April - 4 May). Mark Holub writes...

Mark Holub. Photo: Mapex Drums


Drummer Mark Holub writes about the forthcoming Led Bib tour – dates below:

With only a few weeks to go till the tour, it's got me thinking about our beginnings and the fact that in 2005, we were one of the first ever bands to play in the new Vortex in Dalston, launching our first album there before the club was even properly opened. We had friends run the bar, which wasn't even there yet, and played on the floor before the stage was built....and looking at the pictures, we were younger....a lot younger!

On that same tour I remember playing one of our first concerts outside of London, which we are returning to on this tour, at St. Ives Jazz Club in Cornwall. We were of course super excited to be playing anywhere at the time, and after the concert a journalist from a local paper asked if he could interview me. It was naturally also one of my first 'interviews', so of course the band was all keen to find out what the guy had written during the concert. One of the guys went behind the journalist and looked at his notepad, which only had one line on it, 'The most avant-garde thing I have ever seen in St. Ives'. Well, hopefully he will come back to this next gig there,our first concert there since 2005.

But, I digress, back to the Vortex and London. The Vortex has always felt to us like our 'home' club. The staff have always been supportive of the band and we have seen the club grow from a shell, still waiting to get its liqueur license, to a 365 day a year jazz club, showcasing some of the best new music from the UK and beyond. We recorded some of our live LP here (The Good Egg out April 21st), recorded for Jazz on 3, ran the Dalston Summer Stew there, worked with young people from Hackney, collaborated with Chris Batchelor - the list goes on and on. Now, the Vortex has been so kind as to give us 3 nights (one of which is being recorded for later broadcast by Jazz on 3) to celebrate the release of the aforementioned live album alongside a new studio CD entitled The People in Your Neighbourhood, (REVIEWED HERE)

We are playing a 13-day tour across the UK and the Vortex shows are some of the final ones on the tour, so, we WILL be ready, and can't wait to see all the lovely Vortex staff and volunteers, and also, of course, the friendly faces of the people who have been coming to our concerts all these years.

It's funny reading the old reviews for the band, 'firebrand twenty-somethings', a 'horribly young band' etc etc. That's not us any more, for most of us, our twenties are getting pretty far away, and that baton has been passed on to the next generation, but the thing that brought us together is the music, and in my mind it's stronger than ever and we can't wait to take it on tour.

TOUR DATES


22 April 2014 St Ives Jazz Club, Cornwall
23 April 2014 Broomhill Art Hotel, Barnstaple
24 April 2014 The Hope, Brighton
25 April 2014 Millennium Hall, Sheffield
26 April 2014 Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry
27 April 2014 Fusebox @ The Fox and Newt, Leeds
28 April 2014 The Bell, Bath
29 April 2014 Freedom Principle @ Dulcimer, Manchester
30 April 2014 Dempsey's, Cardiff
1 -3 May 2014 Vortex, London Album launch residency
4 May 2014 Sounds New Festival, Canterbury

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Report: Jeremy Pelt Close to my Heart re-created at Kings Place

Jeremy Pelt at Kings Place- Photo credit Melody McLaren (iPhome)


Sebastian writes:

I'm definitely disqualified from reviewing this one, having been given the privilege of introducing the bands from the stage, but I have to say that this concert, part of the Global Music Foundation's Easter weekend at Kings Place, was special.

Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt re-visited his 2003 album Close to my Heart with the arranger of the album David O'Rourke directing a small orchestra, plus a fine trio of Bruce Barth, Duncan Hopkins and Stephen Keogh.

In some senses it was a premiere, since the album was done with only four string players overdubbed, and this was the first ever performance with the scaled-up resources originally intended.

Jeremy Pelt played in Kings Place Hall One completely acoustically, and trusted David O'Rourke and the strings to balance  - which they did. Pelt's tone, line, spacious phrasing, logic, the sheer beauty of his playing of Cy Coleman's Why Try to Change Me Now? was absolutely the kind of sound that the refined Kings Place Hall One acoustic was always intended for. This was supreme ballad-playing as complete nourishment for heart and soul, and heard in perfect conditions.

There was an added bonus in the set: Rene Marie performed her double-song of (wait for it) Ravel's Bolero and Leonard Cohen's Suzanne, realized for trio and Orchestra by David O'Rourke. And does the combination of Montreal beef brisket plus tea and oranges with a composition by a French vegetarian composer work? You really had to be there.

Earlier in the evening, Tina May and Guillermo Rozenthuler had taken the audience on a wonderful romantic world tour in Musica Paradiso, with and orchestra directed, and string arrangements by Raphael Hurwitz. An unlikely high-point of this set was another improbable double-song: Michel Legrand's love theme from Les Parapluies de Cherbourg combined with Agustin Lara's Piensa en mi.

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CD Review: Vein - Vote for Vein!



Vein - Vote for Vein!
(Unit Records. UTR 4453. CD Review by Eric Ford)


Unless you have another CD by Vein, I reckon you're unlikely to have anything else in your collection that's quite like this. In their moments of gleeful irreverence they might bring to mind a Swiss version of The Bad Plus, but there still seems to be affection for the style being parodied and there's never any doubting the seriousness of the work these guys have put in individually and collectively. All members of the trio (brothers Michael Arbenz - piano - and Florian Arbenz - drums / Thomas Laehns - bass ) sound like they had excellent classical training and have played a lot of contemporary music, but yes they can and do swing! One of the joys of this band is its variety and creativity. It's extraordinarily tight and ventures into some territory few other bands would attempt to explore, as well as playing conventional piano trio jazz with great panache. They've also collaborated, toured and recorded with Greg Osby, Dave Liebman and Glenn Ferris - this is a heavy band!

If you plan to buy the CD, you may want to look away now and come back in the next paragraph... As an example of the scope of this trio, check out the first track "Appearance and Speech". Presumably satirising politicians' election campaigns, there's a hilarious "grand" entry which turns in a flash into a jerky mixed-meter ragtime over which bassist Thomas Lahns manages to solo fluidly. This morphs into a joyous Oscar Peterson trio-type romp but again in a meter-fest never heard from Oscar's trio.

Subsequent tracks utilise tuned and untuned percussion - there is some multi-tracking of percussion and indeed of bass - and there's a lot of bowed bass, which (as always) adds so much colour and texture. It grooves, it's rubato, it's subtle, it's fun, it's ruminative, it's exultant; above all, it's constantly surprising. It's a treat.

Vein are at the Vortex in London this coming Thursday (April 24th) with guest GREG OSBY whom we interviewed last year -  LINK HERE .

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CD Review: The Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra - Strength In Numbers



The Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra - Strength In Numbers
Summit Records DCD 627. CD Review by Frank Griffith)


Strength In Numbers, indeed, as this Connecticut born, NYC-based trombonist/arranger's second big band CD shines on many levels. Pete McGuinness nods to the late Bob Brookmeyer, as well as other jazz icons (Thad Jones and Chet Baker) are evident while never overshadowing his well formed individual voice as a writer, trombonist and singer.

His wise combination of largely originals with three carefully chosen standards make for a delectable collection that joins together seamlessly. The crack NYC band sparkles throughout, boasting a fleet of inspired and virtousic soloists coupled with exemplary ensemble prowess. They negotiate through the leader's challenging, yet highly rewarding charts with unfettered aplomb.

Standout soloists, to name a few include veteran trumpeter, Chris Rogers whose lyrical harmon muted heartfelt melodies score highly on "Spellbound". Fans of the 1970s movie, "Fame" might remember Chris's bit part in that film as a student who suddenly could not resist the urge to dance atop a cafeteria table during lunch. Tenor saxist, Tom Christensen's beefy but clear toned sinewy excursions also prevail on the opening track "The Send Off". This was a tribute piece to Brookmeyer who had a significant influence on McGuinness having studied with the great man as a member of the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop in the late 1980s. Not to be outdone, the spirited yet perplexing trombone tradings of Mark Patterson and Matt Havilland followed by the emotive and melliflous offerings of Bill Mobley's trumpet help make the leader's "Nasty Blues" anything but. Finally, would someone please confiscate the alto sax from Dave Pietro's hands as he completely mops the floor with his blinding solo on "Nasty" as well.

In addition to his passionately played trombone feature on "Trixie's Little Girl" (dedicated to his late mother, Anne) Pete's vocals glow on two standards, "What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life" and "You Don't Know What Love Is". Free of vibrato or affectations, his clear and winningly light textured vocal quality delivers the goods with a subtle intensity. This fine singing is complemented grandly by his embracing ensemble treatments of these classic songs.

Numbering the strengths of this quality recording would be a job indeed as they are countless. A truly inspired and brilliant addition to the modern big band sound while incorporating the traditions that built it. A stellar effort.

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Report: The Forge Venue's 5th Birthday Party



The Forge's 5th Birthday Party
(The Forge. 15th April 2014. Report by Daniel Bergsegel)


For a fifth birthday party, there was a noticeable lack of balloons, or clowns, or children. The Forge celebrated five years of hosting live music with an ambitious genre-crossing quadruple bill touching on soul, folk, chamber music, and Congolese Soukous percussion.

The Forge sets out to be “home to London’s most diverse musical talent”, and to cater for such wide ranging demands requires a versatile blank slate of a building: a modern Scandinavian mix of pale timber clad walls and exposed concrete, tied together with a 20 foot wall of vegetation climbing through the centre of the building. It is as well suited to its daytime guise – an airy cafe unfolding onto Delancey Street, with Gil Scott-Heron and Fela Kuti playing in the background – as it is to its evening musical role.

As daylight disappeared the first act, Ayanna Witter-Johnson, took to the stage. In demand as a composer and a collaborator, here Ayanna featured as a singer and songwriter, accompanying her blend of soul and blues with Reuben (her cello). In support of her rich voice Reuben was pushed to his limits, from strong deep bowing to bouncing and scraping her bow, at times almost inaudibly touching the strings. Ranging from heartfelt compositions to musings on Nigella Lawson, the audience was drawn through mesmerising compositions of contrast where both her vocals and cello rose and fell in conversation with each other. Her lyrical style bringing to mind Belleruche, the atmosphere and drama generated through her unique instrumental style was beautifully highlighted on her cover of Roxanne a familiar piece which is not often re-imagined as successfully in such a different format.

Following on in the small auditorium were the Lawson Piano Trio who featured a cello in a more traditional format. As Annabelle Lawson explained, the trio took a role in the evenings proceedings not dissimilar to a “lemon sorbet”, cleansing the palette with a beautifully executed rendition of Mozart's Piano Trio in C Major. While Ayanna had the individual flexibility to emphasis and play with the crowd, Annabelle, Clara Biss and Rebecca Knight functioned as a choreographed machine full of glances and organisation. Their second allowed the strings a more passionate run depicting the “hormones and harmony” of a composition by an eighteen year-old Debussy, penned pre-love affairs and the Prix de Rome.

The audience then re-entered the bar area for Concrete Mountain, a more hirsute group than the previous two who played a fast-paced set of songs, tunes and reels. Channelling the Cohen brothers' Soggy Bottom Boys, their songs elaborated on the important musical themes of women, death, drink and drugs. For moments a stamping and driving unit underpinned by Paul Martin's guitar and Dave Tunstall's double bass, at others a traditional celtic band with Jerry Bloom's fiddle lines rising high, they were most evocative when stripped bare to the lone voice of Rob Rider picking a sorrowful James Skelly-esque line through the silence. In fusing American and Gaelic music together, Concrete Mountain took their presentation of modal mountain songs to a London audience seriously.

For the final act of the night, Kasaï Masaï, the auditorium doors peeled back to reveal a large stage and dance floor, transforming the previously low-fi and acoustic facilities to those of a fully amplified hall. Led from the front by charismatic Soukous percussionist and vocalist Nickens Nkoso straddling his djembé, they ploughed through a set of traditional equatorial village fare. Although lacking their saxophonist, the four remaining musicians provided an enthralling and persistent groove as a back drop to a dancing audience; their Congolese beats provided an uplifting end to an eclectic evening.

The movement through the venue for each of the four acts was an intriguing foil for showcasing the many spatial layouts available. Each musical setup was perfectly suited to the artist it catered for: a solo vocalist singing by the tumbling plants, a piano trio in the salon-like auditorium, a folk band playing opposite the bar, and a dance band playing to an open floor. While it was a powerful demonstration of the venues possibilities, blending the different genres into one evening, instead of placing them on different nights of a week, at times left the trailing audience a little lost at sea. A crowd that had just adapted to Ayanna's soul compositions in the courtyard took time to adjust its behaviour to the Lawson trio's more structured format, milling around during the movements and applauding between them. Having calmed themselves in the auditorium, the crowd were then ill prepared for the dancing and clapping best associated with Concrete Mountain's traditional tunes. The stamina displayed by some to navigate the mini-festival with the energy to jive for Kasaï Masaï at the finish was laudable.

The complex organisation of the event displayed the imagination of the Forge’s organisers, Adam and Charlotte Caird. Both of them are musicians in their own right. So the challenging programme arranged partnered with the community atmosphere generated amongst the audience was testament to the work they have put in to bring the Forge to its current standing in only a short five years. To present the evening's entertainment free of charge underscored a commitment to sharing music which encapsulates the democratising ambitions which they have. As Adam intimated between sets, steering an arts venue – described as their bemusing “problem child” - is never straightforward. However if the Forge's birthday party was indicative of anything, it was that the venue is truly in fine fettle and is ready to continue hosting an exciting array of musicians in enticing surroundings for years to come.

The Forge Venue website

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CD Review: Eric Alexander - Chicago Fire



Eric Alexander – Chicago Fire
(HighNote HCD 7262. CD Review by Peter Vacher)


Hearing tenorist Eric Alexander unfettered and at length, is for me one of the greatest treats in jazz. This imposing improviser is reunited here with his mentor, the veteran pianist Harold Mabern and they’re joined by another hot favourite, the always daring trumpeter Jeremy Pelt on three of the eight tracks. Add in the sublime engineering of Rudy Van Gelder and the swing engendered by bassist John Webber and drummer Joe Farnsworth and you have a formula for excellence, if ever there was one.

Alexander produced the session [it dates from November 2013] as both a reminder of and a homage to his seminal period as a working sideman and soloist in Chicago. ‘Save Your Love For Me’ by Buddy Johnson opens, with the kind of peachy groove that might best described as a ‘Freddie Freeloader’ feel, Alexander off and running hard, with Mabern probing over that great rhythm section. Pelt comes in with an ebullient, heartfelt solo as he does on ‘The Bee Hive’, Mabern’s bright recall of a famous Chicago club, its feel-good hook evocative of a time when Chicago’s venues were at their peak. Alexander’s ‘Eddie Harris’ is for one of his heroes, the composer taking the honours here, warm-toned and hard swinging, sounding ready to step in to a Blue Note session should there be one handy.

Mabern contributes ‘Blues for Vonski’, a tribute to another Chicago legend, Von Freeman this time, this rather touchingly introduced by some spoken reminiscences of Freeman by Mabern and Webber, ahead of Alexander’s very bluesy tenor theme, his sound and phrasing suitably righteous, before Mabern rolls the blues like a South Side master. Magnificent music by both. Alexander gives ‘Just One of Those Things’ a seeing to that would have made the late Johnny Griffin beam, the tenor complexities and speed of execution like a one-man cutting contest. Mabern’s ‘Mr Stitt’ is a smart piece, Alexander getting to grips with its changes and launching a long extemporisation, seemingly never at a loss yet eschewing any tendency for meaningless display.

With ‘You Talk That Talk’, a riff original by organist Leon Spencer, Alexander reunites with Pelt in playfully soulful fashion before ‘Don’t Take Your Love From Me’, with Alexander in relaxed yet funky form rounds out a superb set, all first takes, the music fresh and vigorous, old and new masters of the art in happy accord. One for the Record of the Year polls? For sure.

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CD Review: GoGo Penguin - v2.0



GoGo Penguin - v2.0
(Gondwana Records. GONDCD 009. CD Review by Nicolas Pillai)


Assured and exciting, the delightfully named GoGo Penguin go from strength to strength. Now comprising pianist Chris Illingworth, bassist Nick Blacka and drummer Rob Turner, the trio’s second album is technically superb but never cold, emotionally rich but never mawkish, by turns contemplative and frenetic.

It’s little wonder that these ten tracks have been attracting the attention not just of jazz fans but also club DJs. But to praise GoGo Penguin for their crossover potential is to condemn them to cliché. And this is a real jazz band, brimming with ideas communicated with panache.

On the first track, Murmuration, Turner’s drums are wingbeats which, over Blacka’s urgent bass, fly Illingworth from measured rhetoric to anthemic crescendo. Garden Dog Barbecue and Kamaloka pick up the tempo, evoking drum loops and breakbeats that agitate Illingworth’s glacial tone. In Fort, a simple echo effect suggests the infinity of space. The band’s evident interest in the acoustic/digital relationship finds apotheosis in One Percent, in which their instruments brilliantly mimic the sound of a CD skipping.

The second half of the album takes a somewhat more introspective tone, reflected in the song titles. Home, The Letter (recorded totally in the dark) and the heady To Drown In You all build to Shock and Awe which ticks ominously, a promise of death. Throughout, the listener is gripped by the drama of these compositions. Their collective impact makes the final track Hopopono seem yet more playful and welcome. The album ends on a high, showing off this young band’s charisma and energy with a song both lyrical and incisive.

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JJA Awards (Musician Categories) Announced



The  winners of the 18th Jazz Journalists Association Awards - musician categories  - have been announced.  Herbie Hancock won a Lifetime Achievement Award, Wayne Shorter and Maria Schneider won three awards each. Cecile McLorin Salvant and Joe Lovano each won two.

Other winners were: The Randy Weston / Billy Harper duo,  Gregory Porter, Terence Blanchard, Roswell Rudd, Lee Konitz , Gary Smulyan,  Jane Ira Bloom,  Nicole Mitchell, Anat Cohen, Bill Frisell, Craig Taborn, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Christian McBride, Regina Carter, Pedrito Martinez, Gary Burton, Jack DeJohnette, Gregoire Maret and Jason Lindner

The reissue of the year was Miles Live in Europe 1969 (Columbia Legacy). Label of the year was ECM . The Awards ceremony will be on June 11th in New York, when the winners of the media categories and awards such as Jazz Hero will also be announced.

Sebastian is a voting member - FULL LISTINGS ARE HERE

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Interview: Dave Manington's Riff Raff - Tour Starts May 14th

Dave Manington's Riff Raff
Left to Right: Brigitte Beraha, RobUpdrgraff, Dave Manington,
IvoNeame, Tim Giles, Tom Challenger 


Dave Manington's Riff-Raff will be on a tour supported by Jazz Services between May 14th and July 11th. We interviewed Dave by email:   

LondonJazz News: You're a bassist, what made you choose the instrument? 

Dave Manington: I first tried the bass at school when I was the second best guitarist in a band that needed a bass player! As soon as I started playing it though I gravitated more and more to the bass, I guess whenever I listen to music of any genre I always naturally hear the bass first and the rest of the music built around it.

LJN: Are bassists natural leaders?

DM: I think so in the sense that musically they’re always in the centre of things. There have been a lot of great bass player/leaders who’ve inspired me over the years with their great writing, from Mingus, Dave Holland, Charlie Haden and Jaco Pastorius through to younger guys like Reid Anderson and Chris Lightcap. Personally I don’t particularly like being the bandleader in many respects, I’m mainly interested in writing and developing my music, but one comes with the other so here I am!

LJN: How long has it been going? Who's in the band/ why were they chosen?

The current 6 piece line up of Riff Raff has developed organically over the past 10 years. I originally started a Quartet with Ivo Neame on piano, Tim Giles on drums and Mark Hanslip on Tenor Sax (who was replaced in Riff Raff by the fantastic Tom Challenger) around the time the Loop Collective was formed in 2005, which seems a long time ago now. Brigitte Beraha and I later collaborated on some new material for the 2009 Loop Festival and it worked so beautifully that she joined the band. This new material became the starting point for this album. Soon after I added Rob Updegraff on the guitar as the final piece in the jigsaw and the music really fell into place. Rob, Tim and I have a great understanding as we were in a band at school together and have been playing with each other for over 20 years now which seems remarkable!

The main thing I look for in any collaborator is they have to have their own strong musical identity. They have to be open to listening to each other and responding/leading as they see fit in different circumstances (which could change very suddenly sometimes!). A certain level of technical wizardry and being able to read crazy melodies in 13 is preferable but more important is great improvising, either within the framework of a piece or just freely between the whole band.

LJN: What drove the concept? Particular friendships? A desire to tackle a particular repertoire? A band sound you wanted to develop?

DM: I place a great deal of importance on creating a unified `band sound’ and identity that comes from not chopping and changing personnel or getting deps in unless absolutely necessary. This means we can interpret the music flexibly each time we play it, and often pieces will be reinvented quite radically from one gig to the next, or will gradually morph as we develop a new angle on it. Much of the music has undergone many revisions this way, and each member of the band has had a lot more individual input and freedom than they might normally have in a band where they basically just turn up and sight read through the music. There needs to be a lot of trust between the musicians for it to be possible to play freely and improvise over music that may be quite complex rhythmically. Similarly, it’s important to me to know how each member of the band will play intuitively. When I write new material, I write with them and their playing in mind. If I write a new piece and take it to rehearsal, I know they’ll “get it” straight away, and soon they’ll have developed it into something much greater with their inputs. I generally end up rewriting each tune several times!

LJN: Who writes/ arranges?

DM: It’s all my own work compositionally and the arrangements. Brigitte has written beautiful lyrics for several of the tunes which have given them an extra dimension.

LJN: Is there a tune you start/ finish sets with and why?

DM: Not a Worthless Thing

This is the oldest tune on the album, having been a mainstay of the live set for many years. Brigitte’s lyrics gave an added dimension to the tune, and it’s become the encore tune for gigs which is my most melodic and upbeat tune and hopefully sends people home happy after listening to a lot of new and (sometimes) complicated music.

LJN: Is this your first tour? What are the challenges? Who needs thanking?

DM: It’s our first proper Riff Raff tour although I’ve toured smaller bands and also done short runs of gigs with Riff Raff previously. Obviously with a 6 piece band which is relatively large it’s challenging financially to get the band on the road at all, and the main thanks as ever is to Jazz Services for their support. These days a lot of jazz venues are struggling, and there are only certain venues that have an audience who will come and watch 2 sets of modern original music that’s completely new to them so I tried to choose carefully where to play.

I think it’s a big challenge for all of us as musicians/promoters/journalists to find creative ways of finding and engaging new young audiences for our music. They’re out there, but they’re not necessarily going to come along to a jazz club to check out the music there, so we need to reach out to them in other ways.

LondonJazz News: Have this magic wand. What dreams do you have for the band beyond this tour?

Dave Manington: I’m very excited about this tour and mainly just for a chance to get inside the music in a way that’s only possible with a good run of gigs. It’s the culmination of a lot of work for me since the album release last year, and at the same time it’s also the beginning of something new. I hope to be playing at least two new compositions on the first gig and work more new tunes into the set as we go. Ultimately it’s the first steps to a new album of material for next year. With the magic wand in hand perhaps I can push for more opportunities to play in major jazz festivals and on the European jazz scene over the next few years. Also for me generally I get a kick out of listening to or playing with other creative musicians. There are so many incredibly talented musicians playing in the UK these days and not just jazz musicians so it’s hard not to get inspired by hearing them play.

Tour Dates:

Weds May 14th @ Dempsey’s Bar, Cardiff
Thurs May 15th @ Soundcellar, Poole
Fri May 16th @ Bebop club, Bristol
Weds June 25th, @ e17 jazz, Walthamstow,
Thurs June 26th @ NC Jazz Club, Wellingborough
Sat June 28th @ Sherborne Jazz Club
Tues July 8th @ Parr Jazz, Liverpool
Weds July 9th @ Les Car, Sheffield
Fri July 11th @ Barton Arms, Birmingham
More info

www.davemanington.com
www.loopcollective.org

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