INTERVIEW: Cath Roberts and Dee Byrne of LUME

Cath Roberts and Dee Byrne are the two London-based musicians behind the increasingly popular original and improvised music night, LUME. Alison Beck interviewed them:

Alison Beck: What gave you the idea for LUME in the first place?

Dee Byrne: From January 2012 I felt like I wanted to run a night. So I started doing it in various different venues. And one thing I found is that it’s very hard to do it on your own. Also, venues seem to close down on me!

Cath Roberts: We’d already met a few years before in 2006. And then we re-met because I hit Dee up for a gig at her Jazz at the Waterline night, and then I suddenly realised who it was that I was emailing. And we talked about doing a double bill with our bands. I’d also been thinking about doing a night.

AB: Why did you create this particular type of night, for original and improvised music?

CR: One reason is that I was thinking it would be nice to have a place where I could experiment with my own new work, because it’s very hard getting gigs,Also, I thought that to be able to give all my friends’ bands a gig would be amazing. The idea of being able to go to people and say, “Oh, do you fancy playing at our thing?” So it was a double-header of selfishness and altruism.

DB: I just liked the idea of putting on gigs, the feeling of creating something. It’s a satisfying feeling. You feel like you’re contributing to the scene, feeling part of it.

CR: you’re doing your bit for the scene I suppose, and the music you like. It’s a community service type vibe, you know [laughs].

AB: So how do you pick acts to perform? Is it quite random?

CR: People do email us now; that didn’t happen at first, but they do now. Our interests are in composition, and fully improvised music. The criteria are really just our taste; what we like to listen to, what we like to make ourselves. Composer-led bands are a big focus for us. Then we have listening sessions!

AB: LUME’s been going for a year now. Has there been a particular highlight, or an unforgettable moment?

DB: Well, what’s always nice is when you get loads of people come down. Paulo [Dias Duarte]’s gig at our old venue, it was packed.

CR: It was amazing. People were coming in and sitting on the floor. It was a great atmosphere. But that was the same night we found out we’d lost the venue! So it was a massive high, and a massive low.

AB: How's the venue you’re at now, Long White Cloud?

CR: The owners, Tannaz and Mehmet, they’re simultaneously very enthusiastic, but very hands-off. They’re really into the music and they’re always asking how it’s going, but they don’t want to have an input into the music – and they made us a pie with “LUME” written on it once!

DB: What I really like about Long White Cloud is that it’s a café, and the food and drink area is also where the music is. It’s more casual – you don’t have to come into a different room to hear the music.

CR: I like that it’s a café rather than a pub – they’ve got teas and coffee and cake, or you can have dinner. They have art on the walls too – it’s also an art gallery. Oh, and it’s very easy to get to on the overground to Hoxton, then it’s a two minute walk – it’s very near the Premises.

AB: What has been your biggest challenge so far in the last year?

DB: Losing venues. It’s really tough. It’s something that happens to a lot of nights; it’s the economic climate.

CR: You’ve got to find a venue that has the same goals as you. Pubs want to sell beers, they want bums on seats. We just want somewhere that’s stable but we can’t guarantee audience numbers. So it’s a process of finding somewhere that fits.

AB: Should we in the jazz community be reaching out to people who’ve never heard this kind of music before?

CR: Definitely. I think that’s definitely what we should be doing, but it’s very hard to know how to do that. I would love it if we could get ‘randoms’ – people who aren’t musicians - to come and check out what’s going on, that would be amazing. But it’s just very hard to know how could reach those people.

DB: We have had people come in who heard about it from the café, so there are people who come and check us out regularly.

CR: And we’ve had some really nice tweets from people that we don’t know, tweeting about having come to the gig maybe by accident, or they were in the café meeting a friend and they really enjoyed the music.

AB: Can you give me an example of a recent LUME gig that was particularly enjoyable?

Cath: Last week’s gig by Shatner’s Bassoon was really good. They’re a fantastic band. They’re from Leeds, and there are six of them: two drummers. No bassoons! The music’s really free, but the stuff that’s composed is so tight. Definitely check them out, they’re amazing. Their label is called Wasp Millionaire Records.

AB: What’s your long-term vision for LUME?

DB: It would be nice to have our own venue, wouldn’t it?

CR: Definitely. We’ve got a few medium-term things coming up too. We’ve got a Vortex residency coming up, and one goal is to make that successful. Long-term we’d like to do more of that: taking LUME to other venues and doing “LUME presents…”. Oh, and LUME is going to be part of the official London Jazz Festival programme again in November, which is going to take us to another audience: all those people that read the festival brochure.

DB: We’re planning a LUME Festival eventually, too. But the foundation is the weekly gigs, and everything else is an offshoot of that.

CR: And we want to make it sustainable as well; to build audience numbers, get some funding from here and there, to make sure that the pay for the artists can increase. It’s a door money gig, so the more help we can get, the better.

DB: We won the Jazz Promoters Award recently from Jazz Services and the PRS Foundation. That’s going to help us a lot, because we do so many gigs.

CR: Next year we should be able to subsidise the door takings a bit for the musicians. Also, we’ll be able to help bands who come from outside of London with their travel expenses. We’ll be able to cover our costs on promotion as well, because we spend quite a lot on printing. We’re skint, basically. So sustainability has got to be the long-term goal really.

AB: If you woke up tomorrow and there’d been a miracle, what would LUME be like?

DB: Ha! Well, we’d be paid to run LUME. Six figure salaries.

CR: Someone would have given us a random venue space, totally rent-free. It’s horrible to say that the miracle would be money –

DB: - but the money would enable us to make it sustainable, and we could pay the bands a really good wage. And we’d have enough money for good promotion. That would be nice…

AB: Tell me about your Vortex residency that’s coming up.

CR: We didn’t plan it at all. We just got an email from the Vortex saying did we want to do it! They had a regular Sunday night slot they wanted to fill. It’s great because we can book bands that are physically bigger, because they’ll fit on the bigger stage, and there’s a piano. It’ll be the first Sunday of the month, for five months starting in August. So we’re really excited.

AB: Jazz is pretty much a man’s world, and you’re both women . Has that ever been an issue?

DB: I don’t think it’s ever been an issue in LUME because we control who we book.

CR: It’s actually really nice being two women working together in this scene, because there aren’t that many of us, and so there is a feeling of solidarity. We have a shared perspective.

DB: You can’t help but have a feeling of solidarity if you’re both in a minority. There’s an instant connection. The industry is male-dominated, and I guess it’s nice to know the few women that are around, be friends with them, and work with them.

CR: It’s great when we have female bandleaders coming to LUME, and we encourage that.

DB: We’ve got Julie Kjaer and Emma Jean Thackray coming up; we’ve had Lauren Kinsella, Hannah Marshall, Rachel Musson. AB: Any advice for people thinking of setting up their own night? CR: Make sure you’re on the same page musically. DB: You’ve got to be a bit mad to do it, I think.

CR: Be ready to put hours and hours of admin in. And list your night in every free listing website going. It seems like a massive faff, but at least then you’ve done everything you possibly can do.

DB: You’ve got to be ready to put your own cash into it, too. We’ve had to.

AB: What do you each do outside of LUME?

DB: I’m a saxophonist and I play in various original projects. I’ve got my own band, Entropi, and we just recorded our debut album, and I’m very happy that we managed to get funding from the Recording Support Scheme from Jazz Services. It’s going to be released on the F-iRE record label. And I’m project manager for the National Youth Jazz Collective too. I’m also in a duo called Deemer with a sound artist called Merijn Royaards from Holland; it’s quite experimental, we use some very strange electronics.

Cath Roberts: I’m a sax player too, and I’ve got my band, Quadraceratops, which has been going for three years. I write the music for that, and it’s releasing its first album with Efpi Records in October. I’ve got a duo as well, called Ripsaw Catfish, which is a free improv duo with guitarist Anton Hunter. We’re doing a collaborative touring project in the autumn with Sound and Music, called ‘Shoaling’, which I’m excited about!

LUME takes place every Thursday night at Long White Cloud in Hoxton. Check out their website for upcoming gig listings.

LUME presents… at the Vortex begins on Sunday 3rd August, and continues on the first Sunday of the month for the rest of 2014.

Cath and Dee are also working on a new project called ‘Saxoctopus’: an all-saxophone octet. Catch them at LUME presents… in December.


REVIEW: Pop-Up Circus at Rich Mix - The Story of the Moon

Pop-Up Circus: The Story of the Moon 
(Rich Mix. 20th July. Review by Dan Bergsagel)

Forty-five years on, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins would no doubt be amused and warmed to see how enthusiastically and creatively their legacy was being remembered at the Pop-Up Circus event at Rich Mix in Brick Lane, celebrating the anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing.

The tautology-toying Gods of Apollo set the tone for the evening. A five piece instrumental group weaved audio snippets from NASA's archives into their varied avant-garde sound. With strong interplay between the tenor and soprano saxophones, the texture of the performance built on the gritty 1960s recordings, sourced from the legendary dialogue of the space missions themselves, the warm analogue hum left in its absence, and the restrained throbbing backing of Jon Ormston's drums. While the NASA audio may have lent the piece an American bias, marking the success of one superpower over the other in the Space Race, composer/instigator/saxophonist Rob Cope was keen to point out, his piece had initially sparked into existence by the Soviet space program of the late 1950s, and the peculiar remark that Sputnik, and most of its satellite descendents, merrily beeped a concert D.

The collective performance scaled back, giving each individual an opportunity to explore the outer ranges of their instruments, and that was when the visual backdrop behind the band came into its own. Assembled by Manuel Fernandez, a sequence of animations and video collages was projected above the musicians, moving from themes of bacteria and animals (National Geographic and the BBC featuring strongly) through to the onset of mechanisation and mass-production, and finally the rapid scientific development in aerodynamics and aeronautics that led to the space programs' eventual success, shown in research film footage of fighter pilots having their bodies pushed to the limits by high G forces.

As the mesmerising combination of Hernandez’s animation and Gods of Apollo’s set came to an end, the sensory overload continued: all around people were painting small foam planets, helium balloons floated near the ceiling, and Katarzyna Witek and accomplices performed a short interpretive dance. An interesting foil to the jazz which preceded it, the four dancers, accompanied ably by Alex Roth on guitar and Alex Bonney with his trumpet and laptop, gave the jazz-savvy audience an opportunity to be reminded of what it is like to be nudged from your comfort zone and to concentrate on something unfamiliar and unexpected.

As the strains of the obligatory Sun Ra interval tracks faded into the background, Pop-Up Circus organiser Simon Roth introduced the 20-strong scratch Big Band for the second part of the evening. A group who appear sporadically to perform a rare mix of new compositions and jazz standards on wildly different themes were accompanied on this occasion by the surreal sight of many busy hands above the bands' heads illustrating space scenes. Apt and neat renditions of Fly Me to the Moon and It's Only a Paper Moon book-ended a set of exciting new pieces by friends and band members: amongst them a stomping Balkan piece imagined from a dystopian space parodies, juxtaposing chaotic brass lines with contained vibraphone work; another inspired by the Cassini-telescopes photographic successes and built around Conor Chaplin's electric bass and a Alex Roth’s strong guitar line.

Each new piece arrived with a scholarly introduction from conductor Andrew Oliver, thoroughly explaining at length the context of each composition, and any interesting asides en route. The pre-amble was strongest for his own piece Saturn V, charting the three stages in the journey of the most powerful rocket ever to have left the earth’s surface. Tom Green's trombone introduction heralded the ominous expectation of the countdown as the ensemble joined for the apocalyptic launch , before clarifying into an accelerating resolve, and dwindling into orbit and breakup, here as before Ralph Wyld's vibes crucial to achieving that bona fide 'space' sound.

Mechanical Moon closed the evening, a new group re-interpreting the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop, with an expected lunar bent, into a compact 5-man rocky format. Erica Ross delivering the poetry with passion (and occasionally props) with a Joni Mitchell air, the music driven forwards by the strongly characterful drumming of Dan Paton.

While a close and stormy weekend was coming to an end, Pop-Up Circus’ multimedia onslaught and eclectic line-up did a fantastic job of firing a room in humid East London, and transporting the minds of an audience to places far, far away.


PREVIEW/ INTERVIEW: Gabriel Garrick / TW12 Jazz Festival . Sunday August 3rd

We interviewed trumpeter Gabriel Garrick, whose New Quartet will be appearing at 7pm on Sunday August 3rd at the second TW12 Jazz Festival at the Playhouse in Hampton Hill. 

LondonJazz News: Tell us about the New Quartet

Gabriel Garrick: I have a New Quartet featuring Terrence Collie on piano, Andy Hamill on bass and Paul Cavaciuti on drums.

LJN: And how did you get together?

GG: We met at a gig on which I was the featured soloist of the night and they were the house rhythm section. This was at 'Jazz at Retro' in Twickenham.

LJN: And it clicked from the start?

GG: We played standards the whole night and had a really good time. It was striking just how well we all felt musically when playing as a group. This feeling was worth capitalising on so we agreed to form a casual relationship and start playing as a quartet on a more regular basis.

LJN: What do you choose to play?

GG: When playing standards we choose those which we all know well so can have the best relaxed attitude on each as a vehicle for our jazz creation. On the original gig and since then this philosophy has been the inspiration for tremendous contrasts and stylistic changes that have occurred both abruptly and subtly when performing them due to the freedom inherent through knowledge.

LJN: But you are also a composer...

GG: I have written one or two new tunes for the quartet and also we have been drawing from the vast well of creative output from my Dad's pen who had a 'New Quartet' of his own.

LJN: And this group has helped to crystallize some thoughts about what you do as a jazz musician?

GG: What I dig about this quartet is all about it's 'feeling' and 'feel' emotively and musically. This brings me back to what I feel jazz is primarily about - a 'feeling'.

LondonJazz News: And the date?

Gabriel Garrick: We're looking forward to playing at TW12 festival on Sunday August 3rd at 7pm, and hope to see you there!

= = = = =

TW12 JAZZ FESTIVAL FULL SCHEDULE (all events except the Saturday jam session at Hampton Hill Playhouse.


20:00 Jam Session at the Bell Inn, Hampton



12:00 - Richmond Youth Jazz Band (Theatre Foyer)

13:00 - McCormack and Yarde

14:20 - John Etheridge

15:30 - Janet and Friends

17:00 - Graeme Flowers Band


19:00 - Gabriel Garrick Quartet

20:15 - Shireen Francis Band

21:30 - Gwilym Simcock Trio

All tickets for the festival must be bought in advance and cannot be purchased on the door. TICKETS 


FESTIVAL ROUND-UP: 2014 Marlborough International Jazz Festival

2014 Marlborough International Jazz Festival
(Marlborough Wiltshire, 18-20 July 2014. Round-up by Tamsin Collison)

For one mad weekend in July, the Jazz Festival comes to town. Public spaces all over Marlborough in Wiltshire are transformed into impromptu venues, music pours out of every door.

Founded in 1986 by the redoubtable Nick Fogg, the Marlborough International Jazz Festival has been going for nearly thirty years, and as its reputation has grown, so has the breadth of programming it offers. This year there were over 60 acts on the Saturday bill, plus a further 25 on the Friday night. and Clare Teal headlining on the Sunday. Marlborough embraces local talent and world-famous names with equal enthusiasm, juxtaposing big bands, small bands, old bands, new bands, local bands, international bands and jazz royalty. All you need to do is buy yourself a ticket and dive in.

The highlight on the bill for me this time was the Bratislava Hot Serenaders, an old-school 18-piece orchestra specialising in 1920s 'hot jazz', led by trumpeter Juraj Bartoš, and featuring a close-harmony girl trio and two male crooners (one of whom was a dead ringer for UK bandleader Carol Gibbons). The band earned a rapturous standing ovation for their dazzling performance of Rhapsody in Blue, played in competition with a torrential cloudburst drumming on the roof, which threatened to drown them out and, quite possibly, to demolish their marquee. (With accidentally brilliant comic timing, the following number was Outside It's Raining...)

Other acts I caught on Saturday included ebullient drumming maestro Sticky Wicket and his Swing Orchestra; New Yorker Daryl Sherman, channeling the late great Blossom Dearie and recalling life as resident pianist at New York's Algonquin Hotel; rising contemporary jazz sextet Metamorphic; the ever-entertaining Red Stripe Band (in their 20th year at Marlborough); Roger Winslet's classy tribute to Chet Baker; the jazz vocal ensemble Take Twenty; vocalist/bassist Nicola Farnon's trio; and George Haslam's New Tricks, featuring Bobby Wellins, Steve Waterman and co. For me, a great evening was wound up with a gig of my own, in the company of Geoff Castle, Andy Cleyndert and Paul Cavaciuti. It was certainly a pretty eclectic range of musicians to find on a single High Street, but there’s room for all sorts. And everyone who plays at Marlborough enjoys the relaxed atmosphere and the friendly, appreciative audiences.

LINK: 2013 round-up by Rosie Walters

The 2015 Marlborough International Jazz Festival will run from Friday 17th to Sunday 19th July. WEBSITE 


RIP Jack Massarik (1940-2014) - UPDATED with details of Memorial on 30 July


Jazz writer and critic, Jack Massarik died on Sunday at the age of 74. He had (very) late-diagnosed pancreatic cancer. Jazzwise editor Jon Newey wrote this tribute to him. The Evening Standard have said: "We are deeply saddened to have lost our much loved friend and valued colleague." His last live review for the Standard was of Barb Jungr in May; the Standard also has a live review archive. An obituary by Jane Cornwell with several tributes is HERE. Sympathies to family and close friends.

UPDATE 21st JULY 2014

Jack Massarik's children Mark and Nina have asked that the following be published:

On behalf of the family thank you for the condolences you've sent us. We would like to invite you to Jack’s memorial service on Wednesday 30th July and ask everybody to arrive at 3:30pm. The service will be held at:

Essex Church
112 Palace Gardens Terrace
Notting Hill Gate
London W8 4RT

Apparently this address has caused SatNav issues for some, so in terms of landmarks it's next door to The Shed restaurant and opposite the Mall Tavern pub.

We encourage you to come by public transport as parking nearby is limited. The church is a 5 minute walk from Notting Hill Gate tube station (take exit 1 and it’s second on the right), and buses 27, 28, 31, 52, 70, 94, 148 and 390 stop very close by. If you do need to come by car there is a Euro Car Park on Bayswater Road by Kensington Palace.

Following the service we will head over to the Upstairs Bar at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, in Frith Street, Soho for the wake which will begin at 6pm.

Since we are unaware of exact numbers we won’t be providing transport but it's a very short journey on the Central Line from Notting Hill Gate to Tottenham Court Road station, and a 5-10 minute walk from there. We can provide further directions on the day to anyone that needs them.

Please spread the word and bring along anyone we may have missed. Dad had a massive number of friends, many of whom the family never met, so if you could help this message reach the right people it would be an enormous favour to us.

Thanks, Mark and Nina

(Message ends)


Barb Jungr: A Tribute to Elaine Stritch (1925-2014)

Elaine Stritch – A tribute by Barb Jungr

I was fortunate to meet Broadway legend Elaine Stritch when I played the Cafe Carlyle a few years ago. At the time she had a room there, and performed annually in the hotel venue. She’d watched me sing and caught me as I emerged from the back stage door and grabbed me, saying some wonderful things including “come and visit me”. Obviously I wasn’t going to pass that offer up and so a couple of days later I went to her room and kncked - no reply - so I left flowers outside her door on the floor with a little note. Walking down the street the next day I received a call. “Are you the broad thats been leaving me flowers?” she said. And invited me to tea.

Elaine Stricth was old school. Tough as they come, she’d understudied Ethel Merman on Broadway. Uncompromising and talented, she perfomed Coward and Sondheim, did films and Broadway and indeed TV in the UK where she met her soul mate in her co-star John Bay, to whom she was married until his untimely death.

She had long struggled with alchohol addiction and in recent years become clear of that, but was plagued with ill health. In recent years her one woman show was a triumph both on Broadway and in London, and she was in the hit show 30 Rock as Alec Baldwin’s character, Jack Donaghy’s, mother.

In New York, everyone has an Elaine story. Her capacity to surprise and terrify, her sharp wit and smart mouth, and her immense presence and talent, made her one of a kind.

When we had tea, she told me what it was like to train with Stella Adler alongside feollow student Marlon Brando. Stella had set homework one day, the next morning everyone would be a chicken in the farmyard. All the students wanted Stella’s approval. Elaine practiced her chicken all night. That next morning she went into the studio, where Marlon’s chicken strutted and pecked. Other actors’ chickens laid eggs. Elaine’s chicken trembled in a corner. Stella clapped her hands to stop the class. “Everyone, come see Elaine’s chicken! Its brillient.” She roared with laughter recounting her trumping of Marlon’s chicken that morning. She made me laugh and two hours passed with old Broadway coming to life through her brilliantly raconteured experiences. I saw her perform her Sondheim at the Cafe Carlyle a couple of years ago. The voice might not have been what it was, but her undertsanding of what it means to stand on a stage and give a performance were unrivalled, still. There will not be another Elaine Stritch. And our world will be poorer for that.

Film here from NY Times archive.


PHOTOS: Maria Joao, Al Di Meola, Arto Lindsay, Anthony Joseph, Oscar D'Leon at the Munich Jazzsommer 2014

Maria Joao, Münchner Jazzsommer 2014
Photo Credit: Ralf Dombrowski.

Ralf Dombrowski has been out and about in Munich listening to, and photographing a host of interesting characters in the past week at the Münchner Jazzsommer, held in the five-star splendour of the Hotel Bayrischer Hof from July 16th-20th.

His photos are from the following gigs: 

16th July: Al Di Meola Plays Beatles & More and the late nighter with Maria Joao and the Mário Laginha Quartet.

17th July: Arto Lindsay Band featuring Marc Ribot. Oscar d'Leon

20th July: Anthony Joseph.

Al Di Meola, Münchner Jazzsommer 2014
Photo Credit: Ralf Dombrowski.

Anthony Joseph, Münchner Jazzsommer 2014
Photo Credit: Ralf Dombrowski.

Arto Lindsay, Münchner Jazzsommer 2014
Photo Credit: Ralf Dombrowski.

Oscar D'Leon. Münchner Jazzsommer 2014
Photo Credit: Ralf Dombrowski.


PHOTOS: Alec Dankworth's Spanish Accents at the Watermill, Dorking

Demi Garcia, Emily Dankworth, Chis Allard, Alec Dankworth, Mark Lockheart, Chris Garrick
Watermill Dorking. Photo Credit Brian O'Connor/Images of Jazz. All Rights Reserved
Photographer Brian O'Connor caught that all-too-rare thing, a gig by the band led by Alec Dankworth, Spanish Accents. All photos copyright Images of Jazz. He writes:

Another excellent gig at the Watermill Jazz Club, Dorking Surrey.  Last night Alec Dankworth’s Spanish Accents  played music from the CD of the same name.  Chris Garrick was positively inspired on violin, they were all on top form, as can be seen in the group photo.  A great evening.

Emily Dankworth
Watermill Dorking. Photo Credit Brian O'Connor/Images of Jazz. All Rights Reserved

Alec Dankworth
Watermill Dorking. Photo Credit Brian O'Connor/Images of Jazz. All Rights Reserved

Chris Garrick
Watermill Dorking. Photo Credit Brian O'Connor/Images of Jazz. All Rights Reserved



CD REVIEW: Sun Ra Arkestra – Live in Ulm 1992

Sun Ra Arkestra – Live in Ulm 1992
(Leo Reords Golden Years. LEO CD GY 030/031. CD Review by Peter Marsh)

Towards the end of 1990, Sun Ra suffered a series of debilitating strokes. Undaunted, the seventy-six year old was back on the road three months later. In early 1992 Ra made what was to be his final trip to Europe, though without two of the stars of the Arkestra – tenorist John Gilmore and vocalist/violinist June Tyson, both of whom were unable to travel due to illness.

This edition of the Arkestra featured several long running Ra alumni; the longest serving being altoist Marshall Allen and multi-instrumentalist James Jacson (reeds, flute and percussion). The brass section of Michael Ray, Ahmed Abdullah (trumpets) and Tyrone Hill (trombone) had been Arkestra members since the 70s. The newer recruits included the electric bassist Jothan Callins and drummer Buster Smith, alongside guitarist Bruce Edwards and a brace of percussionists.

This is almost a greatest hits set, stuffed with Ra staples such as Space Is The Place, Shadow Worlds, Love in Outer Space, Fate In A Pleasant Mood and so on. The band has a bumptious drive about it that's not too far away from the later Ellington Orchestra, though what Ellington would have made of their slightly Zappa-esque deconstruction of Prelude To A Kiss is hard to guess. Allen is on fantastic form here (as he always seems to be), moving from Johnny Hodges-like pathos to full on blowout in the space of a semiquaver.

Ray and Abdullah are on top form too and their energy is infectious; their vocal contributions are especially brilliant, nailing the same mix of soulfulness and knowing daftness that Funkadelic or Parliament managed (as George Clinton once remarked of Sun Ra, “That cat's out to lunch; the same place I eat at”). Ra's own contributions are obviously less energised than of old, but he guides proceedings with a steady hand and gives brief, typically oblique solos. He's credited with just piano on the sleeve but there is some synthesizer and electric keyboard work at points, though there's little of the galactic noisebursts of earlier years.

Though these were clearly difficult times for Ra and the Arkestra, you wouldn't guess it from listening to this – it's a hugely entertaining set. It's a shame that the recording quality isn't the best (it's an audience tape by the sounds of it, though for some reason someone's credited with 'engineering' it) and some sleevenotes would have been welcome. Though the indomitable Leo Records should be congratulated for putting this out (and deserve our support), it's hard to recommend the set for newbies. However, those of us who've already registered at the Outer Space Employment Agency should be snapping this one up pronto.


CD REVIEW: Christian Muthspiel and Steve Swallow - Simple Songs

Christian Muthspiel and Steve Swallow - Simple Songs
(IN+OUT IOR CD77120-2. CD Review by Sebastian Scotney)

Christian Muthspiel (b. 1962) whose main instrument is trombone, is the elder of the Austrian Muthspiel brothers. His younger sibling guitarist Wolfgang (b. 1965) is better-known, having developed his career more with US musicians. From the evidence of their albums, the musicality of the Muthspiel family is a seemingly bottomless well. Just like his brother, Christian is a completely natural musician. Christian took up trombone at the age of eleven, having started on piano.

He made a Dowland themed album last year Seven Teares (2013, ACT music) - It involved a group including Steve Swallow in a prominent role -  (Rob Edgar interviewed him about it))

For this new album, he has stripped down the Seven Teares group to a duo with the American bassist. The concept behind this album, is described in the liner note by one of the most distinguished Austrian novelists of our time, Christoph Ransmayr (whose own search for simplicity led him to spend around a decade and a half in the west of Ireland). Ransmayr sums up the album's aesthetic as "seek[ing] to understand simplicity for what it is, the cornerstone of our world and our reality, and to bring it to our ears." The first sentence of Ransmayr's text, incidentally, which launches him off to explore that theme (of simplicity) contains over a hundered and fifty words (!), but perhaps one has to make allowances for the norms of literary discourse in German.

The album itself has Muthspiel using a whole range of instruments in addition to the trombone: piano, electric piano, toy piano and sopranino recorder. His talent goes further:  he has also created the images used on the album sleeve, paintings made by applying both wood ash and acrylic paint to a glass surface.

Virtuosity is to the fore, then. Whether the motivation is to go for contrast, and avoid sameness, or simply a catalogue of skills is not clear. But to my mind it produces some tracks which are completely involving and real gems, and others - the toy piano and the sopranino recorder tracks in particular - where I found myself unenegaged, wanting to press the skip button.

The one true gem which shows Muthspiel at his best is kept bringing me back, the track is Lullaby for Moli, where Muthspiel harmonizes with himself singing and playing simultaneously throughout. To achieve such expressive grace through this route is something which deserves to be heard. It's a true miracle of lyricism.

The presence of Schubert's Mein from Die schöne Müllerin is also very successful. It takes the listener on a real journey. Swallow's articulation of the melody is something completely memorable, and the two develop the song with increasing harmonic adventure, freewheeling, removing the stabilizers, trusting each other, letting go. I would guess it was recorded in one take, it certainly has spontaneity about it. And Muthspiel's piano rendition of Schubert's babbling brook feels instinctive. The fact that Schubert with his song, Ransmayr with his sleeve note and Muthspiel at the piano are all Austrians, all with fast running-streams of Upper Austria and Styria deep in their psyche gives a depth and a timelessness to their personal experience.

The four-piece version of the band, including Steve Swallow, will be touring the Dowland project around Germany Austria and Switzerland from September to October. Dates here.


REPORT: Chi Jazz aboard the Millenium Diamond (Monthly Thames Jazz Cruises)

Chi. Left to right: Noel Jay, Matt Tween, Steve Grainger, Debbie Cobbett
Photo credit:Amanda Annandale

Chi Jazz
(City Cruise’s Thames Jazz Cruise, July 17th 2014. Review by Andrew Cartmel)

A complimentary glass of bubbly is always a good sign as you step through the door. Or, in this case, as you step aboard. We were on the elegant Millennium Diamond, a handsome modern catamaran leaving from Westminster Pier for a jazz cruise of the Thames. Jazz and dinner. And bubbly.

With Big Ben glowing in the mellow late evening light, we cast off (I think that’s the term). We were presented with a small safety lecture and a large plate of tapas. As we glided by the London Eye and under bridges, the boat’s resident jazz band began to play. They are Chi Jazz: Noel Jay on electric keyboards, Matt Tween on bass, Steve Grainger a disciple of Johnny Hodges with a penchant for sneaking cheeky little quotations from The Pink Panther into his solos on alto sax and John Clarke on drums. Debbie Cobbett was guest vocalist. And this is a crack quartet, as was made clear by their opening number A Foggy Day (In London Town) — a great tune, though you could hardly have chosen a less foggy day than this scorching, gorgeous summer occasion with sunlight striking through the panoramic windows. Grainger’s alto was in the lead, offering sweetly swaying, reverberant cadences.

The stately skyline of London surged grandly past as the combo commenced I’ve Got You Under My Skin with Debbie Cobbett joining in on warm, mellow vocals. As Grainger’s sax played debonair, descending phrases with the setting sun glinted on the river waves and the Shard rearing gleaming against the sky it became clear we were in for a tremendously pleasant experience. Red double-decker buses rolled across Cannon Street Bridge and HMS Belfast hove into view as the band began A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, reinforcing their excellent choice of songs. Noel Jay provided a delicate drapery of keyboards and Grainger went down a spiral bebop staircase on his alto. Matt Tween’s warm bass rolled like the waves as Jay embarked on a discursive, detailed solo.

Steve Grainger’s playing on Moon River was reflective and rhapsodic, coming at the tune from all angles with an echoing complexity of commentary. Noel Jay’s ringing keyboard solo excavated the melody from a solid body of improvisation while the steady cadence of John Clarke’s exemplary work on cymbals and brushes rooted the tune. The only way the band could have improved the evening’s music was by playing The Way You Look Tonight — which they proceeded to do. Jay performed a chiming, charging solo while Grainger’s alto scooted and soared above and John Clarke’s drumming skilfully kicked the number forward. This was bop adapted for the dinner hour, and none the worse for it.

The sun descended in a benign hot blaze over Tower Bridge, the blue sky scribbled with white contrails as One Note Samba provided a showcase for soloists. Steve Grainger’s fluid sax purred with restraint as he skirted the tune and Noel Jay played bright raucous phrases and dancing long lines against the backdrop of Matt Tween’s big, ripe bass and John Clarke’s steady, constant shimmer of drums. I could also tell you about The Girl from Ipanema but I was too busy concentrating on my moist, flavoursome chicken breast in ratatouille — which is a pity, because both Grainger’s sax and Jay’s keyboards were at their best as I stuffed my mouth full of buttery mashed potato. With the riggings of the Cutty Sark floating above the dark trees and the nocturnal sweep of the city silhouetted against the last of the blue sky, it was clear that this was an unbeatable way to spend an evening. Great music, great food, great experience.

Thames Jazz Cruises are organised by City Cruises and take place on the third Thursday of each month. Next dates are 21st August, 18th September, 16th October, 20th November BOOKINGS


REPORT: 2014 Yamaha Jazz Scholars Evening at the House of Commons

The 2014 Yamaha Jazz Scholars

Michael Underwood went to the All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group (APPJAG)'s annual Summer Jazz event presenting the new Yamaha Jazz Scholars at the House of Commons. He writes:

Compere for the evening, Michael Connarty MP, introduced Arun Ghosh for a set of rousing, Asian-inspired music. Arun Ghosh is a great example of where a young musician can go on their journey with the support of awards such as the Yamaha Jazz Scholars scheme.

The scheme is in its eighth year and MP Michael Connarty, APPJAG Co-Chairman, said of the awards, “It is so crucial to support young musicians in the transition between education and the profession. The Yamaha awards fill a hole in the funding system where by backing these fantastic musicians means that the younger generation of jazz musicians can keep the integrity and individuality of the British jazz scene alive.”

Peter Ross, representing Yamaha, commented that “Yamaha have true passion and commitment in supporting jazz education”.

After being presented with their awards by Darius Brubeck, the jazz scholars played a set of original music.

Trumpeter Tom Dennis, recipient of the award from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, remarked, “It’s a great opportunity to meet and work with like-minded musicians from other conservatoires. It’ll also be a real boost to my career, allowing me to buy much needed equipment, and giving me the opportunity to record some of my own music in a professional studio”.

The Yamaha Jazz Scholars this year (announced a few days ago) are:

Ed Haine, tenor saxophone - Birmingham Conservatoire
Ashley Henry, piano - Leeds College of Music
Mark Lewandowski, double bass -Guildhall School of Music and Drama
Tom Dennis, trumpet - Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance
Dan Smith, alto saxophone - Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
Utsav Lal, piano - Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Scott Chapman, drums - Royal Academy of Music.

The Yamaha Jazz Scholars evening is hosted by PPL; media partner is Jazzwise


REPORT: Alice Zawadzki Album Launch at Pizza Express

Peter Lea, Jon Scott, Alice Zawadzki, Tom McCredie Alex Roth
Pizza Express, July 2014. Photo Credit: Melody McLaren

Sebastian writes:

It was great to hear Alice Zawadzki and her band last night at the second night of the China Lane album launch. She had a full house (for both nights) and an audience mostly of young people.

I was in the company of friends who hadn't heard her before and had no pre-conceptions of what to expect. I enjoyed their increasing sense of surprise as the sheer range of what Alice is capable of delivering in a live show became apparent.  As the evening progressed, she showed that she not just an immensely able singer with a wide range of vocal timbre, but also a songwriter AND a lyricist AND a violinist AND a pianist AND an entertainer...). The possibilities are just limitless.

Her band all have keen antennæ and take the journey with her from the æthereal, from mediæval æra Sephardic ballads through to a hit-the-floor pæan to sensuality such as Etta James/ Randy Newman You Can Keep Your Hat On, effortlessly and gleefully. (More æ's and other ligatures here)

I first heard Alice and her band when I REVIEWED them on debut at the Green Note in April 2012. She has grown immensely in confidence and stature since then, and last night proved it. There are so many directions she can still take. Which was, is, and will remain an exciting prospect.


LP REVIEW: Bob James – One

Bob James – One
(Music On Vinyl MOVLP655. LP review by Andrew Cartmel)

A recent compilation album of music by Bob James was wittily titled Rhodes Scholar. And, sure enough, James is the man who arguably did as much to demonstrate the jazz capabilities of the Fender Rhodes keyboards, and render them fashionable, as any other single player. Now the admirable Music On Vinyl label has reissued his influential debut solo record on a great sounding 180gram LP.

The album One was originally released in 1974 on Creed Taylor’s CTI label. It was immediately popular, and the years have only served to increase its status — to the point where vintage specimens are becoming sought after collectors’ items. But if you’re looking for a copy on vinyl I’d suggest you opt for this reissue instead. CTI pressings in the 1970s were hit-and-miss and certainly never appeared on high quality, heavy-duty vinyl like this. Music On Vinyl have done a superb job, as immediately revealed by the wonderfully silent run-in groove and confirmed by the deep, sharp, resonant bass — just listen to the lingering fade-out on the first track, a low note that will give you a pleasant quiver in your solar plexus.

Musically, One is irresistible. The track Nautilus, in particular, is one of the most sampled songs in history (another one is Take Me to the Mardi Gras, also by Bob James, from his second album, naturally entitled Two — a suggestion for Music On Vinyl’s future release schedule). One was a lavish production, boasting a big ensemble including large string and brass sections and featuring top session musicians. It’s a Rolls-Royce of a record which has been given the sound quality it deserves. This vintage Rolls has been restored to its full gleaming glory.

The album opens with spooky jungle noises, chattering vocal effects and unsettling drum runs on Valley of the Shadows. The drummer here is none other than Steve Gadd, the same virtuoso who played live with Bob James at last year’s London Jazz Festival Barbican concert (REVIEWED HERE). Underlying all this is a subtle texture of atmospherics created by Bob James on keyboards before bursting vividly into blossom like jungle flowers, along with horn stabs and a fat blaze of chords from Richie Resnicoff’s taut guitar. I’d sat down to listen to this record expecting light hearted and catchy fusion. But Valley of the Shadows is unsettling and diabolical funk, reminiscent of Miles Davis, post-Bitches Brew. Grover Washington Jr.’s soprano sax is subtle and wheedling, like a miniature devil whispering innuendo in your ear. A redemptive brass and choral section finally opens a clearing in the jungle and lets the light in.

In the Garden is a startling reinterpretation of Pachelbel’s Canon in D — with a laid-back Nashville groove, of all things. It’s a mad stroke of genius. The mellow, flowing structure of the Canon is surprisingly conducive to this sort of approach with its heartfelt country feel, gorgeously achieved here by Eric Weissberg, of Duelling Banjos fame, on pedal steel guitar and Hugh McCracken on harmonica. Astonishing, cheeky, and so beautiful it gives you goose bumps.

Soulero is, of course, a soulful bolero and once again drummer Steve Gadd demonstrates his genius and his superhuman rhythmic capabilities. For as long as men like this exist, drum machines will remain redundant. Gadd provides the steadily rising and shifting sequence of escalator plates on which Bob James’s keyboards ride upwards. And, once again, Grover Washington Jr.’s soprano sax provides a sour- sweet commentary.

After a successful Country & Western take on Pachelbel, it’s perhaps not altogether surprisingly to hear Modest Mussorgsky’s Night On Bald Mountain refashioned as a piece of funky 1970s cop show hipness — Night on Starsky and Hutch (Bob James actually did work on the classic cop movie Serpico, and composed the theme for the TV sitcom Taxi). After the majestic orchestral forces brought to bear on some of the other tracks, it’s ironically amusing to have this symphonic favourite stripped back to what is largely a rhythm section funk work-out. The keyboards are crucial, of course, but Gary King’s bass, Gadd’s drums and Resnicoff’s guitar are the lifeblood of the piece, though it wouldn’t be a seventies cop show theme without some great brass (the horn section includes such luminaries as Jon Faddis and Thad Jones).

The much sampled Nautilus has an eerie science fiction edge, with icy chiming sound-fragments creating a crystal pattern on a winter’s window, before they’re obliterated by the glow of the keyboards drawing nearer, like headlights in the driveway. It has a recursive, hypnotic groove that winds back on itself in a musical Möbius strip while the noble classical flourishes of the string section provide a strangely appropriate setting for the futuristic, electronic and funky meat of the piece, with James’s keyboards almost vocalising. It becomes clear from this album that the really inspired nature of Bob James’s music lies in his ability to take this sort of audacious contrast and use it to fashion endlessly listenable music. No wonder that, after forty years, his stuff still sounds as new as tomorrow.


PREVIEW: The Brecker Brothers Reunion Band, Ronnie Scott's, 22nd-24th July

Randy Brecker. Photo: Yamaha

The Brecker Brothers Reunion Band will be at Ronnie Scott's from July 22nd to 24th. Joe Stoddart previews:

Formed in 1975, The Brecker Brothers released nine albums of jazz/funk fusion, gathering twelve Grammy nominations along the way (including two wins for 1994's Out Of The Loop. Based around the core of the brothers, the band featured an ever changing array of some of the finest musicians of the time. Founding member Randy Brecker has reassembled some long-term collaborators in the shape of the line-up at the core of 1978's Heavy Metal Be-Bop, bringing together Barry Finnerty (Guitar), Neil Jason (Bass) and Terry Bozio (Drums) with Italian saxophonist Ada Rovatti, who is also Randy Brecker's wife, stepping into the massive shoes of the sadly departed Michael Brecker.

The band will be playing material from across the Brecker Brothers canon as well from last year's The Brecker Brothers Band Reunion (Piloo Records) which featured many of the artists who've recorded with The Brecker Brothers over the years including Dave Sanborn, Mike Stern and Will Lee, and British-raised expat Oli Rockberger.

Full details/ Line-Up/ Tickets HERE:


NEWS: Gerry Godley appointed Principal at Leeds College of Music

Gerry Godley

Gerry Godley of the Improvised Music Company, based in Dublin 2 in Ireland has just been announced as the new Principal of the college with the longest-standing jazz course in the UK, Leeds College of Music,  where he will take over from Philip Meaden.

Godley has been responsible for the innovative 12 Points Festival, and is a significant presence in the European Jazz Network and in the European jazz and improvised scene generally.

This move looks like be a sad loss for the Irish scene, but it must be good news for jazz in the UK for a major figure in the European jazz world to be taking over the running of one of our top music colleges. We wish him well in the new role, which he starts on 22nd September.



PREVIEW: Todd Gordon and the Back To Basie Orchestra. Cadogan Hall, July 25th

Todd Gordon at Birmingham Town Hall

Todd Gordon previews his third appearance at Cadogan Hall on Friday 25 July, where he is performing with the Back to Basie Orchestra. He writes:

I was just 11 years old when I first listened to a Frank Sinatra album - my mother's well-worn copy of the seminal Songs for Swingin' Lovers. It took me over 30 years before to turn a passion for this kind of music into a professional singing career. But, after being booked to open for Dionne Warwick during her UK tour in 2003, that's what I did.

Since then, I've performed over 400 gigs at some very prestigious venues and festivals, several of which were Sinatra-themed. This needs some clarification: although Sinatra was my biggest musical influence, I avoid trying to copy him. He was utterly unique. But I like to be true to that style of delivery and, in particular, attention to the lyric and the message it conveys to the listener.

The theme on 25th July is "The Very Best of Frank Sinatra & Count Basie" We'll be celebrating the three albums which they recorded together in the early- to mid-1960s.

Alongside the big hitters like I've Got You Under My Skin, My Kind of Town, You Make Me Feel So Young, the programme will feature relative rarities, including several seldom-heard Neal Hefti arrangements for songs such as Looking at the World Thru Rose Colored Glasses, I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter, I Only Have Eyes for You and The Tender Trap.

Todd Gordon & The Back to Basie Orchestra
The Very Best of Frank Sinatra & Count Basie
Cadogan Hall
Friday, 25 July at 7.30pm




NEWS: Yamaha Jazz Scholars 2014-5 Announced

Scott Chapman. Photo: Mike Dolbear
The Yamaha Jazz Scholars have just been announced . They include a student from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland for the second time and they are: 

Ed Haine, tenor saxophone - Birmingham Conservatoire
Ashley Henry, piano - Leeds College of Music
Mark Lewandowski, double bass -Guildhall School of Music and Drama
Tom Dennis, trumpet- Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance
Dan Smith, alto saxophone - Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama
Utsav Lal, piano- Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Scott Chapman , drums -Royal Academy of Music.

We will be doing a full report of the Jazz Scholars Evening to be held this Thursday at the House of Commons


NEWS: Petition Against Jazz Cutbacks at France Musique

Deep inside this building, the Maison de Radio France they're planning cuts to the jazz programming. A petition headed by the very great  Martial Solal and by Francis Marmande of Le Monde, and instigated by pianist Guillaume de Chassy, is appealing against them. France-Musique's jazz programming is fabulous.

SIGN HERE and join 3000 other signatories.

The petition is protesting against the ending of a jazz office within Radio France, against making Xavier Prevost redundant, at the ending of Xavier Prevost's programme Jazz Sur le Vif, as well as the programmes Le Bleu, la Nuit… and Le matin des musiciens.


FESTIVAL ROUND-UP: Love Supreme Jazz Festival 2014

Melt Yourself Down with Ruth Goller, bass guitar (right) at the 2014 Love Supreme Festival
Photo Credit: John L. Walters

Love Supreme Jazz Festival
(Glynde, West Sussex. 4th-6th July 2014. Round-up review and all pictures by by John L. Walters)

You have to hand it to Jazz FM (and partner Neapolitan Music) for having the gumption to stage a greenfield jazz festival in Sussex two years running and make each a success. This year’s attracted a big, good-natured and diverse crowd to a beautifully framed plot of land in the South Downs. Visitor figures were visibly higher (50 per cent according to the organisers) and the management of the event – security, parking, toilets, bars, food concessions, etc. – appeared to work more or less glitch-free.

Bands came on stage on time and they even left on time. Encores were few and far between, but hyper-enthusiastic DJ David Freeman (who presents the Blues and Boogie show on Jazz FM) coaxed genial bluesman Brooks Williams back for one more number. And when the outer throng of listeners for Gregory Porter started to drift away at the end of his ecstatic set, the inner core demanded an encore and got one.

Appropriately for a jazz station that maintains an admirably precarious balance between real jazz and the pleasantly jazzy, there were plenty of ‘tunes’. Incognito, led by Jean-Paul ‘Bluey’ Maunick brought a grin to everyone’s face by blasting out Stevie Wonder songs. While grey rain clouds hung around like a bunch of meteorological hoodies, Incognito’s version of the perennially sunny Ronnie Laws’ anthem Always There seemed to hold off the threatened showers.

Omar (who had played a set the night before) jumped on stage to sing his hit There’s Nothing Like This with Courtney Pine’s band on Sunday. Lalah Hathaway, a soul artist with a vocal technique that’s rooted in jazz, was superb.

It wasn’t all funky big names. A creditable roster of Brit-based bands included the excellent Phronesis and Polar Bear – who still sound fresh and unexpected. From the United States came the inventive bands of bassist Derrick Hodge, Kris Bowers and Jaimeo Brown – a shimmering trio with Chris Sholar (guitar/electronics) and J. D. Allen (tenor).

Jamie Cullum charmed the Saturday night audience and defied the weather with a super-energetic sequence of familiar numbers in a performance style he’s made his own. Cullum’s music is a hybrid of ‘ching-ching’, keyboard-led singer-songwriter material and innovative reinventions. He plays Pharrell Williams’ Frontin’  with a jazz twist. He gives Cole Porter’s Love For Sale a broken-beat time-shift that is genuinely moving rather than calculated. Cullum, an eloquent advocate for jazz, has undoubtedly got the right dynamic for the Love Supreme audience.

Iona Thomas (harp) and Laura Mvula at the 2014 Love Supreme Festival
Photo Credit: John L. Walters

Laura Mvula (above) was a treat to witness, with a line-up that included violin, cello, bass, drums, samples and harp. Mvula’s repertoire and arrangements transcend genre, with a warm personality and a musicality that speaks to jazz fans.

If, like me, you regard Helen Mayhew and Mike Chadwick as the ventricles of Jazz FM’s beating heart, you would have detected their absence from Love Supreme’s programming. I would happily spend all day at a ‘Cutting Edge’ stage programmed by Chadwick, but to get that kind of content at Glynde you had to cherry-pick from all five stages, including the tiny Cocoface bandstand organised by The Verdict jazz club in Brighton. That’s where you could hear bands such as the Al Scott Quartet, whose fine flugel player Jack Kendon delivered a haunting version of Nardis. The Matua stage – like a club without a roof – provided a cool setting for the aforementioned Brooks Williams, Antonio Forcione, Michael Messer with tabla player Gurdain Raytt and J-Sonics, with its unfeasibly high proportion of jazz journalists.

However there was little of the captivating European jazz that Mayhew weaves so skilfully into her programme Dinner Jazz, nor the diverse, rumbustious World jazz that Chadwick plucks from all corners of the globe. On the plus side, we had Chadwick favourites Snarky Puppy on fine form, making an understandable - and justifiable - fuss of their Brit keyboard player Bill Laurance when they played his tune Ready Wednesday.

Snarky Puppy: Bill Laurance (left), Michael League (right) at the 2014 Love Supreme Festival
Photo Credit: John L. Walters

Snarky Puppy made better use of the main stage’s giant sound system than most of the bigger bands. Their live mix was loud and clear without being bombastic, unlike Soul II Soul and De La Soul – two acts with a higher proportion of ‘soul’ in their names than in their actual music.

High volume levels created unnecessary conflicts between bands who have to keep the volume high to stop the sound from a neighbouring stage (or from the other end of the site) disturbing their set. I felt sorry for bands in the Arena tent, half way between the Ronnie Scott’s Big Top and the main stage, who got the sound spill from two directions.

This wasn’t so much of an issue for Melt Yourself Down (top picture), whose musical aesthetic involves a non-stop barrage of honking saxes, over-the-top vocals and hammering drums held together by Ruth Goller’s highly focused bass guitar. (If Chris Morris and Charlie Brooker were to invent a jazz-punk pogo-dance combo for Nathan Barley Reloaded, they might look a bit like Melt Yourself Down. Though they wouldn’t sound as good.)

Takuya Kuroda at the 2014 Love Supreme Festival
Photo Credit: John L. Walters

Takuya Kuroda’s band, however, drew the short straw. Trumpeter Kuroda has a warm tone and a elegantly funky approach that reminded me of Eddie Henderson playing with Herbie Hancock. Yet when the band dropped out for Kuroda to play an echoplexed cadenza, he was immediately assailed by audio fall-out from Soul II Soul. The knock-on effect is a kind of ‘arms race’ as each band gets louder than the one before.

The American bands tended to take a more mature approach. Christian McBride made the Big Top feel like an intimate club: his sweet-toned bass prompted instant good vibes. ‘I know y’all familiar with the funk,’ said McBride, before launching into Who’s Making Love by the underrated Stax star Johnnie Taylor which effortlessly morphed into Michael Jackson’s Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground) and Stevie Wonder’s I Wish. There’s something deeply authentic about McBride that both relaxed and excited the crowd, and his version of Giant Steps was a masterclass in the art of the jazz trio.

John Scofield’s Überjam got it just right, too – the effortlessly inventive and melodic Scofield on lead guitar with bass, drums and brilliant rhythm guitarist Avi Bortnick. Their beautifully nuanced songs – with self-mocking names like Crack Dice and Boogie Stupid – were immediately appealing to head, heart and feet.

Gregory Porter at the 2014 Love Supreme Festival
Photo Credit: John L. Walters

Gregory Porter’s set – a highlight of Love Supreme 2013 – was as good as or better than last year, and refuted any anxiety that big greenfield festivals can’t handle musical light and shade. Porter’s own songs, including Be Good, On My Way To Harlem, Real Good Hands and Free sound like jazz classics with superior lyrics. Porter sings music for grown-ups that a kid could understand. He has a great band. He’s a genuine, once-in-a-generation, platinum-quality jazz star.


John L Walters reported on last year’s festival HERE and HERE

JLW reviews of John Scofield’s Überjam in 2002

Snarky Puppy at the 2012 LJF

Love Supreme Jazz Festival


REPORT AND PHOTOS: Gareth Williams/ Trish Clowes at the Watermill Dorking

Gareth Williams, Martin France, Trish  Clowes, Calum Gourlay
Watermill, July 2014. Photo Credit: Brian O'Connor / Images of Jazz 
Gareth Williams and Trish Clowes write:

We have worked together a few times in the last year, and recently decided to make more of a formal collaboration in 'The Glow Quartet' - very briefly known as 'Glue,' for just one gig at the Watermill, where Brian O'Connor took these photographs.

Having spent time playing and listening to music together - and recorded THIS for the BBC - the idea behind the band is to bring generations and styles of musicians/music together, playing arrangements of standards and originals from the two of us. It's a listening band, taking risks, being interactive, taking the good stuff from both more traditional improvised music and contemporary ideas.

 Trish Clowes, Calum Gourlay (hidden). Watermill, July 2014
Photo Credit: Brian O'Connor / Images of Jazz

Gareth Williams, Trish Clowes. Watermill July 2014
Photo Credit: Brian O'Connor / Images of Jazz


LP REVIEW: Miles Davis – Kind of Blue (Deluxe)

Miles Davis – Kind of Blue (Deluxe)
(Music On Vinyl MOVLP-019. LP review by Andrew Cartmel)

Is there anything left to say on the most popular — and arguably greatest — jazz LP of all time? Quite a lot, as it happens. For a start there is the matter of the master tapes. The original recording sessions for Kind of Blue took place at the Columbia 30th Street Studios in Manhattan, nicknamed ‘the Church’, in March and April 1959. During these sessions both a mono and a three-track stereo master were created, using a total of four tape recorders running in synchronisation — one prime recorder and one safety backup each for mono and stereo. The mono tapes have gone missing. Maybe they’re in your garden shed. Have a look. The two stereo tapes were stored safely in a vault for over three decades before anyone thought of taking them out for remastering.

One of the interesting discoveries made in 1992 when the tapes were first exhumed, was that Side 1 of the stereo issue, consisting of the tracks recorded at the first session, So What, Freddie Freeloader and Blue in Green, had been playing at the wrong speed since 1959. (The fault in the tape recorder which caused this had been corrected by the time of the second session in April.) The prime stereo tape recorder had been running just over one percent slow, so on playback and during the mastering of albums it ran a little fast. Hence the stereo (but not the mono) releases of Kind of Blue — and virtually all the releases were stereo — had always had those three tracks playing at slightly the wrong pitch. Not just the LPs, but the CDs, cassettes, reel to reel tapes and MiniDiscs…

Sound engineer Mark Wilder, who made this discovery in 1992, then corrected it using the backup three-track stereo tape for the subsequent remastered reissues. Since the mono tapes apparently no longer exist, recent monophonic reissues (yes, some people do prefer mono) were created by mixing down the three tracks on the backup stereo master to a single track. Another, more welcome, discovery on inspecting the master tapes was that a complete alternate take of one tune still existed. This is the first take of Flamenco Sketches. (After completing the second take, which is the one used on the album, Miles Davis reportedly turned to the producer Irving Townsend and said, “That was terrible, Irving.”)

Since 1992 there have been a number of issue of the remastered, speed-corrected, Kind of Blue on both vinyl and digital formats, although arguably never a definitive LP rendering until the release of the Music On Vinyl set reviewed here. A major project took place in 2009 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the album’s release, and attempts at an ultimate version were made then. Newly remastered from the backup stereo tapes, the anniversary Kind of Blue was released on both CD and LP. Unfortunately for vinyl fans, there were reportedly widespread problems with the vinyl, thanks to poor, noisy pressings.

Luckily for vinyl fans, the story doesn’t end there. Before the sacred tapes were returned the vaults, a copy of the 50th anniversary remastering was transferred to a high resolution digital file. And that file was sourced for a new and noise-free vinyl release by an enterprising company called Music On Vinyl. Based in Holland, Music On Vinyl uses the Record Industry plant in Haarlem — the largest surviving vinyl pressing plant in Europe and one of the top three in terms of quality, along with Pallas and Optimal in Germany. The Music On Vinyl label turns out beautifully packaged LP reissues on high quality vinyl. It has cleverly placed itself between the high-end audiophile labels, whose LPs can be very pricey, and the cheap low-end labels, whose noisy pressings can sound like bacon frying.

The Music On Vinyl Kind of Blue is indeed a deluxe package which offers considerable bang for the buck. It’s a double album, with the first LP offering the record in its original stereo form (speed corrected, of course) and a second disc featuring the first take of Flamenco Sketches on one side and a version of Green Dolphin Street on the other. Green Dolphin Street was recorded just before the Kind of Blue sessions and features the same line up — John Coltrane tenor sax, Bill Evans piano, Jimmy Cobb drums and Paul Chambers bass. Featuring Evans at his most mellow and cheery, moody bass modulations by Chambers, notable fast-shuffle boogie drums by Cobb, rich slabs of Coltrane sax, and slalom-sliding trumpet by Miles — in joyous Surrey With a Fringe on Top style — it might come from a different sound world to the lonely, modal Kind of Blue tunes, but Green Dolphin Street is nevertheless a blue ribbon bonus track.

LPs deriving from a digital source should be anathema to analog purists (like myself) but the Music On Vinyl Kind of Blue sounds terrific, crisp and precise, yet never lacking in warmth or immediacy. Miles Davis’s spiralling, restless trumpet on Freddie Freeloader and its seesaw insinuation on All Blues, Bill Evans’s delicate, meditative haiku of a piano in Flamenco Sketches, Coltrane’s silken, slithering tenor lament on Blue in Green, Paul Chambers’ low, slow heartbeat of a bass, the soft, considered percussion of Jimmy Cobb’s drums and the pulsing tick of his cymbals are all immaculately rendered.

The two bonus tracks are of particular interest. Both run just under ten minutes and, since they are allotted an entire 12 inch side each, there is potential for wide groove spacing and superior sound. And, indeed, they are an audiophile delight. I hate to contradict the man himself, but Flamenco Sketches is not terrible at all, Miles, in either version. And the alternate take just sounds stupendous.

The love and care taken by Music On Vinyl on this release even extends to the printing of the labels, which on these discs are a homage to the 1959 Columbia “six eye” design. Unless you can come up with one of those original LPs, this is as good a sounding Kind of Blue as you will find.


PREVIEW/ INTERVIEW: Ian Bowden, Rye Internatonal Jazz & Blues Festival, (Aug 21-25)

We spoke to Ian Bowden, Founder and Director of the Rye Internatonal Jazz & Blues Festival, now in its third year, about the background to the Festival, and about this year's line-up:

LondonJazz News : What made you first think of having a jazz festival in Rye?

Ian Bowden: I have been visiting Rye for many years with friends and family . It has a tremendous history and this makes you feel that you are really getting away from everything.

The medieval town centre of Rye is known as the Citadel. It's small and compact, everywhere is within an easy walk around the town; which makes it perfect to stage live music events at many of the hotels, pubs, restaurants. I liken it to a mini New Orleans in some way which is vibe and atmosphere that you get during the entire festival weekend.

Landgate, Rye. Photo Credit: Paul Hermans/ creative commons

LJN: And it's a pretty town with loads of history?

IB: Yes, almost a thousand years of history that dates back to the Norman Conquest! Rye became a major coastal defensive stronghold in medieval times and is to this day a ‘Cinque Ports Town’.

The town was built higher up on a hill as hundreds of years ago the sea came right up to the undercliff of the town where the fishing fleet was moored.

Today if you walk through the streets of Rye you will find some of the most amazing timber built houses that were once owned by wealthy merchants. The Cobbled streets of Mermaid Street are one of the most iconic images of Rye and we are presenting a number of wonderful jazz events at the stunning and ancient Mermaid Inn throughout the festival.

Rye itself is a mixture of Medieval and Georgian architecture. There is even a defensive castle called the Ypres Tower that was used as a prison during the Napoleonic wars. It really is like going back in time!

LJN: How does it work? Do you have concerts during the day?

IB: We have various live performances that take place at venues located within Rye throughout the day over the August bank Holiday weekend.

Lots of free street music, jazz sessions and acoustic sets take place between 1.00pm – 6.00pm. We also have an outdoor performance stage which runs across the entire weekend that is free entry.
Many bands perform at this venue over the Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 3.00pm – 9.45pm.

Music styles include Blues, Jazz, Swing, Soul and Funk. We have some amazing performances from London, regional and local based bands.

Ticketed concerts take place in the evenings at an array of superb intimate venues. We transform a wonderful Georgian Ballroom into a stunning Jazz Club. Other venues include the beautiful St Mary’s Church Rye, which boasts almost a thousand years of history! This year, we have also introduced a Jazz Lounge. We will be presenting evening concerts and a number of ‘Late Night Sessions’ aptly titled ‘ Late at The Lounge’.

Earl Okin at the Rye Jazz Festival

LJN: What's the main venue?

Our main venue this year is our dedicated Jazz Lounge where we are presenting a number of outstanding concerts. We also have other super venues where professional concerts take place and these include the Jazz Club Ballroom at The George in Rye, St Mary’s Church Rye and The Ypres Castle Inn where our outdoor festival music stage is located.

LJN: A small town suits a jazz festival?

Absolutely, park up and within 5 minutes you are within the heart of Rye. The town itself is very compact and there are many cobbled streets to wonder down that take you to stunning views across the Romney Marshes.

Literally, everything is within easy reach and you will hear the live music coming out of various venues, on street corners. The festival provides that feeling and atmosphere of intimacy and fun and this works extremely well.

LJN: Who did you have as headliner in the first year?

The Legendary Ginger Baker and his band Jazz Confusion headlined the festival in 2012 which was a complete sell-out!

LJN: Who's on this year?

IB: The rising talented Julia Biel and Antonio Forcione headline the festival on Friday 22nd August.

Jason Rebello and Joy Rose headline on Saturday 23rd August.

Other superb headline events include local hero Herbie Flowers and his Jazz All Stars, the Simon Spillett Quartet, Kitty LaRoar and the Lucky Victims, Earl Okin,  Gareth Lockrane’s Grooveyard, Ola Onabule and may more superb acts. (pp)