CD REVIEW: Keith Jarrett / Charlie Haden / Paul Motian - Hamburg ‘72

Keith Jarrett / Charlie Haden / Paul Motian - Hamburg ‘72
(ECM 470 4256. CD review by Andy Boeckstaens)

Pianist Keith Jarrett found fame early in life, initially with Charles Lloyd in the mid-60s. When this concert was taped at the NDR Funkhaus in Hamburg on 14th June 1972, his trio with bass player Charlie Haden and drummer Paul Motian had existed for six years, recorded three albums for Atlantic Records, and was already at a creative peak. Jarrett was still only 27 years old.

After a hint of “When You Wish upon a Star” during a lyrical, unaccompanied opening, the piano coalesces with splashing cymbals and Rainbow (which is credited to Jarrett’s then-wife, Margot) becomes a lightly swinging and relatively mainstream affair. Haden is only briefly heard, and – until Jarrett’s luminous eruptions at the end of the piece – we only get a taste of the riches in store.

The next four selections are by Jarrett. Everything That Lives Laments is notable partly because – in addition to piano - Jarrett plays (frequently over-blown) flute, and Motian shakes bells and chimes. Haden is highlighted before retreating into a group improvisation that is clearly more than a random free-for-all; these men know each other well and really communicate. The tune ends tenderly, with Jarrett back on piano and Motian at the drums.

Piece for Ornette bursts with energy and evokes Coleman’s urgent, piano-less style. Jarrett uses soprano saxophone with a raw, vocalised timbre. Chattering, shrieking and stuttering with wayward abandon, his dialogue with a highly-charged Motian builds in intensity and becomes a thrilling, passionate exchange. Eventually, Haden steps between them, as if he’s engaging calmness and reason to break up a screaming row. After this, it’s hard to imagine that Jarrett – in little over a decade – would be leading a very different trio with a repertoire concentrating on old jazz standards.

Take Me Back is reminiscent of Jarrett’s stunning ECM début (the solo “Facing You”) that came a few months before this concert. A simple, rising piano figure gradually develops into a gospelly, rocking section that is so emotive and life-affirming that you may well jump up from your sofa and yell “oh yeah” at the speakers. Then – several wonderful minutes later - the melody is stated, and you realise that you’ve just been listening to the introduction! This is quintessential Jarrett, and Motian’s unusually hard-hitting approach is absolutely right for this music.

Haden’s solo on the rhapsodic and relatively diffuse Life, Dance is barely over when Song for Che begins, and familiar drones and double-stops mingle with allusions to his country roots. Jarrett moves from soprano sax to the piano for a climax that is distinguished by dramatic, hymnal cadences, and Haden ends his iconic composition to an accompaniment of fluttery percussion. The audience goes mad; if they were fortunate enough to get more, we don’t hear it.

Hamburg ’72 is so good that words are barely sufficient to convey its impact. It contains some of the most exciting jazz you will ever experience, and there is no question about it being one of the records of the year.


LP REVIEW: Basso Valdambrini Quintet – Fonit H602-H603

Basso Valdambrini Quintet – Fonit H602-H603
(Rearward RW154LP. Double LP. Review by Andrew Cartmel)

The small groups co-led by tenor sax player Gianni Basso and trumpeter Oscar Valdambrini were the most celebrated jazz units to emerge from Italy in the late 1950's and early 60's. First rising to prominence in Milan, under the name The Italian Sextet, Basso actually came from Asti (where they make such damn fine wine) while Valdambrini was born in Turin. They played the San Remo and Lyon jazz festivals and distinguished themselves in Armando Trovajoli’s big band before reverting to their own quintet. Working in a West Coast and hard bop idiom they held a long term residence in Milan which was successful enough to attract Verve Records in the USA, who issued a Basso-Valdambrini album in their International Series in 1959. The following year Basso and Valdambrini released a classic album Walking in the Night on RCA Italy. In 1962, operating as a sextet, they won a contest as ‘The Best Modern Jazz in Italy’ and toured the USA and recorded another RCA album under this banner. All these excellent albums went out of print and became collectors items. But in recent years they have resurfaced, first as Japanese reissues, and then in their native Italy.

While the back catalogue of Basso-Valdambrini’s most famous titles is now in pretty healthy shape, the Rearward/Schema label (based, appropriately enough, in Milan) has pulled off a real coup by unearthing some extremely rare library recordings by the Quintet. Library music, often performed by top musicians, is an anonymous genre designed to be used, uncredited, by TV and radio programs who don’t want to go to the trouble and expense of commissioning bespoke compositions. The recordings here were first released as two vinyl albums on the Milanese Fonit Cetra label, with generic covers and the inscrutable designations H602 and H603. Their subtitles are more enlightening: Stile: Pop-Jazz and Stile: Californiano (the ‘pop jazz’ is actually closer to a soul jazz feel). Recorded in 1970, these sessions are reportedly the last performances of the Basso-Valdambrini Quintet. They are certainly the rarest.

What is most striking about this music is the spirit with which Basso and Valdambrini and their rhythm section approach the project. These anonymous recordings — never, as far as they knew, destined to be linked with their names — are performed with as much conviction as anything they ever did. In fact, they play their hearts out. Plinius is reminiscent of Oliver Nelson’s classic The Blues and the Abstract Truth in the horn arrangements and the general balance of the instruments; it’s a tight knit blues vehicle with a driving, rolling beat. Subtle and deceptively complex drum patterns come courtesy of Lionello Bionda while Basso’s sax offers a taut commentary with Valdambrini shadowing him like a Siamese twin.

Maglione (‘Sweater’) also evokes Nelson’s masterwork, with gorgeous hard edged tenor which hands over to Valambrini’s virile trumpet and skirling scales on the piano from Ettore Righello. The abrupt, instant ending is audacious and breathtaking. Invertime pays homage to vintage Miles Davis in Valdambrini’s trumpet approach while on the free jazz outing El Gato (‘The Cat’), Basso conjures the spirit of Coltrane.

In the Stile: Californiano sessions, Gold Mine has a jaunty but laidback Jazz at the Lighthouse atmosphere, a mood which continues with Glaucus in its Chet Baker feel and E’ Molto Facile (‘And Very Easy’). Pick Up provides a bright barrage of trumpet, skipping piano and a Dizzy Gillespie rhythmic riffing. On The Jolly Basso’s tenor is darkly emphatic, with a lovely burnished, glowing tone. Ettore Righello contributes agile, methodical, story-telling piano cushioned by Giorgio Azzolini’s bass until unison sax and trumpet take over, waving the banner of the melody.

Behind this less than alluring title lies an exciting reissue for fans of Italian jazz. What were once impossibly rare and expensive records are available again in a fine sounding double vinyl set which comes complete with a free CD.



Sam Leak. Photo Credit: Barbara Bartz

Two sorts of wishes. First, writers pick musicians whom they want to hear more of. Second there are some more general wishes relating to the scene: 


Callum Au’s recent big band album Something’s Coming combined rich arrangements of Bernstein with great original compositions. Also with an acclaimed quintet to his name, 2015 should be a great year for Callum. (Jon Carvell)

Theo Croker's Dvrk Funk.  The young American trumpeter and his quintet with  Irwin Hall (alto), Kassa Overall (dr), Eric Wheeler (b) and Michael King (p) delivered a tremendous set accompanying the brilliant Dee Dee Bridgewater at Jazz on 3's live EFG London Jazz Festival broadcast at Ronnie's could not fail to impress. More!
(Geoff Winston)

Barry Green. He recorded not one but two trio albums on a trip to New York earlier in 2014 (one with Chris Cheek and Gerald Cleaver, the other with Drew Gress and Tom Rainey). Fingers crossed 2015 brings the release of the albums and some live performances.
(Mike Collins)

Horse Orchestra are a young Danish band, whose CD I heard for the first time last month, and have an irreverent and slightly anarchic approach to some of the great jazz tunes. (Peter Slavid)

Pianists Frank Harrison and John Turville, who have performed individually with Gilad Atzmon’s and Tommaso Starace’s ensembles, combined their musical talents in a delightful 23 March 2014 two-piano concert during the Pizza Express Steinway Festival.  It would be great to hear more from them – and other piano duos – in 2015.
(Melody McLaren)

Sam Leak is developing a voice as one of the UK’s fine creative jazz pianists – both of his ‘Aquarium’ quartet albums are treasures. The recent debut performance of his progression into big band writing was hailed enthusiastically, and it now feels important that this new suite is recorded and released.
(Adrian Pallant)

James Brandon Lewis..A 32-year old American saxophonist ...he's most definitely got it.
(Adam Sieff)

Perfect Houseplants (an oft promised return) would be first equal with a gig by Steve Buckley back playing live.
(Oliver Weindling)

Andy Milne played piano for many years with M-Base saxophonist Steve Coleman. Milne’s own band is Dapp Theory. Their new CD Forward in All Directions wraps M-Base nerviness and urban poetry in lyrical gentleness. Some UK gigs would be a treat!
(Alison Bentley)

More from Max Luthert, the bassist with Partikel, who released his solo album this year.
(Rob Mallows)

Bucket list: to see clarinettist Perry Robinson, bass player Richard Davis, trumpeter/saxist Ira Sullivan and piano/vibes player Karl Berger during 2015.
(Andy Boeckstaens)

Martin Speake and Douglas Finch. I'd like to hear more from this newly-established saxophone and piano duo who create free improvisations live and on CD. Each work is a breathtaking journey, drawing on classical and jazz influences with awesome craftmanship.
(Clare Simmonds)

Helen Sung. The pianist's first album for Concord, Anthem For A New Day was an astonishing calling card for her sheer range of expression. The first impression is one of the velocity of her ideas and fingers, but there's a lot more. I'll be first in the queue for her next album, or, ideally, London gig.
(Sebastian Scotney)

Tom Waits: This report of him performing live whets the appetite to hear him in London!
(Geoff Winston)

Ping Machine (in "Paris" - below)


Charge more! 

Musicians who give away streamed music or CDs for next to nothing aren't helping our case for jazz music to be valued. Perhaps they could consider streaming only one track, not the whole album, and charging a bit more for their music?
(Mary James)

Communicating.... The inclusion in jazz education the idea that music should try to communicate with an audience other than fellow musicians. (Donald Helme)

Edinburgh. My wish for the next year... that Edinburgh's Playtime, a musician-run regular club night that put local musicians on in a variety of line ups and provides space for experimentation and improvisation continues to be able to provide so much entertainment. Oh, and a new midsize venue for Edinburgh would be good!
(Patrick Hadfield)

-  That the Jazz Promoters' Network can begin to mature into an effective lobbying, and tour organising, presence.
-  That Arts Council England raise jazz funding to match other minority art music like, I don't know, opera...
(Jon Turney)

Jump Jiving, Swing Dancing and All That
There's a buzz about bands in the UK like  Kansas Smittys, Basin Street Brawlers, Dixie Ticklers, the Brass Funky's from Cambridge, and Man Overboard Swing. It's growing. They play music which establishes a connection directly with the feet (and the hips) of a young audience. More please. (Sebastian Scotney)

Paris. Bring it closer.Twenty years since the birth of the Eurostar made it easier to get to Paris then to Cardiff, I'd love to see further cross-pollination across the channel from the likes of Akalé Wubé, Ping Machine (above) and Surnatural Orchestra (Dan Bergsagel).

Venue. I wish that central London had a venue like Brussels’ Music Village: international musicians, modest admission price, 100 seats, appreciative audience, dining optional.
(Andy Boeckstaens)

Women Instrumentalists. Only 6% women instrumentalists at the London Jazz Festival (excluding ensembles led by singers). This is not a judgement on the LJF, but on the state of the scene. My wish for 2015 is seeing female desires, expectations and views inform our music; hearing the other half of the story - More on this important issue on my blog, HERE
(Lara Bellini)








'Renaissance Man' Clark Tracey's Quintet (personnel below) at
Herts Jazz Festival September 2014. Photo credit: Melody McLaren

Our writers' selection of established artists (over 35 - for artists under 35 see our other list) who have made a mark in 2014:

Julian Arguelles. Not having seen him for play for maybe ten years, I have seen Julian Arguelles play in five gigs this year, in various combinations. His quartet gig in the Edinburgh Jazz Festival is one of my highlights of the year, and his playing all round has been superb. (Patrick Hadfield)

Pete Churchill (three people wrote)

- I witnessed Pete Churchill's work with children and young people. It was so unashamedly positive and hopeful, I thought it was so needed at a time when we push cynicism on people from such a young age. He is a musician who demonstrates exactly what jazz educators should be like.
(Ayesha Pike)

-  Over the past year Pete has been helping Jon Hendricks to realise a project stalled for 30 years, adapting Gil Evan's band charts from Miles Ahead and travelling to New York to draw lyrics out of Hendricks and to create a vocal version of this classic album, to be performed by us in the London Vocal Project.
(Dominic Stichbury)

- Pete has inspired and aided countless young jazz musicians, both in institutions but also by example. His latest project will truly put Britain on the map as a driving force in the world of Jazz.
(Chloe Potter)

Chick Corea. The 3 CD recording of Chick Corea’s outstanding trio (Brian Blade/Christian McBride) made during their world tour 2012/13.One of the best “live” recordings I have ever come across -Trilogy
(Donald Helme)

Jamie Cullum. As musician he's put out a fascinating jazz album, Interlude. As an advocate for strength and depth of the UK scene he is the most effective we have, and by a mile. Having just passed 35 he's definitely the youngest on this list.
(Sebastian Scotney)

Rachelle Ferrell. I was worried she'd have lost some of her range or power but it was all there and emotionally she held such a deep connection with the audience at Ronnie's. It'll stay in my memory for a long, long time.
(Fran Hardcastle)

Tim Garland. Redoubtable British reedsman Tim Garland confirmed his ever-increasing prowess as performer and composer, writing for both quintet (great personnel) and the Royal Northern Sinfonia strings in his excellent 2CD ‘Songs to the North Sky’. Also an important figure in the realisation of Phil Meadows’ recent Engines Orchestra debut release.
(Adrian Pallant)

Hans Hassler, the German classical, folk and jazz accordionist whose latest album “Hassler” has been playing here since the day it arrived.
(Peter Slavid)

Noel Langley has been on the scene as a trumpeter for a quarter of a century, but this year he emerged from session work and sterling big band duty with his CD Edentide. It is a surprising, refreshing mixture of different styles that coalesce into a magnificent whole; a great recording.
(Andy Boeckstaens)

John McLaughlin, who in his seventies is still showing breaking the boundaries of what the guitar can do on albums like March's The Boston Record 
(Rob Mallows)

Simon Purcell. His career as an educator has been parallel to one as a performer, and he has finally released an album, Red Circle, under his own name. Not so much a ‘First timer as an ‘About timer’. Other notable About Timers in 2014 were Alison Rayner, Jake McMurchie and Noel Langley.
(Mike Collins)

Quercus (Huw Warren, Iain Ballamy, June Tabor) as a collective who have built upon their 2013 self-titled ECM release. Just beautiful and understated music.
(Nicky Schrire)

Paul Rogers. I've gone for a bass player. Paul Rogers' 7 string acoustic bass playing, especially with Whahay, just pips John Edwards, Barry Guy and Chris Laurence.
(Oliver Weindling)

Ben Sidran....two excellent new records in a row - ever improving with age.
(Adam Sieff)

Alison Rayner. When you’ve been a highly respected, busy bassist since the 1970s, what do you do next? Now in her 60s, Alison Rayner has just released her first CD (Alison Rayner Quintet, courtesy of a Jazz Services Recording Subsidy) and is nearing the end of a 16-date tour: from funky Guest Stars-style grooves to more introspective compositions.
(Alison Bentley)

Keith Tippett. The pianist never fails to amaze, technically, imaginatively and conceptually - whether galvanising and steering his young octet through 'The Nine Dances of Partick O'Gonogon', or in non-verbal duet with Julie Tippetts , or razor-sharp with Peter Brötzmann and Steve Noble (as BNT) , riding three-horseman-like into the unpredictable (all seen at Cafe Oto) - he is always a joy to witness.
(Geoff Winston)

Clark Tracey, Renaissance Man. After a challenging year ending with his father, British piano legend Stan Tracey, passing away in December 2013, drummer Clark Tracey launched an impressive comeback, releasing the debut CD of the current Clark Tracey Quintet, with Harry Bolt (piano); Chris Maddock (sax), Henry Armburg Jennings (trumpet), Dan Casimir (bass)- picture above- and launching a new jazz series at Hemel Hempstead’s Cellar Club, while continuing to lead Herts Jazz Club, and Festival.
(Melody McLaren)

Mark Turner. The saxophonist released his first album as leader for 13 years in 2014. Lathe of Heaven was certainly worth the wait: Turner created a virtuosic, personal and moving record, a master-class in melody and control.
(Jon Carvell)

Jason Yarde. He impressed in many different contexts this year: with Andrew McCormack, Township Comets, The Dedication Orchestra, Denys Baptiste's Let Freedom Ring, on record with Louis Moholo. His contributions are always apt and incisive, and often raise things to another level. (Jon Turney)








Alice Zawadzki (with Pete Lee at the piano)
Photo Credit Melody McLaren

This is our list of younger musicians who have made a mark (on us) in 2014:

Leo Appleyard. Until a month ago, I hadn't heard of the guitarist . I missed his gig at LJF - it sold out before I thought to grab a ticket - but his CD Pembroke Road was an impressive debut. I hope to catch him next year!
(Patrick Hadfield) 

Moses Boyd....A wonderful drummer and still only 23.
(Adam Sieff)

George Crowley.   The sax player, through promoting regular gigs in smaller pubs like the Oxford and the Con Cellar Bar, is keeping London's scene fresh and lively.
(Rob Mallows)

Aaron Diehl. 29 year old pianist Aaron Diehl, at ease across many genres, reflecting his immersion in the traditions of jazz piano from Tatum to John Lewis and beyond.
(Donald Helme)

Marko Churnchetz (Črnčec) New York-based Slovenian pianist/keyboardist Marko Churnchetz created a programme of highly-charged jazz fusion pyrotechnics in his 2014 quartet album, ‘Devotion’, duelling pitch-bent synths with saxophonist Mark Shim’s midi controller wizardry. An exceptional, lightning-fast jazz pianist, Churnchetz’s next release is keenly anticipated.
(Adrian Pallant)

Elliot Galvin’s debut album, Dreamland arrived with a clatter to critical acclaim and was quickly followed by the award of Young European Jazz Artist to his trio.
(Mike Collins)

Tigran Hamasyan. The pianist's next release Mockroot is his Nonesuch Records label debut (expected early 2015) and the staggered territory release of his previous album "Shadow Theater" somewhat cut into its momentum. So he's slightly under the radar but his upcoming releases and activities should warrant deserved buzz and attention.
(Nicky Schrire)

Laura Jurd. Drawing by Geoff Winston.
All rights reserved

Laura Jurd, With Huw V Williams 'Hon' quintet at The Salisbury, the trumpeter hugely impressed with her range and depth and the way she confidently paid indirect homage to illustrious antecedents - Chet Baker, Miles, Kenny Wheeler and Wadada - without compromising her own voice and spontaneity. Blending rough, smooth and lyrical with beautiful tones, her assuredness added a special ingredient to the mix.
(Geoff Winston)

Phil Meadows reached new heights in 2014 with the release of Lifecycles – his vibrant all-encompassing project for full orchestra. As a soloist, composer and educator, Meadows is leading the way for the next generation.
(Jon Carvell)

Dan Messore - a hugely talented synthesist of contemporary guitar styles, with an keenly awaited second CD on the way for his band Indigo Kid. Their set at Bristol's festival was terrifically good, tantalisingly short.
(Jon Turney)

Dan Nicholls. This year North London's Loop collective has continued to push the musical agenda, with Dan Nicholls in particular fulfilling his potential. Whether playing sampled kalimba compositions on Jez Nelson's show, or as part of the riotous Brass Mask or deep grooving Strobes, Nicholls' name on a bill is starting to become synonymous with fresh boundary-pushing music.
(Dan Bergsagel)

Vincent Peirani. Jazz accordion? Vincent Peirani has revolutionized its repertoire, mixing Classical influences with swing and free jazz. He tours constantly all over the world, and has won major jazz prizes in his native France. Here’s a wish for him to gig in the UK.
(Alison Bentley)

Cath Roberts/Dee Byrne for their music - but also for the LUME programme of exciting new music gigs.
(Peter Slavid)

Tom Skinner and Tim Giles. Two amazing drummers in this country who are so established that we forget their relative youth:
(Oliver Weindling)

Lewis Wright. The vibes player (and drummer) attracted attention with Empirical a few years ago, and is now making his mark as a wonderful soloist. He was in devastating form during a late show at Ronnie Scott’s led by Marco Panascia.
(Andy Boeckstaens)

Alice Zawadzki, A Genuine Original Vocalist, violinist and composer launched her debut CD, China Lane in June 2014, to enthusiastic reviews.  Described as “beautiful, uncategorisable – a real force to be reckoned with” (Jamie Cullum), Alice is a fascinating character and one to watch in 2015. (Melody McLaren)








Pete Churchill directing the band at the Kenny Wheeler Memorial Sevice
Photo Credit: Yazz Ahmed

There is  an astonishing range here of the favourite moments of 2014. Please add more in the comments. Here are ours in alphabetical order: 

Cyrille Aimee's London debut as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival. A sold-out Elgar Room and an incredibly high level of musicianship from her and her band.
(Nicky Schrire)

Darcy James Argue's Secret Society in Gent, Belgium on his very brief European trip still stands out months later. His Brooklyn Babylon suite was an hour of brilliantly detailed musical tale-telling - inspired writing; superb orchestral performance. Come back soon!
(Jon Turney)

Beats & Pieces Big Band at Millennium Hall Sheffield. A cold, wet night. A sell-out concert to a noticeably younger audience. What could go wrong? Well, absolutely nothing! Ben Cottrell has honed his award-winning ensemble into something special - a range of moods and textures, the mix of old and new original material, great soloists and a 'bone' section that would have Mahler purring!
(Jeremy Agnew)

Norwegians Annlaug Børsheim (Hardanger fiddle and guitar) and Rannveig Djønne (melodeons) playing folk music in a stunning location: 1000 feet above Bergen on Mount Fløyen.
(Andy Boeckstaens)

The Brooklyn Based Jazz Band (sextet led by percussionist Eric Frazier, with pianist Anthony Wonsey, vocalists and a poet) performing at Emmanuel Baptist Church, Brooklyn.
(Andy Boeckstaens)

Billy Cobham's 70th birthday Q and A at Ronnie's. After a hilarious interview with Guy Barker during which Billy talked candidly about playing with Miles, Herbie and McLaughlin, he got behind the kit to demonstrate some trademark grooves and killer concepts. For once, the cliche 'a humbling experience' was justified!
(Matt Phillips)

Two celebrations of the music of John Coltrane.
- Scottish National Jazz Orchestra had Courtney Pine and Tommy Smith sharing saxophone duties. Hearing 'Tranes music powered by a forceful big band for nearly three hours was exhilarating.
- Paul Dunmall Quartet played music from Coltrane's "Sun Ship". Powerful and astounding.
(Patrick Hadfield)

Calum Gourlay and Friends at The Jazz House. A sign of the (independent music production) times:  Packed-to-the-rafters Golders Green Jazz House hosted an intimate live CD recording session featuring bassist Calum Gourlay in solo and duos with friends Michael Chillingworth (alto), Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian (harp), James Maddren (drums).  A CD on Two Rivers Records due in July 2015. 
(Melody McLaren)

Fire! Orchestra at The Laundry was truly mindblowing! The mainly Scandinavian 28-piece, marshalled, guided and inspired by saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, flipped from blasts of group and individual improvisation to ultra-tightly arranged scores.  They made an overwhelming impact. (Geoff Winston)

Juliet Kelly. The UK singer has a new CD on its way (Spellbound Stories). Her gig at Oxford’s Spin Jazz Club in October was part of an Arts Council-funded tour, to air her newly-written songs based on her favourite novels. Her lustrous deep voice and her impeccable jazz phrasing were combined with warmth and humour.
(Alison Bentley)

Charles Lloyd at the Barbican. A twitch of Charles Lloyd’s leg and the slap of a brush on the snare signalled an acceleration of the groove and Lloyd-ian bluesy growls and whispers deepened the spell the newly endowed NEA Jazz master had cast on the Barbican. A magical end to a mindblowing London Jazz Festival.
(Mike Collins)

Loose Tubes, Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2014
Photo credit: © John Watson/ . All Rights Reserved

The Loose Tubes reunion at Cheltenham. The first few bars were spine-chilling. (Our review posted on the day, by Luke Davidson)
(Peter Slavid)

Loose Tubes’ 30th anniversary celebrations at Ronnie Scott’s were a triumph. The quality, joy and sheer inventiveness of the group remains infectious, and you can hear the show again on Jazz on 3 (29 December 2014). Listen out for Steve Berry’s beautiful new tune Smoke and Daffodils.(Jon Carvell)

Rene Marie's  July Pizza Express live performance with the Bruce Barth Trio was even more spectacular. My favourite: spine-tingling a cappella rendition of Make Someone Happy.
(Melody McLaren)

Marius Neset at Brecon Jazz Festival. Serene, delicate, howling, powerful vibrations resounding around the Cathedral. Marius gasping for breath like an athlete, transformed from human to angel. A friend said "I never saw John Coltrane, but it doesn't matter now because I have seen Marius Neset
(Mary James)

Phronesis at Union Chapel. A diverse audience packing out the ever atmospheric Union Chapel where Phronesis approached a semi-religious experience. It was also a reassuring reminder of the depth and breadth of small independent venues programming jazz, particularly in the fertile stretch of North London following the overground tracks between Kentish Town, Camden, Highbury Corner and Dalston. (Dan Bergsagel)

Sun Ra. 2014 marked 100 years since his birth. Well that was his earth birth, which he didn't recognise. You know the way it goes. The highlight of my Jazz year was working with Somethin' Else producer Joby Waldman to get The Arkestra under the direction of 90 year old Marshall Allen in to the studio to record an exclusive session for Jazz On 3. After a twelve hour day most of the band and production staff headed off for some well earned rest. But Marshall, he just wanted to stay and talk about music. The session will be released by Gearbox in 2015. The legend continues.
(Jez Nelson)

Kalle Kalima, Andreas Schaerer, Lucas Niggli performing the Saslonch Suite
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

The Saslonch Suite at the South Tirol Festival. Dramatic! On a ridge at 2300m and also up the mountain at 2800 metres, accompanying slack-lining and freestyle climbing on a rock face going up a further 1000 metres. Made all the more dramatic by the wind, and by unpredictable weather.
(Oliver Weindling)

Snarky Puppy midnight gig at Ronnie Scott's on the Monday of the London Jazz Festival - such a great vibe from the group and exemplary playing - they are really tearing things up and their move into the limelight has been well deserved.
(Rob Mallows)

Soft Machine Legacy. Seeing/meeting those iconic 1970s jazz/rock pioneers of my youth – John Etheridge, John Marshall and Roy Babbington (Soft Machine Legacy) – at Manchester Jazz Festival was a totally captivating hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck moment, and felt a huge privilege. In their sixties/seventies, they’ve still ‘got it’!
(Adrian Pallant)

The Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia. Incredible atmosphere, excellent wine and food, and seamless organisation.
(Donald Helme)

The Kenny Wheeler Memorial. Nick Smart and Pete Churchill wanted, demanded, and got a burning urgency from the band they were directing. The occasion absolutely required and deserved that. The speeches were full of emotion, especially John Taylor's. A day to be overwhelmed by the incalculable scale of the legacy that Kenny Wheeler has left  in every ear and soul.
(Sebastian Scotney)

An unknown alto sax player on the beach in Menorca as the the sun was going down.
(Adam Sieff)







CD REVIEW: Krzysztof Komeda and Andrzej Trzaskowski – Jazz in Polish Cinema

Krzysztof Komeda and Andrzej Trzaskowski – Jazz in Polish Cinema
(Jazz On Film. JOF002. 4 CD set. Review by Andrew Cartmel)

Jazz On Film, the label which recently provided us with the French New Wave boxed set, has come storming back with a new release which definitively revives a whole forgotten genre of European jazz. Subtitled Out of the Underground 1958–1967, it is an invaluable document and a considerable work of musical archaeology.

During the Cold War, largely obscured by the ‘iron curtain’, jazz was thriving in Poland despite the disapproval of the communist authorities (it was banned until the mid 1950s). Probably its most significant exponent was Krzysztof Komeda, born Krzysztof Trzcinski — he changed his name to dodge official censure. Komeda was a physician (ear, nose and throat specialist) turned pianist and composer. His quintet album Astigmatic is a recognised classic and Komeda would be a household name in jazz today if he hadn’t died tragically young, of a head injury sustained from a fall while walking (drunkenly) in the Hollywood hills. He’d moved to Los Angeles to write soundtracks for the films of his friend Roman Polanski; they’d recently collaborated on Rosemary’s Baby. Releases of Komeda’s jazz and film music have been at once sporadic, chaotic and prolific (dozens of Polish CDs were issued, apparently by a shady operator, only nominally under the auspices of Komeda’s widow) but this collection represents a coherent and definitive cornerstone. And unlike many other issues, its sound quality is excellent.

Komeda’s collaborator, the trumpeter Tomasz Stańko is probably the best known Polish jazz musician of today, and he has helped to keep Komeda’s music alive. Both Komeda and Stańko are amply represented on the four CDs in this handsome boxed set, but the exhaustive and fascinating selections go far beyond that. Jazz On Film has also done us the service of unearthing scores from forgotten movies composed by Andrzej Trzaskowski and introducing us to another prodigiously gifted trumpeter, Wieslaw Eyssymont.

Innocent Sorcerers was a film about Bohemian youth in Warsaw — sort of Polish beatniks — directed by Andrzej Wajda in 1960. Its central character, a doctor moonlighting as a jazz musician, is actually based on Komeda. (Komeda — The Innocent Sorcerer was the title of a 2010 tribute album to Komeda by the Adam Pieronczyk Quintet which consisted entirely of Komeda compositions including the classic Crazy Girl.) The film music from Innocent Sorcerers has been impressively retrieved from the original master tapes and features Stańko on trumpet and Komeda on piano. On the main title theme, Stańko’s playing has distinct and emphatic echoes of Miles Davis. The score is also notable for evocative vibraphone work by either Józef Gawrych or Jerzy Milian and lovely alto from Stanislaw Kalwinski. Slawa Przybylska, a noted Polish singer, provides conventional vocals. I stress the ‘conventional’ because Komeda later demonstrated a striking talent for spooky, crooning lullaby voices on Rosemary’s Baby. But here — very intriguingly — similar techniques are employed by Andrzej Trzaskowski on his music for Night Train, specifically the haunting Title Theme (Vocal) and Title Theme (Vocal II) — movie soundtracks are pragmatic creations and not noted for their evocative titles. Eerie wordless vocals by Wanda Warska explore the theme, accompanied by softly padding drums (Andrzej Dabrowski) and bass (Roman Dylag) . Another version of the theme makes memorable use of Gawrych’s skeletal vibes which contrast chimingly with Dylag’s fat bass. Warska also provides an impressive scat excursion and sings some English vocals on a valuable alternative take deriving from a rare 10 inch disc, which wasn’t part of the soundtrack. Night Train was directed by Jerzy Kawalerowicz in 1959 and Trzaskowski’s themes are based on the Artie Shaw composition Moon Ray. (Warska’s English song from the 10 inch is Moon Ray with its original lyrics by Arthur Quenzer and Nat Madison; Helen Forrest sang it in 1939.)

Knife in the Water, directed by Polanski in 1962, is Komeda’s most famous jazz-based score, and deservedly so because the themes are gorgeous, especially the rhapsodic Ballad for Bernt and the lovely lilting Crazy Girl which is assembled of short melodic phrases that give ample scope for outstanding tenor sax work by the Swedish virtuoso Bernt Rosengren. Opening Tomorrow is a far less well known film from 1962, directed by Janusz Morgentstern. On Opening Tomorrow – Title Theme Komeda’s music has a nursery rhyme simplicity before the soulful room-filling saxophone of Jan Wróblewski swells, tender and majestic and lyrical. Opening Tomorrow IV displays an intriguing hybrid trumpet style, boppish figures played with a trad jazz sound by Wieslaw Eyssymont. As indicated earlier, Eyssymont is one of the heroes of this collection and a significant discovery, or rediscovery. The vocal version of the main title theme sounds like a Polish version of Two Sleepy People, with Wróblewski’s sax and Kalina Jedrusik’s vocal intertwining in a duet. On the Love Theme Eyssymont plays a towering, fabulous trumpet introduction forcefully reminiscent of Uan Rasey on Chinatown (oddly enough, a Polanski film, but one which wouldn’t be scored by Komeda, and lying twelve years in the future). Jan Wróblewski follows up with a silky tenor strain which fades all too soon. On Opening Theme there is a comedy muted trumpet which emphatically confirms the impressive diversity and range of Eyssymont’s playing.

The Accident was a short film directed by Edward Etler in 1963. The opening track Kraksa I features Wróblewski again, distinguishing himself on stark and tender solo tenor in a piece which prefigures Komeda’s music on Astigmatic. The music for The Accident evidences a new sound from Komeda, more brash, raucous and harsh with an aggressive modernist edge. The blaring and galloping of Wróblewski’s tenor and Stańko’s trumpet on Kraksa II are designed to echo car horns and the crash which are the subject matter of the film. Kraksa III features highly effective doubling of human voice with horns and Kraksa V (see earlier note about film music titles) has a great sax solo with Jan Wróblewski sculpting forms in the empty air before the piano (Komeda) and bass (Dylag) come in. On these tracks Zbigniew Namyslowski emerges as another luminary of this collection, with his magnificent playing on alto sax. On Kraksa VI he works in close tandem with Wróblewski, then peels off for a beautiful, airy, meditative alto solo with great comping from Komeda. Namyslowski finishes with an amazing sustained note.

Jazz Camping — an inadvertently funny title now — was a 1959 short directed by Boguslaw Ribczynski which commemorated a brief series of festivals which took place in the Polish mountains. The film was scored by Andrzej Trzaskowski and Kalatówki ’59 employs splendid doubling of voices with instruments which parallels Komeda’s later work on The Accident, though in this case the vocals have a Swingle Singers approach. Jazz Camping is performed by the Jazz Believers, Trzaskowski’s band, and is marked out by Parker-ish sax from Wojciech Karolak on alto and Jan Wroblewski on tenor; Wroblewski also provides ghostly clarinet.

Walkover was a 1965 film by Jerzy Skolimowski with music by Trzaskowski. Synopsis Suite has rapid fire ticking cymbals from Adam Jedrzejowski and dreamy soprano sax from Janusz Muniak but Tomasz Stańko is the hero of the day. Walkover is notable for Zbigniew Namyslowski’s clipped, pugnacious alto. Le Départ was another Skolimowski film, this time from 1967, with music by Komeda — one of his last scores. There are musical reinforcements now from further afield. Chaque Heure est un Départ is tumbling and tumultuous with Gato Barbieri on tenor, instantly recognisable in the fray. We are also treated to Don Cherry’s long skirling, spooling trumpet lines and polished, chattering commentary from Jacques Pelzer on flute. Le Defile has a wild, out-there sound with a jagged jauntiness and flashes of a Sunday church mood thanks to Eddy Louiss on organ and sawing strains by Jean Francois Jenny-Clark on bass. Eddy Louiss’s organ also provides pulsing suspense backgrounds for the piano on Marc and Michel. The vocal version of the main title theme features the voice of Christiane Legrand and calls to mind her brother Michel’s songs for Les Parapluies de Cherbourg and Les Demoiselles de Rochefort. Christiane performed in both those films, and was also a founder member of the Swingle Singers.

This is an immensely rich collection, exhuming scores which were thought lost, and achieving amazing sound quality for music which was recorded a half a century ago. Painstaking efforts and research have gone into achieving the restoration and preservation of these vital musical documents, and Jazz On Film deserve a medal. The four CDs in this set are accompanied by a fat 80 page booklet by Selwyn Harris which is beautifully designed and dense with information. Special mention must also be made of Peter Beckmann, the remastering engineer, who has done a marvellous job of restoring diverse and often damaged source material, including that scratchy 10-inch vinyl disc of Wanda Warska singing Moon Ray. Without question, Jazz in Polish Cinema is the perfect introduction to Polish jazz and a treasure trove of great music.


DOWNLOAD REVIEW: Big Chief - Blues in Twos

Big Chief - Blues in Twos
(Janus Sounds Ltd. Download review by Andy Boeckstaens)

Big Chief is an English band that occupies a broad stylistic spectrum: mainly blues and rock ‘n’ roll, with a bit of jazz and soul thrown in. They have been going strong since 1976 and, amazingly, three founder members – John Fry, Adrian Paton and Tony Edwards – are still there today.

Many terrific musicians including Art Themen, Harry Beckett, Will Gaines and Django Bates have played with Big Chief over the years. They used to have a Saturday night residency at The Pegasus in Stoke Newington, and this live recording was made there in 1982.

Here, with Dick Heckstall-Smith on board, the music has extra energy and bite. This (download only) release marks the passing of ten years since the great saxophonist’s death, on 17th December 2004. It also celebrates what would have been his 80th birthday in September.

The backbeat shuffle of Rock Awhile gets things off to a rollicking start with front-man Fry’s vocals and spirited guitar by Mike Jacques. Fry’s singing is featured on several other songs including Randy Newman’s Last Night I Had a Dream, and the song Big Chief is distinguished by Paton’s agile work on electric piano. The powerful Breakin’ up Somebody’s Home is underpinned by Tony Reeves’ skillful bass guitar (a studio take of which is included at the end).

The slow, moody Stormy Monday has vocals by Cliff Collins – guesting with the group – and sure-footed drumming by Edwards. The latter sings on Let the Four Winds Blow, Such a Night and Slow Down, all of which lean more towards the rock ‘n’ roll camp.

Amongst the highlights are two instrumental pieces composed by Fry (who also plays tenor saxophone). Uhuru blends South African and Caribbean flavours into a kind of township reggae; the jazzier Hornblower swings like mad during the piano solo and is notable for its Mingusian breaks.

Fry says that Heckstall-Smith was particularly fond of his work on Bill Withers’ Use Me, and stresses that “he was a team player....never gave less than 100% of his energies”. And so it is that his wonderful, mooing cry pervades the whole album without overpowering it. During an extended section at the end, he transforms Billy Taylor’s I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel to Be Free) from a nice familiar tune into a highly personal statement.

Big Chief remains an excellent and deservedly popular outfit, but the presence of Heckstall-Smith provides an extra dimension to this set. These 32-year-old tracks – beautifully restored and remixed by Tony Reeves – demonstrate the magic that they created together, and serve as a timely tribute to a major and much-loved figure in British jazz.

(Blues in Twos download is available from 15th December 2014)


CD REVIEW: Kate Daniels - Atmospherics

Kate Daniels - Atmospherics
(Loxford Records. K2. CD Review by Peter Jones)

London-based singer Kate Daniels has coined a musical genre of her own – jazz noir. On this self-produced album, her stated aim was to recreate the dark mood of the films she loved while growing up – particularly The Third Man. Shored up by an experienced crew of British jazz talent, Atmospherics is actually not as downbeat as that. On tunes such as the rim-shot clattering A Night in Tunisia and the folky Nature Boy, the music has a stripped- down quality whose sparseness creates space for the music to breathe, and freshens up material that might otherwise sound over-familiar; elsewhere, as on I Thought About You, a rollicking Tom Waits-style rendition of the Jacques Brel tune Port of Amsterdam and Don’t Worry About Me, Daniels’s background in folk music and cabaret shines through, to pleasing effect.

For me, the violin has not always been the most welcome instrument in jazz, but here, in the swinging and confident hands of Mike Piggott, it’s one of the best things about the album. Entwined with John Etheridge’s guitar, it lends several tracks a convincing Hot Club/gypsy jazz vibe. The styles vary: Beautiful Love and the Anita O’Day-inflected Whisper Not are pretty much straight-ahead piano trio tunes, whilst Angel Eyes marks the single appearance of a Fender Rhodes.

Daniels’s vocal delivery is breathy, dramatic and confident. An effortless style like this is always testament to years of actual effort. And it’s good to hear Witchcraft performed by a woman: despite famous versions by everyone from Sinatra to Mark Murphy, Carolyn Leigh’s lyrics never quite sound right coming from a man. Having said that, there are one or two instances (e.g. Angel Eyes, Nature Boy) where the last note of a vocal phrase isn’t precisely on pitch - an ever-present danger with minimalist arrangements that leave the singer exposed. However, as the title indicates, this album is all about atmosphere, and the playing of John Horler, Alec Dankworth and Winston Clifford is every bit as good as you’d expect.


NEWS: Statue of John Dankworth unveiled at The Stables in Wavendon

L-R: Statue, Dame Cleo Laine, Emily Dankworth, Charlie Wood,
Jacqui Dankworth, Alec Dankworth, John Horler

A new statue of Sir John Dankworth, commissioned by the Wavendon Allmusic Foundation, outside the main entrance to The Stables was unveiled today. The statue is by sculptor David Annand whose studio is at Cupar in Fife in Scotland. It will, according to the press statement, "serve as a permanent reminder, not only of his outstanding career, but also of his commitment to charitable causes".

The characteristic pose of John as bandleader with his finger raised to bring in a soloist has been slightly adapted, with the finger pointing towards the entrance. It appears to beckon people into the building. The statue is set to become a popular landmark, with any of the people attending today's opening having their pictures taken alongside it.



Pete Churchill directing the Big Band at the Kenny Wheeler Memorial
Photo credit: Yazz Ahmed

At the beginning of next week, and before our last Wednesday Morning Headlines newsletter of the year, we will be publishing our year-end lists. We have been asking our writers to submit in up to four categories:








REVIEW: John Coltrane's A Love Supreme at Union Chapel

L-R: Rowland Sutherland, Steve Williamson, Shabaka Hutchings
Photo credit: Richard Kaby

John Coltrane's A Love Supreme
(Union Chapel, London. 9th December 2014. Review by Erminia Yardley)

9th December 1964 - an important date: John Coltrane records the incredible “A Love Supreme”in one session at the Van Gelder Studios in New Jersey. All jazz heads - and non-jazz ones too - will agree this is a seminal piece of recording.

So when attending the stupendous rendition by the Enlightenment ensemble at the Union Chapel exactly 50 years later to the day, one cannot but sit and listen in awe to the fantastic interpretation these musicians render. Directed by Orphy Robinson, who is also on xylosynth, A Love Supreme kicks off with a magnificent start.

There is such homogeneity in this ensemble of super-talents. Avant-garde jazz at its best, one doesn’t know where to look. Fifteen magnificent solo performances from musicians who also play together like a beautiful wave of soft electrical charge hitting one’s head and heart.

Shabaka Hutchings on bass clarinet and Steve Williamson on tenor saxophone: a lethal combination. One looks at the other enjoying one another’s playing and offering the audience a gem every time.

There are parts added to the composition for kora, tablas and also the wonderfully played bata drums. Coltrane was very much inspired by Indian and West African music. Composer and flautist Rowland Sutherland manages to insert these instruments with the greatest of ease giving a touch of real cosmopolitan fusion to a perfectly formed ensemble.

A special mention is needed for the delicious and powerful piano playing of Nikki Yeoh and the eclectic drums of Mark Mondesir.

A magical night with a standing ovation at the end. Crowds dissolve into the night, there is such a buzz in the air outside the Chapel. It had been a mesmerizing piece of enlightenment.

LINK: Paul Bradshaw's preview


CD REVIEW: Daniel Karlsson Trio - Fusion for Fish

Daniel Karlsson Trio - Fusion for Fish
(Brus Records 034 (CD) Knaster 034 (180 G Vinyl LP). CD Review by Rob Mallows)

Swedish pianist Daniel Karlsson’s adopts the standard piano trio format, but his music is anything but formulaic. Influences  such as club music, dance and electronica are evident - and it makes for great listening.

Karlsson is a member of the Magnus Öström Band - as is guitarist Andreas Hourdakis who features on two tracks of this second album by Karlsson as leader - and you can tell instantly that there’s a strong rhythmic component to this music with a modern, metronomic and hypnotic drum beat to many tracks that suggests a family lineage back to E.S.T. as well as the the rich Nordic heritage in jazz piano.

Karlsson has played with most of the contemporary Swedish greats and many European stars so he’s earned his jazz spurs. Alongside Karlsson are the musicians who appeared on his first album Das Taxibåt (2013), drummer Fredrik Rundquist and bassist Kristian Lind who provide good support and touches of individual colour when required. This is an album of unashamedly modern European jazz that is rooted in the rich soil of the contemporary scene, rather than reaching back into the past.

Opener Cousin cuisine bursts into life with a really insistent bass riff throughout that propels with its simplicity, allowing Karlsson to spread out over the top of it with some telling phrases that have a real positivity to them. Some of his electronic interludes, with their deep bass sound, suggest the underwater, hinting at the theme of the title track Fusion for fish, which is fast paced and packed with phrases that dart around, bringing to mind perhaps a shoal of whitebait. Fourth cut Route 222 - which leads who knows where - is a more straightforward slower tempo piece, leading into the up-beat Freshwater Tourist, which, with its block chord main theme, sounds a little like the Neil Cowley Trio.

The stand-out track is the penultimate piece Mrs Mermaid, with a simple melody which gives Hourdakis plenty to work with and he doesn’t disappoint, even with a relatively restrained guitar solo: he is, for me, one of the most distinctive guitar voices in European jazz and a great addition to the trio.

What London's fish community thinks of this album is a mystery; but for those of us on dry land it offers a very welcome hour of fusion-tinged power jazz. Having enjoyed Karlsson’s playing with the Magnus Öström Band it’s great to hear more of his distinct voice on this, his second album, and I’m certainly tempted now to seek out this first.


PODCAST INTERVIEW: Liane Carroll at St James Theatre

Liane Carroll spoke to Hayley Redmond about her date during the EFG London Jazz Festival, and also about a new album scheduled for 2015. Hayley also interviewed James Albrecht of St James Theatre.
Music example: Take Me Home by Tom Waits from the album Up & Down, at [7:05]

LINKS: St James Theatre website / Liane Carroll website


CD/DVD REVIEW: Weather Report - Forecast: Tomorrow

Weather Report - Forecast: Tomorrow
(Columbia/Legacy, 88875006192. 3CD and DVD set. Review by Andy Boeckstaens)

Forecast: Tomorrow is an attractive compilation of music by Weather Report, covering its entire existence between 1971 and 1985. The 37 CD tracks come in roughly chronological order, and – not counting the orchestral and choral participants – showcase around 40 musicians. The DVD is of a concert filmed during a European tour in the autumn of 1978.

The opening pieces on CD1 pre-date Weather Report and illustrate its genesis: an excerpt of Experience in E shows keyboard player Joe Zawinul with the quintet of Cannonball Adderley; saxophonist Wayne Shorter is heard in his own band with Super Nova, and The Miles Davis-led In a Silent Way features both.

Zawinul and Shorter are the only constants throughout a dazzling, diverse adventure that begins with a duet, Milky Way. Eurydice has asymmetrical interplay between them, and terrific drums by Alphonse Mouzon. Orange Lady, with Miroslav Vitous in unison with Shorter, is stunning. Drummer Peter Erskine, who was to become a mainstay of the band for three years from 1978, describes the album “I Sing the Body Electric” as “like a postcard from the future”; Unknown Soldier and Second Sunday in August – the latter powered by Eric Gravatt - prove his point.

The second disc spans the middle period. It encompasses the tenure of bassists Alphonso Johnson and Jaco Pastorius, and the lineage of drummers includes Darryl Brown, Chester Thompson and Alex Acuña. A furious and incessant rhythmic groove by Brown and percussionist Dom Um Romão distinguishes the long, live take of Nubian Sundance. Cannon Ball is Zawinul’s tribute to his former (then recently-deceased) boss, and Shorter’s restless Sightseeing is arguably the “jazziest” track of the lot. Weather Report’s greatest hit, Birdland, deserves its fame and remains an irresistible joy on many levels.

Compositional duty is almost entirely the preserve of Zawinul and Shorter. But Pastorius’ lovely waltz Three Views of a Secret is a highlight of CD3; and his instrumental dexterity comes to the fore on Shorter’s Port of Entry, which is also notable for the work of percussionist Robert Thomas Jr. The pairing of Victor Bailey and Omar Hakim gives real pizzazz to the selections from “Procession”, “Domino Theory” and “Sportin’ Life”, on which Shorter sounds rejuvenated. Face on the Barroom Floor is a late classic from a percussionless quartet. The closing, DJ Logic remix of 125th Street Congress - with added vocals - is incongruous and lacks the trippy charm of the 1973 original which appears on the first disc.

The DVD - recorded at the Offenbach Stadthalle, Frankfurt - makes a superb souvenir for anyone who heard the group in person. It’s certainly not perfect: the visual quality is variable; the audio synching is slightly awry; the gig probably took place the day after the date stated (28th September 1978), and the performance itself is surprisingly unpolished at times. But this edition of Weather Report may be one of the finest. Zawinul is typically studious, Shorter a bit edgy; Pastorius and Erskine are bursting with energy and toil shirtless for the last 30 minutes. Together they produce two hours of glorious music, including A Remark You Made and Teen Town: wondrous creations that do not surface elsewhere in the anthology.

The presentation of this set (which was originally issued in 2006) is good, once you get past the bizarre image on the cover and work out how the discs are retained in, and released from, their fiddly trays. With an introduction by Bob Belden, the 100-page booklet incorporates notes on the concert DVD by Erskine, an invaluable essay by Hal Miller and photos of the musicians and record sleeves.

Five hours of music could be too much for newcomers, and more experienced listeners might contend that this collection falls short of being a thorough retrospective. No matter. These gleaming sounds from the irreplaceable Weather Report will be a source of enduring pleasure for a wide audience.


PODCAST INTERVIEW: Lisa Simone (Kings Place Dec 8th)

Lisa Simone talked to Hayley Redmond about the inspiration behind her music, her time on Broadway, her move to France, and her affection for the UK, This interview was recorded in adance of  her London date. Kings Place, 8th December 2014). 


REVIEW: The Bobby Avey Project at the Hen & Chicken in Bristol

Bobby Avey and Miguel Zenon
Photo credit: Roger Thomas

The Bobby Avey Project
(The Hen & Chicken, Bristol. 7th December 2014. Review by Mike Collins)

The maelstrom of rhythms died away from Jordan Perlson’s drums. Layers of sound peeled back to leave just looping, overlapping patterns ringing from the piano, straining slightly against a complementary ripple from Ben Monder’s guitar, hinting momentarily at resolution before stopping altogether. The roar from the Hen & Chicken’s slightly punchdrunk crowd marked the end of Bobby Avey’s Authority Melts from Me suite. It was a roar tinged with awe at the sustained intensity of the series of linked pieces.

The scene had been set by a first set of Avey originals brought to a close by Late November, a piece that started with the pianist leader playing a different, insistent asymmetric riff in each hand, overlapping in the middle of piano creating a tense, dissonant block of sound. Mike Janisch’s bass and Perlson’s drums soon joined, leaving Miguel Zenón to surf the combined furore of percussive piano, thunderous drumming and throbbing, fractured bass riffs with sinuous, crying alto lines. It was typical of the style of the pieces and extraordinary stuff with Zenón repeatedly reaching an almost ecstatic pitch, weaving between the layers and making a strange sense of the battling elements. The tumult from the drums frequently overwhelmed the rest of the band in the first set and some adjustments during the interval struck a slightly better balance for the long, unbroken second set.

Inspired by the story of the 1791 slaves rebellion in Haiti and using transcribed rhythms from drumming in Voudou ceremonies as elements in the compositions, the Authority Melts from Me suite unfolded over more than hour. The layered, churning tapestry was a constant, punctuated by quieter more atmospheric episodes. After the long first section, launched by another insistent volley of rhythms from Avey’s trademark approach, a piano interlude gradually gathered pace as chiming patterns evolved and shifted, blending into a more episodic piece. After another furious section of gradually shifting patterns, a spooky atmospheric series of washes from Monder gave way to swooping cries from the alto. Mists seemed to swirl. Then the clatter and churn returned and Zenón’s patient, forceful lines led us to another climax.

It would be hard to remain unaffected by this music. It was a dense, compelling, occasionally draining experience. Paradoxically, some of the most electric and spine-tingling moments of the evening were when the ferocity of attack diminished. By the time of that almost resolution at the end, there was a sense of having been on an epic journey.

Two long sets of this music felt almost overwhelming and the suite may be a little unbalanced in the concentration sound and fury for some, but Bobby Avey is a remarkable and distinctive writer. It may take effort to engage with his music but it will surely be rewarding.


CD REVIEW: Jilman Zilman - Das Zweite und Letzte Album

Jilman Zilman - Das Zweite und Letzte Album
(In Gute Haende. CD Review by Peter Slavid)

One of the challenges of listening to some of the more obscure European music is that it isn’t always easy to get hold of. This interesting album, the curious title of which means 'the second and last album,' came out a few months back since when I have finally been able to listen to some tracks on Soundcloud and to a few others on a “teaser” CD. And its grown on me. It’s available now on vinyl and as download although I’m not aware of there being a CD version.

Tilman Herpichböhm is a 30 year old German drummer and composer with a background in rock music and an avowed fan of John Zorn’s Masada - his graduation concert only four years ago was dedicated to Zorn. The band was nominated for the New German Jazz Award 2013 and came in second place for the International Jazz Award Burghausen 2013.

The Zorn link shows in the music but without the overt middle-eastern links. Like Masada the music is very melodic and it switches easily between standard post-bop and eastern and Balkan rhythms – but the improvisation can be fierce. The two Alto players complement each other nicely sometimes providing background noises sometimes playing in tandem.

I particularly liked the moody Wipfel, Gipfel Zipfel and the opening track Faltenbalk which starts out rather like a typical klezmer tune but then develops some really nice interplay between the two altos – and a decent bass solo. (neither my German nor Google translate are able to tell if the titles have any great significance).

I think this is a young band worth watching and it would be nice to see them in London.

Tilman Herpichböhm: Drums
Julian Bossert: alto saxophone
Johannes Ludwig: alto saxophone
Peter Christof: double bass


NEWS: Stretch Trio and Mark Pringle win Peter Whittingham Awards

Stretch Trio

Help Musicians UK (formerly the Musicians Benevolent Fund) have announced the winners of the £4,000 2014 Peter Whittingham Award. They are Leeds-based Stretch Trio consisting of Andy French - saxophone and EWI, Tom Higham - Drums/Sampler, and Calvin Travers - guitar. All are recent graduates of Leeds College of Music. They have participated in the 'Jazz North Introduces' scheme. The judging panel included musicians Dennis Rollins, Pete Wareham, and Justin McKenzie of Jazz re:freshed.

A Help Musicians UK Development Award went to Birmingham-based pianist Mark Pringle.The full story is HERE.

LINK: Stretch Trio website


PREVIEW: Pigfoot Plays ... (first of a new monthly residency, Vortex Thurs Dec 11th) ...Opera

Pigfoot - the quartet of Chris Batchelor - trumpet, Liam Noble - piano, Oren Marshall - tuba and Paul Clarvis - drums started up in January 2013.They made a CD in 2014: “21st Century Acid Trad” (Village Life) recorded live at the Vortex. As the blurb has it, that album established them as "radical interpreters of classic New Orleans music."

 The first thing they ever played was 12th St Rag. However, as Chris Batchelor points out,"with Stand by your Man on the album, and 
 Tennessee Waltz addede to the repertoire shortly after it, we had already started to get beyond New Orleans." Now the group are overtly branching out further, with a new series of monthly gigs.

In this next phase they are taking on the challenge which Chris Batchelor expresses thus : "Our collective musical knowledge is pretty wide. So if we run with the idea that 'this band can play anything,' it leads to the queston :'What couldn't we play, what wouldn't we play?'. Let's set about finding ways to play that suit the material."

For the first of their new monthly residencies, Chris Batchelor has been constructing lead sheets from opera arias."This one turned into a research project," he says. So, on the menu are Wolfram's aria from Wagner's Tannhäuser "O! du mein holder Abendstern" (Song to the Evening Star). "Christmas seemed to bring out the stars" said Chris. So they also have "E lucevan le stelle" ("And the stars were shining") the romanza from the third act of Puccini's opera Tosca, as a double time lament.

What will future residencies consist of? The most likely candidate for January is Motown. One band member has been suggesting "Pigfoot plays... Punk." Another idea is to take songs from a particular year. Whatever the direction, Pigfoot definitely has legs.


December 11th 2014 Pigfoot Plays... Opera
January 11th 2015
March 1st 2015

  LINKS: LIVE REVIEW from 2013

CD REVIEW from 2014


LP REVIEW: Nucleus with Leon Thomas – Live 1970

Nucleus with Leon Thomas – Live 1970
(Gearbox GB1529. Double LP. Review by Andrew Cartmel)

After half a dozen years spent working fruitfully with Michael Garrick, Don Rendell and Joe Harriott, Ian Carr established the seminal jazz-rock group Nucleus in 1969. If that outfit could be said to have had a regular vocalist, it was probably Norma Winstone. So this live recording, captured at Montreux, of an early Nucleus concert featuring vocalist Leon Thomas instead, is an intriguing departure and a real discovery. Both Leon Thomas and Nucleus are on top form — the band had won first prize at Montreux for representing the UK, just before recording these tracks with the singer.

Once a forgotten figure, Leon Thomas has had a resurgence in recent years, a beneficiary of the soul jazz revival. Starting conventionally enough as a singer with Count Basie, Thomas became a more wild and free performer and spent a couple of decades, starting in the late 1960s, working with Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders and Carlos Santana as well as his own groups. Like Nucleus, Thomas only began recording in 1969, so this album represents one of his earliest outings. Which makes the self assurance and confident exploration of unusual sound worlds here all the more exceptional. The fact that Nucleus and the singer are functioning so well together is largely down to the fact that they’d already spent a fortnight playing as a unit at Ronnie Scott’s. At the time, union regulations made it easier for Leon Thomas to use a British pickup band than his own quartet, or to tour here with Pharoah Sanders. For once we have the bone-headedness of the Musicians’ Union to thank for something — this captivating musical cross-pollination.

On The Creator Has a Master Plan, Chris Spedding’s twangy, insistent, otherworldly guitar introduces us the aural landscape of the album, and throughout the piece he contributes sweet, spacey and disorientating sounds, evoking everything from Hawaii to the extraterrestrial. There is a Sun Ra sound to the horns, with Carr on trumpet and Brian Smith on tenor saxophone, and indeed the whole track has a space-march feel.

The song is a Leon Thomas composition, originally recorded with co-writer Pharoah Sanders, and the singer navigates it expertly, his smoothly contoured vocals sometimes escalating urgently into a throb and tremble of passion suggestive of Howlin’ Wolf. Leon Thomas was renowned for what was referred to as his ‘yodelling’ — aptly enough, since Howlin’ Wolf developed his own unique style when he found he couldn’t quite imitate Jimmie Rodgers (“I couldn’t do no yodellin’,” said Wolf, “so I turned to howlin’.”). The origin of Leon Thomas’s unique style is open to debate. Some say he borrowed it the glottal technique of African pigmies. The singer himself attributed it to an (apocryphal?) accident — breaking his teeth just before a big show. I prefer the Howlin’ Wolf explanation. In any event, for such an avant-garde piece this is remarkably catchy, and I kept singing the refrain long after the needle was lifted from the vinyl.

Call it howling, growling or yodelling, Thomas demonstrates his facility with this vocal technique on Echoes, accompanied by thoughtful chords from Karl Jenkins on piano, Carr’s expansive flugelhorn and needle-precise guitar from Spedding. John Marshall bashes and splashes out rolling figures on the drums and Karl Jenkins switches nimbly to a high speed oboe which orbits the rhythm section like an out of control satellite threatening to break up as it hits the atmosphere.

In complete contrast, Damn ’Nam (Ain’t Going to Viet Nam) is a rollicking Kansas City style blues with savage lyrics, very much of their time. ( “How does a guy get a thrill?/If he’s gotta drop a napalm bomb and doesn’t see the guy he’s gotta kill?”) Guitarist Spedding is decisively to the fore, playing extended R&B licks. This is where the rock in jazz-rock comes in.

One is a psychedelic odyssey for Smith on soprano sax while Spedding hews out chunky chords and Carr plays a swift and elegant Spanish style lament. John Marshall provides high speed cymbals as a foundation for Leon Thomas’s peace-and-love lyrics and the whole thing concludes in an elegant car crash of melding sound. Chains of Love, on the other hand, is a slow, churning R&B workout while the Far East-flavoured The Journey sees Karl Jenkins on oboe again and providing a double image with Smith’s sax, the two reeds merging and separating in an hypnotic strain, accompanied by Thomas’s gutsy, pulsing, wordless vocals.

The small British independent label Gearbox continues its policy of unearthing previously unreleased master tapes and committing them to high-end vinyl. With a strikingly designed gatefold sleeve, this double LP looks as good as it sounds. The informative sleeve-note is by Alyn Shipton. There is also a free download code with the vinyl.


CD REVIEW: Erik Honoré - Heliographs

Erik Honoré - Heliographs
(HUBROCD2556 CD Review by Jonathan Carvell)

Erik Honoré has on appeared on over 50 records as either a performer or producer, and has collaborated with a diverse range of artists including Arve Henriksen, Brian Eno and Jan Bang. However, 2014 sees him release his first solo album - an extraordinarily well crafted piece of sonic art, born of an acute appreciation of sound itself.

Heliographs (literally ‘sun writing’) takes its name from an early 19th century technique for producing photographs. The title could not be more apposite as Honoré opens with an evocative, almost alchemical landscape in Navigators. This first track is almost completely without metre, and develops slowly with few immediately recognisable sounds: everything feels transfigured, rich and strange. Sidsel Endresen’s manipulated vocals are particularly striking, like ripples on a deep ocean. On a visceral level, and as an aural experience, Heliographs is instantly engaging.

This is an album of contrasts and sonic experiments. Halfway House is redolent of Anton Webern’s aphoristic work: as sparse and elusive as it is brief. Beside it sits Sanctuary, where simple metre, melody and accompaniment, and consonant harmony are established for the first time on the record. Pioneer Trail wouldn’t be out of place on an ambient electronica album, yet it’s juxtaposed with Jeffrey Bruinsma ’s violin improvisation and multi-tracking on Red Café – an almost entirely acoustic track, with minimal sample use. Last Chance Gas & Water sees Honoré at his most digital with a striking avant-garde style, reminiscent of the music produced at IRCAM. Heliographs’ darkest moment comes on Strife, which is genuinely affecting. The power of this track suggests that Honoré has established his own distinct musical language, and that this language has a unique and moving sonic syntax. Sanctuary Revisited is particularly beautiful and perhaps where Honoré’s diverse talents best combine – in a synthesis of electronic and analogue, again led by Endresen’s vocals.

Heliographs is unlike many contemporary jazz records, and to assign it to a particular genre is problematic. However, it shares the same values we find jazz: those of expression, beauty, and a story told through carefully chosen sonic moments. This is a rich and diverse album and a shining example of the range of musical possibilities open to us through the creative communion of improvisation.


NEWS: Grammy Nominations in the Jazz Categories

The nominees in the five jazz categories in the 57th Grammy Awards have been announced. The full list of all eighty-three categories is here.  The Awards Ceremony will be on February 8th 2015, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.


The Eye Of The Hurricane
Kenny Barron,
Track from: Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trio (Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trio)
Label: Whaling City Sound

Chick Corea, soloist
Track from: Trilogy (Chick Corea Trio)
Label: Concord Jazz

You & The Night & The Music
Fred Hersch, soloist
Track from: Floating (Fred Hersch Trio)
Label: Palmetto Records

Recorda Me
Joe Lovano, soloist
Track from: The Latin Side Of Joe Henderson (Conrad Herwig Featuring Joe Lovano)
Label: Half Note

Sleeping Giant
Brad Mehldau, soloist
Track from: Mehliana: Taming The Dragon (Brad Mehldau & Mark Guiliana)
Label: Nonesuch


Map To The Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro
(Billy Childs &) Various Artists
Label: Masterworks

I Wanna Be Evil
René Marie
Label: Motema Music

Live In NYC
Gretchen Parlato
Label: Obliqsound

Beautiful Life
Dianne Reeves
Label: Concord Records

Paris Sessions
Tierney Sutton
Label: BFM Jazz


Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band
Label: Blue Note Records

Chick Corea Trio
Label: Concord Jazz

Fred Hersch Trio
Label: Palmetto Records

Enjoy The View
Bobby Hutcherson, David Sanborn, Joey DeFrancesco Featuring Billy Hart
Label: Blue Note Records

All Rise: A Joyful Elegy For Fats Waller
Jason Moran
Label: Blue Note Records


The L.A. Treasures Project
The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra
Label: Capri Records, Ltd.

Life In The Bubble
Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band
Label: Telarc International

Quiet Pride: The Elizabeth Catlett Project
Rufus Reid
Label: Motema Music

Live: I Hear The Sound
Archie Shepp Attica Blues Orchestra
Label: ArchieBall

OverTime: Music Of Bob Brookmeyer
The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra
Label: Planet Arts Recordings


The Latin Side Of Joe Henderson
Conrad Herwig Featuring Joe Lovano
Label: Half Note

The Pedrito Martinez Group
The Pedrito Martinez Group
Label: Motema Music

The Offense Of The Drum
Arturo O'Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra
Label: Motema

Second Half
Emilio Solla Y La Inestable De Brooklyn
Label: Emilio Solla Music

New Throned King
Yosvany Terry
Label: 5Passion