NEWS : Open Letter from Jazz Services to Arts Council England and (UPDATED) Reply

Dominic McGonical, Chair of Jazz Services, has written an open letter to Alan Davey, Chief Executive of the Arts Council England - (and - UPDATE - received a reply from him) :

Dear Alan,

I am writing concerning Jazz Services and the future development of jazz in England.

The decision by the Arts Council not to fund Jazz Services has caused widespread concern among musicians and audiences. Over 5,000 people have signed a petition set up independently by vocalist Emily Saunders. Most have added comments, speaking eloquently about the impact on the jazz scene. Pianist Kit Downes spoke for many when he blogged on LondonJazz News:

“What’s happened now leaves the musicians with less power to do it themselves – something which is integral to both the history and survival of the music. To those that say it is wrong to rely so heavily on one organisation for this kind of help, I would say it is because they are the only ones that offer it.”

Whilst we are hugely supportive of the other jazz organisations you have funded in your NPO round and no doubt this will produce some excellent work in some regions, it does leave huge gaps in the jazz scene.

For example, audiences in Cornwall will become isolated from the national jazz scene from April 2015. Several promoters in the National Rural Touring Forum have told us they will stop promoting jazz next year and mid-sized venues have said they will no longer have jazz in their programming.

Furthermore, for many musicians Jazz Services has been instrumental in helping them establish a successful career and such artist development will not be available to the next generation of musicians.

Without Jazz Services, the opportunity for national touring for the grass roots jazz musician has now been removed. As a result, the promoters networks built up over many years are threatened and audiences in many parts of the country will lose their regular live jazz.

We understand the reasons for your decision. We accept that there were governance issues in Jazz Services at the time of the bid and that we did not demonstrate effective partnership working.

However, since our bid application, Jazz Services has changed significantly.

We now have solid governance, as confirmed by the Charity Commission. We have a new Chair, a new Vice Chair, new Patrons, new Trustees and a united Board.

Some NPO organisations included Jazz Services in their bid and will rely on us to deliver their programme. Following the news of the bid decision, other organisations have come forward in support of Jazz Services and are keen to work in partnership with us.

Already we have addressed underlying financing issues by increasing our advertising revenue and attracting new funds from charitable trusts.

As you know, we have already consulted the sector on the needs of musicians and audiences. We held an Open Meeting, we have launched a survey and we have actively solicited comments and discussion on social media.

This dialogue has confirmed that Jazz Services is unique. No other organisation in the sector is impartial, independent, not-for-profit and national.

This makes us uniquely positioned to maintain the infrastructure that has been built up over the years and to further develop artists and audiences for the sector.

We very much want, not only to continue our relationship with the Arts Council, but to turn it into a more productive partnership for the benefit of the sector.

We hope that you will entertain a fresh approach from us to maintain and develop:

Touring International Education Artist development Audience development

We will do this in partnership with promoters, festivals, other development agencies, public bodies and, of course, the musicians.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,

Dominic McGonigal Chair, Jazz Services Ltd.

This letter was first posted on the Jazz Services website HERE

o - o - o


Dominic McGonigal
Jazz Services
25 July 2014

Dear Dominic,

The link to your ‘open letter’ has been forwarded to me. As a rule, the Arts Council does not conduct its relationships in public, mindful of the sensitivities of organisations that have not been successful in securing funding. However, as you have chosen to make a public statement, I feel it is appropriate for me to reply publically(sic) , and to release this letter on the same terms as you have done.

Our reason for not granting funding to Jazz Services for 2015-18 was that we have scarce resources and we chose to fund other organisations, including a number of jazz organisations, which were stronger in terms of meeting our Goals.

I think we both share a passionate desire to support jazz development, and doing so effectively will involve a far wider set of decisions than pertain to one organisation. This is demonstrated by the other NPO investments that we have made. In addition to the broad range of festivals, regional development agencies, and promoters we continue to fund, we have brought new jazz NPOs into the portfolio, increasing the amount of NPO funding in jazz - Jazz Re:freshed, NYJO, the National Youth Jazz Collective, and Jazz North are all new to the portfolio and all have the vision and capacity to make substantial and distinctive contributions to jazz in England and beyond. At the same time, we are actively seeking to encourage applications for project funding with our contacts across the wider sector. I know this message has been conveyed to you in phone calls and meetings that have already taken place between Jazz Services and the Arts Council, with another meeting scheduled next week.

We are aware that people who have benefitted from Jazz Services support in the past are concerned about how they will be funded in future. They should be reassured - our intentions are clear. We want to support jazz artists, jazz touring, jazz promoters, international showcasing, jazz commissioning, jazz education: in other words, high quality jazz-related activity and investments that have an impact and represent good value for public money. As I write, a number of Music colleagues are making their way to Manchester to take part in the Jazz Promoters’ Network Conference, part of the Manchester Jazz Festival, and provide support to any delegate wanting advice on how to apply for Arts Council funding.

I am glad to hear that changes are being made to Jazz Services’ internal structure that you believe will have a positive impact on your work. This clearly gives us the basis for a good discussion which places the interests of jazz at its heart. I am also glad that you are seeing Helen Sprott, National Director of music next week. I urge you to continue the positive dialogue that I thought had been established in the hope that Jazz Services continues to play a part in supporting jazz in this country.

But most of all, we need to look at the wider picture and how to advance the interests of jazz as a developing and living artform. That’s what matters here.

Best wishes,

Alan Davey
Chief Executive
Arts Council England

Alan Davey's letter was first published HERE


PREVIEW: Elliot Galvin Trio + The Lydian Tree at the Vortex (Monday 28th July)

Elliot Galvin's Trio will be collaborating with Ben Corrigan's Lydian Tree at the Vortex. Michael Underwood previews their gig on Monday 28th July:

The Chaos Collective's residency at the Vortex continues with a night of experimental music and visuals from the Elliot Galvin Trio (recently awarded European Jazz Artist of the Year at the Burghausen Festival).Elliot Galvin (piano), Tom McCredie (bass) and Simon Roth (drums) will join forces for this one-off performance with London-based sculptor and electronic musician, Ben Corrigan. He'll be bringing his latest creation, the Lydian Tree, to add a twist to this already wild and quirky music. The Lydian Tree is 7 foot aluminium tree of sound and light that responds to touch. The 'Treeo' + the tree have been adapting their material for this unique concert that promises to be something of a treat....

Details/ tickets HERE.

LINKS Elliot Galvin Interview
Dreamland CD Review


PHOTOS: Agata Kubiak, Hilda Sibeck and Jon Mapp at the Ealing Jazz Festival

Hilda Sibeck. 2014 Ealing Jazz Festival
Photo Credit: Monika S. Jakubowska All Rights Reserved

The Ealing Jazz Festival started on Wednesday in Walpole Park, W5, and goes on till Sunday. Photographer Monika S. Jakubowska caught some of the acts on the South Stage yesterday. FULL PROGRAMME

JonMapp. 2014 Ealing Jazz Festival
Photo Credit: Monika S. Jakubowska. All Rights Reserved

Agata Kubiak. 2014 Ealing Jazz Festival
Photo Credit: Monika S.Jakubowska. All Rights Reserved


NEWS: The #4JazzFuture Campaign Develops Momentum

Emily Saunders' Petition protesting at the withdrawal of Arts Council funding from Jazz Services is approaching 6,000 signatures.


REVIEW: Brecker Brothers Band Reunion at Ronnie Scott’s

Randy Brecker and Ada Rovatti
Photo Source: Berks Jazz Fest, Reading PA (permission pending)

Brecker Brothers Band Reunion
(Ronnie Scott’s, 22nd July 2014 (first of three nights). Review by Andy Boeckstaens)

In recent years, Randy Brecker has played and recorded with a wide range of cohorts from the past in the Brecker Brothers Band Reunion. Now – along with his wife, the Italian saxophone player Ada Rovatti - the four surviving principal members of the group that produced the album Heavy Metal Bebop in the late ‘70s have reconvenedfor a 15-date European tour.

At Ronnie Scott’s, the quintet delivered two 50-minute sets of spirited jazz/soul/funk that included several favourites from the old days, some newer material, and a couple of surprises.

Sporting his trademark Kangol cap, 68-year-old Brecker kicked off with a punchy Sponge. His incisive phrases and fiery tone were an immediate reminder that, despite his pedigree and relatively high profile, he is often under-appreciated as a trumpet stylist (and he’s also the band’s main composer). The second piece, First Tune of the Set was introduced with suitable humour and came with astonishingly accurate work from guitarist Barry Finnerty.

Thoughts of the great Michael Brecker were never far away, and – seven years after his death - the music composed or inspired by him gained a special poignancy. Straphangin’ was written during New York’s crippling subway strike in 1980, and it was one of the highlights of the gig. Despite a heavy cold, Rovatti played well and braved an unaccompanied passage on Funky Sea, Funky Dew. Finnerty’s ballad Mikey B – conceived immediately after a memorial gathering at New York’s Town Hall - was an affectionate tribute.

Although he was rarely featured, Neil Jason provided a rock-solid foundation and a powerful swing on electric bass. Drummer Terry Bozzio may have had fewer than the 53 cymbals in “The Big Kit” described on his website, but his hardware obscured him from much of the audience. He made a phenomenal noise, and worked incredibly hard on Some Skunk Funk as parts of the melody were negotiated at the same time as the complex rhythms.

Mose Allison’s philosophical and funny I Don’t Worry about a Thing was completely unexpected. Led by Finnerty’s grainy singing, it also contained a substantial, electronically-enhanced solo by Brecker. Rovatti’s airy, spacious sound came to the fore again during her own Ghost Stories, and she shone alongside her husband on the boiling unison line that introduced Rocks. Towards the end, East River was dominated by Jason’s vocals and a wonderful repetitive bass riff. The bluesy boogaloo of Inside Out brought this exciting performance to a close.

With this line-up of the Brecker Brothers Band Reunion, one’s thoughts of a “replacement” for an irreplaceable figure were largely avoided. Rovatti lacked the devastating drive and supreme fluency of her celebrated brother-in-law, but her warm tone and expansive approach complemented the controlled frenzy of her colleagues very well indeed. The passion and verve that distinguished the best editions of the Brecker Brothers Band was brilliantly retained.


PREVIEW/ INTERVIEW: Christian Scott at The Jazz Cafe, 26th July

Christian Scott plays at The Jazz Cafe on Saturday 26th July. Joe Stoddart interviewed him:

Joe Stoddart: You started playing at a young age with your uncle Donald Harrison. How integral to your musical development would you say playing in that environment was?

Christian Scott: It's hard to put into words how important the experiences my uncle gave me were to my development. I can't imagine where I would be if it weren't for his sacrificing certain aspects of his own career, to make sure I had the brightest future possible. He taught me to lead by example. He taught me to navigate the musical landscape, & the world with compassion & empathy.

JS: You've released an impressive amount of material for your age. Would you say your approach to playing or composition has changed markedly since your debut 'Christian Scott' and if so, how?

CS: My approach to everything that I do in music has changed. The biggest thing for me early on, was to figure out what I wanted people to know about me, my community, my culture & my generation. Now, I'm more concerned with reevaluating the way we communicate as musicians. It's sort of what this "Stretch Music" thing is all about.

JS: I read a quote from a few years ago where you said your uncle had told you 'not to listen to many of the trumpet players who are playing today so I wouldn't sound like them'. Do you still follow this practice?

CS: Absolutely.

JS: Hip-hop influence in jazz is reasonably prevalent in jazz these days but the alternative rock slant that you put into your music is altogether more rare. Where do you see the future of jazz both personally and as a genre?

CS: It's hard to say where a music this dynamic is trending. I happen to be a huge fan of alt rock music & to me it's only natural that my style of playing has been inundated with some of the conceptual elements that are indicative of that form.

JS: You've been working on the score for your brother's film 'Epilogue'. How did you find the transition to composing for film?

CS: When I was at Berklee my concentration was film scoring. When Kiel came to me with this project, I was elated to finally take a break from my touring life to create a back drop to this incredibly dynamic & heart wrenching story. Right now we're working on the sound palette & back drop to his next film "Samaria" the short version of his first full length feature "Epilouge". I feel both of these films are really going to blow people away & I'm excited he likes my music enough to have me involved in his film works.

JS: You've said that you have 27 songs catalogued that you are planning on forming into albums, are you expecting to do this soon?

CS: Yes. The next albums will be out in 2015. Touring with a new band, figuring out what the new sound will be and we'll probably be going into the studio to record the new projects in November.

Tickets for the gig are on sale HERE:.


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

The Pop-Up Circus Big Band directed by Andrew Oliver

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.