NEWS: Plaque to commemorate George Shearing unveiled at his former school

The new plaque unveiled yesterday - Photo credit: Paul Wood

A commemorative plaque to Sir George Shearing, instigated and organized by The Battersea Society was unveiled yesterday, Saturday 22nd April at Northcote Lodge School (26 Bolingbroke Grove, London, SW11 6EL), formerly Linden Lodge school for the blind, the school that George Shearing attended,- it moved from the site in 1964 to Wimbledon - writes Paul Wood.

The unveiling was made by Alyn Shipton with written tributes from Brian Kay, formerly of the Kings singers, Lady Ellie Shearing and Charlotte Kirwan , an ex-pupil of Linden Lodge, who shared her memories of playing a duet with George when he visited the school in 1962. The event was attended by a large number of George's family and relations -there was also music from pupils at Northcote Lodge School.

Jane Ellison MP‏, Jeanne Rathbone from the Battersea Society
and Alyn Shipton at the unveiling

The following is an extract from Alyn Shipton's speech at the unveiling, reproduced by by kind permission of the author:

"George Shearing - a pianist, jazz musician, bandleader, composer, and as all who knew him will testify, a great wit as well - is being commemorated today, not least because he was the first British instrumentalist to become a household name in the United States - the birthplace of jazz. That’s an achievement in itself, but particularly so as George was blind from birth, and learned many of his skills as a pianist here in this very building in the 1920s and early ‘30s, when it was the Linden Lodge School for the Blind.

It was a privilege to know George and to work with him on his autobiography, but it all began when we met in 1998 in the now long-vanished BBC music studio at Pebble Mill. The piano tuner had had a good lunch - so much so that it had somewhat affected his work. George said, “We’ll begin when the tuner has been to sort out this piano.” A sleepy voice from the corner said, “I have done!” George was by no means happy, and borrowed the tuner’s toolkit to get the central octaves properly in tune. And then we began. The idea was for George to play pieces from across his long career, but as he began with “Mighty Like the Blues”, the first piece he had ever played on the BBC 60 years earlier, it quickly became apparent that he was going to tell me his life story in music. And so he did, with pieces from his days with Claude Bampton’s All-Blind Orchestra, and from the time in World War 2 when George was playing alongside Stephane Grappelli. One piece I particularly remember was George’s solo “Delayed Action”, a musical portrait of the terrifying time-delay bombs that had fallen on London during the blitz, with a seemingly impossibly endless pause leading to a furious explosion of stride. I suggested it was a reworking of Fats Waller’s “Alligator Crawl”, and George laughed, eased into “Keeping out of Mischief Now” and then said, “Fats! I met him in London in 1938. He had hands like a bunch of bananas. When I shook hands with him I felt his fingers and they just kept going on and on…He could stretch a 13th!”

The programme was recorded, and afterwards George and his wife Ellie took me aside and said, this has been so much fun, how would you like to come over and turn these conversations into a book? And so for the next three summers, when George was at his UK home in Stow on the Wold, I’d pop over between his beloved radio broadcasts of test matches (which could not be interrupted) or his occasional concert dates in Britain, to carry on working on the book.

I learned of his life with Stephane Grappelli’s quintet during the war, and his subsequent move to the USA. Of the clubs of 52nd Street, of the particular kindness and generosity of Charlie Parker, the encouragement of Lennie Tristano and the harmonic adventures of Monk and Powell. And of the formation of his famous quintet, whose record of “September in the Rain”, George told me, had sold “upwards of 900,000 copies”. Of course by the time we met, it had passed the million, but he was always too modest to say so directly.The band was a landmark in so many ways, not just for its popular success, but for featuring a female instrumentalist, Marjorie Hyams, and a racially integrated line-up with John Levy and Denzil Best, both African-American, joining the rhythm section. George always said he was colour and gender blind when it came to jazz - and as his line-ups over the years suggest, he always just chose the finest players, including Gary Burton, Toots Thielemans, Al McKibbon, Louis Stewart, and a host more. And in his long and dazzling recording career, there were some great highlights, including work with Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole, Joe Williams, the Montgomery Brothers, the Kings’ Singers (remembering George’s abiding love of classical music) and - above all Mel Tormé, whom George always said was the other half of his musical brain.

It is great to see so many people here today, including members of the Shearing family, and his many friends from the music world, including the most wonderful singer Ian Partridge, who, like George has given so many of us so much pleasure through the power of music. And so now it is my most pleasant duty to unveil this blue plaque to remember one of the most distinguished musicians this country has ever produced."

Northcote Lodge School. Photo credit: Paul Wood

LINKS:  Lullaby of Birdland, George Shearing's autobiography (with Alyn Shipton) at Bloomsbury Books
Guardian obituary of George Shearing by Peter Vacher 
Jon Carvell's 2015 feature remembering George Shearing
BBC Radio 3's Jazz Record Requests of 22nd April also featured requests for George Shearing


Moor Mother plus Orphy Robinson and Pat Thomas at Cafe Oto

"An intense backwash of alarm." Moor Mother at Cafe Oto
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2017. All Rights Reserved

Moor Mother plus Orphy Robinson and Pat Thomas
(Cafe Oto, 18th April 2016; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

Moor Mother is a voice for today and for the future. An angry, comprehending, uncomprehending voice. Reportage from the front line. Poet, artist, musician, sound collagist, and active Afrofuturist - raising questions of pre- and re-packaged historical propositions - Camae Aweya was raised in the projects in Maryland and is now based in Philadelphia. As Moor Mother, she articulates the rage and suffering experienced not only within the black diaspora but also by those without the means to resist or defend themselves against those with the tools and power of aggression. A voice also for women, and for those who are the disenfranchised victims - a voice for humanity in the face of inhumanity.

At a packed Cafe Oto she combined the power of music, words and technology to up the ante. Heavy drones, rib-shaking bass lines, judiciously chosen spoken word samples from historical events and community recollections created an intense backwash of alarm, conjuring the immediacy of violence, death and life which comprises the fabric of existence for so many in today's world.

A vital, energetic performer onstage, with command of theatrical tension, Moor Mother manipulated the electronic sound backdrop in front of projected abstract film sequences which threw her scrawled stage name across the screen while she recited and rapped to get the essence of her message across. She dubbed layer over layer, hitting the industrial noise zone with flashes of torrential disturbance, driving dance beats and raw drones. As she veered from static to hyperactive the sounds were as much the substance as was the poetry. And she avoided the easy pitfalls of cliche in articulating a demonstrably singular standpoint.

Pulling no punches, her focus was on inhumanity, injustice, on pointless barbarity, racism, political and domestic brutality. 'The count is up - not enough dead bodies.' And on recent events with global coverage: 'Did you see it? Did you see it? They call it the mother of all bombs.' On the misappropriation of history. 'We want our reality back.' 'We want our future back.' The hope is for the regaining of dignity and direction.

From the projects via art school Aweya found her multi-disclipinary voice and has gained recognition with arts awards including a 2015 Leeway Transformation Award and is a 2016 Blade of Grass Fellow for Socially Engaged Art. She has has worked with major arts institutions as well as being engaged in community and education programs and in Princeton's Ferguson is the Future conference. She has - under the radar - released over a dozen recordings since 2012, intriguing and dynamically layered and constructed, including a tribute to Sun Ra whom she admires. Given time, Moor Mother may well prove to be one of the most significant artists around.

First onstage in the evening Orphy Robinson and Pat Thomas delivered a powerful, imaginatively improvised set, pushing the envelope of electronics meets analogue, corralling crushing rhythms, deviant calypso beats, Sun Ra zone electronic extremes with intensely accelerated acoustic piano from Thomas and streaks of out-at-the edge vibes playing from Robinson.


NEWS: BBC Proms 2017 Programme (with more jazz) released

Dianne Reeves (4th August)
The 2017 Proms prospectus is out today. General booking opens at 9am on Saturday 13th May.

The jazz and jazz-related Proms (more than in recent years...) are:

25th July Prom 15: The 'Godlike Genius' of Scott Walker

4th August Prom 27: Ella and Dizzy: A Centenary Tribute

11th August Prom 35 Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!

15th August Prom 41: Philip Glass and Ravi Shankar - Passages

24th August Prom 53: Beneath the Underdog: Charles Mingus Revisited

25th August Prom 55: Classical Music of India and Pakistan

27th August Prom 57: Swing No End - Clare Teal / Guy Barker / Winston Rollins

15th September Prom 65: Stax Records: 50 Years of Soul with Jools Holland

At the press conference today the following themes emerged:

- The organizers are doing a first-time "relaxed" Prom targeted at children and adults with autism, sensory and communication impairments and learning disabilities as well as individuals who are Deaf, hard of hearing, blind and partially sighted (DETAILS)

- Classical music presented in new ways will feature the Aurora Orchestra's Beethoven Eroica from memory preceded by substantial exegesis, and a "Beyond the Score" session featuring the Halle Orchestra

- New venues are Wilton's Music Hall and Tate Modern. There will also be an excursion to Hull for Handel's Water Music

- Programming strands are the anniversaries of the Russian Revolution, the Reformation, the Independence of India and Finland (NB a Finnish Folk Prom) . And the Ella / Dizzy Centenaries.

LINK: Dianne Reeves was interviewed by Alison Bentley in 2015
Full Proms Season to browse


PREVIEW / INTERVIEW: Daryl Runswick - (The Jazz Years double album release / 70th Birthday Gala Concert 6 June 2017)

Daryl Runswick
Photo credit: Ruth Rees

Daryl Runswick is a musician who defies definition. With a career spanning over 50 years, across every conceivable genre, and as a performer, composer and arranger, Daryl has proven that there really is such a thing as a “Master of all trades”. After a lengthy hiatus from the jazz world, he re-entered the scene with a vengeance bringing yet more innovation and virtuosity with his One Man Show back in 2006. His new double album The Jazz Years looks back at his active jazz performing years of the '70s and will be launched at a celebratory 70th Birthday Gala evening at Cadogan Hall on 6 June 2017. Interview by Leah Williams:

LondonJazz News: What is your earliest musical memory?

Daryl Runswick: I remember listening to my mother play Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata and looking up at the sheet music. It was before I could read music and I just remember seeing this flurry of black note runs and thinking that they must correspond to the thunderous chords I was hearing - totally wrong of course!

LJN: So you grew up in a fairly musical household?

DR: Yes, my father was also an amateur musician and composer. This is what made me realise from a young age that being such a thing as a composer was a possibility! He taught me how to play piano by the time I was five and then I moved onto cello when I was at school.

LJN: So how did you come to play the double bass?

DR: It was actually one of those random things. Somebody at school came up to me one day and said he was running a Trad Jazz band and they needed a bassist. He knew I played cello and apparently thought it was an obvious progression to the double bass! There was one lying around unused at school so I took it to my cello teacher and asked him how to tune it. He showed me and that was the first and last lesson I ever had on the double bass. I actually found out some time later that double bass players don’t use the ring finger on their left hand for playing but, because I’m self-taught, I never knew that. I might be the only bass player out there using all their fingers!

LJN: After that, it was on to Cambridge where you got a choral scholarship?

DR: Yes, that scholarship was a blessing but boy did I hate getting up early for it. I would get up, quickly get dressed and rush down to the chapel - then five minutes later I’d be singing! I was a bit lazy with it… It was at Cambridge that I also started composing and performing though when I got involved with the Cambridge Footlights.

LJN: How on earth were you able to narrow things down, and to decide what to include in the programme for your upcoming 70th birthday Gala concert at Cadogan Hall?

DR: I really wanted the programme to be as representative as possible of all the main aspects of my career: The King’s Singers, whom I’ve written much music for over the years, are performing; as well as London Voices (who I’ll be singing with); Aleksander Szram is performing the world premiere of my new Concerto for Piano and Nine Instruments. The Concerto is very much a hybrid: a classical piece with room for improvisation.

A lot of the pieces I write that aren’t jazz still involve a lot of improvisation. I don’t think it should be limited to that one genre. When I first started teaching at Trinity and encouraging classical musicians to improvise, I would get a lot of weird looks! Eventually though, students started to see the merit in it.

It’s also the launch of my double album, The Jazz Years, and so it seemed only right to include both some pieces from my earlier and later jazz years. Dame Cleo Laine is planning to attend, which will be fantastic. I’m hoping to persuade her up on stage, then – who knows?

LJN: Talking of Dame Cleo Laine, you spent the vast majority of your jazz years playing in her and John Dankworth’s band.

DR: It was about a decade and a half - 1970 to around 1983. Most of that was playing bass but for the last 18 months I played piano. They wanted their son, Alec Dankworth, to start playing bass in the band but didn’t want to get rid of me so offered me the chance to play piano instead. My first response was: “No thanks, I don’t think I can do that”. I played piano, sure, but I didn’t consider myself up to the task. As soon as I put the phone down though, I thought: “Am I crazy?! I’ve just turned down the chance to be Cleo Laine and John Dankworth’s pianist!” So I rang straight back and accepted. I spent the next six months wood-shedding and practising hours a day to get up to scratch. It was the opportunity that really shot my piano playing forward in the end.

LJN: After you finished with them in 1983, you finished with jazz altogether for a pretty long time. Why did you make that decision? Was it a conscious one or just the path you ended up taking?

DR: It was very much a decision I made on purpose. What I really wanted to do was become a composer. I’d had a great time playing the jazz scene but I wasn’t getting much chance to really write music and have it heard. I made a decision to draw a line under jazz, I even sold my double basses! I joined Electric Phoenix, an avant-garde classical band, who gave me the opportunity to really get into my composing. Through them I met so many amazing people in the classical world - Pierre Boulez and John Cage to name a couple - and it gave me the opportunity to become recognised as a composer.

LJN: Have there been any downsides to getting involved in so many different genres and projects over the years?

DR: Some journalists have commented in the past that the way I’ve moved between genres, etc, has held me back in terms of public fame or recognition. But, if it has, then I can honestly say that’s the only way it’s held me back. I've worked across the highest levels of so many music genres and had the chance to really expand my playing and composition, and to play with some amazing people, right from Frank Sinatra and Ornette Coleman to Paul McCartney and John Cage! I feel incredibly happy with the success I’ve had.

LJN: How was it that you found your way back to jazz music?

DR: From 2002 to 2005 I was totally off the music scene whilst I recovered from illness, which had been brought on by how busy I’d been, well, pretty much my whole life! For some reason or other, once I’d recovered - after almost 20 years away from it - I had this sudden yearning to go back to my jazz roots. That’s when my One Man Show was born. I had this idea of creating a whole show with just me playing every instrument and every part. I did the premiere at Cleo and John’s place, The Stables in Wavendon, and then toured it for three years. It became quite exhausting though; the trouble with a one-man show is that you’re on your own lugging all the equipment in and out every night!

LJN: So, what inspired you to release “The Jazz Years” now?

DR: It was actually the record label who approached me. I trawled through over a hundred recordings I had from those days and picked these 16 songs, all live recordings, that were from particularly great nights alongside some amazing musicians.

LJN: Is it true that you write a song each year for your wife on her birthday?

DR: Yes, yes it is. I started doing it in 2007 so this will be the tenth year. It was one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time, but now I’ve really got myself stuck and I have to do it every year (laughs)! I’m actually going to feature one of those songs as part of the extracts from my One Man Show at the Gala concert.

LJN: After the Gala concert, what other plans or projects have you got coming up?

DR: I’m going to go on holiday for a bit! The thing I’ve got on my mind for a next project though is to write an opera. I’ve never written a full-length two-act opera and it’s definitely something I’m keen to do. Just have to find someone who will put it on!

LJN: Coming back into jazz music, all those years later, is there anything that struck you about its progress or how it’s changed?

DR: What I really like about jazz music now is that people are really taking it all, the full breadth of it. There was a time when people rejected the fusion stuff, saying that the only true jazz was played on acoustic instruments in 4/4 swing but now it’s all being recognised and young musicians seem to be making use of all of this to create some really wonderful stuff. One musician I really rate is Gwilym Simcock; I love what he’s doing with the genre.

Buy tickets for Daryl’s Gala Concert here: Daryl Runswick Gala Concert

Buy The Jazz Years at all major retailers: The Jazz Years 


PREVIEW: Westbrook & Company - Paintbox Jane (Vout-O-Reenees, London, 28/ 29 Apr)

Paintbox Jane
L-R: Marcus Vergette, Mike Westbrook, Kate Westbrook, Billy Bottle

Jane Mann writes: 

A joyful new jazz cabaret, Paintbox Jane, with words by Kate Westbrook and music by Mike Westbrook, is currently on tour. This is a small-scale jazz theatre piece in the tradition of previous Westbrook shows Platterback, Art Wolf and The Ass. It is billed as “a celebration of Raoul Dufy’s paintings and a meditation on the nature of Art in words and music”.

The Westbrooks, both of whom studied Art, have pondered the subject in various musical projects over many years. Indeed, vocalist and lyricist Kate Westbrook has a parallel career as a painter, recently exhibiting her painting series Diana and Actaeon in London.


The cabaret is performed by Westbrook & Company – Kate Westbrook, Martine Waltier and Billy Bottle, voices, Marcus Vergette, double bass, Alan Wakeman, saxophones, Mike Westbrook, piano and actor Tim Goodwin as Raoul Dufy. (Incidentally Marcus Vergette is also a practising artist – a sculptor. He has work around the country and abroad – in London his Harmonic Cannon, two bronze bells on an oak structure, is currently on public display at Trinity College of Music, Greenwich, which coincidentally holds the Westbrook Collection of scores).

The show is summarised by Westbrook & Company thus:

"On the sea wall in Nice, 
Raoul Dufy paints a portrait of his muse Jane. 
A troupe of singers and instrumentalists celebrate the painter in Waltz, Jazz, Blues and Repartee...
..Until the sun goes down and envelops the generous, sensual world of Monsieur Dufy."

I have had the good fortune to hear this piece in preview performances, and I can tell you it is a delight. There is indeed a lovely waltz, plenty of jazz, a tango, a powerful blues, (familiar to those who have heard Mike Westbrook’s recent solo piano work as Gaudy Bar), a lyrical ballad Sound of Caress, (also on the recent solo piano album Paris) and a samba too. The words conjure up vivid scenes, as befits a piece about a painter famous for his use of colour and line.

Few can convey joy like the Westbrooks, so if you want your heart lifted in these worrying times, go along to one of these performances of Paintbox Jane:

-  Sunday 23rd April 2017 in Exeter at the Barnfield Theatre Book Online HERE  
Tel 01392 271 808 

- Friday April 28th & Saturday April 29th 2017 in London at Vout-O-Reenees  
Tel 07753 702910  - Book Online for Friday HERE:  and Saturday HERE  

 - Saturday 6th May 2017 in Calstock, Cornwall at Calstock Hall, 
Email: Tel 01822 834418


REVIEW: After You at Crazy Coqs

Liam Doyle (Chris) and Laura Tebbutt (Sarah)

After You 
(Crazy Coqs, 16th April 2017. Review by Tamsin Collison)

After You is the fourth musical from composer Alex Parker and book/lyric writer Katie Lam. Commissioned for Crazy Coqs, the basement cabaret bar at Brasserie Zedel in Piccadilly, this site-specific, 1-Act, 2-handed chamber musical traces the relationship arising from a brief encounter between Chris, a nightclub singer (Liam Doyle) and Sarah, an accidental member of his audience one night (Laura Tebbutt).

It's a simple idea, economically explored by the writers. On the plus side it's well-played, well-sung and at 60 minutes' running time doesn't outstay its welcome. Unfortunately, the fragmented, episodic structure means that the audience doesn't get to know the characters well enough to fully invest in their story. We watch events unfold with curiosity, but it is hard to care very much about the protagonists, despite the best efforts of the accomplished performers..

The score is tuneful and competent, and the lyrics are, for the most part, neat. Although, in Secrets, one of the show's best songs, it was unclear what secret the character was keeping or from whom, and the hero's signature song, London, isn't a strong enough number to show the audience his untapped professional potential. Martin Higgins' orchestrations for the 4-piece band (piano, violin, cello, guitar) are dextrous, the MD, Isaac McCulloch, directs operations with skill and energy, and the actors give polished performances, thankfully tailored to the intimate space, rather than overpowering their audience with West End belting, as so often happens in smaller venues. They are also to be congratulated on working around Doyle's broken collarbone, which was acquired just before opening night and required him to sport a sling throughout.

Overall, After You is a pretty flimsy show, but it was an enjoyable way to pass an hour, and Crazy Coqs should be commended for such an enterprising and interesting project. New music theatre writing needs to be nurtured and encouraged, so it's great to see a key London venue stepping up to the plate like this.

After You runs at Crazy Coqs until Saturday April 22nd. BOOKINGS


Barry Guy, Howard Riley, Evan Parker, Maya Homburger, Jürg Wickihalder, Lucas Niggli at the Vortex (Intakt Festival, first night)

Howard Riley Trio at the Vortex Intakt Festival
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2017. All Rights Reserved

Barry Guy, Howard Riley, Evan Parker, Maya Homburger, Jürg Wickihalder, Lucas Niggli
(Vortex, 16th April 2017 - first night of 12-day Intakt Festival; review and drawings by Geoff Winston)

The opening night of the Intakt Festival at the Vortex, celebrating 33 years of the Intakt record label, was Barry Guy's night - three hours of non-stop playing in four different settings. The first was a duo with his partner, violinist Maya Homburger, which I caught the tail end of when augmented vigorously by drummer, Lucas Niggli. They then visited Biber's late seventeenth century masterpiece, Crucifixion Mystery Sonata, with relaxed authority and a sense of occasion.

As one of the festival highlights, Barry Guy proudly introduced a rare-as-hen's teeth reconstitution of the Howard Riley Trio, which he and Riley had inaugurated in the late 60s and maintained as an ongoing, occasional dialogue with various drummers, including, for their first recording, Jon Hiseman, and subsequently Tony Oxley. On this occasion, they were joined by Niggli, who, joked Guy, had only seen the music that morning!

Despite physical infirmity, once sitting at the piano, Howard Riley showed, as he did in duo with Keith Tippett a year ago (reviewed), that he has lost none of his acuity at the keyboard. In their three numbers, Howard Riley's incisive grasp of rhythm, structure and melody made a deep impression. Spare, considered, crisp and exploratory, Riley's style had echoes of Andrew Hill in its combination of concision and invention.

Complemented by Guy's empathetic bass work and the rigour of Niggli's invention, Riley imbued each finger stroke and chord with the clarity of intent, whether in the thoughtfully paced opener, littered with careful pauses and encrustations of notes, or the spiky, racier follow-on, marshalled to attack with confidently oblique, Monkish phrasing, allowing a dribbly, bluesy theme to take hold before retracing steps to revisit earlier thoughts.

For their encore Riley took off on a solo excursion, and not for the first time, reached in to the piano to flatten the wires and tap out a signal, while Guy chose his moment carefully to gently link up and follow the thread, finally to close on a slow slide down the fingerboard.

Evan Parker (left) and Barry Guy (right) at the Vortex Intakt Festival
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2017. All Rights Reserved

The great thing about quality improvisation is that it invites listening and close attention to all its twists and turns, which is exactly what the improvised duet between Guy and Evan Parker on tenor sax did, with Parker's sharp, confident tone and staccato phrasing blending with Guy's harmonics and bounced, lightly clattering variations as they passed the baton back and forth between them, building up and breaking down the structure with the crossfire of inspired initiatives.

The last setting had Guy teed up with Jürg Wickihalder on soprano sax and Niggli, razor-sharp on drums, to focus on the saxophonist's demanding, primarily upbeat compositions for the trio's brand new recording for Intakt, Beyond. Their fiery, fast-moving set had each musician at the top of their game with lightning quick responses, versatility and technical excellence at the heart of the enterprise. And it turned out that Guy's seventieth would be celebrated in a week's time, a birthday he shares with the younger saxophonist!

There are eleven more star-studded nights of the Intakt Festival at the Vortex. Link to programme


CD REVIEW: Samuel Rohrer – Range Of Regularity

Samuel Rohrer – Range Of Regularity
(Arjuna Music. CD review by Henning Bolte)

This is an electronics solo album by Berlin-resident Swiss drummer Samuel Rohrer. The music draws in listeners strongly , into an intense sound world all its own. What you hear will be unfamiliar, attractive, comforting, strange, disconcerting. It might remind the listener of the (re-) sounding world of our blood circulation. It is as mysterious and as fascinating as that.

When you hear a door clattering or the rain hail down it evokes a stationary not a forward-moving sensation. A break, change in intensity, pitch, speed or character is needed to get that sensation. It is the combination of both, as well as the juxtaposition of the regular, mechanical with the seemingly irregular that matters here, and also what makes it feel natural. There are pulsating spaces and there are beats pounding, patting, walking, bouncing from different angles and at different points of time combining and interacting in highly sophisticated ways. It is intermingled with rushing and whooshing noises, arising and disappearing, fading in and out.

You can surrender to the rich interplay - as well as alternating it with close listening - to figure out the way all different layers and patterns interlock. You will learn then that the way it is constructed and interacts is different from the usual form/format in jazz. Pulse, rhythm and texture are the central elements music from which is built up. The clearest example, maybe, is the concluding piece Uncertain Grace where a highly attractive melodic line gradually is only suggested, slightly contoured by layering and blending repetitive rhythmic patterns. It is the contextualization, the creation of space, which makes these patterns sing.

It should be clear that Rohrer is not just imitating beat-driven forms of pop music or using it to embellish and pimp up jazz formats. He has developed his very own procedures and aesthetics to create a new form of captivating music that is consequently built from the deeper grounds of rhythm and drumming opening up truly new dimensions. The aesthetics is also found in the remarkable visual design of the album covers of his own Arjuna Music label.

The album offers six variations of these new dimensions. Microcosmoism has a lot of layering and dub effects whereas Lenina has a thick, dense structure that is being constantly transformed. None of the elements involved here dominates in this piece. all of it colludes as an ensemble. Nimbus has a strong reggae feel in the sense of Peter Tosh’s Bush Doctor. Sunclue is deep, blue ether along lines such as those drawn by Jon Hassell. War On Consciousness is an affair of heavy beats competing, clashing and subsequently speeding up syncopated.

Rohrer’s art has developed from a rich background at different places with different perspectives. He has worked in an ECM context (with pianists Wolfert Brederode and Colin Vallon) and still collaborates with ECM artists like Trygve Seim, Klaus Gesink and Björn Meyer (rhythm section of Anouar Brahem), in a modern jazz-context with Daniel Erdmann, Frank Möbus and French cellist Vincent Courtois and in the exiting electronic unit ambiq with Berlin techno pioneer Max Loderbauer on Buchla and Claudio Puntin on clarinets and electronics.

Range Of Regularity truly traverses new territories.

Teasers of  Range of Regularity available on:    


INTERVIEW/ PREVIEW: Mark Lockheart (606 Club 25 April)

Mark Lockheart
(Photo credit: Alex Hemingway)

Saxophonist Mark Lockheart is playing standards at the 606 later this month. The club's marketing manager Laura Thorne grabbed a few moments with him and kindly shared them with LondonJazz News.

Laura Thorne: Jazz music can be defined in various ways, some of which are objective though many less so.  

Mark Lockheart: For me, jazz is a broad term that covers everything from Count Basie to the Bad Plus and everything in between. I think there has to be a healthy element of improvisation in the music for it to be jazz, but it is really hard to define completely what makes jazz. For me personally, the most interesting and vibrant jazz music has bold, exploratory qualities and is performed by distinct musicians with unique sounds and approaches. For instance, I’ve always loved the fact that you can instantly recognise the sound and phrasing of musicians like Johnny Hodges, Wayne Shorter, Kenny Wheeler or Brad Mehldau. The essential quality that the best jazz has, in my opinion, is personality, and this has been at the core of my emotional (and intellectual) response to the music for as long as I can remember.

LT: How would you describe your music?

ML: As far as describing my own music, I would honestly have a tough job doing this accurately. I’ve listened so much to African American jazz but I’ve also listened and absorbed a lot of other music that doesn’t come so much from that. Having said that, I’m also always interested in exploring ways of playing standards and classic jazz repertoire and my gig at the 606 will be doing that, with help from Nikki Iles, Steve Watts and James Maddren

LT: What are the criteria that determine the choice of material that you'll perform on the gig? 

ML: I quite like to try different combinations of musicians that I haven’t worked with much when I play at the 606 but for this gig I wanted to explore a slightly different concept . I’ve decided to use the rhythm section from Nikki’s Printmakers band as I love the understated way this rhythm section plays together. The control and sophistication of these three musicians  is really special and I think will suit the tunes I want to play - beautiful songs like A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square, Just In Time, Too Young to Go Steady are just a few we will be doing.

I hope to make a CD of my favourite standards at some point, but in a way it's quite a challenging prospect due to the fact  there are so many amazing records exploring standards, so I want to make sure I do it really well and do it with a lot of character.

LT: When you were young, first discovering music and forming your own opinions about it, were there any specific experiences or moments that you can recall having an impact on you?

ML: My dad would always play jazz in the house when I was growing up, so I was exposed to loads of music every day. He played a lot of Brubeck, Ella, Sinatra, Dankworth and Miles so I guess these were all important people. I was always attracted to the sound and groove of the music rather than the technical qualities, and I think this is still the case really.

You hear some ridiculous things said about musicians when you’re young, for instance several people used to say to me that Wayne Shorter didn’t have a good technique, which is obviously absurd as, to me, technique in jazz music is really just there to enable you to express yourself fully. Jazz music that comes primarily from a technical aspect leaves me cold and has nothing much to do with the art form in my opinion.

One funny thing I remember when I was about 14 years old was that I was reading an article in Jazz Journal about how Paul Desmond wasn’t very jazzy and didn’t play fast—basically saying his playing lacked energy or commitment. I was upset and wrote a very earnest letter defending Desmond and stating his qualities as I heard them, and they published my letter in the next edition. 

LT: You’re a composer as well as an instrumentalist, having written material for both your own projects as well as outside commissions. What inspires you to write? Is inspiration necessary?

ML: For me it’s important I write to define myself as an artist. The process of writing music helps you understand structure, pacing and control, and these are all important things when you’re improvising on a gig. I don’t think everyone needs to write but it helps all my musical concepts a great deal.

My saxophone playing is closely linked to my composing and often ideas for pieces come from improvising either on the sax or keyboard. My writing often suggests and leads into my next recording or project.

Most recently, I’ve been composing music for a small orchestra and jazz quintet for a work titled Brave World. I just started writing it for fun (without a commission) but eventually managed to get Trinity Laban and Serious Productions involved, and between us this turned into a lovely first performance gig at last year’s London Jazz Festival. This was the first and only performance so far, but it was absolutely vital that I could rehearse and hear the piece before I record it with a professional orchestra—hopefully sometime later this year.

Most recently, I’ve been writing material for a new album with my trio, Malija (with Danish bassist Jasper Hoiby and Liam Noble on piano), for a new CD that will be released in September on the Edition record label. 

LT: You’ve collaborated with a number of classical music artists, including Mark Anthony Turnage. Does your playing style change or adapt when you are working in that setting, and if so, how? 

ML: I love all kinds of music and perhaps because I studied classically I relish the opportunity to be involved in different things. The projects I’ve done with Turnage have all been amazing and have always kept me on my toes as I have to accurately play someone else’s music. There are always challenges with Mark’s stuff, not least following conductors that may have a completely different concept of where the beat is!

I also remember playing in Mark’s opera Anna Nicole with fellow sax player Martin Robertson when we were both on soprano sax playing high unison lines—now that’s a challenge! I also worked with Perfect Houseplants on a few albums with the early music group The Orlando Consort, who were amazing. I think we all learnt a great deal from that collaboration in exploring the common ground between plainchant and jazz, etc. 

LT: You’ve been a member of two groundbreaking, acclaimed jazz groups, Loose Tubes and Polar Bear. What do you think made those groups so special? 

ML: With both these groups I learnt and developed so much over different points in my career. Both groups were unique and had their own sound and concept and I loved this feeling of being in a band that was exploring music and not recreating it. As a result, both bands became influential and groundbreaking in their own way. Interestingly, some people used to say that Polar Bear wasn’t jazz - to me, with its searching improvs and experimental sound worlds, it was the very definition of jazz!

Mark Lockheart (606 Club 25 April, 8.30pm)

LINKS: 606 Club
Mark Lockheart


CD REVIEW: Ralph Towner - My Foolish Heart

Ralph Towner - My Foolish Heart
(ECM 571 4582. CD review by Peter Bacon)

The solid-gold Great American Songbook tune My Foolish Heart from the pens of Victor Young and Ned Washington is the only tune here not written by the classical and 12-string guitarist, but it’s a crucial one. Towner says the version recorded by Bill Evans with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian  “set me on a course to try to attain the magic of this trio in my own attempts”.

Those familiar with the many albums Towner - initially a pianist as well as a guitarist - has made since, both under his own name and with the groups Winter Consort and Oregon, will know that he delivers that magic every time he plays.

This is a gorgeous album of solo guitar, his touch and sound absolutely unmistakeable, whether he is weaving sinuous melodic lines and accompanying harmony on the classical guitar, or ringing out those sonorous, echoing, impressionistic chords from 12 steel strings.

The opener, Pilgrim, has an Elizabethan tinge to its melody and formality, while I’ll Sing To You sounds like it might indeed have lyrics - Towner would sing his song The Silence Of A Candle with the Winter Consort - but it is just as eloquent without them. Saunter precedes the title tune but it sounds as if Bill Evans is already on Towner’s mind, his phrasing and decoration evoking the subtle twists and turns of the pianist.

And the title tune itself is the clear work of a master: it may be highly virtuosic in its execution but there is no self-serving “look at me” aspect to the performance. It’s all about the tune, the harmony, the unheard lyrics, the emotions, the history of the song, the joy of musical creation.

Pieces like Dolomiti Dance and Ubi Sunt are a reminder that Towner has created his own area of guitar music which somehow encompasses European classical guitar music (another piece, Shard, has echoes of Rodrigo or Castelnuovo-Tedesco about it), bluegrass picking, the folk traditions and jazz.

Clarion Call’s harmonics and low strums shows how completely the guitarist masters his sound world - it also accentuates what a beautiful recording engineer Stefano Amerio and producer Manfred Eicher have captured in the Auditorio Stelio Molo concert hall in Lugano.

In the brief liner note Towner also says of My Foolish Heart: “I needed to know how it felt to inhabit such a reverent musical space.” There are such spaces throughout this perfectly paced, thoroughly devotional album.


REVIEW: Midori Takada at Cafe Oto

Midori Takada at CafeOto
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2017. All Rights Reserved

Midori Takada
(Cafe Oto on 11 April 2017; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

Japanese percussionist/composer/performer Midori Takada gained cult prominence in the early 80s with her soundscape album Through the Looking Glass, with its moods and rhythms located somewhere in the Jon Hassall and Steve Reich ambient/minimalist zones infused with reference to traditional Japanese musical forms.

Her 5 date European tour, ostensibly to promote the long awaited multi-format reissue of the album by the Swiss label WRWTFWW (We Release What the Fuck We Want), culminated at Cafe Oto with a single, mesmerisingly intense solo set lasting 45 minutes, but so packed with intent and surprising coalscences of sound, not to mention the physical demands on Takada herself, that its duration became immaterial.

To say that she is a whizz on marimba could sound glib - but she was just that. The calm and meditative atmospherics summoned through her virtuoso, flowing mallet work set the tone for the opening segment of the set, and had the youthful audience captivated in silent communion, hardly even addressing smartphones!

The only minor reservation was a brief excursion in to slightly awkward poetry recalling her childhood, which seemed superfluous, given the quality of her playing.

Swivelling to crash the massive gong cymbal to her right to break the spell, Takada dipped to return to delicate tapped tones then introduced a barrage of hyperactive action on strategically positioned drums which had her twisting and turning to flood the room with a wash of multi-layered percussive energy.

Another enchanting (in the best sense of the word) marimba sequence followed, bolstering the initial statement, after which Takada drifted over to play, in sequence, on a string of drums and cymbals leading to the far right of the room where she ended the set with great poise.

Walking back through the acclaim of the audience's standing ovation, she beamed. There had been something about the evening that recalled Yoko Ono's equally brief but rewarding 45 minute sets back at Cafe Oto in March 2014 (REVIEWED) - a perfect distillation of the performer's art.


INTERVIEW/ PREVIEW: Mishka Adams and Guillermo Rozenthuler (New Band Amizade, London Launch Pizza Express, 23rd April 1pm)

Guillermo Rozenthiler and Mishka Adams

Singers MISHKA ADAMS and GUILLERMO ROZENTHULER have worked together in different contexts and have a new project "Amizade," which has its London launch on Sunday 23rd April. Interview by Sebastian:

LondonJazz News: Your new duo project is called Amizade what does that mean?

Mishka Adams: Amizade means “friendship” in Portuguese.

LJN: What is the repertoire?

MA: Hidden gems as well as reworkings of well known songs from South America, ranging from Brazilian samba and bossa nova, candombe from Uruguay, Cumbia from Colombia, and Argentinian folklore. Guillermo is a wealth of songs and it’s been a joy learning and arranging this music together!

LJN: Guillermo do you have any idea how many songs you have ready to go at any moment?

Guillermo Rozenthuler: I don't have a precise number, but there are many.. a couple of hundred for sure… We are actually learning some new material for this project- from Colombia and Cuba- which makes me very happy. I respect very much every tradition and sometimes I feel I should forget some songs and go really deep with a few...

LJN: And you have a "family" of guests you also work with?

GR: the family is developing and growing-in more than one sense ( I have now a 4 month old baby!). We also love to work with Andres Ticino on percussion. It’s great to have a family of guests but we are also a self contained duo act.

LJN: And the Sunday 23rd lunchtime Pizza Express gig is a sort of premiere...?

GR: 23 April is a premiere in London in a mainstream venue, and I hope it’ll be the first of many. This material is very rich and there aren’t many people performing it in the UK. We both have a jazz background so it’s fun to look at some songs with a jazz lens harmonically, or to add improvisation. Adriano and Javier are both great improvisers so I m happy that they are on board. We have had some invitations to play it outside London and it’d be ideal for rural touring so we’ll look into it. I've never met a vocalist like Mishka who can capture not only the essence and expression of Latin music but also sing it with perfect pronunciation.

LJN: You are on the ideal scale for house concerts right?

MA: We are and it is something we really love to do. In fact the first couple of times we played in duo was in a house concert situation. Singing and playing unamplified to a small attentive audience is a wonderful experience. As we both sing, play nylon guitar and percussion our set up is ideal for them.

Intimacy, detail, and spontaneous storytelling are always part of what we do.

LJN: How/ when did you get to know each other?

MA: We met about 8 years ago, on a project with the London Vocal project – I am a founding member and alto of the group and Guillermo was invited on a large scale project at the Albert Hall with the Merton Music Foundation to sing with us as a featured soloist. So I guess Pete Churchill brought us together! After meeting a few times during rehearsals and at the concert, we discovered a mutual love for Brazilian music and started singing together and became very good friends over the years. I even studied Thai Massage with his partner Kira, and I consider them both to be family. I've learned so much from singing with Guillermo, both musically and from who he is as a person, so I hope this is just the beginning of a lifelong project!

LJN: And friendship normally implies you find other topics you agree on things you like in common outside music ?

Both: Absolutely! We also share a love of food and wine, and we are a very good cooking team

LJN: You both have busy lives . Aside from this duo what other projects / things to look forward are there?

Mishka: I sing as an alto with the London Vocal Project – we just came back from a wonderful trip to New York to premiere Miles Ahead, featuring Jon Hendricks’ lyrics, and rescored for vocals by Pete Churchill without whom the project would not exist! We’ll be doing the London premiere at King’s Place on May 21st. I also sing with Pete Churchill in his originals project – we released our first album called Stories to Tell in 2015, full of Pete’s beautiful originals that had lain hidden for many years.

There are many projects bubbling in the pipeline, and I feel very lucky to be able to work with many wonderful musicians in various groups– Adriano Adewale, Luca Boscagin, Pedro Carneiro Silva, and most recently with a classical pianist called Alisdair Hogarth from a group called the Prince Consort – he had the wonderful idea of taking classical repertoire and having a non-classical singer to sing the pieces – they are beautiful and I’ve heard so much music that I would never have come across on my own. We will see how the project unfolds, but there are sure to be gigs coming up in the near future!

Guillermo: Apart from singing with Mishka, I sing regularly with the London Tango Orchestra and have started collaborating with another wonderful vocalist, Georgia Mancio - the band is called Companeros. In terms of teaching, I have two passions at the moment:one is Circlesinging ( think Bobby Mc Ferrin spontaneous compositions for vocal groups) and the other one is community singing for health and wellbeing.

I’m delighted to be gathering and teaching Circlesinging and other forms of collaborative vocal improvisation to a growing community of very talented London and UK vocalists from different traditions ( the sessions are called Circu-lab) , and we’ll be performing live very soon. I ve been invited to teach Circlesinging for the 3rd time at SOAS Summer School and alongside Albert Hera and Roger Treece in Italy this summer. I’ ve also been invited to lead a big open for all Circlesong for the Chorus Festival at the SouthBank centre the morning of July 2. And will be part of this year’s Global Music Foundation London Summer School and Festival in August alongside Bruce Barth, Perico Sambeat and other jazz musicians that I admire.

The singing for well-being projects are multiplying and I now lead two groups of Sing for Better Breathing in South London, and two sessions of singing for Dementia and mental health in North London. I feel very grateful to be part of this development and hope to help pave the way for many more singing for health projects in London and beyond...



CD REVIEW: The Dave Jones Quartet - Key Notes

The Dave Jones Quartet - Key Notes
(DJT008. CD review by Mike Collins)

Cardiff based pianist Dave Jones has an expansive recording and composing track record, ranging from the Celtic folk -Jazz crossover over of Burum, through film and TV writing, to an armful of recordings under his own name with ensembles large and small. The latest release, Key Notes, is a gem.

Jones has assembled a formidable quartet, all with Cardiff connections despite their national presence, to record a punchy set of six originals. Its no-nonsense jazz, with most of the one word titles signaling what to expect: Blues, Afro,Funky,Latin. Don’t be fooled however; there are plenty of surprises and thrills.

The opener, Sands, entices the listener in. First ghostly, cycling left hand chords; then a yearning repeating melodic fragment, Ben Waghorn’s tenor doubling the piano . Lloyd Haines’ ticking cymbal patterns add to the momentum before a singing, melodic solo from virtuosic bass man Ashley John Long morphs into a headlong burn up and the piano and tenor solos are a swirl of energy before the elegiac hook returns. It’s quite a scene setter. Jones’ writing is one of the stars of the show. He distils ideas down to fragments and lays them out, giving the band space to stretch out and really play. Blues is a series of stabbing exclamations evoking a blistering work out from Waghorn. Afro extracts maximum mileage from a catchy phrase and the multi instrumental talents of the quartet. Waghorn supplies attractively harmonized flute while Long doubles the melody and the rolling bass riff on vibes, before taking the first solo.

The vibes are there again on Funky whilst Jones and Waghorn really dig in. They close the set with Latin , Haines and Long locking together to create an outrageously infectious drive under Jones’ montunos and more fluent and hair raising soloing from Waghorn, back on flute for this one. The playing is high quality all round. Jones, whilst being the leader, ensures this is an ensemble performance giving everyone plenty of space. His own playing is unfailingly dynamic and driving, with light, shade and nuance injecting moments of poetry and reflection.

This studio album has the energy and excitement of a live performance.

Mike Collins is a pianist and writer based in Bath, who runs the jazzyblogman site. Twitter @jazzyblogman


RIP William Shaw, Founder of Jazz Coventry

William Shaw

The passing of William Shaw, founder of Coventry Jazz and one of the pivotal figures in jazz in the West Midlands for over forty years has been announced. There is a Facebook tribute by Neil McGowan HERE

Jazz Coventry website


CD REVIEW: Freddie Gavita - Transient

Freddie Gavita - Transient
(Froggy Records Frog001. CD Review by Peter Jones)

British trumpet star Freddie Gavita is now a respectable married man in his thirties, and since this is his debut album, you might think the ‘transient’ quality of the title was about how the man himself feels as he enters his early maturity. In fact, as he explains in his LondonJazz News podcast interview (link below) it’s more to do with the way jazz dips into the moment, and tunes played one way on Monday might sound very different on Tuesday.

His career to date could hardly look more auspicious: he’s a member of and writer for Ronnie Scott's late-show fixture Fletch’s Brew, as well as a member of the Scott’s house band (currently led by James Pearson) and the Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Orchestra. This well-overdue album features his own quartet, which has been together for ten years – more than enough time to record an album and get it released. Gavita raised the cash (£5,429) from crowdfunding website Kickstarter – an increasingly popular method of getting music into the wider world. It’s just a shame no individual pledged £1,000, for which you could have got the whole band to come round and play a bespoke gig in your house.

Gavita is known as an exponent of the groove in jazz and an open, fluid Freddie Hubbard tone, both of these qualities exemplified by the album’s sandwich-oriented opener Strimming the Ham, a pleasantly lumbering waltz whose rhythmic figure is laid down by Tom Cawley on piano. Turneround, the tune that follows, is another groover, this one dedicated to Gavita’s trumpeter friend, the late Richard Turner. There’s warmth and variety here too, as on the ballad Beloved, originally written for trombonist Callum Au, or the coolly swinging Pull Your Socks.

Playing with this band Gavita describes as comfortable yet risky – like ‘being wrapped up in a nice warm sleeping bag and then being chucked off a cliff’. This inherent danger does not extend to the listener, thankfully. Instead we can indulge ourselves in some fine, relaxed playing and extended playing times: most tracks are around the six-minute mark, and one or two considerably longer.

Gavita doesn’t find it necessary to grandstand, either by brandishing his chops or by sidelining his fellow band-members, all of whom have ample space to solo: Lion-O, for example, is a showcase for James Maddren, beginning with his tinkling cymbal work, and pausing throughout for a number of mini drum solos. And on Iverson Oddity, Calum Gourlay is given a chance to stretch out on bass.

Transient is launched Upstairs at Ronnie Scott’s on 19th April, and there is a tour in the offing, following official release on the 28th. 

LINK: Podcast interview


REVIEW/ PHOTOS: Patricia Barber at Pizza Express Dean Street and the Watermill

Patricia Barber.
Photo credit Brian O'Connor / Images of Jazz

Patricia Barber

(Pizza Express Dean Street. 13th April 2017. Review by Sebastian Scotney. Photos from the Watermill by Brian O'Connor)

"Einstein would concur
Trajectories are curved
Things aren’t what they were
Or where we left them
Heisenberg was right
Fixing speed and site
For all who love are
Blind is unwise and uncertain."

These words are from Patricia Barber's song Redshift from the album Smash (Concord 2015), on the programme last night, and which must surely win the prize for the most intellectual and diversionary break-up song ever. (on video hereThe pay-off at the end is VERY clever indeed. Yup, I'm a fan. I was lucky enough to hear her in Montreal a couple of years ago.  That performance, with a larger band in a 1,400-seater theatre could not be given fewer than five stars. (Telegraph review here). Which absolutely made up for a rather more problematic evening at Ronnie Scott's in 2012 (reviewed here)

I heard the third and last date of a 2017 mini-tour of the South-Eastern UK. It was one of those totally assured and individual and confident performances. Patricia Barber has a weekly in residency at the Green Mill in Chicago, and is totally at ease in the club situation, confiding with the audience, but also maintaining a certain hauteur. She performed her normal mixture of originals, song covers and instrumental jazz standards.

Just a few  highlights from last night: Bill Withers' Use Me, which gave the limelight to an excellent young rhythm team of Australian-born bassist Patrick Mulcahy and drummer Nate Friedman,  is a Barber staple, and in her interpretation it is darker and more subtly menacing than the original. The opener I Hear A Rhapsody brought out what a persuasive and eloquent pianist Barber is; she gave a lovely tribute to Marian McPartland's influence and importance at the end of the show. Sinatra's This Town, more of a riff and an idee fixe than a song, also stays intriguingly, hauntingly in the mind.

Barber needs to be heard, and it is a feather in the caps of the enterprising folk of the Watermill and Pizza Express that they were able to give London and Dorking audiences - which last night gave her a standing ovation - the opportunity to hear one of the best secrets of the Uptown area of Chicago. Build that tour. A song such as Morpheus, with all kinds of allusions to Greek mythology, would go down a storm in  Oxford or Cambridge. Bring her back!

Patrick Mulcahy
Photo credit Brian O'Connor / Images of Jazz

Nate Friedman
Photo credit Brian O'Connor / Images of Jazz

LINK: 2017 interview with Patricia Barber


CD REVIEW: Nypan - Stereotomic

Nypan - Stereotomic
(Losen Records LOS 168-2. CD Review by Jane Mann)

Losen Records have just released Stereotomic, a new album by the quartet Nypan. This is Norwegian guitarist Øyvind Nypan’s fourth album as band leader, and all the compositions are his own.

The musicians are Øyvind Nypan, guitar, fellow Norwegians Bernt Moen, piano and Ole Mofjell drums, and Swedish double bass player Egil Kalman.

The material was recorded live at the University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway, after a day’s rehearsal. Nypan states: “The charts were handed to the musicians as they arrived at the recording studio...we wanted everyone to have an open mind before we started to play.” Remarkably, “Everything is live, there are no overdubs.”

The CD begins with a stately Zappa-tinged tango called Heavy Hangs the Head, written the day before the recording session, apparently, with plenty of space for Nypan and Moen to solo. Next up is Don’t mind if I do, which showcases Kalman’s nifty bass and Nypan’s talent for writing a good theme. Piece for Peace is a charming and optimistic ballad with a lovely tune which the band all explore by turns before handing over to Moen for a poignant solo piano conclusion. Nypan describes Resignated Driver as having “a McCoy Tyner/Elvin Jones kind of feel” and it certainly allows young drummer Mofjell to demonstrate his skill. Another gentle ballad,

Just for The Record comes next. It is written for trio without piano. Nypan cites Pat Metheny as a major influence, and you can hear it here in the deft tuneful runs he employs to ornament the melody. After this idyll, The Big Rumble Tumble is a dark driving number with a long dissonant piano solo, quite abstract in style, and lots of extended extemporisation from the guitar.

My favourite track is Paris, a ballad which though melancholy has a gently hopeful feel. It was written on Nypan’s return to Paris (where he had lived and worked from 2006-8) after the 2015 terror attacks. This is a spacious piece, with understated playing from all the musicians, and a delicate melody line from Nypan, here showing another influence as a guitarist, Jim Hall.

The final track, This Old Thing, is a lively blues based on a theme Nypan wrote in the 90s when he was a student. The tune charges along, the band sounding like an ensemble who have been playing this number for years, rather than since yesterday. After deft flourishes from all, it comes to a satisfyingly tight finish.

I would be interested to see Nypan live but there appear to be no plans for a UK tour although the Nypan Trio is currently touring Norway.

LINK: Details of the trio’s tour.


REVIEW: Simon Allen Quintet / Nonet at the 606

Steve Rubie introducing the band for the first set

Simon Allen Quintet/ Nonet 

(606 Club. 12th April 2017. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

This gig brought to my mind a scene from Moliere's The Miser (Act 3 Scene 1). The character Maitre Jacques gets so irked that he has to act as both cook and driver for his cheapskate boss, he insists on putting a different hat on for each role, and makes it clear that he will only take instructions for one of his jobs at any one time.

So, why has this review started with a random and even obscure French lit tangent? Because, for jazz musicians, what is required, what is completely normal is the exact opposite of Maitre Jacques: they are expected to combine all of their roles, and to function in them and to traverse from one to another seamlessly, and do them all well, and in public, and in real time.

And if that is true in general, it is particularly true for Simon Allen. He has a particularly assured and structured way - even when struggling with a cold as he was last night - of simultaneously occupying of all of his many roles: alto saxophonist, tenor saxophonist, bandleader, arranger, composer, and Head of Jazz at the Purcell School. Last night he seemed to required to act as stage manager and librarian too. As well as general enthuser and inspirer of some ferociously talented young players, with the additional pressure of some parents looking on...(is that ten functions or eleven?)

As an alto player Allen has a strong, full and penetrating lead alto sound, and astonishing technical facility. On tenor he also gives that sense of things being said definitively. I was reminded of the sheer persuasiveness of the sound of, say, George Adams.

For the first half he was - apart from one exception - with his regular quintet, playing originals and specifically crafted arrangements.  Trumpeter Martin Shaw was his eloquent self, often delighting himself - and the audience -  in inserting those unexpected unobvious "out" notes into a line. Tom Cawley is another constant source of unexpected delight. Drummer Mike Bradley navigated all of the tricky twists and turns in Allen's arrangements without flinching or straying.

The exception in the band, in place of regular electric bassist Laurence Cottle, was an 18-year old player who is something of a phenomenon, Manchester-born Seth Tackaberry. He just seemed completely in command, whether joining in the rapid-fire bebop head to Vincent Herring's Folklore, or chordal soloing, or punctuating and grounding a Tom Cawley right hand solo - both of those on Three's a Crowd. He's hugely impressive, certainly a name to watch out for....and he hasn't even started at music college yet (!)

Seth Tackaberry
I heard a little of the second half in which four more young jazz musicians still at the Purcell School  were added. They really are top talents: Alexandra Ridout has already won BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year. Sean Payne is being casually referred to as the next Nigel Hitchcock, a by-word among London sax players for "watch out." and there was trombonist Daniel Higham and baritone saxophonist Nick Willsher. The proficiency and assurance of all of these young players is both inspiring and daunting. And Simon Allen is clearly helping them all to aim very high indeed.

The nonet in the second half 
Further performances by this quintet-then-nonet group are listed on Simon Allen's website.


CD REVIEW: Charlie Watts and the Danish Radio Big Band - Charlie Watts Meets The Danish Radio Big Band

Charlie Watts and the Danish Radio Big Band - Charlie Watts Meets The Danish Radio Big Band
(impulse!. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield)

This project grew out of a conversation between flugelhorn player and arranger Gerard Presencer and the Rolling Stones' drummer Charlie Watts. Before the Stones, Watts had spent some time in Denmark, where Presencer had just started working with the Danish Radio Big Band, and they decided to explore Watts' music within this context.

Watts has lead several jazz bands, including a big band in the 1980s, a quintet in the 1990s and his "tentet" in the mid 2000s, many of which have featured his life-long friend, bassist Dave Green, who joins him here, too. Watts expressed his admiration for several jazz drummers with the percussion-rich, rhythm heavy Charlie Watts / Jim Keltner Project, from which Presencer has arranged the two part Elvin Suite. The original is loose and driving, featuring a choir and vocalist. Presencer has given these voices to the Danish Radio Big Band in a consummate soulful arrangement. The second, faster part of the Elvin Suite is a powerful, drum and percussion lead piece that is full of motion - it's hard to stay sitting down listening to this. The Danish Radio Big Band starts growling and finishes roaring.

Several of the other tunes are Jagger/Richards compositions from early in the Stones' career. Faction is Presencer's rearrangement of Satisfaction, taken with a slight Latin lilt. You Can't Always Get What You Want is taken fast and tight, with Presencer's flugelhorn leading the melody over the band riffing. The Hammond-like organ creates a funky feel. Pernille Bevort extended solo on soprano sax ramps you the excitement to a climax. In contrast, Paint It Black is slow and brooding, Per Gade's guitar giving it a moody edge. Presencer's solo is suitably dark and oblique, before Gade cones back with the theme.

They finish with Molasses - not a remake of Brown Sugar, but a Joe Newman tune, transcribed from original Woody Herman charts by Mårten Lundgren. Featuring Kaspar Vadsholt on bass and Søren Frost on drums in addition to Green and Watts, this is a bluesy, blowing number which lets the band stretch out. The double rhythm section power along in a fast shuffle.

Charlie Watts and Gerard Presencer
Photo courtesy of Gerard Presencer

Originally recorded for a radio broadcast in 2010, this CD captures the excitement of the performance. Presencer has worked some magic with the arrangements, breathing new life into otherwise familiar pieces.

Patrick Hadfield lives in Edinburgh, occasionally takes photographs, and sometimes blogs at On the Beat. Twitter: @patrickhadfield.


12" SINGLE/ DOWNLOAD REVIEW: Mop Mop – Lunar Love Remixed

Mop Mop – Lunar Love Remixed
(Agogo Records AR100V.  12” single/digital download - Review by Mark McKergow)

This collection is the latest release from Hannover-based Agogo Records, the outfit behind many interesting new developments on the edges of jazz, afro, funk and electronic dance music (EDM).  The nine tracks here (four also issued on a 12” vinyl release) are remixes of last year’s Lunar Love album by Mop Mop, strongly featuring the gorgeously rich voice of British/Trinidadian poet Anthony Joseph, and are full of brooding atmosphere and intensity. 

Mop Mop (real name Andrea Benini) is an Italian musician, producer and composer currently based in Berlin.  His Mop Mop persona is, slightly unusually for this field, not simply as a one-man producer but also includes a regular group of fellow musicians -  Alex Trebo on piano, Pasquale Mirra on vibraphone, Guglielmo Pagnozzi on sax, Bruno Briscik on bass and Danilo Mineo on percussion.   Mop Mop’s Lunar Love album was released on Agogo Records in May 2016 and garnered a good deal of praise around the world. 

However, this is not a review of that album.  This is a collection of remixes based on tracks from Lunar Love, and so we get a whole other set of voices joining the picture.  Each of the nine tracks here is the work of a different remixer – often a DJ/producer (the lines between those two fields are getting very blurred indeed) who takes the original material and transforms it into a new version.  For those who haven’t heard a remix since the 1980’s 12” extended versions of tunes like Blue Monday, this is not merely an extension of the original, but instead a whole re-collaging of different elements which can change the whole feel of the track. 

Remixers, for those finding their way into these avenues, alleys and snickets, are often to be found on Soundcloud, curating their recordings and output which can usually be streamed free and purchased for download (and perhaps subsequent mashing up, mixing and transforming again).   And in keeping with this new ethos, the whole collection can be streamed free from the Agogo Records website (link above). In most cases here two remixers start from the same base track and produce strikingly different outputs.  

Of these nine remixes lasting a total of 50 minutes, six feature the resonant vocalising of poet Anthony Joseph, and it’s Joseph’s voice which holds this collection together.  Nicola Cruz’s mix of Totem makes a great opener, with Joseph intoning “To be born again” over distinctly African drums and woodwind.  The same track in the hands of DJ Khalab mixes the vocals lower, starting almost trip-hop slow before doubling tempo and gathering momentum with hand drums. 

Kalbata’s take on The Barber, enthusiastically premiered on Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide radio podcast, picks up a dance-friendly 125 beats per minute with dub elements of Joseph’s vocal echoing behind the main groove.  Don’t DJ turns the same material into a sparse almost ambient drumscape with slightly off-time drums adding a lilt which becomes more and more hypnotic.  The Serpent emits funky synth grooves and electro-drums from sUb_modU (perhaps my favourite track) with Joseph’s “Take the dark away, leave me the day” vocals well up. 

Also featured are two remixes of Supreme featuring Nigerian vocalist Wayne Snow, whose lighter voice style makes for a good contrast with Anthony Joseph.  Daisho shows a lightness of touch, flexing Snow’s vocals around marimbas, brass stabs and percussion into a flowing melange that carries us forwards.  French DJ/producer Azaxx  goes for a more free-form marimba workout emphasising the flowing nature of Snow’s vocal lines in a very chilled style.

This is quite possibly the first 12” single to be reviewed on London Jazz News, and  I hope it won’t be the last – there is so much new creativity from the interaction of musicians, DJs and producers that this is the new playing field for those artists wishing to work around the edges and overlaps of musical form, rearranging and recombining material in new ways.  Isn’t that what jazz is?