PODCAST INTERVIEW: Chick Corea

Chick Corea at Cheltenham 2017
Photo credit and ©John Watson /jazzcamera.co.uk

Sebastian writes:

I was invited to send in some questions for Chick Corea by European broadcaster Sarah Culler and this short interview podcast is the result:


PODCAST SYNOPSIS

00:00 - 00:47 OPENING MUSIC : Extract from Amnesia by Chick Corea.

00:47 You always profile yourself as a student... learning... the challenge to communicate one's ideas... telling a story...

1:56 - 3:05 Spain – the tune , the connections the influences,  Paco De Lucia, Mongo Santamaria Eddie Palmieri...

3:05 - 4:37 Is there a hierarchy of duties for a musician? "I pursue ideas that I'm interested in..."

4:37-5:48 Is your work-rate speeding up slowing down or staying the same? Finding new ways to help young musicians – workshops.

5-48 to end Pannonica by Thelonius Monk  –  Chick Corea New Trio.

Image of Chick Corea on podcast from 1992 by Roland Godefroy / Creative Commons

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INTERVIEW: Jeremy Sassoon (new album Jeremy Sassoon and Friends, launch gigs at Pizza Express Dean Street 6 and 7 July + Berlin and Manchester)

Jeremy Sassoon at Goostrey Festival, Cheshire, 2010
Photo credit: William Ellis

Singer-pianist JEREMY SASSOON has a new album out, Jeremy Sassoon and Friends. It was recorded live at Pizza Express Dean Street in 2017. He will return there for album launch gigs on 6 and 7 July, followed by performances in Berlin and Manchester. He explained the background to Sebastian:

LondonJazz News: Where are you from, and where do you live now?

Jeremy Sassoon: I'm from Manchester and I still live there. In recent years however I've been increasingly gigging down in London and worked out I'd actually spent more than two months there last year.

LJN: And you are actually Dr. Sassoon, right?

JS: That's right. I went to medical school at The Middlesex Hospital in London at 18 and having qualified as a doctor, I worked in the hospital system for a further seven years, most of which was spent training as a hospital psychiatrist. An excellent training with which to enter the world of music I may add.

LJN:  Ray Charles has been quite a big deal for you... how did all that start?

JS: In 2009, I was trying to think of a new project to submit to the Manchester Jazz Festival. At the time I was just a keyboard player/MD and hadn't started singing. I was working with a great jazz and gospel singer Paul Bentley and came up with the idea of a Ray Charles project since Ray's balance of jazz, blues and soul matched exactly mine and Paul's style. I teamed up with Iain Dixon (saxophone) and put together a great 11-piece (and later a 17-piece band), which amongst other musicians featured Mike Walker on guitar. As it happens Paul soon gave up singing altogether and all of a sudden I had to either learn how to sing the show or disband it. After several deep breaths, I managed the former and have been singing and fronting gigs ever since. The show has provided me with some great moments, like headlining at Ronnie's for London 2012, playing the Jazz Cafe, Bluesfest at the O2 and headlining Manchester Jazz Festival twice. Next month, we'll be at the Wigan International Jazz Festival amongst some illustrious company...

LJN:  There is a story about a song of yours being picked on Desert Island Discs...?

JS: This was a story involving my two career worlds colliding. Whilst I've been plugging away as a gigging musician, my medical friends and colleagues that I'd qualified with had become eminent professors and consultants. One such colleague Hugh Montgomery, a professor of Intensive care (and the holder of the world record for underwater piano playing) was invited onto Desert Island Discs in 2014. He was a big fan of my music and chose my version of the song The Things We've Handed Down as his castaway's favourite. I'd never seen such a flurry of activity on my website & iTunes as I did that month and the song hit Number 1 in the iTunes vocal download chart, ironically knocking Ray Charles off his perch. And Frank Sinatra and Etta James. That was my 15 mins of fame.

LJN: And you have (professional) musician siblings... what do you attribute that to?

JS: Yes, my sister Julie Sassoon is an amazing composer and pianist based in Berlin. My other sister Lucy is a singer-pianist living in Spain and although my brother Laurence chose the "proper job" route, he was just as accomplished a musician. To what do I attribute it? Some sort of complex Sassoon chromosomal abnormality


LJN: What is the story of this album ? It was recorded live - do you record all your concerts?

JS: No, I rarely record my concerts. I just had a gut feeling about this band. I picked musicians from all different areas of my musical life, none of whom had even met each other until 48 hours before the recording. One rehearsal later and I knew I had to video it, even if just for a couple of YouTube clips. It was only when we got the footage back that we were all surprised at the quality and I decided to make an album.

LJN: And what are the songs on it?

JS: The songs weren't picked with an album in mind, but were selected as relevant for a 2017 gig. Glen Campbell and Walter Becker had died that year, so Wichita Lineman, Peg and FM chose themselves. Compared to What and Ballad of the Sad Young Men were from one of my “Top 3” albums, First Take by Roberta Flack. The  Chicken was dedicated to my drummer Michael who had the rare privilege of playing it with Jaco Pastorius for a whole European Tour in the Jaco/Bireli Lagrene Trio. Bruce Hornsby's anti-racism comment The Way It Is was chosen with Donald Trump in mind. Perhaps the most original arrangement on the whole album is a haunting version of Eleanor Rigby, which I've been regularly urged by many of my followers to record. I hope everyone likes it.

LJN: And who is in the band?

JS: The band is based around my long-standing partnership with Berlin-based drummer Michael Kersting. Michael has an incredible pedigree, having played with Chet Baker, Jaco Pastorius, Trilok Gurtu, and Richie Beirach and I really click with him.

With Michael in place, I put together the team from there. Jasper Wilkinson is a close friend and multi-instrumentalist from Manchester who plays bass (but could just as easily have done it on sax or guitar). Like Michael, he just “lays it down”, making the rhythm section so easy to play over. I've been playing with up-and-coming saxophonist Alexander Bone for 3 years now. He seems to pick up awards all over the place, but has a great soulful and melodic side to his playing too. And Richie Aikman completes the quintet on guitar. I saw him on somebody else's gig two years ago at the 606, and “poached” him. He's great, and another truly talented 22-year old.




LJN: What are you especially looking forward to with the launch?

JS: I just love the general buzz that happens around the launch of a new project, and there's something special about opening the first box of your own CDs when they first arrive. But does anyone buy CDs anymore?

LJN: And what are you dreading? 

JS: England getting into the quarter finals of the World Cup. They're being played the same nights as my launch dates.

LJN: What’s the project after that?

JS: There could be an interesting project involving my Ray Charles Project on the horizon, but if that doesn't come off I'd like to get straight into recording a new studio album. I'm getting a taste for this.

LJN: United or City?

JS: I've never heard of the second one. (pp)

LINKS: Jeremy Sassoon's website 

A new single from the album – Wichita Lineman – is out this week on Spotify and  Apple Music 

Pizza Express Bookings

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PREVIEW: 2018 Suedtirol Jazz Festival Alto Adige (29 June - 8 July)

Ben van Gelder and Reinier Baas, featured artists at the 2017 Festival
Photo credit Ralf Dombrowski

Alison Bentley writes:

This year’s UN World Happiness Report puts Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Sweden at the top of the list. The 2018 Suedtirol Jazz Festival Alto Adige is adding to the sum of human happiness by bringing more than 160 innovative jazz musicians from these countries and more, to play in imaginative venues in the mountains and towns of Suedtirol (South Tyrol.)

Gigs are grouped into four city tours to help negotiate the festival’s geography. In Suedtirol, everything is written in Italian and German, including place names: Bolzano/Bozen is the festival hub, with 31 concerts. Many are within walking distance of each other through the old streets – the surrounding mountains look down. The Festival always values musicians from different countries working together, and the opening concert (in an industrial warehouse) has the Nordic Connection countries playing with Austrians and Italians (the Euregio Collective) in an 18-piece band directed by Finnish flautist Pauli Lyytinen. Good to see bassist Ruth Goller in the list, representing GB, as well as her home town (Vahrn) in the region of Suedtirol. Scandinavian 11-piece CARLIOT - It's never too late Orchestra plays "heard and unheard music from theatre, dance…" on 5 July in the Museion art gallery. Swedish vocal/drum duo Wildbirds and Peacedrums are in the Obstmarkt on 6 July. Norway’s psychedelic jazzers Broen have two gigs at the Park Laurin Hotel on 7 July, the second a DJ set.

Merano/Meran has 21 gigs; if you missed a gig in Bolzano it’s likely the bands will be playing here too. Swedish-Finnish trio Elifantree bring their "acoustic jazz pop sound experiments" to Thermenplatz on 4 Juy, while you can hear ECM pianist Giovanni Guidi with US/Italian trio DRIVE! at the Wolkenstein Viertel on 6 July.

Bressanone/Brixen has 18 gigs. 7-piece Norwegian-Swedish Megalodon Collective combines "free jazz, fusion, film music, noise, classical and medieval music" in the Fortress Fortezza on 6 July. On 30 June electro-jazz sextet Klabbes Bank are on the rooftop of the Tourism Cooperative Association –  not the bank. Many gigs are outside, and on 30 June, the SJ Street Band will be stomping through the streets of Brunico/Bruneck (17 gigs.) Nearby, Anni Elif Egecioglu, Amanda Blomqvist and Verneri Pohjola are on vocals, drums and trumpet in San Vigilio di Marebbe on 8 July.

The festival’s motto is "fresh sounds, new perspectives", and many gigs are in spectacular and beautiful venues. Some are in mountain refuges among dramatic scenery: on 8 July, a two-hour walk along a mountain trail ("easy", it says) takes you to Finnish singer Stina Koistinen and Icelandic guitarist Sigurdur Rögnvaldsson in a duo created especially for the festival. Trio Nils Berg Cinemascope (2 July) will be competing with the stunning mountain backdrop of Bolzano/Bozen’s Parco Semirurali. That morning, Finnish pianist Tuomas A. Turunen (aka The Wine Composer) ‘"translates wines' aromas and tastes into music" in the Weingut Pacher Hof, flanked by vineyards- and you get to taste the wine too.

Is there a collective noun for singers? The Nordic Voices theme refers to the individual styles of around 17 bands featuring vocalists. To highlight a few: Norwegian duo Lars Andreas Haug and Camilla Susann Haug’s Messing with Voice is in Bozen/Bolzano’s Hotel Greif on 2 July. Bjork-like Mari Kvien Brunvoll sings in Norwegian dialect with her trio Building Instrument on 30 June in Renon/Ritten’s Hotel Weihrerhof. The Swedish/Finnish quartet led by Hannah Tolf bring their experimental jazz to Bolzano/Bozen’s Batzen Sudwerk on 6 July.

The festival is an organisational miracle. A 20€ Jazzpass allows you to book seats on the shuttle buses between venues. It also gives ticket reductions and reservations (though many concerts are free) and food and wine discounts. There’s extensive info on the festival website about the plentiful public transport. A flight to Verona, an hour’s train ride to Bolzano – then expect to be transported.

LINK: Suedtirol Jazz Festival Alto Adige website

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INTERVIEW: Peter Tregear (Barry Humphries Weimar Cabaret - Barbican,11-29 July)

Barry Humphries and Meow Meow in
Weimar Cabaret in Edinburgh in 2016
Photo supplied by EMG Media

"Barry Humphries’ Weimar Cabaret" will be at the Barbican from 11 to 29 July. Melbourne-based musicologist Peter Tregear was in the small team who put the original show together in collaboration with the Australian Chamber Orchestra. He tells the story of how the show came into being here, and – hopefully without spoilers – gives a guide to what Barbican audiences can expect. Interview by Sebastian:

LondonJazz News: If I understand right this idea got going because Barry Humphries had done some other projects with the ACO and those had worked well?

Peter Tregear: Yes, that's right. Barry had toured with the ACO a few years earlier (performing, among other works, Walton's Facade) and it had been a great commercial and critical success, and I understand both parties were keen to explore further collaborations.

LJN: And how did the original idea of a Weimar cabaret show start?

PT: Barry has had a near life-long fascination for the musical culture of Weimar Germany, and has also been a strong advocate for many of its most significant composers. This interest arose because he had encountered traces of Weimar culture that had travelled to the Melbourne of his childhood in the luggage of Jewish immigrants escaping Nazi persecution and had fallen in madly love with it. I suspect he was also quick to recognize that here was a cultural world that could help provide inspiration for the directions his own creative work was soon to take, not least in seeking to shock a complacent Australia out of its post-War contented slumber. Barry was a previously frustrated artist and intellectual, and Weimar Germany provided a soundtrack for an altogether fresh attitude to life that he now yearned for.

More simply, I think he just fell for the music. It was an obvious place for the ACO and Barry to look to create a new show together.

Peter Tregear
Photo Credit: Peter Hislop
LJN: You were brought in to help? How did that work?

PT: I was brought in to provide research assistance and programming advice. One of the challenges we faced was sourcing much of the music. Another, of course, was working out how to make the kinds of repertoire choices that could result in a coherent, compelling, concert experience.

LJN: Were your enthusiasms similar to Barry Humphries’ or did you complement each other?

PT: I had worked with both Barry and the ACO separately in the past, and also had a close interest in Weimar musical culture myself as a researcher and performer.

LJN: What were the first song choices?

PT: Knowing that we wished to create a fully narrated concert, and not just a concert with occasional narration, we began by exploring works that exemplified four themes common to much Weimar art: Money, Love, Sex, and Death. We were also interested, of course, to involve works that had particular resonance for Barry himself. That was easy because he as an encyclopaedic knowledge of the repertoire. That led us to composers such as Ernst Schulhoff, Friedrich Hollaender, and Mischa Spoliansky.

LJN: Are Threepenny Opera and Mahagonny somewhere in the mix?

PT: We were also keen to draw the audience in by working from the familiar to the more unfamiliar, so of course we wanted to include works by Weill and Brecht that are well known today. This had the added bonus of playing to a particular strength of Barry's co-performer in this show, Melissa Madden Gray – best known by her stage name 'Meow Meow'. Also hailing from Melbourne, Gray has a global reputation as a cabaret artist and is certainly one of the finest living exponents of Weill's music.

LJN: I was interested to see the name of Ernst Krenek. What’s the story there?

PT: The music of Austrian-born composer Ernst Krenek (1900–1991), and specifically a 78 recording of excerpts from his so-called 'Jazz Opera', Jonny spielt auf (1926) holds particular significance for Barry because it was some of the first Weimar music he had heard as a child and which had got him 'hooked'.

LJN: Was a lot of arrangement required to adapt the repertoire for chamber orchestra?

PT: Much of the music being performed was already conceived with chamber forces in mind – reflecting its origins in the cabaret halls, theatres, and radio studios of the day. Many of the songs, however, survived only as piano scores rather than as orchestrations, making arrangement a practical necessity.

LJN: Is it a concert, a revue? 

PT: It is hard to know how best to categorize the event; sure there is a script and there is even some set and costumes, but the music still holds centre-stage (and most of the stage time). A guided concert, perhaps? Whatever the case, one of the particular strengths of the format that has emerged is is that it feeds the mind as well as the ear, while always being entertaining to-boot.

LJN: What historic period is the music drawn from (earliest and latest compositions)?

PT: The music is drawn, as one might expect, almost entirely from the period of the Weimar Republic itself (1919–1933). We close the concert, however, with a work from 1948, Friedrich Hollaender's song for Marlene Dietrich from Billy Wilder's film A Foreign Affair, The Ruins of Berlin. We thought it was a good way both to directly acknowledge the catastrophe that followed the fall of the Republic but also express a message of hope too: 'A brand new spring is to begin / Out of the ruins of Berlin!'.

LJN: What are your memories of the premiere (where?)

PT: I remember being quite moved when the first performance happened in Australia because much of the music was being performed and heard in Australia for the first time. I felt performers and audience alike were partaking in an act of restorative justice for those composers whose lives foreshortened by the rise of Nazism. We were also being reminded that we too had been impoverished by that calamity by having been denied an opportunity for so long to get to know this music better.

LJN: Presumably Barry Humphries ad libs and creases the audience up with laughter?

PT: Oh yes, Barry is nothing if not a creature of the stage! There are certainly many funny moments, and a good many of them are not scripted...

LJN: Critics... Did the Pfennig drop with any critics either at the Australian performances or at Cadogan Hall or in Edinburgh – i.e. is there a quote from a review that really “gets it” and what the show is about?

PT: Yes, I think Tim Ashley does. Putting it simply, "It’s a mesmerising, touching, deeply humane evening." (FULL REVIEW HERE)

With thanks to John Harte and Yung-Yee Chen of Aurora Orchestra for their help in setting up this feature. Aurora Orchestra will be performing the Barbican shows, led by Satu Vänskä.

FULL DETAILS OF BARRY HUMPHRIES' WEIMAR CABARET - with Aurora Orchestra - FROM THE BARBICAN WEBSITE
Video trailer for Barbican shows
Peter Tregear

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NEWS: Vibraphonist Jonny Mansfield wins 2018 Kenny Wheeler Jazz Prize

Jonny Mansfield
Photo credit: Royal Academy of Music

Peter Bacon reports:

This year’s Kenny Wheeler Jazz Prize, its eighth annual award for a graduating jazz musician at the Royal Academy of Music who demonstrates excellence in performance and composition, has been won by Jonny Mansfield, the RAM and Edition Records announced today.

Mansfield (22), a vibraphonist and composer based in London, wins the opportunity to release his proposed album on the Edition Records label – it will come out in 2019.

The press release continues:

“Mansfield follows in the footsteps of the highly-acclaimed previous winners; saxophonist Josh Arcoleo (2011), trumpeter Reuben Fowler (2012), vocalist Lauren Kinsella (2013), bassist Misha Mullov-Abbado (2014), vibraphonist Ralph Wyld (2015), guitarist Rob Luft (2016), and saxophonist Tom Barford (2017) whose album is released on 31 August 2018.

“The judging panel – Dave Stapleton: Edition Records Founder and Producer, Nick Smart: the Academy’s Head of Jazz and Evan Parker: saxophonist and lifelong collaborator of the late Wheeler – met in June to decide the winner.

“Evan Parker said: ‘This prize honours the life and work of a musician who was distinguished not simply as a magnificently gifted improvising instrumentalist, but also as a composer and arranger. In awarding the prize to Jonny Mansfield this year we have chosen a young musician who has already shown himself to be remarkably talented in all three disciplines, and seems to have a musical vision beyond his years.’

“Edition Records boss Dave Stapleton commented: ‘As the music industry continues to evolve and change at an unprecedented rate, it’s hugely rewarding for us to have an opportunity to help develop and guide these young, talented and vital artists of the future. Jonny Mansfield is a musician of real depth and maturity, both as an instrumentalist and composer. Jonny also has the ability to recognise the wider challenges facing him and appro
ach them with drive and determination to pursue a career in this music. To succeed in the 21st Century music industry requires all-round skill and talent, which Jonny has in abundance.’

“Kenny’s son, Mark Wheeler, said: ‘I have enjoyed hearing Jonny a few times at Academy events and also online, and I know my Dad would have loved his playing and his wonderful writing. It’s exciting to see how these young musicians flourish and it remains a source of joy for all the family that Dad’s name and legacy lives on through this fantastic prize.’”

LINK: LJN interview with Jonny Mansfield from 2017

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PREVIEW: 2018 Brecon Jazz Festival (10-12 August)

Adam Glasser (third from left) with his South African Jazz Sextet
Publicity picture
Festivals rise and festivals fall but Brecon just keeps on going. Peter Bacon previews the programme for the 35th in its unbroken run. 

Yes, it’s had its ups and downs, every bit as dramatic as the Beacons which rise above it, but the Brecon Jazz Festival has learned some tough survival skills as a result. This year’s festival (10-12 August) puts the accent on jazz from many countries as well as that celebratory and indefinable “Spirit of the Festival”.

Among the players performing are Adam Glasser, Byron Wallen, Josephine Davies, Rob Luft, Corrie Dick, Jim Hart, Elaine Delmar and Ian Shaw.

John Anderson, from the festival’s coordinating group, the Brecon Jazz Music Trust, told me:

“As we all know jazz, outside the bigger cities, often struggles to attract the audiences it deserves.  For example Fleece Jazz on the rural Suffolk/Essex borders recently sent out an impassioned appeal for more bums on seats as after 25 years they are finding it especially tough.

“Jazz festivals, too, need superhuman efforts to keep going. Ask Nigel Price about his 'adventures' keeping Swanage afloat. It is particularly galling, in this context, to continually hear of the demise of Brecon Jazz Festival. Galling, unhelpful and just plain wrong. Underfunded and less sprawling than at some times in its long history, but, as so frequently is the case, rumours of its death are exaggerated. Perhaps a little exposure from LJN can reverse this error.”

John continued: “A small band of volunteers, based around the monthly Brecon Jazz Club, has worked diligently to produce an excellent line-up for the 35th Brecon Jazz Festival which runs as usual in early August …“Friday (10 August) evening begins with a fundraising concert for Side by Side: Humanitarian Aid to Refugees by the amazingly talented and endlessly entertaining Ian Shaw, and is followed by a specially-commissioned Festival Big Band, 16-piece no less!

“Highlight of the weekend will no doubt be the tribute to Hugh Masekela directed by Adam Glasser and featuring Byron Wallen, Josephine Davies and Rob Luft and Corrie Dick.  Saturday (11 August) also boasts Manchester Jazz Collection, Tom Smith Septet and Sounds of Cuba led by Maite Hontele, backed by the Eliane Correa Afro-Cuban Sextet.

"Sunday is not too shabby either! Josephine Davies' Trio Satori, the Elaine Delmar Quintet and concluding with Jim Hart's Cloudmakers."

Tickets are now on sale – there is an all-encompassing All Weekend Pass, and also discounts for booking multiple events.

LINK: 2018 Brecon Jazz Festival programme

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REPORT: Jazz Promotion 2018 Look Out Conference at Turner Sims, Southampton

Opening keynote speaker at Look Out Rebecca Root
Photo courtesy of Kim Macari

The "Look Out" Jazz Promotion Network Conference was held at Turner Sims at the University of Southampton on 13 and 14 June 2018. As founder of the London East Jazz Network, Mark Kass attended the conference, and reports. These are his personal views: 


Superbly organised by the JPN Board in partnership with Jazz South, the new Turner Sims/Arts Council-led regional jazz development network, the conference was a networking and learning opportunity for experienced and newbies alike (and I fall into the latter category!). I joined workshops for some truly insightful discussions on diverse programming, career building, cross-border working and, probably the most significant, what can the jazz world learn from other industries. Thoroughly enjoyable, with really valuable networking, "Look Out" was definitely worth schlepping down to the South Coast. I attend far too many conferences but it was a real pleasure to attend an industry "thing" that had a genuinely positive feel about its future! For me, the main take-aways were:

  • We need to recognise diversity across the industry, changing the perception of jazz that demonstrates the vast range of genres jazz encompasses, not just the huge single genre everything gets lumped under, and reflects the world we live in.
  • We need to recognise that technology has a big impact on listening, composing and buying of music/video... we should stop just referring to "my new CD is out now" and revert to my new album is a available to download, buy on vinyl, watch on You Tube as well as buy on CD.

  • Big emphasis on inclusion, equalities and sexual harrassment issues. Need to change the perception of female jazzers and showcase more female musicians, promoters, event managers, label owners, not just as singers!

  • Recognition of needs of audiences beyond music... eg venue access for the disabled.
  • There is a huge and perhaps unbalanced reliance on Arts Council Funding... are we a business or are we an arts organisation? Answer: A sensible mix of both but we need to be more entrepreneurial and commercial as ACE funding gets tougher to draw down.
  • There should be a greater emphasis on employability skills and post-graduation support for new entrants to musical career.
  • There should be a non-creative support network that helps musicians and businesses with the boring stuff, e.g. bookkeeping, admin, etc, including perhaps the development of a co-working hub for musicians outside of a university/conservatoire environment.
  • Support mechanisms should extend to venues, promoters, labels, event managers, etc.
  • Can we create a formal local/regional business support programme that practitioners can sign up to? How would we fund that? Is that linked to a festival/major jazz event?
  • We need to promote the fab work of Help Musicians UK's Mental Health support programme aimed at ALL stakeholders... not just musicians.
  • The industry needs to learn more from other industries. Should there be a formally recognised trade body for jazz funded by the industry itself and one that represents the collective voice of the sector when lobbying, negotiating, educating, etc? What would that look like?

L-R: Jason Rebello, Yuri Goloubev, Tim Garland
Photo by Mark Kass
  • Three totally fab music sets on the Wednesday night from Camilla George Quartet, Nikki Yeoh piano solo, and the amazing Tim Garland Weather Walker Trio ft Jason Rebello on keys.
  • Networking from an amazingly open, friendly, transparent (and sober!) bunch of like-minded industry professionals.
  • Note: I missed the AGM as I had to get back to London

Mark Kass is a part-time jazz promoter, a jazz broadcaster on East London Radio, and a volunteer trustee for the National Jazz Archive. In his "day job" he works as a management consultant for new and fledgling entrepreneurs, and designs and operates co-working/serviced office accommodation for start-ups.  

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NEWS: Band On The Wall gets £1.65m from Arts Council England

Band On The Wall of the future
Supplied picture

Peter Bacon reports:

It started as The George and Dragon pub where the musicians played on a stage half way up the back wall, but the Band On The Wall has developed into a major national concert promoter. The announcement today of a £1.65m grant of stage two Capital funding from Arts Council England means it can develop the venue considerably.

Band On The Wall is owned and operated by Inner City Music, which has charitable status. The press release explains:

"The Capital funding will allow Band on the Wall to significantly enhance its facilities for learning and participation activity and performance, and the expanded building will be a space for the public to experience both music from around the world, and participate in programmes that explore and celebrate the rich cultural heritage of the local area.”

"The expansion plans see the main venue capacity increase from 350 to 500, significantly improved facilities for education and community engagement programmes, and the Picturehouse Bar remodeled with external terrace space increased and a new small second venue for emerging artists.

"The planned learning complex will include a rooftop A/V suite, allowing young people and education participants to create new work by engaging with international touring artists.

"The new learning spaces will be home to Band on the Wall’s improved archive facilities, enabling the organisation to better catalogue its rich library of historical content. Selected archive materials will continue to be exhibited throughout the venue.

"The Cocozza building is one of only a few remaining structures from the days of the Victorian Smithfield Market. Inner City Music is in the final stages of negotiating the purchase of the building and, subject to funding, the building façade will be saved and fully restored."

LINK: Band On The Wall

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REVIEW: Phronesis - Walking Dark at Pizza Express Jazz Club

Jasper Hoiby at Dean Street, June 2018
Photo credit and © Mochles Simawi

REVIEW: Phronesis - Walking Dark
(Pizza Express Jazz Club, 15 June 2018. Review by AJ Dehany)

Phronesis’s 2012 album Walking Dark was a watershed moment for the trio. A powerful sequence named after a series of concerts played in complete darkness after bassist Jasper Høiby’s sister went blind, it brought a new emotional impetus to their work. Significantly extending the scope of the group, it defined the elements of their chemistry and catalysed their future reactions, crystallising their transition into one of the most formidable power trios in contemporary jazz.

As part of a celebration of Edition Records' 10th Anniversary, Phronesis played a ‘Déjà Vu’ residency of five concerts over three days at Pizza Express.

Walking Dark was at the mid-point of the series and the second show of the evening at 10.44pm on a Friday night in Soho, down in the basement among the smell of tomato and cracked black pepper. The audience was young and enthusiastic, breaking into applause and even stomping and whooping at points. One couple had flown over from Hamburg especially to attend all five concerts. Another guy professed to have seen Phronesis 25 times, which the Hamburgers said made them feel a bit less crazy.

“This is one of the most intense things I’ve ever done,” admitted Jasper Høiby, “an out-of-body experience for me personally. Five albums, back to back, note for note, no improvising – we don’t like improvising. If you hear of anybody improvising, yeah, send them out…” It’s a good joke, but Walking Dark is rife with tight unison passages and a significant portion of the title track must be played pretty much note for note. This underlines the unity of the trio. Even the solos are played as a trio. The bass punches up the neck, the drums are in your face. No swing, no straight-ahead, angular as hell, driven and intense. Høiby’s chordal articulation on the double bass gives the others enhanced space for harmonic and rhythmic freedom that lets the group sound both stridently angular and warmly melodic at the same time.

Anton Eger at Dean Street, June 2018
Photo credit and © Mochles Simawi
It’s worth remembering that when Walking Dark was released in 2012 bassist Jasper Høiby was still seen as the ‘leader’ of the seven-year old group. Pianist Ivo Neame hadn’t joined until the second album in 2009 (replacing Magnus Hjorth), and drummer Anton Eger wasn’t on the 2010 live album (when Mark Guiliana stepped in). Walking Dark was the first time they had split the writing credits, Høiby with six tunes and Neame and Eger with three each. Since then it’s pretty much evened out three ways. I should note that they were playing these albums in their entirety with no charts and no printed set lists – shaming us mortals who can barely remember at what point Madame George comes on Astral Weeks.

Ivo Neame at Dean Street, June 2018
Photo credit and © Mochles Simawi

Ivo Neame’s compositions Passing Clouds and Charm Defensive are among the most abstract and darkly scintillating selections on the album. In six years they’ve taken some of the blue notes out of the studio versions, with a bit more classically-tinged harmony but still a typically jazz flavour. Ninth up, Anton Eger’s tune Zieding is a Phronesis fan favourite and a highlight of the album, euphoric and accessible with an infectious joie de vivre. More than ever, the trio looked like they were enjoying playing together, with Anton grabbing a tambourine and whacking the kit with it while head-banging.

As midnight approached, credit card devices started to go round and drinks began to drain as the concert entered the closing stretch of the album. After the excitement of Zieding, it was a little weird to carry on and play out with these darker textures. Beautiful, but Høiby acknowledged it was a journey, laconically commenting on the difference between album sequencing and live sets. Tongue-in-cheek, with a verbal shrug, he reflected, “an album is a body of work, typically ten songs. When you play a gig you often make a set list according to what works. It’s different. I don’t know! It’s just different…”

AJ Dehany is based in London and writes independently about music, art and stuff. ajdehany.co.uk

LINKS: CD Review of Walking Dark by Chris Parker
Jasper Hoiby previews Phronesis' first dark gig at Brecon in 2011
Phronesis preview the 2018 Deja Vu series

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INTERVIEW: Coen Molenaar (Dutch band Tristan, UK Tour Dates Jul-Sep 2018)

Tristan - with Evelyn Kallansee, vocalist, and keyboards player Coen Molenaar far right.
Publicity photo

Jazz-funksters Tristan are the latest band to visit the UK through the Going Dutch project, organised by the Jazz Promotion Network with support from Dutch Performing Arts. (UK tour dates below). The band has released three albums and has already made quite an impression on UK audiences on previous visits with its energetic sound that draws on classic Acid Jazz and features singer Evelyn Kallansee. Rob Adams asked Tristan’s keyboards player, Coen Molenaar, to explain more about the band – which takes its name from drummer, Sebastiaan Cornelissen’s son’s middle name; it was the first thing that came to Cornelissen’s mind when he was put on the spot by a promoter.

LondonJazz News: Tristan has been around in some form since 2003 but took some time to get to its current form; can you give us the background to this?

Coen Molenaar: The idea for the band started in 2003 when the drummer, Sebastiaan Cornelissen met Frans Vollink, who plays the bass, and myself. We were in a recording studio to play on the album release of a guitar player from Luxembourg. It instantly felt as if we had been playing together for ages! But it took until 2014 for the band to find the right singer: Evelyn. That same year the first album, Full Power, was released.

LJN: You toured with Randy Brecker in the early days; what effect did working with him have on your music?

CM: As you can hear in quite a few of our songs, we all love the musical era that produced the Brecker Brothers and were already influenced by them when our rhythm section played with Randy. We did a couple of small tours here in Europe with him, and he's also a guest soloist on a couple of songs. Randy is very supportive and enthusiastic about our music and that helps us feel that we’re on the right track.

LJN: What is the group’s musical philosophy?

CM: We love to give the albums a live vibe so, the philosophy is: just play! Drums, bass and keys are recorded in the studio together, in one take, to keep it vibrant and direct. Also during a live performance it is the same philosophy: just play! No fooling around, giving all your energy and inspire the audience. (That's actually why the first CD is entitled Full Power).

LJN: Who composes the tunes and songs and how do they come together?

CM: Lucky band we are! Frans, Coen and Sebastiaan all write songs. They all write separately, then Evelyn, our vocalist gets the songs in her e-mail from all the guys and writes lyrics. Once in a while, a guest singer writes stuff too. It’s nice to have this variety of composers in one band.

LJN: Steve Lukather, of Toto, has been very generous in his praise for Tristan, describing your music as the best of the 1970s brought into the current age. How did you make the connection with him?

CM: Sebastiaan, the drummer, was a big Toto fan when he was young. He got in contact with their drummer, Jeff Porcaro, who thought Sebastiaan was very talented. Jeff was going to give him some lessons, but unfortunately Jeff died. This was a big blow for the band. Ever since then, Sebastiaan has sent Steve Lukather all the music he recorded and when Steve heard Tristan he was so enthusiastic and wrote Sebastiaan a long e-mail… we are sooo very proud and grateful about what he said. We’ll never forget that moment!

LJN: Do you have plans for a new album?

CM: After making an album a year for four years we needed a little break, but album five will be released spring 2019.

LJN: What would you like the audience to take away from the gig (aside from CDs)?

CM: We want the audience to leave our concerts feeling charged with positive energy, inspired and longing for more!

Rob Adams has been working with JPN and Dutch Prforming Arts (PodiumkunsteNL) to help promote the Going Dutch bands. Going Dutch is set to continue into 2019

Tour dates:

1 July: Colchester Arts Centre Jazz Club
2 July: Pizza Express, Holborn, London
6 July: Harrogate Festival
13 July: Tall Ships Stage, Sunderland
29 September: The Brook, Southampton
30 September: Wall2Wall, Abergavenny


LINK: Tristan's website

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REVIEW: David Byrne - American Utopia at New Theatre Oxford

David Byrne onstage at New Theatre, Oxford, 2018
Drawing © Geoff Winston 2018. All Rights Reserved

David Byrne, American Utopia
(New Theatre Oxford, 14 June 2018. Review and drawings by Geoff Winston)

In the cosy setting of Oxford's old-style, proscenium arch New Theatre the opening concert of David Byrne's UK tour of American Utopia was impressive. Impressive for its staging, its ambitious concept integrating complex choreography with live musical execution, achieved because all the musicians are wireless hence completely mobile onstage, and for the excellence of Byrne's material, focused on the recent album (from which the tour takes its name) and also dipping in generously to the Talking Heads songbook.

While American Utopia expresses that oblique slant on the everyday and on the political which defined Talking Heads' unique position in the alternative scene of the late '70s and '80s, Byrne has moved on ambitiously in the way he has thought about presentation and this is what gives this live show – and it is a show, rather than a gig – its character. The opening moments, when the walls on three sides of the stage were mechanically raised from ground level to form a floor-to-ceiling chain mail curtain around the stage, were a statement of sophisticated intent. A low spot picked out Byrne sitting at a simple, black-topped table on the stark stage, disconcertingly holding a model brain, as he set the dramatic tone with Here.

Byrne was joined first by his two singers and then by the full band of musicians – six percussionists, bass and lead guitar – all dressed in light grey Kenzo suits throughout the performance. Annie B Parson's exuberant choreography was imposed with military precision, simultaneously offering the contradictions of freedom and discipline to the free-to-roam musicians. Circular and rectangular formation patterns coalesced and dissolved in ever-changing groupings, echoing the traditions of the old-time military bands.

Dramatic theatrical devices were utilised. During a joyous rendition of Once in a Lifetime – one of several Talking Heads favourites which delighted the audience – only hands and limbs were extended surreally through the chain mail walling, recalling the Can Do Dance Company's staging of And Who Shall Go To The Ball? (with its score by Scott Walker).

Lighting was employed with exemplary restraint to maximum effect, with all performers forming a line across the width of the stage and, bathed in red light, slowly moved forward to enhance the uncomfortable political observation lurking in Dog's Mind. In Blind, giant shadows of Byrne and his band were thrown on to the stage's back wall. During Bullet, an eerily nonchalant, yet painstaking reflection on the course of a bullet into its victim (it brings to mind Kennedy's assassination, amongst others), Byrne was alone on stage next to a bare-bulbed standard lamp.

Byrne's voice is, if not the same, certainly as good as it ever was – crisp, emphatic, quirkily idiosyncratic, and his co-musicians rose to the challenge of infusing each song with dynamic, percussive energy. Byrne's songwriting is also as strong as it ever was, with new repertoire sitting comfortably in tandem with classics. The non-stop medley was the vehicle for a melting pot of gleeful virtuosity and passionate projection, with each musician given full rein as they broke out for solo bursts. Byrne, too, briefly took up guitar – a red acoustic for Burning Down The House.

Byrne describes his American Utopia project as a coming-to-terms with the successes and failures of the historic and future American Dream, and the live American Utopia experience is a coming to terms with the possibilities of presenting cultural challenge through the medium of a song and dance-theatrical proposition, at the same time capable of throwing the cards up in the air and just enjoying the possibilities – reasons not only to be cheerful (Byrne's tribute to Ian Dury's song is a side project), but for the ecstatic audience to bring the ensemble back for three explosive songs, including Dancing Together, with lyrics entirely from the mouth of disco fanatic, Imelda Marcos, and Janelle Monaé's Hell You Talmbout with its list of names linked to the Black Lives Matter campaign and rallies.

Giant shadows cast on stage wall during Blind; David Byrne, Oxford, 2018
Drawing © Geoff Winston 2018. All Rights Reserved

Musicians

David Byrne – vocals and guitar
Chris Giarmo and Tendayi Kuumba – vocals
Gustavo Di Dalva, Daniel Freedman, Aaron Johnston, Tim Keiper, Mauro Refosco, Davi Vieira – percussion
Karl Mansfield – portable keyboards
Angela Johnson-Swan – guitar
Bobby Wooten – bass guitar

Set list (via Setlist.fm)

Here
Lazy
I Zimbra
Slippery People
I Should Watch TV
Dog's Mind
Everybody's Coming to My House
This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)
Once in a Lifetime
Doing the Right Thing
Toe Jam
Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)
I Dance Like This
Bullet
Every Day Is a Miracle
Like Humans Do
Blind
Burning Down the House
Encore 1
Dancing Together
The Great Curve
Encore 2
Hell You Talmbout

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PREVIEW: Nik Bärtsch's Ronin (new album Awase and appearances at Love Supreme, Turner Sims and the EFG London Jazz Festival

Nik Bärtsch's Ronin
Photo credit: Jonas Holthaus/ ECM

Nik Bärtsch's new album Awase (ECM) is the first with his Ronin group in six years, and Ronin’s first with a new bass player in a new quartet formation. AJ Dehany, for LondonJazz News, caught up with the Swiss pianist and composer via Skype to discuss his distinctive ‘ritual groove music’.   

LondonJazz News: What has changed since the last Ronin album? There’s a continuation musically and personally but in that time a lot has changed in the world politically...  

Nik Bärtsch: I always found what you do is political in a sense. Even when you’re not ‘political’, what you do is always political because you do it in the community. The way we work to really create a community was always my statement of not being forced by the music industry to just follow the usual schedule of rehearsal-tour-album-tour. We took our time, played a lot in my club Exil in Zürich where we perform every Monday. We made fine tunings for the new social organism that Ronin is musically. Some of the new pieces are kind of complex to play and to feel neutrally free in the overlapping of the rhythmic and harmonic cycles.

LJN: Are you still calling it ‘ritual groove music’?  

NB:  It’s not so much a style than an attitude and a certain musical strategy. You find these ways of combining grooves, patterns, modular ways of playing but also this kind of urban flair of merging influences in all sorts of music, from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring to David Byrne’s and Brian Eno’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. This is for me ritual groove music too. It is not an invention by me, it’s just a way how to hear and to look at music and music production. It has a lot to do with a certain ritualistic and tribal energy but also with a way of combining rhythms, patterns, and groove phenomena, groove as a collective ownership, as composer Heiner Goebbels once said.

LJN: There are paradoxes in the live approach mixing improvisation and composition to create ‘ritual’ music. How do you concentrate in the moment?  

NB: It’s a mixture of having strong training but then letting everything go and really listening. The structure gives us a lot of possibilities for micro-phrasing, ghost notes, little changes, inventions, dramaturgies that are spiralling up through the pickups. It needs a lot of group focus and training to finally just let it happen naturally. You cannot force these dramaturgies, they need to grow out of the band and the musical flow.

LJNIs this why you went for a live album format previously?  

NB: Exactly. The band has a certain live character and as we know bands need to play if they want to develop and they want to have a band sound. You really need to play a lot to expose yourself to an audience on several places. In the studio of course we have a specific sound that shows maybe a bit more purity in the compositions but the band is a live band and we wanted to show this aspect. I think that’s very important. It’s not a project, it’s a band.

LJN: You can hear on this album producer Manfred Eicher's characteristic live way of recording things: the articulation on the clarinet, the frets on the bass, and of course your vocal shouts. What are you indicating at those moments…to go to the next bit?  

NB: I’m just screaming because that’s just the simplest way; people don’t have to constantly look. Wherever they are in their trance playing their instrument we find the next curve to go into the next part. Sometimes you want that part a bit longer or sometimes something is developing very nicely and then you need a clear sign. That’s the idea of this modular music. You really have the possibility to change things, to stretch them or to shorten them, very much dramaturgically. I like it when you hear that. There’s nothing to hide: it should be real, and straight!

LJN: The new album’s title Awase - moving together - is a term from aikido. Is that still as important as ever to you in your practice?  

NB: Very much. We can change the view on musical physical interaction that we often learn in the music schools: from the interpreter embodiment to the improviser embodiment. Invent the music together by playing it naturally without scores although you maybe learned it with scores. You need to kick the ladder away that helped you to climb up the stairs of understanding the music mentally and physically. Then you get free in playing. You play the composition like and improvisation. That was the basic idea, so that in a way the band organism is the star and not an individual player.

LJN: To what extent do the other musicians follow those rituals outside of just the musical expression of those rituals?  

NB: We are in a very open community so it’s not ideologically fixed! We are not a commune but a musical tribe. We have our Monday session where we play together, we eat together, we have monthly meetings where we talk about things that are socio-musically important for the band. As you know, it’s difficult to keep a band together more than ten years! So this is actually very important for us to talk about all the needs and wishes and the goals and perspectives we have together, then finally you can hear in the music this trust between each other.

LJN: How the important was the departure of bass player Björn Meyer? Does this affect the choices that you make compositionally?  

NB: I like Björn very much. We still sometimes perform with him as a guest and he did his solo shows in my own club in Zürich. He’s still a very good friend but in that time because of a private situation we changed and Thomy Jordi and him were also there already good friends. Thomy plays completely differently from Björn. He likes a more reduced pop/rock way of really playing the pattern while Björn brought a lot of ghost notes and notes in a certain way of subdivision. It’s a fundamental change in the basics of the whole music.

LJN: Does the notion of ‘rhythmic games’ that you’ve played with in the past have a different approach to your own are you writing specifically with the musicians in mind or do you have an idea and then try and fit it to the musicians?   

NB: The drummer Kaspar Rast and I have played together since we are kids. I learn a lot from him. I know how he is playing things and I try to challenge him constantly. I know the band very well and know what the players can do. For example, with the bass clarinet, not a lot of players can do what Sha does; it’s a specific percussive technique, beatboxing on the clarinet. The pieces are composed and should be coherent and formally clear without the band in the sense that the content of the composition should be strong enough but we also want to have the band as an organism that has a certain character and a certain freedom to develop the pieces.

LJN: There is an academic called Holger Hennig, who has mathematically proven how when two or more players improvise whatever they play will affect everything that happens elsewhere in the improvisation. He’s mathematically proven how a decision early on will affect something later on.  

NB: That’s what I admired in some really interesting people who were composing, improvising and also creating band sounds. For example, Miles Davis always had this consciousness for the detail, the precision, but always in the context of the whole concert. In a Miles concert usually there was a huge dramaturgy so it was not like piece by piece, talking-next piece-talking-medium piece-talking-fast piece-talking-ballad. It was kind of a trip, and the trip could change but you knew there was a beat where you go to where you’d have strong and sensual direction for the whole concert that captures the audience. (pp)

Nik Bärtsch in 2016
Photo credit: Christian Senti/ ECM

AJ Dehany is based in London and writes independently about music, art and stuff. ajdehany.co.uk

Awase is released on ECM. Ronin will be playing at Love Supreme on 1 July, at Turner Sims Southampton on 9 November, and at Ronnie Scott’s during the EFG London Jazz Festival on 19 November.  

LINK: Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin

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NEWS: 2018 Ed Renshaw Music Award – applications invited

Ed Renshaw

Peter Bacon reports:

The 2018 Ed Renshaw Music Award, the bi-annual award in memory of the young musician whose guitar talents were acclaimed and who died far too young, is being offered for the third time and applications are needed in the next fortnight.

Set up in memory of Renshaw by his family and friends in 2012, the award is intended to help young musicians in South East London to achieve their potential. The Albany performing arts centre in Deptford, together with Peter Conway Management and, for the first time this year, Youth Music, are behind the award.

PREVIOUS WINNERS

The first winners in 2014 were drummer David Dyson and singer/songwriter Lucy Cait. In 2016 there were three winners: singer/songwriter/guitarist Jay Johnson, DJ/producer Blinkz Virgo and singer/songwriter Megan Tuck.

BACKGROUND

The press release gives the background: “Ed Renshaw was a gifted musician. He was born in Greenwich in 1981 and went to Thomas Tallis School. At the age of 10 he discovered the guitar, decided that music was to be his life, and worked at it with total commitment. He had a rare talent for the instrument, equally fluent in classical, jazz and other styles. But he also struggled bravely against bouts of depression until tragically one ended his life in 2011.”

Winners of the award not only receive cash prizes of between £1,000 and £3,000 to help fund their careers, but also mentoring and industry support from Peter Conway Management, and space to practise and perform at the Albany, as well as artist development support.

Winners will also be a part of four ‘Evenings for Ed’: charity gig events at the Albany, taking place from Wednesday 31 October to Saturday 3 November with headline acts to be announced later this year.

The award is for young musicians, whether they be solo artists or in a group, between the ages of 16 and 25 who live in South East London. The judging panel is made up of representatives from the Albany, Peter Conway Management and Ed’s family and friends. They are looking for artists who not only display musical talent and performance skills, but also original music, savvy business plans and a passion to forge a successful musical career.

HOW TO APPLY

Application forms can be found on The Albany website. Applications close on Thursday 28 June. Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed by the awards panel on Saturday 14 July.

LINKS: 

The announcement of the award

Ed Renshaw R.I.P.

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CD REVIEW: The Besser 3 – Time Travels


The Besser 3 – Time Travels
(Forcefield Studios. CD review by Nick Davies)

The Besser 3 are a jazz band originating from New Zealand and their latest offering intrigued your reviewer for two reasons: firstly, because New Zealand jazz is very rarely heard in the United Kingdom and, secondly, the record is described as classical jazz rather than simply jazz.

The band was formed by John Besser (a New York City native) who has lived in New Zealand most of his life. He was a founding member of the electronic group Free Radicals and has spent much of his career composing film scores in collaboration with leading writers, choreographers, musicians, artists and film makers.

The album Time Travels runs to 11 tracks with titles like Who's Counting and Three Monks. The question is whether this should really be classed as "classical jazz". To me, this is a jazz album with some hidden twists. Not outstanding in my opinion, but the music is very good and an enjoyable listen.

Throughout the album, John’s piano and Daniel Christopher’s electric bass dominate with either driving the rhythm, although in Three Monks Electric the guitar is brought to the fore. At times, it is very cinematic and, in tracks like Klezmatized, it has an added folky 1920s feel. Having said that, it is not always about looking back to the history of jazz. Three Monks, for example, is very funky while One Two Three is straight out of the circus. Overall, The Besser 3’s great swing ability adds interest to this release.

As already stated, this album ticks all the right boxes musically but it is not a classic. In order to stand out in jazz today, there has to be a unique element which is sadly lacking here. The songs show a sense of fun and are played to a very high standard but they are not memorable. Overall, I believe people will enjoy this album, but it may not have longevity. I do, however, suspect The Besser 3 is a band to look out for with really great things to come.

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CD REVIEW: Matt Anderson Quartet – Rambling


Matt Anderson Quartet – Rambling
(Jellymould Jazz JJ030. CD Review by Jon Turney)

Confession: I find there’s an oversupply of new jazz these days. Now the music is installed in the conservatoires, each year brings a heavy crop of new bands – fresh graduates eager to strut their stuff. Nearly all of them record, then tour. But while the system turns out crowds of great players, good writing is more elusive. Lots of bands work through all-original sets where the material gives them little to work with. The seasoned listener finds most briefly enjoyable, then forgettable.

So it’s a pleasure to report that saxophonist Matt Anderson’s second release is a shining exception to all this. That’s not a surprise – opening (and closing) track Jig, Jag, Jug, won the small ensemble category of the Dankworth prize for composition last year. But the other eight titles are of similar quality. There are memorable melodies, adeptly interwoven influences from Scandinavia (Nordic Blue – think Scandi-noir crime stories as well as music), and folk and country music, and thoughtful arrangements. The rhythmic invention is pure jazz, but the approach is still subtle, well-measured. The prevalent mood is pastoral, yet rugged – hence a temptation to invoke the Yorkshire moors, where Anderson grew up.

The billing as the Matt Anderson quartet slightly undersells the recording. The basic foursome – Anderson on tenor, Pete Lee on piano, Will Harris on double-bass and Jay Davis on drums – expands to a sextet or septet on several tracks. Owen Dawson’s trombone, Aubin Vanns’ guitar and Nick Malcolm’s trumpet fill out the sound beautifully and allow Anderson to broaden his compositional scope.

All get their chance to shine and Malcolm, in particular, contributes a couple of scene-stealing solos. The quartet pieces are equally well-realised, and feature plenty of the leader’s unhurriedly stylish saxophone playing, occupying a territory somewhere between Wayne Shorter and Mark Turner. He can deliver an ear-catching tenor sax flourish, but knows the value of understatement and uses it well. Overall, the sound he explores here is the modern mainstream, all-acoustic music, devoid of any treated sounds or urban beats. This is solidly-crafted small group jazz that knows its history, but wears its learning lightly. It holds the attention partly through the flawless integration of all the elements making up the group sound, partly through the uniformly excellent playing inspired by the leader’s compositions.

LINKS: Matt Anderson’s quartet resume a UK-wide tour on June 20 at the Vortex, with guests. Later dates here.

Review of an earlier quartet date here.

Jon Turney writes about jazz, and other things, from Bristol. jonturney.co.uk.  Twitter: @jonWturney 

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REVIEW: Simone Craddock at Crazy Coqs

Simone Craddock
Photo credit: Emrys Baird

Simone Craddock
(Crazy Coqs, 9 June 2018. Review by Kate Delamere)

In a slinky red sparkly dress looking like a version of femme fatale Jessica Rabbit, glamorous Australian-born jazz singer Simone Craddock promised much when she hit the stage at London’s Crazy Coqs on Sunday night. Singer, songwriter and actress, this lady’s been busy and showcased a variety of original compositions of songs from contemporary artists from the worlds of pop and jazz, as well as featuring her own.

A combo of God Save the Queen/Queen’s We Will Rock You and Duffy’s Mercy provided a punchy opening, along with an inventive version of Creep by Radiohead. But by the time she sang Almost Blue by Elvis Costello, I was feeling almost blue in spite of the more-than-competent talents of Alex Hutton on the piano and Nick Pini on bass.

I found myself drifting away from Simone’s sweet tones, feeling there was something missing… that elusive spark. Nothing was wrong, just nothing right..

It’s No Big Deal, sang Simone defiantly, in her own song, but it was.

There was something a tad too slick about her performance, too neatly reminiscent of a West End musical, but then, of course, she is an actress with leading roles under her belt in shows from Dirty Dancing to Hello Dolly! And sadly, I’m no fan of all-singing, all-dancing musicals…

Perhaps I expected too much. After all, a brief look around the audience revealed rapt, captivated faces, hanging on her every note; and she can certainly hit high ones. And some of her compositions were not to be sniffed at, clever and unique, imprinting her stamp. Songs that stood out – Back to Black by Amy Winehouse, Careless Whisper by George Michael, The Man With the Child in His Eyes by Kate Bush, Life on Mars by David Bowie. But then with classic contemporary songs like that, how could she go wrong?

And yet what the performance lacked, at times, the intimate venue – with its Art Deco setting, winding staircases made for big entrances and photographs of past stars – more than made up for.

I’d thoroughly recommend soaking up the atmosphere of this special venue with a pre-show supper in the grand Parisian-style Brasserie Zédel. Not only does it offer good value French food but also friendly attentive waiters, who, if you’re enjoying yourself too much, ensure you get to your table to watch the show in time.

But back to Simone. In actress mode, she kept the crowd entertained in between songs with an assortment of accents. But I came to hear her sing. "Less acting, more song," I wanted to heckle. "Whatever you want me to be," smiled Simone to her audience at one point. And therein the problem may lie; I fervently wanted her to come down on one side or the other.

I wish I’d stayed for her combo of Here Comes The Sun and Something by George Harrison. But the evening became too much like musical theatre.

I’m sorry, it wasn’t you Simone, it was me.


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REVIEW: Burton Greene at Cafe Oto

Burton Greene at Cafe Oto
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2018. All Rights reserved.
Burton Greene
(Cafe Oto, 11 June 2018 (night one of two-day residency). Review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

In 1966, improvising pianist and composer, Burton Greene, hit the ground running with his headline debut for ESP with a quartet that included bassist Henry Grimes and Marion Brown on alto sax. The group's dynamic playing had its roots in the Free Form Improvisation Ensemble of which Greene was a founder member with Alan Silva, and his subsequent involvement in the Jazz Composers Guild which Bill Dixon formed before it morphed in to the higher profile Jazz Composers Orchestra. Greene went on to record with Patty Waters, notably on her groundbreaking track Black is the Colour of my True Love's Hair, on her ESP debut, also from 1966.

Greene, originally from Chicago, settled, via New York, in Amsterdam (on a houseboat) in the early 70s and six months ago made an impact with his energy and invention performing with Patty Waters at Cafe Oto (LINK), on the strength of which he was invited to return for this two-day solo residency.

About to celebrate his 81st birthday (14 June, he made the point that he was a Gemini, along with Miles…), on his first night he demonstrated that there was no dimming of his curiosity and invention, far from it! A highly accomplished pianist ('a professional improvising musician' as he puts it), in several engaging reflections and anecdotes he built up a sense of how immersed he was in the avant-garde jazz scene in New York, mentioning Cecil Taylor and Ornette as torch-bearers. To this day he is a continuing advocate of its ethos and also explained how the Afro American musicians at the time actively encouraged his adventurous approach as a young musician. "Keeping the form is not that important, " they would say, "what is important is being personal."

A long-term collaborator with Cologne-based singer Silke Röllig, and also with flautist Tilo Baumeier, Greene delved in to several of their compositions, as well as his own, visiting Baumeier's Lost Monk Songbook, to put his emphatic spin on these idiosyncratic reflections on Monk. As with pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach, Monk sits highest in the firmament. "The greatest musicians of the 20th century are Béla Bartok and Thelonious Monk," Greene said, as he introduced his second set, following up by saying that the piano is his favourite teacher, telling him "there's something nice here, what will it sound like there? You just have to get your ego out of the way!"

Bon mots, humour and wise words abounded, but not to detract from Greene's powerful keyboard work, which had left hand leaping over his right, stretching and striding, as he mixed walking bass lines with quirky discord and even had left and right doing a call-and-response sequence. Touches of ragtime rhythm fell in with sprightly spontaneity, and space was cleared among dense cords in his unique interpretations of each piece. If he was not reading the scores his eyes were firmly fixed on the keys, as he brought the best out of Cafe Oto's Yamaha/Markson grand.

His final piece was his own richly textured Atomic Balm. "We've all got atomic energy, we might as well use it in a good way," as he added to his reflections on the state of the world, before an encore, Röllig's optimistic Say Yes and then an unscheduled twenty minutes of illuminating chat to the audience.

Burton Greene is back this evening (12 June) at Cafe Oto for what will undoubtedly be another excellent and engaging solo session.

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NEWS: Jon Hiseman (1944-2018) R.I.P.

Jon Hiseman playing at Pizza Express Jazz Club in Febuary 2018
Photo credit: Paul Wood

Peter Bacon reports:

The death has been announced of Jon Hiseman, drummer and leader of the jazz rock band Colosseum. According to an announcement by his family, he “passed away peacefully at 3.55 this morning”. In May he had been diagnosed with a brain tumour. He was 73.

Hiseman was born in London on 21 June 1944 and studied violin and piano until he was 13; he taught himself to play the drums. He was a founder member of the New Jazz Orchestra in 1964, and also played with the Graham Bond Organization and with Georgie Fame’s Blue Flames. After a period with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers he formed Colosseum, which operated between 1968 and 1971, followed by Colosseum II from ’75 to ’78. He reformed the band in 1994.

He married saxophonist Barbara Thompson and played in her band Paraphernalia from 1979. He also played in the United Jazz and Rock Ensemble from the mid-‘70s. His most recent project was the trio JCM (with guitarist Clem Clempson and bassist Mark Clarke).

John Hiseman was also a very active engineer, producer and label boss of TM Records.

His story was told in Martyn Hanson's biography, Playing The Band – The Musical Life of Jon Hiseman, published in 2010.

Tributes on Twitter include “a great drummer and human being” from Jan Akkerman, and “great drummer, lovely person” from Julian Lloyd Webber.

John Etheridge told LJN: "I'm so shocked by this. Jon was the most admirable and impressive man – band leader, fabulous drummer, composer, record producer, all-round positive energy – and, most importantly, inspirational and devoted carer for Barbara in her long illness – so much so that he became a world authority on caring for Parkinson's. Astonishing energy, vitality and intelligence – always able to solve a problem. I can't belive he's gone."

Here is the New York Times obituary.

LINK: Chris Parker's review of Playing The Band – The Musical Life of Jon Hiseman

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INTERVIEW/PREVIEW: Colin Riley - In Place (UK dates 13 June to 8 July)

Colin Riley
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Is it a suite? Is it a song cycle? Is it a spoken word project? Is it classical? Is it jazz? Is it electronica? AJ Dehany goes in search of the many unclassifiable things composer Colin Riley creates.

Composer Colin Riley’s album In Place is an eclectic texture of spoken word, music and field recordings woven together to create an immersive meditation on the nature of our relationship with place. It has been a called a song cycle, but it’s nothing like Schubert. To call it a suite downplays the stylistic and instrumental variety that makes it seem more than just a chamber sequence. It’s not quite a spoken word album, and its sonic interest goes beyond music.

“One of the problems I've had over the last 20 years,” Colin Riley told me in conversation, “is that I do something and somebody thinks they know what it is I’m doing and either gives it short shrift or dismisses it, but my problem is sometimes it's doing so many things at the same time that it's almost too difficult to explain in a soundbite.”

The album In Place is performed by a small ensemble but ranges widely from neoclassical writing to Viennese pizzicatos to ambient textures and electronic sound collage, with every element discreetly supporting and illustrating a series of texts that Colin commissioned from a selection of poets and writers who favour a unique and personal approach to place and landscape, be it rural, urban or wholly psychical. These poets are Paul Farley, Robert Macfarlane, Jackie Morris, Daljit Nagra, Selina Nwulu, Nick Papadimitriou, Autumn Richardson and Richard Skelton.

“I come from a classical world but I'm always mixing it up with jazz players or electronic musicians and in this case writers,” he says. The album is rich in vocal textures, from Colin’s unassuming Northern brogue to intricate layered harmonies from vocalist Melanie Pappenheim. She will reprise this role in live performance over a number of dates including one at London’s Kings Place. At the concert the composer will personally be there at the sound desk to oversee certain details of live production. “I like to get my hands dirty,” Colin says. In keeping with the album the voice will at times be treated. "There's a bit in Litany for the Furness Fells where she sings the tune backwards and I put some octave sounds on her voice.”

The live realisation will be familiar from the album as much of the music is scored, but there is room for interpretation in the vocals and some improvisation and plenty of swapping instruments from the rest of the ensemble. Nic Pendlebury’s playing on viola combines plain ancestral qualities and more modern harmonic language. Stephen Hiscock on percussion and Ruth Goller on basses create soft textural backings that are at once rhythmical and beyond time. The varied vocal and instrumental textures also provide a strong visual interest in what’s happening on stage. “It's got that sweet-shop approach,” Riley says, with sounds ranging from samples through to a harmonium. “My role is to stick it all together.”

Alongside the vocals, the recorded samples will be triggered from the stage by pianist Kate Halsall. They include spoken audio of the poems, and field recordings from the actual locations the texts speak about, from the Furness Fells to disused mines in Cornwall and Teesside, from dank pumping stations in Acton to rivers in the Cairngorms that seem to undergo an elemental deification.

The album is so poetically rich it conjures strong images in the mind already, so it’s interesting that film-makers inlcuding Sophie Dixon and Adam Scovell are at work creating a video response to the songs. Colin says: “This is a project, not just a piece of music. The idea that I'm responding to texts as a composer and now I'm passing the songs on for a response from film-makers.” Colin is hoping to accumulate film for all ten songs but he says has not yet decided if these films would play during performance when they tour the album again this autumn.

“I like the fact it’s got a foot in many camps. It’s slightly multimedia. It’s never totally one thing. That does mean it doesn’t fit easily for reviewers and promoters. That is my problem! But I refuse to do anything else because I think eventually someone's gonna get that and it's going to be original.”

One visual aspect that has proven popular with audiences is the projection of the words of the poems on screen. When we read poetry we can skip between lines in a way we can't when listening. For Colin projecting the words was initially “a way of showing respect to the poets, but it's turned into more”. Audiences have appreciated being able to "get every word" by seeing and hearing the language at the same time.

The setting of the writers’ work to music has caused ripples within their own practices. Daljit Nagra was fascinated by what Colin did to his poem Jaan Jalebi and he is considering reworking it for print. Paul Farley’s poem Moss led Colin to deeply consider the relationship between the white space of the written text and the musical sense of the spoken word. “That's important for me,” says Colin, describing the ten tracks that comprise the album, “they’re not just songs, they’re poems and songs and music. I wouldn’t say it’s a new art form because that would be a ridiculous claim to make, but the fact is that you don’t often see poetry projected like a page in a book.”

LINKS:
In Place is at King’s Place on 15 June at 8pm with a pre-concert talk at 7.15pm - BOOKINGS

In Place is released on Squeaky Kate Records 

Colin Riley's website

Remaining UK tour dates:

13 June, 8pm – Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast Book Festival
15 June, 8pm – Hall 1, Kings Place, London Time Unwrapped
8 July, 5pm – Parabola Arts Centre, Cheltenham Music Festival

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