PHOTOS: Peter Lemer, Jon Hiseman, John Surman, Alan Skidmore, Tony Reeves at Pizza Express

Peter Lemer
Photo credit: Paul Wood


Photographer Paul Wood was at Pizza Express to catch the Peter Lemer Quintet in the "Son of Local Colour" reunion. (More detail here.)  We will also have a full review of the gig from Geoff Winston.

Jon Hiseman
Photo credit: Paul Wood


John Surman and Alan Skidmore
Photo credit: Paul Wood


Tony Reeves
Photo credit: Paul Wood

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REVIEW: Tori Freestone's Birthday Gig at Pizza Express

Tori Freestone at Pizza Expres
Photo credit: José Carlos López Ruiz


Tori Freestone’s Birthday Gig
(Pizza Express, 13 February 2018. Review by Brianna McClean)

The audience was at capacity at Pizza Express Live, as saxophonist and flautist Tori Freestone celebrated her birthday in style with an evening of mellow jazz. Her soft-spoken and understated on-stage personality translates into music of a similar vein. The gig was in promotion of Tori’s new duo album, Criss-Cross, featuring Alcyona Mick on piano. Both these musicians, as well as members of Tori’s trio and special guests, performed with refreshing gracefulness.

The first part of the evening saw Tori Freestone and Alcyona Mick on stage together, showcasing their new album. The set included mostly self-composed pieces which while melodically interesting, were perhaps at times a little too cautious and mild. However during moments where the pace and vigour picked up, the strength of Tori and Alcyona’s partnership was clear. Tori’s precise technical ability was clear on both the flute and saxophone. Alcyona is a sensitive pianist, both responding well to Tori and carrying solos with ease. The duo invited the vocalist who features on their new album, Brigitte Beraha, on stage for a few track tracks. The instant vivacity and interest contributed by this addition highlighted the issue so many duos face - a lack of texture and range. The breathy soprano vocals were a welcome layer and revealed a certain feminine character present in the duo’s album. The final piece played by the duo was their title track, Criss-Cross, by Thelonious Monk. It was in this finale which the potential of this duo was evident - watching them loosen up and enjoy this light-hearted tune was a delight.

Tori’s trio, with drummer Tim Giles and bassist Dave Manington, featured in the second half of the evening. Their bright tone and tight rhythms saw much more head-nodding and toe-tapping from the audience than the duo’s performance. Tori’s easy-going nature still shone through the trio’s set, perhaps quieting some of the tension and energy in the pieces. The trio are all accomplished musicians and performers; they carried more rhythmically complicated pieces without hesitation. The group have released two albums, In the Chop House (2014) and El Barranco (2017). Like the performance last night, both records are marked by apt musicality and a cheerful disposition.

LINK: Tori Freestone's website 
New CD Criss Cross at Whirlwind Recordings

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INTERVIEW: Mark Cherrie (new album Joining The Dots)

Mark Cherrie
Photo Credit: Helen Jones
When you think jazz, you probably do not think of the subtropical sounds of a steel pan. And yet this is the instrument of choice for Mark Cherrie, an accomplished musician who is sure to make waves in the London jazz scene. It is his sound and story which make his latest album, Joining the Dots, a success. Brianna McClean, on behalf of London Jazz News, asked Mark a few questions about his career and the recent record.

LondonJazz News: : Congratulations on the release of your new album, Joining the Dots. What can listeners expect from this record?

Mark Cherrie: There is a diverse selection of tunes, including some jazz standards, ‘pop’ tunes and some original compositions too. All with a steel pan-led jazz quartet. Joining The Dots meant several things to me. It described how I was able to make a connection, between music straight out of the jazz canon and non-jazz music – interpreting all of it with a jazz sensibility. It also described how the album physically came about. The very kind offer of some free studio time led to recording all the material, as well as shooting a video and taking a set of photographs, in one day!

I hope that listeners will be taken on a musical journey through various of my own personal musical landmarks and come away thinking that the steel pan can be a valid jazz instrument.

LJN: How did you get to this point? What has the journey to this record been?

MC: I guess my previous work is a bit of a mixed bag really. I have done a lot of work as a steel pan player, working in mostly Caribbean musical settings. I also spent a long time writing for TV & film – the experience that I gained from having done such varied work has helped me to develop my own voice in a jazz setting. My philosophy is really to be as open as possible as a human being and to allow these influences, both musical and otherwise, to inform my playing.

LJN: The steel pan is a bit of an unusual instrument in the contemporary jazz scene. What has your experience been of specialising in this instrument?

MC: To my mind, the steel pan can function perfectly well, much like the role of a vibraphone, in a quartet. The problem comes with how other people view it. From non-musicians, I still have to field questions like, “Are they still made from dustbin lids?” (That was from a gig I did last week!). I believe that I have a unique voice on the steel pan, particularly in a jazz setting. Very few people seem to have managed to pull it off.

LJN: Does this album have an overall story or shape to it?

MC: I wouldn’t say that there was a narrative threading throughout the album but there is definitely a musical sensibility – there’s a lot of improvisation throughout and not just with the melodic instruments.

LJN: Tell me a bit about the other artists featured on the album? What is your dynamic as a group like?

MC: John Donaldson is an amazing piano player, easily one of this country’s finest. Eric Ford is a drummer that came into my orbit a few years ago but instantly I loved the guy’s playing. He is one of a few drummers in my experience that really listens to what everyone is playing and contributes sympathetically. Mick Hutton is a first-call double bass player on the jazz circuit and I have known him for many years now. Again, his experience of playing at the top level is almost unsurpassed. Then the guests too have an impressive pedigree. Dominic Grant has a unique voice on the nylon string guitar, a beautiful player. Dave O’Higgins is a saxophonist whose career I have followed over the years – I remember buying his debut album way before I was playing any jazz music myself. Nigel Price is an unbelievable guitar player, I was pleased that he was available to record with me. Finally, Sumudu was actually a recommendation of Dominic’s and she was absolutely masterful in the studio.

Mark Cherrie is a rising name in the London Jazz scene and given the breadth of his experience, someone to keep an eye on.

Joining the Dots was released earlier this month and is available *here*

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NEWS: Birmingham Jazz's 2018 Legends Festival celebrates Women in Jazz (April/May)

Alina Bzhezhinska
Publicity picture

Birmingham Jazz has chosen a theme in tune with the zeitgeist for its 2018 Legends Festival: Celebrating Women in Jazz. Peter Bacon reports:

The small voluntary organisation Birmingham Jazz has grown steadily in strength in recent years, taking one small part of the city - the Jewellery Quarter - as its stamping ground, and building a reputation among listeners and musicians alike for its dedication to diverse programming united by high quality, mostly presented in intimate surroundings.

This year's Legends Festival, bringing together contemporary players to salute their illustrious forebears, takes as its focus Women in Jazz, with a programme stretching across two weekends in May with a preview show at the end of April. With a couple of exceptions all the bands are female-led and the two that aren't feature female musicians.

The programme states: "This year’s Legends Festival marks Birmingham Jazz’s contribution to the centenary celebrations of when some women first got the vote - after pressure by the Suffragette Movement.

"Society is still not equal and jazz is no exception so as a small contribution to recognising the impact of women we feature some of today’s women players who demonstrate their own musical journeys and feature their own music but also music by others. Each band is either led by a woman or strongly features women players. Some players are returning and some are new to us..."

Here is the programme of events:

27 April - Alina Bzhezhinska Quartet

11 May - Dave Mannington's Riff Raff feat. Brigitte Beraha

12 May - Gwyneth Herbert Duo; Andrea Vicari feat Yazz Ahmed

13 May - Franki Dodwell - Acid Body; Trish Clowes - My Iris; Denys Baptiste feat Nikki Yeoh - Late Trane

19 May - Alicia Gardener-Trejo; Wendy Kirkland - Piano Divas; Helena Kay; Kate Williams & Georgia Mancio - Finding Home

20 May - Joey Walter - Me & 3; Juliet Kelly - Nina Simone; Two of a Mind - Allison Neale & Chris Biscoe

Most of the events are at 1000 Trades, Birmingham Jazz's regular venue, with a couple not far away.

LINK: Birmingham Jazz's Legends 18 website page

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PREVIEW/ INTERVIEW: Jost Lijbaart (Under The Surface Scottish Dates 22-24 Feb 2018)

Under the Surface
Photo credit: Juan Carlos Villarroel


Under the Surface is the latest group to visit the UK as part of the Jazz Promotion Network’s Going Dutch project. The trio’s spokesperson and drummer is Joost Lijbaart, who has toured over here with saxophonist Yuri Honing and has been a prominent player on the Dutch scene over the past twenty-five years. The group also features guitarist Bram Stadhouders, whom some readers might know from his work with Norwegian singer Sidsel Endresen and the Norwegian percussionist and ice concert maestro Terje Isungset, alongside a relatively new Dutch talent, vocalist Sanne Rambags. Five questions from Rob Adams:


LJN: How did Under the Surface come together?

JL: Beaux Jazz, a project that offers young musicians an opportunity to collaborate with more experienced players, selected our singer, Sanne Rambags, to be part of its Next Generation strand. The idea is that the younger musicians are given carte blanche to create something with players who are already established. So Sanne selected the guitarist Bram Stadhouders, who I knew a little bit, and myself, giving us three musicians from different generations.

LJN: What were your first impressions?

JL:  The minute we started to play I felt we had something special. There was a review of our gig at Rotterdam Jazz International on London Jazz News that picked up very well on Sanne’s almost shamanistic style of singing, like’s she’s calling up ancient spirits. I thought she had something really interesting there and with Bram’s sense of space, we were creating something I’d had an idea of doing for quite a long time yet it was very natural, unforced.

LJN: Is the music you make completely spontaneous?

JL: It’s mostly spontaneous. Before we recorded our album I went walking in the forest near where I live and tried to imagine recreating the atmospheres in different parts of the forest. I also spent quite a lot of time in my rehearsal room working on rhythms and working out what percussion instruments, aside from the drum kit, would work best. Sanne sometimes brings a poem, like John Donne’s No Man is an Island or texts by American Modernist poet Wallace Stevens, that suggests rhythm and we’ll use these as a basis. It’s not free jazz, more spontaneous composition worked up from sketches.

LJN: What has been the highlight of the band so far?

JL: There have been a few but one that particularly stands out is being invited to play at the Festival on the Niger, in Mali. This led to festival appearances in Mexico, China and India but it also gave us the opportunity to play with kora player Mamadou Sidiki Diabaté, the younger brother of kora master Toumani Diabaté, and that turned out to be a very compatible group and a really enjoyable experience. World music promoters seem to have taken to what we do and that’s opened doors we never really expected to open.

LJN: We’re hearing quite a lot about Dutch jazz at the moment, especially with the Going Dutch project going on throughout this year; what are your impressions of the scene?

JL:  It got a bit quiet for a few years but for the past five to eight years there’s been quite a buzz about the scene generally. There are a lot of young players coming through, people like Kapok, who I think toured over here recently, and there are a couple of pianists, Kaja Draksler and Dominic J Marshall, who are not Dutch but live in Amsterdam and are getting attention as Dutch residents. It’s good for someone like me because I might not have got to work with Sanne and Bram if there weren’t these young musicians and projects like Beaux Jazz and Going Dutch that bring them to the fore.

Rob Adams is consulting to the Going Dutch project, and has helped Jost Lijbaart to put the group’s short Scottish tour together.

Under the Surface Scotish Tour Dates

The Blue Lamp, Aberdeen on Thursday, 22nd February
Eyemouth Hippodrome, Friday 23rd February
The Blue Arrow, Glasgow, Saturday 24th February

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INTERVIEW: DAVID FERRIS (new Septet album and tour starts 26 Feb)

The David Ferris Septet with Maria Väli – going out on the road.
Photo credit: © Emily Dove

David Ferris is a familiar figure on the Birmingham scene at the keyboard in many different situations, from Ben Lee’s Quintet to Birmingham Jazz Orchestra and the funk-jazz trio Three Step Manoevre. In addition he co-promotes with Chris Young the weekly Tuesday night sessions at The Spotted Dog which have developed a reputation for great gigs. Now David has stepped out front to lead his own band, a Septet plus One. There’s an album and a tour. He spoke to Peter Bacon

LondonJazz News: You’ve been very active on the Birmingham scene for a good few years but with the Septet you really step out front as leader with your own name there in the title of the band. What took you so long? (Are you a more natural collaborator - as in Three Step Manoeuvre?)

David Ferris: I hadn't even thought of it like that to be honest! The idea of putting together some kind of larger ensemble had been kicking around in my head pretty much since I graduated from Birmingham Conservatoire in the Summer of 2015. I had some vague notions of some music I'd like to write in my head – things involving counterpoint and richer colours that would benefit from more voices in the band. It took a while to get going – I'm pretty awful at getting on with the writing without some kind of deadline – so eventually I booked a couple of gigs in Birmingham in October 2016 to force me to sort it out (if I remember rightly I wrote a tune on the morning of the first gig...)

They were great though – the band were a hoot to play with, the tunes seemed to bed in really well and the audience response was really positive. In my head I think I'd almost been viewing them as a trial run, and if I had a good time I'd keep doing it!

I guess you are right though – I am definitely more naturally inclined to be a collaborator, but I think my experience in these collaborative groups (Three Step Manoeuvre, Birmingham Jazz Orchestra, Ferris/Lee/Weir, etc) as well as doing a fair few projects as a sideman have hopefully made me a better bandleader now. I hope this band still works as a democracy though – with a group of guys in the band like I'm lucky to have, I'd be an idiot not to listen to them!

David Ferris
Photo credit: © Emily Dove

LJN: The Septet is a real showcase for your writing. How do you go about composing, from what do you take inspiration, and who are your chief influences as a composer?

DF: I always find this a really tricky question to answer! I don't think I really have a process to be honest – some things seem to just write themselves naturally and some require weeks of teasing in really technical and nerdy ways. However I find I'm rarely drawn to music for technical reasons, and I suppose what really inspires me is hearing some kind of human warmth?  I've just had a look at the 'recently listened' on my iTunes for some suggestions of what that actually means, and it told me I've been checking out a lot of Wayne Shorter, The Beatles, John Scofield and Paul Simon – they all definitely fit the bill for me even though musically speaking they're pretty diverse. I don't think I write particularly complex music – I love old-fashioned song forms, riffs, and Blakey tunes too much I guess – but I feel you can get a lot out of the simpler things. Maybe part of this comes from playing funk music with Three Step Manoeuvre – James Brown taught us that if you've played one chord for five minutes, going to the next chord is going to feel massive, even if it's the 'most obvious' chord you could choose!

LJN: Tell us about the other seven musicians, how you chose them, what you value in their contributions (and maybe explain why this is an eight-piece septet)?

DF: I'm a pretty happy man about this – I feel like I've put together some kind of Midlands all-stars!  I think what drew me to the other musicians was probably the same thing I talked about before – they are all such warm and beautiful communicators, in different ways.  Take the horn players as a starting point – Richard Foote on trombone has this incredible extrovert excitement coupled with an absolute discipline in the ensemble playing, Vittorio Mura on tenor and bari has an incredible breadth of inflection and colour that sounds like a history of the instrument in one person, Hugh Pascall on trumpet has the most beautiful, elegant and melodic delivery I know, and finally Chris Young on alto is an absolute fireball of energy at all times.

Then Euan Palmer and Nick Jurd are the perfect rhythm section, equally happy laying down grooves as they are pushing the ensemble and soloists. Basically I've put together a band where I'm happy to just sit back and listen! For the upcoming tour and album the final crucial element was our special guest vocalist, Maria Väli. Maria is Estonian and is based in Tallinn, but I first met her as part of the exchange with Trondheim Conservatory whilst I was studying at Birmingham. We played together at Cheltenham and Molde Jazz Festivals, and, thanks to the help of Tony Dudley-Evans, we managed to get her back over for Cheltenham again the following year. Since then I've been looking for an opportunity to work with her again – she can sing literally anything (look up the group Estonian Voices if you want to see a thorough representation of what the human voice can do!) but she does it so beautifully and with such an astonishing versatility of approaches that I just knew she would be the perfect singer for just about any music I might throw at her!

LJN: The band has its first CD coming out and a substantial tour beginning soon. Give us an idea of what we can expect…

DF: Yes! A large part of the impetus behind the writing for this album came from my love of songwriters, and the craft of creating something that feels like it can be called a 'song.' This goes right back to the people who wrote the standards – Jerome Kern, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Harold Arlen et al. I think it's easy to forget but next time you get a chance just have another listen to something we take for granted like All The Things You Are or My Foolish Heart and just see how perfectly it all fits together – the melody, the harmony, the words, the structure. There's something of that crystalline perfection in Lennon/McCartney as well – Can't Buy Me Love is barely two minutes long but says everything it wants to!

Then I think two of the biggest influences on me are probably Paul Simon and Donald Fagen – both of them have a way of taking a slightly oblique lyric and using the music to make it mean something to us, even if we're not sure what that is! I was desperate to tap into this with the music for the album but didn't trust my skills as a lyricist, so I turned to some of the most beautiful words I knew, and set to music poetry by Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, WH Auden and WB Yeats. The album's title, Alphabets, comes from a Heaney poem about him learning to write, and falling in love with words and letters. It felt relevant to my experience with music too! There are a couple of other things on there as well – Chorale is the result of some thoroughly unqualified messing about I did with classical counterpoint, and Fred is a tribute to one of my heroes, Fred Hersch. But hopefully it's all music that will make people feel good – I really want to channel that warmth all my idols have and communicate with the listener.

LJN: Any particular thank-yous, you’d like to make public?

DF: So many! Making a band like this work doesn't happen without lots of help. To Help Musicians UK/Peter Whittingham Award and Arts Council England for helping to fund the tour – it takes quite a lot to keep eight people housed fed and watered on tour. To the Estonian Embassy in the UK for helping us get Maria over – it's the 100th anniversary of the birth of Estonia this year and they're doing loads of great work to celebrate. To Alexis Ffrench at Uppingham School for letting us use their beautiful Recital Room and Fazioli piano to record on absolutely free of charge, Phil Woods at Symphony Hall for all his help securing funding and for putting up with me not ever understanding how to fill in forms, Luke Morrish-Thomas for capturing the vibe of the music so perfectly in recording, Carys Boughton for the stunning artwork (feels like a waste that it's just going on an album cover!) and finally to the musicians themselves for just being wonderful.

TOUR DATES

February
26 - North Devon Jazz Club, Appledore
27 - St Ives Jazz Club, Cornwall
28 - Restormel Arts, St Austell, Cornwall

March
1 - NewGen Jazz, Cambridge
2 - Symphony Hall, Birmingham
4 - JazzLeeds
5 - Jazz at the Peer Hat, Manchester
6 - Jazz at the Spotted Dog, Birmingham
7 - The Flute and Tankard, Cardiff
8 - The Vortex, London

The new CD, Alphabets, will be available on the tour and on David's website, and on general release before too long.

LINK: David Ferris's website

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INTERVIEW: Elliot Galvin (The Influencing Machine album and tour)

Tom McCredie, Elliot Galvin and Corrie Dick
Publicity picture

Elliot Galvin has released his third album, The Influencing Machine (Galvin keyboards & electronics; Tom McCredie bass & guitar; Corrie Dick drums), and is about to take the music on tour. He spoke to Sebastian:

London Jazz News: Tell us about the new album. It was inspired by a book you stumbled across, is that right?

Elliot Galvin: Yep, I was looking for material to inspire some new music and I stumbled across this amazing book by Mike Jay at the Welcome Collection in London. The book was called The Influencing Machine, it’s an historical account of the life of James Tilly-Matthews, born in 1770, a double agent at the time of the French civil war, tea merchant, political thinker, architect and first fully documented case of a paranoid schizophrenic who was committed to Bethlem psychiatric hospital in 1797.

Tilly-Matthews’ life was a web of espionage and delusion, coinciding with many of the key events of his time: the French revolution, the rise of mesmerism, and the change in societal thinking towards the mentally ill, to name just a few. He was the first documented case of someone who believed their mind was being controlled by a machine and was intelligent and articulate enough to describe this machine in incredible detail. There were so many parallels between his life and the times we live in now I felt I had to write something inspired by it.

LJN: So would you describe it as a concept album?

EG: To some extent I think of everything I write as a concept piece really. For me there has to be some grit of an idea holding everything together. It really helps focus my writing when I know what I’m writing about. I like to build rules and structures and then create freely inside them.




LJN: Some of the instruments you used on this album are very different from your previous albums; you even use circuit bending.

EG: It’s definitely the most electric thing I’ve made so far. I originally avoided using synths or electronics in my music as I felt it was a whole different world and I wanted to focus on the acoustic. But after playing synths and electronics in Dinosaur a lot I found it really inspiring to use electronic sounds and wanted to include it in my own work.

The circuit bending is a new thing I have been messing around with. I found some amazing little children’s toys in some charity shops near where I live and opened them up to play with the circuitry inside. You can make them produce some pretty radically different sounds and when you use them in a musical context they behave quite differently to how you expect them to. They keep you on your toes and always push you in a direction you didn’t exactly expect. I find that inspiring to play with and I felt the sound world they produced fitted perfectly with the subject matter of the album.

Tom (McCredie) plays electric guitar on the album as well as bass, and that also adds a much rockier dimension to some of the music.

LJN: I’ve heard there are some hidden meanings in the music; can you give any of them away?

EG: I quite like layering meaning when I write music, and so there are a lot of subtle references throughout the album. I don’t want to tell everyone everything I’ve put in the music as part of the reason they are hidden is because I don’t want to beat people over the head with what the pieces are about. But one reference I will give away is that the first track on the album New Model Army is pretty much entirely based on the communist anthem The People United Shall Never Be Defeated.




LJN: The artwork for the album is very striking, is that something that is important to you?

EG: Definitely, I’m probably equally inspired by visual art as I am by music. The artist who designed the album is a friend of mine called George Finlay Ramsay and he’s a really amazing individual. He works across a lot of mediums. I also think the way you present your music is very important; it’s an art in itself. It allows you to provide the right context for the music and enhance the overall effect of the album.

LJN: You’re just about to embark on a UK wide tour to celebrate the release, where are you playing?

EG: Well we kick things off with a two-night residency at the Vortex in Dalston on 21 and 22 February. Then we are heading all over: The Blue Lamp in Aberdeen, The Black Box in Belfast, Royal Welsh College of Music, St. Ives and the Hare and Hounds in Birmingham, plus a lot of other places. We’re also playing at one of my favourite venues to play: The Lescar in Sheffield, run by Jez Matthews, a real unsung hero!


TOUR

21 Feb - The Vortex - LONDON (Launch with special guests Lauren Kinsella + Tom Challenger)

22 Feb - The Vortex - LONDON (Launch with special guest Tom Herbert)

24 Feb - The Bear Club - LUTON

1 Mar - Blue Lamp - ABERDEEN

2 Mar - Unitarian Church - CAMBRIDGE

7 Mar - The Jazz Bar - EDINBURGH

8 Mar - Black Bok - BELFAST

12  Mar – Ashburton Arts Centre - ASHBURTON

13 Mar - St. Ives Jazz Club - ST. IVES

14 Mar - Hare and Hounds - BIRMINGHAM

15 Mar - Broomhill Art Hotel - BARNSTAPLE

16 Mar - Dora Stoutzker Hall - CARDIFF

20 Mar - Watermill Jazz Club - DORKING

21 Mar - The Lescar - SHEFFIELD

Elliot Galvin's The Influencing Machine is out now on Edition Records

LINKS:

Elliot Galvin's website

Editon Records

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REVIEW: Soul Family Sunday with Guests Hattie Whitehead and Beardyman - (Ronnie Scott's Debut)

Soul Family
Photo credit: Andy Teo of Photocillin

Soul Family Sunday with Guests Hattie Whitehead and Beardyman (Ronnie Scott's Debut)
(Ronnie Scott's. 18 February 2018. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

Natalie Williams
has just clocked up 11 years of Soul Family Sundays at Ronnie Scott's. This show has therefore been running as a regular and successful fixture for almost all the time since the club changed hands in 2005. And yes, successful it is. The March session is already sold out, even taking into account that the club expands its capacity by removing the tables and the bar stools in front of the bar for a couple of dozen hardy folk to stand throughout the show.

There is the regularity and consistency of a residency – I don't believe the show has been reviewed for a year, since THIS – but the surprise of the night, the Ronnie Scott's debut of Beardyman (Darren Foreman), felt like a major, newsworthy event, particularly considering his particularly compelling brand of nowhere-to-hide authenticity.

Soul Family Sundays have a party vibe -– and a birthday vibe too. The tight pews in Ronnies don't allow many people to get up and dance, but towards the end a couple of bar staff who had served their seated customers and cashed in were starting to move to the music in an aisle, both brandishing their brightly lit remote credit card terminals and making circles in the air to the music with them.

Birthdays. There seemed to be no end of them in the audience to be celebrated last night, and from 18-year-olds to people in their 70s. And there were also birthdays on stage. Pianist Phil Peskett was celebrating one, and Natalie Williams will also be celebrating a significant one this week,  which gave her cause to remimisce that when she started Soul Family (in her late 20s – do the math), "the point was to play my original music monthly".

The format is soul originals, soul covers, and guests. Both with the material and with the band there is a happy mixture of the tried, tested and trusted, and the completely new. "That's the way we roll," she said in her very own welcoming and utterly friendly way.

The soul covers started to emerge later on, and the ones that stay in mind are Sharleen Hector's infectiously driving versions of Otis Redding's classic Hard to Handle and Whitney Houston's I'm You're Baby Tonight. All of the members of the vocal quartet move seamlessly from lead to backing vocals. Nick Sherm was replacing Soul Family regular Brendan Reilly, but had clearly put in the hours to learn the repertoire, and was thoroughly impressive.

The band was a constant reminder of how high the bar in professionalism is set in London. Jamie Cullum's saxophonist Tom Richards is known in the role of arranger/composer, but last night was adding instantly composed backing figures and with trumpeter Tom Walsh was adding at the end of numbers to the inexorable sense of build, of letting the arrangements progressively grow in volume and intensity. Among the rhythm players there is a formidable tightness and springiness. I found my ear being caught again and again by the solid underpinning supplied by drummer Martyn Kaine. All I can say is the last drummer I heard playing with that same air of being in command was Peter Erskine in Germany a couple of weeks ago.

The guests brought different styles and vistas. Hattie Whitehead is a highly original singer/songwriter, Nick Sherm was joined by his brother and Goldsmoke co-conspirator Tom, but the main event was the Ronnie Scott's debut in the form of a mini-set from Beardyman. His set began with impressive beatboxing, and then he proceeded to show a far wider musical range. His original song Hindsight was like a cousin of The Lovin' Spoonful's Daydream. When he switched to piano for Nobody Does It Better, he gave a performance which revealed a musical, vocal and stage presence which will definitely stay in the mind for a long time.

SOUL FAMILY

Vocals: Vula Malinga, Sharlene Hector, Nick Sherm
Trumpet: Tom Walsh
Tenor sax: Tom, Richards
Guitar: Al Cherry
Piano: Phil Peskett
Bass: Rob Mullarkey
Drums: Martyn Kaine
Vocals / Direction: Natalie Williams

Guests: 

Beardyman
Hattie Whitehead and Laura Jane Hunter
Tom Shirm


SET LISTS

FIRST SET

My Oh My
Killer**
Freeze Time**
Butterfly
Little Did We Know
Start Walking

GUEST: Hattie Whitehead with Laura Jane Hunter

Nothing Compares to You (feature for Vula and Phi; Peskett)
Would You Do That? **( feature for Sharleen Hector)
Rocketship **(Feature for Nick Sherm)

SECOND SET

GUEST : Beardyman
(Loop / Jam)
So Long Now
Hindsight
Nobody Does it Better

I'm Your Baby Tonight (Whitney)
Someone Like You (Goldsmoke / Nick Sherm)
Hard to Handle (featur for Shaleen Hector
When You Come To Me

NOTE: (**) Tracks included in Soul Family's most recent EP 

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PREVIEW: Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival (15-18 March 2018)

The small hours at Colston Hall, 2013
Photo credit: Ruth Butler


Jon Turney looks forward to the sixth Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival:

Five years after it began, Bristol’s festival already feels like a fixture. But there’s a slight end of an era ambience for the sixth edition, on 15th-18th of March. It’s the last one in the old Colston Hall, a jazz venue on and off since 1951. Next year, the Festival’s home will be closed for a multi-million makeover that’ll run until well into 2020. Artistic director Denny Ilett marks the transition with a programme that emphasises the Bristol-rooted projects that have give the festival its special flavour.

They include an intriguing collaboration in which Bristolians appear on screen as well as on stage. Get The Blessing kick things off in the main hall on Thursday 15th playing music for a film, Bristolopolis, that offers a new portrayal of Bristol created by award-winning film-maker John Minton from archive footage reaching back more than 100 years in the life of the city. The next evening guitarist Ilett co-leads his own big band in the now traditional evening of swing - Get the Blessing’s Jake McMurchie proving his versatility by joining the horn section.

Ilett is also behind another big band project, on Sunday, a re-working of Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland fifty years on. This is an all-star affair including Laura Jurd, Yazz Ahmed, Iain Ballamy, Nathaniel Facey and Ashley Slater, and takes inspiration from Gil Evans’ Hendrix treatments and the guitarist’s own never-fulfilled ambition to work with a larger ensemble. The band are doing a couple of nights at Ronnie Scott’s as well, but if you can’t make those dates they alone will be worth a trip to Bristol.

Even larger ensembles feature in two characteristically family-friendly, good-humoured offerings in the main space on Saturday, with William Goodchild reconvening his 30-piece orchestra to extend last year’s film and TV music project with new arrangements of scores from cult TV of the 1960s onwards, and Andy Williamson leading his own big band and the 300 strong Bristol Festival chorus who will roar through a new selection of cartoon themes, egged on by guest vocalist Ian Shaw.

There’s more familiar fare, too, with Incognito, with Carleen Anderson, and the James Taylor Quartet featuring at the nearby O2, and Tommy Smith’s quartet enjoying the superior acoustic of St George’s on Thursday night. And the smaller Colston Hall venue, the Lantern, has a string of quality sessions including Arun Gosh, Asaf Sirkis and Sylwia Bialis, Martin Taylor in guitar duo with Ulf Wakenius and - in something of an Edition records special on Sunday - two bands with much talked about new releases, the engagingly unclassifiable Snowpoet and pianist Ivo Neame’s new quartet with George Crowley.

Add blues offerings including a half-centenary tribute to Cream’s 1968 Albert Hall concert, and masterclasses, and there’s already something for everyone. But if the ticketed gigs leave any gaps, there are also 26 free sets over five days in the generously proportioned Colston foyer. They feature such excellent Bristol-grown projects as bassist Greg Cordez’s quintet, altoist Sophie Stockham’s John Zorn-inspired Sefrial and the Bristol European Jazz Ensemble, presenting a new jazz and spoken word reflection on recent European history pieced together by trumpeter and indefatigable Bristol organiser Dave Mowat. The organising team are working on a plan for a promised 2019 festival spread over other venues, but this year Colston Hall is the place to be during the third weekend in March.

Bristol Jazz and Blues Fest website with full programme details

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NEWS: ECM pianist Stefano Battaglia to make First London Appearance in 25 Years

Stefano Battaglia
Photo credit: Daniel Vass / ECM


The Italian pianist Stefano Battaglia, who has made seven albums for ECM in the years since 2005, will be making a very rare London appearance at Kings Place on 1 Mar 2018 (Hall Two, 7pm). In fact we understand it is his first visit here in a quarter century. He will be appearing with Turkish-Kurdish poet Bejan Matur and actor Anna Madeley in a programme entitled The Sea Opens presented by our fellow Kings  Place Musicbase tenants - and friends -  Poet in the City. The Kings Place website has the following to explain the concept of the evening:

"Looking out onto the same Mediterranean Sea, but from opposite sides of the coast, Turkish-Kurdish poet Bejan Matur and Italian jazz pianist Stefano Battaglia have synthesised their art in an exploration of the recent refugee crisis. With the Mediterranean as their stage, Matur and Battaglia have created a one-off performance inspired by its culture, history and mythology, uniting their poetry and music to question the meaning of home for all of humanity, past and present."

LJN has an interview about this project with Stefano Battaglia in preparation

LINKS: Kings Place details / tickets
Stefano Battaglia's artist page at ECM Records
Review of In the Morning - CD from 2015

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PODCAST INTERVIEW: Rob Cope (first anniversary of The Jazz Podcast)

Rob Cope


ROB COPE and Dan Farrant issued the first episode of The Jazz Podcast in early February 2017. In this interview with Sebastian, Rob Cope tells his own story and talks about some of the highlights and lessons from a first year of podcasting.



PODCAST SYNOPSIS


OPENING MUSIC: Extract from the title track of Ruby and All Things Purple / Andy Scott

0:37 - 9:22  Rob Cope's musical background

9:22 MUSIC: Little Glass Box from Ruby and All Things Purple / Andy Scott

11:20 - 16: 13  Why The Jazz Podcast started....The episode with Loz Garratt

16:13 MUSIC:  Extract from  Everybody wants to be a cat -  Jamie Cullum

17:50 - 21:36 Discourse around music - "If you give the audience the chance to know your personality they will be much more accepting of your music"....Album previews.

21:36 MUSIC:  'Deed I Do - Raph Clarkson - The Old Bone Band

22:39- 25:19  Rob Luft ....Big Bad Wolf

25:19  CLOSING MUSIC:  Flats in Dagenham - Big Bad Wolf

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LINK: The Jazz Podcast on Buzzsprout

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INTERVIEW/ PREVIEW: Nick Costley-White (Finale of Jazz Nursery, 22 February, Iklectik Arts Lab)

"The atmosphere of playing in the belly of this beautiful wooden boat was incredible"
Olie Brice, Tim Giles, Alec Harper and Tim Giles at the Golden Hinde
;

Musician-led monthly gigs under the Jazz Nursery banner have been a feature of the London scene since 2012, but will most likely come to an end next Thursday 22 February. Guitarist Nick Costley-White has been involved since the start. Here he looks back at the past six years, explains the background to the decision to stop, and comments on the state of musician-led gigs in London as Jazz Nursery departs the scene. Interview by Sebastian:   

LondonJazz News: How did Jazz Nursery get started?

Nick Costley-White: Soon after leaving music college I had the ambition to start up a regular gig, very much inspired by nights like the Con Cellar Bar in Camden. Some actor friends, who'd studied at the Guildhall where I’d studied jazz, had the lease on a new venue underneath a railway arch behind the Tate Modern which they were running as a theatre space called the Nursery Theatre. Clarinettist Dom James was in touch with them so we teamed together and started the Jazz Nursery once a month.

LJN: And why was it started ?

N C-W: Having just left college I was still learning the ropes of performing and working on playing my own and other people’s music. We wanted to create an environment for people to try new things out in an interesting space.

LJN: Who was in the original team?

N C-W: Soon after Dom and I conceived the idea trumpeter Will Rixon was joined us to help out and since then has always designed our distinctive gig posters.

LJN:  There was - I believe - a Guildhall connection when you started...?

Will and I had studied together at the Guildhall and a lot of the musicians who initially performed at the venue had a background at the school. The first gig was led by two Guildhall alumni; Rick Simpson Quartet and Tom Challenger's Brass Mask.

LJN:  Who else played a part - were there people who got actively involved later? 

N C-W: The team has expanded over the years and we've had tremendous help from Sam Braysher who took on the somewhat thankless task of filling in the 80 page Arts Council application, who we were very grateful to receive funding from two years running.

Helena Kay, Miguel Gorodi and David Benyahia have also provided invaluable help over the years

Dom James' input into facilitating the night throughout it’s tenure was totally vital. He sourced all three of the venues and gave all of us lazy jazz musicians a good kick up the arse to aim much higher than most of us would have thought possible. Characters like Dom and the much missed Richard Turner who set up jazz at the Con Cellar are so important to the grass routes scene. I think there’s a space now for the next generation to do something new!

LJN:  Is it really ending or is there is a chance it might continue

N C-W: It's come to quite a natural conclusion for me and the team, and sadly the venue Iklectik who've hosted us for almost two years are no longer able to accommodate us. I'd love to see another team of people take the reigns in running a new night and we'd love to help support them in whichever way we can! We've amassed a significant mailing list over the years which would be a powerful tool for a new promoter to inherit.....

Nick Costley-White
Photo credit: Dave Hamblett

LJN:  You have presumably got too busy doing other stuff  - what are your main gigs at the moment?

N C-W: This is a really exciting year for me as I'll be releasing my quartet's debut album this Summer with the fantastic new label Ubuntu Music. The launch is at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho on the 31st July. I'll be promoting the album with an extensive UK tour in the Autumn. I'm also touring a lot in Europe with several other groups including Snowpoet, Anthony Strong and The Dixie Ticklers. I have the great pleasure of playing with my standards trio featuring Steve Brown and Dario Di Lecce every Thursday at Dishoom in Kensington

American Saxophonist Chris Cheek played Jazz Nursery


LJN:  There must have been some highlights among the Jazz Nursery gigs?

N C-W: We spent over a year doing the Jazz Nursery gigs on the replica of Sir Francis Drake's boat the Golden Hinde next to London Bridge. The atmosphere of playing in the belly of this beautiful wooden boat was incredible and it attracted a whole new, and very sizeable audience to the gig.




One specific memory which comes to mind was a gig with James Maddren's trio, featuring Calum Gourlay and Julian Siegel. Halfway through their exhilarating set the boat's electricity short circuited and the whole venue was plunged into complete darkness. Luckily the band was performing totally acoustically so they were able to carry on regardless, lit only by the phones of audience members filming this bizarre yet uniquely atmospheric gig! (James Maddren previewed this gig for LJN).

With the Arts Council grant we were able to commission composer John Warren to write a suite of music for the jazz nursery. It was performed by a nonet put together especially for the gig featuring trumpeter Steve Fishwick and saxophonist James Allsopp. This band has continued to gig since, including a performance at last years London Jazz Festival. (preview of the premiere).

We've also been lucky enough to feature some international artists including saxophonist Chris Cheek, as well as Jeff Williams' group featuring American alto player John O'Gallagher.

LJN: What have you learnt from the experience of putting on the night?

N C-W: I've learned that a huge range of people can enjoy jazz, especially when it’s performed by the dynamic and exciting musicians we're lucky to have on the London jazz scene. One of the best ways we found to reach these broader audiences was to present it in a slightly different way but without compromising the music. There are plenty of excellent gigs which happen in the back room of a pub, but we always wanted to do something unique so that the situation and surroundings of the performance were apart of the appeal; playing underneath a railway arch with the rumbling of trains going overhead, in the belly of a wooden boat where people's legs hang down from gun deck, crammed in against cannons and ropes. I'd like to continue that philosophy in the way I present any future musical endeavours.

LJN: Where and when is the finale?

N C-W: The finale is on Thursday 22 February at the Iklectik Arts Lab, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, SE1 7LG

It's free entry along with a free glass of champagne!

- Mike Chillingworth leads his quartet featuring myself on guitar, Conor Chaplin on double bass and James Maddren on drums.

- We also have Dave Manington's Riff Raff featuring Tom Challenger on sax, Brigitte Beraha on vocals, Ivo Neame on Piano, Rob Updegraff on guitar and Tim Giles on drums.

- Altoist Sam Braysher will also be leading an informal jam session at the end. A pretty astounding collection of musicians I'm sure you'll agree (one which I'm humbled and a little bit terrified to be amongst!).

Musicians of this caliber have always been regular fixtures at the Jazz Nursery and it’s a testament to the London scene that they’re all willing to play in these weird spots for the sheer enjoyment of playing this music!

LJN: Are you optimistic or pessimistic for musician-run gigs in London ?

N C-W: I love the London scene and I think it's continually evolving. At the moment there seem to be less of the kind of nights like Jazz Nursery happening, but there are some fantastic things happening, in particular the Kansas Smitty's jazz club on Broadway Market and the Good Evening Arts nights run in South London by Tom Sankey. It's a shame that in the last year or so several of the other staple grass routes gigs including Jazz at the Oxford and Hannes Riepler's Sunday Jam Session at the Vortex have sadly come to an end, at least for now. I think there's a big space to fill so I'd love to see some other (perhaps younger!) musicians pick up the baton!

LINKS: Jazz Nursery Facebook Page
Nick Costley-White

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REVIEW: Matthew Read Trio; Anecdotes - Volume II Album Launch at Kansas Smitty's

Matthew Read Trio at Kansas Smittys
Photo posted by Drawnsword on Instagram

Matthew Read Trio; Anecdotes - Volume II Album Launch
(Kansas Smitty's, 15 February 2018. Review by Dan Bergsagel)

The scroll at the top of of the double bass barely fits in below the low-slung ceiling up front, and there's even less space at the back, with the doorman repeatedly explaining to eager beavers that there's no more room at the inn. The album launch of Anecdotes - Volume II at Kansas Smitty's was an Event, and less than two years since the Matthew Read Trio released their first record, this is strong evidence of their growing acclaim, and/or having lots of friends.

Arbour served as a frugal opener; an introduction to Read's measured bass, clean guitar washes, and a reminder of where the trio were musically in 2016. It was the follow-on to Many Roads Travelled that presented where they are now – a more serious, classic, integrated sound. Built around a clear hook and a ringing groove, each component contributes a texture, and rises and falls. We slide from Read's narrative bass style, and through flowing, multi-faceted rhythms from Arthur Newell on drums, mixing patterns and evidently enjoying the playful opportunity to develop beats throughout.

So often carrying the melody and the lion's share of the improvisational duties, Benedict Wood had plenty of opportunity to demonstrate his neat lyrical styling. However when given time and space alone is when he thrives, mesmerising the crowd in a fantastic rhythmic, engaging transition in the interstitial space from a modal K. to the fantastical Surprise Flight

In such a small space it can be hard to manage the mix between excitable drums, and soaring guitars, and the bass held it's own fantastically on the more controlled numbers. On the rockier romps, like S.E. and Su Doku 3810, it was easier to slip beneath the drums and guitar. But there were real moments of outstanding compositionally strength: the beautifully succinct synchronised bass/guitar snaps and innocent, cagey interplay on Two Days is a Long Time Without You; Read's ponderous clipped adventure up the fingerboard for the ode to a chicken Burford Brown.

Anecdotes – Volume II feels apt. We were presented with a mix of serious musical vignettes referencing classic sounds; and amiable gags about inadvertent strip clubs, laziness, and half-cut kebab-ing. And while the musical performance is very much a collaborative trio effort, these are primarily Read compositions, and Read's conversations with the audience - self-deprecating humour and faux-awkward comments.

It was an album launch party to a home crowd, and the trio clearly revelled in it. But mixed in with their current tunes and old faithful old tracks were a handful of intriguing new pieces, too. The Matthew Read Trio may be launching Volume II, but it feels as if Volume III might already be on the way. On this evidence, I think next time they'll need a bigger venue!

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INTERVIEW: Peter Jones (New book This is Hip: The Life of Mark Murphy for publication 1 Mar 2018)



Jazz singer and writer Peter Jones has written a biography of the American vocalist Mark Murphy, which will be published by Equinox on 1 March 2018. Entitled This is Hip: The Life of Mark Murphy, the book outlines an extraordinary 60-year career in jazz. Interview by Sebastian:

LJN: For people who aren’t aware of Mark Murphy, give us a thumbnail sketch. Why is he significant?

PJ:  For my money, Mark Murphy (1932-2015)  was the greatest jazz singer of them all, because he could do everything: he could swing like Jon Hendricks, he could scat like Ella Fitzgerald, sing ballads like Sinatra, write wonderful songs, and incorporate poetry and other forms of the spoken word. And that’s before you even start with the recorded output – nearly 50 albums and still rising. He was so creative, and took risks constantly, never content to rest on his laurels; Mark was a restless soul, always looking for something new.

LJN: What persuaded you to write a biography?

PJ:  Jazz FM have always been big Mark Murphy supporters. When he died in October 2015, they started playing a track I hadn’t heard before – Our Game, from his 2005 album Once to Every Heart. It’s the most intense ballad, written by the trumpeter Till Brönner, who’s also on the track, with lovely, subtle orchestration by Nan Schwartz (link below). What can I tell you? It just got to me. I’d only recently taken an interest in Mark Murphy, based on his ‘signature tunes’, Stolen Moments and Milestones. Our Game just made me want to find out more about him, but there was very little out there – no books, only a few online articles and interviews. I remember thinking: why doesn’t someone write something in depth? And immediately afterwards: I don’t want to sit around for years waiting for someone else to write a book, why don’t I write something?

LJN: How did you set about it? What was the first step?

PJ:  I approached Equinox Publishing, who asked for a brief outline. This was hard, for a start, since I knew almost nothing about Mark at that stage. But I managed to scrape together enough information, and a couple of months later they commissioned me. Later on I was lucky enough to make contact with several surviving members of his family, and a lot of musicians and arrangers he worked with like Dave Matthews, Bill Mays and Lee Musiker, as well as the guy who signed him to Muse Records, the late Joe Fields. And of course close friends like Sheila Jordan. One person led me to the next, so that in the end there were dozens of interviews. Thank God for Skype! And I discovered this thing called Mark’s Times - a quarterly Mark Murphy fanzine that was produced for two decades by a guy in Whitley Bay! The one person in the world who had a complete set turned out to live just down the M3 from me, so I was able to drive over there and read them. After several visits he got fed up with me knocking on his door. He said, ‘Look, at this rate it’ll take you years. Just take the whole set away and bring them back when you’ve finished with them.’

LJN: How have you ordered the chapters of the book?

PJ:  There are 14 short chapters of biography. Then there are two appendices – the first is about what Mark brought to jazz singing as an art form; the second is about the extraordinary methods he used to teach jazz singing. There’s also a comprehensive discography.

Peter Jones
Photo credit : David Jacobson

LJN: When I read the final proof of the book I was fascinated by the stories of Murphy’s teaching methods… 

PJ:  As a former teacher myself, I was blown away by the stories I heard. Mark knew instinctively that each student is different, and needs a different kind of help to improve their singing. There are many examples of the ideas he came up with. One, which other singing teachers now use with their classes, was designed to make scat singing more focused. Mark would put a pair of singers together and getting them to perform a routine. For instance, one might be a shoplifter and the other a store detective. It’s hilarious in practice, but it works.

LJN: As you researched it, what were the biggest surprises?

PJ:  The biggest surprise was also the biggest relief: I realised in retrospect that Mark Murphy might have turned out to be quite dull. He might have led a blameless life, doggedly building his career, going home every evening to his wife and 2.4 children. That would have made a pretty dreary book. But thankfully Mark was the complete opposite of that. He was a crazy beatnik-cum-hippie, who worshipped Jack Kerouac and lived in a camper van for several years and never had any money in his life. At times he got heavily into drink and drugs. He travelled all over the world, carrying his stuff around in a couple of plastic bags. He was gay at a time when being gay was illegal. He would go off and record albums with all sorts of people at the drop of a hat. Such a fascinating guy, and I break out in a sweat when I think how easily he might not have been.

LJN: And the funniest moments in writing it?

PJ:  There were many, but some of the funniest came in an interview I did with a drummer called Albert Amaroso, who played with Mark at various times in Buffalo, New York. He told me a story about a strange lunch meeting with some executives from Warner Brothers who wanted to lure Mark away from his deal with Muse Records – he was with Muse for 20 years. Being signed to Warners would have given him a far more stable career and a probably decent income. The Warners people started talking about how Mark and his band should look on stage. Mark just sat there, not saying a word, and after a while he got up from the table. Albert assumed he was going to the bathroom, but Mark walked right out of the building and never came back. There were also many stories about wigs. Mark went bald very young, but you couldn’t be bald in showbiz, so he wore cheap mail-order wigs for almost his entire career. His publicist told him he needed a better-quality one for an album launch, and got him measured and fitted out by a professional wig-maker. Within a week he’d destroyed the wig completely by smearing Vaseline all over it.

LJN: I believe he lived in London for quite a while. What’s the story there?

PJ: Yes, he was based in London for ten years when it was at its most ‘happening’ – the Swinging Sixties. He became pretty successful: played at Ronnie Scott’s many times from 1964 onwards, worked with Dankworth, Tubby Hayes, Stan Tracey, made three albums here, was constantly on BBC Radio. He even appeared on TV with Benny Hill and a couple of puppet children’s presenters. And he did some acting. He was once cast as Jesus Christ.

LJN: Where else in the world will the book have resonances?

PJ: Almost anywhere, I would say. There were very few countries Mark didn’t work in. Apart from the US, he spent a lot of time in the UK, Holland, Austria and Germany. He performed behind the Iron Curtain in the '60s, including Poland and Czechoslovakia, as it then was. And later in Japan, Australia, Indonesia – even South Africa during the apartheid era, when he performed for black audiences.

LJN: Are you planning another book?

PJ: Writing this one has been one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life. But I need a rest now. I’ve got a few ideas for another book. One of the people I’d like to write about is notoriously irascible, so I doubt whether I’d get any co-operation. But we’ll see!

Peter Jones is a regular contributor to LJN

LINKS:

Mark Murphy sings Our Game from the album Once To Every Heart (2005) - with Till Brönner

Gilles Peterson – 'Why Mark Murphy Matters'

This is Hip: The Life of Mark Murphy at Equinox Books

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CD REVIEW: Bashavel – Hoorhay



Bashavel – Hoorhay
(hudba.sk. CD Review by Peter Slavid)

Bashavel is a band from Slovakia with firm roots in Slovakian folk music, but clear influences from modern jazz and other gypsy jazz traditions, and which might be described as ethno-jazz.

The cymbalom (sometimes cimbalom or cimbal) is a very distinctive sounding instrument that can work well in jazz, with it's crisp, sharp percussive sound. The instrument used here is the concert cymbalom, related to the zither and to the hammered dulcimer which is common in English folk music, but much larger and more complex. It approaches the size of a small piano and covers up to five octaves.

The problem is that the cymbalom is such a distinctive sound that integrating it into a band can be difficult. So sometimes the band plays as a conventional piano trio and does that very well. Sometimes the violin joins in as jazz soloist and sometimes the cymbalom sits quietly in the background playing a riff. Once violin and cymbalom take centre stage then the folk music feel is unmistakeable.

The CD opens with a nice bluesy theme on the piano picked up by violin and cimbalom. The piano, cymbalom and violin then each take solos – well done in each case but in rather different styles. When the music begins to take on the “hot club” character I find it of less interest.

I thought the whole thing worked best on the slow ballads. On Po Vajanského nábreží (A river promenade with Vajanský – a Slovak writer) there was less of a “swing” feel and a much more modern sound in the solos. Another ballad Smutná nedel'a (sad Sunday) which I think is a traditional tune, features excellent solos from piano and violin and strong dramatic conclusion.

The CD is likely to be more of real interest to listeners with an appreciation of gypsy jazz than to modern jazz fans, but the quality of the musicianship will hold the attention.

Peter Slavid broadcasts a programme of European Modern Jazz on thejazz.co.uk and mixcloud.com/ukjazz

BAND:
Stano Palúch – violin
Klaudius Kováč – piano
Marcel Comendat – cymbalon
Róbert Ragan – double bass
Peter Solárik – drums

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NEWS: Fund set up to help George Cables nearly reaches $50k target in three days

George Cables
Photo credit: Terrence Jennings


A fund has been set up to help the great pianist George Cables with medical/ surgery expenses and the rehabilitation costs thereafter. Quoting the Gofundme statement (link below)

"WE LOVE GEORGE CABLES AND HE NEEDS OUR HELP!

As many of you know George Cables had organ transplants ten years ago and had been doing very well, teaching and touring. But for the last couple years, George has been struggling with ulcers on his legs that have not healed.

He has been under the care of the top doctors in New York City but the severity of the ulcers has caused him to be hospitalized on several occasions. The last time he was admitted to the hospital, his condition was considered critical.

HERE IS THE SHOCKING NEWS!

After consultation with vascular surgeons, they have recommended amputation of his left leg.

The surgery will take place at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City on March 1, 2018. After recovery, he will go to rehab for a minimum of four weeks.

What we need now is to help defray the enormous financial stress this will cause. In addition to the medical costs after Medicare, modifications to his home need to be made to make it wheelchair accessible (front and back door ramps, bathroom and shower modifications, etc.). Since George lives alone, he will need home care including cleaning service and meal delivery during his recovery. There is no way to know when he might be able to return to teaching and will be able to travel to perform. Of course he is anxious to get back to the music that has been his life’s work and that has brought us all so much joy and beauty.

We have, therefore, set up this Go Fund Me account to help in this worthy cause. Please open your hearts and donate whatever you can—we want George Cables to know how much he is loved and respected." (quote ends)


LINKS: Gofundme appeal for George Cables
Our podcast interview with George Cables from July 2017
Review of the George Cables Trio from 2017

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INTERVIEW: Danish pianist Jeppe Zeeberg

Jeppe Zeeberg
Publicity photo


Danish pianist and composer JEPPE ZEEBERG has performed with his ensemble Horse Orchestra at Match&Fuse and Manchester Jazz Festivals respectively in the last couple of years. His new CD release The Four Seasons shows both the skilful touch of a serious composer with the energy and rumpus of great improvisations and playing. Interview by Dave Morecroft:

Dave Morecroft: If you had to pick one musical hero/heroine for composition, one for performance, and one for improvisation, who would they be and why?

Jeppe Zeeberg: Composition: My favourite composers are the eclectic ones, people who can do all sorts of different stuff at the same time. I love Charles Ives' music because he has a unique ability to make several seemingly unmixable ideas fit together. Ives is also interesting because he insists on making instrumental music that is actually about something - music that describes real situations, people etc. This is something jazz music is really lacking in general.

Performance: If you refer to performance as in live performing, I love (humorously) understated performances - especially if the music is very expressive. John Cage's notorious performance of Water Walk is amazing to me. I love stuff like that. Dada, Fluxus, that kind of performance.  Improvisation: It is hard for me to pick favourites. I like improvisers who can combine the aggresive, the abstract and the fragile. I have been listening to the Swedish pianist Per Henrik Wallin lately. He has some really interesting solo recordings on which he does just that.     

DM: Tell me a bit about the musical journey that resulted in this album

JZ: Generally I was trying to make an album that would work both as a concept album describing the passing of time and as a traditional jazz album focusing on the individual performers' improvisational skills. I hope I succeeded in doing this.

I also wanted to make a real musical work, something that would only work as a recorded album. Not like a recording of an orchestra piece, but an album that took advantage of the possibilities a recorded album provides. So I brought in different constellations of musicians, some old, some made for the occasion. The line-up constantly changes throughout the album, according to what the respective tracks are trying to describe. Some of the compositions contain field recordings recorded in the season in question (e.g. the piece Summer: For Those Now Gone contains a recording of a German cemetery recorded in the summer time).  

This album is not so much about describing each season than about depicting how they constantly change, develop and start over. It is about the passing of time described by presenting each season in a completely new way. This is also why the seasons have two tracks each. 

The result is very satisfying and personal to me. I feel like this is the first time I brought all my compositional skills into one work, and the sound you hear on the record is actually how the seasons sound to me. 




DM: What inspired you to choose the Four Seasons theme?

JZ: I love broad themes that can be interpreted in various ways. The Four Seasons is such a broad theme. So many artists have interpreted the four seasons in so many different ways, and I was interested to see how it would sound if I did it. I am obsessed with these kinds of broad themes or subjects. For instance, I also have a trio that produces an avant-garde christmas album every single christmas, and has done so for the past 8 years. Christmas music is another broad theme. 

Another good thing about these kinds of themes is that people respond to them very easily. Everybody can relate to the seasons, and I might get some listeners interested who would not be listening to this kind of music otherwise. 

DM: I see many long-standing collaborators of yours (from Horse Orchestra, for example) on this album - do you find you are now writing with specific voices in mind? How do you approach working with these people to create something fresh?

JZ: I definitely write for specific musicians. Every single performer on this album was on my mind as a wrote the compositions. You have to make a balance between 1) giving the individual musicians space to improvise and 2) trying to guide the music in the direction you want it to go. You can't lose one or the other. In my experience it helps substantially if you write for somebody you know. For instance the drummer Rune Lohse (also playing in Horse Orchestra) is on all my albums - exactly because of this. I had a definite idea of how this album was going to sound beforehand, and it pretty much sounds like that now - but the individual musicians contributed a lot (improvisationally) to the overall output. So I am happy with the result. 

DM: I know you'll be touring this project as a quartet, how will you realise the big sound into that format? What challenges does this present you as a piano player?

JZ: The album was never meant to be performed live, so I had to decide on a format to adapt the compositions to. I settled on quartet because some of the most performance-friendly compositions on the album was already written for quartet. We are not going to perform the whole album live. I compose quite fast, so I have already made a lot of new compositions for the new quartet. 

I have chosen a group of musicians who are very versatile and open-minded, so I can tell them to do a lot of different stuff. For instance Henrik Olsson is an amazing guitarist who can play almost anything you present to him. In the quartet format the music is focusing more on me as a piano player. Improvisation-wise I was holding back a bit on the album, but here I am more expressive and all over the place.  

DM: After this disc is launched and toured, what's next? What else do you have in the pipeline?

JZ: This next year is packed. I will be releasing a piano/church organ album very soon, and this will result in a bunch of solo shows as well. My septet Horse Orchestra is putting out a video EP this spring. I am working on a project about translating runestones (inscriptions left by the vikings) into music, and this will also result in a tour and an album release. And finally I am working on an album with an extended big band consisting of almost 100 amateur musicians - all playing at the same time. The music for this album is composed by me and the Danish saxophonist Lars Greve - very abstract stuff. 

Dave Morecroft is acting as a consultant for Jazz Danmark  - they are currently supporting Jeppe Zeeberg. He will be bringing his new project 'Seasons' to the UK in 2018/19.

The Four Seasons is released on the Copenhagen-based label Barefoot Records

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PREVIEW/ INTERVIEW : Jeremy Price (Spring Season at Eastside Jazz Club, Birmingham

Eastdide Jazz Club
Photo credit: Greg Milner
The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire's purpose-built jazz club, called Eastside, has begun its first Spring season. For LondonJazz News Brianna McClean spoke to the RBC's Head of Jazz as well as Artistic Director of Eastside Jazz Club, Jeremy Price.

Birmingham's new jazz club, the Eastside Jazz Club, is part of Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, and is closely linked to the Conservatoire’s bespoke B. Mus (Hons) Jazz course. This new venture opened in October 2017 on the newly built site of the Conservatoire.

The club has already played host to a wide variety of artists and has recently released its Spring programme running until mid-March. The Eastside Jazz Club is testament to the commitment of the Conservatoire in building the jazz scene in Birmingham. Someone who epitomises this ethos is the Head of Jazz at the Conservatoire and the newly named Artistic Director of Eastside, Jeremy Price.

In a previous interview with Sebastian Scotney for Radio 3 Jazz Line Up, Jeremy Price said that he was, ‘proud of how the jazz course contributed to the whole city’. It is this participation in the wider music scene which renders Eastside Jazz Club a unique venture for a music education institution. The club aims to accommodate both students and international masters, as well as everything in between.

When asked about the weekly program for Eastside Jazz Club, Price was enthusiastic about what the club had to offer local audiences. ‘Monday nights at the club are big-band nights’, he said, speaking of the rotating schedule of performances by the Ellington Orchestra and the Conservatoire’s Jazz Orchestra. Eastside Jazz Club offers music of the masters played by students in their ‘Jazz Canon’ series on Tuesday nights. Wednesday evenings showcase emerging improviser/composers’ work in a series called ‘Exit Velocity’. Jeremy Price fondly reflected that these performances see many ‘old characters returning’, as graduates of the Jazz course take centre stage star sidemen roles in these senior student-led bands. The end of each week brings outside talent into the club. Thursday evenings are reserved for special guests, often international musicians who are teaching masterclasses in the Conservatoire. On Fridays, Eastside Jazz Club provides a hireable venue for external musicians and the more commercial wing of jazz music to help replenish the coffers.

Jeremy Price
Photo credit: Greg Milner


Jeremy Price  revealed that there are plans to develop a ‘community driven jazz initiative’ on Saturdays. This is evidence of one of the most honourable aims of Eastside Jazz Club and the wider Conservatoire; to nurture the local arts culture. This is balanced with a desire to make the club a space which attracts prominent names. ‘The Club has the potential to become a major fixture on the touring circuit. I get a lot of propositions now asking for a guest night slot’, said Jeremy.

When asked what the challenges have been in the early days of Eastside Jazz Club, Jeremy speaks of a culture shift that was needed amongst audiences who were used to concert halls, rather than clubs. ‘At the beginning, it was like playing in a library sometimes’, laughs Jeremy. He cites a Mark Turner gig in early November as the point where ‘the penny dropped’ and audiences began to understand the atmosphere of the club. ‘It was our first very chatty audience. A nice cross section of them were students or musicians - lots of genuine punters’, Jeremy reflected.

As Artistic Director, Jeremy is working closely with colleagues Percy Pursglove, Andrew Bain and John O’Gallagher. As Jeremy describes their process, he exhibits the driving forces behind the Club’s program, ‘We discuss what would be good for the community and the students’.

An on-site jazz club is an unparalleled feature of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. As well as creating a space in which home talent can be formed in the presence of local audiences, it also represents a larger ethos of Birmingham City University, of which the Conservatoire is a part.. The jazz course at the Conservatoire is not simply a place for academic education. Rather, the development of students is placed in a wider artistic context with this new club being an opportunity for the university to contribute to the local jazz scene.

Jeremy’s passion for this project is obvious upon speaking to him about the upcoming program. He is particularly animated in regards to the opportunities for a wide variety of musicians to perform at the club - from students and tutors to international names. Pianist, Composer and Birmingham Conservatoire Graduate Stella Roberts returned to her home-turf on the 8th of February to perform at Eastside Jazz Club. Jeremy was looking forward to this performance, ‘Stella graduated a couple of years ago and is doing very well. She’s a great pianist’. Walter Smith III is another highlight of the current program, enthusiastically endorsed by Jeremy, performing on the 15th of February. The Jazz Department Gala concert on the 15th of March also promises to be an evening of showcased talent.

As a tangible expression of the Conservatoire’s contribution to the wider jazz world, Jeremy is rightly proud of the Eastside Jazz Club. As Artistic Director, he has the opportunity to do what he so clearly loves; fostering the already lively music scene in Birmingham. He closes the conversation with a hearty invitation to experience Eastside Jazz Club, ‘Why don’t you come up and visit us?’. Looking at the dynamic program and community driven atmosphere of the club, this is a tempting offer.

Jump Monk (will be appearing at Eastside onn 22 February)
Photo credit :Melody McLaren


SELECTED FORTHCOMING CONCERTS


THU 22 FEB

ARNIE SOMOGYI’S JUMP MONK

With Clark Tracey, Tony Kofi, Jeremy Price and Liam Noble
6.30pm support James Owston
7.45pm main show
£10 (£8)

FRI 23 FEB

AFRO-CUBAN JAZZ ORCHESTRA
6.30pm - support
7.45pm - main show
£15 (£12)

ON SALE SOON

Monday 9 April – Embodied Hope: Bain/Janisch/Irabagon/Colligan

Thursday 12 April Jeff Williams Lifelike: Gonçalo Marquez, John O’Gallagher, Josh Arcoleo, Kit Downes, Sam Lasserson

Monday 30 April – Eddie Henderson with Bruce Barthe, Arnie Somogyi and Stephen Keogh

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