REVIEW: Vocal Summit (Marta Capponi,Brigitte Beraha and Trudy Kerr) at the Spice of Life

Marta Capponi, Brigitte Beraha and Truy Kerr

Vocal Summit (Marta Capponi, Brigitte Beraha and Trudy Kerr)
(Spice of Life. 18th November. 2015 EFG LJF. Review by Brian Blain)

Paul Pace's venue at the Spice of Life at Cambridge Circus was absolutely packed. Last Wednesday, and not just because Vocal Summit. Marta Capponi, Brigitte Beraha and Trudy Kerr are brilliant performers,but because being under the umbrella of London Jazz Festival, publicity really does make a difference.

Capponi not only knocked out the crowd with a bubbling Honeysuckle Rose but a wistful I'll Be Seeing You as well; easy to see why she is making waves. Brigitte Beraha, the slightly ethereal original artist of Babelfish, can also 'get down with the people' with her easy swing on This Heart of Mine as well as turning a packed pub into a rapt concert hall on I Fall In Love Too Easily - magical.

Trudy Kerr was wonderful; almost mother hennish, sending herself up just a little with a mildly coquettish reference to the 'young men' in the rhythm section - Rick Simpson, Mark Lewandowski and Lloyd Haines, who were positive and 'up' all evening. Musically she was quite majestic, a gripping out of tempo intro to Joy Spring showed that she too can be a risk taker, while on the closing But Not For Me, with all three together on stage, and a great sisterly vibe filling the room, she just shaded it for tiime and feel.

All this and a lovely new Yamaha C3 Grand Piano made Paul's downstairs bar venue as good a place to be as any in an overly stuffed week


REVIEW: Submotion Orchestra and Catching Flies at the Barbican (2015 EFG LJF)

Submotion Orchestra. Photo credit: Dan Medhurst/Ninjatune

Submotion Orchestra and Catching Flies
(Barbican. 22nd November. 2015 EFG LJF. Review by Adam Tait)

There’s something about the understated elegance of the Barbican hall that makes musician/DJ Catching Flies, accompanied by a guitarist and saxophonist, look a little bit small as he takes the stage. Considering he only debuted his live show 18 months ago, it’s a big place to find himself, helping to close the EFG London Jazz Festival.

Fortunately, he’s something of a musical TARDIS. The content is far, far bigger than its container. Opening with icy, spectral samples, tense tones that hang above the audience, his compositions are immediately captivating. Sax flourishes add enticing adornments as the taut anticipation steadily builds until the resounding baselines - Catching Flies’ musical meat on the bones - make a thunderous first appearance.

And after the glassy stillness of the opening moments, Catching Flies shows how easily he can fill a space. The knotted, rigid combination of engineered bass and drums counterbalance the serenity of his murmuring samples. It all comes together to make something enthralling and cinematic and enveloping.

But Catching Flies is at his best stitching together these glittering, unfolding soundscapes with garbled vocal snippets and oriental synth sounds, happily moving from a few bars of hip hop-inspired grooves toward house inflicted throbs and back again via moments hard to pin down.

Submotion Orchestra, by contrast, are preceded by a reputation for making mammoth sounds and challenging venues to contain them. In these acoustically impressive surroundings expectation ahead of their set, with an expanded lineup no less, is understandably electric.

Feeding off the crowd’s anticipation, the Leeds outfit open with the glorious build up of Intro, taken from second album Fragments, before delving into the sweeping, soaring duo of Perfection and Sunshine.

The additional musicians make an immediate impact. The band’s already expansive compositions not only grow still broader, but also become more detailed, are filled in and elaborated on by the string quartet and extra three horn musicians.

And while Submotion’s live execution has always been a startling absorbing experience, the impact of this particular performance is a step beyond. The combination of violins and Ruby Wood’s voice on Worries is genuinely tear-jerking. Time Will Wait’s rolling rhythm is both mesmeric and magnificent. Over and again they raise the hairs on the back of your neck. The ebb and flow of the music is entrancing.

That’s not to say any of the usual chest rattling noise is absent. Granted the volume seems a little lower on this occasion, but instrumental maelstroms like Thousand Yard Stare are a swift reminder of what Submotion are about.

Perhaps it would have been nice to see the band tackle some of their material less obviously suited to this sort of musical expansion. It would have been fascinating to see how a string addendum would fit into the uncompromising Chrome Units, or dance orientated It’s Not Me It’s You. But with those quivering notes soar behind Wood reaching for the breathtaking high notes during Blind Spot, it’s difficult to find room for complaint.

Submotion are, if not unique, unrivaled when it comes the marrying grinding sub-bass with piercing blasts of brass and thrilling melodic runs. On record it can be easy to forget how fantastically intricate their music is. Seeing it played out in such a sedate setting brings their ingenuity to the fore.

When they started to attract attention in 2011 they were humbly branded an alternative dub step act. Dub step’s moment has passed while Submotion have devised ever more mesmeric way to show their musical might. And watching them play ‘Finest Hour’, their breakthrough track, as they close their set for the EFG London Jazz Festival is a wonderful reminder of how far they’ve come, and how much further they’re likely to go.


PREVIEW: Harold Sanditen, Flyin' High CD launch with Janet Suzman at Crazy Coqs (Mon 30th Nov.)

Vocalist HAROLD SANDITEN, who is also the popular host of the late night Thursday open mic at Crazy Coqs,  is looking forward to the launch gig for of his third CD -  in the venue where it was recorded. "Flyin' High - Live at Crazy Coqs" will be presented on Monday November 30th. Harold writes:

When I set out to develop the Flyin' High show, I was excited by the prospect of meshing my two biggest passions - music and travel. I’d been travelling around the globe for years, with some wonderful memories and pretty funny tales along the way.

I didn’t want an endless string of songs about travel, though, and as I thought about all the trips, certain events or places came to mind, and the emotions they evoked, inspired songs. The show evolved over a year before it settled into place at The Crazy Coqs, where it was recorded live. The result is a terrifically fun selection of songs celebrating the joy that travel has given me, by songwriters including The Beatles, Jimmy Van Heusen, Carole King, Bacharach, Ann Hampton Callaway, Cy Coleman, Irving Berlin, Jobim amongst others.

The CD launch show is on Monday, 30th November, 8 pm at The Crazy Coqs, and will include songs from the CD, along with duets with special guests, all backed by musicians Michael Roulston (piano and arrangements), Tom Mansi (bass) and Jonathan “Kitch” Kitching (drums and percussion).

Dame Janet Suzman will reprise our duet of Dave Frishberg’s Let’s Eat Home; Gary Williams and I will perform a comic duet of a very popular Weill song; and Champagne Charlie and I will sing the premiere of a parody song about social media dating apps, to the tune of Girl Talk.

It’s going to be a party night to remember. Expect lots of rhythm, lots of humour and just enough pathos!

LINKS: Artist website:
Crazy Coqs online bookings


PREVIEW: Anna Mae Silver - In My Wildest Dreams CD Launch with Liane Carroll and Lance Ellington (229 The venue, Nov 29th)

Liane Carroll and Anna-Mae Silver

This Sunday 29th sees the culmination of a long story. Vocalist Rachel Sutton explains here the background story of a collection of songs by Anna Mae Silver that now form a CD, and her involvement. The CD will be launched this Sunday at 229 The Venue. Liane Carroll, Lance Ellington, Jane Milligan and Rachel herself will be perfoming the songs. Rachel writes:

When I met Anna Mae Silver, little did I know that we would end up collaborating on her album, ‘In My Wildest Dreams’, a collection of songs she started writing 45 years ago after a chance encounter with Jon Hendricks inspired her as a composer. She was astonished and delighted when Hendricks loved her work and asked if he could write the lyrics to some of her pieces.

Jump forward to 2008: I was embarking on a singing career and Anna Mae’s interest in my voice, together with her passion and knowledge of jazz were inspiring and encouraging. Our meeting rekindled her ambition to produce a recording of her most treasured songs, and I was hugely flattered when she asked me to write some of the lyrics and to sing some of the material. She also asked her good friend, Lesley Duke, to write lyrics for three of the songs. Anna Mae’s work is both moving and uplifting – a real joy to sing and a wonderful canvas for lyrical creation. I felt a deep connection to Anna Mae’s music and so it was easy for me to put words to the stories I heard her playing.

After many months of work, musical director, pianist and composer John G Smith, member of the influential band Roadside Picnic, came on board and made sublime arrangements for the recording. Liane Carroll is a singer whose extraordinary voice and emotive presence Anna Mae has always greatly admired. A meeting was arranged and Liane was excited by the music and keen to be involved. We also needed a male voice and the wonderful Lance Ellington, well known for his work on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, is featured on the album, along with the beautifully tender voice of Jane Milligan, Spike’s daughter and a successful musical theatre actress.

I am delighted to be joining these fantastic singers on stage for the launch.

In My Wildest Dreams’ will be launched at  229 The Venue, 229 Great Portland Street, Sunday 29th November at 7:45pm. (WEBSITE/BOOKINGS)

The band includes:

John G Smith (piano)
John Parricelli (guitar)
Pat White (flugelhorn/trumpet)
Steve Pearce (bass)
Paul Robinson (drums)
Mike Williams (sax)
Jeremy Shoham (sax)
Susie Candlin (violin)
Virgilijus Vitkus (accordion)


REVIEW: Phronesis with the Frankfurt Radio Big Band at Milton Court (2015 EFG LJF)

Julian Arguelles directing Phronesis and the Frankfurt Radio Big Band
Photo credit: Cat Munro

Phronesis with the Frankfurt Radio Big Band.
(Milton Court. 22 November. 2015 EFG LJF. Review by Jon Turney)

If ever a piano trio seemed complete unto itself, Phronesis surely do. Jasper Høiby’s bass can double a piano line as readily as laying down a rhythmic figure that is as insistent as it is hard to follow. Anton Eger has equal rhythmic panache allied to an orchestral concept of percussion. Ivo Neame on piano brings improvisational prowess that keeps the other two constantly on their toes.

Still, good music is always generative, as this gig confirmed most satisfyingly. For their tenth anniversary, the trio celebrated with a commission for Julian Argüelles to arrange some of their back catalogue for the Frankfurt Radio Big Band. The results, at a debut gig in Germany and this London Jazz Festival show, were magnificent.

The trio have always had compositional flair to match their improvisational fervour and Argüelles must have had a taxing time selecting which pieces, and which elements of each piece, to highlight. He remarked on how much detail there is in the trio’s music. That’s not rare in a jazz group but certainly a challenge for one trying to find room to add to their work.

Nonetheless, the conductor (none of his own peerless saxophone playing this afternoon) affirmed the superb arranging skills recently highighted on his recording of South African jazz themes with the same band. He opened out an hour and a half’s worth of Phronesis’ music in ways both intriguing and rewarding. An old (still) untitled piece opened with a rich horn fanfare with piano ornamentation before the rhythm kicked in. From that opening statement of intent through to a three horn front line re-working of Urban Control, there were countless moments when the big band’s collective skills augmented and enhanced familiar music. They accumulated partly from the solo strength in depth in Frankfurt’s massed ranks, notably from Martin Scales on guitar, and Ollie Leicht on clarinet as well as the band’s trumpet and trombone sections. The trio responded readily to the new arrangements, Anton Eger energising a big band as to the manner born, and Neame playing at his very best. Add Høiby’s usual droll announcements punctuating his jaw-dropping contributions on bass, and there was really something for everyone.

A remarkable set that left two lasting impressions. As with the best Phronesis gigs, there was almost too much to take in. And there is joy in collaboration when musical intelligences that are as strong, yet open-minded, as the trio and their arranger here come together, and combine to create something new, the big band truly becoming an extension of Phronesis’ musical world. I don’t know if that can happen again, but I’m told the German show was recorded, so here’s hoping there’s a chance to dig into this set at leisure soon.


REVIEW: South African Vocal Jazz Night at the Ivy House (2015 EFG LJF)

South African Vocal Jazz Night
(Ivy House, Peckham, 20th November. 2015 EFG LF. Review by Rachel Maby)

Situated in Nunhead SE15, The Ivy House pub venue hosted a night of loud, grooving South African dance music

The music featured South African vocal music arranged by project collaborators Gareth Lockrane (UK jazz flautist), Adam Glasser (South African harmonica player) and Bokani Dyer (South African jazz pianist). The nine piece band also featured an all-star UK jazz line-up: Steve Watts on bass, Rob Luft on guitar, Jason Yarde on saxophone, Tim Giles on drums, Hugh Wilkinson on percussion, Chris Batchelor on trumpet and Richard Henry on trombone.

Joining the band were South African singers Pinise Saul, Luyanda Jezile, Prudence Jezile and Glasser’s daughter Abigail, who brought the music to life with their effervescent charisma and dancing. The “feel-good” music featured in this gig celebrated traditional South African folk music with jazz harmonies, polyphonic hornlines, vibrant accompanying percussion and rocking bass line.

A particular highlight in the first set was Saul’s ‘The Girls’ featuring all singers, whose sexy four crotchet pattern was highlighted by the singers’ dance moves on the first beat of every bar – an unnatural rhythmic instinct for the UK audience prone to 2 and 4 rhythmic impulse.

The second set was opened beautifully by a piano solo by Dyer on his tune ‘Vuvuzela’ from his latest album ‘World Music’, whose pentatonic harmony shone through in a stonking solo by Jason Yarde. By the last tune of the night the audience were up dancing on their feet, clapping for more.

This event was part of SA-UK Seasons 2014-2015, supported by the British Council Connect/ZA and Republic of South Africa Department of Arts and Culture.

LINK: Interview with Adam Glasser and Pinise Saul from 2014


REVIEW: Arild Andersen Sextet at Kings Place (2015 EFG LJF)

Arild Andersen - from artist website

Arild Andersen Sextet
(Kings Place, 21st November. 2015 EFG LJF. Review by Jon Turney)

Jazz celebrates its past in lots of different ways. This festival alone had explorations of the music of Paul Whiteman, Bill Evans, a new look at The Birth of the Cool and, indeed, a close look at Charles Mingus’ Ah Um (reviewed here).

This evening was a little different, though: a nod to just one performance. One of the great Mingus sextets visited Oslo when the European jazz circuit was just getting going in 1964, and living bass legend Arild Andersen put together a matching ensemble to mark that show’s 50th anniversary. They came to London a year on to reprise at least some of the concert.

There were a couple of ways of hearing this. You can still watch or listen to the entire original Mingus concert, and several others from the same year. It’s hard, then, not to compare this band with that one. But that ends badly. Of course we were not getting to hear one of the greatest ever jazz composers, nor revelling in Eric Dolphy, Clifford Jordan and Jaki Byard in their prime responding to his brilliant playing and composing, and his volcanic temperament.

Ask instead, was the music good tonight? Well, these tunes – So Long Eric, Orange was the Colour…, Better Get it In Your Soul, Fables of Faubus – are nearly everyone’s favourites. The sonority of the sextet was a good match for the canonical performances, and it is always splendid to hear them brought to life in concert. The ensemble arrangements were carried off beautifully, even on the fiendish All the Things You Could Be By Now if Sigmund Freud’s Wife Was Your Mother. And the solos, shorter than they would have been fifty years ago, were mostly great – especially those featuring trumpeter Eivind Lønning and two or three magisterial excursions from Andersen himself, retaining all the depth of the bass even with amplification cranked well up in the mix. Andersen also meshed perfectly with drummer Gard Nilssen, reproducing that almost-too-on-top-of- the-beat urgency that was Mingus and Danny Richmond’s trademark. The other soloists – Erlend Slettevold on piano along with Petter Wettke and Klaus Holm on reeds - did good work throughout, but allowed a few more thoughts of their illustrious forebears to creep back in. It must, let’s face it, be pretty well impossible to play bass clarinet on a tune people have heard Eric Dolphy solo on and leave the listener satisfied, as impossible as matching the impact the original band must have had when they hit Oslo all those years ago.

A tad tantalising, overall, then? Certainly. But still very enjoyable in its own right as a one-off tribute to the old masters.


REVIEW: Lush Life : The Songs of Billy Strayhorn at Cadogan Hall (2015 EFG LJF)

Allan Harris and the Frank Griffith Festival Tentet at Cadogan Hall
Photo Credit:Patti Timura-Harris

Lush Life : The Songs of Billy Strayhorn
Cadogan Hall, 20th November. 2015 EFG LJF. Review by Peter Vacher)

Pianist-arranger Alex Webb, who conceived this show to celebrate the centenary of Strayhorn’s birth, is the local pioneer of a relatively new development in jazz presentation, the narrative concert form. Where others, like Richard Pite’s Jazz Repertory Company, seek to replicate past events, Webb looks to tell a specific story. He’s the man who dreamed up the Café Society Swing and Parker on Dial programmes, each featuring a scholarly narration and a strong commitment to appropriate jazz performance. And so it was here, with no less than three vocalists, each quite idiosyncratic, accompanied by Frank Griffith’s Festival Tentet, Webb’s informative script seamlessly delivered by Washington-born Sirena Riley, each cue summoning one or other of the vocalists to perform.

That Strayhorn was a considerable composer was never in doubt and that he was seldom given his due by Duke Ellington is equally true, all of this brought out in Riley’s readings. That he was lionised by those in the know was also the case, his talent recognised by his peers if not by the wider world. In badging this as a celebration of his songs, Webb made himself a hostage to fortune, in that a number of these pieces were first conceived by Strayhorn as instrumentals, Webb having to provide a lyric himself. For my part, I longed for more straight band performances, for there was considerable solo firepower in this ensemble, not least from Griffith himself, always persuasive on tenor, and the fiercely inventive altoist Tony Kofi, who later told me how much he’d enjoyed playing Robbie Robson’s arrangement of the immortal Blood Count. Still, for all that this this was conceived as a singer’s show.

First up was Harlem-ite Allan Harris, an engaging vocalist who has something of Nat King Cole’s ease with a song, this evident as he bounced on stage for Jump for Joy, the band sound reminding me of the Savoy Sultans of yesteryear. He stayed for two more pieces to be replaced by the overly histrionic David McAlmont, essentially a soul-oriented pop singer who deployed his falsetto on My Little Brown Book, this sparked by a thoughtful Adrian Fry trombone solo. It was Fry’s arrangement of ‘Rain Check’ [with lyrics by Webb] that brought on the hyper-active Sandra Nkaké, strutting and staying just this side of vocal mayhem on Rhumbop, before she combined with McAlmont on the evergreen Satin Doll and so it went, each singer taking turn and turnabout . With Omar Puente supreme on violin on A Train, the vocal trio then turned the climactic C-Jam Blues into a madcap romp as Duke’s Place using the Armstrong-inspired lyrics that emerged on the iconic encounter between Duke and Satchmo, as each band member soloed, pianist Peter Edwards, bandleader Griffith, Kofi and trumpeter Sue Richardson seizing their moments splendidly. Great stuff.

How better to remember Strayhorn than by performing his music? So, plaudits all round to Webb for his research and to all his performers and arrangers for this tribute. Additional sidemen would have given the band more body and it did lack a certain oomph but more time on the ball would improve that. This show deserves to be aired again. For now, let Duke have the last word. ‘God bless Billy Strayhorn,’ he said, so amen to that.

Frank Griffith Tentet:

Sue Richardson, Robbie Robson [tp]
Adrian Fry [tb]
Frank Griffith [ts,cl]
Tony Kofi [as]
Erica Clarke [bs, fl]
Omar Puente [vln]
Peter Edwards [p]
Gary Crosby [b] Rod Youngs [d]

Allan Harris, David McAlmont, Sandra Nkaké [voc]
Sirena Riley [narr]
Alex Webb [Curator].


LP REVIEW: Sun Ra and His Arkestra – To Those of Earth… and Other Worlds

Sun Ra and His Arkestra – To Those of Earth… and Other Worlds
(Strut/Art Yard SRUT125LP. LP review by Andrew Cartmel)

To give it its proper designation, this is Gilles Peterson Presents Sun Ra and His Arkestra, which is quite a canny idea for a project. Because, like Duke Ellington or Frank Zappa, Sun Ra has a dauntingly vast oeuvre (well over 100 albums; and that isn’t taking into account the bootlegs) and if someone is keen to explore Ra’s music, yet doesn’t know where to begin, then a curated experience by one of Britain’s top DJs is an excellent starting point. He explains some of his choices on video HERE. (The new compilation follows on last year’s release In the Orbit of Ra, also on the Strut label, which saw long time Arkestra luminary Marshall Allen providing his own doorway into the massive Ra back catalogue.)

This is an intergalactic tour of Ra’s music (musics, actually, plural) from his early doo-wop, in the shape of the lovely, lolloping Dreaming performed by The Cosmic Rays (Calvin Barron, Matt Swift and Lonnie Tolbert), to angular, ethnic electronica such as The World Of Africa (Sun Ra on Hohner Clarinet and ‘sun harp’). And, perhaps surprisingly, it passes through the richly romantic on the way — Black Sky and Blue Moon is a mesmerising ballad with virile science fiction vocals (the descendants of the doo-wop). Featuring The Cosmic Rays again, the song is poised between primitive simplicity and the avant-garde, with its delicate, exploratory flute (Marshall Allen), challenged and banished by the powerful background blast of the baritone sax by Pat Patrick, voices rising in celebration to the sky and moon of the title and fading to flute and drums (the latter probably played by Robert Barry). Utterly beautiful.

India, on the other hand, is typical — and classic — Ra with its mystery percussion and sensual, snaking muted trumpet (Art Hoyle), clashing starburst cymbals (Jim Herndon), shimmering bells and casually elegant electric piano by Su Ra — who also plays space gong. Of course. Sun Ra’s keyboards (Mini-Moog synth and Rocksichord) offer a very different experience on Love In Outer Space, providing a springy cartoon trampoline for the soft innocence of the vocals by David Henderson. Spontaneous Simplicity (Stereo Version) is memorable for its insistent, boogying rhythmic percussion (the drums are by William Cochran, with just about every other member of the band contributing to percussion) and Ra’s judicious, jauntily terse piano comments à la Basie.

This is a splendid package, a hefty gatefold album, nicely designed and featuring extensive and fascinating liner notes, including an in-depth history of Ra by Robert L. Campbell, extracted from the forthcoming Art Yard reprint of the rare and sought after book Sun Ra: the Omniverse by Hartmut Geerken. There’s also a great gallery of Sun Ra album covers and some lovely black and white photographs of the Arkestra members by Val Wilmer. In addition, the origin of every track in the collection is carefully documented. Sadly, for reasons of space (ironic in a Sun Ra context), there’s no detailed information on who plays what on which track. The booklet for the double CD version, however, contains all that one could ask in that area, and it can, in a pinch, be downloaded.

In any event this a great compilation, though you’ll miss the ringing telephone in the background on Adventure-Equation — it's only on the CDs. But the double LP version will exert a considerable appeal to all vinyl enthusiasts. It has a strong, open, punchy sound and is an admirably clean transfer. And, to my ears, it has the edge on In the Orbit of Ra in audiophile, if not musical, terms. What’s more, the two CDs (though not the booklet) are included as a bonus with this doubly vinyl package; so it’s hard to find a reason not to buy it. An ideal starting point to explore the Universe According to Sun Ra.


CD REVIEW: Eberhard Weber - Hommage à Eberhard Weber

Eberhard Weber - Hommage à Eberhard Weber
(ECM Records 473 2344. CD Review by Adrian Pallant)

Rarely has a live jazz album felt as emotive or as broadly momentous, encompassing and celebrating so many strands and decades of sublime creativity.

Since the beginning of the 1970s, and gradually becoming a mainstay of Manfred Eicher's ECM record label, Stuttgart-born Eberhard Weber has forged a visionary compositional and instrumental path, providing contemporary jazz with one of its most distinctive, five-string bass sonorities. Throughout his career, Weber has continued to delight audiophiles and concert audiences via a vast range of atmospheric, boundary-straddling releases, collaborating perhaps most notably with Ralph Towner, Jon Christensen, Jan Garbarek, Gary Burton, Paul McCandless and Pat Metheny. But in 2007, a stroke brought an end to his bass-playing (though two albums, Resumé (2012) and Encore (2015) – based on archived, live bass solos with the Jan Garbarek Group between 1990 and 2007 – have since been released).

In January 2015, to observe the popular bassist's 75th birthday and honour his significant musical achievements, two jubilee concerts were presented in Stuttgart; and though Eberhard selected the personnel, he requested that the programme be a surprise. So, a stellar line-up convened – Pat Metheny (guitars), Jan Garbarek (soprano sax), Gary Burton (vibraphone), Scott Colley (double bass), Danny Gottlieb (drums), Paul McCandless (English horn, soprano sax), Klaus Graf (alto sax) and Ernst Hutter (euphonium).  With the powerfully elegant 18-piece SWR Big Band conducted by Helge Sunde and Michael Gibbs, the stage was set for large-scale arrangements of Weber's music (with arrangements by Gibbs, Ralf SchmidRainer Tempel and Libor Šíma), with Pat Metheny's 30-minutes-plus commission, Hommage, the centrepiece.

Appropriately, one of the stars of the show was Eberhard Weber himself, firstly as compère and expectant onlooker; but also, ingeniously, recorded excerpts of his playing were woven into some of the performances, so that the bassist became magically integrated. Résumé Variations opens the album, a typically ethereal, soaring, eight-minute extemporisation from Garbarek, its spatiality caressing only Weber's signature phased-effect layerings from tape; and Touch broods magnificently to Ralf Schmid's luscious, cinemascope, big band arrangement, with features for Gary Burton's vibraphone and Paul McCandless's English horn, whilst bassist Scott Colley takes on Weber's role particularly eloquently.

Maurizius (taken from 1982 album Later That Evening) is sensitively reimagined in Michael Gibbs' arrangement, the wistful air of the original frequently breaking into brassy grandeur. More recent creation Tübingen preens itself majestically, Rainer Tempel's imaginative arrangement bristling with exquisite musicianship, including the delicacy of vibes and soprano sax; and digital download add-on Street Scene is, ironically, an album highlight – at nine minutes, this ebullient, big band spectacular dances to Burton's seemingly effortless perambulations and Colley's bubbling, subtly-rasping, Weber-like bass.

Pat Metheny's challenge to create Hommage entailed incorporating available video elements of Eberhard Weber's improvisations into a new work, with the visual sampling appearing as a projection behind the players at the key moments. Broadly through-composed, it fascinatingly melds the guitarist's written and performance styles with Weber's, producing dynamic, soundtrack-scale orchestrations which, though continuous, are divided into contrasting movements. The SWR Big Band's crystalline dynamics and brassy stabs are particularly effective, especially combined with Weber's resonant presence and Metheny's characteristic pitch-bent synth improvisations – and fittingly, the overall impression is of celebration.

To close, Libor Šíma's close-harmonied arrangement of Notes After An Evening possesses a hymnal, almost South-African folksong quality (reminiscent, too, of O Waly Waly), its reverence suggesting the respect that these concert audiences communicated to this great bassist/composer of our time. As Metheny puts it: "The main goal for me in all of this was the hope that Eberhard would enjoy the evening of the premiere and that I would be able to represent at least a portion of the genuine love I have for him and his music in a way that was faithful to the standard he established throughout his amazing career." A very special ECM occasion.

Adrian Pallant is a proofreader, musician and jazz writer who also reviews at his own site


REVIEW: Annette Peacock solo at Cafe Oto

Annette Peacock at Cafe Oto
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2015. All Rights Reserved

Annette Peacock solo
(Cafe Oto on 20 November 2015. Review and drawing by Geoff Winston.)

Annette Peacock is a true artist. Her music, her songs, her lyrics are her art, her poetry. At Cafe Oto she gave a wonderful solo performance. One of the most compelling witnessed. It was only one set, but it was a distillation of her art, intimate, absorbing, captivating.

Peacock has a striking presence, a natural sense of style and understatement, which commanded attention from the moment she was ushered round the sold-out crowd to the stage area. The execution and her arrangements were that of the careful perfectionist, offering an uncanny sense of spacious tension with every note, word and gesture. Music of spellbinding, jazzy beauty, elusive, mesmerising.

Just her voice and keyboards, maintaining equilibrium between her extraordinarily agile vocal range and the nuanced tones of the venue's Yamaha grand, the ethereal strains of her vintage Roland D 50 digital synth, and occasional forays in to digital beats.

Peacock's keynote high pitched, distant voicings, delicate, yet sharp, were not only still there, fifty years on from her early recordings, but sounding even better - evaporating in to the ether, rebounding to underpin the wistful, plaintive qualities of her songs.

Songs of reflection, of pain, of isolation, of love and feelings, of inner honesty and searching. A tender poetry - nothing trite, every word carved and crafted. Phrases resonating, sweet and bitter, hitting deep.

Peacock's lyrics made their mark as she drew on long-standing and more recent repertoire. Twisting the knife, from Succubus - "I don't need to take Valium or opium to know what it takes to leave you." From B 4 U Said, from her ECM album, An Acrobat's Heart, "That you know my soul … I know my soul is being seen." From others, disconcertingly, "Feelings last too long," and alarmingly, "My heart is not beating at all." The broadest vistas were embraced: "… beyond the pretence of time …" "the infinite surrounds me" - and the political: "Will the scientists find how to report all the damage done?"

Self-taught, her roots are in the 60s and 70s jazz and experimental electronics - she and Paul Bley explored the potential of the first Moogs and performed with the like-minded percussionist, Han Bennink. Now, looking for parallels, the individual voices of Scott Walker, Yoko Ono, may be the closest.

Playing Albert's Love Theme, a beautiful, lightly fractured solo piano composition from 1966, she recalled with affection the impact of Albert Ayler - "a big influence on me. Can you hear it?" - with whom she travelled after persuading her then husband, bassist Gary Peacock to join Ayler in his trio.

To close, she threw in a funk beat infused with Grace Jones intent, intertwined, slightly unnervingly with a recording of her own singing voice and just added a few notes on the synth before taking her leave. A star.

Peacock's performances are rare events, and she will be back for one more, unmissable night at Cafe Oto on Monday 23 November.


INTERVIEW: David Amram (CD Box Set David Amram’s Classic American Film Scores 1956-2016 and UK appearances Nov 29 to Dec 3)

David Amram (french horn) with Percy Heath and Dizzy Gillespie in 1986

DAVID AMRAM (b. 1930) is an extraordinary figure in American music. Starting out on the French horn, he developed into a multi-instrumentalist (proficient on about three dozen instruments) and a distinguished composer and conductor. He has played and worked with an astonishing roster of the greats in jazz music — and those outside it, too — including Bob Dylan, Leonard Bernstein, Sir James Galway and Willie Nelson. 

Amram went into the Army in the 1950s — “I showed up at the induction centre with one civilian suit, my French horn mouthpiece… a copy of Walter Piston’s book on Harmony and a shaving bag.” Amram was not destined to be a career soldier. After two years, he was discharged in Germany and became part of the thriving European jazz scene. 

Back in America, in addition to attending Manhattan school of Music studying composition and orchestration, he played with Charles Mingus at the Café Bohemia and with Oscar Pettiford’s Orchestra at the 1956 concert Town Hall with Thelonious Monk, composed the score as well as appearing in Jack Kerouac and photographer and film-maker Robert Frank's classic underground film "Pull My Daisy”, developing into a composer of major orchestral, chamber and operatic works and scores for film and theatre.

It is Amram’s work in the latter capacity which brings him to the UK next week. He is here to launch a five-CD collection  — "David Amram’s Classic American Film Scores 1956-2016"  — which also features his work for the stage, including music for Arthur Miller’s "After the Fall".

David set the scene for his arrival by taking a whirlwind tour of his equally whirlwind career in a TransAtlantic telephone conversation, in which he was warm, open, fascinating and often hilarious (“I appreciate you doing this on the phone, juggling it in one hand, trying to type with the other and probably swatting flies at the same time!”) Andrew Cartmel asked the questions:

LondonJazz News: To start with — a warm welcome to the UK, where you’re appearing in London and Manchester. It’s a privilege to have you performing here. When were you last over in these parts?

David Amram: The last time — speaking of bebop events — was when they had the original scroll of Jack Kerouac’s manuscript for On the Road which was typed on one continuous sheet of paper in a roll —  at the British Library. (It was exhibited in 2012) It was nestling there with Beowulf and Shakespeare and Emily Brontë — all these people Jack adored. Jack Kerouac, who was of French Canadian extraction, only learned English when he was six years old and he really appreciated the masters of English literature. It’s hard to imagine how grateful he would have been to know his scroll was there among his mentors — just like Louis Armstrong, Monk and Bach were for me as a composer. I gave a little concert at the library of the kind of jazz which Jack would have appreciated and which he grew up with. This was in 2012.

LJN: Your musical career began in earnest in Europe in the 1950s, when you escaped the clutches of the US military and began playing with the likes of Albert Mangelsdorff, Jutta Hipp, Bobby Jaspar, Lars Gullin and Raymond Fol. What differences do you see between the jazz scene in Europe and in the States, both then and now?

DA: Back then I could simply say there were daring pioneers, some of whom like George Shearing and Marian McPartland, John Dankworth and Cleo Laine came to the States and they became part of the world jazz scene. But there were these other great players like Tony Crombie, Jimmy Deuchar and Don Rendell, whom I played with when they came to Paris. They were terrific players. We were all part of the same family. But at that time it was difficult to find confident, wonderful bass players and drummers who were free to travel, because they all had day jobs! Now, when I came to London in 2005 I went to Brixton and it was so warm and welcoming. It was just like going to Harlem in the 1950s. Great neighbourhood with wonderful jazz players. They had so many great bass players and drummers. I would say in the last sixty years rather than needing to import somebody from the USA to play bass and drums, now they don’t even need people from the States. This is an embodiment of what Monk told me in his apartment in 1955. He said “Some day those people over there in Japan, Norway, England they’re not just going to get our records and copy what we played. They’re going to make their own jazz. That’s the idea.” Here I was in 2005 seeing that what he said was now happening, and not just in the UK.

LJN: Besides working and hanging out with jazz greats like Monk, Charley Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Sonny Rollins, you’ve also known Bob Dylan and literary titans like Arthur Miller, Jack Kerouac, Terry Southern and Hunter S. Thompson. Can you explain this knack you have for falling in with such legendary figures?

DA: I can tell you, believe it or not, that it’s just the the same way that Jason Lazell [of Moochin’ About Records] contacted me out of the blue and said he wanted to put out a five CD box set of my music. Everything of significance in my life has come of bumping into people. Back in 1958 Elia Kazan’s costume designer for the Broadway play JB said, “There’s this kid who writes music for these free productions of Shakespeare in the Park.” And Kazan had just tried to hire ten famous composers, but they were all busy. It was a fluke. John Frankenheimer’s wife went to all these off-Broadway plays for which I was composing incidental music and that led to me doing the score for the 1959 television version of The Turn of the Screw for Frankenheimer. Then when he moved into feature films, he took me with him. Hunter Thompson and I bought baked beans and turpentine from the same general store in the wilds of New York State. The guy who ran the store and who never said anything suddenly one day said to me, “I’ve seen the flying saucers landing and the people getting out of them. I can’t tell anyone else because they’d take my store away. But I can tell you because you’re a musician. The only other person I told was that crazy writer living on the hill.” And the crazy writer turned out to be Hunter S. Thompson who was then working for a little local newspaper. In 1956, before On the Road was published, I met Kerouac at a bring your own bottle party at a painter’s loft. I was carrying my instrument and he handed me a piece of paper and asked me to play to the words. Arthur Miller I began to work with because he was doing his new play After the Fall to open the Lincoln Centre Theatre and Kazan was directing it. As they say in the bible, “All things come to those who wait.” As they say in New York City — even better— “What’s the rush?”

LJN: Beyond jazz you’ve done impressive work in the world of theatre and film music, writing soundtracks for Elia Kazan’s "Splendor in the Grass" and "The Arrangement" and John Frankenheimer’s films "The Young Savages" and "The Manchurian Candidate". Your score for the latter film is particularly brilliant, and I believe that Frank Sinatra (the star of "The Manchurian Candidate") was especially impressed with it?

DA: Sinatra actually said that in an interview. That was a mind-blower because he was not known for throwing around compliments. And that’s putting it mildly. I never got to meet him when he was working on the film. Then a few years later there was a party at the Village Gate for George Plimpton and somebody said “Frank’s downstairs and wants to see you.” I said “Frank who?” And it was Sinatra. I went down there and he was sitting at a table and he was really nice. He said “I loved your music for The Manchurian Candidate. I’m sorry the film’s no longer available.” [An eerily prophetic tale of political assassination, The Manchurian Candidate was withdrawn from circulation for about 15 years. Many people believed this was because its plot was too similar to the killing of John F. Kennedy.] Sinatra was nice and really gracious. I’d like to have seen more of him — but he had so many handlers, and you could never get past the handlers! He wanted to know why there was never a soundtrack released. A lot of people liked that score. I’d worked with the tenor sax player Harold Land on it, and also on my earlier movie for Frankenheimer, The Young Savages. Harold Land had never played on a film score before and I had to fight and argue and beg and plead to get the powers that be to use someone they’d never heard of. Then they said, “This guy’s fantastic — where does he live?” I said, “Two blocks away!” But in 1962 jazz was no longer in fashion. The score also featured classical orchestral music, like the main title, which people seemed to love, but they couldn’t equate the fact that there was such diverse music operating in the same world. They were looking for something straightforward, with a hit song, to launch a soundtrack album. But the music was appreciated. I was offered the opportunity to compose seven film scores in one year after I did that. I said I couldn’t write, orchestrate and conduct that much in one year and do a really good job. And they said, “Oh, you don’t have to. You can use ghost writers and orchestrators.” And I said “I don’t use ghost writers or orchestrators. I’m a composer. I write my own music.” And they looked at me like I was something out of antiquity. So I followed my career death wish. But I knew that if I had followed that course, and gone down that particular rabbit hole, five years later — if I were lucky — I would have been the ghost writer for the next David Amram. So I followed the long road and I’m still on it, at the age of 85. I urge everyone to take the long road and follow those career death wishes.

LJN: The intersection of jazz and film music is a fascinating one, and you’ve been one of the key composers in this area. Are there any other milestone jazz scores, by other musicians, which you admire?

DA: Duke Ellington’s Anatomy of a Murder is just magnificent and Miles Davis’s Lift to the Scaffold (Ascenseur pour l’échafaud) is terrific. And Alfie where you can hear Sonny Rollins playing. There was a documentary film made of Ornette in Paris in 1966, documenting Ornette and his trio creating the score for the Belgian film Who's Crazy? directed by Dick Fontaine. Mingus wrote a great score for Shadows and Lee Konitz wrote one for Lowell Blues, a documentary about Kerouac.

LJN: Are there any new jazz musicians working on the scene today you particularly admire and whom you’d like to draw our attention to?

DA: There’s an incredible jazz French-horn player from Holland called Morris Kliphuis; he’s fantastic. He’s taking what I and Julius Watkins were doing 50 years ago, and taking it to a new level. In Denver, there’s a trumpeter Hugh Ragin, another trumpeter (who also plays bass), Brad Goode, a drummer Tony Black and a bass player Artie Moore. Elsewhere in the States there’s singer-songwriter John Fullbright, a true jazz sensibility with great Oklahoma folk style and killer harmonies. Austin Texas trumpeter Ephraim Owens, a natural lyric voice with very much his own style and Esmerelda Spalding, a great singer and virtuoso bass player who serves as a role model for excellence, soulfulness and sophistication.

Dsvid Amram in 2012

LJN: For someone who is unfamiliar with your own music, what records would you recommend as a good place to start listening? Besides the new Moochin’ About set, of course.

DA: My Triple Concerto for Woodwinds Brass and Jazz Quintets. And there’s a new recording you can get online called This Land (Symphonic Variations On a Song by Woody Guthrie), which contains all the different kinds of musics I’ve worked in all my life.

LJN: Speaking of which, your writing and playing embraces a vast range of styles and influences, including classical, folk and world music. Do you feel jazz is at the root of it all?

DA: The jazz philosophy is at the root of it all. This was best expressed by Monk’s son T.S. Monk. He said, “Just remember you’re one of the last living old cats whom my father had come by the house.” (Back when T.S. was five, now he’s 65!). “You have a responsibility to every five-year-old, high school kid and guitar player in the land. Always try to get across the passion of what this music is about. The young cats these days have the chops but they don’t have the philosophy.” And the philosophy is that everybody deserves to have the chance, if they’re eager, and respectful, to sit in with the band. It might be at 4am, after the show, but they have a chance. Even if it’s just a wishful kid in a near-empty room with just a drunk, or an angry bartender. It’s our job to pass on that egalitarianism and that passion and that sense of the now. That beautiful spirit of knowing you’re only going to hear it played in this way that one time. That’s the sanctity of the now — the purity of intent and that exquisite choice of notes.

David Amram’s Classic American Film Scores 1956-2016 is released by Moochin About.(MOOCHIN09- WEBSITE)

UK TOUR DATES: LONDON 29th NOVEMBER: Amram will be performing with Guy Barker in London at the Electric Carousel in association with the Rah Rah Room, a cabaret venue in Piccadilly. (BOOKINGS)

LONDON DECEMBER 1st: A 6 30pm event at Ray’s Jazz in Foyles bookshop, Charing Cross Road. (BOOKINGS). 

 MANCHESTER DECEMBER 2nd and 3rd Two nights at La Gitane (DETAILS / BOOKINGS)


REVIEW: A Soul Summit – Average White Band & Kokomo at the Royal Festival Hall (2015 EFG LJF)

Average White Band in Seattle in 2013
Photo Credit Johan Broberg/ Creative Commons

A Soul Summit – Average White Band & Kokomo
(Royal Festival Hall. 21st November. 2015 EFG LJF. Review by Dan Bergsagel)

As Average White Band left the stage with two and a half thousand people on their feet, it felt more like the end of the final headline set at Glastonbury than an evening in the Royal Festival Hall. Yet when the house lights came on, with the final stabs of Pick Up The Pieces still hanging in the air, the audience were revealed not as muddy young rockers but a different tranche of society: charitably middle-aged and dressed for the theatre. On paper, Saturday night's Soul Summit may have seemed a straightforward return to past 70s glory, but the fantastic musical delivery from the bands and the joyous reception they received from the audience made it a new night to remember in its own right.

The mood was laid with a first set from Kokomo - their neat instrumental work leaving space for three singers to dance, enjoy themselves and whip up the crowd. Still anchored around Tony O'Malley on keys, much of the initial lineup still feature, with the stage flanked by original guitarists Neil Hubbard and Jim Mullen.

Early on in their set delightfully energetic and foul-mouthed frontman Frank Collins quipped that it had been at least thirty years since they'd shared a stage with AWB. Over those three decades, through breakups and reunions Kokomo have managed to retain an impressive number of their original line-up; Average White Band less so. Yet as they launched explosively with I Just Can't Give You Up, one couldn't resist feeling that Alan Gorrie and Onnie McIntyre had found some rather fine replacements in youth instead. The relatively recent 2011 addition of ex-Tower of Power singer Brent Carter to take responsibility for Hamish Stuart's old role is inspired recruitment – not only an excellent vocal match for the higher registers but a musician with an easy stage presence which gelled well. The effortlessly tight The Jugglers demonstrated that the new back line were up to speed, with Rob Aries accomplished on keys with a slick solo.

Some Chaka Khan kept things light before a touching rendition of the Marvin Gaye classic I Want You, with much of the band coming together to contribute backing vocals. And while things were already going well, the start of the percussive backing track for the buoyant Atlantic Avenue may have been the moment when the momentum really started building. The playful sax lines, the expertly executed vocal duet between Gorrie and Carter's falsetto arrival at the middle eight felt like you were in the record, and when the larger than life horn intro of Work To Do followed on the audience didn't need to be asked twice to get out of their chairs and groove in appreciation, and it took off from there. The ever funky guitar-bass interplay of When Will You be Mine had dignified couples dancing in the boxes. Cut The Cake saw septuagenarians running down the aisles to join the growing throng at the foot of the stage.

Fast running out of funk, the cheesier soulful A Love of Your Own brought brief respite and a gut busting alto solo from Cliff Lyons took the competitive saxophone sparring to the next level before In The Beginning became the chosen vehicle for a solo drum onslaught from the tireless Rocky Bryant, letting off some steam before they finished their set with the first AWB single, Put It Where You Want It.

So often bands have to coax and cajole audiences into participating: some organised clapping here, some forced chorus singing there. And so often in seated auditoriums like the Royal Festival Hall, suited to hosting orchestras as well as anything else, the sound quality and view is fantastic but some energy and passion can be lost in the cavernous space. Not today. Returning for an encore with the amusingly suitable Let's Go Round Again, this current incarnation of AWB looked as relaxed and natural as if each member of the group had been playing these tunes for more than 40 years. As the audience took the singing duties of their hands, it was clear that there is still something unusually compelling in these infectious compositions, and luckily for us the band are still giving them the attention and audience they deserve.

A fantastic show, there was nothing average about this one.


Tribute to Bill Evans with Nikki Iles and Cecilia Stalin at the 606 Club (2015 EFG LJF)

Tribute to Bill Evans with Nikki Iles and Cecilia Stalin
(606 Club. 21st November. 2015 EFG LJF. Review by Mike Collins)

“It all started with Bill Evans”, Nikki Iles has been heard to say when reflecting on her own voyage of discovery through jazz. Like so many pianists, Evans’ approach has left a faint trace in her own distinctive sound at the keyboard, so when Steve Rubie wanted to stage a tribute to the late legend as part of the 606 Club’s London Jazz festival programme, who better to call?

The club was full to bursting as the evening started with a trio (what else?), Dave Whitford in the bass chair and Tristan Mailliot on drums plunging into the spirit of three-way interaction that Evans embraced. B Minor Waltz took shape out of some impressionistic shimmers, momentum and intensity growing out of the conversation as Iles stretched out for the first time. Nardis had a modern twist to it with a more overtly modal vibe decorated with darting bass figures, Spring is Here as lush ballad hushed the club.

Club boss Rubie and Iles had conspired to bring more to the tribute than a trio however. The band began to expand and new aspects of Evans began to appear. First, guitarist Mike Outram took the stand and the repertoire became more of launch pad for new explorations. Funkalero, also given an extra twist with an added theme of Iles own, provoked a gutsy solo from the guest to whoops from all round and Danny Boy acquired a new tinge with singing guitar and a gentle groove.

The introduction of Swedish singer Cecilia Stalin heralded a celebration of a collaboration that even Evans enthusiasts may have known less about, that of the pianist and Swedish singer Monica Zetterlund (1937-2005), remembered for many things, among which were being a regrettable Swedish entry for the 1963 Eurovision Song Contest, in which she came last. Lucky to be Me and Maybe September gave us a chance to hear Stalin’s warm toned, swinging vibe mesh with the band as they drew on repertoire from the 1964 album Evans and Zetterlund recorded, Waltz for Debby. After the break Stalin sang the title track with the lyric in Swedish (Monicas Vals) and then the band, having been joined by saxophonist Julian Nicholas, shifted gears and cut loose on a traditional Swedish tune, know in English as Old Stockholm, Stalin gliding and swooping over the groove and Nicholas pulling out an emotional soaring solo on soprano.

A quintet, rounded out the evening (Outram returning on guitar), Show-type Tune and Interplay vehicles for them to pump up the energy further. This was a tribute to Bill Evans, but there was nothing dusty or restrained about the performance. A top class group of musicians reminded us that Evans’ music remains both something to re-visit and enjoy, but also a continuing source of inspiration and ideas for new and fresh music.

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


REVIEW/DRAWINGS: Mingus Ah Um in the Played Twice at Brilliant Corners series (2015 EFG LJF)

Alex Garnett on baritone sax at Brilliant Corners
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2015. All Rights Reserved

Mingus Ah Um
(Played Twice at Brilliant Corners, 19 November 2015; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

There is a nice link between the Mingus Ah Um album and the 'Played Twice' concept, curated by Amit Patel and Quentin Collins at Brilliant Corners in Dalston. Mingus's subsequent recording, Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus', for Nat Hentoff's Candid label includes the vocal version of Fables of Faubus which Columbia vetoed on the original issue, and has Mingus recreating a bar-room in the Nola studios, entreating the audience  to remain quiet - "we are interrupted by your noise; in fact, don't take any drinks, no cash registers ringing." With lights dimmed, Patel played the original UK Philips pressing on a superb sound system to the respectfully silent sold-out house, to bring out all the warmth and nuances of the vinyl, from the multiple tempo changes to Mingus's vibrating bass.

Arranger and bassist Mark Lewandowski, had assembled a highly accomplished group to take on the 'scary … fun and terrifying' task of 'revisioning Mingus Ah Um'. Stepping in to the boots of the Handy, Ervin, Knepper, Parlan, Richmond and Mingus is not for the faint-hearted! Responding with sensitivity, intelligence, authenticity and a couple of inspired left-field punches, they did more than justice to the LP's beautifully structured compositions.

Kicking off with the pulsating section work of Better Git It In Your Soul, they set the tone - no chance of tripping up on its twists and turns, they'd rehearsed them to a tee, which they followed through with the Ellingtonian slip and slide of the full tilt Boogie Stop Shuffle, and the tricksy ensemble arrangements of Bird Calls - neat but not too tidy, as the master would have wished. The fresh surprises were a mildly anarchic, heavyweight version of Goodbye Porkpie Hat, turning this thoughtful tribute to Lester Young on its head, and the totally stripped back Pussycat Dues for Alex Garnett's beefy, bluesy baritone sax and Bruno Heinen's gently flowing piano alone - nothing else.

There were lovely solos and duets peppered throughout - Nathaniel Cross on trombone with Heinen, an ever so subtle combination; Ed Jones, lending Rollins-esque authority; Lewandowski, with delicate solo runs, not shying away from the leader's role; Quentin Collins crisp and cool, and James Maddren, all rimshots and cracking pace in true Dannie Richmond style.

The septet in full swing playing Mingus Ah Um at Brilliant Corners
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2015. All Rights Reserved

A great evening combining the original LP heard in optimum conditions with its reinterpretation in great style by the live ensemble. One suggestion - on a subsequent outing, maybe a vocal version of Fables of Faubus could be added to the repertoire, to spice it up even more!

Mark Lewandowski - bass
Alex Garnett - alto and baritone saxes
Ed Jones - tenor sax
Nathaniel Cross - trombone
Quentin Collins - trumpet
Bruno Heinen - piano
James Maddren - drums


REVIEW: Frank Holder at 90 at Pizza Express Dean Street (2015 EFG LJF)

Frank Holder earlier this year receiving a Lifetime Achievement
Award from the Worshipful Company of Musicians
Photo credit: John Levett / Creative Commons

Frank Holder
(Pizza Express Dean Street. 20th November. 2015 EFG LJF. Review by Helen Theophanous)

1925 was a very good year, the year Frank Holder was born. At 90 Years of age Frank insists that as he sang in the church choir at the age of ten, he's been in the business for 80 years.

Holder displayed his individual bebop style and mastery of the congas, deftly slipping between velvet toned lyrics and scatting while leading the band . This set the scene for a gig which delighted with Holder's unique take on familiar standards.

Above all, his innate rhythm shone through everything, seeming almost to drip through from the top of his head to his fingers and onto the congas. Holder is rhythm whether he is performing a smooth ballad or an energetic bossa. The voice is young and has a softness which is appealing and very easy on the ear with an intimate quality that seems directed to each individual member of the audience.

Clearly the audience at Dean Street thought so as they insisted on an encore of Bye Bye Blackbird which, even after one and a half hours was packed with energy from Holder who appeared to be willing to go on day in and day out. One could not help thinking of the wonderful artists with whom Holder has worked through the decades;the Dankworth Seven, Jiver Hutchinson, Kenny Baker, Duncan Lamont,Nat King Cole, Eartha Kitt, Johnny Ray and many many more .

In Corcovado the spirit of carnival was with us as Holder made the congas do their work and the solos from Geoff Castle-piano, Val Mannix- bass and Shane Hill-guitar sparkled brilliantly. Holder was on top form with his easy stretching of the lyrics and changes of emphasis plus his own vocal “instrumental” improvisation throughout and for me it seemed Holder was completely in his natural element . Dizzy Gillespie's He Beeped When He Should Have Bopped with its touch of humour deserves a mention as a nod to Holder's place in the history of bebop. It was because of his improvisation skills that he was introduced to Johnny Dankworth with whom he worked for many years and later with Cleo Laine.

Since arriving in London in 1944 Frank Holder has been an important part of the London jazz scene and nobody is more eligible to be celebrated in the EFG London Jazz Festival .


“Alright OK You Win” (Watts/Richards)
“Too Close For Comfort” (Bock/Weiss)
“Long Ago And Far Away”(Kern/I.Gershwin)
“Caravan” (Juan Tizol)
“Skylark” H Carmichael)
“Lover” (Rodgers/Hart)
“Corcovado” (Jobim / Lees)
“He Beeped When He Should Have Bopped” (D Gillespie)
“All The Things You Are” (Kern/Hammerstein)
“In The Still Of The Night” (C Porter)
“Every Day I Have The Blues”(A&M Sparks)
“Day In Day Out”(Bloom/Mercer)
ENCORE: “Bye Bye Blackbird” ( Dixon/Henderson)

Frank Holder – vocals
Geoff Castle -piano
Val Mannix – bass
Shane Hill- guitar


REVIEW: The Enemy/ Can of Worms at the Con Cellar Bar (2015 EFG LJF)

George Crowley (second from left) and Can of Worms

The Enemy/ Can of Worms
Con Cellar Bar, NW1. 20th November. 2015 EFG LJF)

“I did my first gig with my own band here” says Kit Downes, “with James”, nodding at James Maddren sat a few feet away behind the kit. We didn’t get to hear how that first gig went, but as we reached the finale of this double header of dangerously named bands led by Downes and George Crowley respectively, there was no mistaking the loudly declared verdict of the packed in audience at the Con Cellar Bar (where no-one is more than a few feet away from the piano).

The evening had started with a bang, Crowley’s tenor delivering a hooting declamatory solo statement as a prelude to the throbbing, rolling pulse built from Sam Lasserson’s bass snapping out interlocking rhythms with Jon Scott’s driving momentum from the drums. Dan Nicholls launched a solo from the piano that built wave on wave of stacked rhythms and glittering runs. The tumult gave way to a five-way improvisation, the other half of the twin tenor line-up, Tom Challenger joining in. The intensity never slackened. Wendy drove the Gangstas out told a story (allegedly of the pub upstairs), from shapeshfting moods to another pulsing climax, Last Days’, lusty, exuberantly stated melody evolved through a rumbustious clatter and conversational group blowing, Crowley and Challenger egging each other on. The pieces evolved through tightly scripted sections, looping vamps with solo and collective blowing, sudden oases of texture and moods, always sounding as if it was rooted in where jazz has come from. Thrilling stuff.

The Enemy: Kit Downes, Petter Eldh, James Maddren

The Enemy, Downes’ new (ish) trio, took the floor after a short break, Sam Lasserson doing a second stint on bass substituting for the absent Peter Eldh. They plunged us straight into Faster than Light an intense brew of overlapping, jagged pulses, the trio working like a Rubik’s cube of motifs – fizzing runs and patterns exploding in all directions from the piano. As the set developed, there was light, shade and austere, beautiful melody pushing through the layers of rhythm that stitched each piece together. Cellist Lucy Railton sat in for another pattern weaving seething piece, adding another dimension to quick-fire lines doubled with the bass. Then they rocked out on Race to the Sun, Downes letting rip, the long detailed runs painting traces of melody and bluesy inflection across the hubbub.

Both leaders mused on the significance of ‘The Con’ bar during the evening and its importance over the last decade to young bands trying new music and ideas in front of audiences. If that had a slight valedictory air to it, the performance of these two bands was an exuberant, scintillating demonstration of the what happens when talents mature. Another evening of breath-taking, top class music.

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

Mike Collins' review of a gig at the Con Cellar Bar in the 2014 EFG LJF
RIP Richard Turner, who instigated the jazz series at the Con Cellar Bar 
George Crowley remembering Richard Turner in 2011
Details of the Richard Turner Scholarship Fund


REVIEWED IN BRIEF: We also went to... at the 2015 EFG London Jazz Festival

Under Milk Wood
L-R Steve Melling, Art Themen, Andy Cleyndert, Ben Tracey, Clark Tracey
LondonJazz News will again have provided more full single-gig reviews of the EFG London Jazz Festival than any other outlet. And yet it is clear that the scale of the Festival is such that we miss far more than we cover. Therefore, we invited our writers and others close to the scene for a second year to write mini-reviews of gigs we have not had the capacity to review fully. This section, with thirty-four events covered, has been expanding but is now complete.

Under Milk Wood at the Arts Depot, Finchley (19th November)

Three years on from the 2012 Herts Jazz Festival performance of Under Milk Wood by three generations of Traceys - Stan (piano), Clark (drums) and Ben (narrator) - plus Bobby Wellins (tenor) and Andy Cleyndert (bass), the quintet of Art Themen and Steve Melling plus Andy, Clark and Ben delighted the Arts Depot crowd with a magical 50th anniversary reprise of Stan's immortal work. It was history being re-made as each added their own nuances to create a fresh version of the performance, as alive as if we were hearing it for the first time. Ben Tracey - who could read the telephone book aloud and make it sound enthralling - was a particular delight. (Melody McLaren)

GoGo Penguin, Barbican (14th November)

Curating a night of “New Jazz, New Dance” at the Barbican, DJ Gilles Peterson brought together trio GoGo Penguin and choreographer Lynne Page to respond to ‘UK jazz dance’ - an underground style that developed in the eighties out of Northern Soul dancing. For the resulting twelve-minute collaboration ‘Veils’ GoGo Penguin shared the stage with eight dancers. Both music and movement were through-composed and choreographed but with touches of improvisation. The dancers leapt with a palpable sense of both freedom and coordination, striking a visual accord with the band’s precise but expansive sound. Try their preview video (AJ Dehany)

Spirit Farm at the Core Ballroom, Royal Festival Hall (15th November)

This six-piece group based in the north of England is made up of improv heavyweights: Adam Fairhall (piano), Corey Mwamba (vibraphone), Christophe de Bezenac (saxophone), Dave Kane (double bass), Anton Hunter (guitar) and Johnny Hunter (drums), They performed a captivating set to a large and attentive Sunday afternoon audience at the Southbank. Their raw energy, superb group interaction, varying textures and contrasting dynamics left me thoroughly transfixed. I hope to hear a lot more from this ensemble in the near future! (Dee Byrne)

Dave  Holland acknowledging applause after his
solo recital at Wigmore Hall

Dave Holland Solo at Wigmore Hall (20th November)

 An hour and twenty minutes of masterful solo bass with no tricks or loops held the attention throughout, and passed all too quickly. The tune that stays perhaps most in the memory was Charles' Mingus Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, with a declaimed, authoritative melody played low and strong, but surrounded by all kinds of queter half-shades and harmonics and sotto voce stirrings, suggested notes and mischief. The scene-setting in Dave Holland's verbal introductions told us exactly where we should  be picturing ourselves: in Manhattan being told urban myths about the pavement habits of New Yorkers; looking out into the cathedral of a Californian redwood forest; being sentimental in sixties London. And then, each time the music, magically, easefully transported us  to one fascinating imagined location after another. (Sebastian Scotney)

Allison Neale and Nat Steele . Photo credit : Melody McLaren

The Neale Meets Steele! Quintet at the Elgin (Friday 20th Nov)

 This quintet featured Allison Neale (alto/flute), Nat Steele (vibes), Leon Greening (piano), Julian Bury (bass), Matt Home (drums). They  played to an enthusiastic packed house on the fourth night of the inaugural Bopfest , organised by Neale and Steele. This "festival within a festival" complements other elements of the London Jazz Festival programme and has been drawing a diverse mix of music fans to The Elgin in Ladbroke Grove. (Melody McLaren)

Jaco - The Film  (UK premiere, Barbican Cinema, Mon 16th Nov)

A documentary lasting 110 minutes can sometimes feel like a director wallowing and self-indulging, but this biography of Jaco Pastorius never outstayed its welcome. The story, from hope and promise and good fortune, to unravelling and final tragedy has a great sweep to it. It is an amazing tale of a genius situated close to the edge, and going over it. The range of perspectives is astonishing, with Wayne Shorter and Peter Erskine (sensitive, brilliant) describing the inner dynamics of Weather Report, plus thought-provoking interventions from Joni Mitchell and Herbie Hancock.  The critic next to me joked he wanted "a bit more Victor Wooten and a bit less Sting. Oh yes, and there's a soundtrack from heaven. Highly recommended. (Sebastian Scotney)

LINK: Jaco Film website

L-R: Daniele di Bonaventura, Maciek Pysz, Yuri Goloubev, Asaf Sirkis

Maciek Pysz Trio - A Journey CD launch at the Forge

Adrian Pallant reviewed the CD for us and described the range and the variety this trio can muster. This band of top players around  Pysz (Asaf Sirkis, Yuri Goloubev, with occasional guest Daniele di Bonaventura, a piano and babdoneon player from the Marche in Italy) was half way through a tour and the group understanding was special. I was taken by how Pysz has taken to the particular kind of melodic playing that is common in Sardinia and in Southern Italy. He mentioned Gianluca Corona as an influence, I'd be surprised if Peo Alfonsi isn't in the mix too. But increasingly Pysz is finding his own individual descriptive harmonic colours, and is with the right colleagues to explore them further. (Sebastian Scotney)

Madeleine Bell and the Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw 

Concertgebouw Jazz Orchestra with Madeline Bell at Cadogan Hall (18th November)

A band heard for the very first time. The Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw was on its first visit to the UK. It is a band which on the evidence of this gig is rooted in the American tradition -  up to Herman and Kenton, say. A first reaction then: I thought the trombones were exceptional, that the band had a strong and characterful lead alto sax...  but that the trumpets somehow don't have that heroic gutsy tradition that we have in the UK, from Tommy McQuater to Derek Watkins to Mike Lovatt. The vocal soloist Madeline Bell is a ball of energy and at the end of the first half when I had to go, was bringing joy and life, musicianship, humour and wonderful timing to Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles tunes.  (Sebastian Scotney)

Adriano Adewale – Within the Waves at Cecil Sharp House (19th November)

Jazz and Folk? Surely not. But for once this combination worked really well. The magnificent Brazilian percussionist has been working with the English Folk Dance and Song Society for over a year now exploring the links between English and Brazilian songs of the sea. The result was performed by singers Rebeca Vallim and Sarah Jane Morris, always ready to improvise, plus two huge choirs arranged and conducted by luminaries from the folk and jazz worlds. Between them they put together a programme of folk songs from both countries that might just please both the folk and jazz communities. I hope they get the opportunity to tour the programme. (Peter Slavid)

Jazz Rant at Club Inégales (18th November)

This is a unique opportunity for people to let off steam about the jazz world. I attended this in 2014 and it was a bit overburdened with academics. This year’s repeat was much more fun. The academics were still there, but this year the musicians were the stars. There was a hugely amusing final talk from Raymond Macdonald; an entertaining piece of audience improvisation from Alison Blunt and thoughtful pieces from Alexander Hawkins and journalist Rosie Hanley. Great stuff and lets keep ranting!(Peter Slavid)

Jazzator – Barbican Match & Fuse Free Stage (21st November)

An interesting mix of delicate Russian melodies, complex duets between voice and baritone sax, fierce improvisation, heavy rock beats, and interesting ever-changing broken rhythms. If that sounds difficult that’s not the case – it’s all done with a lot of wit, and a very accessible style that kept a big crowd entertained. The quartet is made up of Russians Marina Sobyanina on piano, synthesizers and vocals, Sergey Balashov on drums and a very impressive Oleg Mariakhin on baritone. Joined by Swiss bass player Maximilian Grossenbacher. Presented as part of the Match and Fuse stage this was one of my festival highlights (Peter Slavid)

Nick Smart directing the RAM Big Band
Royal Academy of Music Big Band with Charlier / Sourisse/ Sulzmann at the Clore Ballroom (21st November) 

This was the project which Nick Smart previewed for us. The big band scores they were playing were joyous, but also fast-moving, complex and unforgiving, and the band seemed to negotiate every twist and turn with ease. One confident soloist after another stepped into the limelight, with melodic inventive Spanish pianist Victor Gutierrez catching the ear in particular. The crowd stayed, transfixed, so people with a roving eye for someone vacating a seat will have waited in vain. Among those happily standing were a healthy number of the RAM Junior Department listening as intently as anyone, and perhaps imagining the day when they will have moved on into the very band they - like the rest of us - were hearing and admiring. (Sebastian Scotney)

A full house earlier in the week at the Elgin
Miles Davis’ Birth of the Cool. Bopfest at the Elgin (22nd November)

Ever since hearing Boplicity under less than lo-fi conditions in my early teens, I was curious how the short-lived band (with its French horn and tuba) would have sounded in the flesh. This afternoon, my curiosity was satisfied by nine musicians whose ensemble sound must have been uncannily close to the original intentions of Evans, Mulligan, Lewis and Davis. They performed with simmering restraint: trumpeter Freddie Gavita unspooled long lyrical Milesian phrases. Allison Neale conjured the sound and spirit of Lee Konitz and (in two intro numbers) Charlie Parker from her 1938 Conn alto. The immaculate band included Callum Au on tuba, Anna Drysdale, French horn, trombonist Robbie Harvey, pianist Rob Barron (a sparkling Darn That Dream), bassist Luke Steele and drummer Nat Steel. And unstinting praise to Richard Shepherd who, as well as channelling Gerry Mulligan on baritone, also organised, arranged and led the nonet with enthusiasm and affection. (Leonard Weinreich)

Elina Duni

Elena Duni at Kings Place (21st November)

So who knew? Who was aware that there is a rich and emotionally charged repertoire of songs in the Albanian language with its own melodic character, that it deals with big themes of exile and authority and love and loss - and that all Albanians and Kosovars - who were at Kings Place in good numbers - basically know all these songs as the soundtrack of all their childhoods from the radio and TV. Elena Duni, who now sees it all at a distance from the comfort of Switzerland, brings this repertoire wonderfully to life, and has a band with her that know how to let her emotionally engaged perfectly pitched highly characterful voice have its way with these songs, before she slightly incongruously turns round, relaxes and banters with them in near-perfect French. ECM are on to something here: all the CDS they had brought to sell were snapped up almost instantly leaving many of those looking forward to singing along, and to re-living their musical heritage unfulfilled.

Let Spin – Barbican Match & Fuse Free Stage (21st November)

Let Spin are a quartet of top young British jazz musicians. Saxophonist Chris Williams (Led Bib), Bassist Ruth Goller (Melt Yourself Down) and Guitarist Moss Freed (Moss Project), who between them seem to be in almost every band I hear at the moment, and Finlay Panter (Beats & Pieces) on drums. They deliver a fierce rhythmic programme with a definite punk feel to it. Held together by Goller’s driving bass this is a great live band. (Peter Slavid)

Airelle Besson Quartet – Barbican Free Stage (22nd November)

This quartet has a melodic, almost cinematic sound. At times it struggled to cope with the Barbican’ screaming children and chattering concert-goers, particularly when several of the tunes started quietly. But once they got into their stride it was fine. Airelle Besson’s trumpet can provide a minimalist sound and then soars into improvisation. Isabel Sorling’s voice is sometimes used on lyrics and sometimes on sounds and Benjamin Moussay provides an array of orchestral textures on the keyboards, as well as some fine piano playing. Behind it all Fabrice Moreau on drums provides a delicate rhythm or a heavy rock beat as required. This was very impressive stuff and I’d really like to hear this band in a quieter environment, and in a longer concert. (Peter Slavid)

Jazz Talks – Barbican Fountain Room (22nd November)

Two talks took place this afternoon under different titles but basically exploring the unexplorable and defining the undefinable. The first talk looked at the different types of festival with interesting contributions from Ros Rigby from Sage Gateshead and Dave Morecroft from Match and Fuse, and only minor heckling from the jazz police. In the second one, which looked at different genres of jazz, every shade of the “What is Jazz” debate came out to argue with the panel. To be honest I rather lost the will to live halfway through this about when someone started justifying the inclusion of Elton John in a jazz festival. They do say that a discussion between two jazz fans will always generate at least three opinions and that was certainly the case here. I rather think there should be a better way to use the talent on display rather than rehashing these old arguments. (Peter Slavid)

Pepi Lemer

Keith Jarrett, Royal Festival Hall (20th November)

The irascible jazz legend played a completely improvised concert to an indulgent audience. His improvisations intuitively suggest the shape of compositions, though the lighter jazzy ‘pieces’ were outnumbered by longer brooding classical explorations. Returning after the interval he said he would have been happy leaving it at the first set, and his mood and engagement seemed to deteriorate rapidly. His Glenn Gould-style humming-along got louder, and his self-aggrandizing spoken reflections longer. He stormed off when someone took his photo, then harangued us all for spoiling his enjoyment. Instead of the usual five encores he only played four. Fortunately one of them was a subtle straight reading of the traditional Danny Boy with no humming and a lightness and grace largely absent from the rest of the concert. (AJ Dehany)

Nik Bärtsch, King's Place (13th November)

Swiss Pianist Nik Bärtsch’s group Rhythm Clan performing “through-composed chamber pieces” borne of a jazzy minimalism. Repeating arpeggiated figures overlap in different time signatures, and unusual instrumental configurations are showcased (double bass with clarinet, anyone?). Each member of the octet is dressed in uniform black and obeys a rigorous discipline with no glimpse of a conventional solo until Michael Flury’s trumpet eighty minutes into the concert. Even the lighting obeys synchronised cues. The music is Aikido for the ears, reflecting Bärtsch’s interest in martial arts and sharing Aikido’s focus on group interaction and long-term development.(AJ Dehany)

Pepi Lemer at St James Studio (22nd November)

Pepi Lemer sang with a host of legendary British jazz musicians in the 1960s and 70s, including Ian Carr, John Stevens and Neil Ardley, co-led Turning Point with the late Jeff Clyne. She is also famous for her voice coaching, with some of her most notable students including The Spice Girls. Playing to a full house, she scored a huge hit, delighting the audience with a set derived from her new album Back2Front. The band which included her pianist and musical director, Peter Lemer and virtuoso bassist Chris Laurence, played a succession of vibrant and energetic numbers by Michel Camilo, Didier Malherbe and several by Pat Metheny. Lemer had been given permission by the guitarist to write lyrics to his tunes. A brilliant 5 star gig and a very fitting finale to the 2015 London Jazz Festival. (Tony Kelsey)

Binker and Moses: Ray’s Jazz at Foyles (20th November)

The last time Binker Golding and Moses Boyd played at this venue the room was half full. Barely three months later, the tenor saxophone and drums duo performed before a capacity audience who knew exactly what to expect. That’s a lot of progress since we at Gearbox released Dem Ones last June, and it took us a little by surprise as we only brought a limited number of copies along for the merch table - thankfully just enough. Binker and Moses have refined their extended live set over a number of recent gigs and kept the audience deeply involved while building up the intensity and excitement and receiving a heroic reception. I loved it. In fact, everyone did. (Adam Sieff, Gearbox Records)

The London Jazz Orchestra at the Vortex

London Jazz Orchestra at the Vortex / Launch of The Saberton Album (22nd November)

The London Jazz Orchestra has a once-a-month residency at the Vortex, but its festival gig had the feel of a special event: the band directed by Scott Stroman was launching a new album of Pete Saberton compositions, which also features the Guildhall School Big Band. Saberton was a long-standing member of the orchestra and took over from John Taylor. His compositions, with their constantly shifting meter are mesmerisingly complex, but one person who had stumbled into the end of the gig in anticipation of the start of the next one remarked sagely to me: "It's difficult - but I'm really getting in to it." The first half had more conventional compositions, written by band members, as is the norm for the LJO. Mick Foster's Dangerous Tango felt rather more beautiful than perilous, and superbly crafted. Hearing Noel Langley on lead trumpet and Martin Hathaway soloing on alto was to be reminded how strong our big band scene is. The fan was spoilt for choice yesterday, with both Sam Leak's band and Gareth Lockrane's band also out at different locations across town. (Sebastian Scotney)

Raph Clarkson’s Dissolute Society with special guest Huw Warren at the Vortex (22nd November)

The Vortex signed off the London Jazz Festival with a night of experimental jazz, featuring the latest composition project by young trombonist, Raph Clarkson. This nine-piece ensemble featured strings, a piano trio, Fini Bearman on vocals, Laura Jurd and Clarkson on horns and guest appearance by pianist, Huw Warren. A particular tune highlight was I’m sorry, in which Bearman hilariously weeped and vented in agitation a self-dialogue interjected by trombone, rhodes and drum improvised lines. The night ended with the downstairs jam, which was a chilled and serene affair – the perfect opportunity to wind down with a pint after a hectic week of music. (Rachel Maby)

Fat Suit on the freestage in the Clore Ballroom (21st November)

With their high energy levels and mishmash of 70s American jazz fusion, Fat Suit were an unexpected surprise. Slotted in to the free stage set before the Saturday night headliners upstairs in the Royal Festival Hall, they kept an enormous crowd engaged. Much in the same way that their fellow Scots Average White Band provided a British alternative to bands like the JB’s, Fat Suit are developing a rich Weather Report/Nucleus sound to rival American fusion collective Snarky Puppy. They’re still finding their feet, but certainly ones to watch. (Dan Bergsagel)

Chicago-London Vibration, A Celebration of the AACM at 50 at Rich Mix (14th November)

Amplifier, a film and spoken word piece from Hkb Finn and Canadian Lisa Lore opened this UK celebration of the AACM. They were then joined on stage by “The Spontaneous Cosmic RawkXtra”, a powerful 18 piece line up of UK and international musicians, led by MD Orphy Robinson that included, American trombonist Jerome Harper, Polish accordionist Bartek Glowacki, last seen with Nigel Kennedy, South African drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo and Venezuelan percussionist Williams Cumberbache, Byron Wallen, Jason Yarde, John Edwards, Nikki Yeoh, Phillip Achille, and the rest of the ensemble. Strong section playing, colourful arrangements, interspersed with inventive solos over themes from Leo Smith, Braxton, Oliver Lake, Art Ensemble of Chicago and Robinson himself plus spectacular multi media visuals from Derek Richards covering the AACM library of album covers and black empowerment images provided an insightful journey into the historic legacy of the AACM. (Yael Dayag)

Entropi, Barbican freestage, (14th November)

Saxophonist Dee Byrne's quintet kicked off an afternoon of music from London's Lume formations, her own being a vehicle for her space-oriented compositions (the cosmic variety, not the abstraction), as heard on the band's recent CD. In concert, before an enthusiastic early Saturday crowd in the Barbican's wide open spaces, the pieces took on fresh life, extending further, spatially and musically, expanded by Byrne's and trumpeter Andre Canniere's complementary contributions out front, by Rebecca Nash's thoughtful commentary on keys, and by Olie Brice's superbly detailed bass playing. (Jon Turney)

Trinity Laban Jazz ensemble, Clore Ballroom, RFH, (21st November)

The LJF free stages are always good for encountering new talent, and there is plenty in this collection of youngsters. Their set gained much from a focus on UK composers, and they ripped through some Loose Tubes classics (one from Eddie Parker, two from Django Bates including the disjointed but somehow still coherent Eden Express) and one piece each from Nikki Iles, Laura Jurd, and Joshua Blackmore. Iles' Printmakers band features Mark Lockheart, who held this set together as non-playing conductor. The band must have worked impressively hard to bring off all this music, and if the solos were not always quite as convincing, that'll surely come. This set was more about establishing that UK jazz now has a rich band book of lasting value to draw on. Case made. (Jon Turney)

Black Top 24 with Evan Parker at Cafe Oto (18th November)

 Anticipation levels were high for this one! Black Top, widely considered to be the UK’s best improv group, has an impressive series of concerts with world renowned guests behind them. Black Top is Pat Thomas, winner of the Paul Hamlyn Award and former Blue Note artist, Orphy Robinson who featured in the top 12 vibes players in a Downbeat magazine poll earlier this year. Evan Parker their guest tonight did not disappoint. He was totally at home in the midst of Thomas’s and Robinson’s tricky polyrhythmic interplay. Robinson, not usually known as a drummer, played the drum kit for half of the concert and was superb, easily projecting intricate patterns with and across Thomas’s live looping, while driving Parker to some beautiful cascading melodic phasing over Reggae, Dub, Swing, free improv. Digital, analogue and acoustic sounds collided and colluded to bring an impressive array of frequencies and soundscapes to an appreciative audience.(Yael Dayag)

The Soil at the Royal Festival Hall  (17th November)

The Soil is a South African a capella trio (“All the way from Heaven but locally based in Johannesburg”) consisting of female singer Buhlebendalo Mda and the brothers Ntsika Ngxanga and Luphindo Ngxanga, who display impressive vocal pyrotechnics. Coming across like Bobby McFerrin multiplied by three, they raised the temperature appreciably in the audience at the RFH waiting for Melody Gardot. I was looking around for the powerful machine kicking out the profound and potent bass for them — until I twigged that it was Luphindo Ngxanga, known as ‘Master P’, using no more than his voice. “The best beat-boxer in the world,” announced Mda, and she’ll get no argument from me. Together they project an hypnotic pulse, a beautiful beat with the vocals floating on top. Imposing and stirring. (Andrew Cartmel)

Natalie Williams Album Launch at Shoreditch Town Hall (21st November)

Natalie Williams released her latest album - Kaleidoscope - at Shoreditch Town Hall. Astounding. Where to begin but with Natalie herself, whose huge personality and masterful talents as both a singer and composer shone through the evening. Most of the numbers were straight from her new album - a soulful collection sparkily arranged for a large string ensemble by her partner and fellow musician-on-stage bass guitarist Rob Mullarkey. A few classics were also to be heard including an all-time favourite, Minnie Ripperton's Inside My Love. Sarah Evelyn, an up-and-coming British-Norwegian jazz singer, gave a very pleasing pre-act with keys and percussion, so look out for her eponymously titled and recently released debut album. There was a peach of a surprise in Jacob Collier's special guest appearance, who only the night before had given a riveting one-man show at the Barbican. I happened to be there too. Jaw-dropping. London is alive with jazz. (Seb Fox)

Mina Agossi at the 606 Club (Sunday 15 November) 

 The French/Beninese vocalist's performance had special meaning, coming as it did a mere 48 hours after the Paris attacks. A performer of formidable elegance & spirit, she left everyone besotted, before she even sang a note. As to the music itself, if one defines “jazz” to mean improvisation at its core, Mina is the epitome, moving between a sultry, even coquettish delivery on one song, to spellbinding a cappella into raucous, even primal territory, with the band, hot on her heels, behind her. Her voice, an expressive instrument that she wields with authority, ranges from low growls to moans to thrilling flourishes in her upper registers. There are lots of funky grooves too, complemented by Mina’s repeating, melismatic vocal lines, giving the music a tribal feel verging on rap. A luminous, captivating artist. (Laura Thorne, 606 Club)

The Programme at the Spice of Life

I'm still reeling from a jazz marathon of 12 gigs over 10 days at the Spice of Life, which kicked off with the charismatic Matt Roberts and his BigISH Band with telling solos from tenor saxophonist Josh Arcoleo who appeared in more ethereal mood as special guest with the sublime Andrew McCormack Trio a few days later. The exploratory space-age wonderment of the Mak Murtic's Mimika Ensemble featuring vocalist Maja Rivic on the first Sunday truly embraced the festival aesthetic whilst the other three big bands at the Spice, those led by Gareth Lockrane, Andrew Linham and Sam Leak were also thrilling, and played to packed houses. (Paul Pace, Spice of Life)

The programme at the Vortex

With 28 concerts and 45 different bands at the Vortex over the past 10 days, and all of astounding quality, the double bill of Amok Amor and Dice Factory managed to stand out as primus inter pares. It took further our collaborations between London and Berlin started last year. Dice Factory has returned with new material and a new pianist (Dan Nicholls) to join original members Tom Challenger, Tom Farmer and Jon Scott. It was a set of brooding intensity and dynamism; and the first time that I have heard Jon's compositions. Amok Amor was equally intense but much more extrovert in its approach.Trumpeter Peter Evans is unique even to the extent of creating multiphonics without the need for any pedals. Wanja Slavin on alto more than keeps up with him. Petter Eldh on bass is the nominal leader and certainly drives the band forwards. Christian Lillinger is an extrovert, hyperactive genius on drums.(Oliver Weindling, Vortex)
Banner for The Necks at Oto - Photo credit: John L Walters

The Necks at Café Oto - third night of the residency (15th November)

The Australian trio, who played four sold-out nights at Café Oto (plus Evan Parker on 16 Nov as reviewed here), are not like other trios – as I wrote in this essay for the Berlin Festival programme and the Tageszeitung. Their Sunday sets generated oceanic swells of sound in which each note counted, grounded by Lloyd Swanton’s bass, both propulsive and magisterial. Ultimately, The Necks are The Necks. (John L Walters)

Cuban Mela: Sambroso All Stars at The Forge (22nd November)

The full house of curious jazz lovers and Cuban music apasionados was still jumping with thrilling enthusiasm after six hours of cuban, jazz and collective music improvisation at the Cuban Mela LJF party. Justin Thurgur on trombone opened the day with his London tribe of musicians presenting a new jazz cuban afro sounding project. Nick Smart followed on the buzzing stage with his skilled sextet, including Cuban Londoners fellow musicians, unveiling the fruits of twenty years of musical collaborations (check out the CD Tower Casa on Babel). Rumba master Gerardo de Armas was then joined on stage by Gary Crosby, Denys Baptiste and Jonathan Idiagbonya for some high energy experimentations that burst into a huge jam with many Cuban musos in the house joining on stage. The rising climax was carried on by skillful cuban violin doyen Omar Puente who put his signature on an excellent grand finale. Lets hope Sambroso will delight us with more of these epic music events soon....and I hope it isn't too long before he does! (Gaia Saccomanno)