Devra Hall Levy, Jim Hall's daughter and manager, has announced that the inspirational guitarist passed early this morning in his sleep, just a few days after his 83rd birthday. One of the very, very great, who played here in London last year.
|Lionel, Yvan and Stéphane Belmondo|
(Duc des Lombards, Paris. 9th December 2013. Second house. Review by Sebastian Scotney)
It's fascinating to watch a jazz family like the Belmondos going about its business, both as a self-contained unit and as part of the wider community of musicians.
In many ways jazz families are just like other families. They can seem to have their their own imperceptible ways of communicating, of moving along invisible tramlines, skirting past each other. At other times they appear so close, it as if they are isolated from the outside world in their own glass dome. I mused as to whether that sense of distance might be because they come from deep in the Var, in the South of France, and perhaps a cocktail-quaffing Paris audience might feel like an alien tribe to them. Who knows the reasons, but in the first half-hour of their set there was very little acknowledgment of the presence of an appreciative audience which was enthusiastically applauding every number and every solo.
Three Belmondo family members at the Duc des Lombards last night were launching the album Mediterranean Sound. The two brothers trumpeter/flugelhornist Stéphane Belmondo and tenor saxophonist Lionel have made the album as a token of gratitude to their baritone saxophonist father Yvan, a gentle, thoughtful player with a tone reminiscent of Gerry Mulligan. The repertoire is standards such as Tangerine, East of the Sun, Skylark, plus a curious arrangement of the Massenet Méditation from Thaïs.
The best-known of the three is the trumpeter and flugelhorn player Stéphane. His discography is vast, and what had drawn me to the gig was an excellent album with Billy Hart and Kirk Lightsey, The Same as it Never Was Before- reviewed here. Stéphane Belmondo is an authoritative soloist with powerful presence, and tends to inhabit the centre of the stage.
At his sides are his brother Lionel, a tenor saxophonist who plays with urgency, intensity and fluency, who a couple of times turned his back on the audience to develop a dialogue with Jean-Pierre Arnaud at the drums. Guitarist Jean-Philippe Sempere was a model of calm unruffled ego-less playing. Bassist Sylvain Romano was also hugely impressive, both as rhythm player and as soloist, pitch-perfect and sonorous. The endings of his solos, however, were submerged as the three Belmondos re-formed in front of him for their closing outro or head, making him invisible just at the moment when his fabulous playing deserved acknowledgement.
This jazz family seemed at its best, at its most inspiring when it was opening its doors to the outside world, welcoming others on-stage. If the beginning of the set portrayed the family as a self-sufficient unit, the final number left a strong and different message behind: Yvan Belmondo's legacy is not just the fact that he has raised two sons to be fine musicians who are central figures on the French jazz scene, he has done more. Through his teaching, he has communicated the power and the joy of this music to outsiders. It is very similar to the role, say, which Ellis Marsalis had in bringing on musicians like Harry Connick Jr. Thus my highlight of the evening was when the family welcomed on-stage a former Yvan Belmondo pupil, alto saxophonist Jean-Philippe Scali. He roared through several choruses of Sonny Stitt's BW Blues with high-voltage conviction. Fabulous.
Other guests were the Canadian-born saxophonist François Théberge, who gamely picked up Lionel Belmondo's tenor, and blew extremely convincingly. Another guest was one of the classiest of pianists in France, Belgian-born Éric Legnini, who is always simply a joy to hear.
A word about the Duc des Lombards. It is a tiny place with an intimate vibe. You get very close to the music.But I have to thank two people for the same very good advice given to me before I went: there are very few places with good visibility, so it is worth getting there early and queuing - take a scarf, it gets cold on that pavement, I was told. I took that advice and was very happy I did.
|Theo Ceccaldi Trio|
Oliver Weindling writes:
Jazz Migration is a scheme which selects three bands each year to appear at (migrate around) the various festivals of AJC, the main French jazz promoters network, until recently known as AFIJMA. In the past, many of the bands have developed subsequently to major international profiles, and more and more have appeared in UK, such as Q, Donkey Monkey and Irène.
So the annual launch event in December, attended by all the festivals' directors and production teams, is a chance to look into the future of the French scene. And it was as intriguing as ever.
The first was Five38, a duo of Fanny Lasfarges and Rafaelle Rinaudo. The use of 5 string bass coupled with 38 string harp explains the name. Fanny has been known to us in London through her membership of Q, and she continued to exhibit much of the power that she showed in that band. At times, the sound was symphonic in texture, but that contrasted with many more gentle sections such as just their two voices.
Next was The Theo Ceccaldi Trio. A string trio of sorts, with Theo on violin and viola, his brother Valentin on cello (also a member of Sonsale) and Guillaume Aknine on guitar. A focussed and mesmerising trio, with textures also influenced by plucking that reminded me of Derek Bailey, and using the full percussive range of the instruments. They are about to release an album with bassist Joëlle Léandre - to be looked forward to.
Finally we heard singer Leila Martial. Her backing band, of saxophone, bass and drums, game the potential for much musical space Occasionally, as on a version of Charlie Chaplin's 'Smile', the gap was filled by the drummer playing tuned pads, but overall there was a strong impression, from her wordless singing, of a two-horn quartet, where she picked up stylistically in part from, to my ears, the likes of Maggie Nicols or Norma Winstone.
At some point - it's hard to be precise as to when - these bands, who will have benefited from their regular Jazz Migration outings, will grace our shores too, probably in a year or so. Listen out.
Preview: Ian Shaw's Early Christmas Cracker (with Barb Jungr and Sarah Jane Morris) at Purcell Room. 10th December
|Ian Shaw and Sarah Jane Morris|
Ian Shaw Writes:
I'm firing up the old chestnuts at The Purcell Room this Tuesday 10th at 7.30pm for this seasonal, annual voicefest.
This year I have two special guests, the powerhouse leather lunged Sarah Jane Morris...and cabaret song-stylist, the immense Barb Jungr: Three good old friends from the days when hair was bigger, waistlines tighter and baubles were breakable, this will be an evening of subversive pagan jollity and warm ditties.
Benn Clatworthy and Cecilia Coleman - 2
(BCM 111. CD Review by Andy Boeckstaens)
Benn Clatworthy and Cecilia Coleman first met almost three decades ago, when they were studying in Los Angeles with vibraphonist Charlie Shoemake. A few years later, Coleman appeared on Clatworthy’s début recording as a leader (“Thanks Horace”), and he reciprocated by working on hers (“Words of Wisdom”) shortly afterwards. Their compatibility was obvious from the outset, but it has blossomed since those early days and they have enjoyed well-received tours of the USA and the UK in recent times. 2 is their first duet CD.
Many of the nine selections are ideal for the saxophone/piano format. The sheer strength of Paul McCartney’s melody Here, There and Everywhere makes it work; Clatworthy’s tone on tenor sax is highly distinctive but there isn’t a hint of improvisation during the first two minutes. Lush Life is very conversational, as is the saxophonist’s tune In Strayhorn’s Bag, which is suitably infused with the style of its subject.
Other things are more surprising. The harmonic treasure trove of Giant Steps gains melodic value as both musicians skirt around the chords. They listen carefully, and execute tricky touches that accentuate the quality of the writing and retain its rhythmic bite. The immediacy is palpable and it is hard to believe that this, and indeed every piece on the disc, is a first take.
Clatworthy’s workhorse is a tenor sax, but his attractive Bossa Mia features flute, and Our Destiny Now is a haunting and beautifully-constructed work that has extremely strong work on soprano saxophone. Maturity and experience are embedded in these original compositions, but it’s their sparkle and freshness that make them the highlights of a very fine album.
Coleman takes full advantage of her short solo opportunities, building tension and then resolving it beautifully. She incorporates ideas from all over the place – the subtlety of Kenny Barron, then a sudden Tyner-ish flourish - but is in thrall to nothing but her own fertile imagination.
At the end, I’ll Be Seeing You is just right: unsentimental, and greatly affecting. Here, and throughout the CD, the lack of clutter focuses attention on the beauty of the music and the communication between the two people playing it. One hopes that Clatworthy and Coleman will play together in the UK again soon.
James Allsopp Writes:
This is a little preview for our forthcoming gig at Kings Place. In 2012 we released a record on the Basho label called "Welcome to Bat Country", it really changed the way that we made music together. Not only did the band grow with the addition of Ruth Goller on Bass and Alex Bonney on Trumpet and Electronics but the music evolved in a new direction, previously it had been concerned with a lot of spontaneous interplay within a very loosely structured framework, but on Welcome to Bat Country I really wanted to make something that was concerned chiefly with atmosphere and slowly evolving soundscapes that would transport the listener.
As we have performed the music live since releasing the record this approach has grown and developed; the pacing of the music has slowed down so there is really a lot of time to hear the ideas mutate and change and for the listener to get lost in their imagination (I hope!)
We will be performing some old material and some new music about interplanetary tourists and even a song by Ivor Cutler about a man who is a sandwich (or should that be the other way around?)
James Allsopp - Reeds
Alex Bonney - Trumpet and Electronics
Kit Downes - Keyboards
Ruth Goller - Electric Bass
Tim Giles - Drums and Electronics
Stéphane Grappelli Ensemble
(Moosicus Records N1303-1. NDR 60 Years Jazz Edition. LP review by Andrew Cartmel)
Stéphane Grappelli is one of the most recorded violinists of all time, and certainly the most recorded one in jazz. However, his discography has an odd gap. From the late 1940s to the mid 1960s the catalogue would seem to indicate that he hardly set foot in a recording studio. There are various theories as to why this might be. Some maintain he was recovering from the death of his long time musical partner Django Reinhardt, others that he was trying to come to terms with the electronic amplification of instruments which would swamp his violin, or that he spent years woodshedding to perfect his technique. Whatever the explanation, this set from May 1957 is a genuine collector’s item.
It is a double LP, a deeply enjoyable one, released by the enterprising German record label Moosicus and continuing their outstanding series of albums drawn from the vaults of Hamburg’s NDR public radio station (Norddeutscher Rundfunk). None of these recordings have seen the light of day since their original broadcast and they represent a treasure horde to make a jazz fan’s mouth water. They also have the virtue of having been superbly recorded at the time, and are being revived now in truly state of the art releases. Moosicus are using heavy, pristine vinyl, beautifully pressed and remastered. (And there are CD versions, too, if you swing that way.)
For these sessions at NDR’s Studio 1, Grappelli is accompanied by a rhythm section which is an interesting one, to say the least. The pianist is Maurice Vander, an adroit Frenchman who collaborated with Django Reinhardt just before Django died in 1953 and had a long association with the French singer Claude Nougaro. On upright bass is Hans Last, a name which won’t raise any eyebrows until you realise that this talented young player later anglicised his first name to James and became the towering titan of easy listening. With some hundred million records sold, mostly pop hits arranged for a big band, it is easy to dismiss ‘Hansi’ as some kind of vastly bland joke. But his performance here is excellent and it isn’t surprising to learn that from 1950 to 1952 he was voted the country’s best bass player in the German jazz polls, three years running. The drummer and percussionist in the quartet is Rolf Ahrens who would later play with such European jazz luminaries as Klaus Doldinger before settling in as the long serving drummer for Bert Kaempfert — easy listening seems to have been the fate of German jazz virtuosos in the 1960s.
But the star here is Grappelli and he demonstrates it decisively. If the theory that he suspended recording because he was perfecting his technique is true, then he has achieved that mastery by now. Just listen to the luscious legato and lightning runs on It Might as Well Be Spring where he is wringing sweetness from the strings; it is pointed, energetic and gorgeous. Maurice Vander is also notable here with his chiming piano providing scales and trills. Hambourg Souvenir is a Vander composition and has an appropriately urban hipness, with Grappelli playing groovy angular lines and Ahrens providing soft propulsion and keeping impeccable time, then intertwining percussively with the violin to great effect. It’s also a showcase for Last’s splendidly sonorous plucking — I swear I’ll never look at a copy of Non-Stop Dancing with the same dismissive sneer.
Grappelli’s playing also has a remarkable vocal quality. St Louis Blues begins with him conjuring from his strings what sounds like a field holler. This deeply rural blues feel then alternates with hot boogie-woogie bowing before developing into bebop intricacies. Its instructive to discover that Grappelli, with his roots in 1930s swing, had so comprehensively absorbed the techniques of modern jazz. Vander also rises to the occasion here, providing a streaming flourish of piano notes.
Elsewhere, Autumn In New York is soulful and sweet and old fashioned in the best way while Jeepers Creepers provides jazz that is hot and swings with Grappelli’s playing breathtakingly fluid and nimble. Meanwhile, the ravishing Blue Moon provides his violin with the opportunity for some puckish pizzicato.
This is an immensely enjoyable album. Grappelli is on superb form throughout and the listener begins to realise that these recordings are really quite valuable, catching him in his absolute prime, and in a regrettably under-documented period. The audiophile quality sound doesn’t hurt, either. It’s breathtaking. These tapes are as fresh as yesterday — no, make that today.
This series is one of the most exciting projects in jazz at the moment and I can hardly wait to see what Moosicus retrieves from the NDR archives next.
Albert Elms and Ron Grainerm - Man in a Suitcase: Original Soundtrack Selections
(Network/ITC 7959028. LP review by Andrew Cartmel)
You will have heard of Soul Jazz, Latin Jazz and Chamber Jazz. But what of Crime Jazz? This vigorous subgenre of the music was born in the US film and TV studios of the 1950s and thrived through the sixties and early seventies, accompanying the movies and series of the day. Its leading creators were composers and arrangers who cut their teeth in the big bands of the Swing and Bebop era. Henry Mancini scored biggest with television’s Peter Gunn, while Count Basie provided the theme for M Squad and Billy May’s music clothed The Naked City. Quincy Jones’ classic Ironside was a late, funky entry.
What is less well known is that the UK had its own burgeoning field of Crime Jazz — notably John Dankworth’s theme for The Avengers —which culminated in John Barry’s James Bond scores, with their roots in the big band arrangements of Stan Kenton.
Now, courtesy of an outfit called Network, some of the best and rarest British examples of the genre have been made available again — on vinyl, and in releases of superlative, jaw-dropping quality.
Network have previously specialised in DVDs of vintage television programs, with a healthy sideline in soundtrack collections on CD. But for their first venture into the world of vinyl, they’re taking no half measures. The new LPs are transferred from the TV shows’ original quarter inch analog master tapes by the distinguished FX Copyroom and pressed onto 180gram audiophile virgin vinyl at Pallas in Germany, who are responsible for some of the finest sounding LPs ever manufactured. Supervising the remastering and cutting of the vinyl is Ray Staff at Air Studios, a legendary engineer who has worked with Roy Ayers, Alec Dankworth and Martin Taylor — not to mention Brian Eno, Van Morrison and the Clash. It’s clear that the guys at Network are taking this new project pretty seriously.
Man in a Suitcase was an ITC television show about a renegade CIA agent turned private eye. It first screened in 1967 and 1968. The intoxicating, propulsive main title theme with its fat drums and trumpet stabs will immediately exhilarate anyone from the generation who remember the original show, as well as many from a later generation who will associate it with Chris Evans’ TFI Friday, for which the music was cannily revived. That unforgettable theme was composed by Ron Grainer, no stranger to classic British cop shows — he scored Maigret — and also the man who wrote the Doctor Who theme. There are three versions of the main theme on the LP, but the bulk of the music — and for the show — is by Albert Elms.
It’s in the nature of television scoring that the tracks themselves tend to have numbers, not names (shades of The Prisoner, another great Ron Grainer TV theme) while the credits of the individual players are mostly lost to history — although it’s worth noting that musicians of the stature of Tubby Hayes were regularly doing studio sessions for film and television companies in this period. (As Simon Spillett’s forthcoming book reveals, Tubby played on everything from The Avengers to The Italian Job.)
So we don’t for certain know who to thank for the luscious noirish sax on Find the Lady or the moody trilling percussion and haunting reverberant guitar of Man from the Dead. Nor can we identify the sultry saxophone on The Bridge, the caustic flamenco guitar for The Man Who Stood Still, or the soulful oboe of Castle in the Clouds. One would also like a full roll call for the big band extravaganza of Variation on a Million Bucks, particularly the musician responsible for the hypnotically intricate percussion which would do justice to Larry Bunker or Shelly Manne (indeed, it calls to mind their work on Johnny Mandel’s I Want To Live — a Crime Jazz classic, if ever there was one).
We don’t know who the players are, but they were clearly virtuosos. This music only fleetingly existed on the airwaves when the TV programs were first broadcast and since then has mostly resided in tape cans in vaults. Now, thanks to Network, it can be heard again, and with such exquisite clarity and quality that the only way to improve on it would have been a seat in the studio at the original sessions.
We wrote about the last gigs before the closing of the Bulls Head for refurbishment on 30th June. The last person to to leave the club will have been drummer Les Cirkel, but the penultimate gig was by the great Stan Tracey.
The Stables Room at the Bulls Head will re-open under the new ownership of Geronimo Inns on Monday December 16th. We're being told the refurb gives the old music room a real club atmosphere. The club is also taking one great leap forward: online advance booking is available- see link below. Yes, you read that right. Online booking.
The historic very first gig next Monday is drummer Peter Miles with the Alan Glen / John O'Leary All Stars with special guests presenting their Back to the Flamingo club night.
The second night is an eight-piece band led by Derek Nash.
Future acts booked include the stalwarts: Peter King, Art Themen, Alan Price.
Spare a thought: the Bull, the world will not be the same without Stan Tracey (see a lovely tribute by Ivan Hewett, remembering hearing Stan at the Bull.)
New season up until the end of January open for browsing, and booking.
The 56th annual Grammy Awards will be held in Los Angeles on 26th January. Here are the nominees in the jazz categories (The full list is here
BEST IMPROVISED JAZZ SOLO
Don't Run (Terence Blanchard) from: Magnetic (Blue Note )
Song For Maura (Paquito D'Rivera) Song For Maura -Paquito D'Rivera And Trio Corrente - (Sunnyside Records/Paquito Records)
Song Without Words #4: Duet (Fred Hersch) from: Free Flying -Fred Hersch And Julian Lage (Palmetto Records)
Stadium Jazz (Donny McCaslin) from: Casting For Gravity( Greenleaf Music)
Orbits (Wayne Shorter) from: Without A Net - The Wayne Shorter Quartet ( Blue Note )
BEST JAZZ VOCAL ALBUM
The World According To Andy Bey - Andy Bey ( HighNote)
Attachments -Lorraine Feather (Jazzed Media)
Liquid Spirit -Gregory Porter( Blue Note )
WomanChild - Cécile McLorin Salvant ( Mack Avenue)
After Blue - Tierney Sutton (BFM Jazz)
BEST JAZZ INSTRUMENTAL ALBUM
Guided Tour - The New Gary Burton Quartet ( Mack Avenue )
Money Jungle: Provocative In Blue - Terri Lyne Carrington (Concord Jazz)
Life Forum - Gerald Clayton( Concord Jazz)
Pushing The World Away - Kenny Garrett (Mack Avenue)
Out Here - Christian McBride Trio ( Mack Avenue )
BEST LARGE JAZZ ENSEMBLE ALBUM
Brooklyn Babylon - Darcy James Argue's Secret Society ( New Amsterdam)
Night In Calisia - Randy Brecker, Wlodek Pawlik Trio & Kalisz Philharmonic ( Summit Records)
Wild Beauty - Brussels Jazz Orchestra Featuring Joe Lovano (Half Note)
March Sublime - Alan Ferber ( Sunnyside )
Intrada - Dave Slonaker Big Band( Origin Records)
BEST LATIN JAZZ ALBUM
La Noche Más Larga - Buika (Warner Music Spain)
Song For Maura - Paquito D'Rivera And Trio Corrente ( Sunnyside /Paquito)
Yo - Roberto Fonseca( Concord Jazz)
Egg_n - Omar Sosa( Otá )
Latin Jazz-Jazz Latin - Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet( Patois)
UPDATE: OTHER CATEGORIES WHICH MAY BE OF INTEREST
BEST POP INSTRUMENTAL ALBUM
Steppin' Out - Herb Alpert (Shout! Factory)
The Beat - Boney James (Concord)
Handpicked - Earl Klugh( Heads Up International)
Summer Horns - Dave Koz, Gerald Albright, Mindi Abair & Richard Elliot (Concord)
Hacienda - Jeff Lorber Fusion (Heads Up International)
BEST R&B PERFORMANCE
Label: RCA Records / Bystorm Entertainment
Something - Snarky Puppy With Lalah Hathaway - from: Family Dinner Volume One (Ropeadope Records)
BEST TRADITIONAL R&B PERFORMANCE
Hey Laura - Gregory Porter. from: Liquid Spirit (Blue Note)
BEST AMERICAN ROOTS SONG
Shrimp Po-Boy, Dressed - Allen Toussaint, songwriter (Allen Toussaint). From Songbook (Rounder)
BEST AMERICANA ALBUM
Songbook - Allen Toussaint (Rounder)
BEST WORLD MUSIC ALBUM
No Place For My Dream - Femi Kuti( Knitting Factory Records)
Live: Singing For Peace Around The World - Ladysmith Black Mambazo (Ladysmith Black Mambazo)
The Living Room Sessions Part 2 -Ravi Shankar (East Meets West Music)
BEST INSTRUMENTAL COMPOSITION
Bound Away - Chuck Owen - Chuck Owen & The Jazz Surge - from: River Runs: A Concerto For Jazz Guitar, Saxophone & Orchestra (Mama)
Pensamientos For Solo Alto Saxophone And Chamber Orchestra - Clare Fischer - The Clare Fischer Orchestra( Clavo Records)
String Quartet No. 1: Funky Diversion In Three Parts - Vince Mendoza- Quartet San Francisco- from: Pacific Premieres: New Works By California Composers (Violinjazz Recordings)
BEST INSTRUMENTAL ARRANGEMENT
Invitation - Kim Richmond,-Kim Richmond Concert Jazz Orchestra- from: Artistry: A Tribute To Stan Kenton (Mama)
On Green Dolphin Street - Gordon Goodwin - Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band (Telarc)
Side Hikes - A Ridge Away - Chuck Owen, arranger (Chuck Owen & The Jazz Surge) - from: River Runs: A Concerto For Jazz Guitar, Saxophone & Orchestra( Mama)
Wild Beauty - Gil Goldstein - Brussels Jazz Orchestra Featuring Joe Lovano - Half Note
BEST INSTRUMENTAL ARRANGEMENT ACCOMPANYING VOCALIST(S)
Let's Fall In Love - Chris Walden - Calabria Foti Featuring Seth MacFarlane (Moco)
The Moon's A Harsh Mistress - John Hollenbeck, arranger (John Hollenbeck) from: Songs I Like A Lot (Sunnyside)
Swing Low - Gil Goldstein, Bobby McFerrin & Esperanza Spalding ( Masterworks)
BEST ALBUM NOTES
Afro Blue Impressions - Remastered & Expanded - Neil Tesser - John Coltrane( Pablo/Concord )
BEST SURROUND SOUND ALBUM
Sixteen Sunsets -Jane Ira Bloom (Pure Audio)
BEST ENGINEERED ALBUM, CLASSICAL
Winter Morning Walks David Frost, Brian Losch & Tim Martyn, engineers; Tim Martyn, mastering engineer (Dawn Upshaw, Maria Schneider, Australian Chamber Orchestra & St. Paul Chamber Orchestra) Label: ArtistShare
PRODUCER OF THE YEAR, CLASSICAL
BEST CLASSICAL VOCAL SOLO
Winter Morning Walks Dawn Upshaw (Maria Schneider; Jay Anderson, Frank Kimbrough & Scott Robinson; Australian Chamber Orchestra & St. Paul Chamber Orchestra) Label: ArtistShare
BEST CLASSICAL COMPENDIUM
Tabakova: String Paths Maxim Rysanov; Manfred Eicher, producer Label: ECM New Series
BEST CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL COMPOSITION
Schneider, Maria: Winter Morning Walks Maria Schneider, composer - Dawn Upshaw, Jay Anderson, Frank Kimbrough, Scott Robinson & Australian Chamber Orchestra - (ArtistShare)
Photo credit: William Ellis.All Rights Reserved
UPDATE: The Stan Tracey Appreciation Society announce: "Stan's funeral will be held at Golders Green Crematorium, West Chapel at 1pm on December 18th. All are welcome to attend."
|Phil Meadows Group: Phil Meadows, Laura Jurd, Elliot Galvin|
Conor Chaplin, Simon Roth
- The £4,000 Peter Whittingham Award from the Musicians Benevolent Fund has been won by saxophonist Phil Meadows.
- The Development Award was won by Elliot Galvin. (Both are graduates of Trinity Laban.)
- More detail is in the MBF Press Release
- Our PODCAST INTERVIEW with Phil Meadows about his debut album Engines of Creation, and telling his story in detail is HERE
|Nelson Mandela and Miriam Makeba|
This tribute to Nelson Mandela was written by Gwen Ansell from Johannesburg, expert writer on the South African music scene for several decades, instigator and leader of the journalism programme at the Cape Town Jazz Festival and the author of Soweto Blues, Jazz, Popular Music and Politics in South Africa. Gwen writes:
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela passed away at his Johannesburg home yesterday Thursday December 5 at 8:50pm. He was 95 years old.
A period of national mourning has begun, and a State funeral will be held at the iconic FNB Stadium in Soweto, before the former president's body is laid to rest in his birthplace, the Eastern Cape, in the village of Qunu. The order of service has not been made public yet, but it is likely to include many solemn and beautiful works of music, given both the former President’s stature and achievements and the rich musical associations of his life.
He was born to a high-ranking family of the Mvelo Clan of the Thembu people in Transkei, South Africa, on July 18 1918. Apartheid reduced groups like the Thembu to “tribes”, but such groups represented important political states and kingdoms before colonialism arrived. Throughout his life, Madiba (his clan name, and a title of respect) showed appreciation for music; his home province, the Eastern Cape, is home to some of the most intriguing musical traditions in the country.
Mandela’s childhood: the sounds he grew up with
The Xhosa speaking-peoples of the region have a tradition of split-tone singing: vocalists can create more than one note simultaneously, and weave those tones together in magically complex rhythmic patterns. They call it “putting salt in a tune” and this is the music Mandela heard during his village childhood.
In addition, the region was a place of settlement for some of the earliest Christian missionaries to Southern Africa. The first indigenous hymn in South Africa, Ulo Tixo Omkulu (Thou art God who is great), was written in the early 1820s by Ntsikana son of Gaba, a Xhosa prince who converted to Christianity:
The clip above shows the hymn sung in church fashion by an Eastern Cape choir, but it has passed into the South African canon, and was also recorded as Ntsikana’s Bell by jazz pianist Abdullah Ibrahim (then – 1983 – known as Dollar Brand) with bassist Johnny Dyani on the album Good News From Afrika:
Mandela excelled at his various schools, taking his leaving exams at a mission school, the Wesleyan Healdtown Academy. He began studying law at Fort Hare University, also in the Eastern Cape, but after being expelled for joining student protests, he returned home and completed his first degree by distance study. By 1941, he had left the Eastern Cape for Johannesburg, where he began articles with a law firm and enrolled for an LLb with the University of the Witwatersrand. But increasing involvement in politics meant he did not complete the degree at that time, although he obtained sufficient qualifications to practise and to co-found South Africa’s first black law firm, Mandela & Tambo, in 1952.
In Johannesburg: practising law and organising rebellion
He was also a promising amateur boxer, a stylish dresser, and a much-admired man-about town, who socialised in the politically aware racially-mixed suburbs of the city, such as Sophiatown. The late jazz guitarist, General Duze, remembered “Mandela had always been a fan of mine…he liked his jazz, and whenever we played…he’d jive (dance).” For a flavour of the music Mandela may have danced to, listen to the late singer Dolly Rathebe – the most admired beauty and singer of her generation – working here with the African Jazz Pioneers, a revival band composed of veteran former stars of the South African Jazz scene. The song is Meadowlands, written by Strike Vilakazi to protest the destruction and forced removal of Sophiatown in the early 1950s by the apartheid government.
This reflects the era when Mandela was energising the African National Congress Youth League, organising protest, and fighting cases related to unjust apartheid laws. Much of this work had to be carried out clandestinely, as he was carrying a suspended sentence for organising mass defiance and was “banned” (forbidden to take part in public life or any gatherings) for a period starting in late 1952:
By the early 1960s, repression had increased and Mandela was tasked with establishing and leading Mkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation, MK) the armed wing of the African National Congress. In 1962 he travelled to the UK to build support for the anti-apartheid struggle, and around Africa, receiving training in Morocco and Ethiopia. Months after he returned he was arrested and charged with leaving South Africa illegally. As the apartheid state uncovered more of the scope and effectiveness of ANC plans, the imprisoned Mandela was put on trial again, with other comrades. In June 1964 he began a term of life imprisonment on the harsh lime-quarry prison isle of Robben Island. And it was at that point that the musicians of South Africa and the world began drawing attention to his plight, and the nature of his – and South Africa’s – struggle.
Singing Mandela: South Africans at home and abroad
The ANC was establishing effective liaison offices in independent Africa and in Europe; in March 1960, 8 000 people attended an anti-apartheid solidarity rally in London’s Trafalgar Square. Black musicians and artists had long been leaving the country: apartheid’s rules restricted what they could play and record and who they could collaborate with. These restrictions, and the censorship, intensified through the years that followed. After the Sharpeville massacre in 1960, and even more after the 1976 Soweto uprising, many young people fled the country to train as ANC cadres, and to find educational opportunities that were closed at home. From the military training camps, trombonist Jonas Gwangwa recruited a performance ensemble, the Amandla Cultural Ensemble, to take the story of the imprisoned Mandela and the struggle to stages across the world. Here, they sing the marching song Abazali Sobashiya (“We have left our parents…”)
Most of these performances took place in the pre-digital age, but contemporary South African composer Philip Miller has created modern vocal and instrumental arrangements of freedom songs on his album Shona Malanga, including the one sung in direct solidarity and named after Nelson Mandela.
In London, a group of exiles formed the Mayibuye (‘freedom’) Cultural group, weaving together poetry and traditional and original new songs – including another called Rolihlahla Mandela – to tell the story:
In America in 1963, a young exiled South African trumpeter called Hugh Masekela with his sweetheart (they married in 1965) the singer Miriam Makeba, began work on her first hit album: An Evening with Miriam Makeba. Both musicians constantly referred to the South African struggle and Mandela’s plight in their performances, as in this clip of Makeba with Harry Belafonte in the 1950s, singing Give Us Our Land (Mabayeke):
Although Masekela and Makeba later divorced, Masekela always acknowledged that “Miriam carried the torch for this country, and I think she kept the names of the Oliver Tambos, Robert Sobukwe’s, Nelson Mandelas alive in people’s minds all that time.” So did Masekela himself, with songs such as Stimela (Steam Train) depicting the plight of migrant mine-workers, and his 1987 hit single, directly calling for Mandela’s release, Bring Him Back Home:
Moving between South Africa and international stages, a white academic turned performer, Johnny Clegg, working with a Zulu guitarist Sipho Mchunu in bands such as Savuka and Juluka, constantly referred to the South African struggle for freedom in their music. In the moving Asimbonanga, Clegg sang (in Zulu) “We have not seen him/ We have not seen our Mandela/ in the place where he is kept/Oh the sea is cold and the sky is grey/Look across the island into the bay/We are all islands till comes the day/We cross the burning water.” In this performance, he reprises the song in company with Mandela, after the statesman’s release:
Back home in South Africa, even pop singers were taking courage to call for Mandela’s release. Sometimes they sang lyrics with ambiguous meanings. Chicco Twala had a hit with a lightweight ‘bubblegum’ song We Miss You Manello, which he said was “about a friend of mine who has gone away”. But in live performance, audiences – and Twala – positively roared “We miss you Mandela.” Others were more upfront. South Africa’s most popular female singer of the 1980s, Brenda Fassie, sang two songs directly addressing the man she saw as president-in-waiting. Black President is self-explanatory; Vulindlela (“Let it be opened”) was about flinging wide the prison doors. Here, she sings the songs after Mandela’s release, in the latter case, at the 2001 Kora African Music Awards, with her president in the audience:
Singing Mandela: solidarity across the world
It wasn’t just in his homeland that Mandela was honoured. Musicians across the world made tracks in his honour: his Google playlist tops 100 tracks, and that’s only the ones that exist in digital formats. One of the best-known is Free Nelson Mandela, made in 1984 by the British multiracial ska band The Specials a.k.a. The Specials had a mission: to fight racist attitudes among their generation and build links between the UK’s many diverse ethnic communities and towards international solidarity. This clip shows the song’s debut on British TV, on the programme Top of the Pops, and although the quality is typical of an airshot, it conveys the intense energy and emotion of the song. The Specials have sung it many times since, including at London birthday solidarity concerts for Mandela, and on the occasion of his 1990 release:
In Africa, musicians from every part of the continent used the imprisoned leader’s name as shorthand for struggle, nobility and the fight against colonial oppression. Zimbabwe’s Lovemore Majaivana and his Zulu Band created a reggae-flavoured Hymn for Mandela:
In the DRC, Congolese divas Faya Tess and Mbilia Bel and top bandleader Tabu Ley Rochereau teamed up in 1988 to record an entire album dedicated to Madiba, including this track Sisi Mandela. This was the period when Rochereau had moved away from his former wife Bel towards using Tess as the Orchestra Africa’s lead vocalist, but whatever the tensions behind the scenes, the cause of Mandela brought them together for this project . VIDEO HERE:
Mandela’s 70th birthday, in 1988, while he was still imprisoned, produced a spate of compositions, many of them performed at the massive Wembley Stadium concert held to remember the man and make a worldwide call for his freedom and that of all black South Africans. Other international artists including Salif Keita, Ismail Lo and James Ingram, as well as many South Africans, featured on the bill. Some reprised tribute material they had already composed. But UK group Simple Minds composed a new song: Mandela Day:
Singing Mandela: the freedom years
Since the euphoria – musical and human – of Mandela’s release, followed by South Africa’s first democratic election and the dismantling of apartheid’s structures (relatively rapid) and its socio-economic legacy (much slower), the urgent need to campaign for his freedom has gone. But while the chart-topping campaigning songs may have ceased, artists have not forgotten Mandela. The massive birthday concerts of his period in prison have been succeeded by events around 4664: the social action and fundraising campaign linked to his former prison number. Every July 18, the world has been urged to celebrate UN International Nelson Mandela Day by dedicating 67 minutes (one minute for each of Madiba’s years of struggle) to a community service or social upliftment project.
And the music has not stopped. While his health permitted, Mandela spent time back in his home village of Qunu, still rich in traditional Xhosa and church music. Even young artists still remember him. For his 90th birthday in 2008, Cape Town singer Melanie Scholtz, the late jazz saxophonist Robbie Jansen (himself a struggle veteran) and other Cape musicians created Nelson Mandela: Born in the Land of the Sun. Based on a struggle song of the 1980s, the music has now become a tribute and expression of gratitude:
Even more interesting is the way Mandela’s life, times and heroic struggles are now moving into the concert hall: his achievements now becoming a subject for symphonies, suites and operas. This is entirely fitting: many composers have seen Mandela’s life and the victories he won represent the triumph of the human spirit on an epic scale – a Fidelio for the modern era. The Cape Town Opera company in 2010 created The Mandela Portrait: a three-part tribute featuring traditional Xhosa music adapted by UK-born, South African resident Allan Stephenson, 1950s Sophiatown jazz re-imagined by Cape Town University music professor Mike Campbell and a contemporary opera final act by composer Peter Luis van Dijk.
Contemporary composer Bongani Ndodana-Breen has created two Mandela-linked works. This year’s Credo is an oratorio, using text based on the 1955 Freedom Charter. It premiered on July 18th 2013. Back then, as a banned person, Mandela had to hide himself, comrades and family members in the crowd when the Charter, democratic South Africa’s founding statement, was proclaimed in Kliptown. Last year, Ndodana-Breen premiered Winnie, the Opera, focused on the turbulent life of Mandela’s second wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. The early scenes of the opera, such as the one in the clip below, evoke the years when the Mandela family lived on Vilakazi Street in Soweto and were instrumental in community action:
Madiba retired from the Presidency in 1999 and formally withdrew from public life in 2004, although he continued to work tirelessly, as his health permitted, for causes close to his heart, and particularly to campaign for the welfare and futures of children and young people. Anecdotes and reminiscences from friends and colleagues in those final years depict a man who still cared passionately about justice, and who lived simply and honestly in accordance with his principles.
Members of Mkhonto we Sizwe still remember him as their commander-in-chief from the days when it was necessary to resist the bullets of apartheid. Across South Africa, former MK militants will sing this song in mourning, Hamba Kahle Mkhonto (“Go well, MK soldier”): the anthem traditionally sung within the movement when a militant dies. This version is that of the Mayibuye Cultural Group, recorded back in 1978
Bring back Nelson Mandela
Bring him back home to Soweto
I want to see him walking down the streets of South Africa (TOMORROW! )
Bring back Nelson Manndela
Bring him back home to Soweto
I want to see him walking hand in hand with Winnie Mandela
Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra Fest VI
(CCA, Glasgow Days 2 and 3 (29th and 30th November 2013.Round-up review by Oliver Weindling)
The Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra has evolved from year to year since its foundation in 2002. The ensemble has grown in size, with this year more than 20 musicians on stage, even including several strings and a harp. The group has an almost even division of male and female, which is certainly a model to be emulated elsewhere.There was also a sombre mood around, with everyone there aware of and influenced by the Clutha Bar helicopter tragedy, which had happened less than two miles away.
As in most years for their festival, of which I attended the final two days of the latest in Glasgow, they augment the ensemble with several "guests". Maggie Nicols is a regular and a respected elder. It was also exciting to have pianist Marilyn Crispell, who was there for the launch of her new duo album with Raymond MacDonald. Gail Brand, from London, percussionist Gino Robair, from the Bay Area in California, Arnault Rivière (electronics, Paris), Johanna Varner (cello, Munich) were among the others.
On the first night, Maggie Nicols and Marilyn Crispell showed how strong the empathy is between them, even though their live duo was a world premiere. But it was never allowed to get too serious: for the short encore, Maggie played piano and Marilyn sang - a swap of roles (though if the truth be told, they ultimately work best on their true instruments).
Johanna Varner took advantage of the opportunities provided by such a large and varied pool of musicians to programme a series of smaller groups. A theme running through seemed to be contrasts, between strings and brass, between two guitars, or by placing some musicians behind the audience, but conducted from in front of us on the stage by MacDonald. Somehow, by the end, it seemed to transform itself into a military band sound. No particular planning from the musicians in advance; it just seemed right.
Playing on the second night was the Anglo-French band Sonsale, featuring Corey Mwamba on vibes, Andy Champion (bass), drummer Sylvain Darrifourcq, already known here for his work with Barbacana and Q and an extraordinary cellist, Valentin Ceccaldi, a worthy new member of a new generation of the French scene where Vincent Courtois has been the leading light for many years. Their own set, part of the JazzShuttle scheme, built through a range of textures and interplay. Frequently it was impossible to tell who was creating which sound. But that just added to the total band organism. It finally morphed into a eerie waltz, where the 'oompahpah' was articulated by the strings, allowing the vibes and drums incredible amounts of space.
But the main highlights of the festival are the commissions. The norm has been for GIO invite guests such as Barry Guy or George Lewis. While I was there, they focused on the home-grown commissions from members of GIO. On Friday, the commission by Graeme Wilson, 'A Peculiar Slumber', was based on the writings of Robert Walser, active in Switzerland and Berlin at the beginning of the 20th century. It captured his evolving imagination and his descent into depression and emotional turmoil most evocatively.
The parts handed out to the musicians in GIO are mainly to give them a foundation for their joint improvisations and the evolution of the music, rather than rigidly fixing the performance. So, for 'Parallel Moments Unbroken', a BBC Radio 3 commission by Raymond MacDonald, the parts consisted of his own paintings made individually for each member. Its concept was influenced in approach by the definition of 'freedom'. To understand freedom properly musicians need to place themselves in the context of others. Such is the case of parallel lines which cannot exist in isolation.
Written in four sections and 50 minutes long, it increasingly engaged the listener as it developed. And during the performance there were several good examples and reminders of the need for musicians to play off each other (rather than for themselves). It was notable too how well they know when not to play, as much as when to. As a result, the climaxes never descended into cacophony.
Raymond MacDonald's commission for the Glasgow Improvisers' Orchestra will be broadcast on BBC Jazz on 3 on 16 December. Raymond MacDonald and Marilyn Crispell perform at the Vortex on 6 December to launch their album 'Artificial Life'.
Winner of this year's competition
The Scottish Jazz Federation have announced the eighth annual Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year Competition.
Applicants start with an audio audition before ten semi-finalists are chosen. They then advance to a mentoring weekend, participating in workshops before playing in a concert. The top five players are selected by a panel of judges after this and will go through to the final, held in Glasgow on July 25th (part of the Glasgow Jazz Festival), broadcast live on BBC Radio Scotland.
The winner receives a £1000 cash prize (and £1000 towards a demo recording), a six venue tour of Scotland, airplay on BBC Scotland, and performances at the Glasgow and London Jazz Festivals 2015. There will also be a concert featuring a selection of the previous winners; date and time TBC.
For information and an application form: email admin[@]scottishjazzfederation.com, or click HERE
All entries must be in before February 28th at 17:00
Rob Edgar writes:
Tonight was the 11th Annual British Composer Awards Ceremony (produced by BASCA, supported by PRS and recorded by BBC Radio 3 for Broadcast on Saturday 7th at 22:45. Listen HERE) at the Goldsmiths' Hall.
Congratulations to John Surman who picked up the Contemporary Jazz Composition Award (received by John Cumming of Serious in his absence) for Lifelines a choral piece (reviewed HERE) which blends folk and jazz into a convincing and original portmanteau.
The other nominees in the jazz category were: Trish Clowes for Iris Nonet, and Tim Garland for Songs to the North Sky (which is being issued by Edition Records inJanuary)..
The late Richard Rodney Bennett's A Colloquy with God was nominated for the Choral category, and composer Kerry Andrew's Screech was nominated for the Making Music Award. Full list of nominees HERE
Full list of winners HERE
|Michael Wollny, Tamar Halperin, and Hessischer Rundfunk Big Band|
Photo Credit: © Ali Ghandtschi / Berliner Festspiele
Stefan Hentz, Hamburg-based feature writer and reviewer for die Zeit and the Neue Zuercher Zeitung, has written a round-up review for us of the Berlin Jazz Festival. (This is Sebastian's English translation. We have also published the original in German):
The themes of the 2013 Berlin Jazz Fest spanned far and wide. They took in not just different continents - from Africa to Europe and then onwards to America – they also bridged epochs of history, going back to a time before jazz existed, through its great period, and reaching right up to the present day.
That sense of an over-arching context made the BerlinJazz Fest 2013 something very special, a festival in which the individual programme constituents appeared to catch the light off each other and to reflect it back. It was as if the different elements might spark off each other, and produce energy.
This is the second Berlin festival with Bert Noglik in charge. He is without doubt one of the most persuasive and sensitive jazz advocates in Germany. He made the point that he sees the festival not so much as an exercise in attracting famous names and glamorous stars (although there were quite a few among the twenty-two acts in the festival). So, rather than producing a superficial veneer of stardom, what Noglik has achieved is to give the festival its own, extremely musical identity, through subtle connections between the various programme elements. His achievement does indeed make the Berlin Jazz Festival stand out from the pack, and make it a lot more than just a parade of big names.
The launch event on the opening Wednesday included a film, a panel discussion and a concert by the German-Malian Trio Ivoire. Their appearance introduced an African theme to the festival programme. The following day, the festival put down a few more markers: New Orleans-born trumpeter Christian Scott is the kind of musician whom perhaps only the birthplace of jazz itself could have produced. He is a virtuoso at the peak of his game, powerful and earthy, right in the groove, yet clear, and at the same time both an entertainer and an intellectual. He is an heir to Buddy Bolden, completely hip to the beats and sounds of contemporary pop, but also fully aware of and inspired by his forefathers' passion.
He portrays the experience of insidious everyday racism, as seen from the perspective of a thirty -year-old African-American, through music full of vigour and freshness, elegance and anger. His sextet was formed several years ago at Berklee College in Boston. These players, rooted in the formally taught chord-scale lexicon, skittered up and down the octaves, but it was their guest, a musician from another era, who enabled them to step into a different and better light: the soprano saxophonist Richard Howell is some thirty years older than Scott, and is far too little-known. He is a musician who developed his focused sound alongside such players such as Jimmy Smith, Cecil Taylor and Don Cherry. His unruffled manner, his clarity of melodic line and thought brought the hustle and bustle of the younger men into perspective. You have to see the encounter of old and young together to register what is lacking from technical accomplishment on its own. This was a meeting that made the rings in the tree-trunk of jazz visible, serving as a reminder of what is missing from young wood.
|Joachim Kühn, Pharaoh Sanders|
Photo Credit: © Ali Ghandtschi / Berliner Festspiele
The next project, Joachim Kühn's Gnawa Jazz Voodoo dug down several ages deeper among the root systems of jazz, and had been specially put together for the festival. The pianist was born in Leipzig in the former East Germany in 1944. Among German musicians, he is probably the one who best serves as a living embodiment of the international nature of jazz at its most radical. Kühn grew up in the city from which Johann Sebastian Bach influenced the world, Leipzig. His youth was spent in the shadow of his brother, fourteen years older than him, who had already achieved international renown as a jazz clarinettist, Rolf Kühn. Joachim Kühn developed a fearsome instrumental technique and vocabulary, on which the major players of European classical music as well as the jazz piano masters have left their mark.
He now lives on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza. His German /Spanish/Moroccan trio is alive to the cultural cross-currents of the Mediterranean, notably the influence of Gnawa musicians, whose ancestors once came to Morocco from West Africa. For the Berlin concert, Kühn had augmented his trio with Gnawa musicians: three percussionists from different regions of North and West Africa. He also welcomed Pharoah Sanders. Sanders earned the status of a true jazz legend working alongside John Coltrane on the album Ascension in the sixties, and still takes the listener on anthemic flights, ascending into the stratosphere.
So what do you get when the representatives of such different traditions meet? What happens when a secret inheritor of Bach meets not just the executor of Coltrane's will, but also the keepers of the African flame? A party, a neighbourhood party of dance and trance of rhythm and groove, which is also breathes the energy for an impressive and exuberant dance routine, in which Sanders was carried along. But he did seem out of his element. He wasn't quite up to the seething energy of music, with Kühn just getting on with it at the piano, taking the music off in its own directions. At the age of 74, Sanders now lacks the physical presence or the strength of sound on to allow the wings of melody to take him into the stratosphere of expression, territory which was once very much his. It sounds like a farewell: one of the truly greats cannot now match up to such high expectations.
The following evening "Wunderkammer XXL" gave us a sturdy bridge to the European past. This is a project in which the interaction between the German pianist Michael Wollny and the Israeli harpsichordist Tamar Halperin, with the big band of Hessischer Rundfunk providing a magical world of timbres and textures. Even the combined sound of the piano and its predecessor the harpsichord was a tonal adventure which Wollny and Halperin cleverly savoured. The sound of the two instruments combined seamlessly, the piano tone acquiring angularity, lengthening its reverberation, the two combined in constantly varied and interesting sounds. But the weight of the HR Big Band, with combinations of flute and saxophone variants brought an additional palette into play, summoning up a cosmic variety of tonal colour.
Alongside the inventiveness of such projects, truly contemporary and yet in a creatively tense relationship with the roots of jazz, some of the headliners' contributions fell short of the mark: the Klezmer Funk of Abraham Inc, a large ensemble based around the trombonist Fred Wesley and clarinettist David Krakauer, for example, however remained monochrome, as did the band formed by Jack DeJohnette with clarinetist Don Byron. These are all-rounders, capable musicians who know what they're doing. They traverse different time signatures and time-feels with an instinctive sureness, they can develop a common pulse, dazzle with sheer class, but don't connect beyond the stage. One glance at the clock and it becomes clear that this is a business, and not about making the music relate to the people in the audience. What fails to happen is that they don't create the voltage ratios between their own musical history and ours, and it simply doesn't lead to an experience which can transcend the moment.
|Photo Credit: © Ali Ghandtschi / Berliner Festspiele|
However, and herein lies the strength of the Berlin Jazz Festival, the music escapes again and again from the constraints of the here and now, it establishes a relationship with other eras, to its own history, reminds the listener that it is in a state of constant change, and thus points out to its future. The nightly celebration of the life's work of the saxophonist Ernst- Ludwig Petrovsky in the Academy of Arts could definitely be described in these terms. Petrovsky was in his time one of the most striking figures in jazz from the DDR. He celebrates his 80th birthday in December. Here he was, brightening up the night with three sets, each time with a different quartet, cutting through the layers of his music and for a brief moment, wiping out all evidence, of the passage of time, Or if not, then allowing one at least to forget it.
What was true for Petrowsky also applied to the extended quartet of alto saxophonist Ilona Haberkamp, who, once again, was presenting the music of the legendary pianist Jutta Hipp. Hipp had lit up the German jazz scene of the '50s risen like a comet, and then continued to burn in her later life in New York.
That sense of time-spans being shortened was also true for a late night show by FOOD, the British saxophonist Iain Ballamy and the Norwegian percussionist Thomas Strønen,in conjunction with the Viennese guitarist Chistian Fennesz. Their laptop - reinforced glimpse into the future of improvised music seemed based on almost classical forms. It even holds true for Jaimeo Brown's Transcendence, linking the freedom of anthemic improvisational music with references to the harmonies of Gospel, the rhythms of hip-hop and samples of spoken blues litanies with different layers of African-American music.
The Berlin Jazz Festival seems to put forward the persuasive argument that the new and the old are dialectically intertwined. If they can be simply given permission to co-exist and interact, then there is no need to fret and worry about whether jazz has a future.
German Version HERE
|Michael Wollny, Tamar Halperin, and Hessischer Rundfunk Big Band|
Photo Credit: © Ali Ghandtschi / Berliner Festspiele
We are pleased to welcome Stefan Hentz to the pages of LondonJazz News with a round up of the 2013 Berlin Jazz Festival. English translation here.
Kurze Biografie Stefan Hentz: Geboren in Kaiserslautern, aufgewachsen in Offenbach/Main. Seit 1984 in Hamburg. Beatles mit 6, Cream mit zwölf, Mahavishnu mit 15. Coltrane wenig später, seitdem musikalisch etwas einseitig. Besondere Interessen: Das was die Märkte ignorieren. Improvisierte Musik, Jazz. Freier Journalist, Schwerpunkt Kultur. Schreibt für Die Zeit, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, u.a. Lieber Punk als Pop. Lieber Fußball als Hockey. Lieber Benjamin als Mann. Lieber Rebellion als Romantik.
Weite Bögen prägten das Berliner Jazzfest 2013, Bögen von Afrika nach Europa und weiter nach Amerika; von der Vorzeit des Jazz in seine Hochphase und bis in die Gegenwart. Spannungsbögen, die das Berliner Jazzfest 2013 zu einem besonderen Jazzfestival machten, zu einem Festival, in dem sich die einzelnen Programmpunkte einander ins Licht rücken und in den Lücken zwischen den verschiedenen Ästhetiken Energie erzeugen. Mit seinem zweiten Festivalprogramm unterstrich Bert Noglik, einer der einfühlsamsten unter den Jazz-Publizisten in Deutschland, der seit 2012 das Programm des Jazzfest verantwortet, dass er das Besondere des Festivals weniger im Spiel mit berühmten Namen und glamourösen Stars (auch die gibt es unter den 22 Acts des Festivals) oder anderen Oberflächenreizen verortet als in den subliminalen Wechselbeziehungen zwischen den verschiedenen Programmpunkten, die dem Berliner Jazzfest in leuchtendem Kontrast zu den handelsüblichen Nummernrevues sein eigenes, sehr musikalisches Profil gibt.
|Christian Scott, Richard Howell|
Photo Credit: © Ali Ghandtschi / Berliner Festspiele
Nachdem bereits am Mittwoch Abend eine Auftaktveranstaltung mit Film, Podiumsdiskussion und einem Konzert des deutsch-malischen Trio Ivoire auf den afrikanischen Akzent des Festivalprogramms eingestimmt hatte, setzte das Festival einen Tag später Eckpfosten: der in New Orleans geborene Trompeter Christian Scott ist ein Musiker, wie ihn wohl nur die Wiege des Jazz hervor bringen kann, ein Virtuose auf der Höhe seiner Zeit, kraftvoll und erdverbunden, groovy und klar, gleichzeitig unterhaltsam und intellektuell. Ein Nachfahre Buddy Boldens, der den Beats und Sounds der aktuellen Popmusik ebenso aufgeschlossen gegenüber steht, wie der Leidenschaft seiner Vorväter. Aus der Perspektive eines dreissigjährigen Afroamerikaners übersetzt er die Erfahrung des nach wie vor massiven Alltagsrassismus in eine Musik voller Kraft und Frische, Eleganz und Wut. Und während sein vor Jahren an der Jazzhochschule Berklee gegründetes Sextett unüberhörbar entlang der Regeln der Akkord-Skalen-Grammatik des formalisierten Lehrbetriebs durch die Oktaven tänzelt, wird es erst durch einen Gast aus einer anderen Zeit ins rechte Licht gesetzt. Dreißig Jahre älter als Scott ist der Sopransaxofonist Richard Howell, einv´iel zu wenig bekannter Musiker, der einst an der Seite von Musikern wie Jimmy Smith, Cecil Taylor oder Don Cherry seinen konzentrierten Ton entwickelte. Erst die unaufgeregte, melodische Klarheit seiner Linien bringt das Treiben der Jungen zum Leuchten: alt UND jung – eine Begegnung, die die Altersringe des Jazz sichtbar macht, und das, was dem frischen Holz bei aller technischen Klasse fehlt.
Um mehrere Zeitalter tiefer in das Wurzelwerk des Jazz stieg im Anschluss das Projekt Gnawa Jazz Voodoo, das Joachim Kühn für das Festival zusammengestellt hat. Der 1944 in Leipzig im früheren Ostdeutschland geborene Pianist, ist wahrscheinlich der deutsche Musiker, der die Internationalität des Jazz am radikalsten auslebt. Aufgewachsen an der einstigen Wirkungsstätte Johann Sebastian Bachs im Schlagschatten seines 14 Jahre älteren Bruders, des damals schon international gefeierten Jazz-Klarinettisten Rolf Kühn, entwickelte sich Joachim Kühn zu einem furiosen Instrumentalisten, in dessen Spiel sowohl die Großen der europäischen notierten Musik wie auch die Meister des Jazzklaviers deutliche Spuren hinterlassen haben. Mittlerweile lebt er auf der Baleareninsel Ibiza und pflegt mit einem deutsch-spanisch-marokkanischen Trio über das Mittelmeer hinweg den Kulturaustausch, gerade auch mit den legendenumwobenen Gnawa-Musikern, deren Vorfahren einst aus Westafrika nach Marokko gekommen waren.
|Joachim Kühn, Pharaoh Sanders|
Photo Credit: © Ali Ghandtschi / Berliner Festspiele
Für das Berliner Konzert verstärkte Kühn sein Trio durch weitere Gnawa-Musiker, drei Perkussionisten aus unterschiedlichen Regionen Nord- und Westafrikas und durch Pharoah Sanders, der sich in den 60er-Jahren mit seinen hymnischen Stratosphärenflügen an der Seite von John Coltrane den Status einer echten Jazzlegende erspielte. Eine weit gespannte Gemeinschaft von Erben: Der heimliche Bacherbe trifft auf den Nachlassverwalter des Coltrane-Heritage trifft auf die Hüter der afrikanischen Quelle. Das Resultat? Party, eine Nachbarschaftsparty von Tanz und Trance, von Rhythmus und Groove, die auch dem schon recht mitgenommenen Pharoah Sanders die Energie für eine eindrucksvolle und ausgelassene Tanzeinlage einhaucht. Ansonsten ist Sanders hier fehl am Platz. Ihm fehlt die Bindung zum Gebrodel der Musik, im Alter von 74 Jahren fehlt ihm mittlerweile die physische Präsenz, um, so wie es Kühn am Klavier vormacht, die Musik einfach auf seine eigenen Kanäle leiten zu können, ihm fehlt die Kraft, seinen Ton auf dem Saxofon abheben zu lassen und sich auf den Schwingen der Melodie in die Stratosphären des Ausdrucks hochzuschrauben, wo er früher zuihause war. Es klingt wie Abschied, einer der ganz Großen, der nicht mehr an die Erwartungen heranreicht, die er selbst einst weckte.
Eine sehr stabile Brücke zur europäischen Vergangenheit markierte einen Abend später „Wunderkammer XXL“ ein Projekt, in dem das Zusammenspiel zwischen dem deutschen Pianisten Michael Wollny und der israelischen Cembalistin Tamar Halperin in der Begegnung mit der Bigband des Hessischen Rundfunks mit einer neuen Wunderwelt an Farben ausgestattet wurde. Schon der Zusammenklang von Klavier und seinem Ahnen, dem Cembalo ist ein klangliches Abentuer, das Wollny und Halperin gewitzt auskosten. Bruchlos gehen die Klänge in einander über, geben dem Wohlklang des Klaviers Kanten, verlängern seinen Nachhall und verbinden sich in immer wieder spannenden Klangvarianten – doch die Wucht der HR-Bigband, die mit einem reichhaltigen Sammelsurium an Flöten- und Saxofonvarianten eine zusätzliche Palette ins Spiel bringt, katapultiert dieses Farbenspiel in einen erweiterten Kosmos.
Neben solchen Projekten, die ihre Gegenwärtigkeit mit der Rückkopplung an die Wurzeln des Jazz unter Hochspannung setzten, konnten andere Highlights, die sich nur auf ihre Gegenwärtigkeit bezogen, nicht so recht mithalten: Der Klezmer-Funk von Abraham Inc, einer Großband um den Posaunisten Fred Wesley und den Klarinettisten David Krakauer zum Beispiel blieb dagegen ebenso kunsthandwerklich flach wie die Band von Jack DeJohnette mit dem Klarinettisten Don Byron. Alles Könner, die wissen, wie es geht, die traumwandlerisch sicher zwischen den Taktarten und Zeitempfindungen springen, die einen geminsamen Puls entwickeln und mit der Klasse ihres Spiels verblüffen, aber keinen Kontakt aufnehmen. Ein Blick auf die Uhr, und es wird deutlich, dass es hier um Business geht und nicht darum, mit der Musik eine Verbindung mit Menschen herzustellen, und aus den Spannungsverhältnissen zwischen deren und der eigenen Geschichte und derjenigen der Musik ein Erlebnis zuzulassen, das über den Moment hinaus geht.
Photo Credit: © Ali Ghandtschi / Berliner Festspiele
Doch, und hierin liegt die Stärke des Berliner Jazzfests, immer wieder löst sich die Musik hier aus der Umarmung des Hier und Jetzt, tritt in Beziehung zu anderen Zeiten, zu ihrer Geschichte, der Tatsache ihres Wandels und damit auch zu ihrer Zukunft. Das gilt für die nächtliche Feier des Lebenswerks des Saxofonisten Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky in der Akademie der Künste. Petrowsky, seinerzeit eine der markantesten Stimmen des Jazz aus der DDR, der im Dezember seinen 80. Geburtstag feiert, erhellt hier die Nacht mit drei Sets mit verschiedenen Quartetten, die durch die Schichten seiner Musik schneiden und für einen kurzen Moment das Faktum der Zeit auslöschen. Oder es zumindest vergessen machen.
Das gilt ebenso für das erweiterte Quartett der Altsaxofonistin Ilona Haberkamp, die sich noch einmal die Musik der legendären Pianistin Jutta Hipp vornahm, die wie ein Komet die deutsche Jazzszene der 50er-Jahre erleuchtete, bevor ihr Licht schließlich in New York verglühte. Das gilt schließlich auch für die späten Darbietung von FOOD, dem britischen Saxofonisten Iain Ballamy und dem norwegischen Perkussionisten Thomas Strønen, die im Zusammenspiel mit dem Wiener Gitarristen Chistian Fennesz ihren laptop-bewehrten Blick in die Zukunft der improvisierten Musik mit einem fast schon klassischen Formwillen gjrundierten. Oder für Jaimeo Browns Transcendence, die die Freiheit ihrer hymnischen Improvisationsmusik mit Bezügen zu den Harmonien des Gospel, den Rhythmen des Hiphop und Samples von gesprochen Blues-Litaneien mit verschiedenen Schichten der afroamerikanischen Musik vernetzte. Wenn das Neue und das Alte sich dialektisch verschlingen, so scheint das Berliner Jazzfest zu sagen, wenn das eine mit dem anderen reagiert, dann muss man sich um eine Zukunft des Jazz keine Sorgen machen.
English version HERE
Stan Sulzmann's Neon Orchestra
(CBSO Centre, Birmingham, Sat. 30th Nov. 2013. Review by Alison Bentley)
Saxophonist Stan Sulzmann's CD Birthdays, Birthdays was, appropriately, on sale in the foyer. It really was his birthday, this gig being part of a three-date tour to celebrate his 65th. He was happy to be spending it with us, he said, and his 'cross-generational' band, with its 'wonderful blowers'- but the the privilege was ours, the equally cross-generational audience. The band played Sulzmann’s arrangements of compositions by other British musicians, as well as his own. He threaded tales of his life and musical experiences in with the music- Sulzmann is a fine raconteur- and this storytelling was evident in his tenor and soprano solos too.
Sulzmann has talked in interviews of the huge influence trumpeter Kenny Wheeler and pianist John Taylor have had on him: he sees Wheeler's writing as 'not just about notes on paper- there's a humanity to it, a feeling'. The same could be said of Sulzmann's own writing and arranging. 'I thought I'd be brave and arrange a Kenny Wheeler tune.’ -he introduced The Jigsaw, which Wheeler had 'given to him’ to record. Its plaintive phrases rose in constant motion through the chords. Trumpeter Henry Lowther is a veteran of Wheeler's big bands and his fine ringing solo emerged very naturally from the backing lines.
John Taylor's composition Between Moons was darker, moodier. Martin Hathaway's flute and James Allsopp's bass clarinet added an almost mystical texture. Kit Downes almost seemed to be idly stroking the piano keys in his remarkable solo, over the velvety layers of sound. While Alex Munk's guitar played agitated chromatic riffs at the lower end of the scale, the horns played bright triads in a glittering contrast. The arrangement of Mike Walker's The Clockmaker was Wheeler-like in its rich layers of harmonised counter-melodies, George Hogg's trumpet solo even having some of the distinctive high leaps of Wheeler's own style.
Sulzmann recalled first meeting a 14-year-old Iain Ballamy many years ago, gauche but brilliant, sitting in at the Bull's Head in Barnes. Now he's arranged Ballamy's tune Recedar (written for Cedar Walton). With its rising, angular Latin phrases, it got where it needed to be by a pleasingly circuitous route. Pete Hurt's sax scribbled the notes of his thoughtful solo over the smudgy colours of the trumpets and trombones. In John Parricelli’s Alfredo, the notes of the original’s guitar chords proliferated into calls and responses, Jim Hart's percussive vibes playing a pivotal role.
Nikki Iles' Westerly and Gwilym Simcock's I Know You Know were more folk-edged. The former had a 3/4 country feel, lilting and serene. Josh Arcoleo's excellent sax solo was melodic and grungy, with long powerful notes and very fast light ones, melting into the opulent horn lines. Sulzmann said I Know You Know was '...one of the those tunes where you think: I wish I'd written that- along with White Christmas!' The tune crossed the bar lines like a child trying to avoid the cracks in the pavement. Allsopp's matchless bass clarinet fizzed through the Maiden Voyage-ish groove.
Sulzmann's own pieces were masterclasses in composition. Chu Chu, named for bassist Chucho Merchan was in 11/8 (some younger audience members were discussing it intently on the way out) and brought out the tougher side of Sulzmann's tenor soloing: bluesy, gutsy straight from the solar plexus- perhaps more like his hero Stanley Turrentine. His Jack Stix was dedicated to drummer Bill Stewart, with whom he recorded it on the Jigsaw album. Robbie Harvey’s trombone solo was very expressive, over a wonderfully subtle trombone section- and not a mute in sight.
Sulzmann had been commissioned by the London Jazz Festival to write Up and Down (a 'Pop Goes the Weasel' reference to the City Road where he was born). Themes and overlapping counter-themes wove in and out of the tense chords and more relaxing ones- a strongly emotive piece. Tim Giles' drumming was powerful and always interesting, while never dominating. Eerie overtones seemed to grow out of the harmonies, in this exceptional music room where such care has been given to the acoustics.
Taking a Chance on Love was the encore, the only standard, opened by a superb Steve Reichian piano/vibes duet. As the 5/4 rhythm developed over deliciously unexpected chords, undermined by a descending bass line, love felt very chancy indeed. Sulzmann showed the more European side of his playing in his liquid, heart-touching soprano solo. The compositions and arrangements were intriguing and thrilling; the performance was immaculate, conducted unobtrusively by Nick Smart; the musicianship was astounding; the birthday was happy. And so were the audience.
Stan Sulzmann solo saxophones
Nick Smart musical director / conductor
Tom Walsh trumpet
Henry Lowther trumpet
George Hogg trumpet
Freddie Gavita trumpet
Mark Nightingale trombone
Robbie Harvey trombone
Make Bassey trombone
Sarah Williams trombone
Martin Hathaway reeds
Mike Chillingworth reeds
Josh Arcoleo reeds
Pete Hurt reeds
James Allsopp reeds
Jim Hart vibraphone
Alex Munk guitar
Kit Downes piano
Dave Whitford bass
Tim Giles drums
The Bluffer’s Guide to Jazz
(109pp., £6.99. Book Review by Chris Parker)
Although this series of short introductions to various subjects (other Bluffer’s Guides deal with everything from sex and cricket to beer and the quantum universe) is primarily designed to amuse, this particular guide contains a great deal of useful and reliable information about the New Orleans origins of the music and its subsequent dissemination worldwide, the various forms jazz takes, its chief practitioners and its classic recordings.
Jazz, of course, is a perfect subject for a book such as this, since (as Alyn Shipton points out in a review quoted in its blurb) ‘no two jazz enthusiasts ever agree about anything’ (whether fact or opinion), and the music has, moreover, a history so riddled with ironies, inconsistencies and (occasionally) sheer obfuscation that even experts often find it difficult to say anything unequivocally ‘true’ about it. Add that magic ingredient ‘hipness’ (the idea that the music is somehow the ‘authentic source’ of everything from rock’n’roll to hip-hop) and you have fertile ground indeed for bluffers.
Written by Paul Barnes and Peter Gammond (with the odd update from John Lewis), the guide – if carefully read, marked and learned – should allow its users to keep their heads above water in all but the most specialised conversations about the music. It also serves as a witty (and wise) introduction to an extremely controversial and complex subject, packed as it is with aperçus such as: ‘Miles was about the only jazz musician whose audiences got younger as he got older’; ‘[Erroll Garner] swung like the proverbial old boots, in spite of a left hand that seemed to be loitering with intent’; and ‘[smooth jazz is the] name given to the bland soul and funk instrumentals which comprise the playlist of most “jazz” radio stations and act as a cure for insomnia’.
As to the efficacy of bluffing, I can only aver that one John Dawson, the man responsible (in the early 1970s) for dragging me kicking and screaming from rock and folk towards a proper appreciation of the jazz he loved, used it extremely skilfully. Asked what sort of jazz he liked, he would unhesitatingly reply: ‘Bop and on, plus a little early Duke Ellington’; in attempting to smuggle jazz and blues albums past me, he would invariably compare their featured artists with contemporary rock figures, so that the Memphis Jug Band were ‘the Velvet Underground of their day’, Charlie Parker was ‘the Jimi Hendrix of the alto saxophone’ and Miles Davis ‘changed his musical approach more frequently than Tim Buckley’. Worked for me...