REVIEW: Michael Janisch's Paradigm Shift at the Vortex

L-R: Alex Bonney, Cédric Henriot, Jason Yarde,
Michael Janisch, Paul Booth, Andrew Bain

Michael Janisch's Paradigm Shift 
(Vortex, 3rd September 2015. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

I can't imagine a band which could gives a composer more variety of timbre, pulse, pace, style, than the one Michael Janisch has assembled for this 35-date tour, of which last night was the first. It somehow felt like a huge newly-designed ship was being sent down the slipway and into the water, and as a bystander one got occasional glimpses of its scale.

The added complication that this opening gig was being recorded live for later transmission across all the countries of the European Broadcasting Union may have had the effect of keeping the band's heads down rather than - as yet - enabling them to go for broke and see how fast this ship can really travel, or the height of the waves which it will be able to handle when it gets out to see (Fishguard watch out!) .

 At one level it has the instrumentation of a classic American hardbop sextet with a trumpet and two saxophones, piano bass and drums, capable of steaming through angular tunes at frenetic pace. But with that as a given, the fun starts. Cédric Henriot also has a synthesizer, Paul Booth sits down and picks up an alto flute or a lugubrious didgeridoo, Jason Yarde needs no excuse or encoragement or apology to play completely free improv. Alex Bonney, alternating between trumpet and laptop, has a live feed from all of the acoustic instruments and the permission to distort them, echo them, and to make purely electronic sounds too.

That sense of a band constructed to give expressive variety is also there in the shifts of  pace and of pulse. Those transitions from mood to mood can either be dramatic or organic, and what we got was a series of surprises and sudden re-routings. I had the sense that at the source of it must be some kind of underlying narrative, there is surely reason, forethought, planning in these complex compositions,. I think it might have helped if some of the stories that have led to these pieces had been given. I enjoyed the fact it was happening, but would have liked to know why.

I caught the very end of the previous set, the first ever live encounter onstage of Iain Ballamy with Tom Cawley's Curios with Sam Burgess and Joshua Blackmore, which will also be part of the EBU package. This new combination showed the quality and authority which the seasoned players on our scene can deliver without fail, every time.

Paradigm Shift

Andrew Bain - drums
Paul Booth saxophone, flute, didgeridoo
Jason Yarde - saxophones
Alex Bonney – trumpet and live electronics
Cédric Henriot – piano
Michael Janisch - bass


REVIEW: Allison Neale and Chris Biscoe - Two of a Mind at the Bulls Head

Allison Neale (alto sax) and Chris Biscoe (baritone sax)

Allison Neale and Chris Biscoe - Two of a Mind
Bulls Head, 2nd September 2015. Review by Sebastian Scotney

This is a great new project, Chris Biscoe and Allison Neale have been inspired by the sound, the vibe, the tunes, of Two of a Mind a beautiful and memorable album recorded in August 1962 by Paul Desmond and Gerry Mulligan, and formed a quartet with bassist Jeremy Brown and  drummer Stu Butterfield and set about re-creating and dwelling in the world of its quiet delights. Two of a Mind is the second album which Mulligan and Desmond recorded together, and it is a classic.

The first thing to notice about Allison Neale and Chris Biscoe in action is the sheer beauty of the sound they both make, and how well-matched they are. They both happen to play on vintage Conn instruments, but that is incidental. Allison Neale is steeped in the heritage of players such as Art Pepper and Paul Desmond, Chris Biscoe's range as a player is very wide, but has that chameleon-like quality to step into a new sound-world and inhabit it as authentically as anyone.

Stu Butterfield spent virtually the whole of the first set which I heard playing brushes, his contribution is vital, bringing a bright sheen to the texture, constantly in motion. Jeremy Brown keeps the bass line under the saxophones sparse, but his tone is as ever full and authoritative, and he is among the most melodically convincing bassists around.

The absence of a harmony instrument means that the two horns do almost all the voice leadings, they need to interweave, to trust, occasionally to collide, but above all to interact and to react. There is a fifth band-member on the album, guitarist Jim Hall, and when Neale and Biscoe record the project they will be joined by Colin Oxley.

This project deserves to be heard as it progresses. I want to go and hear it again soon - and for the pure pleasure of it.

The next outing for Two of a Mind will be at Karamel in Coburg Rd N22 on Thursday 1st October

LINKS : Interview with Allison Neale

Podcast interview with Chris Biscoe
Blues in Time from 1957
Two of a Mind at Allmusic


NEWS: Malcolm Edmonstone becomes Acting Head of Jazz at Guildhall School

Jazz pianist, arranger and educator Malcolm Edmonstone, aged 35, and originally from Perth in Scotland, has been appointed Acting Head of Jazz at Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Laurie Holloway, who knows him well, and who gave him a job in the Strictly Come Dancing band more than ten years ago, describes him well and captures his character in this comment to us on the appointment:

"Malcolm Edmonstone is a star! He is a fantastic jazz piano player. So inventive. But not only that talent. He is a brilliant teacher. But not only that talent. He is a very good arranger. But not only that talent. He is a good bloke. He was my keyboard player in my "Strictly" television band. Someone I could always rely on to help me out in times of need and stress. He is a good friend and I am proud of him."

Malcolm's full biography is on his website HERE.  We have covered two remarkable events which he led in 2011, performances of  re-creations of the albums Nightfly by Donald Fagen in, and  Messiah - A Soulful Celebration. He has also been active  in creating an extensive archive of online jazz harmony teaching materials.

There has not been a specific  announcement of this appointment, but but it is listed on the conservatoire's website HERE.  As regards the faculty and the student experience, it looks more like an internal reorganization with a strong desire both for continuity, and to build on the department's impressive track record, since previous head Martin Hathaway remains as an active member of the senior teaching staff.


CD REVIEW: Piero Umiliani – La Legge dei Gangsters

Piero Umiliani – La Legge dei Gangsters
(Beat. BCM 9554. CD review by Andrew Cartmel)

It’s an excellent sign when the recording you’re listening to for review purposes ends up being played purely for pleasure. La Legge dei Gangsters (Gangster’s Law) was an obscure 1969 Italian crime film. It starred Klaus Kinski and was the last picture directed by Siro Marcellini. But what appears to be no more than the score to a forgotten gangster flick is actually a great Italian jazz album, featuring a large gathering of the country’s strongest players (including Oscar Valdambrini on trumpet). It is the creation of Piero Umiliani and is right up there with his classics such as Svezia Inferno e Paradiso (REVIEWED) and is certainly one of the maestro’s most jazz-dominated film projects.

Crepuscolo Sul Mare (Twilight on the Sea) is a vehicle for plangent acoustic guitar, which begins almost in media res, by Mario Gangi. Genoza P.zza De Ferrari Dalle 2 Alle 7 signifies a time and an (abbreviated) address (Genoza Piazza De Ferrari From 2 To 7) and, by contrast, the guitar here is electric and is played by Enzo Grillini with the fat sound of Wes Montgomery. The prudent and judiciously deployed vibes are the work of Franco Chiari and Umiliani himself plays piano with Basie-like restraint and minimalism. The captivating, probing bass flute is courtesy of Gino Marinacci and the mocking trumpet by Cicci Santucci blows Miles Davis style fragments. This piece has both powerful swing, propelled by Enzo Grillini’s bass and Roberto Podio’s drums, and a modernist surface of sustained solos.

Swing Come Sempre (Swing As Always) is propulsive West Coast big band jazz with a substantial and lovely tenor solo sax played, with distinction, by Livio Cerveglieri set against massed brass interjections. It’s reminiscent of Shorty Rogers with a harder, more aggressive Stan Kenton edge (of course Shorty Rogers played and arranged for Kenton). The splendid title track, La Legge Dei Gangsters is an extended piece which features a boppish tenor solo from Cerveglieri that evokes a moan of pleasure from a member of the band and is also noteworthy for the wild keening squeal of the trumpet by Cicci Santucci, which becomes California-mellow at the end. Enzo Grillini’s easygoing guitar and more of Marinacci’s lovely flute are further treats to be found here.

Episodio is a folkloric, baroque piece distinguished by a slanting expanse of strings played by Orchestra D’Archi and the wavering water-colour Hammond electric organ of Antonello Vannucchi. Lui E Lei (He and She) is aptly titled, with a ravishing countermelody of male and female scat interweaving from the (husband and wife) team of Alessandro Alessandroni and Giulia Alessandroni. Tema Dell’addio (Farewell Theme) is another showcase for Vannucchi’s Hammond organ, supported by subtly effective drums and bass (Roberto Podio and Maurizio Majorana), and strongly calls to mind the crime jazz masterworks of Elmer Bernstein and his film scores like Walk on the Wild Side and The Carpetbaggers.

This soundtrack has been issued before in various forms, but never in the definitive double compact disc format achieved by Beat Records here. As an introduction to the maestro’s work, this title comes most warmly recommended, both for the high density and superb quality of the jazz it contains. 
If you only buy one Umiliani album, then this is probably the one you've been waiting for.


TRIBUTE: Hugo Rasmussen (1941-2015) by Mads Mathias

Mads Mathias and Hugo Rasmussen at a gig in March 2013

Singer, saxophonist and songwriter, and Denmark's leading male jazz vocalist Mads Mathias has written this personal tribute to a central, popular and hugely influential figure on the  Danish jazz scene, bass player Hugo Rasmussen, who died last weekend. "My hero," as Mads Mathias describes him:

The double bass player Hugo Rasmussen was here, there and everywhere on the Danish music scene. Known as one of the country’s best jazz bass players and entertainers, he embraced all elements of music from Danish Folkelig (‘music of the people’) to performances with international superstars (such as Ben Webster, Dexter Gordon & Tom Waits). After years of poor health this beloved musician and friend is no more.

Visiting Hugo in the hospital 10 days before he passed was like hanging backstage at your favourite jazz festival. Old friends, ex-girlfriends, musicians and family were all there, talking about old times, the present and the future. It was just as he loved it: having people around him. Although Hugo was in a good mood (as always) and seemed fine, he was nevertheless weak and had stopped eating. He said 'I have nothing left to give and nothing left outstanding’. He was an active musician until a few weeks before his death, but after living with prostate cancer for years, later spreading to the rest of the body, he was tired and prepared for the end. Everything was taken care of - even the tombstone was already in the making - of course in the shape of a double bass.

Hugo was a beloved and admired person and musician and it’s almost impossible to overestimate his importance to Danish music. He loved his bass and his music, and often said 'There's no such thing as bad music, only good music...and that other stuff.' He recorded around 1,000 albums across all genres, did not distinguish between them and loved them equally.

His charismatic, warm personality and open mind was a magnet to a lot of people who would instantly love him. He always gave everyone the time of day and a little piece of himself. I think he did this out of love, but also out of curiosity. He was always seeking new ground, appreciated provocative discussion and loved playing with young musicians. 'They are more up for everything, not as stale as my old colleagues', he would say, with a wry smile.

Unlike his five years younger bass colleague Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (NHØP), who became an international star, Hugo Rasmussen remained in Denmark, where he had plenty of work. Hugo once told me that in the beginning he tried to sound like the young and talented NHØP, but soon found out that he couldn't and shouldn't. While NHØP's thing was virtuosic soloing, Hugo’s thing was the solid bass backing role which he came to love. For more than half a century, Hugo was admired not only in Denmark but throughout the world for this definitive style of bass playing.

I've learned so much from Hugo, and every time I got to play with him it was a great pleasure. Not only would you once and for all learn the correct original voicing or meaning of a song, but also how to best interact with the other musicians and communicate with the audience. He would always give everything he had, even if it was the third gig of the day. After the gig he would often start up a feisty discussion such as who was the best trumpet player ever, followed by loud laughs and big hugs.

On my last visit to the hospice, two days before he died, he was very weak. Nevertheless I got the obligatory hug and kiss on the lips. As he closed his eyes I asked him how many songs he might have played in his lifetime and if he had a favourite. He whispered his favourite song and as I sang it to him, he hummed along and smiled with narrow watery eyes – What a Wonderful World. With his strong spirit and musicality he influenced and touched so many people. Although it's with a lump in the throat, his life and music call for a celebration. He enriched many lives and he died as he lived: with humour, love, musicality and a smile on his face. I miss my hero already.

LINKS: Mads Mathias website
News story and links to coverage/ obituaries


FESTIVAL REPORT: 4th Rye International Jazz & Blues Festival

Herbie Flowers

4th Rye International Jazz & Blues Festival
(Rye, East Sussex, 27th-31st August, 2015. Report by Peter Jones)

Festivals of all kinds are springing up like mushrooms these days. Rye, its fourth year just completed, looks like it’s here to stay. To begin with, the setting could not be more pleasant - ancient buildings, cobbled streets, plenty of tea shops, restaurants and pubs. The festival is well organized, and has enough variety to satisfy most tastes, including its own fringe, and a musical and educational programme called Chapter and Lyric. Setting up shop over the August Bank Holiday weekend, it also conveniently marks the dying days of Summer (this year the weather stayed warm and dry until the penultimate evening, which was enlivened by some spectacular downpours).

The venues are all small – at 337 maximum capacity, the Milligan Theatre is the largest space. This means the audience is never too far from the performers, and the gigs thus retain a pleasing level of intimacy. Churches play an important role: jazz films provided part of the entertainment at the town’s Kino Cinema, a converted church; the busiest venue for the festival as a whole was Rye Community Centre, another converted church, temporarily designated the Spectrum Jazz Lounge; and there were three gigs in St Mary’s Church – miraculously still functioning as a church.

On the Friday night the Spectrum hosted Hard Lines, a smooth jazz standards outfit led by pianist Iain Rae and featuring Gary Plumley on tenor. They were followed by Gwyneth Herbert, billed as ‘relaxed and chilled out’. But as anyone who has seen her knows, this description does not prepare you for an edgy performance of breathtaking eccentricity, more cabaret or stand-up comedy than jazz. Ukelele, kazoo, french horn, bass drum, wine glass and frying pan were all part of Herbert’s armoury, as was her silent, bashful fiancé Ned Cartwright on piano.

There was a great deal of audience participation - at one point she had everyone popping imaginary balloons. Standout tunes were Jane Into a Beauty Queen and Annie’s Yellow Bag, both from her All The Ghosts album; Promises, a kind of sea shanty, with Herbert switching to piano while Cartwright tootled mournfully on melodica; and the beautiful, haunting Lorelei, both of these from her most recent album The Sea Cabinet.

Fat Tuesday Second Line Band

At any time on the Saturday afternoon, you could easily bump into the raucous Fat Tuesday Second-Line Band weaving through the narrow streets, led by a flamboyant character with a megaphone and a silver-topped cane, as if this was hot, humid New Orleans rather than hot, humid Rye.

Back at the Spectrum that evening, bathed in yellow light, and with a couple of hours of crowd-pleasing soul perfectly tailored for the sweating middle-aged audience, Avery Sunshine (née Denise Nicole White) was the hot ticket. Another (almost) silent male accompanist to an extravert female singer, Dana Johnson played acoustic guitar and ‘stomp box’ while Avery sat at the piano and poured out familiar tunes like Stevie Wonder’s Higher Ground and Anita Baker’s Sweet Love and her own Al Green-styled Won’t You Try. It was slick, feel-good American entertainment, as relentlessly positive as a church revival meeting, and as close as you can get to an Aretha Franklin gig without it actually being an Aretha Franklin gig.

This was a hard act for the Shez Raja Collective to follow. Where Ms Sunshine’s generic soul is pigeonhole-perfect for national radio, the Collective defies easy categorization – it’s a high-energy fusion of jazz, funk, prog and ‘eastern’ (for lack of a better term), and more about groove than melody. As well as Shez Raja himself on electric bass, the band consists of the ubiquitous Vasilis Xenopoulos on saxophones, Chris Nickolls on drums, Pascal Roggen (who had flown in from New Zealand especially for the gig) on violin and Alex Stanford on keys. They were briefly joined by the Polish singer Monica Lidke.

Alex Munk

The next day, half-hidden in an alcove outside Rye Town Hall, the Alex Munk Quartet provided one of the highlights of the festival. Guitarist Munk impressed earlier this year with his work as a member of Matt Anderson’s Wild Flower Sextet. Here, he and his young, studious-looking band featured material from their forthcoming album, some of which is so new as to be yet untitled.

Inevitably, Munk’s playing draws comparisons with Pat Metheny, in both his electric and acoustic incarnations: sweet, lyrical passages blend with impossible prog-like time signatures to create a fresh, modern sound with its own distinctive character. At times Matt Robinson on keys is tonally so close to Munk’s guitar as to create the impression of two guitars. The sweet, meandering A Long Walk Home, dedicated to his mum, was a particular favourite, accompanied (and enhanced) on this occasion by Rye’s church bells and seagulls. This quiet, unshowy band is completed by the excellent Conor Chaplin on bass and Dave Hamblett on drums.

Dom Pipkin

Once the keyboard player for Morcheeba, pianist Dom Pipkin (as in Dom Pipkin and the Ikos) roused a potentially comatose audience in the ballroom of The George hotel with a stomping selection of New Orleans jazz. It was a gig that might have been better suited to the open air rather than this pristine environment, all chandeliers, Japanese-print wallpaper and ruched curtains. Before bringing on the band, Pipkin delivered a fascinating lecture about the current state of affairs in that Katrina-battered city and about the musicians who have influenced him, including Dr John, Professor Longhair, James Booker and Jon Cleary. Pipkin’s cheery, full-on enthusiasm swept all before him with tunes like If You’re Lonesome Pick Up The Phone, Skinny Man Skank and the solo piano piece Pixie.

No jazz festival is complete these days without young Manchester trio Gogo Penguin, recently signed to Blue Note, who performed their distinctive brand of trance-like minimalism to a rapturous capacity audience in the 900-year-old St Mary’s Church. Unless you were lucky enough to find a seat in the first few rows, you were unlikely to catch more than a glimpse of the band, rows of magnificent pillars and the lack of a raised platform rendering them invisible to ticket-holders who had paid £24 for the privilege.

The Spectrum later hosted three musician’s musicians - the Neil Angilley Trio with a Brazilian-influenced set penned by Angilley (dubbed ‘the best pianist I have ever played with’ by none other than Herbie Flowers). Drummer Davide Giovannini and bassist Davide Mantovani have developed an extraordinary telepathy with the band’s leader and with each other. As well as tunes from their most recent album Chango they wowed the audience with three lyrical pieces inspired by the Lake District, plus a beautiful arrangement of Black Magic Woman.

Next morning, as the rain thundered down outside, the George was treated to a ‘jazz breakfast’ hosted by the aforementioned Herbie Flowers, and accompanied by the aforementioned Neil Angilley, along with drummer Malcolm Mortimore and Finnish violin supremo Mikko-Ville. It was a sort of standards masterclass: I’ll Remember April, Autumn Leaves, Body and Soul, Summertime, My Funny Valentine and a tune Flowers introduced as Days of Swine and Roses. But no one minded the familiarity of the material – Herbie’s inspired clowning provided a rich source of entertainment, mostly based on the gag that at the age of 77 he’s become somewhat senile. In fact his humour is as dry as that of the late Humphrey Lyttelton. He pretended to mistake the microphone for an electric razor. Later he said: ‘I bought this bass in 1959… and I still ain’t got the hang of it.’ This assertion was instantly disproved by a version of Caravan that roared along like an express train, almost drowning out the rain.

LINK: Festival website


FESTiVAL REVIEWS: Partisans and Brandon Allen Sextet at Highgate Jazz with Soul 2015

Brandon Allen Sextet horns (l-r): Brandon Allen (tenor saxophone),
Nigel Hitchcock (alto saxophone) and Mark Nightingale (trombone)

Highgate Jazz with Soul Festival 2015
(Various venues, 31 August 2015. Final day of festival. Reviews by Mark McKergow)

Partisans, Upstairs at the Gatehouse, Monday 31 August 2015

Partisans is that rare thing in jazz, a long-running band with an unchanged line-up. Now nearly 20 years into their development as a unit, the group joined Brandon Allen’s 2015 Highgate Jazz with Soul festival on a damp bank holiday Monday afternoon. The atmosphere seemed initially to dampen the music, but the select audience were well warmed up by the end of the set.

Guitarist Phil Robson seemed to sense that things were running on tick-over when he announced after a couple of numbers that we were getting the ‘laid-back version’. Playing with a sliced fingernail gained while over-enthusiastically bending strings at the previous evening’s performance, his caution was understandable, and his confidence audibly grew as the set continued. Most of the tunes were taken from Partisans’ latest Parliamentary Jazz Award-winning CD Swamp, marked by the group’s great variety of beats, feels and grooves.

Tenor/soprano sax player Julian Siegel took his share of the announcing as well as the soloing, playing with his customary imagination and verve. He also took a couple of turns on bass clarinet (known as ‘the goose’ to the rest of the band, apparently), notably on Thin Man which took off in a 12/8 feel, leading into unison theme. Many of the numbers featured this device, and it took a dive back in time to the 2000 track Sourpuss to get some nice counterpoint going in the front line. By this time Robson seemed recovered from his earlier tentative form, with a storming guitar solo.

With plenty happening on guitar and saxophone, it might be easy to overlook the back line. No such chance here, with drummer Gene Calderazzo fizzing along in his exuberant style. For me, the discovery of the gig was Thaddeus Kelly on bass guitar – he plays a full and utterly solid role, with a unique playing style involving three totally straight and unbending fingers on his left hand. This might look like a drawback, but Kelly rolls up and down the fingerboard without a care in the world, magicing the notes from nowhere.

The standout number was the closing Overview, imagined in response to an astronaut’s angle on the Earth from above. A lilting 3/2 figure on bass ushered in the band, leading to Siegel’s soprano solo, before launching into 4/4 for the Robson to launch his contribution. As the sounds faded away, an eerie radio whistling emerged (Kelly twiddling some unseen knobs to vary the pitch) to end… but it wasn’t the end at all, the opening figure emerged again for a final theme. Marvellously imaginative music.

Brandon Allen Sextet feat Abilgail Boyd, Upstairs at the Gatehouse, Monday 31 August 2015

The fifth edition of Brandon Allen’s Highgate Jazz with Soul Festival concluded with the organiser’s own sextet making a rare outing. It must take a bit of diary negotiating to get alto sax virtuoso Nigel Hitchcock and top session drummer Ian Thomas in the same room, but the results were well worth waiting for.

Many musicians would respond to the opportunity of their own band by starting to write original material to foist onto the unsuspecting public. Allen has taken another route by putting his effort into producing wonderful arrangements to showcase the richness of the writing and the skill of his performers. The result is nothing less than a six-person big band – an extraordinary achievement. The front line of Allen’s tenor sax, Hitchcock’s alto and the trombone of Mark Nightingale produce lush and rich harmonies that seem to come from a much larger unit.

The band’s material is pretty much as classic as it comes, with some real all-time classics in the opening sequence (Stardust, Black & Tan Fantasy, Melancholy Baby, Prelude to a Kiss), which in lesser hands might be a bit predictable. Allen’s arranging powers took these tunes to another level, with lots of interesting syncopated sequences which still left plenty of room for solos. Pianist Tim Lapthorn had plenty to do, both in keeping up and in plenty of solo space, while the three horns all took their opportunities to shine – Allen being particularly effective on Black & Tan Fantasy. Sam Burgess showed his bass skill on Prelude. Abigail Boyd joined for a short vocal feature on the last two of these classics, adding again to the variety on offer.

We were close to the interval when the first post-war tune appeared – George Russell’s Ezz-thetic, which showed a different side to Allen’s arranging skills. The band were tight as anything through the arranged passages, with Thomas’ ability to read a drum part showing in his inch-perfect hits and phrases. Limehouse Blues taken at breakneck speed showed another snappy arrangement and gave Hitchcock a chance to spread out – always a treat. A delicious reworking of Joe Zawinul’s Young and Fine showed more of Allen’s fine choice of material, showcasing once again the fine ensemble work of the musicians.

A rollicking run at Charles Mingus’ Boogie Stop Shuffle brought the performance, and the festival, to a close. Brandon was visibly moved as he carefully thanked all the festival helpers and supporters – many of whom were also close friends. Even with the slimmed down format and using one venue for each of the three days, organising the event had clearly taken a personal toll. It’s not easy running a showcase for London jazz on a holiday weekend when many people will be out of town. I hope that way can be found for this splendid event to continue to a sixth edition in a way which is both manageable and viable for all concerned. Bravo Brandon!

LINKS: Festival website
Mark McKergow's 2014 Round-Up
Preview of the first festival in 2011


CD REVIEW: Terri Lyne Carrington - The Mosaic Project: Love And Soul

Terri Lyne Carrington - The Mosaic Project: Love And Soul
(Concord Records CRE3777902. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield)

One of the exciting things about jazz is that you never quite know what you're going to get. Artists experiment and explore, crossing genres. On her new record, Terri Lyne Carrington leaves one in no doubt where she's at from the start, laying a fast, programmed beat behind Duke Ellington's Come Sunday. It doesn't necessarily work, the hyperactive rhythm at odds with the slow, languorous vocal by Natalie Cole.

Elsewhere the emphasis is heavily on the soul. The record features several strong voices, such as Chaka Khan, Aleta Adams and Nancy Wilson. The bass - mostly by Linda Oh and Rhonda Smith - keeps things skipping along. There are some good saxophone solos, though trumpeter Ingrid Jensen seems somewhat wasted.

Carrington's previously released The Mosaic Project won her a Grammy, and this record  -  more soul than jazz - may well follow suit.

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


FESTIVAL REPORT: 2015 Norwich Jazz Weekender with Claire Martin, Kit Downes, Partisans, Damon Brown, Majamisty Trio...

Nick Fitch Quartet. Photo credit:

Norwich Jazz Weekender 
Various venues in Norwich.  29th- 30th August 2015. Festival Report by Maureen Baker)

“When it comes to producing great jazz musicians, some wonder why Norwich punches above it’s weight”. So mused Simon Brown, promoter of the second Norwich Jazz Weekender, when introducing Kit Downes, one of the City’s finest gifts to jazz in recent years. Modesty must have precluded him from explaining why this city in the rural East, with its medieval heritage, should be such a jazz hothouse, because the answer lies at least in part in the encouragement and direction given by Simon and others, past and present, who have helped nurture this creativity. Ventures like this Weekender can only ensure that the tradition will continue. It was great to hear Simon himself playing piano in “Back to Birdland” – a tribute to George Shearing- and in other contexts too. The following report will not cover the complete and very full programme - I was sorry to miss Gabrielle Ducomble for example - just the gigs I was able to attend...


The main stage was at “Open” in the City Centre and first up was local trad band “Dixiemix”. Hard on their heels came Norwich’s next big thing: 19 year old guitarist, Nick Fitch- who fronted the Nick Fitch Quartet, comprising the equally precocious talents of Tom Smith on saxes and flute; Ed Dunlop on drums; and, Norwich’s best kept secret-till now-, Owen Morgan on upright and electric basses. Fitch is a recent NYJO recruit, and winner of a scholarshio to this year’s GMF Summer School in Certado. The band belied their youth with musical skill beyond their years playing classics including Miles Davis’ Seven Steps to Heaven – all played with real panache but really showing their mettle to best effect on contemporary pieces such as Gwilym Simcock’s “Barber Blues” with, Owen “Jaco’s –in- the- house” Morgan nailing the bass right down to the sandy Norfolk soil beneath him and Ed Dunlop fast, sharp and swinging on drums. Their version of Jim Mullen’s Medication was another triumph, Smith switching between alto and tenor throughout the set before a final flourish of flute in Gareth Lockrane’s  Stutterfunk earned them their warm reception from an appreciative crowd.

Majamisty Trio. Photo credit Maureen Baker


Next up was the Majamisty Trio from Novi Sad in Serbia about whom little was known save their next gig was at Soho’s Pizza Express the day after. How had Norwich come to net a band this rare and exotic? The question may have been intriguing, but the answer was prosaic : Novi Sad is twinned with Norwich and, trio leader and pianist , Maja Alvanovic had simply Googled “Norwich Jazz” to find Simon Brown and get her band a gig. All who heard them play would surely agree they were glad she did. Musically placed somewhere in the EST style jazz sphere, there was a translucent beauty in Ms Alvanovic’s playing: her style contemplative as to be expected of a Bill Evans disciple with Lennie Tristano touches evident too in her love of cliché- free solos. It was her admiration for Erroll Garner’s Misty that brought the band a name and provided the set’s only standard, albeit performed in anything but a standard way.

Complemented by her strong connection with Ervin Malina on bass and Istvan Cik on drums, the three played as one musical being on beautiful self penned ballads “ Landscape” and “ Barquinho”, Ms Alvanovic’s lightness on keys, ebbing and flowing as Malina’s bowed bass yearned achingly away against subtle percussive underpinning from Cik. Compositions inspired by topics as diverse as forests in rain, Rain Drops and riding on uncomfortable Serbian buses, Coolah Trance, were played with immense delicacy and managed to cast a spell over the room. The drama and joy of the ambitious Love as the set neared it’s end reinforced that Majamisty’s first visit to England must not be allowed to be their last.

Claire Martin
Photo credit:Ivars Galenieks


High energy bebop then chased away any languor as Damon Brown's quintet roused the audience and got their receptive energies back in place ready to receive the Queen of British jazz, Claire Martin OBE, who graced the stage next, with the equally regal Dave Newton Trio (Dave Newton on piano; Jeremy Brown on bass; and Matt Skelton on drums).

Selecting from her back catalogue right back to The Waiting Game and mid- 90s albums Offbeat and Secret Love, this gig was pure joy for fans who either trod the path with her over the years or came to visit later. The tempo was up from the off:  I Love Being here With You nodding respect to Peggy Lee, breezing through Better Than Anything  then cooling to Bobby Troup’s bossa- for- his- Mrs : The Meaning of the Blues. Travellin Light saw Dave Newton swinging a path alongside Jeremy Brown’s masterly bass. You Turned the Tables on Me would have had Anita O’Day herself give credit for all that peerless diction as the phrasing moved against Dave Newton chopping the rhythm around as only a piano god like him can. Other classics followed including the now seldom heard Betty Carter masterpiece “ Tight” which the band recognised as a direction ever as much as the name of the piece. A final 90s salvo from Come Back to Me and the audience would have bayed for more save authentic Cuban jazz was up next in the form of  Sarabanda who played whilst some listened and many danced right to the end of the night.

The Dunnett/ Baxter Big Band
Photo credit Maureen Baker


Day two began with the Dunnett/ Baxter Big Band a seventeen- piece band comprising ex-Birmingham Conservatoire graduates and best mates, led by another son of Norwich, the hugely likeable Tom Dunnett, whose talents, beyond his considerable musicianship, incorporate the apparent ability to impersonate all regional accents- beyond a Norfolk one that is. Packed onto the club room stage, the band took no easy paths and much of their material was either written or arranged from amongst their talented midst. Dave Ferris (piano) arranged the band’s opener “Virgo”, a pace- changing showcase for sax choruses and trumpet blasts set against a guitar motif by Nick Fitch, guesting from his previous day’s gig. Monk’s Think of One , arranged by Chris Maddock (ts), featured a fluent alto solo by Elliott Drew with Tom Dunnett following on trombone and announcing why he’s joint leader. Other glories followed: “Joker in the Pack” (arr. Dave Ferris), began in funk but blossomed into swing with a glorious elongated alto solo from Elliot Drew again. Loose Tubes’ The Last Word showed the band’s puckish sense of fun: oom-pah meets reggae, yielding to a more conventional big band groove and featuring a fine solo by Chris Maddock on tenor along the way with the last word itself from Tom Dunnett on trombone. Sean Gibbs (tp) (whose new album “Burns “ was recently reviewed on LJN ) showed off his composing chops with The Eye of the Needle and Natures Law, both performed here, showing his feel for sophisticated melodies played against irresistible driving tempos.

Tom Dunnett’s own Bebop inspired “ Times Up” rounded off the set with Calum Roxburgh giving an old style blistering tenor show just before even energy on this scale had to surrender to the next act on the bill.

Kit Downes
Photo credit: Ivars Galenieks


Kit Downes’ new trio “The Enemy” (Kit Downes piano; Petter Eldh on bass; and James Maddren on drums) was a highlight gig for many, bringing what he calls his “new music” fresh to his home town for one of it’s earlier hearings. His childhood fascination with improvisation was wisely encouraged and has developed through the years to bring us music now that engages not just the emotions but makes the brain work too. From pieces where the playing was as fast as sunlight bouncing across rippling water to gentle reflective music with multiple construction changes, this was a highly sophisticated set. The enigmatically titled Politics went back and forth like opposing points of view, Downes’ phenomenal playing diverting it’s course with Maddren’s deceptively understated drum work serving to enhance the fineness of the piece before it ended, somewhere, whether in resolution or surrender, who knows? Other Eldh composed pieces comprised “Race the Sun”, named in honour of the computer game, featured staccato phrases from Downes whilst Eldh reflected melodic motifs on bass, and the obscurely named, Children with Torches which provided yet more evidence to underscore this trio’s terrific musical intellect, huge energy and intuitive sensibilities.

Thad Kelly and Julian Siegel of Partisans
Photo credit:Ivars Galenieks


Such glory was hard to follow but the mighty Partisans took on the challenge. Though not a Norwich original, Julian Siegel at least studied Music at UEA and he and his band gave as uncompromising a set as all have come to expect of them.

Fletch’s Brew ended the night and the event with another Norwich hero, Freddie Gavita, pedal pushing both trumpet and flugelhorn to silky effect atop Carl Orr’s dynamic guitar; Laurence Cottle’s killer electric bass and Mark Fletcher’s searing drums for a slick and funky finale.

LINK: Norwich Jazz Club


INTERVIEW/PREVIEW Mark Pringle - new album A Moveable Feast and tour dates

Mark Pringle. Photo credit: Robin French

Mark Pringle's new album "A Moveable Feast" willbe coming out this month. The award winning pianist is currently touring the UK before heading off to Germany. Feature by Peter Bacon:

“Mark Pringle is an exceptionally gifted pianist and composer, and a remarkable improviser. A Moveable Feast is a brilliant ensemble piece and a striking example of his writing and playing.”

You don’t get testimonials much stronger than that; it comes from the late John Taylor, one of Mark’s teachers - along with John Turville, Hans Koller, Joe Cutler and Liam Noble - during his years studying at Birmingham Conservatoire.

Mark graduated this summer and picked up the Jazz Department Performance Prize, the Dean’s Award for exceptional achievement and the Principal’s Prize for outstanding contribution to the life of the Conservatoire. He adds those to last December’s Peter Whittingham Award.

Still in the first half of his third decade, Mark has already got about a bit. He started out in Wells, Somerset, he’s been living, studying and playing in Birmingham for the last four years, with a stay in Paris along the way. This autumn he moves to Europe to continue doing all those things in Berlin, Copenhagen and Amsterdam as part of his placement on the European Jazz Masters programme.

It was the Paris sojourn that inspired the album he is releasing this month on Stoney Lane Records. A Moveable Feast finds him writing for and leading a 12-piece band which includes a string quartet along with more conventional jazz instruments.

"I was very lucky," says Mark Pringle," to have the opportunity to study in Paris for four months in 2013. The music is heavily inspired by my experiences there, and so inspirations behind the pieces come from a myriad of extra-musical sources."

 The music itself ranges from evocations of city hurly burly to the sudden peace of a tree-filled park, and the stylistic influences are clearly not only jazz ones but classical too. You might think that for a man of Mark’s youthful years, the Parisian inspirations would be recent ones, but no, they include Ernest Hemingway, who provided the album title as part of this highly relevant quote: “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast”. Hemingway is also remembered in a track called The Writer. Wind back a century and the composer Olivier Messiaen’s reaction on first seeing a score by Claude Debussy was to call it “a real bombshell”. That provides the title of the opening piece on Mark’s album. (AVAILABLE ON SOUNDCLOUD)

For A Moveable Feast the musicians are all current or former Birmingham residents, among them trumpeter Percy Pursglove, alto saxophonist Chris Young, bassist James Banner (now working out of Berlin) and drummer Euan Palmer.

A Moveable Feast being performed at the Manchester Jazz Festival
Photo credit: Phil Portus

Mark started out studying classical music but he discovered the joys of improvising at a young age.

"The first recording I remember having was a National Trust compilation CD of British trad, featuring the music of Kenny Ball, Chris Barber and Acker Bilk. Such great melodies! The obsession really took off with a Bill Evans CD (Empathy/A Simple Matter of Conviction) and Oscar Peterson's Night Train, both purchased from Broad Street Jazz, the old jazz CD shop in Bath." 

Mark is as busy playing in clubs and halls around the land as he is recording and winning accolades. Last month he performed the music from A Moveable Feast at the Manchester Jazz Festival and also played in the Proms Extra Late Series at the Royal Albert Hall, which was recorded for BBC Radio 3 broadcast. He has been playing in the 12-piece, trio and small group formats, as well as solo. So which does he prefer?

"I like all those settings but there is something special about the openness of a trio, where you have so much freedom to take the music in different directions. That flexibility makes it creatively very exciting, especially when playing with people you have strong empathy with, which I am lucky enough to. I get a different kind of enjoyment from writing for A Moveable Feast, where I have the chance to be really creative with texture, harmony, orchestration, timbre… Although structurally it’s often more restricted than a trio, it’s sonically richer and more varied, which feels great to play in. Luckily you’re allowed to do both! “Having said that, I also can’t wait for saxophonists Joe Wright and Lluis Mather to join my trio for three London gigs in late September. They’re sure to be really exciting ones.”

A Moveable Feast is released on Stoney Lane Records.  

Mark Pringle is playing the following London dates: 

- 6 Sept Lume presents @ The Vortex (Large ensemble)
- 20 Sept The Green Note (Trio)
- 25 Sept South Bank Centre (Trio + Joe Wright and Lluis Mather)
- 27 Sept Omnibus, Clapham (Trio + Wright/Mather)
- 28 Sept The Oxford (Trio + Wright/Mather). 

He is also playing in Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Oxford, Cardiff and Wells.

LINKS: Mark Pringle Music 
Stoney Lane Records
Preorder link for the album


REVIEW: Lindsey Webster at Le Caprice

Lindsey Webster. Photo credit: Lucy Kissick

Lindsey Webster
(Le Caprice Martell Jazz Sessions, August 30th 2015. Review by Andrew Cartmel)

American singer Lindsey Webster and her longtime associate, pianist and arranger Keith Slattery, are here for the first time in the UK. Webster’s CV includes performing backing vocals for Donald Fagen and Slattery’s pedigree involves playing keyboards for notable soul acts as well as playing and engineering for Kanye West.

The yearning sway of Lindsey Webster's vocals start wordlessly then gradually take shape as Summertime, with Keith Slattery’s ripe, rolling piano chords like the jumping of the fish in the song. Webster has a strong, deep voice with an affecting rawness, stretching phrases and promising considerable power in reserve. There’s a hint of torment in there, too, an essential ingredient shared with great soul and blues singers — and which speaks to the underlying text of the Gershwin lyrics. Slattery shows a strong stride influence in his piano playing here. His barrel roll barrage of a solo inspires Lindsey Webster to punch out a powerful second chorus, pushing the vocals towards scat abstraction. She belts the song out with smooth, tremendous force, Keith Slattery providing a rainbow shower of colours behind her.

Impressively, Lindsey Webster is not just a singer but a songwriter. Her new CD consists entirely of originals composed with Slattery, and Fool Me Once is one of these. It’s a sudden shift to the urban after the rural beauties of Summertime and an opportunity for Slattery to build more complex structures in his playing, with shimmering crystalline descents, and to generally show what he can do. Lindsey Webster is more incisive and heartfelt now, concisely funky, wailing. The song draws to a beautiful, succinct, understated ending.

Aretha Franklin’s classic (You Make Me Fell Like) A Natural Woman is rightly performed as a husky, sultry and raw R&B number with a great, pungent soulful punch from Lindsey Webster, aided and abetted by Keith Slattery’s potent comping. Webster effortlessly and fearlessly soars to the top notes. We’re in an Atlantic Records stratosphere here, with contrails of piano streaking the clear blue sky. Webster sings fantastic, sustained, fervent whoops — she has a great voice. Hip, with a tender streak.

A stunning version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow includes the seldom heard opening verse. Yip Harburg’s lyrics are beautifully served with soaring vocals seeming to literally go over that rainbow, accompanied by Slattery’s lilting raindrop piano, all drawing to a combustible conclusion. Bleed is another original, a heartfelt, touching number, with the searching emotion of the vocals matched by the refined delicacy of the piano. If Keith Slattery’s playing suggested James P. Johnson before, now it reflects Ravel and Debussy. Tell Me Something Good by Stevie Wonder receives a sly, soulful, boastful treatment, challenging and sexy. Slattery evokes another Keith here — Jarrett, with the shining structure of his piano playing lilting and gleaming under the seductive confidence of Lindsey Webster’s eloquent, bragging vocals.

I Will Always Love You comes from Dolly Parton by way of Whitney Houston and it receives a knockout rendition. Lindsey Webster and Keith Slattery wring out all the tingling exultation which lurks in this power ballad, with Slattery taking an intriguingly laid-back excursion as Webster sneaks up on the explosive centre of the song. She launches into an astonishing, immaculate sustained note which even shuts up the drinkers in the bar, and causes tears to form in the eyes of hardened music reviewers and their dinner guests. Slattery pays homage to his deeply talented singer by scattering notes around her like rose petals at her feet. Lindsey Webster punches out the song with apparently endless reserves of power.

The art deco elegance of the legendary Mayfair restaurant Le Caprice is an ideal setting for stylish Sunday evening jazz sessions, and their association with Martell cognac makes for some suitably sophisticated cocktails to sip while listening. What began for me as an opportunity to experience one of London’s great restaurants turned into the chance to hear a formidable singing talent at close quarters. A startling and revealing evening.


CD REVIEW: Joel Harrison 5: Spirit House

Joel Harrison 5: Spirit House
(Whirlwind WR 4673. CD review by Jon Turney)

Joel Harrison is an eclectic organiser of ensembles and a versatile composer as well as one of the most accomplished contemporary guitar stylists. This quintet recording gives us work for a particularly interesting ensemble that toured the US West Coast a couple of years ago. From the opening An Elephant in Igor’s Yard, with its titular nod to George Russell, it is clear we are in for some thoughtful, cleverly textured music – all by Harrison save for one of Paul Motian’s pellucid ballads, Johnny Broken Wing.

The elephant, I suppose, is Paul Hanson’s bassoon. That rarity, sometimes electrified, is the most unusual element here, contributing a welcome range of feelings from gruff avuncularity to some arresting wailing on Sacred Love, the tune on which the whole band rocks out to good, bluesy, effect.

He is joined by Cuong Vu on trumpet, Kermit Driscoll on bass, and the restlessly creative Brian Blade on drums. Harrison’s guitar mainly takes a back seat, contributing colours and judicious effects, but he gets more assertive as needed and has some lucid solos, notably on You Must Go Through a Winter. The most prominent solo voice, bassoon notwithstanding, is the trumpet, with Vu matching the other players for versatility of tone. He gets solidly into the feel of each piece, in a set that ranges over Frisellish Americana through deeply grooving jazz and rock-inflected electronics.

The result, like Harrison’s large discography, is full of refreshing twists and turns and delicious surprises. Does it all work? Well, the two tracks featuring vocals did nothing for me. The tribute piece Some thoughts on Kenny Kirkland is too mawkish to be effective, and the closing song confirms that the leader writes better music than lyrics. The charming collection he recorded on Free Country, from 2003, is a better place to get to know Harrison’s song-settings. For his other varied talents, though, this latest set is a great place to start.

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


RIP Hugo Rasmussen (1941-2015)

Hugo Rasmussen in 2010
Photo credit: B. Stegmann/ Creative Commons

The Danish jazz community is mourning the loss this weekend of a central figure, the bassist Hugo Rasmussen. His unaffectedness, his humour and his friendliness are the stuff of legend. His quality and positivity as a player were inspirational and in permanent demand. He appears on over 1,000 albums. He would regularly play 20-25 gigs each year in the Copenhagen Jazz Festival. As saxophonist Jakob Dinesen said of him in 2014 : "I don't know anyone else like Hugo. Neither as a bassist or a human being. His ability to take self-importance and snobbery out of music is liberating - and does not prevent him from playing the coolest and most beautiful bass I can imagine. " The glorious sound of Rasmussen soloing is in the video below from [4:15].

In sadness.

LINKS: Interview / magazine feature from Politiken in 2014
Obituary at Politiken


INTERVIEW/PREVIEW The Jazz Repertory Company presents Jazz in New York: The 1930s ( Cadogan Hall, Sat. Sept. 19th)

"Jazz in New York: The 1930s" will be the sixteenth presentation by Richard Pite's Jazz Repertory Company at Chelsea’s Cadogan Hall. It will feature music from Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Eddie Condon, Lee Wiley and Mildred Bailey. 

Author and broadcaster Alyn Shipton, who will be presenting the show, talks to Jazz Repertory Company’s director Richard Pite, who will also be the featured drummer for the concert:

Richard Pite: Alyn, I’m very pleased to have bagged you for this concert. At many of my previous concerts I have used the BBC’s other walking encyclopaedia of Jazz – Russell Davies. I never cease to be astonished at the breadth of knowledge both of you share on the history of the music. You seem to have an enthusiasm for every era in its history but do you have a particularly favourite period?

Alyn Shipton: Because I grew up during the 1960s, those years still have a special place in my heart. There were elder statesmen of New Orleans to be heard, like Louis Nelson and Kid Thomas; meanwhile first generation swing musicians like Buck Clayton and Bud Freeman were touring here; and yet simultaneously British jazz was entering one of its most fertile periods. Because my school was active in all kinds of music, I was lucky enough as a teenager to meet and make music with Michael Garrick (and members of the Rendell – Carr quintet), and with John Dankworth (who wrote Tom Sawyer’s Saturday for our orchestra) while going to the local jazz club once a month to hear Humph and Ken Colyer. So it was immensely fertile in terms of the musical landscape, and I think I owe my breadth of interest to what happened during that decade.

However, my second love has always been the 1930s, the period we are celebrating in this concert, because this is the music my father was keen on and as a child I was captivated by his 78s of Fats Waller, Earl Hines and Duke Ellington.

RP: We will be celebrating the centenary of Billie Holiday with a short set from Julia Biel, who for me beautifully captures the style and essence of her early years. Billie’s still a big influence on young jazz vocalists – is she the most important singer in the music’s history?

AS: I don’t like to label people “most important” or “greatest” because there’s always an exception to confound the rule. But there’s no doubt that Billie was and remains one of the most profoundly emotional singers in jazz. She rode roughshod over melodies, actually often working in a very narrow range, but she had a unique balance of caring for the words of a lyric, even the frothy ones about sunbonnets and roses round the door, and putting those words into a meaningful context. Whereas Ella’s delivery of words was sublime, and Sarah Vaughan’s grasp of harmony quite dazzling, neither of them managed to inhabit a lyric and create a story out of it with the same consistency and emotional depth as Billie.

RP: Two names that feature in our concert that might not be so familiar to today’s audience are Mildred Bailey and Lee Wiley (American singer Joan Viskant will be paying tribute to them)

AS: Poor Mildred Bailey  had such a short life, dying at only 44 owing to diabetes, but she made some great music during that time. Although she spent some years as Paul Whiteman’s female singer, (her brother Al Rinker also sang for Whiteman, with a young unknown called Bing Crosby) I think her most memorable work comes from her partnership with her sometime husband, the vibes and xylophone player Red Norvo. They were known as “Mr and Mrs Swing” and his openness to new musical ideas coupled with her sureness of touch as a singer make their records hidden treasures that are largely forgotten today. Her big hit was “Rockin’ Chair” but there are plenty of other fine examples.

There’s been a bit of a Lee Wiley revival going on among listeners to Jazz Record Requests lately, and it’s good to have had the chance to air some of her work as, like Mildred, she’s a largely forgotten figure today. Everybody thinks of Ella Fitzgerald as pioneering the “songbook” album of a particular writer’s work, but Lee was doing this with All Star bands some fifteen to twenty years earlier, starting with Gershwin in 1939. Unlike Mildred, she lived well into the post-war period and her albums from the 1950s are refreshingly different from other singers of the time. She had a directness and a slightly knowing quality about her delivery that is very beguiling.

RP: For "Jazz In The 30’s" we are featuring the German maestro Matthias Seuffert who also plays saxophone and clarinet in your Buck Clayton Legacy Band. We are both huge fans of his – have you known about him for a while now?

AS: I first met Matthias in Ascona in Switzerland in the late 1990s, and was immediately struck by his mastery of swing and early jazz styles of reed playing. He’s developed a really big tenor sound, a melée of Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster and Herschel Evans, with overtones of Don Byas, that’s a real contrast to those players who follow a more Lester Young-influenced path, and it’s great to have him in a band doing this because he becomes a sort of rhythmic and tonal centre of gravity. Meanwhile his clarinet playing (using Albert system fingering, which allows the instrument a broader, woodier tone) is a vade mecum of classic jazz, immediately recognisable as Matthias, but encompassing nuances drawn from players as different as Johnny Dodds and Jimmy Hamilton.

RP: We are very lucky to have such an array of jazz musicians in the UK who have studied and mastered the styles of the early stars of the music. Enrico Tomasso does a marvellous Louis Armstrong, Keith Nichols has Fats Waller style stride piano off pat, and Martin Litton pretty much covers everyone up to Thelonious Monk. Do you think the playing of repertory jazz has improved as the music’s history has got longer and longer?

AS: I think repertory jazz has been rather good from the outset. Muggsy Spanier’s Ragtimers did a rather good job resuscitating Chicagoan jazz in 1939, and it goes on from there. What’s changed is that as jazz history has got longer, the smorgasbord from which we can pick and choose has grown immeasurably. Of course we’re lucky that players can emulate earlier great talents with skill and a degree of verisimilitude, but if you took 1960s France for example, you'd hear Irakli doing a more than passable turn as Louis, Claude Luter emulating Bechet and Christian Azzi sounding like James P Johnson. I think what stands out about today’s musicians at their best is that they have their own musical personalities, which they combine adroitly with the essence of earlier styles. So Rico, for instance, is very much his own man on his “Al Dente” CD, but he can equally well turn his hand to a range of material in a concert like this one, with an authentic feel to his timing, tone and choice of notes.

RP: Someone once said to me “Always remember how young these musicians were when they were playing this great music all those years ago.” A lot of these musicians in the 1930s were in their prime and playing with such power and vitality. It’s all about the excitement and if you didn’t generate that then the club owners would fire you!

AS: Age didn’t stop many of the swing masters of the 30s from continuing to play with that same degree of excitement and fire. When I heard Benny Goodman in 1981 at Carnegie Hall, he produced half a dozen choruses on Airmail Special that were as utterly dazzling as anything he did in the ‘30s. And I’ve been lucky enough with the BBC to work on broadcasts with the likes of Lionel Hampton and Harry "Sweets" Edison who were every bit as punchy in the 1990s as they had been 60 years before! So I think swing is an attitude of mind, and quite ageless.

RP: Do you have any particular recordings from the 1930s which are firm favourites?

AS: Too many to list here, but among the high points are Bill Coleman’s records with Fats Waller, things like “Night Wind” and “Believe It Beloved”; Billie Holiday’s sides with Teddy Wilson and particularly the ones with Buck Clayton and Lester Young, like “Mean To Me” or “When You’re Smiling”; Lionel Hampton’s small groups, especially the “Hot Mallets” session, Jimmy Blanton’s arrival with Ellington, say “Tootin Through The Roof” and – because I wrote a whole book about him – Cab Calloway’s records, including the “Minnie The Moocher” saga. My Royal Academy of Music students would also say that for reasons they never quite fathom, I always inflict Sharkey Bonano, Wingy Manone and Louis Prima’s 52nd Street groups on them, just to prove that there were other ways to play the trumpet…

RP: I like the Eddie Condon quote about the difference between the old style guys and the new breed. “The boppers flat their fifths. We consume ours”. To conclude, do you have any funny or remarkable stories about any of the 1930s jazz stars we’ll be paying tribute too?

AS: When Ronald Waller was asked at primary school what his father did for a living, he thought for a moment and said “He drinks gin”. So the high life was all part and parcel of the sounds of the era, and particularly in a country coming out of Prohibition. Jonah Jones told me in a BBC interview that when he worked for Stuff Smith, he and Cozy Cole were fined if they weren’t “high” by the interval — Jones eventually joined Calloway after his doctor said the diet of whisky and marijuana with Smith was killing him. And when Billie Holiday worked the Café Society for the famously racially tolerant Barney Josephson, his tolerance did not stretch to her smoking pot on the premises. So she really liked it when Doc Cheatham joined her backing band as he smoked a particularly vile and pungent variety of pipe tobacco. She used to persuade him to sit and puff his pipe outside her dressing room so that Josephson remained unaware of the more, er, subtle aroma coming from within!

RP: As the concert promoter,  I’d  bettter set the record straight on that point, and  reassure anybody coming to the show that our performance will be drug and alcohol free.

LINE-UP:  Keith Nichols and Martin Litton (piano), Joan Viskant and Julia Biel (vocals),  Enrico Tomasso (trumpet/ vocals),  Ian Bateman, (trombone), Anthony Kerr,(vibraphone), Thomas “Spats” Langham  (guitar), Dave Chamberlain (double bass and guitar). The show will also feature the German reedsman Matthias Seuffert and the Australian multi-instrumentalist Michael McQuaid

JAZZ IN NEW YORK: The 1930s is at Cadogan Hall  SW1 7.30 Saturday September 19th.



CD REVIEW: Samuel Hällkvist - Variety of Live

Samuel Hällkvist - Variety of Live
(BoogiePost Recordings BPCD020. CD Review by Adrian Pallant)

In 2014, following his 2012 studio release Variety of Loud, Swedish guitarist Samuel Hällkvist made the decision to tour Denmark and Sweden in order to satisfy his curiosity of playing live with his strong personnel of Pat Mastelotto (traps & buttons), Qarin Wikström (voice, keys), Guy Pratt (bass) and Stefan Pasborg (drums).

It was, however, almost a year later that Hällkvist decided on his preferred artistic route for the recordings of the gigs. Rather than put out a straightforward live album, he would use these performance accounts as a basis for a fusion with studio creativity, inviting a number of guest contributions. The result is a powerful, immersive experience of rock, prog, jazz, funk and electronica, suggesting the busy, instrumental sound worlds of  - amongst others - King Crimson, Peter Gabriel and Nik Bärtsch.

The complimentary 'prog' tag is perhaps inevitable, given that Guy Pratt (Pink Floyd sideman bassist) and Pat Mastelotto (drummer with King Crimson since the '90s) are part of the driving energy propelled by drummer Stefan Pasborg. And, along with the influential role of keyboardist and programmer Richard Barbieri, as well as exotic world-music chants from Qarin Wikström, Mocako Asano and Yukiko Taniguchi, the improvisational jazz element is reinforced by British-based musicians Yazz Ahmed (trumpet) and Denys Baptiste (saxophone).

As Barbieri explains, it's the supportive cohesion of Hällkvist's guitars and devices which makes his approach so appealing: "I like the way he 'mangles' his guitar sounds to produce the weirdest textures and glitches. His playing is always tasteful and integrated into the song – there's no showiness or overplaying." Having said that, Variety of Loud can be intensely mesmerising, the usual instrumental delineation frequently blurred into a blend of constantly evolving phrases, rhythms, effects and atmospheres. Opening number Greyer Melange develops, raga-like, as Hällkvist's sustained, crackled guitar squeals (not unlike Fripp or Manzanera) permeate a vocalised, synthy pulse; and Chord: Horror Vacui bubbles to Patrick Moraz-style steel-pan keyboards and Baptiste's flowing tenor, before Pasborg's percussive battery erupts in blistering fashion.

Other highlights include the rocky modulations of Kiopotec, with a highly-charged, processed groove whose instrumentation is fascinatingly difficult to decipher; and Heru Ra-Ha/Road, which throbs effusively and then gradually stratifies, is pleasingly reminiscent of Bärtsch's Ronin. Music for the Maraca Triplet turns away from its initial Gong-like, xylophonic trance to become increasingly Floydian (though with apparitional trumpet improv), before dropping into the relative, almost-reggae lightness of In Transfer; and the solid rock riff of Cluck Old Hen is tangibly '70s metal, with strangely becalming trumpet lines from Yazz Ahmed amongst its widely demonstrative female vocals.

This is a continual soundscape in which to lose oneself, rather than a programme of individual tracks – and the effect of Hällkvist's project at high volume is exhilarating, especially if you have a 'proggy' predilection (which, I'm proud to say, I have!).

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


RIP Steve Lane 1921-2015 (+ funeral details)

Steve Lane (second from right) in 1952

Roger Trobridge has written in with sad news:

The pioneer traditional band leader and cornet player, Steve Lane, died on Saturday, 22 August, 2015, aged 93.

He was a cornet player, guitarist, composer and arranger, as well as being a director of VJM Records from 1960 with Brian Rust and John Wadley.

Steve led his own Southern Stompers jazz band in the early 1950, and also led and recorded with his Red Hot Peppers and the VJM Washboard Band for over 50 years.

He was a a very traditional jazz player in the Ken Colyer style and he established the Ealing Jazz Club in the Fox and Goose, Hanger Lane, Ealing in 1952. Lots of good musicians passed through his band.

The photo here is from the Ealing Jazz Club, Fox and Goose, Hanger Lane, 1952, which Steve started. Steve on cornet, with Colin Kingwell on trombone, Ian MacDonald on piano, Jim Forey on banjo, Doug Grey on sousaphone and Johnny Milton on clarinet.

UPDATE 27th August from Roger Trobridge:

The funeral will start promptly at 12 o'clock on Monday 7 September, at
New Southgate Crematorium
Brunswick Park
Brunswick Park Road
New Southgate
London N11 1JJ

Travel details are on the WEBSITE

After the short service we can move on to a local pub.


NEWS: Jive Aces and Swing Museum to perform at National Jazz Archive Fundraiser on 18th September

A fun fundraising evening for the National Jazz Archive in Chingford on will feature the UK’s No. 1 jive and swing band The Jive Aces, and the Hot Club de France-inspired quartet Swing Museum. This lively event will be on Friday 18th September at Chingford Assembly Hall.


"A regular act at the biggest UK summer music festivals this summer, they are the the UK’s top jive and swing band, The Jive Aces are renowned for their high energy Jump Jive music (the exciting sound where Swing meets Rock ’n’ Roll) and spectacular stage show. They combine a mixture of fresh arrangements of swing/jive/R&B classics – songs made famous by such greats as Louis Prima, Cab Calloway, Bobby Darin, Louis Armstrong, Dean Martin, Big Joe Turner and Sammy Davis, Jr – along with a selection of superb swinging originals taken from their eight studio albums."


Swing Museum is led by violinist Andrew Rackham. "Inspired by the ‘Hot Club of France’, Swing Museum is a well-known instrumental Jazz Manouche quartet, playing a delightfully authentic version of this sophisticated and refined music from the 1930s and 1940s. By combining the innovative styling of Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt with their own foot-tapping original compositions, they make each of their sets unique."

This concert is on Friday 18 September 2015, and is one of a series during the year to raise funds to support the work of the National Jazz Archive. It starts at 7.30pm and tickets cost £17.

The venue is Chingford Assembly Hall, Station Road, Chingford, London, E4 7EN (500 metres from Chingford Station), with parking close by, and good access by bus.

LINK/ TO BOOK : NJA EVENTS. Also phone 020 8502 4701 / email

The next event at the Archive itself is on Saturday lunchtime Sep 26th, a talk by blues specialist Lawrence Davies entitled New Orleans, London, Memphis, Manchester... British Blues before the 1960s. Details and tickets


CD REVIEW: Stuart McCallum – City

Stuart McCallum – City
(Naim Jazz Records naimcd219). CD Review by Peter Jones.

Some music is at its best after dark; after all, night is the time for introspection, and this, guitarist Stuart McCallum’s second album for Naim Jazz, is a case in point: we’re truly talking about 3.00am levels of introspection.

McCallum has used a rock line-up, merged with subtle electronica. The vibe is thrillingly slow, rich, sensuous, dark and mellow, one might almost say druggy. There are echoes not only of McCallum’s band The Cinematic Orchestra, but of the late lamented Durutti Column, with shades also of the Cocteau Twins, Massive Attack, Plastyc Buddha and Zero 7 - downtempo, chill-out, call it what you will. And before the jazz police come knocking (perhaps looking for the aforementioned drugs), I should add that there are clearly improvised elements to the music, with echoes of Emily Remler in McCallum’s beautiful, plangent guitar work.

As well as himself on both acoustic and electric guitars, the band consists of Robin Mullarkey on bass, Sean Foran on Fender Rhodes and most significantly of all, Richard Spaven on drums, synths and electronics. Spaven, who has contributed so much to José James’s sound, should really be co-credited with McCallum, having shared the writing and production duties with him. A variety of vocalists have been used, not in a conventional way, more as additional tones used like instruments in the overall mix.

It’s tough to pick out individual tracks: these don’t feel like conventional ‘tunes’ or ‘songs’ but looping, dreamlike pieces that flow from one to the next. But if I were compelled to mention any in particular, Mk II and Inhale are gorgeous, McCallum’s chiming guitars underpinned by Spaven’s signature broken-beat drumming to create a very fresh, contemporary sound picture. Lushly romantic as it is, it’s romance with a somewhat bleak northern aspect, in the best ‘ECM’ sense.

Frustratingly, Stuart McCallum has no plans to gig down south following his one London date last July, but the northern half of the country is in for a real treat.

Meanwhile City is available on 180gm vinyl as well as in CD and digital formats.

Stuart McCallum’s live dates are as follows:

Sept 24 - Grumbles, Stafford;
Oct 7 - Lescar, Sheffield;

Oct 8 - Mash Guru, Macclesfield;
Oct 9 - Cafe Lento, Leeds;
Oct 10 - Zefirellis, Ambleside
Oct 11 - Marsden Jazz Festival, West Yorks


CD REVIEW: Kait Dunton - Trio Kait

Kait Dunton - Trio Kait
(Real & Imagined Music R&I 003. CD review by Rob Mallows

Increasingly, many piano trios in contemporary jazz are reducing their reliance on red-hot soloing in favour of a more collective, constructed sound that’s reliant on strong melodies and an appeal to the emotions rather than the intellect. If that’s what it takes to make an album as fun as this, then I say more power to them.

Kait Dunton is the LA-based leader of this piano trio who, along with her bandmates bassist Cooper Appelt and drummer Jake Reed, has - on this, her third album - produced a singular sound that is all about the collective identity of the group. Rather like pioneers EST, Neil Cowley Trio and presently Robert Glasper, who’ve all sought to expand the horizons of jazz piano in different ways over the years - all with great commercial success, one might add - one senses Dunton is also seeking to squeeze as much juice out of the piano trio as she can.

A composer who seeks inspiration from electronica, rock, classical, R&B as well as jazz, this linkage to multiple musical sources of inspiration has helped Dunton strike the mother lode. She finds variety in rhythms, chord changes and tone, rather than pure improvisation and virtuosity. Not that she’s abandoned improvisation - it’s just she clearly doesn’t rely on it to create something compelling and utterly listenable.

Dunton has a choppy and angular style which cuts through on the opening track Prelude and pound out a confident melody that hints at what the album’s all about. Even relying solely on the acoustic piano on this album, she brings a rock-like power to her playing that creates a rich band sound.

Her rhythm section is perhaps the key to this album. Using electric bass rather than upright, Appelt achieves great cut-through in the sound on many of the tracks and adds some real colour higher up in the register which complements Dunton’s playing. The reliance on more rock-influenced rhythms from drummer Reed provides groove but never in any way that suggests this is anything but a jazz trio album.

Second track Channels - a more conventional ballad - is only 41 seconds of classical runs after which the album goes from first gear to fourth by leaping straight into funk-filled Chrysocolla. Time Travel, as its title suggests, is about finding creativity in the use of different and complex time signatures to illuminate the tune - the 7/4 rhythm fairly rushes along at breakneck speed conveying a simple tune. A great track that shows it’s not only pop music that can create three minute wonders. Yes is more late-night soul smoothness, with a gorgeously creamy bass sound that’s all about mood.

Album closer Customis a jazz-hip-hop confection so prevalent now on contemporary jazz albums, but this one is fairly benign. It has all the simple drum rhythms and dope-ass bass of street hip hop which call pall, but the repetitive melody is rather listenable and this track overall, while the weakest on the album, has a certain simplistic charm.

I was impressed by this album. The piano trio is a competitive market and any group must dig deep to find new musical avenues to explore and sounds to expand the listeners horizons and capture their attention. Trio Kait does this in spades.

When you thrown a lot of different musical influences into the jazz pot, you need a good chef to make the resulting meal palatable. On this evidence, Kait Dunton is already on her way to a Michelin star. Lovely album