INTERVIEW: Frank Harrison, pianist. (New CD: Live at the Verdict )

Frank Harrison. Photo Credit: Jon Frost

Pianist Frank Harrison has just released an album by his regular trio with Dave Whitford and Enzo Zirilli, recorded live at The Verdict in Brighton earlier this year. The album is being talked about as his strongest yet. Sebastian spoke to him about his development as a musician, and how the album came into being:  


LondonJazz News: What drew you first to the piano?

Frank Harrison: My sister was taking piano lessons so we had an old Victorian upright in the house. One holiday when I was 11 we listened to a lot of Billie Holiday, and I really liked the melodies and harmonies in those tunes. So when I got home I started trying to figure them out.

LJN: Who was the teacher who left the biggest mark on you?

FH: Peter Pettinger. He was a great classical pianist but also loved jazz. He introduced me to Bill Evans (of whom he wrote a brilliant biography) and that was a big revelation. Although he knew a lot of jazz theory, he took Bill’s attitude towards tuition: that you can show someone some chords, or a melodic or rhythmic idea, but then they’re just borrowing it from you. But if you let them find it for themselves, it’s theirs. So we talked about bigger things – the sound you get from the instrument, the overall shape of a solo. He taught me to focus on those things rather than on individual notes.

LJN: Was there a sequence in the way you got to know jazz after that?

FH: Yes – actually from Billie Holiday onwards I worked pretty much chronologically. I needed to hear each movement of jazz before I understood the next. I remember loving Blue Trane but hating A Love Supreme! Since then I feel like my musical life has been about removing those set ideas about what I like and don’t like, and becoming open to more and more music.

LJN: When I hear your playing I always find there is a strong melodic line and logic. Is that something that’s important to you?

FH: Yes. I try to play what I hear rather than what my conscious brain might come up with. I think that way you’re more in tune with the listener too – if you want a break in the line, they’re probably ready for one too. I think that’s something that Peter instilled in me from early on.

LJN: You’re a pianist of choice in a number of other bands, right?

FH: I guess so! I’ve got a few projects on the go at the moment. I’ve been playing with Gilad Atzmon’s Orient House Ensemble for fourteen years now and we’ll be touring a new album from January. I think it’s our strongest one so far. And I’ve just finished a tour with the Sirkis/Bialis International Quartet, which was a great experience. Asaf and Sylwia wrote some very deep music for that band, it’s unlike anything else I’ve played or heard. Now I’m starting a tour with Tommaso Starace playing music he composed for the photos of Gianni Berengo Gardin. It’s great – very melodic, and with a lot of humour. And I’ve got a new duo album with singer Edith van den Heuvel about to come out. I’m really happy with that one, it’s very intimate and beautifully recorded.

LJN: How long have you been working with Enzo Zirilli and Dave Whitford?

FH: We started playing together a couple of years ago. They’re both incredibly inspiring musicians to work with. Enzo kind of fits into Louis Armstrong’s definition of jazz: he never plays the same way once. He’s always improvising, always searching, and finds some very beautiful and unusual places. Dave is my ideal bass player. He’s got a perfect balance of rooting things when they need to be rooted, combined with a lot of freedom. Like Enzo, there’s no ego there – he just listens and plays what needs to be played.

LJN: How is this album is different from your others?

FH: The biggest difference is that it’s live! Our previous albums have always involved a lot of preparation, finding the right studio, writing and rehearsing the music… This one was never intended to be an album. We were on tour promoting our Lunaris album and I stuck my digital recorder on stage just to have my own record of what we were doing. But when I listened back to our gig at The Verdict in Brighton I heard something that’s very hard to capture in the studio. Playing close together in a great room and to an attentive audience lets you take risks, and - importantly -  have fun.  You’re not making judgments about what’s happening, you’re not wondering “is this the take”? You’re just listening and responding, so the music really plays itself.

We then spent a day in the studio mastering it – polishing it as much as we could, trying to bring the piano out a bit… The end result isn’t something that ECM would release but there’s something nice and honest about it.

LJN: In what formats are you making it available? 

FH: Since it was free to record, I decided to make the MP3 version of the album free to download. But as some people still like physical objects, we also printed a CD with a bonus track.

LJN: What gigs have you got coming up?

FH: We’ve got a couple of gigs in December to celebrate the new album. On the 3rd we’re at the Albion Beatnik in Oxford (the bonus track on the CD was from a gig we did in Oxford). And then on December 12th we’re back at The Verdict in Brighton. We’ll also be doing a London launch in the spring.

Frank Harrison Trio – Live at The Verdict is available as a free download or to buy on CD HERE  (pp)

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REVIEW: Charles Lloyd: Wild Man Suite + Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas: Sound Prints at the Barbican (2014 EFG LJF)

Charles Lloyd. Barbican November 2014. Photo Credit: Paul Wood

Charles Lloyd: Wild Man Suite + Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas: Sound Prints.
(Barbican Centre, Sun. 23rd Nov. EFG London Jazz Festival. Review by Alison Bentley)

Trumpeter Dave Douglas paid tribute to the ‘warm feeling’ in the Barbican on the last night of the Festival. And so it was: wild applause, and it was only the end of the evening’s first half. Douglas and saxophonist Joe Lovano had just finished their Sound Prints set, the band ‘put together about three years ago’, inspired by Wayne Shorter’s ‘life and spirit’, including new music specially written for them by Shorter himself.

Douglas and Lovano’s sounds were well-matched for sheer energy as they opened with long tangled lines. (Lovano’s Sound Prints merging into Douglas’ Sprints) The boppish swing veered between tempos, Lovano’s burnished tone in fast clusters of notes as if he was having a friendly argument with himself. The passion in his playing almost superseded the notes.

There were hints of Footprints in Linda Oh’s pulsing bass line in Shorter’s Destination Unknown. It was wonderful to hear new, distinctive music from Shorter, complex and rich. There were convoluted sections and long notes, phrased across the beat, like dark twisting paths opening out into the sunlight- the way Speak No Evil does. Douglas’ solo punched each note into the air- there’s such clarity of thought and direct emotional appeal in his playing. In Shorter’s To Sail Beyond the Sunset, the angular riffs of Lovano’s solo were like geometric forms, filled in with tiny delicate scribbles- but I was straining to hear some of his under-amplified subtleties. Oh was mining the groove, standing very still as her hands flew up and down the bass. Notes ricocheted off the lowest bass string as she soloed with percussive power. Joey Baron crouched low for his short, dramatic drum solo- he’d already revealed his virtuosity throughout the gig.

Dave Douglas, Linda Oh, Joe Lovano
Barbican Nov 2014. Photo Credit: Paul Wood

Douglas’ spacious Ups and Downs was the encore, evoking the country/folk moods of some of his other projects. You just had to let Lovano’s gorgeous deep sound wash over you. One of the set’s most emotive moments was when Lawrence Fields’ piano broke out of the mid-keyboard range into high Romantic swirls over velvety horn backing lines.

Who could follow such a blazing start? Saxophonist Charles Lloyd’s Wild Man Suite, commissioned originally by the Wrocław Jazz Festival, was a far-reaching uninterrupted story with different narrators. ‘You can't shoot an arrow into infinity if you're always in motion,’ Lloyd once said. ‘You first have to draw the bow back.’ He was referring to his retreat from public view from the early 70s to the early 80s, after burning out. (Herbie Hancock once called him the first jazz-rock star). But the image could equally describe this extraordinary gig with its contrasting atmospheres of forceful energy and quieter contemplation.

Lloyd’s tone was soft at first (he’s spoken of the importance of tenderness in his playing). His sinuous lines were phrased as if he were playing lyrics, like his hero, Lester Young. The long, expressive Coltrane-influenced notes, punctuated with intricate runs, were utterly absorbing. His bop phrasing reminded us of his tenure in Cannonball Adderley’s bands. Lloyd was the main storyteller, but each band member took turns.

The set felt like the calm before a tropical storm, though there were outbreaks of collective free improv amidst the gentle grooves- often just one or two chords. It felt like a clear link with his late 60s million-selling albums. Every so often Eric Harland’s drums, which mostly brooded in the background, burst into tempestuous squalls as the rest of the band smiled at him in amazement. Lloyd is known for finding young geniuses in the past- Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette, Brad Meldhau, Michel Petrucciani...the list goes on. Tonight Gerald Clayton’s piano had an exquisite ringing tone, sometimes like random drops presaging the storm. Joe Sanders’ springy bass moved from pulsating bop to minimalist funky notes. A highlight was the bass bowed in duet with the woody quarter-tones of Socratis Sinopolous’ Greek lyra, like an upright fiddle. Miklos Lukacs’ Hungarian cimbalom- part hammer dulcimer, part harpsichord- sometimes sounded like a prepared piano. He played wild rhythms and eastern scales, the timbre adding a glow to Clayton’s piano.

Lloyd played tárogató and alto flute in the encores- he’s often credited with being one of the first jazzers to dip into world music. He recited lines from the Bhagavad Gita, making clear the spiritual roots of his music- before ending with a bluesy groove, reminding us he spent some of his early years working with Howlin’ Wolf.

A gig among gigs, led by a man whose life embodies jazz history, with a fine band that took us though extremes and out the other side feeling euphoric- the entire audience was on its feet, cheering.

LINKS: Review of Soundprints at Ronnie Scott's in 2012

DVD Review CharlesLloyd Arrows into Infinity

Interview with Charles Lloyd from 2013

CD Reviews of Charles Lloyd's Quartets and Hagar's Song

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REVIEW: Bennie Maupin Quartet at Ronnie Scott’s

Bennie Maupin from the One LP Collection
Photo Credit: William Ellis. All Rights Reserved

Bennie Maupin Quartet
(Ronnie Scott’s, 24 November 2014, review by Mark McKergow)

It’s hard to credit that this was reedsman and bass clarinet specialist Bennie Maupin's first appearance at Ronnie Scott’s as band-leader, if not his first time at the club: that was as far back as 1968.

A sprightly 74 years old, Maupin himself is a part of jazz history. He was a member of Miles Davis’s early 1970s explorations on albums like Bitches Brew and On The Corner, and an essential voice in Herbie Hancock’s legendary Headhunters quartet. Many of his compositions are named in tribute to his past teachers and old masters, and show great dynamic, tonal and rhythmic range.

A UK-sourced band had been assembled for a short four-date tour, and his sidemen rose impeccably to the challenge of bringing Maupin’s catchy and original tunes to life. Above all, the music was alive.

Over two sets, bookended with Joe Zawinul’s In A Silent Way played freely but unadorned, Maupin gave a masterclass in living and spontaneous musicianship. The hypnotic Walter Bishop Jr. rapidly raised the temperature, with the (underfeatured) Vidal Montgomery’s bass ostinato holding and flexing with the action while Rod Youngs gave himself fully three feet of backswing to launch all-out attacks on his array of cymbals.

The intensity of the music was much greater than on Maupin’s previous visits and on his recent recordings. See The Positive turned into a full-on funk workout with Ronnie’s regular Carl Orr shredding his guitar hard and fast, to the leader’s (and the audience’s) obvious pleasure.

It was a delight to hear Maupin’s delicious bass clarinet on several numbers. Neophilia started with atmospheric rattling bass clarinet keys before landing in a 7/4 groove that felt natural and even danceable, with Orr producing some limpid slide work. Maupin’s tribute to Lester Young, Message to Prez, saw another complex-yet-earwormingly-hummable melody given an almost calypso feel.

The short rehearsal time produced a group nicely on the edge, feeling their way together ,with Maupin sometimes leading from the front (his face-to-face duos with Youngs and Orr on The 12th Day producing some of the most memorable music of the evening), and other times beaming from the side of the stage, loving every moment.

A near-capacity crowd loved it all too, and surely, hopefully, it won’t be decades before Ronnie’s asks Maupin back.

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REVIEW: Celebrating 75 Years of Blue Note Records at the Royal Festival Hall (2014 EFG LJF)

Jason Moran (left and Robert Glasper (right) RFH, Nov 2014
Photo Credit: Roger Thomas


Celebrating 75 Years of Blue Note Records: Robert Glasper, Jason Moran, Lionel Loueke, Ambrose Akinmusire, Marcus Strickland, Derrick Hodge, and Kendrick Scott
(Royal Festival Hall, 22 November 2014, EFG London Jazz Festival. Review by Jonathan Carvell)


Blue Note’s 75th anniversary concert on the penultimate day of the EFG London Jazz Festival saw a host of heavyweights underline the bright future of the label. The first half was taken by Jason Moran and Robert Glasper in close to an hour straight through of piano duo. This was a performance redolent of Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea’s great duets, even culminating in Maiden Voyage – albeit Glasper’s Radiohead-infused version. Both pianists made their own distinct styles clear: Moran with percussive prepared piano and blues licks; Glasper with irresistible harmonies and allusions to R&B. Given its intensity, this first half would have proved ample celebration for many. However, this was but a prelude for the all-star sextet which took to the stage after the interval, when Glasper was joined by Marcus Strickland (sax), Ambrose Akinmusire  (trumpet), Lionel Loueke (guitar), Kendrick Scott  (drums) and Derrick Hodge (bass).

L-R: Lionel Loueke, Kendrick Scott, Marcus Strickland, Derrick Hodge,
Ambrose Akinmusire, Robert Glasper. Photo Credit: Roger Thomas  


After a Blue Note classic, Witch Hunt by Wayne Shorter, the sextet really came to life with Kendrick Scott’s composition Cycling Through Reality, which erupted spectacularly from the middle of an extended drum solo. Akinmusire illuminated the Royal Festival Hall with his golden tone and the rhythm section of Glasper, Scott and Hodge grooved effortlessly throughout. Lionel Loueke added fresh perspectives with his West African style, and also shone as a composer as the evening progressed with his Freedom Dance. Regular collaborators Derrick Hodge and Robert Glasper formed the foundation for some of the evening’s best moments: Hodge’s understated, muscular playing creating the perfect platform for Glasper’s virtuosity and wit. The concert concluded with Message of Hope from Hodge’s first album as leader, providing a fitting, almost spiritual end to proceedings.

With artists this talented, collaborating as well as they did here, it’s clear that the future of the label is in good hands. An exceptional evening which gave proof - if any were needed - that Blue Note is in rude health at 75 years old.

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REVIEW: Different Every Time; an evening with Robert Wyatt at the QEH (2014 EFG LJF)

Robert Wyatt and trombonist Annie Whitehead.
 Still taken from Mark Kidel’s Free Will and Testament: The Robert Wyatt Story (2003)

Different Every Time; an evening with Robert Wyatt
(Queen Elizabeth Hall, 23rd November 2014. EFG London Jazz Festival. Review by John L Walters)

Robert Wyatt seemed amused that anyone would spend time writing a book about him. ‘It’s not a book I would have written,’ he said to Marcus O’Dair, author of Different Every Time (Serpent’s Tail) the authorised biography of the musician. ‘It’s not a subject that interests me. But thanks!’

O’Dair began the evening by asking Wyatt for his memories of the Southbank Centre. Wyatt had visited the 1951 Festival of Britain as a small boy, and in 2001 he curated the annual Meltdown festival – an experience he describes as ‘heaven’.

Wyatt admitted that nervousness made him talkative, but that was to our advantage: for more than an hour we were treated to a delightful stream of anecdote, opinions, confessions, thumbnail portraits, digressions and heartfelt statements, initially coaxed by his biographer and then in response to a diverse series of questions from the devoted audience. The subject matter ranged from Kevin Coyne to Ukraine; from Henry Cow to hip-hop, and Wyatt handled his interlocutors with grace, good humour and insight.

After the interval we heard from Orphy Robinson, who contributed the tune Pastafari to Wyatt’s 2007 album Comicopera. Robinson played an electronic mallet instrument alongside a laptop bursting with disembodied voices – it was like a funkier version of The Books . The solo set was a counterintuitive preface to a screening of Free Will and Testament: The Robert Wyatt Story (2003).

This inspiring documentary of Wyatt working at home in Louth, Lincolnshire was directed by Mark Kidel and produced by Jez Nelson. The film [Extract] is interspersed with studio performances of Wyatt singing with a version of Annie Whitehead’s Soupsongs band that played the QEH in 2000 (REVIEWED HERE).

There was a bittersweet pleasure in hearing and seeing trumpeter Harry Beckett, who died in 2010, adding his magical, bubbling solo voice to the Wyatt repertoire. Wyatt makes pop music that’s in edgy but ultimately friendly dialogue with jazz. Wyatt’s extreme sensitivity to everything – sound, art, other musicians, politics – was evident in both halves of the evening ‘The political is personal,’ he stated. In a moment to treasure in Free Will and Testament, Wyatt muses calmly that when he gets really depressed about the dire state of the world, he cheers himself up with the thought that at least jazz exists.

The entire evening made a thoughtful closing act to yet another great London Jazz Festival.

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REVIEWED IN BRIEF: We also went to... at the 2014 EFG London Jazz Festival

Sean Noonan (on drims, right) at the Crypt Camberwell
Photo Credit: John L Walters

"We also went to..." 

When all our full gig reviews of the 2014 EFG London Jazz Festival been filed, we expect to have well over thirty of them, in addition to twenty-three previews. Nevertheless, we are aware that even our coverage has left many events unremarked. So we try to redress this here with twenty-four mini-reviews of other gigs, in alphabetical order:

o  -  o  -  o  -  o

Aaron Goldberg at Pizza Express Dean Street

Just after midnight on Thursday, at a packed Pizza Express where staff struggled to contain fans who were desperate to get in, pianist Aaron Goldberg constructed a mesmerising set of (mainly) original music alongside bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Eric Harland. 100 minutes of sheer bliss; and it was free! (Andy Boeckstaens)

Adam Glasser's South African Jazz Night ay Ivy House Community Pub, Nunhead

Packed to the rafters with listeners and drinkers soaking in the atmosphere, Adam Glasser's brand of South African jazz was one of the few authentically South African Festival tributes. Vocalist Pinise Saul brought vibrancy to the music while Gareth Lockrane and Jason Yarde provided horn fills. Bassist Steve Watts and drummer Ian Thomas did a terrific job as the backbone of the ensemble. (Nicky Schrire)

Amina Figarova Sextet at the 606

The range of this transatlantic group's expression, and of Figarova's writing, from New York hustle-bustle to a beautifully placed, as yet unrecorded ballad entitled Blue Whisper, was stunning. This is in every sense a headlining rather than a support band. Jeroen Vierdag is perectly in-tune go-for-it bassist, drummer Jason Brown a real creative energizer, Bart Platteau a go-to flautist.    (Sebastian Scotney)





Buck Clayton Legacy Band Celebrate Duke Ellington’s small bands at Pizza Express

A cracking gig and a masterclass in swing from bassist Alyn Shipton and Matthias Seuffert’s co-led super-group (video above), with sublime arrangements by Alan Barnes and Tony Faulkner. Highlights included trumpeter Ian Smith’s heart stopping break chorus on Johnny Hodges’ ‘Globetrotter’ and Alan Barnes at his best channelling the sinewy spirit of Hodges on ‘Three and six’. Ten out of ten for frontline ensemble work. Honourable mentions for Robert Fowler's baritone and Martin Litton at his most Ducal. (Al Ryan)

Chaos Orchestra at the Spice of Life


The sound of a big band in a small space always sends shivers up the spine.  The Chaos Orchestra – directed by Laura Jurd – is a fine modern band with an exciting spiky sound and an exuberant group of young musicians and composers who clearly had a lot of fun – always a good sign! (Peter Slavid)

Charlotte Glasson Band in the Clore Ballroom at the RFH

Multi-instrumentalist Charlotte Glasson had the audience - kids, passers-by, jaded punters - clapping in 6/4 time, whistling choruses and generally partying as the joyful spirit of Roland Kirk filled the Clore Ballroom for a short but breakneck set (“Five minutes left, so time for two tunes. I still have a couple of instruments to play”) Great to see that ever-versatile guitarist Chris Spedding and bassist Mick Hutton having such fun. Certainly as good as I recall of Kirk on my first visit to Ronnies, back in 1974. (Geoff Noble)

Clare Teal - The Divas & Me at Pizza Express

A hugely entertaining evening with the perennially classy Clare Teal. Skillfully channeling Ella, Peggy, Dinah and more, a superb master class in crafting a show which showcased drummer Ben Reynolds, bassist Simon Little and pianist/arranger Grant Windsor beautifully. (Nicky Schrire)

Cyrille Aimée  at  the Elgar Room, Royal Albert Hall

Cyrille Aimée and her stellar quartet enthralled with repertoire ranging from Duke Ellington to Michael Jackson. An intense musicality, exceptional ability to improvise and a modern repertoire set Aimée apart from her peers. Guitarists Michael Valeanu, Adrien Moignard, bassist Sam Anning and drummer Rajiv Jayaweera were technically virtuosic and musically electrifying. (Nicky Schrire)

.
Dan Tepfer's Goldberg Variations/Variations at the Wigmore Hall

An extreme jazz gig where the first applause came after 80+ minutes of music, indeed after 25 seconds of silence after the last piano chord. An evening where there are strong shadows on the walls: Glenn Gould for the Goldbergs, Keith Jarrett for the journeys into abstraction (and the singing). But maybe the real unpressured Dan Tepfer only came through in the encore, an original. (Sebastian Scotney)

Gareth Lockrane, Alex Garnett, Steve Fishwick, Barnaby Dickenson, James Allsopp
The Forge. Photo credit: Sarah Caplin


Gareth Lockrane's Grooveyard and Bheki Mseleku set at The Forge Camden Town


After an enticing first set of Grooveyard originals down at The Forge (image above), Gareth Lockrane added more faces to his usual line-up to perform a set of epic tunes by Bheki Mseleku, South Africa’s finest jazzman. We heard vibrant versions of Timelessness and Angola as well as unrecorded Bheki tunes that Lockrane has lovingly brought back to life with compelling and heartfelt new arrangements. (Sarah Chaplin)

Zeena Parkins, harpist (ctre) and massed ranks of Henry Cow and others.
Drawing by Geoff Winston. All rights reserved.


Henry Cow / Lindsay Cooper Celebration at the Barbican

This was a delightful concert - engaging, intriguing and enjoyable. A dozen of Lindsay Cooper's (1951-2013) key collaborators, including the core members of Henry Cow, reconvened to pay their respects in the best way they knew how, by performing a range of her complex scores and improvising with gusto when cued; in effect, a chamber ensemble with attitude and energy. Including, thirty years on, a first live performance of News from Babel, they earned a standing ovation from an audience impressed and charmed by their dedication, invention and ability to deliver with such freshness. (Geoff Winston)

A packed house for the Jarek Smietana Tribute


Jarek Smietana Tribute at Cafe Posk 

 It was clear from the interview that I did with Yaron Stavi, that this was going to be a poignant occasion not just for him, but also for friends, family, musicians, and for London's Polish community. Everyone was receptive to the band's every note. John Etheridge and the late guitarist's daughter Alicja Smietana played with emotion and brought tears to some members of the audience. This was a gig not just played and listened to, but lived through, and completely uplifting (Hayley Redmond)

Jazz Rant at Club Inégales

What happens if you put a group of jazz academics on a platform in a lovely club and invite them to have a rant? Well mostly they promote their books and slag each other off – but its great fun to watch!  More next year please – but less professors and more musicians. (Peter Slavid)

John Stevens Celebration (1)

Many of the late drummer John Stevens’ colleagues reconvened on Saturday at the Purcell Room. The music ranged from the modern/mainstream of his last quartet (with Byron Wallen, Ed Jones and Gary Crosby) to the more exploratory (Nigel Coombes). The filmed anecdotes from friends, and the backdrop of Stevens’ art, were extremely moving. (Andy Boeckstaens)

John Stevens Celebration (2)

Alex Hawkins slipping quietly onto the piano stool in the middle of the John Stevens tributes in the Front Room on Sat 22 and unfolding a rivetting 15-minute solo extemporisation, now Ellingtonian, now Monkish, that brought back memories of Abdullah Ibrahim in his prime.(Jon Turney)

Laura Jurd's Human Spirit at the Barbican

Laura Jurd's superb Human Spirit closing the Chaos Collective's afternoon at the Barbican on the festival's final day, with Lauren Kinsella and Chris Batchelor on coruscating form and the marvellous vibrations of Mick Foster's bass saxophone. Their tour in January should be really something. (Jon Turney)

Liane Carroll at St James's Studio

Down-to-earth humour, deep emotion in the songs, bursts of surreal humour, and John Etheridge as luxury guest. Liane Carroll always takes an audience to places they wouldn't be expecting. Her last album explored her quieter ballad-ish side. The next one, due in May, will find her a little older. And a little wilder. (Hayley Redmond)

Nathaniel Facey at Barbican Cinema 1

Nathaniel Facey played Freddie Redd’s music for The Connection prior to a screening of the restored 1962 classic directed by Shirley Clarke. Redd’s score provides uplifting counterpoint to Jack Gelber’s shrewd, downbeat portrayal of druggy hipsterdom. Facey’s quartet, including Italian bassist Dario de Lecce, treated the tunes with spirited respect. (John L Walters)

Phil Meadows at Kings Place

I just heard some of their small-group set. The musicians in Phil Meadows' band are some of the most original talents we have - Laura Jurd on trumpet, Conor Chaplin on bass, Elliot Galvin on piano . In this context, and with Meadows' angular and busy compositions they egg each other on to out-achieve. Life-affirming to see them in action  (Sebastian Scotney)

Sean Noonan at The Crypt in Camberwell

Drummer/composer Sean Noonan(top image), an intense Brooklynite dressed like a boxer in singlet and shorts, plays drums, tells tales (tall and otherwise) and plays complex, beguiling highly rhythmic music with amplified Polish string quartet A Gambler’s Hand. Surprising, subtle … slightly bonkers. They complete their European tour in Oxford, Liverpool and Kirbymoorside. (John L Walters)

Snarky Puppy at Ronnie Scott's

On Monday, Snarky Puppy shook off the jetlag and brought their funky brew to bear on a devoted bunch of night owls with a surprise late show at Ronnies. This mini set gave a taster of their Roundhouse gig the following night, and - as Geoff Winston attests in his review - their speciality is a Œchunky, roller-coaster of a groove¹ full of razor-sharp articulation from the horn section and spaced-out guitar solos. (Sarah Chaplin)

Tom White Septet with eponymous leader in white shirt (right)

Tom Green and Tom White Septets at Spice of Life

Two Toms, two colours, two trombonists, two septets. Both bring a youthful energy, and based their compositions on personal experiences. Paul Pace as host brought joviality. This was a gig about friendship and collaboration, played in front of an audience with a wide age-range. I'll be producing a podcast recording of interviews and of part of this fun gig. (Hayley Redmond)

The Vortex Programme

We had 16 concerts over the 10 days, with nearly 30 different groups playing. Here are a few of my own individual memorable highlights:

- Christian Lillinger's drumming for Hyperactive Kid, Starlight (which can be heard on Jazz on 3 tonight) and Kronecker on the festival's last night.

- Lafayette Gilchrist morphing from rhapsodic Gershwinian improvisation to train boogie-woogie with Paul Dunmall as the train whistle and Mark Sanders' shuffle

-Three dramatic and euphoric drum solos from Mark Mondesir, depping with Partisans

- The loft party atmosphere generated by Tiny Beast late night on Saturday, more than helped by Gina Southgate's live painting.

- The general enthusiasm of the musicians who helped organise some of our concerts (e.g. Kit Downes' work on inviting two Berlin bands, John Russell for Mopomoso (from his sick bed), Dan Nicholls and Tom Challenger for Loop Collective's Rec London, Scott Stroman for London Jazz Orchestra and Simon Roth for Pop-Up Circus (Oliver Weindling)

 Way Out West / Tim Whitehead - Cafe Posk

Way Out West celebrated their tenth birthday by starting a monthly residency in Hammersmith's Cafe Posk. Billed as "WOW Large Ensemble", I expected a big band; what we got was a string of bands from a trio to a twelve piece, comprising some of London's best performers. Stand outs in the first half were Kate Williams on piano, young bassist Flo Moore, and Emily Saunders' vocals. The second half was given over to saxophonist Tim Whitehead's new exciting and inventive suite inspired by Turner's paintings of the Thames, with Whitehead and pianist Jonathan Gee on top form. (Patrick Hadfield)

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REVIEW: Regina Carter plus Yazz Ahmed (2014 EFG LJF)

Regina Carter

Regina Carter plus Yazz Ahmed
(Queen Elizabeth Hall, 22 November 2014, EFG London Jazz Festival. Review by Jon Turney)

Jazz violin star Regina Carter convened a suitably instrumented acoustic band to perform the songs from her latest release, Southern Comfort (reviewed here)  in which she delves into the songs of her grandparents' time in Alabama. Backed by Marvin Sewell on electric and acoustic guitars, Chris Lightcap on upright bass, Will Holshouser on accordion and the irrepressibly good-humoured drumming of Alvester Garnett, this was jazz meets Americana done to perfection.

The set was built from the very simple materials aired on the CD, some of them sampled in their most elemental form using field recordings played from Carter's iPhone (as explained in our interview earlier this year). The simplicity is affecting, although just occasionally overwhelmed by long solos from guitar and accordion that these songs didn't really call for. No such problem with Carter's solos, though, which invariably tell a story that grips you to the end.

Her superb violin sound, captured beautifully on the recording, came across even more penetratingly in the QEH - a shift of venue after ticket sales made it clear the Purcell Room would be too small. And although her cohorts are all fine musicians, it was Carter who held the attention for 90 minutes plus.

The gig added well-judged variety to the Southern Comfort songlist. The leader doubled a vocal line on Richard Bona's Mandingo Street, and brought her Festival commission, Pound for Pound, while Garnett's post-Katrina piece, New for New Orleans, was a more modern emotional maelstrom.

The folksier melodies linger, though. As Carter said, the way the music of the Appalachians wove together Scottish and Irish elements with West African and other strains is another reminder that all musics are connected. Her 21st century take on the same blend certainly connected with London in the most enjoyable way.

Trumpeter Yazz Ahmed's opening set, confined to half an hour, seemed over almost as soon as she and her band got warmed up. That didn't leave much of an impression of her interestingly layered music except that she composes somewhat Eastern melodies, George Crowley sounds great on bass clarinet, and Martin France on drums and Dudley Philips on bass work beautifully together. If the festival organisers want to support new talent they perhaps they need to allow them a bit more breathing space than this.

LINK: Review: Yazz Ahmed's Family Hafla

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NEWS: Winners Announced in the 28th British Jazz Awards

Alec Dankworth. Photo credit: Melody McLaren



Big Bear Music in Birmingham have announced the results of the 28th edition of the longest-standing jazz awards in the UK. The final round has been determined by a public vote, in which the public was not restricted to the shortlisted artists from the awards' nominator panel. Indeed, there are a number of artists who have made it into the final listings who were not shortlisted (SHORTLISTS HERE). There is no sponsor so there is not expected to be an awards bash. Congratulations to all listed below - winners are in capital letters:

TRUMPET

1. STEVE WATERMAN
2. Enrico Tomasso
3. Bruce Adams
4. Steve Fishwick
5. Freddie Gavita

ALTO SAX

1. SOWETO KINCH
2. Pete King
3. Alan Barnes
4. Derek Nash
5. Sam Mayne

GUITAR

1. JIM MULLEN
2. Martin Taylor
3. Nigel Price
4. Dominic Ashworth
5. Remi Harris

MISCELLANEOUS

1. JIM HART [VIBRAPHONE]
2. Alan Barnes [Baritone Sax]
3. Chris Garrick [Violin]
4. Amy Roberts [Flute]
5. Gareth Lockrane [Flute]

TROMBONE

1. MARK NIGHTINGALE
2. Dennis Rollins
3. Roy Williams
4. Ian Bateman
5. Mark Bassey

TENOR SAX

1. KAREN SHARP
2. Simon Spillett
3. Art Themen
4. Robert Fowler
5. Alex Garnett

BASS

1. ALEC DANKWORTH
2. Dave Green
3. Len Skeat
4. Andrew Cleyndert
5. Al Swainger

VOCALS

1. LIANE CARROLL
2. Tina May
3. Claire Martin
4. Anita Wardell
5. Lauren Kinsella

CLARINET

1. ALAN BARNES
2. Pete Long
3. Julian Stringle
4. Mark Crooks
5. Shabaka Hutchings

PIANO

1. DAVE NEWTON
2. Zoe Rahman
3. Nikki Iles
4. Gareth Williams
5. Reuben James

DRUMS

1. STEVE BROWN
2. Seb Rochford
3. Bobby Worth
4. Ralph Salmins
5. Clark Tracey

RISING STAR

1. REUBEN JAMES
2. Remi Harris
3. Laura Jurd
4. Alan Benzie
5. Ben Holder

BIG BAND

1. BBC BIG BAND
2. NYJO
3. Back To Basie
4. Beats & Pieces
5. SNJO

SMALL GROUP

1. DIGBY FAIRWEATHER'S HALF DOZEN
2. GoGo Penguin
3. Brassjaw
4. Tipitina
5. Polar Bear





NEW CD

1. WOODVILLE RECORDS – MARTIN TAYLOR/ ALAN BARNES – TWO FOR THE ROAD
2. Linn Records – Claire Martin- Say It Isn't So
3. Hep Records – Tina May – Divas
4. Gondwana Records – GoGo Penguin - v2.0
5. Jazizit Records – Derek Nash / Funkerdeen

REISSUE CD

1. AVID RECORDS – STAN TRACEY – 3 CLASSIC ALBUMS
2. Fresh Sound Records – The Jazz Makers & The Jazz Five
3. Lake Records – Chris Barber - 1959-60
4. Fresh Sound Records – Joe Harriott Quintet - Southern Horizons / Free Form / Abstract
5. Polygram Records – Joe Harriott Double Quintet, "Indo-Jazz Suite"

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REVIEW: Kneebody at Ronnie Scott's (EFG London Jazz Festival)

Kneebody

(Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club. 22nd November 2014. EFG London Jazz Festival. Review by Michael Underwood)

Last night, Kneebody performed in the UK for the first time. The band was formed 13 years ago in Santa Monica California, so the question must be: why has the UK audience been kept from experiencing this incredible band for quite so long?

Kneebody absolutely rocked Ronnie Scott’s last, playing to an audience of which only 20 percent had actually heard of the band. Drum Battle started off the gig, immediately capturing the room and launching into an eclectic drum groove with an extended horn head. Saxophonist and composer of this tune, Ben Wendel, offered up an exciting and gung-ho solo, leading seamlessly back into the melody. Reminiscent of a Michael Brecker a cappella introduction, Wendel’s solo sax intro on Still Play displayed his incredible fluency on the instrument alongside his beautiful tone and dynamic circular breathing skills. Wendel blew awe-inspiring solos all night, maintaing an energy that never seemed to lapse.

Adam Benjamin on Rhodes impressed the whole gig with his ability to non-intrusively add colour and interest to every tune. Using effects to distort and contort the classic Rhodes sound, he contributed three tunes and pulled out linear harmonic gems throughout the night.

Influenced by his home town of Denver, Colorado, trumpeter Shane Endsley’s tune Cha Cha showed off the layers within Kneebody and how everything stems from a drum and bass groove. Nate Wood is such a solid yet fluid drummer who is a master of odd time signatures and provides the perfect platform for Kneebody’s cross-rhythms and melodic complexities. Both Endsley and Wendel used effects throughout the night which gave the music a whole new dimension with etherial sounds and booming echoes. Endsley’s angular and thematically developmental solos throughout the night were a joy to listen to.

The whole band seemed to be constantly engaged with the music whether it was trumpet backings doubled in fourths behind a Rhodes solo, or Wendel playing a ride cymbal pattern over a drum groove. The band have a great sense of time, in a way that nothing ever seems too long, boring or drawn out. Everything has its place and they are masters of keeping energy and engagement at a maximum.

Bassist Kaveh Rastegar, provided just one quirky and inventive solo on the night and says of the band: “Personally, I think calling Kneebody “jazz” or “electric jazz” is fantastic because then we can move on from that hang up and play our music — and alter expectations of what ‘jazz’ is.”.

Kneebody is a shapeshifter of a band, able to intuitively chop and change with the utmost freedom whilst maintaing deep grooves, complex melodies and roaring solos. Whether it’s the secret musical cues that they have honed from 13 years of playing together or because they are a band who’s musical and non-musical personalities are stuck together like glue, they are a huge force to be reckoned with.  Come back soon!

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REVIEW: Roy Hargrove Quintet at Ronnie Scott's (EFG London Jazz Festival)

Roy Hargrove Quintet
(Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club. 22nd November 2014, EFG London Jazz Festival. Review by Michael Underwood)

Roy Hargrove’s smart-suited quintet took to the stage at Ronnie Scotts to deliver an extremely enjoyable and witty performance, full of quality, finesse and humour, executed by five musicians at the top of their game.The band has an impressive intuitiveness, all are sensitive to Hargrove’s every move.

Saxophonist Justin Robinson delivered highly energetic and harmonically intriguing solos full of cleverly manipulated bop language, his relentless energy perhaps sometimes too much  in contrast to Hargrove’s more laid back approach.

Impressive pianist Sullivan Fortner always seemed to be on hand to offer a breath of fresh air after burning sax solos. Early in the set on a latin tune, his intricate contrapuntal lines combined perfectly with his ability to create thoughtful, intriguing and relatable solos. Later in the set a version of Strasbourg St Denis opened out into an unaccompanied piano solo where Fortner went to town, veering away from the tune with complex ideas. A bluesy shuffle number then further demonstrated his amazing stylistic flexibility and range.

Bassist Ameen Saleem shone in two ballad-like tunes, when his reflective soloing had a great use of space, and exceptional placement of notes.

Elegant brushwork from drummer Quincy Phillips gave Hargrove the opportunity to blo w a quirky solo whilst retaining a sense of continuity. Considering the detailed and engaging ballad work that the band had set up, I found Robinson’s solo to be slightly overpowering, blowing the bands excellent dynamic control out of the water.

A highlight of the gig was Hargrove taking to the mic to sing the jazz standard, Never Let Me Go, with a remarkably beautiful tone. A real storyteller, Hargrove’s rendition was perfectly complemented by the band. This tune segued into a rock groove on top of which a comically crafted version of Earth, Wind and Fire’s Fantasy was played. What a nice surprise!

All in all, this gig had something for everyone. Moving effortlessly from style to style and groove to groove, there is an exciting freshness about this group, moving forward whilst playing music harking back to bygone decades.

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REVIEW: Ibrahim Maalouf at the QEH (2014 EFG London Jazz Festival)

Ibrahim Maaalouf. EFG London Jazz Festival 2014
Photo Credit: John L Walters


Ibrahim Maalouf
(Queen Elizabeth Hall, 19th November 2014, EFG London Jazz Festival. Review by John L Walters)

Paris-based Lebanon-born Ibrahim Maalouf is a flamboyant trumpeter-bandleader in a tradition that includes Dizzy Gillespie, Arturo Sandoval and Lester Bowie. Classically trained, he has a formidable technique, and he plays a quarter-tone trumpet with an extra valve that enables him to play between the notes of the chromatic scale. He’s an accomplished composer whose music draws on Arabic pop music, jazz-funk, heavy rock and subtle, Miles-influenced jazz – his acoustic quintet album Wind (which features saxophonist Mark Turner) was one of the best releases of 2013.

His current eight-strong band focuses on the more bombastic Illusions (2013), which includes three additional trumpeters (one of whom also switches to binioù, a Breton bagpipe, for the encore). Maalouf is an accomplished composer, with a gift for catchy riffs and tunes that stick in the brain, and Illusions is a more varied and nuanced work than its live realisation might indicate.

Wednesday’s gig for the London Jazz Festival was more World Music show – albeit with jazz chops – than jazz concert. Maalouf’s musicians play as if they are in a stadium, or a festival, reaching out as if to the furthest corner of a tent-filled field. I understand why they do this, but there are times when Maalouf’s tunes deserve more light and shade. In among excellent tunes such as Conspiracy Generation, Busy and True Sorry we are treated to extended, hard rock guitar solos and a drum solo that overstays its welcome.

Fortunately Maalouf’s own improvisations always hit the spot, and there were plenty of moments of joyful music-making: engaging solos, catchy melodies, virtuosic cadenzas, including a terrific trumpet-drums duet with Stéphane Galland.

Maalouf also creates a warm rapport with the enthusiastic crowd. He asks whether we know Beirut (from his 2011 album Diagnostic). When half of us raise our hands he demands good-humouredly that we all sing its lengthy, serpentine melody a cappella. At another moment he coaxes some tuneful whistling from the stalls.

There’s plenty of showbiz business, but there’s a lot of good music, too. Maalouf has quickly become one of the most convincing and entertaining exponents of world jazz on the scene – he’s on an unstoppable career ascent, and it would be great to hear more of him in London. However to hear Maalouf’s distinctive and original take on the jazz tradition, turn down the lights, close your eyes and listen to Wind.

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PREVIEW/ INTERVIEW: Allison Neale's I Wished on the Moon CD launch (606 Club, Weds 26th Nov)

Allison Neale

Alto saxophonist Allison Neale will launch her third album "I wished on the Moon" (Trio Records) at the 606 Club this Wednesday 26th November. Sebastian interviewed her by email:

LondonJazz News: You are known as a "West Coast" saxophonist, and although you live in London, you were actually born on the West Coast of the US. What's the story ?

Allison Neale: Yes I was born in Seattle, Washington but came to the UK when I was very young after my father an aeronautics engineer, left the Boeing Aircraft company.

LJN: Was music always a big part of your life ?

AN: My father was a huge jazz fan although not a musician himself, and I grew up listening to all his records. He was into many of the players from the West Coast, including Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker and also many great guitarists like Joe Pass and Jim Hall and of course Wes Montgomery. I was lucky enough to hear so many great artists from a young age.

LJN: This is your third album, who joined you on the first two?

AN: I feel very honoured to have recorded with the most wonderful guitarist Dave Cliff who appeared on my first album Melody Express and then again on Blue Concept with trumpeter Gary Kavanagh, who played with the great pianist Barry Harris.

LJN: What influenced the choices of tunes on this album ?

AN: The standard tunes we're chosen purely because I love improvising on them. I have always felt strongly about playing on the standards as they are the main vehicle of expression for improvisers like myself. The other tunes are compositions written or recorded by Art Pepper with the addition of vibraphone to create a different feel as a unison frontline.

LJN: You did it “as live” with no repairs?

AN: I wanted the album to be a true reflection of how we sound as a band. This was mainly how the great players recorded and I feel it is something you should be able to do as a jazz musician. I wanted to create 50's feel, so we recorded straight onto tape the old fashioned way. It gives a warmer sound to the whole session.

LJN: Are you honouring the alto players that have influenced you?

AN: Yes it's a tribute to the great West Coast altoists that have influenced my playing style..Art Pepper mainly and also Lee Konitz, Bud Shank and Paul Desmond.

LJN: Who are the other players and what do they bring?

AN: The band includes Leon Greening on piano, Julian Bury on bass, Steve Brown on drums and Nathaniel Steele on vibraphone. These musicians are dedicated to bebop as an art form and we have been friends and colleagues for so many years. I can't think of anything better than to play with musicians who really swing and inspire me so much as they all do.

LJN: Where can people hear get to hear you, and where can they get the album?

AN: In the first place at our launch gig for the album at the 606 club this Wednesday, and you can find me on the jazz circuit in London and around the UK. Details can be found on allisonneale.com . The album is on sale from the Trio Records website

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REVIEW: Tomasz Stanko New York Quartet, Stefano Bollani and Hamilton de Holanda at the Barbicam (2014 EFG LJF)

Tomasz Stanko

Tomasz Stanko New York Quartet plus Stefano Bollani and Hamilton de Holanda

(Barbican. 21st November 2014, EFG London Jazz Festival. Review by Michael Underwood)

Straight to the point: the duo of pianist Stefano Bollani and Hamilton De Holanda (playing a 10-string mandolin) completely blew me away, and gave me one of the best musical experiences I’ve ever had.

For an hour and a half they had the Barbican audience completely transfixed, showcasing astounding virtuosity and stunning duo playing all tied together with superb choice of repertoire and humorous episodes.

It was the optimum of duo playing. Their management of textures was so clever and the whole concert felt so open and improvised while at the same time so neat, crisp and rehearsed. Contrapuntal lines flourished from sporadic and seemingly improvised passages. Melodies on many tunes were so complex they sounded like linear extracts inspired by the most difficult classical concerto.

Bollani has such a wonderful touch and is able to make the piano sing, even during fast, semiquaver runs up and down the instrument. He reminded me so much of Thelonious Monk, always moving a part of his body, walking around, clapping, tapping the piano, whistling and cracking jokes. De Holanda, on the other hand, remained in situ, focused in the most relaxed way.

By contrast, I was rather disappointed by the set played by Tomasz Stanko and his New York Quartet. Maybe it was partly due to the incredible, joyous first half, however it seemed slightly lacklustre and disengaging.

With a short fragment of melody to start the set, Stanko set straight to improving with a thoughtfully restrained solo over dischordal comping from pianist David Virelles. A subdued bass from Thomas Morgan solo led into an building drum solo from Gerald Cleaver. After taking it to the limit of snare monotony, he finally released into some interesting rhythmic ideas.

The second tune of the set demonstrated Tomasz’ breathy yet sweet sound on a meandering cola voce tune. Virelles is clearly a world-class pianist and provided many interesting and highly detailed solos throughout the night, but maybe this music with a sometimes intangibe quality didn’t quite suit his playing.

Tomasz Stanko has done so much for European jazz, in the history of  which he has a  unique place. and he is a trumpeter with a unique tone and melodic voice. But at times even a great master can lose the audience, and that- is what seemed to be happening on Thursday.

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REVIEW: Charnett Moffett solo at King's Place (2014 EFG LJF)

Charnett Moffett in Bremen 2014
Photo Credit: Nigel Slee

Charnett Moffett solo
King's Place Hall One, November 22nd 2014. EFG London Jazz Festival. Review by Jon Turney)


When he has everything set up to his liking, bassist Charnett Moffett stays centre stage and does a few stretches and neck twists, like a gymnast about to throw something special into a competition. It seems natural. In the bass-playing Olympics, he would walk away with the gold every time.

It is not just that he is a jaw-dropping virtuoso, although of course he is. Technique here serves deep feeling, as it should. So, for once, does technology. He plays a slimline upright, heavily amplified in the way that makes for a light action but once upon a time made super fast bass players sound as if they had hold of a bunch of rubber bands (remember all those interminable Eddie Gomez solos in the 1970s and 1980s?).

Those days are gone. Although there is not much wood in the sound, this cleverly electrified instrument projects a beautiful resonance. Add Moffett's mastery of plucking, rhythmic bow-bouncing, and thumb slapping, well as a clutch of effects pedals - echo, fuzz, even some wah-wah - and his ability to play rhythm and lead, call and response, simultaneously, and a man becomes an orchestra.

That's apparent from the off, when he opens with Caravan, long a solo feature for the Manhattan Jazz Quintet, and the opener on his recent solo CD, The Bridge. And that is the core programme for the concert. There is plenty of spontaneity here, and affable spoken intros, but these are pieces he has worked on long and lovingly, to locate the essence of each song. Eleanor Rigby becomes the saddest it has ever been. On All Blues, the beauty of the melody glows with minimal adornment. Haitian Fight Song brings Mingus's passion back to life.

Once or twice, it seems as if Moffett will use every effect on every tune, but the brilliance and variety of the performance of each of them is a fine trade off. The bass is, by turns, a giant gypsy violin, a flamenco guitar, giving forth funk flourishes or Hendrixian howls. Mostly, though, it is throwing implausibly rapid high-tone flurries against rhythm low, low down. Gary Crosby gave his multi-generation bass presentation at last year's LJF the happy title Lords of the Lower Register. Moffett is another peer of that realm, and of all the other registers the instrument can reach. And he has the advantage over the athletes. Talent like this allied to so much discipline means the performance can just go on getting better and better.

The astonishments of that bass will stay in the mind, but shouldn't squeeze out recollection of the excellent brief set beforehand from Jean Toussaint's quartet. All four players - Toussaint, Troy Miller on drums, Larry Bartley on bass and Andrew McCormack on keys - shone, but the pianist positively sparkled, especially on his own, closing composition. Real class there.

LINK: Charnett Moffett solo in Montreal July 2014

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REVIEW: Nikki Iles / Royal Academy of Music Big Band at the QEH (2014 EFG London Jazz Festival)


Nikki Iles / Royal Academy of Music Big Band
{Queen Elizabeth Hall, 22nd November 2014. EFG London Jazz Festival. Review and photo by Mike Collins)

A glance round the stage from conductor Nick Smart, a beat or two of the hand and few rich chords rang out, spread across the big band sections with a deft arranger’s hand, evoking a soaring wistful beauty. Lump in throat. It was a catch the breath moment and the fragile melody over a quietly propulsive groove was almost a relief. The title Hush of the opening tune of this set of Nikki Iles’ music described the atmosphere as well as the tune.

The tunes were familiar to anyone who has listened to the bands Nikki has played and recorded with over the last twenty years from the Veils Quintet, her trio (most recently recording Hush) and the award winning Printmakers. Arranging the pieces for big band has given them an added depth and richness with a huge emotional punch.

The varied textures and grooves inspired some powerful solos. On that opener, a warm toned melodic burst from Tom Barford on tenor had us sitting up. On Under the Canopy, Sam Glaser’s alto cried and swooped evoking other worldly images. Highlands opened with a dancing, swirling duet between piano and Tom Ridout on virtuosic recorder. Another standout moment, before the driving pulse gave way to a full on, rock out guitar solo from Rob Luft. There was space for voice too, both blending with the arrangements and Miriam Ast delivering Norma Winstone's lyric on the Brazilian-tinged Tideways with confidence and clarity. Iles may have been composer/arranger, but her playing was another highlight with characteristically melodic lines developing whenever she took a solo, deceptively light at times with glancing grace notes sliding off the beat but always digging into the groove.

What holds these pieces together is the strength of the melodies and beautifully crafted structure. It’s a great reminder that in Nikki Iles the UK scene has a distinctive writer and, on this showing, arranger. Stan Sulzmann also contributed a few arrangements and both seem to draw on the colours and cadences opened up by Kenny Wheeler deploying them with their own characteristic twists. Its joyful music, sometimes tinged with a bittersweet melancholy.

A few education-related references and announcements in mid gig reminded us that this was a band of students with just a few days rehearsal to master these arrangements. Well we knew that I guess, but all we were hearing was beautiful music played with passion and commitment.

The Royal Academy Big Band

Lindsay Breydon - flute
Sam Glaser – alto
Jim Gold – alto
Tom Ridout – tenor (and recorder)
Tom Barford – tenor
Greg Barker - baritone/ bass clarinet

Louis Dowdeswell – trumpet
James Copus – trumpet
Alistair Martin – trumpet
Tom Gardner - trumpet

Owen Dawson – trombone
Oliver Martin – trombone
Elliot Pooley – trombone
Alex Kelly - bass trombone
Alexei Watkins - french horn

Miriam Ast – vocals
Rob Luft – guitar
Ralph Wyld - vibes
Flo Moore – Double bass
Marc Michel – drums

Nick Smart - Conductor

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TRIBUTE: Edu Hawkins remembers David Redfern (1936-2014)

David Redfern and Edu Hawkins at their joint exhibition at the Southbank Centre,
LJF, 2013 Photo Credit: John Watson/jazzcamera.co.uk

Edu Hawkins worked closely with David Redfern, and remembers him in this personal tribute:

Buddy Rich (photo below) labelled David Redfern ‘the greatest jazz photographer in the world’,and the British Journal of Photography recently remembered him as ‘the king of jazz photography’. David, the first European to be presented with the Milt Hinton Lifetime Achievement Award for Jazz Photography, and recipient of the 2014 Parliamentary Award for Services to Jazz, belonged to an elite group of photographers without whom it is impossible to imagine the visual history of music. He founded the world’s largest music picture archive, and was responsible for some of the most significant pictures in this genre for over half a century.

Buddy Rich 1969
David Redfern/Redferns, courtesy Getty Images


We first met when I worked as an intern at David’s picture library; I had been familiar with his work for a number of years and was keen to learn more. He was affable and unassuming - the consummate gentleman – and, much to my surprise, was the one making me cups of tea. I would spend each day in his company, incessantly questioning him about every detail of his pictures, and he would offer some of his many anecdotes from a lifetime of photographing musicians. In the years that followed, we became very good friends, speaking regularly with each other, usually over a meal or a drink, and shared many experiences of gigs both at home and abroad.



Dexter Gordon once described David as ‘the Cartier-Bresson of jazz’, which seems apt. Cartier-Bresson coined the term ‘the decisive moment’ and David’s pictures seemed to be a crystallisation of the decisive musical moment. They showed empathy for the music and exploited the spontaneity of photography, a characteristic mirrored by the artists who were their subject. They echoed the drama, energy, movement and passion of the music itself. Beyond this, David captured the ephemeral.

Chuck Israels, Bill Evans, 1965
David Redfern/Redferns, courtesy Getty Images

Miles Davis once said “Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there”, and I was taken by the fact that David’s pictures did just that; the music itself was absent, but these images evoked the sense of the music.

I learned an enormous amount just from being around David and watching how he worked. He was unobtrusive, respectful and relaxed, while his eye for the defining picture enabled him to be economical in his shooting. I wonder how many photographers, given exclusive access to Hendrix at the Albert Hall, would take just 36 frames all evening? David did, and these are some of the defining pictures of Hendrix. Even when he switched to digital, he might sit and watch for ten minutes at a time without touching the shutter; he would just sit and wait for everything to fall into place for that one shot.

Sonny Rollins, 1967
David Redfern/Redferns, courtesy Getty Images

In keeping with his understated style, David was not one to lavish praise. He could be a man of few words and favoured subtle encouragement and support; those special moments have stayed with me. When I was starting out, we shared a drink and discussed how hard it is for people starting these days. ‘It’s very difficult,’ he said, and then paused… ‘Hey, listen… you’ll get there, I can assure you of that.’ A few years later, he drove down to Oxford to see my first exhibition. After the show, someone asked him what he thought of it. ‘Yeah, it’s cool…’, he responded with a smile, ‘…the boy done good!’

Exactly a year ago, I was lucky enough to share an exhibition with David at the Southbank Centre for the London Jazz Festival. The aim was to celebrate the history of the jazz image, to give an insight into the values that we shared as photographers, and to express our shared vision and love of the music. This was his greatest gesture of support for me; to see my pictures hanging alongside David’s - that was something special, and one of the proudest moments of my life.

From being around David, I have come to realise that it takes more than an eye to be a top music photographer, and my appreciation of his work has evolved over the years. As well as his eye, these pictures were the product of an amiable man whose subtle determination and optimism, even in the most adverse circumstances, ensured that he made his own luck in his career. At first, I appreciated the way that he cut to the sense of the decisive musical moment, but his pictures also reveal the man behind the lens; not simply the vision of a master photographer, but the personality of a dear friend. David was the reason I first picked up a camera and I will always be grateful to him for setting the perfect example of how things should be done.

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REVIEW: Marcus Miller at Royal Festival Hall (EFG London Jazz Festival 2014)

Marcus Miller. Photo credit: Roger Thomas

Marcus Miller
(Royal Festival Hall. 21st November 2014, EFG London Jazz Festival. Review by Joe Stoddart)

Having appeared on over 350 albums over a 37 year career with artists as diverse as Miles Davis, The Brecker Brothers, Chaka Khan and McCoy Tyner, bass legend  Marcus Miller has carved out an indelible mark on both the jazz and popular music spheres. Last night he was mainly performing material from his forthcoming album, working title 'Afrodezia', based on collaborations with musicians from Africa, South America, the Caribbean and the USA.

Miller (resplendent in his ubiquitous pork pie hat) joined the stage shortly after the rest of his 8-piece band and launched in to Hylife. The African influence was immediately evident, aided by vocal contributions from Senagalese bassist and singer Alioune Wade and the Malian Kora player Cherif Soumano. The band then changed the mood completely, continuing with The Temptations' Motown classic 'Papa Was A Rollin' Stone'. Excellent solos from both Lee Hogans (trumpet) and Adam Agati (guitar) followed Miller's interpretation of the melody and what was very clear was the huge amount of interaction on stage, swapping between shadowing Hogans during his solo to orchestrating grooves with Alioune Wade.

After the kora-led B's River, the band opened up considerably for Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde from 2012's Renaissance.  a piece of two contrasting sections, the second of which is a heavy groove that lends the backdrop to superb solos from Alex Han (sax), Agati and 22-year-old Brett Williams (piano/keyboards). The band continued in a similar vein with We Were There in tribute to George Duke. The use of an octave pedal actually made it a lot easier to hear Miller clearly (which was not the case for a disappointing amount of the gig) and his highly technical yet musical use of slap bass was wonderful to hear.

Miller swapped to bass clarinet for Island Of Goree, an island off the coast of Senegal where slaves used to be kept before being sent out on slave ships. A visit to the island is what started Miller on what has become his forthcoming album and the song is written about transcending oppressive situations, particularly through music. This feeling of transcendence does indeed come across very well through the piece, building intensely under Han's soprano sax to a glorious climax. The band returned to a mroe groove based vibe for set closer Detroit before Wade and Guimba Kouyate (Guitar) returned for encore tunes Extraordinary and Blast. The first was a smoother. more down tempo affair featuring Miller on fretless bass before 'Blast' gave nearly all the members of the band a chance to solo including some trading between Miller and Adama Dembele on percussion and a fantastic bass solo by Alioune Wade which was enough to give Miller a run for his money.

All in all an excellent gig of varied music with both individual and group musicianship of an extremely high level throughout.

Set List:

Hylife
Papa Was A Rollin' Stone
B's River
Dr. Jekyll & Mr Hyde
We Were There
Island Of Goree
Detroit

Encore: Extraordinary
Blast

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REVIEW Kenny Barron and Dave Holland Duo at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (2014 EFG LJF)

Kenny Barron, Dave Holland, QEH, Nov 2014. Photo Credit: Roger Thomas


Kenny Barron and Dave Holland Duo
(QEH, 21st November 2014. EFG LJF. Review by Peter Vacher)


Pianist Kenny Barron and former home-town bassist Dave Holland were playing the final concert in a long series of European appearances in support of their album The Art of Conversation. They had spoken in a pre-performance interview of the need to listen and to respond intuitively in a duo situation, to go where the music takes you. And so it did. While clearly respectful of each other, it was heartening to see the way each would throw cues and elicit responses in each of the pieces they played, sometimes trading an idea back and forth, in eights and fours. Theirs was a proper partnership, a true meeting of equals.

Barron is above all a literate player, calm at the keyboard with no need for bombast or grandstanding, a master of jazz procedure, never seemingly short of an idea or an elegantly shaped response. Quick-fingered and relaxed, his is classic modern jazz piano, with momentary hints of the past, a sense of the whole history of the music in the approach while Holland is an almost mesmeric performer, his touch and command allowing him to set and meet challenges that one fears might break a lesser musician. While his solos were undeniably complex and his virtuosity never in doubt, their shape and direction was always clear to see.

Their programme combined originals by both men, two by Holland conceived as tributes respectively to Kenny Wheeler - ‘A Waltz for Wheeler’ - and the jaunty Pass It On for New Orleans drummer Ed Blackwell, these interspersed with compositions by Charlie Parker and a storming reading of Thelonious Monk ‘s In Walked Bud’. All had their rewards none more so than Barron’s ‘Calypso, a remembrance of his early days in Brooklyn playing with West Indian bands, its very perky theme calling for some startlingly adroit work from both men, before it turned into a danceable Barron romp. Both men spoke eloquently about their choices; more to the point the music they created had that wonderful in-the-moment creativity that distinguishes the best in jazz.

Earlier, ‘Singapore’s King of Swing’, pianist Jeremy Monteiro, an EFG-supported artist, had played an invigorating set with Calum Gourlay on bass and the very sensitive yet resourceful Thai drummer Hong [Chanutr Techetana-nan]. Mr Monteiro occupies that jazz interesting hinterland also populated by pianists like Jacques Diéval and the late Dudley Moore, each rendition like an entity in itself, largely pre-structured but always swinging and invariably engaging. The unbilled appearance by singer Melissa Chan, an elegant young woman who is a Monteiro protégé, proved to be as pleasurable as it was unexpected.

Hats off to Serious for this one, arguably the perfect jazz concert. Two consummate musicians at the height of their game, a newcomer determined to make a mark, a surprise addition and a pre-concert talk that was both illuminating and entertaining. No wonder the packed crowd erupted into a cacophony of whoops and calls for more at its end.

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REVIEW: Liam Noble Trio/ Mike Chillingworth Group at the Con Cellar Bar (2014 EFG LJF)

Liam Noble, Dave Whitford, Dave Wickens
Con Cellar Bar, Nov 2014. Photo by Mike Collins 


Liam Noble Trio/ Mike Chillingworth Group
(Con Cellar Bar. 21st Nov 2014. EFG London Jazz Festival. Review by Mike Collins)

Blue Rondo a la Turk brought the curtain down and quite possibly the house too, on a dazzling set by Liam Noble’s trio on Friday, judging by whoops and cheers that reverberated round the tiny Con Cellar from the audience so packed in that the only hope of exit was by crowd surfing. Pianist Noble has an utterly distinctive voice and approach. Tunes you thought you knew, bend and distort in his hands sliding off in all directions then flexing, tantalisingly, back into a nearly recognisable form.

In Dave Whitford and Dave Wickens on bass and drums respectively, he has two co-conspirators who follow his every move. Blue Rondo started with flurries of arpeggios and jagged rhythms, veering off int strange tonalities. Then Whitford and Wickens picked up on a rhythmic figure and a wonky vamp developed before the mists cleared and the familiar racing theme kicked in. The interaction in the trio was electric and instinctive. Wickens was conjuring all manner of strange tones from the minimal kit whilst infectiously liquid grooves unfolded. On La Paloma Azul, a weird chiming sound was suddenly somehow echoed in Noble harmonisation of the affecting melody before it spiralled off into a fluid singing solo. Melody sounded like the key to this absorbing and by turns exhilarating set. No matter how far the connection was stretched through the distorting lens of the band’s imagination, it was always there at the heart.

The second set of this double header offered a delicious contrast. “These aren’t really tunes” mused Mike Chillingworth as he introduced the first piece, Brian Koo, in the set of his compositions for a septet of formidable musicians. The frontline of two tenors (Josh Arcoleo and Tom Challenger) bass clarinet (George Crowley) and alto (Chillingworth himself) conjured some amazing sounds. The ripple of notes from the four horns harmonised in close dissonant intervals echoed by Ralph Wylde’s vibes produced an unearthly ringing sound to kick things off. It had me checking there weren’t any tricky electronics under a seat somewhere. With Sam Lasserson’s bass and Jon Scott’s drums locked with the stabbing rhythms and providing a driving very hip groove, it was an arresting opening. With more closely arranged, repeating figures and rhythms providing the setting for the other pieces these certainly weren’t hummable tunes as the leader had implied, but it was an exciting set.

Early on Josh Arcoleo pulled out a burning solo bouncing off the motifs and rhythms in the theme to raise the temperature. The more moody vibe of the The Wait changed the atmosphere a bit and then Grateful Lady had a definite wonky riff over a rocky groove, still with some rasping dissonance underneath before first Chillingworth and then Challenger let rip with some energetic blowing.

 Two exciting, varied sets made for a great London Jazz Festival evening at the Con.

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REVIEW: Chucho Valdés at Kings Place (2014 EFG LJF)

Chucho Valdés.
Photo credit: Carlos Delgado/ Creative Commons


Chucho Valdés Solo
(Kings Place Hall One. 21st November 2014. EFG London Jazz Festival. Second night of three. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

Irresistible, unforgettable. The 73-year old Cubn-born pianist Chucho Valdés (full name Dionisio de Jesús Valdés Rodríguez) mesmerised a packed and satisfied Kings Place Hall One with what we tend lazily to call a masterclass (his almost wordless way of doing one of those - in the afternoon prior to the concert - is explained below).

To learn an artistic credo from Valdés, one need look no further than one telling gesture in the interview he did on video for Kings Place in June. At two key points, when he uses the word "compatibiles" those huge hands interlock. (LINK HERE). Valdés' recital was a demonstration of how different strands in music - jazz, Afro-Cuban, classical -  do indeed become compatible under those hands.

With the massive orchestral sound he is capable of deriving from a Steinway, he also used the bright acoustic of Kings Place Hall One as his instrument. This hall was designed for music to be played unamplified, and to let the colours come out, and it was a joy to hear it resonate with such a carefree demonstration of the art of fine piano playing. The 1929 Gershwin tune Liza/ All the Clouds Roll Away, played with infectiously hard swing, seemed to sum up the character of the man.

The juxtapositions are extraordinary. In Jerome Kern's Yesterdays, both Beethoven and Rachmaninov seemed to be invited onto the stage. In Arlen's Over the Rainbow, we not only had Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, but also a few safely-grazing arpeggiating sheep from Bach crossing the stage too. Brubeck's The Duke was played coquettishly, for laughs; and got them.

So if the concert was the masterclass, what was the masterclass in the afternoon, introduced by Katrina Duncan all about? Chucho Valdés asked if anyone wanted to come on. As had been pre-arranged, Royal Academy of Music student Will Barry came on. What would he like to play, asked Valdés? He played Like Someone in Love, well and sensitively. Would he like to play another one, asks Valdés. Stella by Starlight. Valdés, thoughtful, simply reaffirmed the values and qualities he had liked in Barry's playing: "A beautiful sound. Sensitivity. Very fluid. Very good" Then Valdés sat down at the piano himself, and played the same tune, Stella. It was far slower, infinitely roomier. Valdés started building an extra commentary into the tune and engaging in a dialogue between the tune and the new elements and patterns he was bringing to it. Applause.

Perhaps if there is a lesson to be learnt from both the masterclass and from the concert- (masterclass), the best teaching is done by doing, and by people who really can. Valdés is on again tonight. Queue for returns, and here's hoping he'll be back.

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