CD REVIEW: Gill Cook - Morning With You


Gill Cook - Morning With You
(Mainstem MSTCD0058. CD Review by Frank Griffith)


Vocalist Gill Cook celebrates a wide variety of composers and styles on her second release for the venerable and respected Mainstem label run by David Hays. She clearly demonstrates a significant vocal talent and is joined by a wonderful team of musicians complementing her distinctive and intimate style excellently.Bobby Darin's New York on Sunday, a nice easy swinger establishes the mood effectively as an opening track with the assistance of bassist, Dominick Howles' superb arrangement. I also enjoyed Gill's re invention of Black Coffee and Carole King's understated song, Stand Behind Me enhanced by trumpeter Steve Waterman's supportive riffs and obbligati. Howles' unique and sparkling arrangement of Prefab Sprout's (yeah, really) When Love Breaks Down also scores highly bringing out a lighthearted and quirky side to Gill's vocal ouevre. Her own composition, the title track, also delivers wonderfully with her interpretation of a modern theme and sentiment.

Hats off to the talents of drummer Matt Fishwick and pianist Nick Tomalin, both stand-out sideman and soloists in their own right. Good on you, Gill, for this latest offering which increases the appetite for the next offering from the Mainstem label. 


Link: Brian Blain's review of the launch gig for this album

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PREVIEW: Undream'd Shores. Grand Union Orchestra 30th Anniversary Concert. (Hackney Empire, Nov 1 + 2

Grand Union Orchestra

Grand Union Orchestra is thirty years old this year. Founder and Artistic Director Tony Haynes writes about the background to "Undream'd Shores", two concerts at Hackney Empire to celebrate this significant birthday for this important organization in the musical life of East London. Tony writes:   

In 1984, the Greater London Council commissioned Grand Union – which had already made its reputation touring two remarkable music-theatre shows Jelly Roll Soul and Strange Migration – to produce a work to celebrate its Year Against Racism. In collaboration with co-founders John Cumming, David Bradford and Julie Eaglen I came up with The Song of Many Tongues, which under the auspices of Alternative Arts was first performed to a large and wonderfully responsive crowd on a glorious September afternoon in the Covent Garden piazza. Thus the Grand Union Orchestra was born.

30 years later GUO is still going as strong as ever, and of course its musical reach has broadened enormously. There is still a remarkable number of leading jazz players – Chris Biscoe, Tony Kofi, Louise Elliott, Claude Deppa, Shanti Paul Jayasinha and Kevin Robinson are among those who will grace the Hackney Empire stage – and a growing roster of artists from all major musical traditions worldwide. Above all – since lyrics always under-pin the drama of GUO shows – there is an amazing range of singers.

In the meantime we have also established our own Youth Orchestra, following the model of the parent GUO; an unusual young string ensemble; and more recently a ‘world choir’. These too will be part of the Hackney Empire show.

Most of the performers are from East London, many themselves migrants or from migrant families, and this in turn has determined the theme and musical flavour of the show. For over 500 years the East End has been the focus of migration to the UK, and at a time when anti-immigration rhetoric is becoming so corrosive, it is as well to remember how immigration has enriched – and continues to enrich – our musical culture. (After all, if a similar mixing had not happened in New Orleans a century ago, we would probably not have jazz at all…)

The title of the show (borrowed from Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale) seemed to evoke aspiration, hope and even the spontaneity improvisers aim for; but what I could never have imagined  thirty years ago is that Grand Union was itself setting out for Undream’d Shores, or indeed that the journey would still be going on....

HACKNEY EMPIRE, SATURDAY NOVEMBER 1ST 7.30pm SUNDAY NOVEMBER 2ND 5.00pm. BOOKINGS

LINKS: 
Review of GUO On The Edge from 2013
Preview of GUO Liberation and Remembrance from 2012
Review of GUO If Paradise.. from 2011
Review of GUO Rhythm of Tides from 2010

Grand Union Orchestra website
Tony Haynes’s music website

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RIP Vic Ash (1930-2014)

Vic Ash

Simon Spillett, has sent the sad news that Vic Ash, one of the great British reedsmen, died earlier today. Simon, who worked extensively with Vic Ash in recent years, writes:

"With great sadness I can confirm that legendary clarinettist and saxophonist Vic Ash passed away this afternoon, aged 84.

"We have lost not only one of the founding fathers of British modern jazz, and a truly gifted instrumentalist, but one of the true gentleman of the music profession. His talent, wit and wisdom will be missed by everyone who knew him - fans and fellow players alike.

"Deepest condolences to Vic's wife Helen and their family.

Vic Ash (March 9th 1930-October 24th 2014) "

 LINKS: We reviewed Vic Ash's Quintet playing at the Concorde in Eastleigh in 2009

Lance Liddle has also reported the news

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LP REVIEW: The Grip - Celebrate




The Grip - Celebrate
(Slowfoot Records SLOLP024. LP Review by Adrian Pallant)


The concept of the acoustic, chordless jazz ensemble is very much flourishing with the likes of Brass Mask and Trio Riot – and there's no denying that the stripped-back immediacy of such instrumentation can be pretty compelling. So, putting respected musicians Finn Peters (alto sax and flute), Oren Marshall (tuba) and Tom Skinner (drums) together in the recording studio for a single day, following a number of successful live dates, perhaps unsurprisingly results in this strong, exuberant debut release, Celebrate.

Known as The Grip (both Peters and Marshall hold a connection with personnel from Arthur Blythe's classic free jazz album of the same name), the trio take advantage of their crossing, collaborative paths over the years to deliver an earthy collection of the planned and the spontaneous – in fact, multi-reedsman Finn Peters explains it as an intentional shift from his electro-acoustic project Music of the Mind which "covered the stage with wires". The mood is mobile and improvisatory, resembling the brash rhythmicity of South African township and New Orleans street music whilst also incorporating funk and hip-hop grooves – and, befittingly described as 'telepathic compositions', these nine original numbers certainly offer a heady, exhilarating ride.

Acorn immediately declares the album's character with fluent, unison alto and tuba riffs, plus a tangible empathy which allows each to solo freely and boisterously over Tom Skinner's metronomic yet open clattering (tubist and drummer know each other intuitively from their Sons of Kemet association). Deliberate yet insouciant, The 199 Blues is a true slow blues groover which showcases Peters' tirelessly gritty, fluid extemporisations; and the distinctive, vocalised embouchure of Marshall is evident throughout, most especially in cheeky, scrabbling miniature On the Tube – a priceless "vrrOOhh" here, a "bleeUUrrhh" there. The only 'standard' in Oren Marshall's book is the upright position in which he plays it, sometimes teasingly dropping in the merest sliver of a familiar quote, leaving one racking the brains for its origin!

Nails – a spacial, wistful affair with beautiful contrapuntal intertwining – finds Marshall seemingly singing his melodies through the mouthpiece an octave above the keyed register. Then, chirpily and confidently, Compost Fly gently rocks and rolls, certainly not taking itself too seriously as all three players push and pull it around at will.

Finn Peters' misterioso, echoic flute is quite affecting in Saladin (chromatics reminiscent of Debussy's Syrinx), deftly slurring the intervals between semitones, similar to its Native-American instrument counterpart, over an effective hollow drum, soft cymbal and tuba undercurrent. It's a tantalising one-track glimpse of flute, leaving a desire for more. Following, The Grip pulls no punches as the trio use its freedom to compete, amusingly, for the title of 'most outrageous', though its structured phrases bring the anarchy back in line when needed. Marvellous.

With sinister breaths, grunts and cymbal scrapes, Kailash introduces a darker landscape as Peters' alto tentatively treads its way over a single, wavering tuba drone and dull drum thud. Eerily compelling, as the sax utters bizarre screeches amongst its flowing Eastern melodies, it's easy to imagine this broadening and crescendoing out in a live setting. To close, Celebrate brightly exudes an air of 'swingin' safari', Peters' zingy saxophone bubbling over to the infectious playfulness of tuba and drums.

Sure to lift the spirits, The Grip's Celebrate is available as a limited edition vinyl, or digital download, from Slowfoot Records.

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RIP David Redfern (1936-2014)

David Redfern


The highly respected jazz photographer David Redfern has died at the age of 78. The full story is at Jazzwise, and Norman Lebrecht has written a tribute.

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PREVIEW/ INTERVIEW: Ben Brydenʼs Bright Noise (Belgium and UK Tour dates, Oct 28 to Nov 7)

Steven Delannoye (left), Ben Bryden (right)

Scottish-born, New York-based tenor saxophonist Ben Brydenʼs band Bright Noise is about to be on tour in Belgium and the UK. For the London date which closes the tour they will be in a double bill reunion at the Con Cellar Bar on Friday November 7th with fellow Scot and bandleader Euan Burton, who will be opening a UK tour with his Occurrences quartet. Nicky Schrire recently interviewed her fellow Manhattan School of Music alumnus:

LondonJazz News: Can you tell us a bit about how Bright Noise came to be and how would you describe the band’s musical landscape?

Ben Bryden: The band started the way a lot of groups that come out of music schools do – myself and fellow tenor player Steven Delannoye hung out a lot, would set up sessions and try out new music before grabbing a beer afterwards. For me it was a chance to distill everything that had been thrown at us in the jazz masters course at Manhattan School of Music in the previous week. Eventually it solidified into a band, originally with fellow students Desmond White on bass, Tim Basom on guitar and Dustin Kaufman on drums. I think the musical landscape of the band owes a lot to those early sessions, and especially the tunes that began life as homework for teachers such as David Liebman, Phil Markowitz and Garry Dial.

LJN: In the period since you graduated in 2011, the band members of Bright Noise have scattered. However, you’ve still toured internationally several years in succession and the band remains in spirit despite players (like Ben Wendel, Reinier Baas and Will Vinson and Chris Lightcap) being substituted. Do you like the flexibility of the band in incorporating different players?

BB: This is one of my favourite things about being in New York – all those musicians you listen to, transcribe, attempt to emulate; many of them live here too. And if they’re in town and available and you ask them to do a gig, often they are delighted to do it. So when Steven went back to Belgium, we had a ready-made band and I saw it as a chance to invite some of my favourite horn players, like Will and Ben, to guest with the group. And that’s what makes it fun – you can play a tune that you’ve been playing for five years, but with a new voice in the band, it can go in a completely new direction. On this particular tour we’ll play with Dutchman Reinier Baas, who was also a part of those early sessions at Manhattan School of Music. Partly it’s a chance to catch up with an old friend, but also Reinier’s brand of ‘More Socially Relevant Jazz Music’ fits perfectly with the indie rock influences that have been shaping my music more recently.

LJN:. What have been some of your highlights leading and touring with Bright Noise?

BB: The personal highlight was launching the Bright Noise EP in New York in 2012 at one of my favourite venues, Cornelia Street Café where we had Ben Wendel and Chris Lightcap guesting with the band. Getting to play at a storied venue with your favourite musicians, you can’t ask for much more. But if you asked the other guys what the highlight of touring with Bright Noise is, the hands-down winner will always be getting to benefit from my Dad’s cooking when we’re in Dumfries!

LJN: Your performance at Con Cellar will end your Belgium/UK tour. Is London just another tour date...?

BB: Being from Scotland and having studied in Birmingham, the other dates on the UK leg of the tour (Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow) feature familiar venues with many familiar faces. But growing up in the UK, London always filled me with a kind of wide-eyed awe. Though I’ve been in New York for five years, I have never lived in nor had the chance to play widely in London, so the prospect of a gig there rekindles that childhood ambition and excitement a little. To do it at the Con is even more special. For me, it is a vanguard of new music in London, it always features musicians I admire and it’s integral to the recent history of the London jazz scene.

LJN:  The first Bright Noise EP (released in 2011) has strong melodic content. Is there a new recording in the works?

BB: A new Bright Noise record is something we always talk about when we play together, but the scattered nature of the band seems to prevent that from happening. However, on this tour I’ll be debuting some new arrangements of music by the beloved poet and songwriter (and fellow Scot) Ivor Cutler that will form a new quartet album early next year. I’ve always found his melodies to be very simple, yet extremely memorable and sing-able, and that’s the most important part of composition for me – you can have all sorts of crazy harmonic and rhythmic ideas, but if you have a strong melody, anyone can relate to the music.

Ben Brydenʼs Bright Noise:

Ben Bryden - tenor saxophone
Steven Delannoye - tenor saxophone
Reinier Baas - guitar
Martijn Vanbuel - bass
Martin Krümmling - drums

Full tour calendar:
28th October - Hot Club de Gand, Groentenmarkt, Ghent (B)
31st October - The Factory, Nieuwstraat 10, Tielt (B)
2nd November - De Hopper, Stoomstraat, Antwerp (B)
2nd November - Cafe Roskam, rue de Flandre, Brussels (B)
4th November - The Spotted Dog, Birmingham (9pm)(UK)
5th November - The Jazz Bar, Edinburgh (UK)
6th November - Glasgow Art Club, Glasgow (UK)
7th November - Jazz at the Con, London (9pm) (UK)

www.benbryden.com

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NEWS: Zara McFarlane wins 2014 Jazz MOBO Award



The 2014 MOBO for best jazz act was won by Zara McFarlane. The other nominees were Andreas Varady, Jason Rebello, Peter Edwards and Phronesis. The full list of category winnners is
HERE

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PREVIEW : Andy Emler at the South Ken Kids Festival, (Institut Francais Sat 22 Nov)

Andy Emler. Photo Credit: Christian Ducasse

French composer/pianist Andy Emler, leader of the Megaoctet, a major figure in French jazz, a larger-than-life character, "original, inventive, generous..." will be in London for the first time in four years, and in an unusual context. It actually occurs during the EFG London Jazz Festival, but as part of a different festival, the South Ken Kids Festival. Children 3 and above welcome.

The blurb makes it sound irresistible. Emler will "produce a wild improvisation in tune with our guest illustrators, bringing your suggestions to life on the big screen! Imagine crazy clowns dancing to quirky crotchets or sniggering snakes rising to slippery scales… Find out what happens when music and illustration meet — you’re in for a treat!"

Andy Emler at the South Ken Kids Festival
LINKS Andy Emler plays McCoy Tyner
Review of a documentary film about the Megaoctet


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NEWS: Another rise in the quarterly data from JazzFM



Following the one-off drop in numbers in the first quarter of 2014 - resulting from leaving national DAB at the end of 2013, a huge cost-saving - JazzFM is showing steady and consistent quarter-on-quarter audience growth this year. The station reports a 1% rise in its weekly audience to 553,000, numbers from the quarterly RAJAR data. Total listening hours were up 5% quarter-on-quarter to 2,282,000.

The audience is male-biased (63%). ABC1’s represent 70% of weekly reach and 73%of listening hours. The audience is also getting younger: 15‐54 age group accounts for is 81% of adult listening hours. An impressive 32% of the audience which discloses how it listens, now receives the station via internet/mobile platforms.

 The station has been working hard on adapting and broadening its playlist, increasing the jazz content, and next quarterly data should show a pick-up as the the new Lynn Parsons breakfast show gains in popularity. UK commercial radio is dominated by just three owners, Global, Bauer and UTV, a context in which JazzFM stands out as one of the few significant independents.

LINKS:
Interview (Feb 2014) with Chairman Richard Wheatly
RAJAR 2014 Q2 data
RAJAR 2014 Q1 data

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CD REVIEW: Stefano Bollani - Joy In Spite Of Everything



Stefano Bollani - Joy In Spite Of Everything
(ECM 378 4459. Review by Mike Collins)


Only the stoniest of hearts could resist the charm of Easy Healing, the opening track of this album from a dream transatlantic quintet, formed for the occasion from Stefano Bollani’s regular trio combined with two of the most individual voices from the other side of the pond: Mark Turner and Bill Frisell. The atmosphere is somewhere between the Caribbean and central Africa with Frisell sounding like he might be channelling the legendary Franco, dropping pretty phrases over Bollani’s muted, rock steady left hand stroking out a calypso. This was quite plausibly a loosener, as none of Bollani, drummer Morten Lund or bass player Jesper Bodilsen had met Bill Frisell before the session and Lund had not played with Turner previously, but it’s a delight with eddies of notes from Turner mingling with answering flurries from the piano over an extended collective vamp out,to set the tone for the rest of a set packed with conversation and interaction.

There is no doubting this is a Stefano Bollani release with the compositions reflecting his expansive approach. After the calypso, No Pope No Party is a straight-ahead swinger, all Monkish motifs and displaced phrases. Rhythmic jousting between piano and tenor gives way to a burning Turner solo. Alobar e Kudra, a piano trio number, is a dancing piece with a middle eastern flavour to the theme, Las hortensias a dreamy tune with a melancholic chant-like theme that develops a steady, even pulse for a vintage tenor solo and extended duo conversation with the piano. The piano and guitar duo Teddy is a playful saunter but the haunting, delicate and balladic Ismene really makes the most of the blending of Bollani and Frisell’s fertile imaginations. There are some extended pieces, Vale and Tales from the Time loop which give the full quintet opportunity to stretch out. Lund and Bodilsen get relatively few features, but they are breathing as one with Bollani and bring life and colour to the music throughout. The closing trio number, the title track Joy In Spite Of Everything, is a trademark Bollani tour de force, taken at break-neck tempo threatening to become blistering bop, now a samba, now hinting at a Kurt Weill like galloping cabaret.

This album is a real treat. If this is what a single meeting creates, the prospect of a few live performances would be truly mouth-watering.

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REVIEW: Max Luthert - Orbital CD launch at Pizza Express Jazz Club

Max Luthert. Photo credit: Rob Blackham
Max Luthert - Orbital CD launch
Pizza Express Jazz Club. 20th October 2014. Review by Sarah Chaplin)

On the whole debut album launches tend to be rather tight and self-conscious affairs, where tunes from the album are aired rather than explored, and players seem to be doing their level best to reproduce the studio ambiance - instead of enjoying the presence of a live audience. No so with this debut: young bassist and composer Max Luthert reassembled his six-strong crew to mark the arrival of his CD Orbital, in a vivid display of musicianship.

Perhaps signalling his intentions towards the British jazz scene, Luthert opened with Grand Designs, although throughout the gig he was diffidently minimal in his verbal commentary, preferring to let the music speak for itself. Which it did: Pacific Before Tiger was a big-hearted waltz-time piece featuring exciting solos from Séb Pipe on alto sax and Gareth Lockrane on flute, followed by the dreamy ballad Quiet December, played with immense control and exquisite dynamics by Duncan Eagles on tenor.

Luthert’s writing takes into account the register and timbre of each instrument at his disposal, as evidenced by Metro Moodie, a cleverly constructed tune in 7/4, where Luthert had Lockrane joined him in stating the main melody matching bass to bass flute. The first set closed with the title track, Orbital, also written in 7/4, beginning innocently enough with pianist Matt Robinson setting out a languid intro, over which the horn section laid a tight and busy tune. The bridge involved a series of off-beat harmonized horn stabs which continued into the first part of the solos and returned in the coda at the end, to allow Dave Hamblett to work his magic on drums in an epic solo. This is a hugely effective signature piece whose robust structure enables the musicians to change tack at will and free up completely.

The second set was equally subtle and well-paced, with something of a landscape theme going on. The Edgewall has the horn section playing over each other, weaving together ideas while Hamblett builds up the rhythmic energy and intensity. It feels like a tour through a mature garden where the planting is densely overgrown in places. Assam had exotic terraces of melody and counter melody going on, allowing Luthert scope to take an intricately balanced solo himself, while Moving Fields grew from a series of cymbal crashes into a solid vamp. This functioned as the bedrock for solos by Pipe and Robinson, who both veered exuberantly off-piste before Lockrane cut through on piccolo to bring the whole thing to a riveting and sparky close. Luthert seemed relieved they’d all pulled that one off so well, and followed it with the sensual Cloud on Cloud. The night ended with Luthert’s newest tune, a fast-paced extravaganza that reminded me of a Michael Giacchino piece for Pixar.

Max Luthert is thoroughly convincing - an unassuming force to be reckoned with - who has set out his stall with music of singular depth and maturity. He will prove a real asset to Michael Janisch’s flourishing Whirwind record label. To my mind Luthert is someone who will be running rings around many of his peers, and for many years to come.

LINK: Interview with Max Luthert

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FEATURE: Way Out West 10th Anniversary Celebrations

Top Row Left to Right: Vasilis Xanopoulos, Nete Robinson, Tony Kinsey, Tony Woods
Second Row: Kate Williams, Pete Hurt, Chris Biscoe, Flo Moore
Third Row: Dave Jones, Jimmy Hastings, Emily Saunders, Tim Whitehead
Last Row: Mick Sexton, Tom Millar, Matt Wates, Gary Willcox, 


The  Way Out West Wednesday musician-led gig series has become one of the cornerstones of the London jazz scene. It has been in existence for ten years, and now in its third venue at the Bulls Head in Barnes.

CHRIS BISCOE has been an active member of the collective from the start. Not only has he run his own gigs across a range of styles, he has also given consistent time and effort behind the scenes. Here, Chris writes about the current tenth anniversary series: 



Way Out West is a west London based collective of jazz musicians, composers and bandleaders. Founded by Tim Whitehead in 2004, with a membership including Kate Williams, Stan Sulzmann, Tony Woods, Nette Robinson, Chris Biscoe, Tony Kinsey and the late Eddie Harvey, The membership has grown to 16, More than 200 musicians have taken part in gigs. Just a selection from the many saxophone players who have appeared for us gives a clue to the strength and diversity of our promotions: Bobby Wellins, Ingrid Laubrock, Evan Parker, Tony Kofi, Sir John Dankworth, Alan Barnes, Karen Sharp, Don Weller.

In October Way Out West celebrates 10 years of promoting jazz concerts in west London. In more than 400 concerts it has presented music from mainstream through bebop, cool, Latin, free jazz and improv, fusion and contemporary sounds, reflecting the wide-ranging interests of the members no less than our uniquely diverse membership, ranging in age from 21 to 85.

We started at the Bull’s Head, Barnes on October 8th with a celebration of the music of Eddie Harvey, one of the founder members of Way Out West. There are weekly gigs at the Bull plus two concerts at the Café Posk in Hammersmith. Current.  Past members including Tim Whitehead, Emily Saunders and Larry Bartley play new original compositions, and the collective comes together during the London Jazz Festival on November 14th and 19th with a fresh look at music past and present.

WEBSITE: www.wowjazz.org

PROGRAMME:

Wednesday Gigs at The Bull’s Head, 373 Lonsdale Road, London SW13 9PY start 8.30pm

October 8th – A celebration of the music of Eddie Harvey
October 15th – Emily Saunders ESB
October 22nd – Tony Kinsey Quartet
October 29th – Vasilis Xenopoulos
November 5th – Nette Robinson
November 12th – Larry Bartley – Just Us!
November 19th (EFG LJF)– Way Out West Collective re-imagines music from 1959 –
the year the Bull’s Head opened for jazz.

Concerts at Café Posk, 238-246 King Street, London W6 0RF start 8.30pm

October 10th – Tim Whitehead and Cleveland Watkiss – JazzLiveDance
November 14th (EFG LJF) – Way Out West Collective new music for large ensemble - SEE FEATURE BY TIM WHITEHEAD

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REVIEW: Evan Parker and The Necks at Cafe Oto



Evan Parker at Cafe Oto
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2014. All Rights Reserved
Evan Parker and The Necks
(Cafe Oto, 20th October 2014. Review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

To celebrate his 70th birthday, Evan Parker has curated a week of back-to-back gigs at The Vortex and Cafe Oto which pair him with some of his favourite musicians. The festivities kicked off in grand style on Monday with his sell-out concert with masters of acoustic trance-jazz improvisation, the Australian trio, The Necks, at Cafe Oto.

The Necks invited him to record a BBC Late Junction session with them last autumn, a rare event, as the trio has only asked 3 musicians to play with them over their 26 year history. Evan Parker's return invitation indicates the respect each holds for the other. Their rapport in two powerful sets was underscored by a shared musical language, which saw them reaching out to cement creative bonds, and in their finely honed abilities to respond to the inputs that each brought to this musical journey.

Their two sets had the feel of a two-part epic poem in their scale and ambition and in the ways the quartet - as it had briefly become - collectively built on, supported and ceaselessly refined the underlying melodic and repetitive themes that the saxophonist, principally, introduced to the dialogue.

On soprano sax, Parker soared skywards, invoking the massed callings and chatterings of feathered flocks in circular, multi-dimensional figures, and then, more grounded, the crowing of cockerels. Chris Abrahams on Cafe Oto's Yamaha piano, intuitively picked up on the structures and rhythms that Parker brought in to the mix, mimicking, echoing and using them as springboards for both glissando runs and thunderous excavations in the lowest register.

Drummer Tony Buck combined the interplay between percussive rhythm and melody in the expressive foundation that he and bassist, Lloyd Swanton, continually burnished as the atmospheric ambience took on different shades and intensities. Swanton, flipping from bowed gyrations to deft changes of pace, complemented Buck's palette, which included the hollow, oceanic timbres of nut shell shakers and a hand cymbal wheeled to glance the top of the tom's metal structure with uncanny, machine-like regularity.

The second set offered a slightly softer counterpart to the sharper tones of the first, and a fleet, brightly articulated passage initiated by Evan Parker suggested the flowing momentum of a Cyril Power linocut. Humour was not absent either, as variations on piano scales were played out by Abrahams.

Epic, welling drama was never far from the flow, and a pulsating, hammering sequence preceded a richly crafted, lyrical passage from Parker which directed the saga to its close, an understated episode that had the quartet rowing at a gentle pace to the tranquility of the shore.

Swanton looked forward to the next visit of the Necks - ‘In April!’ came the shout from the back. And Evan Parker’s demanding week’s schedule promises to be as fulfilling as its first, very special showcase event.

Evan Parker - soprano saxophone

The Necks:
Chris Abrahams - piano
Tony Buck - drums, percussion
Lloyd Swanton - double bass

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VIDEO INTERVIEW: Fini Bearman talks about her new album Porgy & Bess - Launch Forge 28 Oct



Fini Bearman came to Kings Place to talk to Sebastian about her new album Porgy & Bess on the F-IRE Presents label. Launch gig is at the Forge, Delancey Street, Camden Town, Tuesday 28th October. (pp)

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NEWS: Pete Long's Echoes of Ellington Band in the Recording Studio

The sax section of the Echoes of Ellington Band
Front to back: Alex Garnett, Paul Nathanael, Colin Skinner, Pete Ripper, Jay Craig
Peter Vacher writes:

After a significant lull, Pete Long’s Echoes of Ellington big band is set to roll once again. With trumpet newcomers like the iron-lipped Ryan Quigley and high-note specialist Louis Dowdeswell, plus trombone soloist Callum Au now on board, alongside such holdovers as Long himself on clarinet, trombonist Chris Traves, trumpeter Rico Tomasso, drummer Richard Pite and baritone star Jay Craig, the band is super-fit and rarin’ to go. A successful recording session was completed this week at London’s Angel studios, and Long is already lining up concert engagements. His concern for Ducal authenticity is well-known, as anyone who heard the earlier editions of Echoes can attest. He’s determined to make this re-launch work; his track record suggests that he will.

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REPORT: Fifth Revoice! Festival / Carmen Lundy/ An Urban Myth about the Jazz Cafe?

Carmen Lundy (with Patrice Rushen (left)
Photo credit: Roger Thomas

Georgia Mancio's Revoice Festival which ended last night has felt like a real coming of age. This well-programmed vocal jazz series, now in its fifth year, has that air of being solidly established. The work-load has probably gone up, but one can also sense that the hard graft in the earlier years is now bearing fruit. The festival has branched away from its home at Pizza Express Jazz Club in Dean Street, out into other venues, even making its mark beyond the M25, in Dorking and Bury St Edmunds. It has been the catalyst for a good discussion to get going about the state of vocal jazz HERE. And perhaps the best tribute it could have is that an artist whose London audience was initially built by her appearance at Revoice, Becca Stevens, is now back in her own right later in the week.

Another thing to be valued is that Georgia Mancio has created a good listening audience at these gigs. The sets she does at the opening of each concert definitely help to set the tone, to prepare the ground for the headliners. She has also progressed in assuredness, confidence and range as a singer. It's all positive: the broader responsibilities of running an increasingly complex festival venture seem to reflect back into the scale and aura as a performer, and maybe vice versa too. The night I went she was in duo with Dave Newton. Their deliciously slow-and-even-slower I've Grown Accustomed to His Face was a highlight.




There was a forceful reminder of how bad audiences can be - or once were-  when one audience member took the microphone at the end of the Carmen Lundy gig that I went to, and told the story that the proprietor of the Jazz Cafe -presumably Jon Dabner - was so incensed by the noise punters made during Carmen Lundy's performance there, that he had the bright yellow sign (above) made. So, is Carmen Lundy genuinely responsible for the uncompromising acronym that has looked over a quarter of a century of cohorts of Camden youth traversing their growing-up rites?  I'm not sure. We may have a genuine piece of London's live music history here, or a new urban myth.

Carmen Lundy's memories of the places she has played at here certainly are a chronicle of the exploits of imaginative promoters in London. She remembered a first appearance at Peter Ind's Bass Clef. She remembered the Jazz Cafe. Her show, showcasing the material of her fourteenth album Soul to Soul brought out a loyal crowd to Pizza Express Jazz Club.

For me the highlight was Grace, a number co-written with South African vocalist Simphiwe Dana. The South African vibe opened up a whole new vista, a different way of living deep in a friendly groove. A singer normally happiest when she tests out the extremes of her impressive vocal and dynamic range was fully contented starting off her scatting on a monotone. Her band, fresshly flown in from Los Angeles were impressive, pianist Patrice Rushen and drummer Jamison Ross, both of whom made beautifully subtle backing vocal contributions, and the impeccable-every-time top bassist Darryl Hall.

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REVIEW: Mingus Big Band at Ronnie Scott's

Charles Mingus


Mingus Big Band
(Ronnie Scott's, 20th October 2014. First House, first night of six-night Residency. Review by Joe Stoddart)

A great tradition has been invented: this time of year has become synonymous with the Mingus Big Band spending a week at Ronnie Scott’s. This year they will perform twelve shows, with Michael Richmond  in the bass chair - rather than Boris Kozlov, and the MD role taken by saxophonist Douglas Yates.

At this, the first show, the band began with Gunslinging Bird, an up-tempo rambunctious 6/4 blues which immediately unleashed the power and scope of the band with a mixture of unison figures underpinned by Ronnie Cuber’s sonorous baritone sax and interspersed with expert fills from trombonist Andy Hunter. Solos from band MC, London-born Wayne Escoffery (tenor sax) and trumpeter Alex Norris were followed by a move to 4/4 for David Kikoski‘s piano solo before Donald Edwards (Drums) set up the head out.

Next up was Invisible Lady, a beautiful composition with a clear debt (musically as well as in name) to Duke Ellington’s ‘Sophisticated Lady’ that was originally recorded in 1957 as a trombone feature for long-time Mingus collaborator Jimmy Knepper. Conrad Herwig takes the lead here contributing both the melody and a solo of incredible virtuosity which more than lives up to the original recording.

Some apparent onstage sound issues that had been occurring during the opening two numbers seemed to be cleared up and the band stepped up another notch with Pinky from Mingus’ magnum opus Epitaph. Pinky does a fantastic job of underlining what an incredible composer Mingus was, winding between melodies, counter-melodies and rhythmic feels while also showcasing some fantastic solos from Scott Robinson (Tenor Sax), Alex Norris, Ronnie Cuber and Brandon Wright (Alto Sax).

Douglas Yates featured on Profile of Jackie, a lesser performed work from Pithecanthropus Erectus that was written for alto saxophonist Jackie McLean. The lush arrangement by Sy Johnson combines exceptionally well with Yates’ saxophone to create the best sound of the evening.

Ronnie Cuber’s arrangement of Nostalgia In Times Square followed before the band finished with another composition written for a fellow musician, the Oscar Pettiford inspired O.P. Both pieces displayed the impressive interplay of the ensemble and remarkable improvisational talent that had been present all evening with Cuber’s solo on Nostalgia in Times Square, one of the finest solos of the evening. A sting of Better Git It In Your Soul bought the set to a close all too soon, leaving the near-capacity crowd wanting much, much more.

The week is nearly sold out but some tickets are available HERE.

Set List:
Gunslinging Bird
Invisible Lady
Pinky
Profile Of Jackie
Nostalgia In Times Square
O.P./Better Get It In Your Soul

Full Personnel:
Trumpets: Lew Soloff (lead), Alex Norris, Philip Harper
Saxes: Douglas Yates (MD, Soprano, Alto, Flute), Brandon Wright (Alto), Wayne Escoffery (Tenor), Scott Robinson (Tenor), Ronnie Cuber (Baritone)
Trombones: Conrad Herwig, Andy Hunter, David Taylor (Bass Trombone)
Piano: David Kikoski
Bass: Michael Richmond
Drums: Donald Edwards

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REVIEW Roberts Menzel/Clemens Poetzsch Quartet in Islington

Robert Menzel. Photo credit: Christian Debus
Review: Roberts Menzel/Clemens Poetzsch Quartet
(198, St. John St., 18th October. Review by Alison Bentley)

Have you ever imagined inviting your favourite jazz musicians to perform in your living room? Promoter and singer Alya Marquardt has done just that, organising concerts in her Islington apartment- and bringing in audiences to join her. It’s part of the Two Rivers Foundation for music, ‘…a space where musicians can experiment with new projects and get feedback…’ says Marquardt.

Among the anonymous windows of St. John St. there’s one that invites you in, with coloured lights, and the faint sound of a grand piano. This gig featured Berlin-based tenor-player Robert Menzel and pianist Clemens Poetzsch from Leipzig, augmented for the first time by the UK’s Calum Gourlay (bass) and Dave Hamblett (drums). They played unamplified in this minimalist space, chosen by Marquardt for its wooden floors and ceiling- a perfect acoustic. And there were soft, sprawling seats to enjoy it all from.

Menzel and Poetzsch have known each other since they were kids, and studied jazz together in Dresden. Their extraordinary rapport was evident from the opening Just in Tune (by Menzel). The rich tenor tone unfolded the Kenny Wheeler-like tune, and Poetzsch’ solo was full of glittering clusters of notes tumbled together. There were McCoy Tyner-ish robust chords and restless bass and drums. Menzel’s Kühl und Distanziert (Menzel translated it as ‘Very Distant and Cold’) had a triphoppy feel, as bass spelled out the harmony and Poetzsch played percussive single notes (he admires electronic musician Flying Lotus). Sax gusts blew over a spacey groove, the grace notes evoking Gabarek- but on tenor. Poetzsch’ composition Stange Ways drifted through dreamy b5 chords- Hamblett’s delicate brushes barely touched the cymbals, coaxing out the lightest of sounds.

There were folk and jazz covers. Poetzsch had arranged a traditional tune from a ‘German minority people’ Mej ty dobru noc (Night Song) had a gospel treatment with decisive bass strokes. Gourlay’s solo had a luxuriant Charlie Haden-like sound. The tenor tone was heart-melting, with its slow-burn vibrato. Beatrice by Sam Rivers (appropriately, a leading light in 70s New York ‘jazz loft’ gigs) had the most traditional sense of swing. Menzel sounded very like Joe Lovano, whom he admires.

Three unexpected covers revealed Menzel and Poetzsch’ playful and endearing sense of humour- and their musicality. The theme song to a German soap- Good Times, Bad Times- had been given a makeover. Menzel: ‘Now it’s very aggressive- it’s meant to be soothing…it has a nervous pulse, nervous bassline.’ The nervy groove was worthy of Steve Coleman as the gap between sweet piano and dark bass lines grew wider and wider- though neither sounded tense on its own. With delicious irony, the 90s Aqua hit Barbie Girl was renamed Barbie’s 55th Birthday. Bubblegum pop met dark modal jazz brilliantly- especially in the 11/8 bars! Menzel’s mahogany tone was punctuated with affecting high split notes. Nick Kamen’s pop hit I Promised Myself wrapped up their set in a funky minor mode far from the original. The audience loved it, as Hamblett and Poetzsch had a rhythmic conversation, the drums picking up the piano ripples in shivery cymbal sounds.

And there was more: Senegalese singer/songwriter Biram Seck's band were heating up- they were virtually playing in the kitchen, after all. No-one could resist dancing to the West African grooves- Seck mixed traditional instruments (talking drum on the shoulder, tall sabra drum on the ground) with deeply funky 6-string electric bass and drum kit. Seck accompanied his own beautifully fragile, throaty singing on acoustic guitar, while the electric guitarist played twirling soukous lines.

A momentous gig in a living room. Why not join them?

Next St. John St. gig, Sat. 1st November 8 pm: Sorana Santos. Details on Two Rivers Records Facebook page. 

Robert Menzel/ Clemens Poetzsch Quartet will be on 21st Oct at Luna Lounge and on 22nd Oct at the Ajani Grill & Jazz, London

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NEWS: Julian Argüelles, Django Bates, John Butcher announces as finalists in 2014 British Composer Awards

The three finalists in the Contemporary Jazz Composition section of the British Composer Awards have been announced today

Julian Argüelles for Hocus Pocus
John Butcher for Tarab Cuts 
Django Bates for the Study of Touch

The 2013 winner of this category was John Surman, in 2012 Christine Tobin ,and in  2011 Tommy Evans

Other composers with jazz connections shortlisted in other categories this year are Kerry Andrew, Jon Opstad  and Mark-Anthony Turnage.

DIARY DATES

Monday 20 October  BBC Radio 3, In Tune, 4.30pm - shortlist announcement
24 – 28 November    BBC Radio 3, Live in Concert Series - preview of BCA shortlisted works
Tuesday 2 December British Composer Awards, Goldsmiths Hall, 5.30pm
Saturday 6 December BBC Radio 3, Hear and Now, 10pm

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CD REVIEW: Bob Stewart - Connections - Mind The Gap



Bob Stewart - Connections - Mind The Gap
(Sunnyside Communications, SSC 1394. CD review by Andy Boeckstaens)


Tuba maestro Bob Stewart – now just a few months shy of his 70th birthday - has had a long career (frequently in big bands) alongside the likes of Charles Mingus, Lester Bowie, Gil Evans, Carla Bley and David Murray. His work as a leader (mainly with smaller groups) has produced just a handful of albums, although he has led various incarnations of the scintillating brass-heavy First Line Band for over a quarter of a century.

Connections – Mind The Gap is performed by The Double Quartet, which comprises two ensembles: the First Line Band, and the strings of the PUBLIQuartet. Stewart and his violinist son Curtis Stewart appear in both groups. The former also includes guitarist Jerome Harris, drummer Matt Wilson and, on a couple of tracks, trumpeter Randall Haywood and Nick Finzer on trombone. The latter is completed by Jannina Norpoth on violin, Nick Revel on viola and ‘cellist Amanda Gookin (mis-spelt “Goekin” on the CD).
The PUBLIQuartet plays In Color, a chamber piece in five short movements, commissioned by Stewart and composed by violinist Jessie Montgomery. Blunt, foghorn-like tuba blasts grab the attention at the start of Red, and give little indication of the variety and deftness that marks this suite. The strings swoop and swirl on Aqua, and provide a steady backdrop to the tuba for The Poet. Their combination with tuba assumes a slightly eerie quality on Purple, and the rhythmic tapping and scraping of Makina evolves to a beautiful conclusion.

Each movement of the In Color suite is punctuated by a song or two by the First Line Band. There’s Simone, a dancing blues by Frank Foster, and the sublime, passionate sway of Astor Piazzolla’s Libertango. Harris sings on a couple of tunes: Henry Thomas’ gently suggestive Fishin’ Blues, and his own Hand by Hand, which – along with Charles Mingus’ Jump Monk - is augmented by Finzer and Haywood. The deep seriousness of one of Monk’s greatest conceptions, Monk’s Mood, is retained in the leader’s relatively loose arrangement.

Highlights include two distinctive compositions by Arthur Blythe: Bush Baby has an off-kilter swing and assymetric lines, and Odessa, which has a Central European flavour. “Black Arthur” has been incapacitated by illness for several years, and these numbers are a potent reminder of his huge importance in the jazz world.

Stewart’s tuba is the primary voice, and he impresses with quiet authority rather than volume or overt virtuosity. He contributes just one composition, and it’s a good one. Nothing to Say sticks in the memory like an old standard.

Played with commitment and an admirable lightness of touch, Connections – Mind The Gap is a triumph for Stewart and both of his ensembles. It is deeply satisfying, frequently moving, and one of the finest albums I have heard for ages.

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REVIEW: Japanese New Music Festival at Cafe Oto

Tatsuya Yoshida at Cafe Oto
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2014. All Rights Reserved


Japanese New Music Festival
(Cafe Oto, 16 October 2014. Review and drawing by Geoff Winston)


The over-reaching title, Japanese New Music Festival, was just part of the irreverence. The trio of Tatsuya Yoshida (aka Ruins Alone), and Atsushi Tsuyama and Makoto Kawabata of Acid Mothers Temple (AMT) served up eight 'projects', as Tsuyama called them: two duets, three solo features and three trios, which together formed a single, intense and concentrated two-hour set.

'Too old to rock and roll, too young to die!' muttered Tsuyama-san - and, yes, Spinal Tap and Cheech and Chong were never that far from their repertoire. They were taking on and ironising music culture with all its formality and tribalism, yet underlying it all was deadly serious musicianship.

Delivered with exceptional virtuosity, and a cabaret troupe's sharp timing, they revelled in a mixture of creative leaps and an infectious, wacky humour born of a total immersion in the ins and outs of myriad musical genres. They took in and blew out noise, free improv, heavy rock, fusion, pop, traditional Japanese, and throat singing - the roll-call was endless!

What made it work was the way they unearthed the potential humour lurking in the recesses and turned it in to an asset. Amid much mirth, Tsuyama insisted that they 'respect British rock very much - why you laugh? Deep respect!'. Who else could get away with a totally convincing version of Deep Purple's Smoke on the Water, 'Captain Beefheart-style', and Rod Stewart's Maggie May, likewise? They delight in re-envisioning 'Very, very famous songs', not only deconstructing, but reconstructing them - and AMT, in their time, have meted out this treatment to entire concept albums - leaving Pink Floyd and Miles Davis floundering in their wake.

Yoshida kicked off proceedings with a complex drum, vocals and electronics set that, single-handedly, got close in feel to Magma's unearthly bombast. Kawabata then took off where Jimmy Page left off, with violin bow coaxing out echoes on guitar in his solo piece. They would move on to respectfully trash Zep's Immigrant Song, infusing it with a touch of Death Metal. Tsuyama's lightly melodic bass runs took cues from Stanley Clarke, whereas his double recorder playing with accompanying leg actions, thumbed a nose at Tull rather than at than Kirk.

Their own trio jams, including a witty a cappella number, Zubi Zuba, with a spot for old shoe soles, had an irresistibly vibrancy to them - interspersing choppy, jazzy bass beats with searing psych-rock guitar, yet, especially in the confines of Cafe Oto, it was the inspired duetting by Yoshida and Tsuyama that brought out the widest grins - amplified toothbrushes, trouser zips, an SLR camera and a daikon radish being grated; it had to be done brilliantly to get away with it - which they did!

Tatsuya Yoshida (Ruins): drums, electronics, vocals, misc instruments
Atsushi Tsuyama (Acid Mothers Temple); electric bass, guitar, recorders, vocals, misc instruments
Makoto Kawabata (Acid Mothers Temple); guitar, electric bass, electronics, vocals, old shoes, misc instruments

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NEWS: Philip Achille's album Kickstarter is open



London's harmonica wizard Philip Achille, originally from Olton in Warwickshire - seen here sliding out of Take Five into So What on a busking pitch at Green Park tube station - is going to make a debut album. His "Help me off the Underground into the Studio Kickstarter is open. A seriously talented musician. Watch him really let loose, from 5:43 to 7:28 here

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LP REVIEW: Sun Ra and his Arkestra – In the Orbit of Ra



Sun Ra and his Arkestra – In the Orbit of Ra
(Strut/Art Yard STRUT109LP. LP review by Andrew Cartmel)


It’s a hundred years since Sun Ra — née Herman Poole ‘Sonny’ Blount — arrived on our planet (although Sun Ra never really admitted to being of this Earth). And to celebrate his centenary, the Art Yard and Strut labels have collaborated to produce this stonking compilation, a whistle-stop tour through the universe of Ra. Available as a double CD, it is also being thoughtfully offered on vinyl, as a double LP pressed in Germany, complete with copies of the CDs thrown in for good measure.

This compilation is a painstaking labour of love, put together by the current leader of the Arkestra, Marshall Allen, working with Peter Dennett of Art Yard, a label which has been responsible for numerous outstanding Sun Ra reissues over the years. In the Orbit of Ra features a treasure store of Ra rarities — drawing on previously unreleased and extended masters which haven’t appeared before on either CD or vinyl.

Not surprisingly, Marshall Allen has the inside track on all things Sun Ra and as a result of his decades of collaboration with the man (or alien) himself, he has assembled a remarkably cogent and coherent collection unlike any previous compilation of the Arkestra’s music. Most of the tracks cluster around the late 1950s and early 60s — certainly a golden age for the Arkestra — but also features a handful of tunes from the late 1960s and early 70s, an equally fertile period.

The collection kicks off with Somewhere in Space, a slow interstellar march punctuated by John L. Hardy’s drum and cymbals, which begins with the saxes and Phil Cohran’s cornet in lockstep before John Gilmore’s lyrical tenor and Marshall Allen’s precise flute rise above the ensemble playing, like smoke signals in alien skies. The elegiac mood yields to the irresistible rhythmic pulsing of Lady With Golden Stockings featuring Sun Ra himself on Wurlitzer electric piano, supported by haunted house saxophones and cowbell percussion. The punchy and compelling Somebody Else’s World again showcases Ra’s electronic keyboards (this time playing ‘intergalactic organ’) laying down tapestries of sound as background to June Tyson’s piercing vocals.

Anyone who thinks Sun Ra’s music might be unapproachable and bristling with avant-garde mannerisms should have a listen to Spontaneous Simplicity (a CD-only track) with the gorgeous melodic lyricism of its flute and the fine lace filigree of Sun Ra’s piano. Or new listeners could start with the equally accessible, although in an utterly different way, Plutonian Nights which features the fat baritone sax of Pat Patrick and is as funky and infectiously swinging as you could ask, with sinuous figures being carved out in smoky nightclub air, somewhere in a pressure dome on everybody’s favourite dwarf planet. Robert Barry’s drums provide a dense background and then drop back to minimalist timekeeping while Ronnie Boykins’s bass provides a coolly groovy, angular commentary.

On Island in the Sun Marshall Allen’s flute is doubled with the alto clarinet of Danny Davis, set against the tantalising fragments of Sun Ra’s piano and sparse percussion from John Gilmore and Pat Patrick, taking a rest from their reeds. It is Ben Henderson who is the bass hero here, plucking and strumming simple strains as a backdrop for the flute and clarinet. Given the title, the piece has an appropriately calypso feel, but with a cosmic Arkestra slant.

The vinyl version of this album, mastered and cut by Peter Beckmann, has an impressive deep-space acoustic and a three dimensional quality which puts digital versions in the shade. And it’s not just the music which is exemplary here. The gatefold sleeve that houses these records is a gorgeous package, lavishly illustrated with rare and unpublished by photos by the great Val Wilmer and featuring an in-depth interview with Marshall Allen conducted by Peter Dennett.

In the Orbit of Ra is a sumptuous release, a marvellous starting point for new listeners and a box of delights for old fans. And it has a serious claim to being the finest Sun Ra compilation yet released.

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CD REVIEW: Shalosh - The Bell Garden



Shalosh - The Bell Garden
(www.Shalosh.net & Bandcamp. CD review by Mike Collins)


A staccato burst of power chords from the piano grabs the ear to launch this set by Israeli trio Shalosh. Pianist Gadi Stern returned to Israel from New York to rekindle a collaboration with old school friends bass player Daniel Benhorin and drummer Matan Assayang. The trio have popped up in UK recently at Lancaster Jazz Festival and the Spice of Life showcasing the result, this thoroughly contemporary trio album, blending all sorts of cultural and rhythmic references without obscuring strong melodies, catchy hooks and arresting grooves.

The opener Computer Crash moves from those attention tweaking opening chords through inexorably looping sections that build to a climax before switching to a rocky riff or a contrasting section. It’s a compositional template they use liberally and the title and others like Brain Damaged Pumkin Pie hint at the energy and verve with which they are played. There's a big sprinkling of lyricism with finely crafted melodies. Leaving Maine's elegiac theme creates a powerful mood over gently rippling arpeggios before giving way to a lovely melodic bass solo. Eulogy's theme, doubled by piano and arco bass, unfolds over a march like tattoo from the drums. It's all beautifully played with moods and melodies allowed to develop and unfold gradually with repeating elements building intensity, the group dynamic as important as overt solo sections. There are a few surprises and a playful air at times. Everything Passes, Even the Trees develops a delicate melodic fragment into dramatic rolling arpeggios before bursting into poppy hook and a drum groove that wouldn’t sound out of place on 70s disco album.

Gadi Stern’s piano is a fluent and expressive voice throughout but this is a distinctive set of originals from a trio that places as much emphasis on their collective sound as individual virtuosity with satisfying results.

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