Teenage Dreams: at school with Simon Rattle, Brad Mehldau

Joel Frahm (right) and Tim Whitehead (below)

There is a particular kind of teenager who finds her, or more likely his, refuge in music. It becomes the obsession, the motivator, plus it's what gets him noticed. If it is going to be a job, that decision probably won't have formed itself with any certainty yet. But there can be formative experiences, things accomplished with schoolmates which plant the idea that a career in music is the all-eclipsing imperative.

Two tenor saxophonists who were at school with younger, better-known musicians will be doing interesting gigs in small venues in March, and I'm tempted to get to both.

Liverpool College, England, late 1960's

The principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic got moving early. Simon Rattle demanded a drum kit at four, he was in the violins of the Merseyside Youth Orchestra at eleven. His first conducting date was at Liverpool College- I calculate at either 13 or 14 - the ranks of the orchestra swelled by professionals from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra befriended by his father. The soloist in the Mozart clarinet concerto at that concert was the best musician around in the sixth form: a 17 year-old Tim Whitehead.

What happened to Simon Rattle? He went onwards, upwards. He never learnt to drive, but, hey, he doesn't need to. And what happened to Whitehead? The coup de foudre was to come later, in London whan training to be a barrister, and experiencing, among other things , the live sound of Dexter Gordon. and these days? Peter Bacon of the Birmingham Post and the jazzbreakfast blog has, as ever, some choice words: "Whitehead has a highly personal, always gorgeous sound on tenor and an infinite vocabulary - in a country of fine saxophonists he is one of the finest. "

Yes, Whitehead's is an incredibly strong voice on tenor. It grabs you. By the lapels, if you choose to be polite.... And his regular quartet are powerful, imaginative and never-dull players: wall flowers would wither. It consists of the undeniably world-class Liam Noble on piano, with Oli Hayhurst on bass and Milo Fell at the drums. In the tight space of the RamJam in Kingston on Wednesday March11th, you will find that this quartet has all the immediacy and a directive energy you can handle. And then some.

William H. Hall High School, West Hartford Connecticut, late 1980's

Here's another four-year old with drive. Brad Mehldau was the son of a doctor in West Hartford, who at that age "started picking out melodies on the piano."

As a teenager he was in the High School band, but some of the first paid gigging was out and about on the road in a duo fronted by year-older schoolmate Joel Frahm

What happened to Brad Mehldau? He picked up a Warner Music recording contract just a few years out of school, and has now clocked up 15 albums as leader. And Frahm? I last came across him on DVD as a member of Jane Monheit's Rainbow Room band. His voice on tenor is characteristacally melodic, often gentle. But his the trio on his last album consists of luminaries Kenny Barron on piano, Rufus Reid on bass, and Victor Lewis on drums.

Frahm has very interesting gigs featuring Mike Janisch and Jim Hart on vibes at the tiny Con Bar in Camden Town on Monday 23rd, and in the more comfortable surrondings of the Pizza in Dean Street on Monday 30th and Tuesday 31st.


NEWS: BBC Jazz Awards

BBC Radio 3 Publicity confirmed to me today the rumours which have been circulating:
the BBC has indeed withdrawn from running its Jazz Awards this year.

Jazz is supported, valued, well promoted and well done, and in each case diffrently, by both Radio 2 and Radio 3. Our hardy plant finds the ground on which to grow wherever it can...

But in the final analysis, neither 2 nor 3 is a "jazz station." This output is on the margins of what each station does.

If I were looking for one single factor - other than general pressure on budgets - which might have shifted the balance towards cancelling, I would point to the passing away last year of Humphrey Lyttelton. Humph's programmes regualarly had the highest radio audiences in the BBC's jazz output.

When I ran JazzDev, I had an informal audience with Prince Philip, and a lively trumpeter from Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, whose badge said he was called Richard Fairweather. HRH told us that one reason that he, and indeed other members of his family liked jazz was because they adored Humph.

How do you replace a cornerstone like that?


Review: Gene Krupa Centenary Tribute/ Cadogan Hall

Gene Krupa (1909-1973)

There wasn't really any need for kitchen performance anxiety tonight. One of the cast-iron certainties in British jazz is that a band directed by Pete Long will cook.

This remarkable phenomenon generally known among musicians as Plong, this hyper-active multi-reedsman, in whom Croydon, I am told, is mysteriously inflected with a possible hint of Malta, has led successful Ellington projects,riotously good Dizzy Gillespie projects, and much else besides. Long knows his craft, he delivers meticulously edited parts onto the stands. He bandleads and MC's for Britain.

Thus there were many great moments tonight, when not only the sound, but also the visuals were totally convincing. Pete Long was shuffling around in a burgundy tail-suit, on clarinet, in charge. Enrico Tomasso was alongside him, squeezing blistering high notes out of the trumpet, his whole face rapidly becoming a perfect colour-match for Long's suit. Joan Viskant was finding the vocal colours of her - and also Krupa's - home town of Chicago circa 1940.Period-style specialist Martin Wheatley on guitar was being subtly and predictably flawless. In the background the microphone stands suspended over drummer Richard Pite's head were dancing in time. And the audience of several hundred at Cadogan Hall were showing how much they were enjoying it by whistling, whooping and cheering at the end of just about every number.

But there were uncertainties, mainly about the format. Both Pete Long and Richard Pite expressed their doubts as to whether the attempt to cram of the whole jazz life of Gene Krupa into a couple of hours could actually succeed. It was a tough ask, even allowing for Richard Pite's knowledge of, and enthusiasm for Krupa, his strong musicianship, and his antics at the drum kit. Sometimes we risked being deluged with dates, entrances and exits, criss-cross references to the period being re-created. Announcement culture, bad enough in London Transport, should never be allowed to capture the soul of a swing band as fine as this.

Because this music can, and tonight really did, speak for itself. A sentiment for which Pete Long found exactly the right adage: "If this doesn't turn you on, you ain't got a switch."


Phil Woods Interview

NOT this Phil Woods. A different one

The 14th Annual Budvar Cheltenham Jazz Festival had its launch at Ronnie Scott's today. Festival Producer Steve Symons' blog gives an update of how it's all going. The programme looks great, and I picked up a sunny mood around the place today. Last year Cheltenham definitely needed sunshine; what it got instead was big demand for the HSBC umbrellas. But optimism certainly shone through today from my conversation with young festival staffer Phil Woods.

For most of us, thoughts of the Budvar Cheltenham Jazz Festival focus on great gigs, and the good places to hang out between them. Like the Marquee in the gardens, the Everyman bar, the Kandinsky Hotel...nice. But as part of the team, Phil knows what he's in for at festival time. He'll be haring from one venue to another at frenetic pace, keeping a constant eye for things which might go wrong. From experience, he knows he'll be very lucky if the work-load permits him to sit down and listen for more than a few minutes.

Phil is a trumpeter, a product of Leicestershire's excellent school music services, and one gig he definitely communicated a lot of excitement about is the Dave Douglas Quintet from the US on Sunday May 3rd at the Everyman. (Incidentally, Phil now reads the LondonJazz blog regularly, thanks to the very kind early plug from Peter Bacon's blog. )

Dave Douglas was also one of the names featuring prominently in Artistic director Tony Dudley-Evans excellent round-up. Tony has spent so much of his life teaching English to foreigners, that he treats both our language, and the listener, with the kind of respect which is rare.
Also, Dudley-Evans' instincts as a programmer are to be trusted. He particularly mentioned drum wizard Jeff Williams, and New York clarinettist and renaissance everything Don Byron, who will be on at the Everyman, later on the same evening as Douglas. And Williams' old sparring partner Dave Liebman. And guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel who was on stunning form at Charlie Wright's a few months ago.
From experience I know that Dudley-Evans uses St Andrews Church very cleverly. This year he has the Trinity Jazz Ensemble, whose performance of a similar programme I reviewed at Ronnie's here
Plus a lot of up-and-coming British talent, thanks to the Jerwood Foundation. And loads more. The gig likely to sell out the quickest, I would guess, is Madeleine Peyroux at the Everyman.
But after my conversation with (the Cheltenham) Phil Woods I really want to catch Dave Douglas. And I hope he gets to listen to it too.


Ian Carr 1933-2009

A moment, it seems yet another moment when we remember a unique voice in British jazz.

Ian Carr died peacefully yesterday.

His early career is detailed here .
A Nucleus website which announced the news yesterday is here . Roger Farbey's obituary is here
Tributes and memories are starting to gather here
He was also one of our finest writers about jazz, the author of very important books.

No pictures, no clips, just great sadness and thought; and deepest condolences to those close to him.


Quotes about a music college education

1) On finishing the course:

"You'll know when you've finished the course. Some people have already finished before they've even started. There are others who will never finish."

Basil Tchaikov's remark to his student Rick Wakeman when Wakeman found that he was getting booked for more and more highly-paid sessions.

2) On Jazz in music colleges:

"Jazz used to be what people did who didn't want to go to college."

Pete Churchill on receiving his award as jazz educator of the year at the Parliamentiary Jazz Awards

3) To musicians leaving college and looking for a manager:

"Are you ready for Artist Management? The Quiz:

Question 1: Do you have anything to manage?"

Angela Myles Beeching of New England Conservatory, Boston, from "Beyond Talent" OUP 2005

(Notes: quotes 1 & 2 are from memory; picture source: a Joanna MacGregor lecture on the bass line in the Goldberg variations quoted HERE)


Blue Notes for Mongezi

P icture of the Blue Notes from the early 1960's:
Chris McGregor (piano) Dudu Pukwana (sax) Louis Moholo (drums), Johnny Dyani( bass) Mongezi Feza (trumpet/flute)

The Youtube clip below haunts the mind. Recorded spontaneously on 23 Dec 1975 after the memorial service in London of Mongezi Feza, who had died of pneumonia while a patient in a mental hospital in Epsom, Surrey, aged just 30.

Wanna read more? There's loads on the Blue in the Air blog and the Matsuli blog. A Jazzwise review is at here of the CD version which came out last autumn.

Or just listen.


Ich gratuliere Olli!

Amazing where things get announced.

Oliver Weindling of the Vortex and Babel (pictured above with David Mossman , the father of the old and the new Vortex) has just been awarded an Honorary membership of the Royal Academy of Music. Which means- I think - he will be able to put the letters Hon. RAM after his name (does one go looking for ....an Hon. EWE?)

The announcement has come in taz.de , the online version of the German national paper Die Tageszeitung, just above an ad for cheap Mallorca holidays.

Also auf deutsch:

Am Freitag, den 13., ist wichtige Post für Oliver Weidling gekommen. Stolz hält er den Brief von der Royal Academy of Music in Händen: Kommenden Monat wird er für seine Verdienste um die junge Londoner Jazzszene ausgezeichnet werden.

Joking aside, Oliver's contribution to the development of the young London jazz scene is indeed second to none.


Beckham and the Luna Lounge

On May 2nd, 1975, in Whipps Cross Hospital (nearest tube Leytonstone) a global brand was born to parents Ted and Sandra Beckham.

As Brand Republic reported yesterday, the custodians of the Beckham brand are currently attempting to stop his image being used in China to promote a sex drug. Meanwhile the message from the Beckham camp to both AC Milan and LA Galaxy seems to be that they should just keep spending. While I note that the children of Chingford and Buckhurst Hill on a trip to Butlins in Bognor competed- to the death - for a David Beckham Fair Play Award (well done the Under 10s).

But back to Leytonstone tube station. I know for certain I will be venturing out there. This time not to visit Whipps Cross Hospital, but to check out one of Martin Speake's Monday nights at the Luna Lounge, because the March programm is superb.
Speake speaks: "I have started a new Monday evening residency at a great venue, LUNA LOUNGE, 7 Church Lane, Leytonstone, E11 1PG

If I don't have a concert elsewhere i will be there and if not, a guest saxophone player will replace me so there will always be jazz on. 8pm start

This is very close to Leytonstone tube and has a bar and Indian food.£5/£4 studentsI will be joined by guest pianists, bass players and drummers each week.This includes pianist Rick Simpson, drummers Jeff Williams, James Maddren and Andy Chapman and bassist Sam Lasserson and Calum GourlayThe music will vary each gig and feature music by Charlie Parker,Ornette Coleman, Lennie Tristano, standard tunes and original music by myself which is featured on the ECM release Change of Heart. "

7 Church Lane, E11. It is also the address of The Eatery (!) "a modern and stylish Indian restaurant. On the menu is a tantalizing assortment of traditional dishes bursting full of flavour and spice."
Every one of the five nights in March looks interesting, strong players all round. I've already ringed the 16th with Pete Hurt (tenor) Calum Gourlay (bass) and Jeff Williams (drums). And 30th Rick Simpson's trio with Calum Gourlay again and James Maddren.
And I'm wondering if I won't find a national newspaper critic - or even two- tucking into curry when I get there. And a "tantalizing assortment" of music.


Alison Burns' adventures in Sri Lanka

Scots jazz singer Alison Burns has been touring Sri Lanka courtesy of the British Council with her father-in-law Martin Taylor, and close to all sorts of danger . A scary account is HERE, plus there's a version from her blog .

From the Timex factory in Dundee, to qualifying as a lawyer, and-and-and, it's getting to be quite a life story...

Wishing her a safe return to the tranquillity of Queen's Hall in Edinburgh 8,and of Carl Fischer/ Frankie Laine's "We'll be Together Again"


Jazz in London - March

Jazz in London for March is available online NOW

I am struck by the contrast between some of my recent items about things being quietly closed down, often where jazz is marginal to big organisations.......

versus the vibrancy of what is going on next month at e.g. the Luna Lounge by Leytonstone Library and the Con Bar in Camden.


What else is getting cancelled?

The BBC Jazz Awards ..... the empty stage(?)

After the on-off saga of Brecon, time to look at what else might be off....or possibly on.
1) The Jazzwise Summer School
"Jazzwise Summer School, now in it's 24th year, caters for all levels from aspiring amateurs to educators and professionals. Since 1984 over 1,500 musicians have attended including those who've now become major names on the UK scene such as Theo Travis, Liam Noble, Mark and Michael Mondesir, Byron Wallen and Paul Clarvis.
Please note - the Summer School is NOT running in 2009. Enquiries are welcome for 2010 when we hope to resume the course"

Comment: It's definitely off. (Source for the above is the Jazzwise website). Blame the recession, blame competition, but salute Charles Alexander and his team for the community- and infrastructure-build they've done in the last quarter century without the public purse getting involved.

2) The BBC Jazz Awards ?

Rumours are doing the rounds that the BBC Jazz Awards may not be happening this year.


-I'm waiting for denial or confirmation. Three voicemails/messages so far taken by people in BBC Press Offices, starting Friday mid-afternoon.

-Marginalistion of jazz is a perrenial problem, and the BBC, and Radio 2 in particular have lost their most powerful jazz voice, Humphrey Lyttelton, in the past year.

-Jazz programming on free-to-air BBC radio is getting pushed into slots when less folk are awake. Claire Martin was talking at half past midnight last night as I was falling asleep...


The most approachable gig of the year?

The Chicken Shed, Enfield on Friday March 6th: Five trombones.

I've been thinking about a rating system for gigs. I want to highlight music which is melodic, approachable, friendly, and kind to the ear. Music of stunning quality, but which will also make you happy. Something to take your grumpiest friend or a sullen teenager to, in the certain knowledge that the music, heard live, and close up, is going to put a smile on his or her face.

So. For melody, for approachability, for taking grumpy friends or teenagers to and seeing them smile, this is one of my gigs of the year.

The trombone in jazz often functions as a harmony instrument. Trombonists can be real gents, craftsmen blending their warm sound with each other, making their section sound like one indivisible instrument.

Trombonists, because they occupy the harmonic territory at the heart of a band, can make fantastic arrangers. Eddie Harvey who has written some of the arrangements for this gig is one. As is Adrian Fry who is running the gig. As was the late lamented Pete Strange who was Humphrey Lyttelton's sideman and arranger for 21 years, and ran a band called Five-a-Slide, whose arrangements will also be featured.

But trombonists can also project. I've often been on the stand with one of the guys in this band, Chris Gower. Believe me, when Chris takes a solo in the Bull's Head, I've felt that joyous, characterful sound go straight out into the room, and had the physical sensation of it bouncing straight back at us off the opposite wall. And, yes, felt more alive for that.

This gig is the debut of a new band Bone Supremacy. Debut gigs can be risky, because bands haven't either gelled, or blended, or found a shared language. But gelling and blending is the daily work of these five: they are all London trombonists at the top of the profession. I'd also be surprised if this is a band where many arguments happen.

If you don't believe me, try their sound clips .

I will be making the journey to Enfield. The Chicken Shed is just a short walk from Cockfosters Station on the Piccadilly Line. And I know I won't regret it


A bit of a review of Mishka Adams

Mishka Adams
Friday 20th February, Front Room, South Bank Centre, Mishka Adams Band. Free
I only caught the second half tonight, so call this a snapshot or an apology rather than a review.
And the sound in the Front Room at the QEH wasn't great either. Plus it was heaving with people (something called Meetup seems to target this venue!) , and as a result uncomfortably hot.
So to see no fewer than sixteen, seventeen people queuing up for, and walking away with one of her CDs afterwards left optimism : the CD buyers will hear impeccable sounds in their front rooms, as balanced by the safe hands of Candid Records. Chill-out sounds. In comfort. Nice.
Mishka Adams' voice right now is an appealing light, soft, gentle instrument. She claims both Joni Mitchell and Norma Winstone as influences. She often lets phrases catch the updraft straight into a sweet, sensitive, impeccably in tune head voice. But from where I was standing, that ethereal sound often got unfortunately submerged.
That's not because her band are rowdies, in fact they seem quite the opposite. These are polite, ex-Guildhall types. Like Andrew Woolf with his luxuriously centred clarinet sound and his lyrically inclined, in-the-chords tenor sax voice. Like Esben Tjalveon on piano. Check out the track "Space"on Adams' Myspace site. See what I mean: not exactly a Milwall thug. Perhaps Jon Scott on drums does stretch out a bit more than the others as he builds intensity. In fact, in the last number I doubt if I was alone in thinking that Scott's crescendo to fortissimo marked the end of the song and of the set, only to discover that both were yet to end- curiously- on the quietest of fade-outs to nothing.
I'm sure the Mishka Adams Band has many more gears, many more colours and moods than were on show in just one set tonight. And could also be balanced to better advantage.
And what's more, I'm sure that both Mishka Adams' songwriting and her voice will have further to travel too. And all of that is a prospect I look forward to hearing.


Allons Enfants: Kings Place June 10-13

I like the look of the French jazz week at the new Kings Place concert hall by Kings Cross station, which is just announced for June. I like it a LOT. Much as I like the look of the hall, pictured above.

The good news. Kings Place do Saver Seats. The seats cost £9.50 . The hall guarantees you seats, together, and will give you best available. It's a perfectly proportioned 450-seater hall, and I haven't found a duff seat yet.

Highlights for me are gypsy genius guitarist Bireli Lagrene and Martial Solal, a unique improviser on solo piano.

Here are the gigs. There are also lectures, talks with recordings . FULL LIST HERE

Wed 10th Jun / 8:00pm Bireli Lagrene Trio

Thurs 11th Jun / 8:00pm / Martial Solal

Fri 12th Jun / 8:00pm / Bojan Z performs with Seb Rochford and Ruth Goller

Fri 12th Jun / 10:00pm /Evan Parker and Hans Koller pay tribute to Steve Lacy
Sat 13th Jun / 8:00pm / Henri Texier: Enjoy a mix of popular, ethnic and jazz music
Sat 13th Jun / 10:00pm / Enjoy a taste of Paris' contemporary club life


Two unqualified recommendations for next week

Simon Purcell (left)
Gwilym Simcock (right)
1) Those who teach also can.(Tuesday 24th Lord Rookwood, Leytonstone)
An exciting band of players who know each other very well is out next Tuesday 24th at East Side Jazz at the Lord Rookwood in Leytonstone. They all teach extensively in music colleges, but make no mistake , this is an elite band.

Simon Purcell Quintet featuring Simon Purcell (piano), Julian Siegel (tenor sax, bass clarinet) , Chris Batchelor (trumpet) , Steve Watts (bass) , Gene Calderazzo (drums).

2) Happy Birthday Gwilym (606 Club Monday 23rd)

The 606 Club in Chelsea a friendly setting for the birthday celebration of Gwilym Simcock, a piano star who is and will go on developing, changing, and getting completely stuck in. The programme is promising surprise guests. Last time I heard him the sitter-in was former Chick Corea sideman Tim Garland. Gwilym gets classy guests....


Will Gresford hands over Vortex on a high

Will Gresford, who has been manager of the new Vortex ever since it first opened its doors properly September 2005, will officially leave this role and complete the handover on March 2nd. The club will be run by Todd Wills, who will take responsibility for programming, working alongside Stephanie Knibbe, who has been Assistant manager for the past year.

A good profile of Gresford by his college contemporary Richard Godwin of the Evening Standard is HERE.

Gresford describes his past three-and-a-half years of running the club as intense, full-on, non-stop. He is definitely looking forward to drawing breath. It will be a relief for him not to be on constant alert for, or worrying about too many things to think about at once.... while simultaneously having that sixth sense of what might go wrong that you haven't already thought of. While manning the bar too.

Gresford describes himself as having been a "custodian," and as part of the team. Among many others, Oliver Weindling has also played a massive role from the start, as in recent months has Stephanie Knibbe. Gresford also pays tribute to the contribution of a legion of volunteers to the Vortex's success.

Apart from taking a well-earned breather, Gresford will be working more actively with Nick Mulvey and Portico Quartet. But I will be flabbergasted if Gresford doesn't get some other, very interesting approaches indeed!

Because in the period he has been running this club with a capacity of a meagre hundred souls, run on a shoe-string, it has steadily built major international recognition, profile and visibilty.

Let's take stock of where the club now is. In past three to four weeks alone, there have been:

-two live Jazz on 3 recordings
-national newspaper reviews "easily into double figures"
-Buffalo Collision, Bobo Stenson, Marc Ducret
-the Loop Collective Showcase/Festival
-the only London gigs by Julian and Steve Arguelles brothers , returning from Scotland/Dresden and Paris respectively.

Congratulations, Will. Best wishes, Todd and Stephanie. On/upwards!


Brecon 2009: A three-day event

BBC Wales has been reporting the twists and turns of the story of the Brecon 2009 Festival.
Their latest update is HERE

Rather than abandoning completely, whereby the town would lose all the revenue - the economic benefit of the festival is estimated at £4m - , there is, after all, to be a smaller scale three-day weekend event from August 7th-9th.


The 22nd British Jazz Awards

Jim Hart (photo: Jeff Hardcastle)

The winners of the 2008 British Jazz Awards, organized by Big Bear Music in Birmingham were announced in early December, but I haven't seen much coverage. The Press Release says that the public vote went through a number of different channels including Myspace and Facebook. I am told there were over 2000 responses in all.
There is a clear bias towards mainstream here, rather than cutting-edge. But as with the better-publicised annual BBC Awards, and also the PPL-sponsored All-Party Parliamentary Wards, there is a nice mixture of both young and the old on the winner board, such as:

Humphrey Lyttelton- both CD categories, for understandable reasons.

Art Themen (pictured) -Art will be 70 later this year. He had a day-job throughout his working life - and rose to be consultant in orthopaedics. Modest, he'll be as surprised as anybody to have got this accolade and this certificate.
Freddy Gavita: a lot more will be heard from this the young Norwich-born trumpeter.
Jim Hart: now stands tall for the very best of ex-NYJO, nobody would dispute he deserves this recognition.

Winner: Bruce Adams
Runner-up: Guy Barker

Winner: Mark Nightingale
Runner-Up :Roy Williams

Winner: Alan Barnes
Runner-up: Tony Coe

Winner: Alan Barnes
Runner-up: Peter King

Winner: Art Themen
Runner-Up Bobby Wellins

Winner: Martin Taylor
Runner-up: Jim Mullen

Winner: David Newton
Runner-up: Gwilym Simcock

Winner: Dave Green
Runner-up :Alec Dankworth

Winner: Steve Brown
Runner-up Bobby Worth

Winner: Jim Hart (vibes)
Runner-Up: Alan Barnes (baritone sax)

Winner: Val Wiseman
Runner-up :Clare Teal

Winner:Freddy Gavita (Trumpet)
Runner-up: Kit Downes (piano)

Winner: Back to Basie
Runner-up: BBC Big Band

Winner: Digby Fairweather's Half Dozen
Runner-up: Alan Barnes' Ellingtonians (Stray Horns)

Winner: Humphrey Lyttelton - Cornucopia 2 (Calligraph)
Runner-up: Alan Barnes - Harlem Airshaft (Woodville)

Winner: Humphrey Lyttelton - Bad Penny Blues (Lake)
Runner-up: Tubby Hayes - Intensity (Ten to Ten)


Friday 13th and moustachen identity

This Bob Martin?..... Or This Bob Martin?

I wrote with enthusiasm about ex-Buddy Rich altoist Bob Martin HERE. Bob was playing earlier in the month in Frank Griffith's nonet. He has an absolute killer sound. Sits nonchalantly, often cross-legged, and plays with an authority and personal stamp which leaves its mark on one's musical memory.
A couple of musician friends of mine know their stuff. They went down to the Bulls Head last Friday, knowing exactly what they were going to hear...indeed had they been readers of Time Out they would have read :

Bob Martin/Mike Gorman/Julian Bury/Spike Wells
Fri Feb 13
Bull's Head Barnes, 373 Lonsdale Rd, SW13 9PY
One-time Buddy Rich altoist Martin lines up with fine Hammond organist/pianist Gorman and a hard-swinging rhythm section for some fast and furious bebop.

Er, WRONG!!!

Get this: the LondonPaper had it right

Bob Martin, Mike Gorman, Julian Bury, Spike Wells
Soulful blues-rock and country from the singer-songwriter

Appearing at the Bull's head last Friday was


Cross-Channel Multi-Channel Loop Coverage

Alex Bonney and Dave Kane
(Photo: Russ Escritt)

Congratulations to organizing dynamo Stephanie Knibbe, her French compatriot tall tenor Robin Fincker, and the many others whose can-do energy made the packed-out Loop showcase/festival at the Vortex last week such a success.

First there's some great coverage and even discoverage in the UK national press:

Ivan Hewett of the Daily Telegraph captures the variety and energy well HERE

Mike Hobart had the main arts review in today's Financial Times HERE, with a great picture of the Ivo Neame/Jim Hart Quartet.

Then, thanks to the PRS Foundation, there will also be some continental European coverage.

And Oliver Weindling expresses the hope, which I will second, that more people try out the regular Monday nights upstairs at the Oxford in Kentish Town Road on Mondays HERE.
Oliver....writing about sex...must be a first.

There's no mistaking the just-get-on-with-it attitude of the people involved here. Alex Bonney, singled out for praise in the Telegraph review for his trumpet/bass duo with Dave Kane.... also has loads of high quality recordings on his EARCONNECTOR site. Drummer Dave Smith pushes his own musical knowlege to the limits with exploring African drums . See a feature HERE

Word is getting out....and that is not something which happens by accident. These people don't wait for the phone to ring. They GRAFT.

The Loop Collective is normally to be found on Monday nights upstairs at the Oxford in Kentish Town Road.

Check out Jim Hart's Gemini on 2nd March and you won't be disappointed.


The sound at expensive gigs

I wrote about last week's Michel Legrand/Alison Moyet show , but for me it was a no-no on grounds of cost. Clive Davis of The Times went, he saw, and he WROTE.....

Although, as ever in London, he was pleased to hear a top-notch professional band, he was clearly very disappointed by the gig. And particularly by the sound.

....a tantalisingly uneven blend of big-band swing and pensive balladry.
.....the sound mix hardly did the orchestra justice.
.... Moyet [...] was restricted to a sequence of perfunctory renditions of hits....[and] was not even given an opportunity to address the audience between numbers.

Sixty quid a ticket and they can't give you decent sound..... That is a topic which gets aired frequently among gig addicts, I've found....


The Bull is still there

The Bull's Head

The Yamaha Jazz Room at the Bull's Head pub in Barnes is one of the fixtures of the London jazz scene. Other things change, other clubs move, but after nearly 50 years it's still there. Apart from the Yamaha connection, one other thing has moved recently : the Bull's listing in the new -format Jazz in London now adorns the back page.
The Bull puts on a wide range of jazz seven nights a week and Sunday lunchtimes. Its programme for February is HERE and for March HERE

I got involved intensively, and successfully, helping Dan and Liz Fleming to save it from the threat of closure in 2005. Richmond Council had had a noise complaint from a tenant in the brand new flats which had been built right up to its wall, but we managed to get the Today Programme interested. After that exposure Richmond Council and Young's brewery both discovered simultaneously and serendipitously that they were having second thoughts about silencing one of the landmark venues of the London jazz scene after 45 years.

The Bull occupies a proud position watching over a gentle bend in the Thames. It's right by Barnes Bridge station so the carless and the careless can get back to central London with ease. And the regular local Noddy bus, the 419 takes an...interesting... route from the tube interchange at Hammersmith on its way to Richmond. The 209 is more direct.

Young's is no longer family-owned. So the Young family no longer brew their beer, or keep their drayhorses, by the river Wandle in Wandsworth. The smoking ban has hit the pub trade. Dan and Liz have been forced by Health and Safety legislation to make expensive improvements. But a proud, nearly 50-year record of supporting jazz continues. Dexter Gordon played there, Earl Hines. Yes, they all played the Bull.

Regular artists, the stalwarts of British jazz are still regular fixtures. A Friday or Saturday gig in that small room by alto sazophonist Pete King (next on this Saturday 21st) or pianist Stan Tracey (Sat 28th) in a club filled like a rush hour train into Waterloo is something you never forget. These guys deliver every time. Alan Price, local resident, prefers Thursdays (next on 12th March) and also packs them in. Humphrey Lyttelton preferred Tuesdays, and the tradition of "his" band appearing still continues.

You CAN'T book. Go early and nab a chair, or perch at the back if its full. It isn't always.....

What else has caught my eye in the programme?

Young trumpeter Henry Armburg Jennings with a top young band on March 20th. Scott Hamilton on March 27th. And ex-NYJO singer Sarah Ellen Hughes on March 11th. Her promotional (???) video on Youtube has her earnestly discussing the merits of an editing software package (weird) , and an overdubbed washing-up sequence from a kitchen in Peckham (weirder still and weirder) . But there are good sound clips on her MYSPACE and she's got a great young band.

Sarah Ellen Hughes with fast-rising trumpeter Freddy Gavita


Anyone out there more versatile than Daryl Runswick?

Candles at St. Cyprian's

The series of Tuesday early evening concerts which innovative promoter Christine Allen puts on at St Cyprian's Church is one of the joys of the London scene. It is an enterprising mixture of established and rising talent. Not many promoters can deliver the combination of consistent quality, imagination and originality which Christine does. Even with a grillion times her resources.

St. Cyprian's is a great and easy-to-get-to venue. It's two minutes walk from Baker Street station. A cavernous church with a great acoustic. Here's Alyn Shipton writing about St. Cyps in The Times: "The church has become the setting for a series of adventurous jazz concerts ......most of the time, the sheer beauty of its sound seduced us too, shimmering round the ornate Anglo-Catholic interior of St Cyprian’s, as Yoshiki Ban’s ornate candles guttered and flickered"

The current season has several interesting gigs. The next one up on Feb 24th is a solo multi-instrumental concert by one of the most complete musicians, but freest spirits in the British music profession, Daryl Runswick.

Daryl Runswick's jaw-dropping biography is HERE, part of a website which gives a window into an extraordinary career. Runswick has a unique place in the musical fabric of this country.

Base camp was as a Cambridge University choral scholar. Establishment central. Your trusty reliable springboard into a career in the musical establishment........if you want to get catapulted/ pigeon-holed as, say, a conductor, or a singer, or a composer. You're right in there. the doors open easily.

But if the doors you want to open are not those, but as Dankworth's bass player? Or as Sinatra's/ Basie's/ Ornette Coleman's bass player? Or as part of an experimental vocal group working extensively with John Cage and Berio... as author of tutor books on piano improvisation?

Well, you have to prove that you can, or find easier ways to live. And Daryl Runswick has proved brilliantly that he indeed can. This gig will be an amalgam of this unique experience of performing at the highest level. Everywhere.

At this gig you will hear
-both the fretless alto bass and the fretted, guitar-stringed piccolo bass
-classical singing, scat singing, extended-vocal-technique singing
-pop songs, jazz tunes, forms influenced by contemporary classical
- a laptop with which he "spins in" backings and electronic treatments.
February 24th St Cyp's. 6.30 start time. Straight into the recommended list. Thank you Christine!


UK music industry success in Brussels

Congratulations to Dominic McGonigall of PPL who is a very effective campaigner on behalf of the music industry on a victory in Brussels last week, getting the EU to back copyright extension to 95 years. The full story is HERE

Belgonostalgia seeming to get me this morning. An awful lot of beer consumed in the shadow of the Berlaymont asbestos monster above!!

There are other campaigns closer to the ground in UK music where nothing ever happens, and Dominic's effectiveness might be useful too......

See link to the Live Music Campaign in the right column.


Rescuing a jazz club (2)

This extraordinary-looking gentleman, equipped with his megaphone, his pen and astonishing uplift, may be about to rescue the festival and the De Werf venue in Bruges, according to optimistic noises coming from the management.

"Red De Werf" means - save De Werf
The words "Teken de Petitie" coming out of his megaphone mean "sign the petition."

Signatories to the petition are up to nearly 7000, compared to below 5000 when we covered the story a week ago.

The previous piece, and alink to the petition are HERE


Giant Kind of Blue Steps at 50

Kind of Blue: Recorded March 2nd and April 6th, 1959
Giant Steps: Recorded May 4th and 5th, 1959.

It does seem like a very weird idea indeed, as Ben Ratliff of the New York Times hints very strongly, two organize a joint fiftieth birthday party for two albums.

Ratliff has written a reluctant but nonetheless thoughtful review of the combined celebration at Lincoln Center for the fiftieths of John Coltrane's Giant Steps, and Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.

"Giant, Kind your birthdays are really close together. Daddy says you can only have one party between you. "

I guess fifty year-old records don't get a choice, and they certainly can't cry.....

Read this: Ben Ratliff wasn't exactly saying whoopee when his editor told him he had 600 words to write about it...

"A Jazz at Lincoln Center concert in [...] honor [of these albums] is almost something to dread: not necessarily because the records are technically beyond reach, but because such an event can quickly become a knowing lob to the fetishizers [....]"

Phew. 565 words to go.


Soul in a VERY good cause, and quite a story

Pizza on the Park*

Promoter Anthony Steinberg tells me he has booked Pizza on The Park for a charity soul gig raising money for the British Kidney Patient Association and other charities supporting kidney patients. This Wednesday Feb 18th

It can be booked online HERE

An Evening with Melissa Bell. I don't know her, but, you can hear her on her Myspace page Plus I've done the research yards.......

-Her grand mother - the first ever female Caribbean pianoforte teacher in London
-Her mother an alleged eight octave range
-Melissa herself claims a more modest five octaves
-Her daughter Alexandra Burke has just won X-Factor
-Singing debut: the staff karaoke competition at Marks and Sparks in Marble Arch
-Fast forward just a week to a talent show in Hackney... a member of the audience spots her...a record deal on the spot
-Lead singer of Soul II Soul: 2 top 20 singles, 3 albums, 5 world tours
-Backing vocals for Stevie Wonder -"This lady has a world class voice" , Whitney Houston, Queen, Sir Elton John and Liza Minelli
-Husband and children scattered in Melbourne, Bahrain and London
-A kidney dialysis patient herself


Review: Julianna Fabian/Peter Sarik

Hungarian Cultural Centre, Maiden Lane, Covent Garden
13th February 2009

My preview HERE was very long. So the review can and will be short. I enjoyed Fabian's gig, and will definitely want to hear her again. Her voice has power but also a smoky Aretha quality. It definitely sticks in the mind. The drawing room in Maiden Lane sometimes felt uncomfortably small, because both of these musicians can really project. But hey, this was a free gig, not Glyndebourne!

Fabian is fearless, she takes risks, and may she take many, many more. She had penned some English words to Miles Davis "Four" and then launched off into quickfire scat, taking on a dialogue with Sarik with convincing humour and energy. Scat is a dangerous occupation, but Fabian is very good at it. I was reminded of the best of Dee Dee Bridgewater

Sammy Fain's Alice in Wonderland which finished off the set was a high-spot. Sarik kicked it off with an extempore piano introduction. His wild idea seemed to be to give the refined and ethereal ghosts of Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit a strutting bass wake-up call they could never forget, and it worked. Both protagonists nailed the trademarks of the tune every time: Fabian placed that octave leap which starts the song with joyously precise intonation. And A-Lease rather than Alice was charming. The descending duplet figure in the tune was taken by the scruff of the neck. and then frogmarched by Sarik relentlessly on down to the bottom of the piano. Brilliant.


National Treasures of British Jazz(2)

In 2008, a long list of jazz musicians passed away. And among them we lost two who were also superb presenters of jazz on radio.

Both of these men had helped jazz in all its forms to reach the ears of those of us inclined to hunt jazz down. But they also knew how to appeal to the bigger population: those seeking enjoyment and solace and spiritual whatever from hopping radio stations:
Humphrey Richard Adeane Lyttelton, trumpeter, clarinettist, bandleader, broadcaster, writer, journalist and calligrapher: born Eton, Berkshire 23 May 1921; cartoonist, Daily Mail 1949-53; chairman, I’m Sorry I Haven’t Clue 1972-2008; married 1948 Pat Braithwaite (one daughter; marriage dissolved 1952), 1952 Jill Richardson (died 2006; two sons, one daughter); died Barnet, Hertfordshire 25 April 2008*.

Campbell Crichton Mackinnon Burnap, trombonist, vocalist, bandleader and broadcaster: born Derby 10 September 1939; married 2002 Jenny Hargreaves; died London 30 May 2008*.

Both were exceptionally generous men with masses of warmth and good humour. And their passings away leave not so much a gap as a huge void in British jazz. And they were certainly kind to me.

Yes, there are other, senior people in the British media village with a genuine devotion - and more -for jazz: Michael Parkinson , Russell Davies.

Yes, there are also other presenters.

But if I want to hear the friendliest, most experienced, most professional jazz broadcasting voice in Britain, following the closure of theJazz radio station, a bit of research tells me that

"Helen Mayhew brings Jazz music to in-flight radio presenting shows for EVA, Kuwait and Singapore Airlines as well as ‘Jazz Connections’ on Virgin trains."

Or there's a very short clip which gives no clue to her interviewing craft or her knowledge of the scene on her website.

Helen knows the young London scene better than ANYBODY. If I go to an interesting gig by a promising young player or singer which I think nobody else can possibly have found- she's got there before me!


*(Source: The Independent's fogeyish obituaries page)


Creativity, Culture and Mingus

Somebody told me at a dinner party:

"Creativity is the answer to the question: Who am I?"
and that

"Culture is the answer to the question : Who are we?"
But across the table was Charles Mingus, and he said,

"In my music, I'm trying to play the truth of what I am.
The reason it's difficult is because I'm changing all the time."


Valentine's Day

Where should one go to hear jazz tomorrow, Valentine's day?

Apart from the Vortex, it definitely seems to be singers' night...

I had singled out the Claire Martin/ Richard Rodney Bennett gig at the Pizza on the Park to go to, but I've ended up with a booking to play as part of a trio for a Valentine's Day dinner. Claire is top-of-the-range, a class act, ahem, despite what it says in the link on the right in Dave Newton's Alternative Professions.

And for the recession-proof, Natalie Williams and Joe Stilgoe will be cooking up something very energetic and fun at Ronnie's (two sittings, remember!)

But there's also Tammy Weis from Vancouver at the 606 is also a great singer, as is Georgia Mancio (with her site you're straight into her sound clips) at the Pizza in Dean Street.

But if you want something more varied (edgy, modern etc) then head for the Vortex, and not a singer in sight. A showcase for FOUR bands in one evening The Loop Collective have a short festival which will be getting good media coverage on the continent thanks to the PRS Foundation. If you wanted a snapshot of some of the best of young London jazz, you will get a good sampling of interesting musicians. But book. I think it will be busy and you could well find you're standing rather than sitting....

I also think that it's a great building to look at as you approach it from across the square. The appeal never fails, I find it an uplifting sight. Pictures like this one don't really give you the full effect.
But for those who still can't get enough of Jazz and Valentine's Day, Jeffrey Siegel of Straight No Chaser in Massachussets has written industrial quantities about it HERE.


Come on down, the price is WRONG!

Stan Sulzmann (Photo: Gary Corbett)

The gig is on March 17th at the Guildhall School of Music next to the Barbican Centre. Admission is free. It features Gwilym Simcock and Stan Sulzmann working with jazz students from Guildhall. The rhythm sections I've been hearing from Guildhall recently have been right on the button.
I could write a lot about the quality of Gwilym's playing, but I won't.
Chick Corea has said “Gwilym’s an original. A creative genius.”
And a very good early profile is HERE.

And John Fordham describes Stan Sulzman thus:
"UK saxophonist Stan Sulzmann could have lost his own musical personality in a three-decadecareer of showing he could play anything for anybody, at any tempo, with preparation you could write on a postage stamp. Instead, he found an authoritative voice late in the game, and became one of the British scene's real interpretative individuals. "

Let me say it again, with feeling, and this time with a link, admission is free.


Meanwhile in E-flat land

King Prawn Dhansak (In The Dark)

The alto player next to me in the rehearsal band and and I watch the world - and forests of seemingly unplayable semiquavers- go by, and we chat.

After the tenor players have charged through their 64-bar solos, and the flugelhorns have emoted their ballads, we stop counting our bars rest, and put our brains in neutral . We find it best to avoid contentious subjects like tuning, so we talk about politics and religion instead. We ask, rhetorically, how it can possibly be that the bar lines get so much younger and more fleet of foot every year.
And sometimes we talk about our shared love of good curries.

(Some of which are going to make you absolutely GROAN.... )

My Papadum tole Me (Blues in the Night)
Oh You Beautiful Dhall
Oh Cinnamon
Samosa these Days
I could raita book
All God's chillis got rhythm
Pilau don't talk about me when I've gone
Let's Face the Dhansak and Muse
What a swell chapati this is
Dhansak in the Dark.
UPDATE 10th March
Frank Griffith has added these by email
Hello Delhi
Mumbai Inn
Lets face the music and Dhanzak
Dhanzak in the dark
Dhanzak on the ceiling
Burma self
Easy come easy goa
Goa way little girl
Calcutta what makes your big head so hard
Tibet is yet to come
Tiger rag
Chapati's over
"My Pappadaum told me…"
Who's Sari now
Bhagee and soul
Tikka closer walk with thee
Sheek to Sheek
Chana town
Samosa's days
April in Puree
Curry with the fringe on top
The sag is you
Sag for my father
The sag is ended
Sag sung blue
With a sag in my heart
The balti's over
Nan a clear day
Nan I love her so
Chutney bridge
Kofta you've gone
Black kofta
Mango Inn
Dueling Mangos
Jeera Sensational
Have a rice day
Keema Peachy
Bhuna Mas
I had a balti


Remembrance of swing's past

Cy Laurie

Peter Maguire of Jazz Clubs Worldwide in Brussels now has a blog where he is getting all dewy-eyed nostalgic for an era when British jazz was supposedly fuelled by "nothing more stimulating than soft drinks."



Now then. About those drinks.....

A veteran musician recently told me a heartening story of one big band trumpet section's solidarity. And, literally, of their support, for a flat-out-incapable section member. Said, sad case was due to take his turn to perform an eight bar cue live TV. The others were of one mind that he was never going to make it. So, two of them propped him up and poised the trumpet against his lips, while the fourth lay at their feet and played his eight bars for him before a collective collapse.

Soft drinks eh......
There is a massively busy site for trad enthusiasts based in the North West of the UK HERE. The picture above came from it.


Wednesday= Weekly News round-up

Ingrid Laubrock. whose quartet gig tonight at "The Others" is on the
Late Arrivals board at http://www.jazzinlondon.net/

A Tall Story

Lucky people arriving on Eurostar into London ......

....to spend our bombed-out currency in our great city where you in the last week you could have heard Jamiroquai's pianist playing in a pub for free and Kenny Wheeler for six pounds .....

are to have a new treat. Ebbsfleet will be saluting them with a fifty metre high white horse


I wrote up the Grammys in my sleep at speed before the sun rose on Monday morning and the piece and links are HERE.

Ingrid Laubrock at start-up venue

Jazz In London is a monthly, but Mick Sexton (nice guy, seen-it-all) also updates it during the month with a wry smile for people with their late gigs to put in . Yup. Been there!

This month the Late Arrivals board has interesting stuff, and how!

It's called F-IRE at the Others. Full deatails are HERE. First up is Ingrid Laubrock's Quartet.

Abroad she's playing big venues. Her schedule in Europe and the US in the next few months is AMAZING. But tonight she and awesome piano player Barry Green are supporting a new venture for younger promoters in Stoke Newington. This is a community, and a strong and purposeful one.

WEDNESDAYS 8.00-11.30pm
The Others, 6 - 8 Manor Road, N16 5SA

11/02 Ingrid Laubrock:sax/ Barry Green: Piano/Ollie Brice: Bass/Javier Carmona: Drums followed by jam

And then every Wednesday. Looks VERY interesting!


Mark Turner

A worrying rumor about the risen-and-right-up-there star US tenorist from the BBC Messageboards


The merger of LiveNation and Ticketmaster

The way tickets are sold is changing. See THIS commentary on the implications at Allaboutjazz


Blossom Dearie

Sad news, obituaries everywhere.Much loved and admired.

But could any of us (or indeed the Australians and South Africans who love in london??) put our hands on our hearts or a bible or face Mecca and really say "I Like London in the Rain"?

Lionel Loueke

Tickets for 21st March going very fast for hot guitarist Lionel Loueke- last here with Herbie Hancock's band - at the Vortex on March 21st.


Here is an Interesting piece about Scott Hamilton by Nick Catalano of Allaboutjazz.

It's entitled Scott Hamilton: Is Expatriatism on the Rise, and discusses Scott Hamilton's move to Italy.
Describing a gig he heard at the Pizza Express in Dean Street Catalino writes: "Soho is abuzz with talent these days " makes me think:

But by the way, so are Covent Garden, and Stoke Newington and Dalston, and Richmond, Twickenham and Kingston, and Ealing, and all the Colleges of Music, and and and .....



Jazz in Bruges : Under Threat

There is a new Petition to save De Werf in Bruges/ Belgium ,an important club on the circuit.

The Bruges Jazz Festival which has featured eg Soweto Kinch and Barry Guy and a host of European artists is also threatened.

Follow the link to

Sign our petition/save De Werf

Here's what you'll be signing . The petition is to the local politicians who hold the purse strings and who are threatening closure

Geachte Heer Minister,Geachte Heer Van den Brempt,
Dear Minister, Dear Mr Van Brempt
Tot mijn ontsteltenis verneem ik dat de “Beoordelingscommissie Kunstencentra” als conclusie onder haar pre-advies voor De Werf “onvoldoende” schreef.
To my astonishment I hear that the "Appraisal Committee on Arts Centres" has concluded in its report that De Werf is "unsatisfactory"

Dit zou betekenen dat De Werf en haar werking - de theater voorstellingen voor jong en oud, de jazzconcerten, het Jonge Snaken festival tijdens de herfstvakantie, het tweejaarlijkse Festival Jazz Brugge, het W.E.R.F. CD-label… - verdwijnen uit Brugge, uit Vlaanderen…

This must signify that De Werf and its activity [Jazz concerts, the two-yearly Bruges Jazz Festival, a record label....] are to disappear from Bruges and from Flanders.

Ik ga hier niet mee akkoord.

I do not agree to this.

Ik ben van mening dat De Werf een zeer waardevolle speler is in het internationale en in het Vlaamse cultuurlandschap.

I am of the opinion that De Werf is a very valuable player in the international and Flemish cultural landscape.

De Werf moet blijven!

De Werf must survive!

Mag ik hopen dat u, Mijnheer de Minister, bij het verdelen van de middelen voor de komende jaren met mijn mening rekening houdt.

May I hope that you, Minister, in the distribution of funds for forthcoming years, take account of my opinion


First Name




Dutch not that difficult!


Hieronder bent u vrij om een persoonlijke mening over te maken aan de minister en de commissievoorzitter
You are free to enter your personal opinion to the minister and the head of the commission


Uw gegevens worden niet doorgestuurd naar andere instanties.

Your details will NOT be given to other organisations

PS: U kent misschien wel kunstencentrum Rataplan uit Borgerhout waarmee we regelmatig samenwerken. Ook zij hebben van dezelfde commissie een negatief advies gekregen.
PS An arts centre in Borgerhout with which we work regularly has received a negative report from the same commission

Press Send!!


Review: Martin Speake and Bobo Stenson/Vortex

Bobo Stenson

In the trio context you know what to expect from Bobo Stenson. That right hand, crystalline, bright, dominating. It leads, it takes responsibility for the line, the narrative. Stenson sets up rhythmic tension; he dialogues with himself, poses questions and answers them; he alternates between concordant harmony and tight dissonance; but he is always in command. A Bobo Stenson solo will always get applause because when he vacates centre stage, his compelling personality and his right hand leave a void which then needs to be filled.

But take that responsibility for the melodic line away from him, and, as in last night's quartet setting, give it to Martin Speake, and the range of possibilities has suddenly multiplied. Stenson draws from a huge palette of colour, can play a fascinating variety of different roles. In the first statement of the melody in Speake's deceptively simple, scalar composition Lost in Transit , this freedom and variety in his playing were mesmerising. Just in this brief episode, Stenson played the tune in unison, he played a beat behind it, he supported it, subverted it, he caressed it, imitated it, mocked it, avoided it, smashed it with Don Pullen semitone clusters, comped under it, punctuated it with single repeated notes. He seemed to have an endless variety of choices. Complete freedom like this can be bewildering, but not for Stenson, who clearly relishes it.

The pairing of Speake and Stenson has now really gelled. It would be hard to imagine a more perfect context for Speake's unique inward concentration and lyricism to come to the fore so convincingly. And Steve Watts on bass and sensitive, inventive drummer Jeff Williams are ideal foils for the two main protagonists.

The Vortex had deservedly given this gig, Stenson's debut at the club, star billing in their February leaflet. The same players will be at the club again tonight, and they are definitely worth catching.


Review: Bob Wilber Quartet at Pinner Parish Church

In the shadow of Benny Goodman: Bob Wilber will be leading the New York
Benny Goodman centenary tributes in May with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra

One of the first pieces I wrote for LondonJazz was a preview of the gig on Saturday night at Pinner Parish Church: here.

Stuart Nattrass and Peter Vacher organize the gig well, and there was a virtually full house. Wilber , looking good for nearly 81, was with regular top-notch British colleagues Richard Busakiewicz on piano, Dave Green on bass, and Bobby Worth on drums

Wilber tells fascinating anecdotes in between numbers, in which both his musical antecedents and his own distinguished, unique roles in jazz history come alive: as a pupil of Bechet, as a member of the Benny Goodman band, as keeper of the Ellington flame, and -this coming May - as music director at the Lincoln Center in New York in the centenary tributes to Benny Goodman with Wynton Marsalis gladly demoting himself to sideman.

He also spoke with real fondness for English churches, and with touching affection for the many British jazz musician colleagues who had come to Pinner to see and hear him play in the church.

The Pinner congregation was also asked to nod its assent to tenets from Wilber's credo: that "the old tunes are the best ones" ; that "in the Fifties things went wrong" in jazz, the tune was jettisoned "as fast as possible so players could show off their technique." Wise heads were nodded in dutiful agreement.
Wilber launched proceedings with Don Redman's "Cherry." That tune's "medium swing" marking was precisely what we got. In the 1980's Wilber - on clarinet and soprano and alto -would sprint through long phrases and hurtle through chorus after chorus throughout the gig. Wilber gives much more than mere glimpses of that energy nowadays, for example in the 1928 Harry Warren novelty number Nagasaki and in Jumping at the Woodside. But deliberate medium swing is Wilber's core tempo. As he approaches 81 next month, and leading a quartet, it's understandable.

Indeed, occasionally it can lead to something very special indeed. Wilber produced a moment of quiet magic, on dark but resonant clarinet throat notes , as he band-led a carefully controlled and hushed decelerando ending to Ellington's Creole Love Call.
Bassist Dave Green, aptly described as "everyone's favourite bass player" was superb throughout the gig and provided his unique blend of communicative support plus rock-solid warmth. His feature, Oscar Pettiford's Laverne Walk, was a highlight.
The organisers have improved sightlines by rotating half of the normal seating in the church, and sited the band half way down the nave, a labour of love for the church's band of volunteers. Acoustics are good, but seats uncomfortably close to loudspeakers need to be avoided.


FROM OTHER BLOGS: More gigs. And touring. And Keith Jarrett

LIAM NOBLE- Album launch at the Vortex this Wednesday

Three blogs I've been reading:

Oliver Weindling has also caught the bug of drawing attention to out-of-the-way gigs in London HEREI have added Liam Noble's album launch this Wednesday at the Vortex. Liam is an astonishingly undervalied piano talent, and this is the regular trio.

Tessa Souter has written some wild and wacky stories of life on the road in Japan, and some amazing descriptions of the food in Siberia HERE

Tom Moon - a really well-written piece about Keith Jarrett and the art and craft of the improviser - getting in to and out of corners, being alive to possibility - HERE