LIVE: The Music of Moondog/ Barbican

"Moondog, " (Louis Hardin, 1916-1999) was a blind composer and street performer in New York. He has become a cult figure, a jumping-off point for musicians working in many styles and genres to explore . For example, Philip Glass wrote that he and Steve Reich took Moondog's music "very seriously and understood and appreciated it much more than what we were exposed to at Julliard.”

Last night's Barbican concert, "The Music of Moondog",- a co-production between the Barbican and producer "Eat Your Own Ears." brought together a number of ways in which Moondog's legacy is being absorbed and built upon.

What had drawn me to this concert was something different, however. It was participation of two world-class musicians in their absolute prime, whom I was keen to hear in this unfamiliar context. Paul Clarvis and Liam Noble deliver, and here they were to live up to every expectation.

First, Clarvis. He has the power and the radiant enthusiasm to propel a band of any size, any age or make-up, from his tiniest of drum kits, and he served London Saxophonic very well last night. This saxophone nonet were impressive, full-toned, with good ensemble and balance. On the other hand the "All Star Moondog Choir" looked ever so slightly bored and sang ever so very flat.

For my ears the highlight of this first half, and possibly of the whole concert, was Liam Noble's brief solo feature half way through the set, of three piano pieces. Noble has an extraordinary depth of understanding of how to get right under a Moondog melodic line and really make it sing. I could happily have heard a lot more. He's a unique craftsman. He voices and phrases so subtly and interestingly, I would be fascinated to hear him extend his explorations further, and to bring fresh life into the domains of Glass, Reich, Adams and Nancarrow.

After this first set came one of the most bizarre episodes I have ever seen in the annals of concert-planning. The compere for the evening, Kerry Shale, had the bad luck to be trying to keep the audience interested in some of Moondog's poetic loopinesses (about e.g. love and death and the ebb and flow of the ocean) while large numbers of Barbican stage-hands wandered around him, drawing attention away from him, by completely re-setting the stage for a four-piece rock band. Shale then walked off the stage, uttering a final "Hello" as he left (Uh?) . Numbers of people who thought this must be the interval were then told by public address outside the hall that it wasn't, and instructed that they should make their way back into the hall. A standard issue four piece rock band called "Clinic" then got a set of just two numbers out of the way- mercifully quickly.

The second half was a 90 minute set from the Britten Sinfonia. Conductor Andre De Ridder kept a lively beat going, the Britten Sinfonia played Moondog with conviction. But there were also moments when harmonic stasis and vexatious repetitiveness had me looking at my watch, notably in the two World Premieres: "Salzburg Symphony No 3" a pastiche of Mozart and of the Rimsky-Korsakov Capriccio Italien, and the over-long Nocturne. This set also featured classical percussionists O Duo, and electronica crossover specialist Andi Toma

I was impressed with enthusiasm and the stamina the mostly young audience, who cheered their appreciation for this long set the Britten Sinfonia loudly.

But what about Moondog? I would thoroughly recommend John L Walters' persuasive and highly readable short essay in the programme. (Perhaps it will be available elsewhere?). Walters comes to grips well with the scale and reach of the Moondog phenomenon, using Network Theory to explain its unique influence and significance across a very broad range of musicians and styles. Walters argues that Moondog's music is now "increasingly relevant to the way music has developed in the new decade, where the colliding and crossing of cultures and genres is both desirable and technically feasible."

I find that an interesting and challenging thought. But my ears are telling me that absolutely the right place for Moondog's music is under Liam Noble's fingers on a Steinway.


Han Bennink

Pencil Drawing by Geoff Winston. Pizza Express, May 26th 2010


"Stop at every repeat sign and discuss in detail..."

All this brilliant advice comes from the Passion4Jazz site

Tips for the Jazz Musician- A few things to remember at the gig.

-Everyone should play the same tune.

-Always wear dark glasses, the darker the better. You won't be able to see a thing but people will think you're deep and mysterious.

-Stop at every repeat sign, and discuss in detail whether to take the repeat or not. The audience will love this a lot!

-If you play a wrong note, give a nasty look to one of the other cats.

-When talking into the mic, start everything with "Hey man..."

-Keep your fingering chart handy. You can always catch up with the others.

-Carefully tune your instrument before playing. That way you can play out of tune all night with a clear conscience.

-When hitting a high note, always throw your head back and make a grizzly face expression.

-Take your time turning pages.

-The right note at the wrong time is a wrong note, except among the tone-deaf.

-If everyone gets lost except you, follow those who get lost.

-Strive to play the maximum NPS (note per second). That way you gain the admiration of the incompetent.

-Markings for slurs, dynamics and ornaments should not be observed. They are only there to embellish the printed score.

-If a passage is difficult, slow down. If it's easy, speed it up. Everything will work itself out in the end.

-If you are completely lost, stop everyone and say, "I think we should tune".

-Happy are those who have not perfect pitch, for the kingdom of music is theirs.

-If the ensemble has to stop because of you, explain in detail why you got lost. Everyone will be very interested
-A wrong note played timidly is a wrong note. A wrong note played with authority is an interpretation

-A true interpretation is realized when there remains not one note of the original.

-When everyone else has finished playing, you should not play any notes you have left.


Bands/gigs one never knew existed

There is always so much music below the surface, and so many hard-working folk making it happen.....

Saxophonist John Ongom writes to me about his community-based big band, directed by another LondonJazz reader, Angus Moncrieff. They're a semi-pro band, and they're at the White Hart in Mile End this Sunday night. Thanks for writing in, John, and have a good blow....

We are a mixed ability big band based in Leytonstone, East London. I established the band in January 2002 to provide a friendly setting in which like minded musicians can enjoy playing big band music. The band consists of various members ranging from retired school teachers to students and in between - i.e. working professionals in other professions apart from music.

In addition to that, we have very highly talented band members who enjoy playing with us, e.g.

- Andy Gangadeen of the The Bays on drums

- Angus Moncrieff, our musical director and conductor who has orchestrated ITV's Primeval, Marple, BBC's Dracula, Life Line

- Mark Jennett, A rising star on the UK jazz scene. Mark has recently released his debut recording The Way I Am on Nice Work Records. The album is produced by BBC Jazz Award Winner Anita Wardell and features some of Britain's finest instrumentalists. The Evening Standard described him as an "In demand jazz singer".

- Gabrielle Ghray
, one of our other three vocalists. Gabrielle became a household name in France when in 2003 she reached the final of French "Pop Idol".

The band repertoire consists of classic swing, soul, funk, latin and vocal numbers as performed by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee and Aretha Franklin.

We have a residency at The White Hart pub in Whitechapel were we play every 6 - 8 weeks and are booked to the end of the year.


LIVE: Review of Bone Supremacy by Mystery Shopper #1

Review of Bone Supremacy at 100 Club by Mystery Shopper #1 (above)

On Thursday lunch time I went to the 100 club to hear The Bone Supremacy - playing their five trombones in memory of Cambell Burnap and as the annual fund raiser for the National Jazz Archive.

Introduced by Digby Fairweather they entertained the good crowd of mainly grey heads with a terrifically well executed set of excitingly arranged songs. The first few were mostly arranged by Adrian Fry but an arrangement of Muskrat Ramble by the late Pete Strange who had introduced the idea with the creation of Five a Slide in the 70's brought a huge response from the audience.

It was a great idea of Ian Bateman and Adrian Fry to revive the idea of five trombones and a rhythm section - arrangements and rehearsals are essential to bring off such a combination and they were very generous to come and play "for the petrol money" in aid of the archive. As Ian said they have four regular players and one invited one. On this occasion it was Mark Nightingale who did some very exciting stuff and generally won the respect of the crowd.

On the slow, a capella, rhythm-sectionless rendition of I'll be Seeing You - Mark hit some stupendous high notes!

Personel. Ian Bateman - Organiser; Adrian Fry, Musical Director,arranger; Andy Flaxman, lead, Chris Gower bass; Mark Nightingale (invitee!) Pete Cater drums, John Day bass, Bunny Thomson piano.

Tunes included For All we Know; Cute; I'll be Seeing You; Muskrat Ramble; Stardust, and a Kai Windin- inspired Breezing Along with the Breeze.

All good stuff and I was sorry I had to leave at 2, and missed the last bit.


Tony Woods: CD Launch preview

The launch of Tony Woods' (above) new CD Wind Shadows, his third as leader, on 33 Records, is at the Pizza Express in Dean Street on Tuesday June 9th. The CD is not yet on the 33 Records site, but is available from Woods himself by email ( ) for £11 including P & P.

Woods' consistently draws inspiration from the elements. His first album was High Seas, the second Lowlands. And what I like above all about Woods' music are those moments when a door is suddenly opened, and unexpected fresh air, the outdoors, nature, or even anarchy get invited in.

In the first track, Driftwood, Woods is burbling, arpeggiating on alto clarinet. You can tell that at some point in his life, as an English clarinet player, he has paid his dues to the pastoral tradition of Finzi and Stanford. But from [3:17] onwards, there is a transformation, the rules, the maths, the physics have gone, nature has taken hold. The alto clarinet is suddenly a seagull. Then it's a foghorn warning the dinghies to get out of the way.

In the second track, Air, Woods is on soprano sax. From nowhere, the band is suddenly pumping out full-on English folk-rock. And the end of the track has Milo Fell on drums and Mike Outram on guitar mischievously choreographing a surprise train-crash.

Mike Outram plays the sweetest wailing rock guitar in Britain. It's a sound of great beauty, and the recording captures it well. In Bitter Sweet, he holds back, serene, allowing Woods to explore the contrasting rougher sound possibilities of the alto sax. But the end of his solo in Transformation he steps right out of the cool, and socks out in-your-face and defiant dissonance, but then returns to sweetness. I can almost picture an "it-wasn't-me-ref" smile.....

The album has such a range of instrumental colour, well caught by the recording. Woods himself plays soprano and alto saxes and alto clarinet, sometimes cleverly multiplied by overdubbing. He also has features on Indian wood flute and chinese hulusi (a bagpipe drone effect). On Driftwood the alto sax voice explores deep into tenor territory, and bassist Andy Hamill has a convincing excursion on harmonica. Rob Millett plays vibraphone, and , on The North Wind, marimba.

The feel of the band works together well as a unit , and I was surprised to note that there had been such long gaps between recording sessions.

The first session- the title track Wind Shadows- was in November 2006. The most recent- The North Wind Doth Blow- in March '09.In fact it's quite a journey: in one of the gaps, Woods got married.

I'm looking forward to hearing the band live on June 9th.


The "FINDAMORALE" Festival June 4-7

Hadrien Feraud (right), described by John McLaughlin (left) as "The new Jaco"

Patsy Craig and Zhenya Strigalev of T WO Music at Charlie Wright's in Pitfield Street are among the most innovative and consistent promoters in London.

They have a festival at Charlie Wright's in Pitfield Street Shoreditch, on from June 4th to June 7th. Top of the bill is the Parisian band of 24 year old bassist Hadrien Feraud (above) playing for two nights. In fact bassists figure big-time here.

And if you're into tortuous tangents and non-sequiturs........I have taken the trouble to find out how the Festival got its name. By request this one...


Thursday 4th Jun, 7.30pm (NB start time) - Double Bill
- Danny Noel / Zhenya Strigalev Duo (Cuba-Italy/Russia-UK)
Danny Noel is Cuban, bassist for Horacio Hernandez. Strigalev on alto saxophone.

- Robert Mitchell 3io

Friday June 5th and Saturday June 6th, 7.30pm (NB start time) Double Bill :
-Hadrien Feraud with his band from Paris: Michel Le Coq (keyboard) , Jim Grancamp (guitar), and Yoann Schmidt (drums) .

-Linley Marthe Project with Francis Lassus (singer / drums)
Linley Marthe is a Mauritius -born bassist who has worked with Joe Zawinul, Dave Liebman and Richard Galliano.

Sunday June 7th , 8.30pm
SUN) - Jon Irabagon Quartet
The 2008 Thelonious Monk Competition winnner, Filipino-American saxophonist Jon Irabagon is making his London debut. His quartet consists of top flight emigre Scots Malcolm Edmonstone on keyboards, Percy Pursglove trumpet/bass, Andrew Bain on drums.


European Capital of Jazz- POLL RESULTS

Our month-long poll for European Capital of Jazz has just CLOSED and here are the scores:


Paris 7.5%
Berlin 5.5%
Copenhagen 3%
Vienna 2%

Feel free to argue , either with the result, or with George Bernard Shaw:

“An election is a moral horror, as bad as a battle except for the blood; a mud bath for every soul concerned in it.”


What a Wednesday to be back in......

Hotfoot back from Germany. Half an hour ago. I already have three gigs on the list recommended for tonight:

There's already the early evening supergroup led by Martin Speake in the National Theatre foyer...and Gary Crosby and friends at the Green Man....and The Necks at the Union Chapel in Islington.

But what about these in my inbox

Gilad Atzmon (saxophone) and Oren Marshall (tuba) and the Gareth Lockrane Big Band at The Others, 6 and 8 Manor Road London N16 5SA

And James Maddren - he's the drummer in Gwilym Simcock's trio- has texted me that his "final recital" as a Royal Academy student is tonight at 8pm at the 606 Club.

Both thoroughly recommended!

With the BFI also launchig their "Jazz and Film" weekend at Ronnie's tonight, London is definitely the place to be back.


Feeding the brain for a few days

Off for a break in Goettingen- a quiet university town in Germany- till Wednesday. Just a few days to feed the brain, the town having been associated with the work of no fewer than forty Nobel prize winners.

Can't help wondering if all that brain power could be related to the Germans' superhuman/legendary banana consumption (above).

MONDAY MORNING UPDATE: Thank you to Aris for your comment on the Byron plus Errollyn Wallen gig. Glad you enjoyed it!

Glorious sunshine in Germany.

Today calm (apart from this extraordinary "assisted suicide" story from China, order and a bit of Handel today.

August Macke.


C'mon Down to the 606 in June

Tell me you have never descended these stairs (above), and I will -er- suggest that this is the month to tie a knot in your handkerchief and remember to check the 606 out. Because Steve Rubie has a truly spectacular programme for June.

I particularly fancy the look (in reverse date order) of:

-Guitar giant Jim Mullen's Benefit with a host of stars on Monday 29th
-Singer Claire Martin's Charity gig with Barb Jungr and Mari Wilson on Sunday 21st
-Pianist Stan Tracey's Trio on Thursday June 18th.
-Get-everywhere pianist Geoff Castle's Birthday Bash on Monday 8th
-Iain Ballamy on tenor saxophone with the Gareth Williams Trio on Weds 3rd

But there's also (random order ...)

-Students the Royal Academy of Music on both 2nd and 30th
-Keyboardist and all-round good guy Miko Giedroyc's Gospellers on Sunday 7th Lunchtime
-Christine Tobin singing starrily on 7th evening
-Liane Carroll being unique and spectacular on Sunday 28th
-Trudy Kerr and Geoff Gascoyne - quality - on Saturday 27th
-Brandon Allen (tenor) and Robbie Robson (trumpet) storming on Saturday 6th.

And I still managed to miss out Bobby Wellins, playing better than ever....Mica Paris, Denny Ilett....



5 Polling days left

Your chance is running out rapidly to VOTE for the Jazz Capital of Europe.

It's just on the left.

Just FIVE days to go.


Quiz- WIN A Karen Lane or Lleuwen Steffan/ Huw WarrenCD

Here's a quiz for eggheads.Well for anyone really.

PRIZES: Choose between Karen Lane's "Beautiful Love" being launched on Sunday 24th May at Pizza Express Dean Street.

and the Lleuwen Steffan/ Huw Warren CD Duw a Wyr (Courtesy of BABEL)

THE QUIZ: Background.

People settle in London from all over the world. and contribute to the vigour and variety of our extraordinary London jazz scene. Here are THREE.

How to win

Be the first to tell LondonJazz - by adding a comment below - where the people originally came from, (Town + US state or town + country) All the answers* are in articles on this site.

1) Frank Griffith

2) Michael Janisch

3) Oliver Reveault of Oliver's Music Bar

First two people to answer all three questions correctly will win a CD.

*Note: The only answers which will be deemed to be correct for the purposes of this quiz are those given in previous posts of LondonJazz, in each case verified with the individuals in question.

*Note: There are two and only two prizes. A choice of CD will therefore only be available to the first correct answer received.And a prize to the second. Winners names will not be disclosed.


Proms Press Release re Jazz

A lengthy press release from the BBC about jazz at this year's BBC Proms. The new element here is a free screening of "Stan Tracey: Godfather of British Jazz" at 2pm on the same day of the Late Night (10pm) Proms performance of the Genesis Suite.

LondonJazz readers will form their own views as to whether Saturday 18th July thereby becomes the "jazz-related day" described below......

Jazz highlights at the BBC Proms 2009
17 July – 12 September

From Stan Tracey to the world premiere of a new commission from young talent Tom Arthurs

Stan Tracey brings over six decades of creative talent to the BBC Proms 2009 with a performance of Genesis on 18 July. This reimagining of the biblical creation story as a Big Band suite is celebrated as one of Tracey’s most accomplished pieces of writing, with each of the seven parts weaving a complex and gripping narrative. Genesis forms the second part of a creation themed evening at the proms, following Haydn’s The Creation.

Promising the special atmosphere for which the Late Night Proms are renowned, this performance sees Stan Tracey’s hand picked band join the former Ted Heath Orchestra member, and long time resident pianist at Ronnie Scott’s, to bring his 1987 ode to creation to the Proms for the first time.

To complement Stan Tracey’s performance there will be a FREE Proms Plus film screening of Stan Tracey: The Godfather of British Jazz on the afternoon of the concert. This illuminating portrait of the jazz legend is preceded by an introduction from BBC Radio 3’s Geoffrey Smith, and extends the evening concert into a Jazz devoted day at the BBC Proms.
Amongst other Jazz highlights are performances from rising stars Gwilym Simcock and Tom Arthurs; the first two Jazz artists selected for the Radio 3 New Generation Artists scheme. Simcock and Arthurs play their own compositions on 31 August, including the world premiere of Arthurs’s And Distant Shore, specially commissioned by the BBC.

There is also a 75th birthday celebration of the great musicals of MGM, with songs from unforgettable movie classics, including The Wizard of Oz, Meet Me in St Louis, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, High Society, Gigi and Singin’ in the Rain. The concert on 1 August is performed by John Wilson and his hand-picked Orchestra, with soloists Kim Criswell and Curtis Stigers.

Listings information

Stan Tracey and his Orchestra perform ‘Genesis’ (Stan Tracey) BBC Proms, Saturday 18 July 2009, 10.15pm – c11.15pm Royal Albert Hall Tickets £10/ £15

Stan Tracey: The Godfather of British Jazz (70’, awaiting classification) BBC Proms Plus Film screening, Saturday 18th July,
2.00pm Royal Geographic Society
Entry Free

A Celebration of Classic MGM Film Musicals BBC Proms, Saturday 1 August 2009, 7.30pm – c9.30pm
Royal Albert Hall Tickets £7 to £35

John Wilson and his hand-picked Orchestra celebrate 75 years of MGM musicals with songs from unforgettable movie classics, including The Wizard of Oz, Meet Me in St Louis, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, High Society, Gigi and Singin’ in the Rain. Amazingly, although all of the original orchestral parts were lost when the studio destroyed its music library to make way for a car park, Wilson has succeeded in reconstructing the scores by painstakingly transcribing each soundtrack by ear. He is joined by starry singers from the classical and musical theatre worlds, including Kim Criswell and Curtis Stigers.
BBC Radio 3’s New Generation Artists Weekend: Tom Arthurs and Gwilym Simcock

BBC Proms, Monday 31 August 2009, 4.30pm – c5.40pm Cadogan Hall
Tickets £5 to £12

The BBC Radio 3’s New Generation Artists scheme, which nurtures young talent on the brink of major international careers, celebrates its tenth anniversary at the BBC Proms with a weekend of chamber music concerts.

Amongst the selection of past and present members performing are Tom Arthurs and Gwilym Simcock, whose considerable talent resulted in the NGA scheme creating dedicated places for jazz musicians. The concert sees the artists perform their own compositions; Simcock’s 2008

Contours and the world premiere of a BBC and Royal Philharmonic Society co-commission And Distant Shore by Arthurs. This two trumpet and piano piece is one of only 12 major BBC commissions for the season, and pairs the Jazz trumpeter with classical trumpeter Giuliano Sommerhalder, resulting in the ‘seamless integration between improvisation and composition’ that Arthurs says he strives for in his work.

Ticketing Information
Royal Albert Hall Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, London, SW7 2AP

From 26 May: Available in person from the Royal Albert Hall box office (no booking fee) from 9.00am to 9.00pm daily, or via telephone 0845 401 5040 and online at (booking fee applies).

Up to 1,400 promming (standing) places available on the day at £5 each.
Cadogan Hall Cadogan Hall, 5 Sloane Terrace, London, SW1X 9DQ
From 26 May: Available in person from Cadogan Hall or via telephone on 020 7730 4500 or the Royal Albert Hall box office (no booking fee) from 9am to 9pm daily, or via telephone 0845 401 5040 and online at (booking fee applies).

Proms Films at the Royal Geographic Society Royal Geographic Society, 1 Kensington Gore, London, SW7 2AR

These events are FREE and not ticketed, entry on the day will be granted on a first come first served basis


"A link so good I've bookmarked it twice"

"A link so good I've bookmarked it twice" was one LondonJazz reader's comment on this link to an

album of 50's/60's jazz memorabilia .

Have fun with the link, and the graphic design of the period, from Lance Liddle's Bebop Spoken Here blog.

I enjoyed this one : personality types revealed (?) in the contrasting autographs of Harry 'Sweets' Edison and Eddie 'Lockjaw' Davis. Their signatures replete with nicknames in inverted commas.


Parliamentary Awards : Winners ...and winners on the night

Here- in bold- are the 2009 Parliamentary Awards winners. And then a few unofficial ones on the night...

There were nine categories, and a tenth , special award.

1) Jazz Musician of the Year

Jason Yarde
Phil Robson

Zem Audu

2) Jazz CD

Norma Winstone, ‘Distances’

Phil Robson, ‘Six Strings & the Beat’

The Sam Crockatt Quartet, ‘Howeird’

3) Jazz Ensemble

Courtney Pine’s Jazz Warriors

Ryan Quigley Sextet

Zoe & Idris Rahman’s ‘Where Rivers Meet’ project

4) Jazz Venue

606 Club (London)

Fleece Jazz (South East England)

St Ives Jazz Club (Cornwall)

The Spin (Oxford)

Wakefield Jazz (Yorkshire)

5) Jazz Journalist

Kevin LeGendre

Mike Flynn

John L Walters

6) Jazz Broadcaster

Alyn Shipton

Mike Chadwick

Sarah Ward

7) Jazz Publication


8) Jazz Education

Nikki Iles

Orphy Robinson

Richard Michael

9) Services to Jazz

Brian Blain

Celia Greenwood

Val Wilmer

10) Special Award

Ronnie Scott's on its 50th Anniversary


Awards on the night

1) Best Gaffe

John Prescott (who else, you might ask?)

"On June 21st we'll be electing a new sleeper.........I mean speaker."

2) Shortest acceptance speeches

First equal, and much appreciated: Ryan Quigley and Sam Crockatt.

3) Most touching acceptance speech

Kevin Le Gendre, explaining how lucky to do a job he loves, and paying sincere tribute to his father, far less fortunate

4) Best mimic

Richard Michael's imitation of a Cowdenbeath teenager refusing to take any nonsense from a row of educational suits.

5) Best Yahboo moment

Richard Wheatly of JazzFM talking about his 500,000 audience numbers:
"That's one in the eye for Smooth and one in the bank for Jazz."

6) Prize for comic timing

Liane Carroll, presenting an award:

"Thank you all SO much..(thinks) ..Oh no, I haven't won anything"

7) Getting carried away adlibbing Award

Paul Gambaccini announcing his engagement to Helen Mayhew.

8) Special always the bridesmaid/thank you for turning up Award

Mark Doffman of the Spin in Oxford. Fourth time nominee....


A Czech , some Swedes and a navy corvette

30th June, 8pm. Two fine European musicians combining, for one of the most surreally unmissable jazz gigs in London this year.

It marks - you guessed- the handover of the EU Presidency from the Czech Republic to Sweden.

(I'll also- won't you? - be celebrating the 150th anniversary of Blondin crossing Niagara Falls which falls on the same day)

-Bobo Stenson - ever-fascinating Swedish ECM pianist, 65 years young.

-Emil Viklicky - remarkable Czech pianist and composer, loves working with Bobby Wellins.
His lengthy list of film music credits include "Killer Condom" (1996)

-"Young hip and tight" trio Music Music Music from Gothenburg.
-The gig is on board HMS President, a British navy corvette built in 1918, permanently anchored on the Thames near Blackfriars.

-Part of the City of London Festival (this link is to the page for the gig)


Jarrett on sale next Weds

Jarrett/DeJohnette/Peacock. First sighting of the trio in London in six years, I'm told (?) Royal Festival Hall. Saturday 25th July.

The sharp eyes of Peter Bacon and of clarinet-playing Laura from the London Jazz Meetup group both spotted it. Tickets on sale next Weds 27th May, 10am.


Brecon News

Here are the first details of what will be on at Brecon under the new management:

"South African piano legend Abdullah Ibrahim, Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango and the Tunisian oud master Anouar Brahem will headline the 2009 Brecon Jazz Festival from August 7 to 9.

Festival favourite Courtney Pine will also return to perform his new album inspired by Sidney Bechet, Tradition in Transition.

There will be 25 concerts over the weekend, which will also feature free family events - Fireworks on Friday, a Jazz Carnival parade on Saturday, and the Jazz Service on Sunday.

The Festival will be held in three central venues – Theatr Brycheiniog's 800-seater concert hall, its 500 seater cafe, and Brecon Cathedral.

Festival director Peter Florence said: "Brecon'll be different this year, and very different next year. It's a huge adventure, and we're deeply grateful to everyone who's been so supportive and encouraging."

The full festival programme will be launched in mid-June - details will be posted on the new Brecon Jazz website at


Looking North

I first visited the Kings Cross development two years ago. And was invited again last night. Whereas it all seemed a bit of a dream then, it's not a dream any more. Here some numbers to drop the jaw if you're seing them for the first time....

-This sixty-seven acre site (above) north of Kings Cross is the biggest contiguous bit of brownfield land to be available for development in London (and probably in any major European city?) for a hundred and fifty years.

-Two billion pounds has gone into developing existing projects in the immediate environs, and a further one billion is committed. This is re-generation big-time.

-The plans for the site include twenty new streets, ten new public spaces and eight million square feet of mixed use space. It's like a new town around London's main transport hub.

-The University of the Arts will move into an iconic new building in a listed shell, which is on schedule for delivery in September two thousand and eleven

-Tenant Sainsbury has committed to take three hundred thousand square feet.

-Getting the Kings Cross development off the ground is multi-dimensional chess. At one time , Roger Madelin, co-CEO of Argent told me, he was having negotiations where he needed to align no fewer than thirteen different transport consultants with differing loyalties and agendas.

And yes. There will definitely be jazz. You heard it here first.


A Saturday stroll and a gig

LondonJazz reader Sam Evans wrote:

"I am a regular visitor to Olivers, and I couldn't agree more with the review, there is a lot of good music happening there and its great to see some more public exposure for the venue.

"I have a Dexter Gordon project gig with my new quintet at Olivers on the Sat 30th May.My quintet consists of me (tenor), Mark Crown (trumpet), Mitch Jones (Piano), Tom Farmer (double bass) and Tim Sampson (drums)."

What could be nicer? : A Saturday evening stroll around Maritime Greenwich if the storm clouds (above) don't break, followed by a nice gig by a fresh student band really going for it at Oliver's Music Bar. That's win-win. A good sign from the line-up: Tom Farmer from Empirical, on bass, looks like a guarantee of quality where it counts... A quick natter with one of LondonJazz's ultra-reliable confidential sources in the Trinity jazz faculty, and all I need to write is one more word:



MELTDOWN : programme and prices

The South Bank have announced a virtually complete programme for Meltdown, including most of the support acts, the free events, and a tuitionweek of Harmolodics, in partnership with Trinity Laban.

Interesting new names are guitarist/composer Fred Frith - he's been using the Wall Street Journal to generate numbers for compositional choices...-with vocalist Mike Patton , guitarist Marc Ribot with saxophonist Evan Parker, tuba player Oren Marshall, the 91-year old Andy Hamilton, and free performances by Led Bib and Acoustic Ladyland. Here's the listings/blurb from today's press release.Top of my list is Charlie Haden...

Listings for Meltdown

THE ROOTS with guest DAVID MURRAY & more
Saturday 13 June, Royal Festival Hall, 7.30pm, Tickets £35 £27.50 £22.50
The legendary hip-hop outfit open the festival

Saturday 13 June, Queen Elizabeth Hall, 8pm, Tickets £20 £18
Saxophonist and clarinet virtuoso David Murray teams up with Guadeloupian percussionist Gwo Kan Masters.

Sunday 14 June, Royal Festival Hall, 7.30pm, Tickets £25 £20
This is the first ever UK performance by Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band

Sunday 14 June, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Time 7.30pm, Tickets £20 £15
Guitarist and composer Marc Ribot collaborates with free jazz saxophonist Evan Parker and drummer Han Bennink in this unique improvised performance.

Sunday 14 - Saturday 20 June, Spirit Level, From 11am Daily, Tickets: £80
Intensive week long course, created by Southbank Centre in partnership with Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, School of Harmolodics is open to any interested and serious artists 18 and over, whether in full-time study, recently graduated, emerging or established artists.

Sunday 14 June, The Clore Ballroom, Royal Festival Hall, 5.30pm, Admission Free
Bonding over a mutual distaste for musical sterility and an inclination toward the more exciting and dangerous end of modern music, Acoustic Ladyland have been blowing minds since their inception in 2001.

+ support
Monday 15 June, Royal Festival Hall, 7.30pm, Tickets £25 £22.50 £20
The Senegalese superstar returns to the Royal Festival Hall.

The Freewheeling
Monday 15 June, Queen Elizabeth Hall, 8pm, Tickets £17.50 £15
Yo La Tengo perform as part of their intimate and interactive Freewheeling Tour.

Tuesday 16 June, Royal Festival Hall, 7.30pm, Tickets £25 £22.50 £20
Moby performs on the eve of the release of his new album Wait For Me.

+ support
Tuesday 16 June, Queen Elizabeth Hall, 8pm, Tickets £20 £15
Jazz and blues guitarist and singer James Blood Ulmer is a former collaborator of Ornette Coleman’s, and was the first electric guitarist to record and tour extensively with him. He plays a rare UK show as part of Coleman’s Meltdown.

Wednesday 17 June, Royal Festival Hall, 7.30pm, Tickets £35 £30 £25
Top of Ornette’s dream list, Bobby McFerrin, one of the world’s best known vocal innovators and improvisers performs in the Royal Festival Hall.

Thursday 18 June, Royal Festival Hall, 7.30pm, Tickets £25 £20
The director of Meltdown in 2005 appears for the first time in the UK in collaboration with inspired Canadian collective A Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra.

Thursday 18 June, Queen Elizabeth Hall, 8pm, Tickets £30 £25
From Faith No More, Mr Bungle, Fantomas and Tomahawk to collaborations with Bjork and John Zorn, Mike Patton has been acclaimed for a wealth of projects. He performs a special show with Fred Frith.

Reflections of The Shape of Jazz to Come
Friday 19 June, Royal Festival Hall, 7.30pm, Tickets £40 £30 £20
Ornette performs reflections of The Shape of Jazz to Come

Friday 19 June, The Clore Ballroom, 5.30pm, Admission Free
Relentlessly dodging definition, Led Bib are both a maverick jazz band and an unlikely rock quintet. Taking their name from a protective garment used on patients during dental treatment, this East London based five-piece pride themselves on side-stepping convention, with incendiary results.

Saturday 20 June, Royal Festival Hall, 7.30pm, Tickets £35 £30 £25
Bassist and band leader Charlie Haden, one of the original members of Ornette’s quartet from the late 1950s, brings his excellent Liberation Music Orchestra.

Saturday 20 June, The Front Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall, 8pm, Tickets £8.50 Following the release of their fourth collaborative record, NYC at the end of 2008, Kieran Hebden AKA Four Tet and jazz drummer Steve Reid, perform with stalwart on the Scandinavian free jazz scene, saxophone player Mats Gustafsson.

Saturday 20 June, The Clore Ballroom, 5.30pm, Admission Free

Saturday 20 June, The Clore Ballroom, post-show, Admission Free

Reflections of This is Our Music
Sunday 21 June, Royal Festival Hall, 7.30pm, Tickets £40 £30 £20
Ornette closes the festival with reflections of This is Our Music


LIVE: Melody Gardot

Melody Gardot came tripping off the stage on Friday night in a state of some glee. The pressure was off, because her set at LSO St Lukes - songs from the current album, "My One and Only Thrill" with her band and the BBC Concert Orchestra, a live recording for radio -had gone very well indeed.

Walking-stick (above) in hand, she hopped and skipped over a small speaker. It seemed that she might (and let's hope she has..) now be recovering well from the appalling accident which has delivered music writers -here's May 2009 JazzTimes weighing in with no fewer than 2,600 words! - with much of the copy associated with her rise to success and visibility.

I turned to my companion at the gig. He's a Metropolitan Police officer.

"Do you think she still needs that stick?" I asked him.

He said nothing , but what I got back was one of his unmistakeable " I 'aven't heard that one for at least ten minutes" expressions.

If you don't like the sniff of commercial success, please look away now, because Gardot shifts product. Her albums are currently at No.2 and No . 4 in both the Official UK Jazz charts and the Billboard US Jazz charts. These jazz charts are a comfort zone through-and-through: - the top five places are inhabited almost exclusively by Diana Krall , Madeleine Peyroux and Gardot.

I notice that my fellow music bloggers over the weekend have been railing furiously against commercialism:

- At One More Take , Tommy Pearson has been praising "knowledge and craft" and slamming "sales and commercialism" as "crass and meaningless".

-Over at The Jazz Breakfast , Peter Bacon has been going hammer and tongs at Observer Music Monthly , for using all its space "discussing fast music, the hear today and forget tomorrow pap that goes by the name pop" and asking "Where is the really interesting stuff that stimulates the frontal lobel?"

There's no denying that Gardot at the moment is cleverly engineered, expertly packaged, and slickly sold. The music industry needs a production line of ingenues. No question, Gardot marketing borders on exploitation: that trademark walking stick-as-accessory gets a whole page to itself in the CD booklet of "Thrill."

You also get the sure touch of producer Larry Klein, former husband of Joni Mitchell(see this INTERVIEW) , who also produces Peyroux.

You also get some very curious trademark (?) vowels and syllable stresses: she seems to fawl in love with a curious Southern drawl. And the word "matter" versified as a spondee, with two long syllables and a held final "r" could either charm, or remove the will to live.

But I can't help believing there is more. Time will tell. A couple of people have told me you also get stage charisma and presence? Not something which can fairly be answered by seeing her recording for live radio.

I'd definitely go and hear her again. Musically, live, it works. The songs, with their long sustained phrases and built-in fermatas, held the attention.

I reckon one or two of Gardot's gently seductive, knowingly gamine, slightly ironic songs from this album might stick around for a long time. And -from all points of view, let's hope- a lot longer than... that stick.


Rich Brother and Sister Mix

This looks really interesting.

Contemporary classical composer Errollyn Wallen, and her jazz trumpeter/bandleader brother Byron Wallen (above) are launching a new project, "WALLEN, " at Rich Mix in Bethnal Green Road this Saturday 23rd. "With elements of music theatre." Two musicians who have shown themselves to be awake and alive to all kinds of influences. They are sure to have an interesting story to tell...

Errollyn Wallen writes to LondonJazz:

"This is the first show that Byron and I have made together. In the past, he has guested in my band but this is the first time we've conceived a whole evening together. We're excited about it. We will also be performing WALLEN at the Tete-a-Tete festival at Riverside studios August 13 & 14th. "

Here's a flier giving more details, and a post from the JazzReloaded blog

I definitely won't be able to get to this first outing for WALLEN, and will be interested to hear reports...


Fresh from the studios

I've been talking to some of those busy people who run jazz labels. And what are they currently excited about??

For Babel, Partisans have recorded their fourth album, and their third for the label. It was recorded in December. It was done in December over two days , it has an "as-live" feel and will be released in July.

For Basho, Gwilym Simcock and the trio with Yuri Goloubev and James Maddren spent most of last week in the studio recording an album which will be released in November. The first launch gigs will be in Europe, followed by a launch residency at the Pizza Express in late November and early December

And at Jazzizit, they're very excited about the debut of new signing Louise Clare Marshall , younger sister of organist Wayne and singer/actress Melanie, which will be released later in the year.

Photo of Abbey Road Studios : Arnold Matthews


Canada Can Do Awards.

Awards time everywhere.

Last Thursday it was the Canadian National Jazz Awards.
Twenty-eight categories....nearly twenty sponsors....government and regions in's got some proper momentum.

Three names which caught my eye among the performers, and in the 2009 Winners List:

1) Darcy James Argue
This young Vancouver-born, New York based, Bob Brookmeyer taught big band leader won an award for emerging composer. His name and his "steampunk big band" suddenly seem to be everywhere. Not - from what's published- coming to the UK this year, but he's about to be touring with a band in Europe. Newsweek were claiming he'd brought single-handedly brought the big band back to life after a long slumber. Here's Argue's impressively hard-hitting Boston PR company on the case.

2) Ian McDougall
Trombonist McDougall has won award for his Big Band. He has been visiting the UK for years, a wonderful player and an absolute gent. A former Dankworth sideman, he's been over as educartor. I came across him bringing life and inspiration into Frank Griffith's students at Brunel a few years ago.

3) Oliver Jones (aabove)
Musician of the Year. Uniquely gifted pianist. In the shadow of Oscar Peterson -born just a few streets away from him in Montreal- a mixed blessing to be compared with Peterson throughout your career....Announced retirement a few times...came to the Bull a few years ago on a retirement tour...and then returned from retirement...


When you search for Jazz news

If you Googlesearch for news about Jazz, you often have to skim through , and discard, long lists of references to these tall and speedy gentlemen from the Mormon capital (above.
But the news feed at the fledgling BBC Jazz page might not quite be up to scratch yet. It has let this story through, about tricky pay negociations at the Honda plant in Swindon.

Skoolboy error there, from the world's largest broadcaster: Honda have a model called....yes you guessed.


Wilton's Music Hall Sunday 7th June

Short snappy gig recommendation

-Wilton's Music Hall : an interesting venue with very immediate acoustic and a great feel of history

-A three part programme
a) Finn Peters on flute and alto, solo
b) Thoughtful (!) clarinet/sax/composer Dan Stern duo with Robert Mitchell
c) Gwilym Simcock's trio (Yuri Goloubev and James Maddren)

-Sunday 7th June, but an unusual start time (why not?) : 4.30 pm

- part of Spitalfields Music which used to be called the Spitalfields Festival

-Under the banner of the Jerwood/PRS Foundation Take Five Initiative run by Serious




Review: Tom Stone Nonet/ Oliver's

Review: Tom Stone Nonet, Oliver's Music Bar, Greenwich 13th May 2009

Oliver's in Nevada Street, Greenwich has exactly the kind of atmosphere which so many people - and not just those who actually like the music, but others too....- tend to enthuse about when they think of jazz clubs. This bar is an authentic, dimly-lit basement dive. The stairs down to it are so narrow, it's hard to figure out exactly how a vibraphone or a bass- or indeed a large blogger - could ever make their way down to it for last night's gig. But, dear readers, they all did.

The bar's owner Oliver Reveault came to the UK from La Rochelle in France in the early 1980's. The fierce Atlantic storms which batter the Aquitaine coast have chiselled a distinctly weather-beaten look into his face. (Ooh, I'm enjoying this!)

But six years of running a caveau has made him a very happy man. Partly because he's no longer anyone's employee, but also because he just loves music. Oliver's is a seven nights a week music venue. The piano is kept well-tuned, and Reveault is also proud to be able give students from Trinity College a daytime rehearsal space. During last night's long set by the Tom Stone nonet, I noticed that there was nobody in the room more watchful than Reveault. He was enjoying absolutely every moment of the gig.

Last night's gig - which I first heard about via Facebook in the morning - was 21-year old Tom Stone's first outing as bandleader. Stone plays the four saxes, but tenor is emerging as a very confident and persuasive voice indeed.

Stone started out with jazz in his teens as a private pupil of that cornerstone, giant of the young British scene Stan Sulzmann,who nurtured and encouraged his music. Stone is now a student at the Royal Academy, studying with Iain Ballamy and Tim Garland, having previously been at Trinity with Martin Speake.

The gig drew a full house to this small venue, mostly a superbly attentive student audience.

The evening started with the solid rhythm section of ever-inventive Sam Leak on piano, busy Peter Randell on bass and subtle Dave Hammill on drums backing different pairs of front line players through three tunes. First up were James Bateman on alto sax and Will Rixon on trumpet. This group had that laid-back hipster West Coast feel in All the Things You Are. I found Rixon's Chet Baker coolness and warm sound particularly stylish and appealing. Then Tom Stone on tenor and Patrick Hayes on trombone upped the energy level several notches for Rollins' Tenor Madness. Stone's first solo had real presence, focus and line. The third pairing was Tim Evans on vibes, with Mick Foster - a veteran in this company - on baritone, a model of concentrated lyricism in Victor Young's Beautiful Love.

These forces then all squeezed onto the stand together as a nonet to play Tom Stone originals, plus one chart by Steve Slagle- a very stylish Gil Evansish arrangement of Coltrane's After the Rain done as a tenor sax feature. Stone stretched out on this to very good effect, with both passion and control.

What I will remember about the evening, a beginning, a rite of passage, is the security of the writing for full band in the passages immediately following the open soloing sections. Stone brought the whole band back to business in the first tune- called Theme - with clever, irregular, catch-us-if-you-can tutti figures, scattered over drum breaks. In the final number, Gwenver, it was the beginning of a layering , building all the way through to a satisfying full band close.

A confident debut full of promise for a fine young musician, arranger and bandleader carefully, unhurriedly building his craft.


Who should play Sinatra?

Billboard have the story that after years of negotiations with the family, Martin Scorsese will direct a film of the Sinatra life story. Sinatra's daughter Tina will be executive producer.

Bur Ol' Blue Eyes has not been cast yet. Any ideas???

Here is a link to Rick Busciglio's story explaining the picture above.


Wynton Marsalis walking out of Blue Note

Here is a Press Release from The Orchard

"Today, The Orchard announced that world renowned trumpeter and jazz musician Wynton Marslais has entered into a long-term, multi-faceted partnership with the entertainment services company.

The exclusive recording and services agreement between Marsalis and The Orchard will cover co-production of new studio recordings, marketing of live recordings; design and implementation of social networking and other forms of collaborative audience engagement for Marsalis and for jazz as a lifestyle genre; synchronization; initiatives with consumer brands and non-traditional financial partners; and also, Marsalis and his team are working to bring living legends and new talent of all genres into The Orchard’s unique services platform.

He joins The Orchard after the release of He and She, the final album recorded under his Blue Note Records contract. "

My tuppence - back catalogue-driven record labels are having to adapt to a very different notion of how the artist-as-brand can be monetized.

Your thoughts??


Radio Three Wins

Congratulations to Radio Three and to Roger Wright on being awarded 2009 National Station of the Year in the Sony Awards. It did look something of a shoe-in, as LondonJazz wrote last month .

Ivan Hewett's piece on the Telegraph blog tells it like it is. I enjoyed the title.
Remembering, of course, Elizabeth Taylor's alternative, deeply personal take on that cliche:

" Never the bridesmaid..."


NEWS: Jazz figures honoured at RAM.

The Royal Academy of Music has just sent me a long list of "Honorands" who received diplomas from the Principal and the Chair of Governors at an annual ceremony in Marylebone Road today.

There are two categories for these honorary awards: the first is for former students, the second for others.

Wordsearching the list for the word jazz , and I light on the names of five very deserving people from the jazz community:

Associate of the Royal Academy of Music (ARAM) >

Gwilym Simcock jazz

Honorary Associate of the Royal Academy of Music (HonARAM)

Peter Churchill professor of jazz, RAM

John Fordham, jazz writer

Stephen Rubie Director, 606 Jazz Club

Oliver Weindling Co-Director, The Vortex Jazz Club/Owner, Babel Records

The head of jazz at the RAM since 2000 , when he took over from Graham Collier (thank you to a diligent LondonJazz reader for this info!) has been Gerard Presencer (above)


Proving the existence of Gig

Cyberspace breaks down certainties as to what is real and what is imagined.
For example, the singer Gracie Patton doesn't actually exist. Except on her Myspace where she's recorded with Gwilym Simcock. (So tricky to prove anything, where's a philosopher when you need one?)

But now she's sent me a chatty email (is this real or imagined) to tell me she's singing at a gig on Saturday 23 May at 8.30pm with a band called Bad Ass Brass, who also exist -(if having sound clips on Myspace works as a proof of existence....tricky these ontological proofs. )

The internal rhyme in the band's name doesn't work for those of us with estuary vowels, but would exist in Cheshire or Lancashire. (Which is the real, which the imagined place, call a structuralist?)

The gig exists..... in cyberspace....and its at the Ladbroke Grove Blag Club in Canalot Studios by the canal. (I've been there. No need for a philosopher)

(Tickets don't exist). You can prove that you exist by getting on a guest list by emailing Entry is £5.

For which you get quite a lot: the Blag Club has a 3am licence (please rely on Sartre or Lacan - rather than LondonJazz -to prove to you that 3am in a night club exists) , and after the band have finished the DJs take over.

This is a young pro band, they will be having a good time. Assuming you like what you hear, you'll have a great night. (But there again you might be imagining it).


National Theatre Foyer

I spotted an interesting gig on the listing next to the bandstand in the National Theatre Foyer (above).
Check out a fabulous quartet coming up there. Martin Speake on alto, Barry Green on piano, Dave Green on bass and Jeff Williams on drums. 27th May. 5.45 pm. Free.

I had popped there yesterday to catch the Basil Hodge Trio with Larry Bartley on bass and Winston Clifford on drums.This is a curious venue. Some people use it - and its chairs and the very low green and orange Modus sofas and pouffes- as places to hear the music from. Yes, there IS a listening audience. The acoustics are far from ideal but the NT make a really good effort with the sound.

But others treat the venue simply as a meeting place to chat. And one chap walked between the seating and the band oblivious that there was any sort of performance going on. Bar and cafeteria staff (I counted eleven from that particular branch of the acting profession on duty last night) carrying trays scurry through the crowd in search of empties.

So regular music happens at the National Theatre Foyer, but I'd be curious to know if the accountants consider it part of the performance budget, or sink the cost as a footfall builder for the bar. At the moment it's both and neither.

I caught a piece lauding the theatre output of the National Theatre by its Director Nicholas Hytner(£48m annual budget of which £18m in ACE grant, staff of 925) on the op.ed. page of the Evening Standard.

"There is , and always has been, a large audience for theatre that looks beyond the simple certainties of popular entertainment. As the mass media turn their back on complexity, the theatre audience craves it."

For the theatre audience read the music audience. Which is why jazz is growing.

Winston Clifford was laying down some fascinating time variants. Larry Bartley has an awesomely complete physical balance and poise on the bass, which gives him the freedom to express all sorts of complex bass lines. Basil Hodge is a gentle guy who was gradually coming out of his shell..

But is this an arts venue or an airport lounge? Can't the theatre rope off an audience area to do justice to the performers???? As ever Tony Dudley-Evans with his Friday events in Birmingham's Symphony Hall seems to get it right....See Peter Bacon's description


Jazz on the links, plus a link to Harvard Business School

Peter Slavid of Hillingdon Arts has sent me details of two interesting mainstream jazz evenings by top players on June 1 and June 2 in North-West London, run by drummer Brian Knapp.

What Knapp has done in the first place is to bring some of our top players into small venues with a good atmosphere. But in the process he has put together an interesting business school case study for jazz as a team leadership exercise:

Two fine players on tenor who normally run their own bands- Ray Gelato (more often to be heard at Ronnie's) Vassilis Xenopoulos (ex-Berklee, he's everywhere, amazing jazz chops) will be jointly running the show on Monday June 1st.

And the following night it's the turn of two highly effective women, both of whom I would trust to run a platoon, or even a brigade: Karen Sharp and Jacqui Hicks.

This is topical right now.....a college in Boston -not Berklee this time but Harvard Business School -is really hot on jazz and management right now: check out this study of SUCCESS PARADIGMS, S-CURVES AND "KIND OF BLUE".

In fact the only thing I can think of that will render Knapp's experiment unrepresentative as a leadership sample is that all four of these are some of the friendliest and most positive people you'll ever meet.

Here are the details.

JAZZ at RUISLIP GOLF CLUB Ickenham Road, West Ruislip (opp. Station) HA4 7DQ 8.30-10.30pm Admission £6 (or £10 with quality discounted meal before jazz). Enqs: 01895-632394 Ray Gelato( Vocalist/Saxophonist) and Vasilis Xenopoulos (Tenor Saxophonist) front this exciting 5 piece jazz band. With music ranging from 'jumping jive' to mainstream popular standards. These battling two saxophonists are supported by Jack Honeyborne (Piano), Dave Green (Double Bass) & Brian Knapp (Drums)

NORTHWOOD GOLF CLUB Rickmansworth Road, Northwood, HA6 2QW 8.30-10.30pm Admission £7. Enquiries tel. 01895-632394. Jacqui Hicks (Vocalist) and Karen Sharp (Tenor Sax/Baritone Sax) provide popular jazz standards,supported by the widely recorded John Pearce (Piano), Paul Morgan (Double Bass), & Brian Knapp (Drums).

This is event is part of Hillingdon Arts Week, which includes over 40 events celebrating the range of arts activities in the London Borough of Hillingdon. Arts Week is organised on an entirely voluntary basis by Hillingdon Arts Association a local charity supporting the arts.


Review: Youn Sun Nah, Ulf Wakenius/ Vortex

Review: Youn Sun Nah (above), Ulf Wakenius/ Vortex

It seemed an impossibly exotic juxtaposition: a Swedish guitarist plus a ....Korean singer.

I hadn't heard guitarist Ulf Wakenius in a small venue before, so this was a good opportunity to do so. The Swede has, after all, been right to the top: the guitar chair in the Oscar Peterson Quartet. According to Peterson in one interview shortly before he died, Wakenius used to earn Peterson's admiration by waging all-out war with the master. Wakenius has been a major figure in European jazz for many years.

But I knew nothing of his partnership with Youn Sun Nah (above). And frankly, the PR blurb ushering in a "Korean jazz diva" hadn't helped....

At the interval I was a neutral. Musically things seemed to be working, but there had been distractions. But by the end I had been completely won over. Two consummate musicians had worked very well in a happy and interesting collaboration. Their musicality and their sheer communicative power had spoken. It had been a very good gig indeed.

Through no fault of the performers, it didn't start well. Some of the audience had either failed to to locate Dalston, or else were employing an extreme interpretation of jazz time. They arrived noisily right in the middle of Wakenius' hushed opening solo number on acoustic guitar, Keith Jarrett's My Song. Dreamy rubato, impressionistic. Crash. Bang.

In the second number, Blues for OP, it was Wakenius who upped the aggression, hiding his face under his Yankees baseball cap, as if up to no good. He was hitting hard, right through to a thumped percussive and lowdown ending.

Wakenius switched to a gentler nylon string Brazilian guitar for Youn Sun Nah's arrival. At first she seemed nervous, declaring herself "excited" to be singing in London for the first time. And there were distractions, like hand semaphore to trace the melodic line in the air; other-wordly phonemes for scatting like "mwa-hoo-mwa-hoo" or "ini-ha-ha-hhh"; phrases sometimes broken into fragments; plus that strange sight, the Hohner melodica , an instrument which sits on the lap- so the audience sees a musician blowing into what looks like the plastic hose of a breathalyzer.

But musically things were starting to happen. Youn Sun Nah appears to have absolute pitch, a voice of very great agility, an interesting palette of vocal colours, a comfortable compass of at least three octaves, and a dynamic range to die for. What stayed in the mind during the interval was her repeated, scampering, tumbling scale in fourths at great speed, in unison with Wakenius in a final bossa sung in very convincing Portuguese.
After the interval - how often does this happen?- things seemed to flow so much more easily. The opener was another slow 3/4 number Voyage, sung in hushed tones culminating in a magical, endlessly held pianissimo hum. There was a nice switch into French for Brel's "Ne me quitte pas." An interpretation of Tom Waits' Jockey Full of Bourbon found Youn Sun Nah able to match Wakenius pound for pound in weight and guts, suggesting that some of the kittenish politeness of the first half had just been a playful trope.

The set finished with a complete contrast : a traditional Korean song, and then an encore without Wakenius: My Favourite Things for voice and mbira. It was humorous- the favourite things included fish and chips and kimchi. It was musically interesting, with a cleverly re-cast melody. It moved the audience to give it totally attentive silence. Above all it was a moment of sheer magic.

Picture credit :<


BBC: Gettin' It Together.....

Hold on a moment. Is there a Serendipity Dog in the BBC reading these pages? Or is it an accident? A post on this site a few weeks ago suggested that the BBC would do well to pull its jazz output together.

Well, hey presto, sharp-eyed Jennifer of the Euphbass blog has just spotted that there is a new (?) ... BBC Jazz & Blues page.

It has,so far, Radio 2 and Radio 3 content, plus the news feed from Allaboutjazz.

As Jennifer writes: "Still a beta, like a lot of new content on the BBC, but hopefully it'll stick around."

Three cheers to that.


A jazz musician's brother writes (and very well too)

The Guardian and the Observer has a two-part guide to performing. Tomorrow's Observer has Singing. Today's Guardian has Acting.

A fascinating and very well-written survival guide to the acting profession comes from Michael Simkins, brother of top-of-the-top-drawer alto saxophone player and among the most organized and persuasive jazz educators in Britain, Brighton-based Geoff Simkins (above). And some of the skills described are not a million miles from what the jazz musician needs...

A few snippets from the article:

Woody Allen wrote: "Showbusiness is not so much dog eats dog, as dog doesn't return other dog's phone calls."

"The best rule of thumb I know about how I'm dealing with unemployment is how early each day I switch on the television. If I find myself watching re-runs of Cash in the Attic at 10am, I know it's time I took hold of myself. "

"Any job that allows you time to accept last-minute auditions is worth its wait in gold."

Worth it's wait in gold (sic) = the next London gig by Geoff Simkins. LondonJazz will be looking out for it!


Who's the artist?

The Answer: MILES DAVIS. In the last decade of his life (1980 till his death in 1991) he devoted himself to painting.

There is an exhibition/sale of this work at the Exchange Court Gallery, Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, London, WC2 OJU, running for just one week, from Monday 1st until Saturday 6th June from 11.30am – 6.00pm

The Vortex website has a good piece about it

The show will also travel to the Static Gallery in Liverpool

A similar exhibition in 2005 got serious coverage from Sholto Byrnes in the Independent

The official Miles Davis site also has good material.


Interview : Michael Connarty MP

The 2009 Parliamentary Jazz Awards have acquired special prominence in this year's jazz calendar. When the BBC withdrew from running its Jazz Awards in March, this event, to be held in Parliament on May 20th, became the pre-eminent ceremony of the year.

The BBC (Radio 2) updated its position to me this afternoon, saying – verbatim - that it currently “has no plans to bring them [the BBC Jazz Awards] back."

Michael Connarty

This week I interviewed Michael Connarty MP (above) , a leading figure in the body which is responsible for the Parliamentary Awards , All-Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group (APPJAG)* , and who will be presiding on May 20th.

Connarty, originally from Coatbridge, is a prominent Labour backbencher, and Chair of one of the essential workhorse Select Committees of the House of Commons, the European Scrutiny Group. He is MP for the 77,000 constituents of Linlithgow and East Falkirk, which contains the INEOS (formerly BP) Grangemouth refinery, and which is also part of Scotland’s light industry heartland. He therefore speaks in the Commons on a broad range of industrial and social issues.

Connarty got involved in APPJAG from the moment he entered the Commons. Why? “I just love the music,” he says. And you don’t have to look far in his Portcullis House office for the evidence that an important part of his heart is in jazz: the two largest pictures on the wall opposite his desk are the limited edition drawing produced after the death of Ronnie Scott, and a signed picture of Monty Alexander, “one of my great piano heroes.”

As a regular listener himself, Connarty has been actively persuading his parliamentary colleagues to get out and hear jazz throughout his seventeen years at Westminster. “I started by sending out fliers. quite a lot used to come up. Hazel Blears used to come up quite regularly. Kim Howells is a big jazzer…”

Connarty knows the London scene very well and keeps himself up to date. For example he was completely up to speed with the saga of Charlie Wright’s and the noise complaint.

APPJAG history (1)

When Connarty arrived in Westminster in 1992, APPJAG was run by founding Chair Lord (Tom) Pendry (Labour) Lord (Tony ) Colwyn (Conservative). Other figures involved were Stuart (later Lord) Randall, John Maxton, Ken Purchase. Lord Colwyn- a trumpeter- is still involved as Connarty’s co-Chair of APPJAG , and is effective in raising issues affecting jazz in the House of Lords.

In the early nineties, APPJAG mainly had a purpose to be sociable, inviting trad bands into the Houses of Parliament to play for MPs and peers , with sponsorship from Royal Mail.

History (2) Becoming more active/ developing a campaigning theme

The group started to become more active and activist with the involvement as secretary of Kelvin Hopkins, MP for Luton North, who was responsible for instituting and gaining Vauxhall sponsorship for a NYJO week in June at Ronnie Scott’s.

Indeed a recent article on Hopkins’ website shows that his passion is undimmed, and underlines the importance of jazz as a music beyond class and racial barriers.

History (3) – more recent

The subsequent withdrawal of Hopkins from APPJAG brought Connarty to the Chairmanship. Until two years ago he was in partnership with Bob Blizzard, Labour MP for Waveney in Suffolk , who has a good knowledge of jazz- as secretary. This was until until Blizzard became a Treasury whip. The secretary is now Joan Walley, the MP for Stoke-on Trent.

In the period Connarty has been involved, APPJAG has increased its scope. In addition to the awards there are now three other activities each year – Jazz in the House as a curtain-raiser for the London Jazz Festival, a Youth Big Band eventin January supported by PPL, and Yamaha Scholarships . Ian Maund of Sandy Brown Jazz gives a good account of these activities HERE.

The Parliamentary Awards

The Awards started up in 2005 because of the involvement of PPL, who had previously supported youth jazz awards, and who were keen to take expand what Connarty calls the “parliament- music interface.”

“They caught our enthusisasm,” he says. The procedure for the awards is that the first list of nominations is invited from the public. For example, Connarty showed me that the full long list of nominations for Jazz Musician of the Year runs to two-and a half pages, and those for jazz venue to a page and a half.

A panel then reduces this list to a shortlist of just three per category. A complete list of the previous award winners is HERE. The members of APPJAG then meet and decide the winners. The MPs and peers conduct their own research.

As regards the guiding principle and ethos behind the awards, Connarty describes it as “ recognizing and celebrating a contribution to jazz ” rather than systematically “crowning the best of the best.”

A music which crosses classes

Through meeting Connarty, a clear idea comes forward as to how his love of jazz has a place in his political philosophy. The idea that jazz breaks down barriers of class, race and age has a firm place in it. As he says, one of the appeals of jazz to Connarty the politician is that it is “popular across classes.”

To this end, Connarty is keen to do what he can to assist the cause of jazz. He sees APPJAG as having a “constant campaigning theme” and takes a broad interest in the general health of the jazz scene , and keeps sight of the long term ambition “for more sensible jazz funding.”

On the question of visas for performers, Connarty also expressed a clear wish to help where he can : “I don’t know what it is about people in the industry. I only tend to find out when things have gone wrong Tell them to pick up the phone. The worst thing in the world is a gig getting stopped because people don’t have the right papers”

As regards now being in charge of the country's most visible Awards for jazz , as a result of the withdrawal of the BBC, Connarty described his as having been one of “dismay”. And when I told him that the BBC hadn’t yet committed to reviving them, he expressed both surprise and clear disappointment.

On this issue, as on many others, there is work to be done.

The jazz community is lucky to have, in Michael Connarty, someone so passionate about the music, and so deeply sympathetic with the cause of jazz. And as an MP with an oil refinery in his constituency, he may also have more political gas in his tank than most....

(*) in close partnership with Jazz Services, with sponsorship from PPL.