What is wrong with UK jazz festivals? by Peter Slavid

LondonJazz has received a thoughtful but also provocative guest contribution from Peter Slavid, an inveterate/ubiquitous festival helper/visitor/ doer.

Peter has a long list of what's missing in the UK jazz festival scene.

The piece is published in full below, and I hope, will set a debate going. Comments either by email or below welcome.

What is wrong with UK jazz festivals, and could a few good ones expand the audience?

Although my first love is modern jazz, I also listen to a lot of other styles of music and I attend a lot of music festivals. I’ve just come back from helping out at a hugely successful folk festival in Yorkshire, a hall with 1000 people all weekend, a marquee with 300, and several other small venues. And then I watched some of Glastonbury on TV. And it has all caused me to wonder…..

Why is the UK is so badly served by Jazz festivals? There are a few – but honestly not many that really deserve the name “festival”. Most of them are just a series of concerts, which is NOT the same thing at all.

There are for example over 40 festivals each year that describe themselves as folk or roots festivals . Each of them gets an attendance of between 1000 and 5000 people (a few even more than that). There are also dozens of rock, world music and other commercial festivals with 5000 plus attendances.

They all have a few things in common. First and foremost they all charge a single fee for the day or weekend. They are parties. They put on a wide mix of musical styles, and they encourage people to watch new acts and different styles and to broaden their range. Almost all the UK Jazz festivals charge per concert – so people only buy tickets for acts they know. London and Cheltenham are good examples – brilliant concert programmes – but not really festivals in my view.

Real festivals have multiple simultaneous venues on the same site – often marquees, but sometimes in leisure centres, halls, country houses. Generally somewhere in the countryside. Jazz festivals tend to avoid simultaneous events because they want to sell tickets to every concert and they tend to take place in towns, in existing venues.

Folk festivals attract all ages including families, kids and lots of teenagers. They put on dozens of workshops, dances, meet-the-artist events, they get artists to perform more than once in different settings, and they encourage participation, amateur sessions etc. and they are growing in popularity, at least two every weekend through spring and summer all selling out all the tickets available. There are so many that others are springing up at different times of year. Meanwhile jazz festivals are struggling.

Even more interesting, if you go across the channel, many of the jazz festivals in Europe are single ticket event like the folk festivals in UK, and they seem to be thriving too.

So why don’t we have festivals like that in the UK? We used to have Appleby which failed, and Brecon which failed. Ealing is still like that, and those of you with really long memories will still remember Bracknell – the best of them all. And I am sure that there must be some smaller festivals or trad jazz festivals that follow the same model – but not many.

So, what’s the problem? Why the big difference? Is jazz inherently less popular? Is it too difficult? Are the artists too fussy? Too introspective? Is jazz really not fun?

I’ll offer one difference that may explain a part of it. All the jazz festivals I know of are run by professionals – local authorities, theatres, programmers, administrators etc. Almost all the folk festivals I go to are organised by, run by and staffed by unpaid amateurs. They don’t want to make money or get paid, they just want to put on a good event. But I’m sure that’s not the only issue

So – the key question!

Is the shortage of real festivals caused by the lack of a big audience – or is the shortage of jazz fans caused by the lack of good festivals, and would a few good festivals expand the audience - something I'm sure we all want to see!


Ronnie's 1st to 15th August

Why not, dear readers, get yourselves down to Ronnie's in the first half of August. It's two weeks of all-British jazz- the official name is Britjazz Festival. (Media sponsor Jazzwise. )

Take a look: quite a range of different acts and different styles.

And a top price of £20 for several of the nights is the club's way of saying "Come On Down."

The press release today also flags up (more detail later I guess)

- album launches
- workshops & masterclasses
-a photography competition
- a ‘quiz show’ with a celebrity panel

(those single inverted commas round 'quiz show' are from the press release, I find them at the same time..... alluring and troubling!)

-There is also a "50:50" discount offer. Terms "For only £50, customers can purchase a ‘50:50 Pass’ which gives a 50% discount on any tickets bought for the season. "

Here's the programming , the pricing, and a few ideas:

-The Ronnie's debut of Gareth Lockrane's Big Band is something I don't intend to miss.
-The 13th with Iain Ballamy opposite James Pearson will be a good night.
-And either Soweto Kinch or Courtney Pine will lift the roof off!


Sat 1st August: Julian Joseph Trio / Polly Gibbons Quartet
(1st house £40 / 30 / 25, 2nd house £36 / 26 / 20)

Sun 2nd August: Funk Affair with Noel McKoy
(£26 / 20 / 15)

Mon 3rd August: Gareth Lockrane Big Band / Ross Stanley Organ Trio
(£20 / 15 / 10)

Tue 4th August: Nucleus Revisited / Michael Garrick Quartet
(£20 / 15 / 10)

Wed 5th August: Evan Parker Trio / The London Jazz Collective
(£20 / 15 / 10)

Thurs 6th August: Zoe Rahman / Arun Ghosh Indo-Jazz Sextet
(£20 / 15/ 10)

Friday 7th August: Joey Negro presents… The Sunburst Band / The Filthy Six
(£36 / 26 / 20)

Sat 8th August: Liane Carroll Quartet / Tony Kofi Quartet
(1st house £40 / 30 / 25, 2nd house £36 / 26 / 20)

Sun 9th August: Soul Family Sunday with Natalie Williams
(£26 / 20 / 15)

Mon 10th August: Soweto Kinch / Tom Cawley’s Curios
(£30 / 20 / 15)

Tue 11th August: Clark Tracey Quintet / Lee Gibson Quintet
(£20 / 15 / 10)

Wed 12th August: Polar Bear / Get the Blessing
(£20 / 15 / 10)

Thur 13th August: Iain Ballamy / The James Pearson Trio Album Launch
(£20 / 15 / 10)

Friday 14th August: Courtney Pine’s “Transition in Tradition” / Anton
Browne Quartet
(1st house £46 / 36 / 30, 2nd house £40 / 30 / 25)

Sat 15th August: Tommy Smith / Kit Downes Trio
(1st house £40 / 30 / 25, 2nd house £36 / 26 / )


Mehrclef alias Ursula. ...

People have so many aliases these days.

Ursula Malewski sings. She's a big Dave Frishberg fan (see below for the only Frishberg lyrics I can find today - fun ).

MehrClef- who is the same person- runs vocal workshops.

Ursula Malewski you can hear free in Camden Town on next Thursday.

Mehr Clef has an all star line-up out for charity on Sunday July 12th .

A special treat in the latter is to hear Pete Churchill's vocal project. Churchill gets amazing results from this group of singers.

Ursula Malewski
Rick Simpson - Piano
Jeff Clyne - Bass
Chris Wilcox - Drums
20 Inverness Street
Camden Town, NW1, 9 July - 8.00pm., free

Charity Concert in aid of
Pete Churchill, Nikki Iles, Lee Gibson, Tina May
London Vocal Project
Elliott Hall, Harrow Arts Centre, Uxbridge Road, Hatch End HA5 4EA,
12 July - 7.30pm
020 8416 8989
Admission £ 10



We must have lunch real soon.
Your luggage is checked through.
We've got inflation licked.
I'll get right back to you.
It's just a standard form.
Tomorrow without fail.
Pleased to meet you.
Thanks a lot.
Your check is in the mail.

Marooned, marooned, marooned in a blizzard of lies.
Marooned, marooned, marooned in a blizzard of lies.

Your toes and knees aren't all you'll freeze
When you're in it up to your thighs.
It looks like snow, but you never know
When you're marooned in a blizzard of lies.

You may have won a prize.
Won't wrinkle, shrink or peel.
Your secret's safe with me.
This is a real good deal.
It's finger lickin' good.
Strictly by the book.
What's fair is fair.
I'll be right there.
I am not a crook.

Marooned, marooned, marooned in a blizzard of lies.
Marooned, marooned, marooned in a blizzard of lies.

Better watch your step when your old dog Shep
Can't even look you in the eyes.
You're cold and lost and you're double crossed
When you're marooned in a blizzard of lies.

We'll send someone right out.
Now this won't hurt a bit.
He's in a meeting now.
The coat's a perfect fit.
It's strictly fresh today.
Service with a smile.
I'll love you darling 'till I die.
We'll keep your name on file.

Marooned, marooned, marooned in a blizzard of lies.
Marooned, marooned, marooned in a blizzard of lies.

Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart.
And you're in for a big surprise.
When you're marooned, marooned, marooned
marooned, marooned, marooned,
marooned, marooned, marooned in a blizzard of lies.
A blizzard of lies.


Best to book

The album launch of Troyka tomorrow Tues 30th has been in my recommended list for a while.

The Vortex are telling me today that it is filling up, and recommending that it's best to book. OK?


WayOutWest leaving RamJam

I hadn't realised. I wrote last week that there were a few more nice gigs at WayOutWest culminating in a fun end-of-term bash on July 29th.

Check out Chris Biscoe's Band (8/7),
Tony Woods' Project (15/7), (above)
Nette Robinson singing Carmen McRae (22/7)
The Way Out West Allstars (29/7).

But, after five years, it turns out that the end of-term jamboree on July 29th will be WayOutWest's last regular Wednesday appearance.

These are resourceful folk, it's been a wonderful listening gig. Any ideas for alternative venues in SW London anyone? Maybe a LondonJazz reader has a nice huge front room which could accommodate an audience of about 50 and run house concerts. Any ideas??


Here's ........HELEN!

The weekly JazzFM mailout had this from Helen Mayhew, newly back on air at JazzFM , on DAB or internet radio.....

"I'm delighted to be back at Jazz FM. It feels like coming home, as I presented Dinner Jazz at the old Jazz FM for 14 years, so I can't wait to play the mellow music again. For me it's the perfect show for unwinding after a long day, or as an introduction to jazz for absolute beginners. I'll be sharing the show with Sarah Ward who'll continue to present Sunday to Tuesday and then I'll be here Wednesday to Friday.

My other show starts next Sunday - The Jazz Jam. I'm hoping it will act as an invaluable guide to jazz events happening all around the UK in the week ahead. I'll be featuring the pick of new and recent releases, and catching a chat with some of the personalities on the scene, plus occasional jazz dignitaries from overseas. There's so much going on in UK jazz at the moment, and I'll be doing my best to reflect that.

It's great to be back.


Listen via:
www.jazzfm.com website.
Sky Digital 0202
Freesat 729 plus
DAB Digital Radio in London, the North West, the West Midlands, Glasgow, the Severn Estuary and South Wales


Michael Jackson 1958-2009

Nice piece about Jackson on the Bad Plus' blog.


LIVE: Partisans

LIVE: Partisans. "By Proxy" album launch. Pizza Express

I keep going back to "Partisans." The first time I heard them was in a free gig in the Festival Hall ballroom in the London Jazz Festival. That was particularly inspiring. Because that is an audience of the curious-open-to-being-persuaded, rather than necessarily of the committed.
And since Partisans play uncompromisingly complex improvised music, I remember feeling a lift to witness an audience of about five hundred people of all ages, their attention completely held by the music, their grey matter, their hearts and their feet all thoroughly involved.

I then remember a set in the Everyman Theatre in the Festival at Cheltenham. Tony Dudley-Evans (I've written this before) always, always puts the right acts into the right venues. Check. It was electrifying.

The Pizza is different. It's much closer-up. And where I was sitting was astonishingly close-up. All I can say is that if anyone wants to know what a life-force is all about, where the source of kicking energy in a band might come from, sit where I was, about three feet from drummer Gene Calderazzo's (bottom left above) hi-hat cymbal. When the sole of Calderazzo's left baseball boot is hitting that thing about two hundred and sixty times a minute, you gain a different idea of what makes the world go round than from anywhere else I have ever been. Bassist Thad Kelly is as impressively solid and supportive and musical as bassists come (bottom right -hiding- above)

That was all I really noticed in the first number, "Advance." I don't think I actually noticed the two main protagonists till they got the equally breakneck second number "Lapdog" under way. Julian Siegel on tenor and soprano saxes (top left above) , and Phil Robson (top right above) on guitar have been having fun sparring with each other like this for twelve years now. It is as if one (good friend, former housemate, with complete respect for musicianship etc) might be trying to knock the other off the stand with the complexity of the material. Partisans is a good name, but the band could equally have been named after Michael Brecker's second album: "Don't Try This At Home." Another silly band name idea would be "No deps allowed." You get the idea.

The new tunes are described by Robson as the "nastiest" the band has played to date. And there was indeed a contrast when the band played "Snarf" off the first album. There is a range in the writing. One number seemed to slip off quietly into a next room of 1960's musique concrete, the final number of the second set was straight into a loping calypso feel.

Leave the last word, I think, to American bass legend Steve Swallow: 'Partisans present some of the most refreshing music I've heard in a long while, uncompromising, very well written and very well played. It demands serious attention. I hear in these players a sense of common purpose and resolve, and a strong command of a dialect uniquely suited to this music.'

I'll buy that, and I know I'll be back for more. Partisans are on at the Vortex on
1st August. Not a difficult decision: straight into the recommended list.


The ultimate music critic joke?

They told the traveller:

"Here is your task for the day. You must tell us what is in these three sacks by feeling the outside."

A man brought him the three sacks, containing a rabbit, a bear...and a snake.

He started by feeling the outside of the first sack:

"Mmm. Huge ears." His hands went down the sack."Teeny tiny balls. That must be a rabbit."

"You're right. That's amazing. Here's the next sack."

"Tiny ears" (reaching down.) "En-ORM-ous balls! Must be a bear."

"That's fantastic. Two out of two. Now try the third."
(This is the snake.)

"No ears. No balls either........

"Must be a music critic."


LIVE: Jan Garbarek/ Hilliard Ensemble

I was asked, more than once, after last night's concert in the City of London Festival, by Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble if I'd noticed a magical glint of sunlight falling across the nave of St Paul's Cathedral. That's what this music does to people. A contemplative, 90-minute set from these unlikely co-conspirators, who have worked together now for nearly two decades, brings people to a particular sense of calm, wonder, and midsummer magic. Definitely no jostling, then, as the crowd which had filled every seat in St Paul's Cathedral made its way peacably and good-humouredly back down the nave and towards the west door. Who knows quite why or how it works, but we'd all got a definite lift from it.

The Garbarek/Hilliard phenomenon affects large numbers of people. Sales of the first CD Officium, released on ECM in 1994, are now well into the hundreds of thousands. Some of last night's audience- at this third concert by the Hilliards and Garbarek in St Paul's cathedral - were clearly late converts: there were yet more copies of Officium being sold after the concert last night. So -evidently- the reach of this music still grows. The second album Mnemosyne is ten years old. And.... ever so quietly..... rumours are reaching me of a third, ere long. Ssshhh.

But there are important differences between the live and the recording. Firstly, the setting of St Paul's which occupies your eyes is quite majestic. Those vast gold vaultings give a Byzantine feel. And the echo, at least five seconds of it, colours every sound which Garbarek and the Hilliards -all performing without amplification - make. This kind of building just takes the sound off the musician, and sends it swirling round and round and back again. The group were also wandering into different recesses of the building, sending music out from unexpected places, using the space extremely cleverly. Gordon Jones, on one walkabout, switched to throat-singing. That was particularly effective

There was no set-list available, but the group do a combination of works from the records, plus they keep adding new repertoire. The Hilliards switch effortlessly from medieval to modern. The final numbers. a "Remember Me" and an "Agnus Dei" were solidly, understatedly joyous. Garbarek improvises freely, sometimes sets up call-and response with the quartet. Sometimes he's on pitch, at other times he used the natural vagaries of saxophone tuning and overtones, particularly on his vintage curved soprano sax to create less cultured, more earthy shrieks and yowls.

There was also a moment which seemed to bring a mischievous smile to Garbarek, on solo tenor saxophone. He sent out first a series of rising minor thirds, getting cumulatively louder, and then a row of sonorous, low honking B flats, chasing each other around the cathedral. How satisfying as a saxophonist, how impossible to resist, to hit home hard , low and powerfully into every last corner of Christopher Wren's vast echoing masterpiece.


LIVE: Kit Downes Trio/ Quadruple bill

LIVE: Kit Downes quadruple bill: (Chris Montague solo/ Kit Downes Trio/ Royst/ Tom Challenger's MA)

Yeah. This was a very smart idea from the Pizza Express in Dean Street under Ross Dines to get Kit Downes to curate a showcase with four contrasting young bands in one evening. But it was a programme to test the breadth of ears of any one listener. All fine musicians, but I would challenge anyone to give their personal five stars to all four of these bands. If it's stars you're after, then keep watching Kit Downes. And if it's ruthlessly accurate ratings, then I'd say 4.2 stars precisely to the Kit Downes trio, with the three other acts coming in well above three and a half but just shy of four. (But I'm new to this star-giving game.)

With all of these musicians there is that sense of taking a snapshot as they develop, as they absorb new influences, try out new things. So to make any sort of valedictory judgment now would be pointless and inhuman.

The evening got under way with Chris Montague's solo set on guitar. Montague is Downes' co-conspirator in Troyka, and a very versatile guitarist. He admitted -just as the the much more seasoned Finn Peters did a few weeks ago- that he was new to the solo set format. He did VERY well. I have to say that the more melodic numbers - Nirvana's Heart-Shaped Box, and an up-close-and-personal Beatles In My Life did more for me than either the harmonic repose of "At Rest" or the playing-over-changes of Ambleside Days.

Royst are a Leeds-based a capella vocal group in their seventh year of existence. They were a quartet, they're temporarily a trio. They experiment with sound, they veer towards minimalism. And there were sections which reminded me of the Cathy Berberian/Berio Stripsody/Folks Songs 70's 80's vibe. It was definitely all a bit Norwegian for my professorial gig companion. He kept passing me incomprehensible grumpy notes with remarks like "narrative arc, dear boy." I must find out what he meant.

Tom Challenger's MA has two phenomenal rising musicians whose work I already knew: Ross Stanley on keyboards and Dave Smith on drums. This is a band with an astonishing inner energy, and clever/subtle use of the electronics and distortion from Matt Calvert. It's more for the club than for the concert hall, and with a smart and savvy DJ to tell everyone how good they are.... people will miraculously discover just how good they are.

I'm leaving the best till last. Just as Kit Downes' trio left its best till last, a number called "Homely." It started in the serenity of a drawing-room with (OK, let's turn 100% of the LondonJazz readership off) Emmanuel Chabrier. Downes always has beauty of sound and balance of voicing to spare. Then he moved through questioning teasing chords and up several gears to the point where his dexterity and command allow me to obscurely name-drop Kenny Drew Jr, just in case anyone wasn't put off by Chabrier.

In this trio Downes allows, encourages his long-standing sparring partners and friends Callum Gourlay on bass and James Maddren on drums to have equal prominence. These three fine and civilized players have grown together and respect each others' space. I look forward to the new album appearing in the autumn. And longer term I look forward to watching the directions all three of these musicians choose to take as their confidence and experience grow. Things are just beginning to happen for all three of them. Anything is possible. Hold on to your hats.


Music wars in Scotland

The Scots get passionate about music (as above) . Check out this LINK- a series of very heated exchanges indeed.


NEW: Jammin at the Pizza on Fridays till 3am

It starts this Friday. The Pizza Express in Dean Street is hosting a late night jam on Fridays with resident rhythm section players like on-form and wonderful Barry Green and star drummer and educator Steven Keogh, and Gilad Atzmon's bass player Yaron Stavi. Class. £5 to listen, free for music students and pro musicians. The Pizza Express's leaflet mentions sessions every Friday till July 31st. Great initiative!


"More on the Door"

Nice one, Patsy Craig of Charlie Wright's . She's got three fabulous groups in at the tiny Hoxton venue in July.

And a clever ruse on ticket pricing: It's £14.50 if you book in advance at Ticketweb or Wegottickets
But if you turn up on the night, all she's prepared to say for now is ..."More on the Door"

The first is a young New York supergroup. The second and third are the groups led by two guitarists Kurt Rosenwinkel and Jonathan Kreisberg . When I've heard both of them I've come away thinking - yes I want to hear more.

7th and 8th of JULY- BAPTISTE TROTIGNON QUINTET (Paris/New York)
with Jeremy Pelt (trumpet), Mark Turner (tenor sax), Eric Harland( drums) and Matt Penman (bass)

12th and 13th of JULY - JONATHAN KREISBERG GROUP (New York)

19th and 20th of JULY - KURT ROSENWINKEL TRIO featuring ERIC REVIS and RODNEY GREEN (New York)

Want a fuller version of this? Get on Patsy's mailing list: twomusic@btinternet.com


Scottish Jazz Awards

The delicacy above is for Jennifer (Euphbass) for first-past-theposting the winners of the Scottish Jazz Awards HERE and provoking quite a discussion.

UPDATE: Here's the official list from HERE

Bobby Wellins (presented by Bobby Wishart)

BASS (presented by Sheena MacDonald)
winner: Aidan O’Donnell
runners up: Tom Lyne, Ronnie Rae, Brian Shiels

BIG BAND (presented by Alan Steadman)
winner: Scottish National Jazz Orchestra
runner up: Tom Bancroft Orchestro Interrupto

BRASS (presented by Jill Rodger)
winner: Ryan Quigley
runners up: Chris Greive,Tom MacNiven

DRUMS (presented by Bill Kyle)
winner: Stu Ritchie
runners up: Alyn Cosker, Partick Kunka

GUITAR (presented by Ronnie Gurr)
winner: Malcolm MacFarlane
runners up: Nigel Clark, Graeme Scott

PIANO (presented by Tommy Smith)
winner: Paul Harrison
runners up: Alan Benzie, Steve Hamilton,
Brian Kellock

VOCALS (presented by Carol Kidd)
winner: Fionna Duncan
runners up: Alison Burns, Debbie Davis

WOODWIND (presented by Bobby Wellins)
winner: Tommy Smith
runners up: Julian Arguelles, Laura MacDonald

BEST BAND (presented by Alison Kerr)
Public Vote
1st: Ken Mathieson’s Classic Jazz Orchestra
2nd: Scottish National Jazz Orchestra
3rd: Trianglehead

BEST CD (presented by Jim Gilchrist)
Public Vote
Carol Kidd “Dreamsville”

(presented by Clare Hewit)
Public Vote
Martin Kershaw’s “Hero as a Riddle”

(presented by Mike Hart)
Public Vote
1st: The Jazz Bar, Edinburgh
2nd: The Blue Lamp, Aberdeen
3rd: Hospitalfield House, Arbroath


Way Out West in July

The South West London-based musicians of WayOutWest who put on the gigs at the RamJam club in Kingston give themselves a break in August.

But that means the last gig there on July 29th has that hats-in-the-air, missing-you-already, one-last-hug vibe. The line-up has two of the most mellifluous tenor players in London, Pete Hurt and Vassilis Xenopoulos, pianist Kate Williams, drum and band leading legend Tony Kinsey. It will be FUN!

I've also put in a couple of the others from July in the recommended list. It's one of the most intimate venues in London. Nowhere will you be closer up to the music. The venue is right by the BR station. And the 65 bus from Kingston does the bus-iness. And it's where the picuture of me on bari was taken.


Descending Figure

See the video at


(Can't imbed it at the moment)

Lively, houseboat-dwelling, conga-leading saxophonist Andy Williamson writes:

A few days ago, I was given a very short notice opportunity to repeat a fundraising stunt that I first did a couple of years ago. At 9.45 am next Sunday morning June 28th, I hope to be suspended nearly 150 metres above the ground, with a saxophone around my neck. I plan to descend to around 50m, then stop, and give a short performance of a vaguely musical nature.

This is all happening down the side of the ‘tower’ wing of Guy’s Hospital near London Bridge – the highest ‘civilian’ abseil in the country. As you may know, I had a kidney transplant at Guy’s in August 2007, after a year and a bit of dialysis. This time, I’m performing this feat in aid of the Kidney Patients’ Association at Guy’s. The KPA is a great organisation, which funds a range of fantastic things, including ground-breaking research, sending kids to the British Transplant Games and various social events for dialysis patients, whose ability to have a regular social life can be severely curtailed.

I’ve set an ambitious target, for such a short burst of fundraising. Will you help me get there? You can make a donation of any size online to my

If you’d like to come along and watch, please feel free. It’s all due to happen at 9.30am on Sunday 28 June 2009. Come to the main entrance of Guy’s Hospital, next to London Bridge station on Great Maze Pond."


South Bank Meltdown : Before and After


David Smyth wrote this in his preview/plug piece in the Evening Standard before Meltdown. It's that "why jazz?" scepticism which one gets to recognize.

Check out particularly, if you please, Smyth's use of the word "relevant."

"The latest curator presents something of a risk. Ornette Coleman, at 79, is [...] the first jazz act, and a far from comfy one at that.

"If you're anything less than a full-time jazz aficionado, is it really worth getting involved this far down the line? Yes, is the short answer — as the full line-up for Coleman's Meltdown, which begins next weekend, suggests that his influence spreads far enough to make him relevant to more than just turtleneck-wearing chin-strokers."


The South Bank have done well. The (jazz) gigs I went to were in a packed Royal Festival Hall. The free gigs were well supported. There was a lot of life and buzz about the place.

But the sight I hold in my mind, and one of the sounds I hold from last night in my ear is the bassist , but now also the full-blown A-List celeb from LA , Flea (above).

Flea just looked happy - proud? - to be sitting in with Ornette Coleman's band. He was on the button, with every one of the Colemans composition right under his fingers.

As a musician , this gig, this pioneering music, was clearly "relevant" to him.

I guess the message here is that "relevance" in music might not just be about celebrity and about quantity of albums shipped. It might also be about ears?


Krakow here I come

Maly Rynek Square, Krakow


I can't help it., but I'm really quite excited about this one. I've been invited to see, to hear and to write about the 2009 Krakow Jazz Festival.

The main events are on from July 16th to 19th. Artists-in-residence are the mighty NDR Big Band from Hamburg .. Guest artists working with the band are Maria Schneider,Joe Lovano,Joao Bosco.

Here's the full programme.

And on 18th July, in the square in the historic town centre pictured above , I will witness the musical homecoming to Krakow of the NDR Big Band's pianist since 1996,Wladyslaw Sendicki, a massive musician with his roots in Krakow, and with a real story to tell.


Władysław Sendecki is universally known as Adzik. He was born in the small Polish town of Gorlice, cut hus musical teeth in Krakow. I interviewed him.

As a child Adzik was being groomed to be a classical virtuoso pianist. "I was meant to be Horovitz. I practised 10-12 hours a day. People with passion and idealism were right behind me helping me. They didn't just give me the lesson, they didn't just look at the Dienstplan (timetable). They gave so much more, everything I needed."

He explained to me that: "what makes a Polish artist is a whole soul, a spirit, a message. In Poland the arts have to SAY something. We don't play music just for fun. There's always a meaning to what we do. It's always been like that. Think of Chopin."

Well, as a teenager he was playing a lot of jazz, and rock and pop. And it was those intense convictions, plus an increasing awareness through music of a free world beyond the Eastern bloc which eventually made him leave Poland , for good, in 1981.

He keeps that idealism and that intensity. Freedom tolerance, openness, human rights, all that was missing for so long are the things he talks about. Azdik's work is coloured by deep convictions. "I want to feel, to be a world citizen", he says.

I've been listening to his album "Piano" on Provocateur Records. There's that depth and intensity allied to huge musicianship. Keith Jarrett admirers - this album will take you straight to a world you are very familiar with. And then beyond.


Sendecki has written Anima Mundi, a "story with pictures" for the NDR Big Band, of which he is an integral part. It is the result of having travelled widely throughout the world and absorbed a range of musical cultures. The suite starts in Africa, travels through Indonesia, passes through the Slavic countries. There are dialogues written in with musicians from different musical heritages. "Composing Anima Mundi was about the idea of tolerance. It's about people entering into a dialogue, without losing their individual identities."

Anima Mundi will be the culmination of a marathon gig in the historic Mali Rynek square. "Night of Jazz" has its own website. Here are the details from it of programme for the evening. There are five sets. Starting with Nils Landgren, James Genus and Gary Husband. Then a reunion with his closest teenage musical buddy Andrzej Olejniczak, who has stayed in Poland. Then Brazilian Joao Bosco with the NDR Big Band. Then the elite of current Polish jazz. And then the ten movement Anima Mundi.


Sendecki will play the whole gig. What will be going through his mind? There are certainly some butterflies about the historic animosity towards the Germans, but a belief that the quality and humanity of the music will transcend this: "I just hope people will be warm towards the band."

"It wont be just a concert." He says. "Krakow is always in my mind. In my soul. Wherever I am I carry Krakow with me. And I am happy that I can bring back some of what I have picked up along the way to my home town and to the people there."

And I'll be excited just to be there.


LIVE: Charlie Haden/ The Bad Plus

The crowd which packed the Royal Festival Hall for the Bad Plus and for Charlie Haden's (above) Liberation Music Orchestra last night - and for all sorts of very lively free events going on around the gig- must have known that they had to expect the unexpected from Meltdown curator Ornette Coleman. And Coleman definitely kept everyone guessing. For the whole evening.

Coleman's "guest appearance" had been printed in the programme. It had evidently been scheduled into the set- with a number which then had to be replaced when he didn't turn up.

But the build-up still continued: ("I'm told he's on his way now"). The "guest appearance" then finally happened .....but after the music was over. Haden: "I'm going to get Ornette Coleman and give him a hug." Which he did, publicly, and for which he received the two men received a standing ovation.

The audience got its soft-as-marshmallow emotion moment, the visible reconnection between the two close colleagues from a very long time ago , but I couldn't help wondering if there wasn't a prosaic, maybe even a venal reason why what we got last night was Music Minus Ornette.

Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra last night was a very high-quality Anglo-American twelve-piece. Arranger/MD/pianist was Carla Bley, impeccable throughout. Her ballad "Blue Anthem" was a highlight for me.

An indispensible presence in the texture, and working, dovetailing, aligning, conspiring with her was John Parricelli on electric and acoustic guitar. Parricelli seems capable of endless feats of subtlety and control. Having Parricelli in the band is like having several world musicians, all in the one chair. He can switch on a dime from Rodrigo-ish Spanish to wail to reggae backbeat. No visas, no air tickets, no hotel bills, just sheer class.

The eight-piece horn section played full ensemble texture with clarity, but in curious sonic balance with the rhythm section. Ringing out on top were two fine, contrasting trumpeters, both with strong presence and big sound - Tom Rees-Roberts from over here, and Mike Rodriguez from over there. Jason Yarde on alto, Shabaka Hutchings on tenor sax, and the distinctive gutsy french horn of Jim Rattigan also shone through.

Haden himself played with clarity and strong lines. For my particularly sharp-eared companion at the gig, the musical centrepiece of the evening was a clear homage by Haden to Ornette, buried deep in the music: a note-for-note rendition of the melody of "Tears Inside" in one chorus of Haden's long bass solo.

Robert Wyatt had a legion of devoted fans in the audience. He sang, mostly in Spanish on two Cuban numbers. He played trumpet. A much loved elder statesman.

All in all , it was very satisfying richly-coloured set full of variety and interest.

I found myself smiling during the performance earlier by support band, piano/bass/drums trio-with-a-difference The Bad Plus. First with pleasure. The Festival Hall had captured their sound extremely well. Once the latecomers in the audience had got themselves seated, The Bad Plus were a sheer pleasure to hear.

But I also had another thought, whch made me chuckle. The Bad Plus have shifted territory a lot since they first burst on the scene. From a band which used to give you angry rock grooves, you now get through-composed Stravinsky, thoughtful Ligeti. They're definitely playing chamber jazz of the European variety now. I find that heartening: musicians will always be one step ahead of the sterile genre arguments in jazz , like whether the US or Europe is the wellspring of creativity. This music travels. Fast. Weightlessly. Through the air. That's its appeal.


Guest CD Review by Rob Mallows

CD Review. Stanley Clarke Trio: Jazz in the Garden. (Heads Up). Review by Rob Mallows.(UK release date 29th June 2009)

Many older chaps turn to the garden for solace and inspiration as they approach retirement. Stanley Clarke - bass legend, composer and jazz mentor - has looked out of doors for the theme for his latest album. But, at 57, he shows no signs as yet of wanting either to slow up, or to tend to his roses.

The new trio CD, 'Jazz in the Garden,' marks a departure from his last fusion and funk-inspired album from 2007 - my personal favourite - 'The Toys of Men'. With these new cuts, Clarke goes acoustic and confirms that, unplugged, he's every bit as innovative and melodic on his upright as he is in more familiar guise slapping and popping his Alembic electric bass.

His partners in the trio are veteran sticksman Larry White - recently returned to the stage with Clarke in Return to Forever - and Japanese prodigy Hiromi Uehara (who, Madonna-style, adopts just the single moniker 'Hiromi') ; she has a recognisable contemporary sound, characterised by a flurry of notes and heavy chops mixed with fast tempos, straddling the lines between jazz, fusion and pop. It's the first I've heard of her music - but after this album, I want to hear more.

On 'Jazz in the Garden', all three synchronise well and demonstrate strong musical understanding. It's a trio in which the the bass functions up-front and on equal footing with the piano. Clarke is often playing the melody line while Hiromi's left-hand underscores and deals with the rhythm; in many ways, Hiromi holds her ground completely alongside her far more seasoned band mates, and she does a great job of stamping her style on the trio in her own compositions .

Clarke brings a range of tonal colours to the album, from the insistent beginning to opening track 'Paradigm Shift', to the inevitable - but not overblown - bass solo on 'Bass Folk Songs No. 5 & 6'. Both he and White also bring a lightness of touch which lets Hiromi's piano shine through on the livelier tracks like 'Brain Training'. The album closes with a clever rethinking of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Under the Bridge. Clarke plays the lead on the first round, with Hiromi taking over on the the first verse. Clarke's acoustic bass is up front during the choruses and he leads on the second verse adding in some hardcore riffs which hark back to his earliest albums. White's subtle drumming supports the melancholic mood of the original song, and provides a platform subsequently for Hiromi's freely expressive solo before all three work up a head of steam towards the end. A great track, demonstrating that there are plenty of jazz riches to be found while mining a rock seam.

Though not averse to demonstrating his prowess on upright bass, whether on album or tour, this is Stanley Clarke's first full album as acoustic bandleader and composer (he produced a standards album a few years back), but it doesn't lose anything from the lack of extended low-end slapping and ripped chord strumming. In some ways, it frees him up to explore his more melodic side while still giving him space to get sounds out of an acoustic bass that only he can.

Metaphor time.... For "Jazz in the Garden, " Clarke has weeded the hot-house fusion elements from his lawn. There is a fresh, breezy tone across all the tracks. These are three musicians open to the melodic and rhythmic elements....

Different jazz generations have combined on this album to produce straight-ahead modern jazz which also draws on elements of be-bop and cool jazz, with more than enough innovative elements and brio to ensure it isn't just another trio date. I dig it!

Rob Mallows is organiser of the Premier London Jazz Meetup, which brings together jazz fans around the city for fun and live music.


Jarrett 25th July

The "Choir" seats in the Royal Festival Hall, behind the stage, for the Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette gig on Saturday 25th July have just been put on sale for £45 a pop.

Thanks to Peter Bacon for spotting that.


Lee Konitz, Sonny Rollins, Maria Schneider

Lee Konitz who was at the 606 recently.... Sonny Rollins who'll be in the 2009 London Jazz Festival.... and Maria Schneider whom I'm off to hear next month (more on that later!) head the list of 2009 JJA Award Winners just published by Allaboutjazz.com.

Here for comparison are the 2008 winners .

I was particularly pleased to see the Lifetime Achievement award for jazz journalism going to the best writer about jazz anywhere (discuss) Paris-based Mike Zwerin (above, photo Luciane Maia).


Go to work, Gary

BBC Music Magazine carries a nice interview with Gary Burton. It's about...OK, it's plugging.... the album he's recorded with a remarkable quartet of old friends - Pat Metheny, Steve Swallow and Antonio Sanchez . He brought them to the Barbican last year. A great gig which stays in the memory.

Peter Bacon (respect) commits himself to one CD review every day. I like his recommendations. And he absolutely loved this one.


"The writer's mind's ear"

Here's a neatly-put putdown of critics from American trumpeter Jason Palmer:

"I frequently read album reviews of artists that are in my generation (25-35). Many of the writers proclaim that the artist doesn’t quite have their own “voice” or that the artist is still in the process of finding his/her own “voice”. Whenever I read a statement like this I can’t help but wonder if the writer were to put the record on repeat and listen to it all day, day in and day out (no one I know has time for this, but you know what I mean), would that artist then have their own “voice” in the view of the writer’s mind’s ear?"

Palmer's comment is sparking quite a discussion way over there in Portland, Oregon..

Enough already. Have a joke instead:

How many music critics does it take to change a lightbulb?
None. They work in the dark.


Ronnie's July Highlights

-30th June – 2nd July: STANLEY JORDAN

-3rd – 4th: The Nina Simone Songbook presented by GILL MANLY

-6th – 8th: MINGUS DYNASTY : Boris Kozlov – bass, Donald Edwards – drums, Orrin Evans – piano, Craig Handy - alto sax, flute, sop. Sax, Wayne Escoffery - tenor sax, Alex Sipiagin – trumpet, Ku-umba Frank Lacy - trombone, vocals.

-10th – 11th: CHRISTIAN McBRIDE (bass) Steve Wilson (saxes), Eric Reed (piano), Warren Wolf (vibes) Carl Allen (drums).

-20th – 21st: KYLE EASTWOOD,Andrew McCormack (piano)Graeme Flowers (trumpet)Graeme Blevins (sax) Martin Kaine (drums)


-27th - 28th: CHRIS POTTER(saxes), Adam Rogers (guitar) Craig Tabourn (keyboards),Nate Smith (drums).

-29th-30th: ROY HARGROVE (trumpet), Justin Robinson (alto sax), Jonathan Batiste (piano), Ameen Saleem (bass), Montez Coleman (drums).


LIVE: Benny Golson

The eighty year-old composer and saxophonist Benny Golson has added many enduring, much-played compositions to the jazz repertory, and it was a privilege to hear him play them - gently and thoughtfully- at Ronnie's last night.

Golson has an instantly likeable, generous and self-deprecating platform manner. His vivid and interesting, if lengthy, spoken introductions explained the circumstances of composition of tunes such as "Along came Betty" and "Whisper Not." At one point, with poignant emotion undimmed after 53 years he talked about the spur to writing "I remember Clifford." Trumpeter Clifford Brown had died in a car crash aged just 25. Golson's last words before embarking on that tune sounded heartfelt, as did the sweet-toned playing which followed them: "I still miss him."

Golson felt obliged to apologise repeatedly for his saxophone playing: "I'm a lousy saxophone player" was a phrase which came out more than once. But that sentiment was simultaneously a generous tribute to the trio of James Pearson, Simon Woolf and Chris Dagley - "You should know that these guys are first-rate, and they're going to make me sound really good."

Pearson was indeed on particularly fine form last night. At one point Golson, overjoyed by what he had heard, looked at his watch after the trio had played Johnny Mandel's Emily to see if could fit in a call to the composer to tell him how well the tune had been played.

Woolf was on great form too. He played bowed solos on the bass, capturing, imitating, developing Golson's simple lines. Chris Dagley was sympathetic and responsive throughout. There was only one number taken at a proper uptempo burn- fellow Philadelphian John Coltrane's blues Mr P.C., near the end of the second set - which at last gave him at last the opportunity to show some real kick.

What for me was most memorable about the gig was to hear Golson play his own themes with such beauty, lyricism and simplicity. The fire which he brought to improvising in his prime is not what it once was. Misty reflectiveness was the mood last night, occasionally drifting into reverie. But the melodies of the opening number "Horizon Ahead" and "I remember Clifford" were stated with a directness which got straight through to the emotions.

Golson said how pleased he was to be back at Ronnie's after a long gap. He visited Ronnie's in the sixties. The album "Three Little Words "with Stan Tracey's trio was recorded as long ago as 1965. There was more than a hint - "I might just tear up my passport" - that there might not be many more visits.

So if you want to hear a legend playing his own tunes, and telling his engaging stories- eg about Golson and his teenage friend John Coltrane (the former 16, the latter 18) being star-struck swooners when Charlie Parker visited Philadelphia.... there are two more nights on this visit- tonight Tuesday 16th and tomorrow 17th - to go, to hear, and to enjoy.


LIVE : "The History of Jazz"

LIVE REVIEW: "History of Jazz "Class . Room 36, Richmond Adult College, 15th June, 2009

For six years, Eddie Harvey, now in his 84th year, has been filling a rucksack with CDs, and cycled from his home in St. Margaret's to Richmond Adult College, to teach a Monday afternoon adult class in the history of jazz.

There is probably nobody in Britain better qualified to teach this course, Because Harvey is part of the history which he so deftly illuminates. He played with both the Maynard Ferguson and Woody Herman bands, had long associations with both Humphrey Lyttelton and John Dankworth, and wrote and arranged for both the Ellington and Goodman orchestras.

As former Head of Jazz at the Guildhall school Scott Stroman told me:

"What is remarkable about Eddie is that having produced music at the highest level nationally and internationally, he has chosen to go into the classroom. And he can teach at any level. He is happy to make his material fit the needs of anyone, from beginners to postgraduate conservatoire students."

These attributes earned Harvey the distinction in 2005 of being the first recipient of Jazz Educator of the Year at the Parliamentary Jazz Awards.

The class I attended was near the end of the academic year, and the first hour was talking through the influence of Bill Evans and John Coltrane.

Harvey clarifies the development of the music with an exemplary lightness of touch, and good humour. The tracks he plays for the students are a varied programme, a deliberately balanced diet of light and heavy, and of light and shade. He has a mission to explain, to familiarize, and he covers a lot of ground.

By the latter end of today's class, the very different colours of electronic instruments were to the fore, with selections from Weather Report and Donald Fagen. The class was sent happily on its way at the end of the class with the irresistibly joyful sound of "Walk Between Raindrops" from Donald Fagen's CD Nightfly ringing in its ears.

Harvey will start his seventh course in September. Richmond Adult Community College is less than a minute's walk from Richmond station (South West Trains/ Overground/ District Line.) Details will be available from the Richmond Adult College website or from course leader Dave Jones (david.jones@racc.ac.uk)

Declaration of Interest: I am a Governor of Richmond Adult Community College, and a member of its Curriculum Quality and Standards Committee, both roles unremunerated. The views expressed in this article are entirely my own.


I get a cup out of you?

My good friend Helen Baden of Jazz Artists Direct has come up with something very unusual, to say the least forthis Wednesday 17th:

- lunchtime/afternoon 1pm to 3pm

- early evening - 6pm to 8pm.

Fancy a sing? As part of Street Pianos 09, Singer/top singing teacher Linley Weir (above) will be at the Old Ceramics Gallery, 7 Marshall St, London, W1V 1LP. Where you can go, for free, and..... learn to sing a London song. For free. In two hours.

Any LondonJazz readers know any ceramics songs? Such as:I get a cup out of you?

Send me your suggestions...you know you want to....I feel more than one groan coming on...


Two American sax players for tonight

Sometimes I've left a gap which needs filling. Where should one go tonight?

The great octogenarian composer/saxophonist/anecdoter Benny Golson is on at Ronnie's. First set 7 30.

And Thelonius Monk sax competition winner Jon Irabagon is at the Vortex with a mainly Scottish top pro band, which is coming to the end of a tour put togehter by enterprising Birmingham promoter Stoney Lane


A welcome vistor from Birmingham writes

Impossible-to-dislike Birmingham Jazz and Cheltenham Festival director Tony Dudley-Evans has headed down from Birmingham (above) to London. It appears to heve been more than worth his whille.....

In a VERY nice post from the Birmingham Jazz blog he writes about the opening event of Meltdown. He's going to quite a few more gigs....


LIVE : Martial Solal

After his second number, octogenarian French pianist Martial Solal (above) stood up from the piano stool at King's Place. Ever dapper, he did up the middle button on his jacket, and walked over to the microphone. First came a smiling apology for his English. Then a simple statement:

"These tunes are all standards. I only play standards," still with a smile.

I noticed quite a few visual artists in the audience. I believe that they, above all people, will have understood the exact tone of that remark. It was said in the same matter-of-fact sense that Cezanne wrote, in his mid-sixties, in a letter to young Emile Bernard, that he simply "expresses himself in drawing and colour." Or Klee, in his diary, ever the modest craftsman, describing a particularly good day: "I am a painter."

Because Martial Solal as a solo improviser has an artistic method with this repertoire of standards which is unique and compelling. He has been living with them, living in them throughout his long life as a pianist . Sometimes he will reveal the tune, by direct quotation of a fragment, in the first few bars - for example "Here's that Rainy Day" which opened the second half. In other numbers he buries the identity of the tune deep under thick Debussyan gouache-wash, or torrents of Art Tatum runs, or all sorts of other abstract material, and then eventually , chooses to bring a contour of the tune to the surface: "Body and Soul" was one of those. It's called teasing. He's having a lot of fun.

He is constantly playing a game with the audience's ears. But he is also playing, in real-time, with the figurative material - the recognizable melodic contours of the tune. He's getting the listener to ask a question about any note, chord, motif: is it a clue, a piece of melody, is itfigurative? Or is it decoration, a bit of abstract flotsam?

Cart me straight off to pseud's corner, but here's a blog post from a contemporary artist dealing with this dilemma of the figurative and the abstract.

Martial does all of this with sincerity, humour, artistry, and with an astonishingly agile piano technique for a man in his early eighties. I had wondered if the fingers had slowed since the (superb) live double album "Martial Solal Improvise Pour Radio France"from 1995, but, trusting the evidence of my ears on Thursday I couldn't hear ANY degradation. The scheduled Jazz on 3 Broadcast (no date fixed yet) will give an opportunity to check this again.

Solal played a nice, cultured game with the audience at the end. He claimed to be choosing the numbers by consulting tiny cards in his pocket, and that after one last number he would run out, there could be no more. He duly returned to the stage, and showed off the empty pocket......

"Now I can improvise,"
he explained with faux-naif boyish glee. At the end of this number he shut the piano lid. YBut that turned out to be another game: he still allowed himself to be lured back for another encore. My hope is that he'll allow himself to be lured back by Serious for another concert.

And if they can do it, I also hope that the place will be rammed. He deserves nothing less.


Gary Crosby OBE

Congratulations to the great bassist, bandleader, producer,Jazz Warrior, Nu-Trooper and all-round nice guy in the leather cap.


Brian Rust

Ivan Hewett has written an interesting piece saying that blogging is all about "now" and that therefore the risk increases that collective memory evaporates. I have every respect forHewett as a critic, but...

...sometimes, it seems, blogging can achieve quite the opposite. This post from jazz.com on British jazz discographer Brian Rust brings to the fore a unique contribution to preserving collective memory.....


The BFI Jazz and Film opener

I've just been to the opening event of the BFI's weekend. Hats off guys. A lot of thought has gone into this.

Tonight there was a screening of Joseph Losey's Accident, followed by John Dankworth talking about it.

The bit I saw was JD and James Pearson (piano- he's Artistic Director at Ronnie Scott's) playing and then interviewing Dankworth's , mainly about his film composing career, although at one point we managed to be transplanted to a naval dance at Dartmouth with one band member lost taking a leak on Dartmoor. At which point I thought I saw an American Werewolf. Or maybe not.

Then a film from the early pioneering days of Channel 4 , screened in 1983.It was from a very short-lived series presented by Capital Radio's Tony Myatt called "4 Up 2 Down . Just TEN episodes according to the BFI's database.

There was vintage footage of Art Pepper talking about drugs......

......Mingus talking about multi-day sex using a lightbulb to demonstrate......

.....and a low-down funky 1982 Dankworth Quintet in which three of the players switched instruments from first to second sets. -Dankworth stayed on various reeds and on a shocking pink 1982 shirt designed for medallion-wearers
- Kenny Clare remained darkly on drums.
-But a ridiculously boyish-looking Alec Dankworth did the first set on electric bass and the second on upright (steam to the cognoscenti) bass.
-And coiffed Daryl Runswick (the link is to my profile from February) was on Fender Rhodes and piano in the first set, and guitar in the second. And was credited on the soundtrack as John Horler.
-And sol-id Bill LeSage did the first set on vibes and the second on piano.

Check out the BFI's website there's loads more. I'll also be writing about something v. special on the 24th!

Dankworth is just one of the four octogenarians I'm going to be writing about this weekend. He spoke tonight of now feeling very detached onlooker as he considers the man and the musician he was at those earlier points of his career. Indeed the fifties bebopper, the sixties film composer and the seventies-eighties touring bandleader...each persona seemed like very different incarnations, each a commentary on its separate era. Jazz history unfurling before one's eyes.... Great to have been there.


Counting champagne corks

Finsbury Circus Gardens, EC2. In times long gone, champagne cork-popping central for the traditional, British-owned merchant banks nearby.

What's on offer there these days? In the week of June 22- 26 some very good jazz on all five lunchtimes as part of the City of London Festival.

Full details of the gigs are HERE , and my pick is acoustic guitar hero Martin Taylor on Wednesday 24th.

First week of Wimbledon, so it's bound to be really sunny. Yeah right.


Steaming trio in E17 tonight!

Late addition to the recommended list . I notice at the last minute that E17 Jazz has a surprise package this evening. It's James Allsop's Golden Age of Steam with Kit Downes on keys and Tim Giles on drums.

These are three genuine and very resourceful improvisers. So it's a very different gig each time.

The Plough, 173 Wood Street, Walthamstow, E17 3NU, London, £5


The Godfather- print this page for an OFFER you can't refuse.

There may be many Godfathers* (a particularly menacing one above) , but in British jazz there is just one, a unique presence, a : Stan Tracey CBE , aka the Godfather of British jazz.

Tracey's endlessly inventive, free-wheeling piano playing is unique. What always draws me in is his humour and his timing. Why can't I listen to Tracey without my face breaking into a smile, or even a chuckle?

Sonny Rollins once asked a crowd at Ronnie Scott's : "Does anybody here know how good [Stan Tracey] really is?"

Here's a nice chance to catch the Stan Tracey trio - with Clark Tracey and Andy Cleyndert - in a club setting before his headline appearance at The Proms. It's at the 606 Club next Thursday 18th.
Here's the OFFER: Print out this page and there will be a £2 of the fixed charge per person, and 10% off your drinks.
Bookings 020 7352 5953.

(*) A few other Godfathers

Ravi Shankar (world music)
Jimmy Page (rock)
James Brown (soul)
Silvio Berlusconi (sleaze- source Daily Mail)
Leslie Benzies (gaming- source Times)
Spike Milligan ( comedy)


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Good Morning from LondonJazz
A couple of things before talking about gigs...

In the past week LondonJazz has joined the Tweeters at http://twitter.com/londonjazz , and written up the strange experience so far here. I'm just hoping that there are more people out there - like you - on Twitter, who know thatJordan is a country.
But I have also, incidentally, found, and written about , three VERY civilized conversations. One which led me to a site with album covers designed by a genius , another to a discussion about spontaneity , and yet another looking at the big , the small and the beautiful in European Jazz festivals.


We're looking forward to, and have previewed the South Bank's Meltdown . Plus Andy Panayi's Allan Ganley big band project which will be circling London, to land , of all places, in Mill Hill . And we're looking forward to the continuing BFI Jazz and Film events.


A fascinating evening of Jazz and Poetry (Ruth Padel and Andrew Motion)and the opening concert of the Spitalfields Festival. Plus a write-up of the Barbican's summer launch event at the Vortex.

All the best for now, Sebastian


South Bank Meltdown- Update/ What's sold out

The Ornette Coleman Meltdown festival programme (June 12th - 20th)-not only the main gigs in the RFH and QEH but also the free events, films...has been emerging bit by bit, and for a few weeks. Check out the full programme here

Mike Hobart's FT interview with Glenn Max of the South Bank today is v informative on the background.

I thought it would be sensible, before refreshing the Recommended Gigs list, to check what had sold out. The South Bank tell me today that four gigs: Patti Smith, Yo lo tengo, Moby and -among the jazz gigs- the 19th Ornette gig with Bill Frisell are full.

I then looked at something a bit more obscure to see how it is selling: Mark Ribot, Evan Parker and Han Bennink- the front section is mostly gone. Conclusion: it looks like the whole festival -which the South Bank top brass saw as risky, moving away from a known rock star - is indeed popular...

David Smyth of the Evening Standard describes this phenomenon HERE. Although when he refers to jazz fans as "turtle-necked chin-scratchers," there can presumably only be, roughly,one person he has in mind.

My choices, a sprinkling of free and paid for gigs from a BIG programme which needs looking at are:

Saturday 13th , 10.30pm, Clore Ballroom (free)

David Murray leading a jam session

Sunday 14th : 5.30pm in the clore Ballroom (free)

Acoustic Ladyland . Pete Wareham and Seb Rochford's group has been evolving...now EIGHT years since they started being angry!

Friday 19th 1pm Clore Ballroom, free

Trinity College: Martin Speake (saxophone) , Chris Batchelor (trumpet), Gene Calderazzo (drums) and Calum Gourlay (bass) will be exploring Ornette Coleman. Contemporary classical singer Linda Hirst will do free improv with pianist Douglas Finch, before all six improvise together.

Friday 19 June, Royal Festival Hall, 7.30pm, (Sold Out, returns only) Ornette Coleman and Bill Frisell. reflections on The Shape of Jazz to Come (1959 ) Guitarist Bill Frisell was superb at Cheltenham in '08 and I hope to catch him again.

Saturday 20th : Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra/ Carla Bley/ Robert Wyatt/The Bad Plus Bassist

Charlie Haden is a giant. I last heard the Bad Plus' really innovative take on the jazz piano trio about five years ago, and the progress of this band will be fascinating to catch up with.

Sunday 21st: The final , celebratory closing gig with Ornette

South Bank Blurb:
"Charlie Haden (bassist in the original Ornette Coleman Quartet) and Ornette Coleman are reunited onstage for the first time in nearly 10 years for a historic closing night performance of Reflections of This is Our Music – the seminal album they recorded together 50 years ago. They will be joined by Red Hot Chili Pepper's Flea and Bachir Attar and The Master Musicians of Jajouka."


Live Review: Jazz and poetry

The Troubadour in Earl's Court was, predictably, packed for "Stanzas and Swung Rhythm" aka jazz and poetry last night. The star turns were recently moved-on-to-arts-panjandrum-from-Poet Laureate Andrew Motion, recently decided-not-to-take-up-the-post-of Oxford Professor of Poetry Ruth Padel , plus two Welsh poets, and the Frank Harrison Trio.

Thank goodness for Ulster-born organizers like Anne-Marie Fyfe. She's been running Coffee-House Poetry for 12 years. She's worked with Harrison's trio at the Wick Festival in Scotland,so the idea of interspersing jazz and poetry at the Troubadour was hers. She has some problems to overcome with her sound-twiddlers, but she ran the gig very well indeed.

First the jazz. Some esteemed music commentators might have had real problems last night, possibly found that the music was bordering on a criminal offence.

Because Frank Harrison, Jeremy Brown and Steven Keogh were...... wait for it....... down in a poorly-lit basement... tinkling standards. I was there. And that is what they did.

On another evening, with a different crowd, they could have kicked up a storm, crossed genres, done edgy. But last night they were responding to the respectful, restrained, hushed no-applause-after-solos vibe of the evening. That's how jazz musicians fit in, adapt, respond, provide the right commentary.

So I didn't get a full sense of Harrison's range. And that was also because he would have certainly have done better on something with a fuller sound and more sustaining capacity than last night's borrowed keyboard. However, Harrison does create beauty in melodic line, and leaves space. On "Some day my Prince" he was going to some curious and colourful chromatic places..... Steven Keogh on drums and Jeremy Brown on bass were individually and collectively faultless throughout.

The poetry? Writers need to find uncertainty and ambiguity or there's nothing to write about. Some, like the Welsh seemed to find it in the present, in the act of writing. So they were asking a lot of rhetorical questions about the present, about the act of writing poetry.

Motion was digging into his pre-panjandrum youth and six pints an evening memories for his uncertainty and ambiguity. Padel was mining the seam of questions posed by the life and love of her famous ancestor Darwin. Padel's delivery was curious. It swapped slightly jarringly between the businesslike university lecturer didactic. And the artitically sensitive with lots of expressive pauses.

And what about jazz and performance poetry together? I'm sure there are many ways it can work. There is a sympathy factor between these two communities. Both are art forms which rely on practitioners spending years and years perfecting their craft by in their own headspace. I've been enjoying the work Tim Whitehead has done with Michael Rosen. And I hope the Keogh's Global Music Foundation and poets develop some work together. The results are bound to be interesting.


News: JazzTimes - and it's bad news

Bad news today about one of the world's leading jazz magazines.
Straight from the horse's mouth.



How did a quack get inside a wolf?

The picture above, of a duck inside a wolf, needs some explaining :

And on June 21st, at 2.30pm, in the Garden of Sir John Dankworth and Dame Cleo Laine in Wavendon, Bucks, it will be explained by a gentleman who is ALL of the following:

-Professor of Science and Society at Imperial College, London
-Chairman of the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Trust
-a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (FMedSci),
-an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (HonFREng)
-a Fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (FRCOG),
-a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London (FRCP)
- an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS Edin),
- an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons (FRCPS Glasg),
an Honorary Fellow of the Instititute of Biology (FIBiol)
-Chair of the board of the Royal College of Music
- with honorary doctorates from fourteen universities

His name is Lord (Robert) Winston, and he will be narrating the story of Prokoviev's Peter and the Wolf (above) .

Where? In Sir John Dankworth and Dame Cleo Laine's Garden in Wavendon.

It's a nice day trip from London. Gazebos provided!

Here's the full programme of events.

Also recommended in this series:

- Kenny Wheeler with JD on July 11th

and also

-Bobby Wellins' Quartet on Jue 20th

-A nice song programme from Pete Churchill on June 27th

-Four clarinettists for the price of one on July 4th


LIVE: Spitalfields Festival Opening Concert

In its thirty-three years of existence, the summer festival Spitalfields Music has been carving out a strong reputation, in one particular area: it has developed into one of the best showcases for new British contemporary classical music, and has commissioned an impressive list of new works.

But times are a-changing, and Abigail Pogson and Diana Burrell have put on an impressive festival in difficult circumstances. This year's opening concert was a departure from tradition- a jazz triple bill at Wilton's Music Hall, of which the main event was Gwilym Simcock's new trio on superb form, includingYuri Goloubev(above).

Thanks to a reshuffling of the programme, the large and appreciative audience at Wilton's Music Hall were in for surprises right from the start: Finn Peters walked onstage with alto saxophone in hand - and started the music off... by powering up his laptop.

This was Peters' first ever complete solo set- but he definitely means business, and more bookings in this format will doubtless follow. The set drew on a very wide range of musical influences. He uses multi-tracks, and hiphop backings. Endings were often sudden and secco, but it was absolutely compelling listening.

Peters is not just a versatile instrumentalist, but a contemporary composer in the truest sense.

In his programme note for this solo project, the first debt Peters acknowledges is to the British jazz improvisers on saxophones who have trodden this path before him: Evan Parker, Lol Coxhill, John Butcher. Peters also writes: " Having seen John Surman do a solo set at a young age, this is something that I have wanted to do for a very long time."

Peters has now taken this tradition forward. He was also having fun, for example sampling unlikelysaxophone sounds, such as amplified fingernail on reed, key-slaps, running his wedding ring over the souldered joint of the saxophone- the kind of thing would liven up an educational project- for kids of any age.

I will keep in mind one joyous moment: Peters stepped back up onto the Wilton's stage proper, and for a moment played solo, undistorted , unamplified. The superb acoustic of Wilton's was given the freedom to ring.

The second set, with Gwilym Simcock's trio of Yuri Goloubev and James Maddren was also a revelation. I heard this trio last November in one of its first gigs. The musicians were just getting to check each other out. And the journey of discovery travelled in the eight months since then is amazing.

Simcock has moved forward -again - as both player and composer. The material was mostly new tunes recorded for a new CD last month. On first hearing, the new compositions seemed more reflective. "New in Town" in particular seemed to me to be leaning more towards Tommy Flanagan than to Chick Corea. The pianism is, as ever, totally commanding- I think I heard a couple of passages in cascading falling sixths, for example- but Simcock just seems to have more to sing about.

I also clocked the sheer class which the prodigiously skilled and musical bassist Yuri Goloubev brings to the party. His bowing arm is a Rolls-Royce, which brings unexpected, concentrated lyricism to melodic lines . But he can also match Simcock for speed and scampering busy-ness in plucked solos when required. Plus there is an alertness and watchfulness in his gaze and his every gesture- it's mesmerizing to watch.

When I was writing a feature about Maddren in 2007, I sought the opinion of a major figure in British jazz : "[Maddren] is open, he’s completely responsive to other musicians, he’s very subtle and his reactions are lightning-quick." Well, eighteen months later, amen to all of the above.

The individual talents of the three players now seem properly unlocked, and what each can now bring to the cogency of the whole was in evidence throughout a completely absorbing set.

The duo of Dan Stern on reeds and Robert Mitchell on piano in the third set had possibly drawn the short straw. Stern played interesting and complex compositions convincingly on soprano and tenor saxes, with an agility reminiscent of Tim Garland. Mitchell made much use of the sustaining pedal and kept a full, joyful and reverberant sound going.

This was a brave and thoroughly successful venture by Spitalfields Festival.