Tomorrow's Warriors, 24th July

Abram Wilson

The Tomorrow's Warriors day at the QEH on July 24th was while I was away, but I've been picking up quite some belated buzz about what a brilliant event it was.
People are saying that Abram Wilson (above) was doing fantastic work with children. LondonJazz reader Patrick Hadfield wrote this review on his blog about the evening concert.
It seems there hasn't been a single other review yet, which is a shame, but is explained by the fact that the Tomorrow's Warriors event had the bad luck to fall on the same day as the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra concert at the Barbican......
Did anyone else go who wants to say anything?? Let us know what you thought.


Enlightened Ealing

LIVE: Ealing Jazz Festival: (Continues till Sunday August 1st)

Continental Europeans would get the idea of the Ealing Jazz Festival straight away, because they are far more accustomed to local councils doing enlightened things than we are.

The Dutch , for example, would find its whole atmosphere “gezellig,” the French “sympa.” Older Germans would say it was “gemütlich, ” younger Germans just “cool.” It costs just one pound to get in. There are two music stages, food tents from all over the world, a friendly beer tent...

Walpole Park in Ealing is just a nice place to be of a summer evening. If the weather holds, I would recommend you get on down there. It's a short walk from Ealing Broadway tube. Local authorities (some blame one evil little quango which should be abolished ) increasingly find it harder to put on this sort of thing. So enjoy it while it lasts.

And the music. There was quite a buzz last night about Chico Chagas' group which I managed to miss. He's a 606 regular. But I did catch Karen Sharp on tenor in fine form, with Robert Fowler. Last night's headliners were Frank Griffith's top-flight nonet plus the fine Georgia Mancio. There are so many great players in Griffith's band - including a new name to me, Richard Pryce on bass - I find it easy to forget what a superb tenor player he himself is. And he does so many other things, I suspect he probably forgets what a fine tenor player he is too.

But last night he gave us Body and Soul in fitting tribute to much-liked, much-admired Phil Day, whose funeral had been earlier week. Full-toned, big-hearted, and absolutely unforgettable.

Phil Day (1938-2009)


The Kinsey Report

People tell me they don't "get" jazz. They should have been where I was sitting last night, watching the interplay, the communication, the smiles, of Tony Kinsey and Pat Bettison.

Kinsey was at the drums for the final, packed WayOutWest gig at the RamJam in Kingston, before they move to Richmond after five years and 200+ gigs.

Kinsey is now 81. He played Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, Ben Webster, Clark Terry, Harry Edison, Buddy DeFranco, Billie Holiday, Oscar Peterson, and Sarah Vaughan. The concentrated expression when he sits at the kit (above) has broadened over the years into a knowing grin. It's understandable. He plays drums because he wants to play drums. So would you or I, if we could bring the life to a drum kit which Kinsey does. Yes. Still. At eighty-one.

Standing over him, most of fifty years his junior, was bassist Pat Bettison, clearly inspired, gobsmacked, playing as he would want to play in bass heaven, while the rest of the band (Kate Williams, Chris Biscoe, Pete Hurt, Vassilis Xenopoulos, Katriona Taylor) sat out. The tune was Kinsey's Mellow.

Earlier the band- with Gary Willcox on drums- had played George Russell's deliciously mind-bending Blues in Orbit, played as a tribute to the great man- Pete Hurt and Chris Biscoe are both Russell alumni. These are guys who can put their hearts, and their souls, and all their feelings of sadness and loss.... into a blues with 5/4 and 3/4 bars chucked in.

Way Out West starts its new life at the Orange Tree pub in Richmond on September 16th...


A gig I'm looking forward to

Regular readers will know this: I'm looking forward to the gig at Ronnie's next Monday 3rd August, when Gareth Lockrane will direct his big band for which he will have composed the charts...and play piccolo, flute, alto flute and towel rail* (above.) Here's his Myspace with video clips of the septet. And here's my review from March. I won't review Monday, I'll just enjoy it!

This should be a proud moment for the Stoke-on-Trent diaspora, in which case one of the country's leading culture commentators , also from the potteries, might turn up too. Why bother? Because Lockrane is massive: e.g., in his modest way he has, in just the past two years also clocked up no fewer than fourteen film scores...

This is not just for Big Band fans, Thad Jones-Mel Lewis fans, or Eddie Harris fans. It's for anyone with ears. The centre block has now sold out.

(*) bass flute


London Jazz Festival

The South Bank and Barbican gigs listed on my post HERE are now on sale from the venues.

There are no Stalls or Balcony seats available for Sonny Rollins on Saturday 14th November.


George Russell RIP x 2

John Fordham's obituary in the Guardian. It's a great piece. Looking back with fondness and thoughtfulness.

Uglyrug from Portland Oregon. Reminding us that jazz is always looking forward.


LIVE: chris potter underground/ Ronnie Scott's

Adam Rogers
Ronnie Scott's was virtually packed for chris potter underground last night, a Monday. Someone told me it was the Piers Morgan effect- he had chosen Potter in his Desert Island Discs selection. Whatever. With this quality of programming, the club deserves success, recognition.The band is on for one more night, tonight, Tuesday. Go.

I'd also like to hear it for Arnie Somogyi, hard-working regular bass player at the club, who was band-leading the support trio with Phil Peskett and Chris Dagley last night. Somogyi had placed himself right up close to Peskett in the hollow of the grand piano, and his gentle but rapid-fire dialoguing with his pianist in How High the Moon was a moment of complete joy for this pair of ears. And it reminded me that there's another pianist who invites his bass player up that close: the joyous Monty Alexander: he's back at the club Thurs 27th - Sat 29th August.

I heard Chris Potter years ago as a Mingus Big Band member, then as a member of Dave Holland's band, but never as leader. Underground has been a working band for five years, and Potter is without doubt the real deal as bandleader too. He has all the authority and rhythmic assertiveness that could ever be needed in this role, and then some... He has more or less perfect posture, with the instrument in balance. He can also drop in a demonstration of just about any aspect of saxophone technique you care to think of- like a jaw-dropping altissimo excursion in a link passage during Interstellar Signals . And then get back to the music. Ellington's Single Petal of a Rose showed off his bass clarinet presence and sound in all its gorgeous colour and depth.

The other band members are all top-flight New Yorkers with raw energy and contrasting personalities and roles in the band. Sharing front line duties is Adam Rogers on guitar. While Potter occupies centre stage, Rogers stands at the side, with the ever-alert quizzical look of a stag who has emerged onto open ground, eyes firmly fixed on the other band members. But Rogers nails and anchors every groove with accuracy and real character. Nate Smith is a powerhouse on drums, but he responds and picks up on everything, and misses nothing of the interchange. Craig Taborn has a "free electron" role, colouring the texture or floating away from it, rhythmically or harmonically. It's a potent combination of talents.

The music often has, as its building blocks, simple rock grooves, like the rising figure in Time's Arrow. But they form only a very small part of the story. The material is kicked against, sabotaged, set against a different and more complex groove from Rogers, subjected to a more or less free/open solo from Taborn (which got the loudest applause of the evening) , kicked back to life with a rhythmically insistent two-note figure from Potter. This is complex, unsettled music, it's completely alive. I noticed people were infected by the physicality of this sound, and tried to groove along to it. Not a simple task. In fact the most settled moment came in the encore, Radiohead's Morning Bell. Lyricism, repose and calm, in a gentle 5/4.

You re-emerge into Frith Street energized, refreshed and lucky after an evening like this. Thank you Ronnie's.


The earth just moved (under my feet)

UPDATE: A review of this gig appears HERE

Just spotted. Saturday 8th August, Vortex (thank you Aris!) . Songs from Carole King's Tapestry. Christine Tobin. Liam Noble.

Take one astonishing singer. Take one hell of a pianist. And a few great songs. And you get one of my gigs of the year. See you there.


"It's perfect for a duo"

Kate Williams describes the spacious acoustics of St Lawrence Jewry church in Gresham Street in EC2, where she'll be playing next Tuesday August 4th at 1pm, as "perfect for a duo". There's also a good piano which once belonged to Sir Thomas Beecham.

The sage of Muswell Hill, Chris Parker, has been writing nice and as, ever, to-the-point, things recently about Kate Williams :'Williams is an unshowy, subtle player, relying on displacements of rhythmic emphasis rather than dazzling runs to make her musical points, but her soloing is none the less cogent and powerful for that. [...]Admirably unfussy, impeccably performed, [..] a pianist/composer who should be better known.'

Williams also knows this venue. She has performed a lunchtime duo gig there as part of St Lawrence Jewry church' s (otherwise classical) August music festival in each of the last three years. Her duo partner for the past three years has been Bobby Wellins. This year she's with another revered, gentle giant of British jazz, Stan Sulzmann (above).

Sulzmann has worked with Williams for the past few years as part of the Way Out West collective, and guests with Williams' quartet.

Expect a civilised, civilizing conversation between two fine musicians. And gorgeous sound in a helpful acoustic. Admission is free. It gets a good turn out, so if you want a decent pew, get there early.


VENUE REVIEW: The Crypt in Camberwell by Peter Clasen


The Crypt in Camberwell , by guest critic Peter Clasen.

Thank you Peter for the updates on the Crypt stage gigs at Ealing this week and the Secondlife "virtual club" due to launch in November.

(underneath) St Giles Church
81 Camberwell Church Street
London SE5 8RB
020 7701 1016

Here's what it says on the tin, or rather on the Crypt's website.

"Top Bands - Cheap Bar - Low cost Quality Food - 300 year old atmosphere - you can't go wrong!"

Well, that's all my boxes ticked. Most importantly, the music is good. Perhaps because it is only open one night a week -Friday- there never seems to be any compromise in the quality of musicians, so it is somewhere where the music can be taken on trust. The acts are chosen by club directors including Simon Fernsby, who finds a good mix of usually British talent (eg. I can remember good gigs from Tony Kofi, Gareth Lockrane, Martin Speake, Phil Robson and Kate Williams). Looking ahead, there are some cool F-IRE names, some freer stuff and stalwart horn players like Renato D’Aiello and Dave O'Higgins booked for forthcoming Fridays.

You should expect to hear quality, creative musicians trying out their latest projects, probably playing originals with a more familiar Monk or ballad thrown in. Music starts at 9.30, and the venue closes two sets later around 1am.

Next there is a good respectful listening audience, although on occasion the non-music-listeners can drown out a quiet intro or a bass solo - like everywhere. This is probably because about half the seating is tucked away from the tiny bandstand, and it takes a dedicated music fan to listen carefully without a line of sight! For that reason, it's worth getting there early if you want to listen carefully. But musicians I have spoken to seem to like playing there because people listen. Officially its capacity is 150 people, but the atmosphere is much more intimate than that number suggests: it feels more like a private party in someone's cellar.

Around that solid foundation of great music, there are numerous little advantages to complete your evening. There's tasty and amazingly cheap food (vegetarian, but you can't have everything and the puddings make up for it). Even though the Crypt is not the sort of place to find a banjo, there is a selection of beer and ales in bottles that would make a trad-jazzer's heart sing. The entry is very good value at £6 (/£4).

Russell Occomore, who started the club going in 1995 with Les Alden by negotiating with the church, says he wanted to reflect the vibrancy and the talent within the London and UK jazz scene: with his partners at Jazzlive he has certainly managed to achieve that. On a more trivial matter, he acknowledged the piano was ropey, but explained that it's hard to keep a piano in tune underground, and that the club simply doesn't have the money to buy and maintain a better one. Jazzlive also book the Crypt Stage at Ealing Jazz Festival, and are reaching out yet further by setting up a virtual club in Secondlife: from November its gigs will be streamed there live.

Camberwell Green is well served by buses (36, 171, 345, 12) which link the club to Oval, Elephant and Castle and Brixton , all roughly two miles away- and you might find that you have saved so much money with the Crypt's cheap entry, food and drinks that you can splash out on a taxi home!

(Photo: Adam Bishop Quartet by Asher Herbert)


60 years on- Tony Coe returns to his first gig venue

Tony Coe's (above) life journey as a musician could have taken him literally anywhere. In 1965 he turned down a chair in the Basie band. As an improviser he has one of the most unbelievably fertile minds ever. I heard him with Tina May and Nikki Iles in March and he's lost none of that capacity to surprise. Harmonically, rhythmically, and with a wry smile, Coe will charm the listener to places you never knew existed.

But apparently his first ever gigs, in the 1949 , as a teenager, were in a dance hall at 49a St Peter's Street Canterbury. And Brasserie Gerard are proudly telling me that they have invited him back there to celebrate this Thursday 30th July, with Tina May. Because the dance hall is now a Brasserie Gerard restaurant. Was it called the Olympic? I'm sure a LondonJazz reader will know!

The music plus a champagne reception and a celebratory three course meal cost £29.95Bookings on 01227 479 777 /


LIVE: Keith Jarrett- quick review...

This was the first appearance of the Keith Jarrett's Standards trio with Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette in London since 2003, and the Royal Festival Hall was packed. The length of the applause which greeted the trio as they arrived onstage seemed to take even Jarrett himself by surprise.

I'm not really used to this level of sheer devotion and adulation. The man on my left was explaining triumphantly to his bemused companion, and later to me, exactly by what means he had been able to get such good seats. She disappeared rather early. My companion to my right found Jarrett's gyrating "all a bit odd" but loved the music. I particularly enjoyed the trio's delicate unfolding of Gershwin's I've got a crush on you (played in F..) . And it is hard not to be in awe of the commanding presence at the drums of Jack deJohnette, especially when given the chance to stretch out , as in the extended open section over dominant pedal at the end of Autumn Leaves.

Jarrettists are in the zone, they take their man very seriously. Take a look at the unofficial website, you'll see what I mean.

It does have useful , current things- eg details of the Jazz on 3 interview , broadcast while I was away (2 days left to listen) . And of the next triple solo CD. But get the completism: here are details of every gig since 1967.

The gig becomes such an occasion, a holy event. I noticed that the trio left the stage at the end of the last, extended "official" number - Butch and Butch by Oliver Nelson- with their hands aloft in prayer.

Last night , however, Jarrett, Peacock and deJohnette also definitely repaid the adulation , and gave no fewer than four encores, including an extended Holliday/Herzog God Bless the Child, with a bass solo by Peacock of great fluency and beauty.

I have a message for London-based lovers of Jarrett I would say: make a mental note to get out and hear Liam Noble or Barry Green at least once. Give them the same level of listening you gave Jarrett last night. Either Liam Noble or Barry Green will take you on a similar journey. You will not be disappointed. I'd like to give you a Victor Kiam "or your money back" guarantee, but I know I won't need to.


Catching up with the news (3) London Jazz Festival and other gigs


1) Jazz in London for August is out. It's twelve A5 pages, there's plenty going on with full programmes at Ronnie's, the Vortex, the Pizza Express in Dean Street, the 606 and the Bull's Head.

The recommended list will get filled in later... but I do notice ....

  • A new entrant - Mainstream jazz on the first Monday of each month at the Corus Hotel in Lancaster Gate. The music is £15. Gets you a two course buffet dinner. First up is Robert Fowler with Roy Williams and John Pearce. (I'll be going to hear Gareth Lockrane at Ronnie's that night.)

  • Every Sunday at the bandstand in Regent's Park (above). It's programmed by the 606.

  • A few dates for impressive Italian tenor player Renato D'Aiello

  • A really interesting band at the Watermill in Dorking led by percussionist Asaf Sirkis, with Kit Downes, Mark Lockhart and Mike Outram.

The final end-of-era gig is this Wednesday 29th July. The south-west London collective announce that from mid-September they'll be downstairs at the Orange Tree pub opposite Richmond station on Wednesdays.

3) The London Jazz Festival is taking shape. Here's what's announced so far.

Fri 13th Nov -Jazz Voice (Celebrating a Century of Song/ Barbican
- John Scofield's Piety/QEH
-Astillero (tango band from Buenos Aires)/ Purcell Room

Sat 14th Nov Tomasz Stanko / QEH
Roberto Fonseca (Cuba) / Mayra Andrade (Cape Verde Islands) RFH
Sunday 15th Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Lenny White plus Bela Fleck (two shows)/ Barbican

Mon 16th Nov Branford Marsalis plus Robert Mitchell/QEH

Tue 17 Nov -Carla Bley plus Julian Siegel / QEH

Wed 18 Nov - John Surman Celebrates 65 Yrs with John Abercrombie, Jack DeJohnette & Drew Gress
Wedn 18 Nov - Sat 21 Nov Stefano Bollani residency/ King's Place

Thursday 19 Nov Bill Frisell and the BBC Symphony Orch/ Barbican
Gilberto Gil/ RFH
Cleveland Watkiss celebrates his 50th/ QEH

Friday 20 Nov Madeleine Peyroux / Royal Festival Hall
Dave Holland/ Chris Potter/ QEH
Alan Barnes: Five Takes on Benny Goodman/Purcell Room

Sat 21 Nov Cleo Laine, John Dankworth / Royal Festival Hall
Tord Gustavsen Ensemble plus Jason Yarde/Andrew McCormack /QEH
Mike Maran: A Funny Valentine - (Chet Baker show)/ Purcell Room
Sunday 22 Nov Marcus Miller-Music of Miles Davis/ Barbican


Catching up with the news (2) Kind of Blue plaques

Thanks to Ian Mann of the Jazzmann blog for spotting this.

Brecon Jazz Festival are asking the question:

Can you help us to identify venues and locations across the UK that have played a significant role in the history and development of jazz in Britain?

Well if you can..FOLLOW THIS LINK.

contact Toby Guise at Deliberate PR: /020 8732 8861 /07814 223 530


Catching up with the news (1) Lincoln Center/Barbican

Back to blighty and bloggery and all that...and catching up with news:

I've just spoken to a musician friend completely who was blown out by hearing the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (above) playing to an enthusiastic packed house at the Barbican last night -

He tells me about his highlights:

- hearing the great Joe Temperley on bass clarinet with Dan Nimmer playing Duke Ellington's Single Petal of a Rose as a duet

-trombonist Elliott Mason's parents (from Norwich) getting singled out by spotlight for their own applause

-an astonishing trumpet section, including Wynton Marsalis himself, all trying to outvie each other in everything

-Ted Nash on alto in superb form

-great through-composed arrangements- mostly Latin/Spanish -by Wynton Marsalis and Chingo Dominguez

-plus the general presentation values: the suits, the proper bowing to the audience, all helping the sense of occasion

The Barbican also put out a press release with a lot more details of the JALC orchestra education programme , which will happen both in 2010 and Olympic year 2012. Jazzwise's piece is here.

I'm just SO hacked off not to have got to the gig!....a blocked runway at Gatwick kept me from it....



Blog posts from the Krakow Jazz Festival

I was invited to blog from the July 2009 Krakow Jazz Festival. I wrote three reviews and three diary posts conveying the atmosphere around the festival. Krakow with it's beautifully restored historic heart, is worth a visit any time of year. But the strength, the life, the buzz of the jazz scene are ..........Somethin' Else!

Here's what I wrote. Diary piece 3 is a meeting I'll remember for the rest of my life.

Review NDR Big Band/ Maria Schneider/ Nils Landgren

Review NDR Big Band / Joao Bosco/ Joe Lovano

Review: NDR Big Band: Various guests


Krakow Diary (1)

Krakow Diary (2)

Krakow Diary (3)


Preview/ Interview with Wladislaw Sendecki


LondonJazz on Holiday

Greetings from another city in middle Europe where I am happy to be marooned.

Back Saturday.


LIVE: NDR Big Band plus Guests

LIVE: NDR Big Band (above) plus guests
-Mali Rynek Square, Krakow, Saturday July 18th, 2009
-Opera Krakowska, Sunday July 19th, 2009

This was the big one. The third of the four evenings of the NDR Big Band's Krakow Jazz Festival residency was a free public concert lasting a whole five hours, culminating in Wladislaw Sendecki's Anima Mundi suite, written for the NDR Big Band. The concert took place in Mali Rynek, a beautifuly restored, cafe-lined square in the very heart of the old town. What a way to mark the triumphant return of pianist Sendecki (known as Adzik) to his home town. This uplifting story of a return from long exil was what had got me hooked on the idea of coming to Krakow for this year's festival in the first place.

Krakow's weather, which had been glorious all week, had a sudden change of mood for the worse during Saturday afternoon. At various points it tried to get in on the act, and not with the best of intentions either . It just about managed to stay well-behaved for Nils Landgren's and the NDR Bad's lively first set, much appreciated by a large crowd. People had come with their children, some seemed to have stopped by on their bicycles. Mainly local people, but also a lot of toursists. Sunshine, warmth, a great atmosphere.

But the weather was to make its first attempt to upstage the music in the 7pm set. This was a reunion for Adzik with his old partner in music, tenor and soprano saxophonist Andrzej Olejniczak. This fine reedsman now lives and works in Spain, but has been Adzik's friend and close musical colleague for around forty years. His sparky composition Mr X was deservedly well received. Adam Pieronczyk also played a ballad beautifully on sweet-toned soprano sax.

But the wind was starting to pick up. Adzik, the two nicely contrasted saxophonists, Keiko Freitas on drums, and James Genus on bass were models of calm professionalism and gave a great show. At one point a strong gust of wind lifted a solitary sheet of Adzik's manuscript up into the rooftops like a bird. Which got a friendly cheer. It was that kind of gig, that kind of willing, supportive, listening crowd.

A rainstorm managed to steal the show, but not spoil it, in Brazilian Joao Bosco's set. Bosco's sunny music was played to a sea of umbrellas. During all of this, Festival organizer Witold Wnuk strutted around defiantly in a panama hat, giving off the strong message that life's a beach. He ushered the guests under a rain canopy to be interviewed in the bright lights for national TV by a remarkably calm TV presenter, dressed, scantily, for rather better weather.

The fourth set featured a numbere of fine Polish musicians, working with the stellar rhythm section of Sendecki, Genus and Husband. A dominant figure was the fine guitarist Jarek Smietana. He is something of a national treasure in Poland. But, as I discovered when I heard him in London, he has a benign sense of humour and a big presence on a bandstand. The set also featured the appealing soft tenor sax of veteran Janusz Muniak, another local hero, who oversees the proceedings at U Muniaku, a lovely little club just off Krakow's main square, and an intrinsic part of the Krakow scene.

The heavens cleared for Sendecki's suite Anima Mundi. This is a celebratory festival, piece, something for the big occasion like this premiere at Krakow's " Night of Jazz" . It will get nother airing in Hamburg, and, I hope, be heard again after that. It starts with recorded African chanting and impressive percussion work from Gary Husband and Marcio Doctor. It went through a journey taking in any number of musical influences, sitars, temple gongs and flutes, loops of vocal material, all kinds of unexpected. It successfully showcased the sections of the band, but also told a convincing story . The closing sections brought on an impressive singer who held the attention with beautiful , deceptively simple vocal lines, Hanka Rybka. The Irish-inspired finale featured fast up-and-coming violinist Adam Baldych.

The fourth evening, back in the new Krakow Opera House featured a performance of Colin Towns' Theatre of Kurt Weill suite, commissioned by the NDR Big Band, and a delightfully varied "Polish/German Jamboree." For that title to be used without irony shows, yet again, how historic antagonisms can be broken down by jazz.

The Towns/Weill suite showed this fine big band exploring alll kinds of different textures. Towns takes the deliberate, knowing rawness of Weill's originals and extends it. Instruments get to be used in unusual guises. Bass trombonist Ingo Lahme excelled while eerily slithering and sliding around in high treble clef territory. From the back of the band, percussionist Marcio Doctor was much to the fore, including an excursion on unpitched siren. Amid the angry and the weird, there were also moments of magic and repose. For these, the rhythm section , and Sendecki in particular, deservedly received the loudest applause.

The second half started with the award of a national jazz award to Roman "Gucio" Dylag, a veteran bassist now resident in Switzerland. His four smiling, characterful but laid-back duets with Jarek Smietana brought the charm and atmosphere of Krakow's jazz basements to the big stage. Brubeck's In Your Own Sweet Way was particularly appealing, both Smietana and Dylag persuasively melodic.

The meat of the second half was a set of arrangements by Jan Wroblewski, also featuring on tenor. The tunes were homages to some of the greats of Polish jazz - Tomasz Stanko's Gama producing playing of brilliance, virtuosity and sheer poetry from Sendecki; Krystof Komeda's Astigmatica feature for Reiner Winterschladen with cutting tone, and Gary Husband superhuman. The audience wouldn't let the band away ands onto its bus without an encore. So , as ever, the safe hands of Jorg Achim Keller directed an unscheduled encore- a "once more from the once more" - in Basie's immortal phrase - of the final number Mol Konski.

I don't regret a minute of this trip to Krakow. It has been inspiring to learn with my ears what a statutory body, in this case a broadcaster, putting proper resources behind a big band can achieve.


Krakow Diary (3)

It was one of those chance conversations. Talking to a complete stranger at breakfast in my hotel. But it's not one I'm likely to forget for a long time.
I never found out his real name, so I'll just call him Joseph - after the patron saint of his native city in Canada. What had brought Joseph to Krakow? A conference on high energy physics. And me, he asked? Above all the amazing open air concert in the square last night, to welcome Wladislaw Sendecki back to Krakow after 27 years in exile.

Yeah, that free outdoor concert in the square. He'd caught the very end, once the rain had cleared, he told me. It was amazing, he said. It had seemed like music...from ....well...everywhere in the world: India, Ireland, Japan?

Without having had it explained to him, I realised that he'd really got it! He'd twigged intuitively, by listening, exactly what Sendecki was trying to achieve. In Anima Mundi Sendecki was symbolically bringing the music of the world, the music from his travels in exile back to Krakow, back to the city he had left in the early eighties.

Our conversation drifted gently back to High Energy Physics. Joseph told me about the project he was involved in at CERN, working with nearly five hundred specialists in the field from all over the world in a non-hierarchical structure, with the common aim of making a major advance in physics. He told me his group even involved physicists whose countries were at war with each other. But they just got on with it. They all shared the same belief that they were on the threshold of something beyond price. So they all worked together as colleagues.

Amazing, the people one meets.....Joseph had crossed the Atlantic to work where he does now in a major research institute. Sendecki had crossed the River Oder and left Poland in the eighties, when it was still the frontier between East and West, and he now occupies one of the top jazz piano chairs in the world.

It's good to be reminded that barriers really can be broken down. Minds can be broadened.By jazz. And also by science. By people with enquiring minds. Two people at the top of their respective fields, unlikely ever to meet. Who just happen by pure chance to be in Krakow at the same time.

I leave here tomorrow. This brief visit has been a mind-opener for me. But I do have a couple more gigs to review before I sign off for a short holiday


LIVE: NDR Big Band/Bosco/Lovano

The second night of the NDR Big Band's stint as artists in residence at the Krakow Jazz Festival had the band working with Joao Bosco (above) playing originals and Jobim tunes in the first set, and with american sax hero Joe Lovano in the second.

Bosco is a Brazilian singer, composer, guitarist who is now in his early sixties. But seeing him on stage I would comment that his late thirties appear to be treating him rather well. Musicians have been giving me a buzz about Bosco, and their expressions on stage last night told their own story: Bosco's musicianship is mesmerising. He has an appealingly characterful voice, which is capable of the lightness of Joao Gilberto. But he can also deliver in-your-face rap, and alliterative nonsense poetry, both in evidence in numbers such as Quilombo. There's a rhythmic kick in the singing, and a propulsiveness in his guitar playing which spreads through the band like an electric charge. Wladislaw Sendecki on piano and keybBoldoards, Kiko Freitas on drums, an unnamed percussionist, and Stefan Dietz on guitar, in particular, were right on Bosco's mega-voltage all evening.

I'll have just one grump. I'd love to have known what he was actually singing about. I know that No More Blues/ Chega de Saudade is about turning your back on "tristeza" and "melancolia"...but the meaning, the purpose of the other songs was left completely unexplained. Maybe World Music audiences simply don't care. Last night's audience hooted and hollered and took hundreds- no, thousands- of flash photographs.

The Lovano set touched my emotions in a special way, because of the late, great Steve Gray. His arrangements both opened and closed the set. Gray, who had worked a lot with the NDR Band, was robbed from us at the age of just 62 last year. The set got under way with his chart of Ellington's Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue, to which Gray adds crescendissimo in the title, and to the pages of the chart. It was an absolute barnstormer, showing the capacity of the NDR Band to blaze, to work antiphonally, to honk good n' loud blues choruses. It also featured the same stellar international rhythm section featured prominently on Thursday of Sendecki, Gary Husband and James Genus.
The encore was another chart of Gray's: Take the A Train, in the key of A. It was serene, it was translucent. Husband proved just as immaculate with his left hand on slowly rotating pianissimo brush as he is when propelling a full band. And the last word was a coalescing ethereal whisper from Sendecki on piano and Dietz on guitar neck, two colleagues working together in hushed perfection.

I thought Lovano was at his absolute best in Claus Stoetter's fascinating chart Lethargend. Stoetter, was on flugelhorn, standing right next to Lovano. Maybe the close-up and personal presence of the composer, maybe that extra duty of care to him as a fellow musician, maybe the imperative to unravel and explain to the audience an interesting melodic line here, a fascinating harmonic shape there....I sensed that something special, something memorable was going on in the magic of that moment. The kind of moment which keeps drawing me to jazz.


Krakow Diary (2)

Jazz Club U Muniaka

I've been mulling over some sentences from my horoscope (Scorpio) in the free English language newspaper Krakow Post, written by "Astro Seltzer."

"You could worry that you're floating off to the realm of the unreal. But what's happening is you're tumbling back to an incredibly creative place where illusion meets reality."

What can he mean? While in Krakow must I keep checking my grip on reality?
Well, the more I have seen of this city, the more I think Astro Seltzer must be on to something. Krakow's artists seem to have been indulging in unpredictable flights of imagination for centuries.

Try this one from the 1630's: in the huge, airy Corpus Christi Church I found an altar dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua. He's the saint who prayed to the fishes. Hanging off the side of the altar is a life-size rowing boat which would fit two adults comfortably. It's complete with a pair of oars carved from the same block of wood. And the artist even generously provided St. Anthony with a canopy : Mate, if you're going to preach to fishes, you're probably also the kind of dude who will have forgotten your Factor 20.

So full marks to Astro Seltzer for that one. But maybe a baroque catholic church in the midday sun wasn't exactly the best place to seek out reality....

"Leos and Aquarians love your way of living it large."

Living it large made me unavoidably think of saxophonist Joe Lovano- who's a Capricorn by the way. And what should happen then? The very next day I found myself chatting to Lovano, strolling across Krakow's Market Square. We were on our way to the wonderful basement Jazz Club U Muniaka (above). Where Lovano hunkered down at about 1.15am with local musicians. Lovano was definitely taking Jerome Kern's Yesterdays off into Astro Seltzer's "realm of the unreal," the drummer and the bass player doing there damnedest to keep up with him.
There's more to horoscopes than meets the eye. And, as I keep discovering, there's more to this jazz festival than I knew.


Guest contribution- Phil Woods on the North Sea Festival

Guest critic Phil Woods reviews the North Sea Jazz Festival:

The North Sea Jazz Festival takes place in fifteen concurrently competing venues at Rotterdam’s Ahoy, which reminded me of Birmingham’s NEC, perhaps on a slightly smaller scale. It’s very busy: both Saturday and Sunday were sell-out days, which means around 25,000 tickets per day.

The festival’s useful website shows the sheer a range of music on offer, from traditional New Orleans jazz, swing, bop, free jazz, fusion, avant-garde jazz and electronic jazz; to blues, gospel, funk, soul, R&B, hip hop, world beat and Latin.

So there’s plenty to choose from. I often found myself dashing between venues trying to catch snippets of different gigs. That didn’t always work: I sometimes arrived to find a full venue with a queue of people waiting patiently outside playing the tense waiting game of one out, one in.

I liked the mix of indoor and outdoor spaces. It felt that the organizers had got that right. At the larger end there’s the warehouse-like, 10,000 capacity Nile (all the venues are named after rivers) which featured a clever double stage set-up to allow 15 minute turnarounds. On a smaller scale there’s the attractive Tigris bandstand which was situated on a relaxing roof terrace and benefited from the weekend's warm and sunny weather. Each of the venues has its bars, cafes, food stalls, merchandise stands.

My highlights : Dianne Reeves singing the music of Nina Simone; Soil and Pimp Sessions; John Zorn Masada Sextet a brilliant project featuring some of my favourite musicians, trumpeter Dave Douglas, bassist Greg Cohen and drummer Joey Baron; Joshua Redman Trio; Charlie Haden with Brad Mehldau and Jorge Rossy, performing as a trio at late notice due to the absence of Lee Konitz; Allen Toussaint with guest trumpeter Nicholas Clayton, Melody Gardot, McCoy Tyner Trio with Gary Bartz, Bill Frisell & John Scofield……and at the end US hip-hop star Q-Tip rounded off a fantastic weekend.

I’m pretty sure that Jamie Cullum’s gig was the most popular of all. It packed out the 10,000 capacity Nile and featured his great and relatively new band of talented young British musicians: saxophonist Tom Richards, trumpeter Rory Simmons, bassist Chris Hill and drummer Brad Webb.

The worst was almost certainly Herbie Hancock and Lang Lang’s performances of Rhapsody in Blue. It’s sad to see a musician like Herbie, who is capable of much greater things, taking part in this ill-conceived collaboration. But, as ever, the dutiful audience were on there feet applauding before the last note had been played.

My only regret was perhaps that I did not see more of John Zorn’s performances as Artist in Residence, and also Tom Cawley representing the UK with his band Curios. They were annoyingly programmed against the McCoy Tyner Trio. But with so much going on something was bound to fall by the wayside.

OK, one other regret.... I could have done without embarrassing Duffy impressions and dodgy renditions of Beautiful South’s Rotterdam . All I will say about that is : you know who you are.

I had a brilliant weekend and a fantastic Festival experience. I just wish that more jazz festivals over here in the UK could attract the crowds and the mainstream broadcast-particularly TV- coverage which North Sea does.


LIVE: NDR Big Band/ Schneider/ Landgren

Krakow's new Opera House, designed by Romain Loegler (2008)
Live: NDR Big Band/ Maria Schneider / Nils Landgren.
(Krakowska Opera, July 16th 2009)

Maria Schneider's three-part suite, Scenes from Childhood , originally commissioned for the 1995 Monterey Jazz Festival, is a major work in every sense. Its forty minute span- played without breaks- has a strong and convincing narrative backbone. It travels through a vast range of moods, textures and subtleties. It is a piece will doesn't merely bear repeated listening- its forty minutes pass by very quickly indeed. It requires to be heard again.

Scenes from Childhood, and the two substantial openers which preceded it, Allegresse and Danca Ilusoria, received a meticulously prepared performances, which nonetheless absolutely crackled with life and energy. They provided a thoroughly fitting opening to the NDR Big Band's three day residency in Krakow. Great sound too from the local team in Krakow's gleaming brand new (2008) opera house.

Allegresse opened with Gary Husband laying down a pulse with authority and kick. The sustained melodic ideas of Danca Ilusoria were given gorgeous textures- I was particularly struck by a middle of the stave brass choir of pairs of flugelhorns and high trombones. This piece also gave the NDR Big Band’s pianist Wladislaw Sendecki the chance to stretch out, and to receive the kind of adulatory applause reserved for a returning exiled local hero. It was the first of many such whoops and cheers. There will be loads more on this visit, and much deserved: he’s special

In the first part of Scenes from Childhood, entitled Bombshelter Blast, Schneider evokes vivid memories of the cold war. Her father in Minnesota had built a nuclear bunker- a toilet....soup cans in huge quantities, she remembers. The band, and especially Frank Delle as baritone soloist captured well, in full-toned eruptions and wellings, the expressionist nightmare of a child's vague imaginings of nuclear armageddon, combined with the more tangible and real fear of midwestern tornadoes. In the second part of the suite, Night Watchmen, characterful tenor soloist Lutz Buchner shone. In the third, Coming About , derived from the sailing term, there was a moment to capture the sheer class of the rhythm section trio of Sendecki, Husband , plus the massive bass presence of James Genus, before a triumphant full-band close with blazing lead trumpet, every department of the band confident, secure, exemplary.

The instant transformation of the band for the second half into a lowdown funk unit inspired by seventies Herbie Hancock was quite remarkable. It wasn't just the addition of conductor Jorg Achim Keller, or extra guitarist Andi Pfeiler. No, the second half was a tribute to the adaptability, class and professionalism of the entire band. And good humour too. I noticed the trombone section, starved of any soloing for the whole set looking particularly cheerful throughout it. Stefan Pfeiffer's colourful and ambitious chart of Herbie Hancock's Butterfly worked particularly well, and gave Frank Delle a chance to be wilfully contrarian, and to great effect, on soprano saxophone.

Maria Schneider told me I'm going to be knocked flat by Joao Bosco tonight. On last night's evidence of all that this band can do...she's probably right.


Krakow Diary (1)

“This siddy is so….PRIDDY!!!” The mother and daughter eating their breakfast next to me are Californian. They start to weigh the pros and cons of a trip to the salt mines with reference to the salt content of…tequila.

The historic heart of Krakow is indeed very beautiful: baroque buildings, park spaces everywhere, narrow streets discouraging traffic. But it feels lived in, rather like the first district of Vienna.

On one corner of the historic main square, Rynek Glowny, there is a famous cellar, Piwnica pod Biranami, the cave of the rams (picture above). Over a beer, Witold Wnuk, the founder of the jazz festival and its director since 1996 explains the significance of this place. After 1956, the Russians decided they would stop trying to suppress artistic endeavour. And the place has kept going ever since as a cabaret and music venue. “In those difficult times this was the oasis. Everyone of significance in the culture of Poland had some connection to this place: Roman Polanski, Krysztof Penderecki, Andrzei Wajda: they were all here. And it’s where Polish jazz was born- Krystof Komeda, Tomasz Stanko….”

The cellar in which the music is played was stiflingly hot. Joana Asia, a singer from Gdynia was giving strong and musical renditions of standards in very good English with a proficient quartet -which definitely needed the towels and water they were brandishing. But elsewhere in the warren are more comfortable places, and during the jazz festival it’s buzzing with conversation and interesting folk. I passed Joe Lovano on his way out of the bar, and was introduced to Maria Schneider.

Yes, it's a happy place, but I don’t lose that inherited sense of the urgency, the imperative, the burning flame of those who value culture in Poland because they know what a fragile plant it has been.

This idea is reinforced by a book I found yesterday: A Defense of Ardor by Adam Zagajewski. He describes hearing Mozart among the British Chiantishire crowd: “Why couldn’t the affluent audience appreciate this wonderful performance? Does wealth always diminish our enthusiasm? Why didn’t this ardent performance of Mozart meet with an equally ardent reception?”

So many questions. Time to just enjoy the weather.


Krakking off for a few days

I will be blogging for the next few days- intermittently- from the Krakow Jazz Festival ....


DCMS kicks small gigs exemption into ...this stuff

I spoke to two people this morning who are involved with lobbying to get a small gigs exemption to the 2003 Licensing Act. They are both palpably disappointed.

The Culture Select Committe had recommended that there needs to be a workable exemption. The Committee wanted to stop those councils which want to be repressive from using the unnecessary and disproportionate powers to stop/criminalize small scale live music which the 2003 Licensing Act gives them.

The DCMS has dealt with the Committe's recommendations with this killer sentence:

'... DCMS has considered exemptions for small venues, but has not been able to reach agreement on exemptions that will deliver an increase in live music whilst still retaining essential protections for local residents.'

Well the stuff in the picture above is called miscanthus giganteus. To you and me it's very long grass.

Both people I spoke to confirmed that the long grass is precisely where any meaningful changes to the 2003 Act (it's the Act which changed British drinking culture for the good, made us all much more responsible, remember) for the benefit of musicians has just been kicked -

until beyond the next election.

Over to Feargal Sharkey of UKMusic

“After six years of legislation, eight consultations, two Government research projects, two national review processes and a Parliamentary Select Committee report, all of which have highlighted the harmful impact these regulations are having on the British music industry, Government’s only reaction is yet another review”.

“Yet again we are told to wait. Yet again we are told that there will be another new review process, more meetings and yet another group, this time charged specifically with trying to develop loopholes which exploit a deeply flawed and ill-conceived Licensing Act. At what point does someone within Government become brave enough to acknowledge that it is time to raise a hand, time to admit they have got it wrong and time to fix it. To recall the words of one former party leader, ‘Sometimes it is better to lose and do the right thing than to win and do the wrong thing’”


Spike Milligan play -with these guys playing ..jazz

The Hampstead Theatre have contacted me about a play. "Spike Milligan’s Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall", will be on at the Hampstead Theatre, right by Swiss Cottage tube, from 22 July – 22 August.

It's based on Milligan's wartime memoirs,. The theatre tell me that the three actors above all switch back and forth from acting Milligan's wartime being a jazz quartet.

Michael Billington of the Guardian writes (of the production which he saw in Bristol) that "Sholto Morgan [as Spike ], Matthew Devereaux, Dominic Gerrard, William Findley and David Morley Hale have the priceless ability to switch from comic sketches to music-making at the drop of a tin hat."

Musical numbers are eg : 'The Nearness of You', 'The Sheik of Araby', 'Honeysuckle Rose' , 'Lay That Pistol Down Babe' (?!)and 'The Thrill is Gone'. Music Director is Oliver Jackson.

I reckon I shall try my hand at being a (cub) theatre critic early in the run.

This is Spike Milligan's SECOND appearance in LondonJazz. For the first, check out a video clip courtesy of Tommy Pearson which loads of readers enjoyed....


Following another blog

I like Glasgow. And Glaswegians. And Sarti's Cafe (above) .
Byas'd Opinion - named after the tune by Don Byas -is a jazz blog from Glasgow. And I like that too.
Byas'd , aka Tom Shearer wrote this about Bobby Wellins' Glasgow Jazz Festival gig:
The more I hear Bobby Wellins, the more convinced I am that he’s not just one of the top UK jazz musicians, but one of the best contemporary mainstream sax players anywhere. Everything he plays is distinctively HIM, not just another highly-competent saxophone clone. [...]Not a note is wasted.
Bobby Wellins tells me he met and chatted with Don Byas at Ronnie's, but that they never played on the same stand.
Jazz bloggers of the UK that's -among others- Peter and Tony from Birmingham, Jennifer from West-Central Scotland, Lance from Middlesborough, Chris and Oliver from London , fellow sufferers from this "socially acceptable form of schizophrenia" (E.L. Doctorow) ....I salute you!


Dates for the jazz diary- up to 27th

I'll be off heading off for the Krakow Jazz Festival this Thursday. But London is a city which musically never sleeps, and I will miss some great gigs. What's caught my eye? -

Tuesday 14th: Singer/pianist Liane Carroll and saxophonist Julian Siegel are at the Lord Rookwood in E11. Liane is one of the seven wonders of British jazz. If you have never seen her....she simply never disappoints either as musician or entertainer or personality or thorough-going professional. What the French call une valeur sure. Safer than whatever.

On the same evening, 14th, there will also be the magical dialogue of Ingrid Laubrock and Liam Noble at the Vortex.

Thursday 16th: The chamber jazz gig at Cadogan hall is selling well, my box office mole tells me.

Saturday 18th: The Proms press office tell me that there are still seats left for Stan Tracey's late night "Genesis" Prom on Saturday.

Also on the 18th at the 606, and coinciding with Stan Tracey's Prom, is a 606 gig by his long-time associate tenor saxophonist Bobby Wellins. Wellins has just been deservedly honoured by the Scottish jazz community with it's first ever lifetime achievement award. He's with pianist Liam Noble, who is on UNBELIEVABLE form at the moment.

Wednesday 22nd. Paul Pace of the Spice of Life tells me that Brigitte Beraha has the Barry Green trio with her. Beraha is a musicians' singer, captivating, and she has an exceptional rapport with Green - I believe they were students at the same time at Guildhall. Factcheck anyone?

Saturday 25th. I like the look of the tall band at the Vortex. John Etheridge is opposite Julian Siegel, with electric bassist Du

Sunday 26th. LondonJazz reader Frank Griffith will be wisecracking and blowing magical lines on tenor sax at Boaters in Kingston. Dave Chamberlain on bass and Rod Youngs on drums will make that joint jump.

Monday 27th. Drummer Trevor Tomkins will have earned his half-time cig at the Coach and Horses. He has tenor saxophonist Dave O'Higgins opposite king of the British trombone Mark Nightingale.


Calling all (experienced) snappers

Here's an opportunity to be Cartier-Bresson (above) for an evening. Well, actually to be Ronnie Scott's house photographer during the Brit Jazz Festival.
Interested? Katherine ames at Ronnie's needs an email from you.
.....Here's verbatim what comes from Ronnie's


As part of Ronnie Scott’s celebration of British Jazz, we are opening our doors to amateur and semi-pro photographers from 1st - 15th August in rare opportunity to be the house photographer for the evening and to capture the essence of the Brit Jazz festival.

One photographer per night will be chosen, and the images will be judged by renowned photographers David Redfern & David Sinclair. The winning image will be hung in the Club beside the myriad of legends already gracing its walls - and also
displayed in the Getty Gallery during their exhibition in October.

From established names to up & coming stars, over 100 musicians will play on the infamous Ronnie Scott’s stage over the course of the festival. This unique all-British line-up is already attracting a great deal of media attention.

If you’re a proficient photographer and would like to be considered for one of the evenings, please write to with:

a) a brief description of your background in photography
b) why you’d like to be considered
c) which date(s) you’d like to cover
d) a web link to examples of your work

Closing date for applications Friday 24th July.


Herbie Hancock/Lang Lang...

I couldn't make it to hear one of the icons of jazz play in London on Saturday.

Herbie Hancock was on with Lang Lang and the Philharmonia Orchestra in the 6,500 seat Albert Hall.

Tonight they will be at the 15,000 Arena di Verona.

I'm bushy-tailed curious.....

1) Did any LondonJazz readers go on Saturday ( I couldn't) ?

2) If you went what did you think?

3) Will there be any reviews in the mainstream media? And if there aren't, what's that telling us?


Jazz Education

LondonJazz reader Frank Griffith (thank you!) has brought to my attention an interesting essay/blogpost/debate "In Defence of Jazz Education .

It's by Dublin-based/ much-respected/educator/bassistRonan Guilfoyle- (the headless portrait above is from his blog..)

Guifoyle deals with these three attempted bodyblows at jazz education:

1) That jazz education turns all who partake of it into clones.

2) That the proof of jazz education’s failure is the fact that though there are more practitioners than ever before the percentage of great players hasn’t got any higher.

3) That there is no point of turning out jazz graduates when there are no gigs

There are a number of comments, and the conclusions (these folk write a lot more prose than I'm used to...) seem to me to be that

(a) jazz educators do an awful lot more good than harm

(b) it is MUCH harder for a musician to get his or her sh*t together when much older

(c) (my conclusion) because they are constantly looking at what the student is absorbing on a deeper/longer-term level, the jazz educators I know tend to be more than usually reflective about the effect they do have- they DON'T WANT CLONES. And that is a good thing.

If you like what Ronan Guilfoyle is saying , then be my guest, and try The Art and Science of Time...and I will give a prize for the best explanation in no more than 50 words of what it means.


Anticipating the Downbeat

A selection of Downbeat Pollwinners , ahead of the August 2009 issue of the magazine.


LIVE: Hiromi/ Postma/Allen/Herman (Barbican)

LIVE: Hiromi plus support
(Barbican) July 10th 2009

Hiromi is an explosive small package. She bounced onto the Barbican stage last night in a flowery summer dress, a pair of shiny black pedal-pushers, and silver trainers. Just turned 30, she affects the insouciant, elfin demeanour of a teenager. Her piano technique is ferocious, her musicianship is a highly variegated and developed craft. But she also knows precisely how to captivate the crowd with showmanship and mile-wide smiles, just like Earl Hines used to do. Plus she has the added advantages of astonishing energy and a dancer's physicality.

Hiromi's joyously engaging solo set was the centre-piece of last night’s triple bill in the Barbican, part of the summer Blaze Festival, a co-promotion by the Barbican and Serious with support from Create09.

Hiromi's first number was a happy, knowing romp through "I got Rhythm." Another party piece was her set of intricate jazz variations on Pachelbel's Canon. BQE- named after the Brooklyn Queens Expressway- was a barnstormer. Hiromi conveyed the sense that could have spent her life in the concert halls of Europe, blowing a gale through Balakirev's Islamey and Ravel's Toccata. But she has chosen instead Billy Joel's "little give and take"... the New York state of mind. She conveys a sense of wanting to conspire with an audience and to have fun. This solo set was pure pleasure. I look forward to hearing her in different contexts where her power to communicate sparks off with other musicians.

By contrast, I found the first set from Yaron Herman's trio somewhat monochrome. Herman has clearly been drawn irresistibly to the intense flame of Keith Jarrett. For the time being slightly too close for comfort, to judge from the exaggerated head and hip movements. Drummer Gerald Cleaver and bassist Simon Tallieu were calm, impressive and supportive.

The third part of the triple bill was a set by the quartet of Dutch saxophonist Tineke Postma, piano great Geri Allen, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and bassist Philippe Aerts. It started shortly before 10pm. Which meant that sections the Friday night Barbican crowd were, understandably and unfortunately, feeling the inevitable lure of the exit. A highlight for me was Geri Allen's bautiful, poetic "Unconditional Love." After which, exceptionally, virtually nobody got up and left.

Postma's playing as bandleader, and her compositions, are sometimes characterized by truncated slices of the phrase, an influence which affects the whole band's language. For me this pervasive brevity of expression made Allen's solo on "The Line" all the more remarkable. It started in epigrammatic mode, but then progressively joined up, built longer sentences, grew in sheer presence into bloom and completeness.

Geri Allen. Yes. My permanent reminder to get my record collection in alphabetical order. If I'm listening to Allen's playing, the rest of the alphabet- from Gene Ammons onwards- can wait.


A pair of tickets for a happy couple

I couldn't ever imagine Leonard Cohen, say, or Thom Yorke of Radiohead being married to a woman called Joy. But drummer, vintage jazz nut Richard Pite is. And I've been talking to her and to Richard about the "Kings of Swing / Chamber Jazz 1927-1940" gig at Cadogan Hall next Thursday 16th.
Tickets are going well, but Richard and Joy like the LondonJazz blog, and they've offered a pair of tickets for LondonJazz readers to next Thursday's gig.
It will be compered by Russell Davies, who is steeped in the history and will make it interesting and accessible. There are bands playing small band arrangements of Joe Venuti and Artie Shaw.

It sounds a lot of fun. The evening will feature six bands with contrasting sounds, and the whole thing will build to a roasting climax of "C-Jam Blues" and "Don't mean a Thing." These gigs always have a lively atmosphere

The line up includes ebullient Enrico Tomasso on trumpet, fleet-fingered and classy Alan Barnes on saxes and clarinet, ex - buddy Rich sideman Jay Craig honking a bass saxophone....

If I wasn't in Krakow, I would be going...not least to hear a superb period specialist guitarist Martin Wheatley who I was bowled over by - see my review of the Gene Krupa gig.

This question for a free pair of tickets to next Thursday. (I'll draw the winner out of a hat when the Cardiff test match finishes.)

Who is the fifth Mrs Artie Shaw, Hollywood actress, in the picture above?
Email the answer and a phone number to


"Jazz's coolest Jew"(?!)

It seemed a promising title , and made me think there are possibly other claimants. Any thoughts?

Anyway, the Jewish Chronicle carries a rather rambling paean to Ronnie Scott (Photo from 1985 by Max Adelman / NPG) and to lokshen soup HERE.


Sliding into Loughton

There are some irrepressibly good-natured and jovial people in jazz. Digby Fairweather is one ("What is Twitter?" he asked me yesterday). David Nathan who runs the National Jazz Archive is another.

Digby will be in conversation, and playing with mainstream trombonist Roy Williams, an awesome improviser , at the Methodist Church in Loughton, Saturday 11th from 1.30pm to 4.30pm.

Dig on Roy: “Roy Williams is the natural heir to George Chisholm: consistent, perfectly musical and with a pianissimo close-to-the-microphone approach that recalls Jack Teagarden, he has become first trombone call for British and many American musicians in his style.”

Here's a VIDEO CLIP of Roy Williams doling out Wolverine Blues to the good folk of Erlibach near Zurich in 1999.

The event has been organised by David Nathab of the National Jazz Archive, £10 on the door.


LIVE: Chris Biscoe Quintet

I shall miss the intimate vibe of gigs by Way Out West at the RamJam in Kingston. After five years, and more than 200 gigs under WOW's proudly displayed and radical red banner, the collective will be moving to new - and, I'm told, more conveniently located and yet to-be-disclosed premises...- in September.

The RamJam is such a tiny place, the claustrophobia and the drums can really get you. The band is in your lap and the music is straight into your head.

There are three more WOW gigs there- Tony Woods project next week, Nette Robinson on 22nd, and a final rousing end-off-term, end-of-era jamboree on the 29th.

Chris Biscoe (above) has been an active member of this purposeful group of local musicians since the very beginning. A universally revered figure in British jazz, Biscoe has even done spells of quietly and conscientiously applying for grants- and landing them successfully- hosting meetings, doing his bit for the team and for the music. Last night he was out doing what he really should be doing: playing, curating, hosting an evening of thoughtfully chosen music, with a superb quintet: Pete Hurt on tenor, Liam Noble on piano, Dave Whitford on bass and Paul Clarvis on drums.

How good was this band? Well, there were several times last night when I just closed my eyes and listened , and thought: a better piano would make a difference, but this performance is of such quality, Jez Nelson and Peggy Sutton of Jazz on 3 could just walk straight in and record and broadcast this music.

It really worked as sound, but I also enjoyed getting to grips with some of the powerful thinking behind it. Biscoe is modest and self-deprecating, but he has really got his ideas together about the symbiosis, the interdependence of composer and improviser as individual creators, having worked with several of the major jazz composers of the UK and Continental Europe.

Biscoe is relentlessly curious with the tunes he picks, always goes for the less-than-obvious, the quirky, the interesting. First up was "Black Fire" by Andrew Hill, later "Ascendant" by Jimmy Garrison, on which he played a mesmerising solo. Biscoe lives, inhabits these complex tunes. As a composer himself he knows every corner. As an improviser he also knows how to attack or avoid them. Biscoe works well with Pete Hurt, another soft-spoken "musican's musician" with a massively fertile composer/improviser's mind and technique to match.

The Pete Hurt ballad "Lost for Words" with its insistent rhythmic lopsidedness worked well. The sets closed with Liam Noble's subversive tunes "Scam" and "Once Over," the former ending in a full-on angry crash, the latter wearing a playful fixed grin of harmonic ambiguity.

Liam Noble is world class, and in his absolute prime right now. Or maybe he's just getting better and better. I noticed that all the musicians in the room were completely transfixed by him, particularly in his mini-set of three duo numbers with Paul Clarvis. I don't know of a pianist anywhere who can take the listener to such unpredictable places in the course of a solo. His approach to Whispering/ Grooving High was to let the listener capture oblique views of melody. In Biscoe's "Milton's Daughters" it was to cajole and kick ideas which developed their own logic. Noble's range of expression is, to use an overused word, awesome.

Dave Whitford's powerful bass playing was a feature of the texture all evening. Whitford's pulse and sheer presence could propel a much larger band than this. Or, say, an ocean liner. The RamJam is a tricky place for drum kit, but a musician of Clarvis' experience and sensitivity knows exactly how to balance in a room this small.

Great band. Three gigs to go. Catch one.


Yamaha sponsoring Helen Mayhew's Jazz FM show

Brand Republic has the story HERE. Helen's show will be called the Yamaha Jazz Jam.

Since taking over Jazz FM in April, Richard Wheatly has brought in other sponsors: Pizza Express, the Financial Times and Fred Olsen Cruise Lines. The Yamaha deal is for 12 months and is said to be in "five figures."



At LondonJazz we have a new project. Codename Turn'Em Green.

It involves researching and writing. And it needs volunteers. I reckon each task is three to five hours of work. Email me if you- or someone you know?!- seems to have time on their hands . Email me for details. And leave a phone number!


CD Review: Derek Nash/ Snapshot

If what you like is a very high quality straight-ahead Blue Note style blowing session, look no further. Derek Nash has assembled an appealing mix of contrasting tunes, he has a powerfully swinging rhythm section to work with, and the recording quality is very good throughout.

The liner notes tell the story: there was some spare time left after a session in Nash's studio; the trio of Jan Lundgren on piano, Geoff Gascoyne on bass and Steve Brown on drums were "nicely warmed up"; out came Nash's lead-sheets and down to business. It's what it says on the cover: a friendly, highly musical and enjoyable album recorded as-live, a snapshot of where Nash had got to as a musician, well captured on one afternoon in February 2007.

Nash plays all four saxes on the album. His tenor playing on four of the nine numbers numbers on the CD is sweet-toned and fluent. I sense influences on the sound and vocabulary from players like Bobby Wellins and Spike Robinson. The playing is mostly stylish, measured, but I did enjoy his farmyard oinks at [2:03] on Neal Hefti's Li'l Darling. The two tracks on soprano are masterpieces of beauty and line, and awesome control. On baritone Nash has attractive, immensely civilized low voice-high voice conversation with pianist Lundgren. In Polka Dots & Moonbeams I found myself saying: I can't believe it's not Mulligan. But it's the one track on alto, Rodgers and Hart's Falling With Love in 4/4, which has given me the most pleasure. Nash seems to take more risks, and I find I like that real grittiness of character, grunt and scratchiness in the voice.

It's an enjoyable album, and Derek Nash is a phenomenon in British jazz. The rest of us in the human race just have to consider ourselves slackers. He is credited as having... co-executive-produced the album with Trudy Kerr, but that's just the start. He also mixed, engineered, and mastered it himself. (I remember having some fun with this activity level in LondonJazz's April Fool) . Not just the playing, but the mixing... and all the rest....are jobs VERY well done. Enjoy.


8th July Barbican: MMW Cancelled. Claudia -> Freestage

Due to the illness of one of the members of Medeski Martin & Wood, all of their European tour dates have been cancelled. The Barbican has cancelled tomorrow's main hall concert, and is offering full refund on tickets bought.

The Freestage event has been extended to include a performance by Claudia Quintet.
5.45pm Get The Blessing
Bristol’s nu-jazz/ experimental quartet and BBC Jazz Awards 'Best Album' winners (2008) are one of ‘Britain's most exciting new bands' Telegraph

6.45pm Claudia Quintet
Drummer John Hollenbeck's eclectic Claudia Quintet, featuring fellow New York luminaries bassist Trevor Dunn and saxophonist Chris Speed range through free-jazz, Steve Reich-like minimalism and polyrhythmic patterns to post-bop.


Update: Jazz and Design

" There is no shortage of artists and designers prepared to engage with the complexities of jazz" (John L Walters)

John L Walters radio talk broadcast last night on Jazz on 3 really really is fascinating. Inter alia there's a lively conversation with Stephen Doyle about his work with Pat Metheny (above) .

Go to this link . The piece starts after 22:15 on iPlayer).

Walters' programme charts the parallel histories of jazz and graphic design, and the interaction, right through from 78 covers to digital video.

Some people (particularly, I would say, at arts gatherings!) tell me they've never "got" jazz. I live in hope that programmes like this might help remove such blindfolds.....



SEE STOP PRESS UPDATE. MMW Cancelled/ Claudia Quintet -> Freestage for 8th July

UPDATE: Both prizes have been claimed. Congrats to Kate of NW10 and Stephanie of EC2.

BUT: check with the Barbican about the staus of the Wednesday 8th gig. Unconfirmed report it has had to be cancelled.
LondonJazz has a free pair of tickets to GIVE AWAY for each of two gigs at the Barbican this week.

1. A pair of tickets for Wednesday 8th :


2. A pair of tickets for Friday 10th
Hiromi, Yaron Herman Trio, Tineke Postma
There's an informative preview from Jazzwise HERE

Here's what you have to do.
1) Tell me the title of the CD featuring Hiromi (above) which Rob Mallows reviewed for LondonJazz.

2) Tell me which other UK jazz blog has picked up Peter Slavid's piece about UK jazz festivals.

Answers to . If you want the tickets you will need to leave me a phone number so I can reach you .


Jazz on 3 tonight

Jazz on 3, now firmly established to catch new audiences in that prime time listening slot of 11.15pm to 1am on a Monday evening has a particularly good edition this evening. Here are the details from the Jazz on 3 microsite . (It's all there, every track...)

What first caught my eye was the feature on Jazz and Design by uniquely-qualified John L Walters. But there's a set from Joe Lovano's band recently at Ronnie's with bassist Esperanza Spalding which from the reviews I read, turned quite a few ears. Plus an interesting selection of current releases- Troyka, Mark Lockheart, Acoustic Ladyland...

I'm thinking....Listen Again.


A reader writes

Here's a touching comment which I received this morning, about my post from last month about Twitter, and the picture of David Jean Baptiste.

"Can't believe how people find so many wonderful things thru Twitter. I'm an eighty-four year old jazz fan who hung out with the Condon, Muggsy Spanier, Pee Wee Russell bunch a long time ago. Nice blog. Photo made me think of dear little Ernie Caceres."

I'll return the compliment. A grainy photo of Ernie Caceres, playing in the Glenn Miller band in the film Orchestra Wives from 1942.And have a coffee, courtesy of Ernie Caceres, among others .

Enjoy your Sunday, Reader 347. You've perked up mine. Thank you.


LIVE: David Sanborn/Sam Moore/ YolanDa Brown

LIVE: David Sanborn/ YolanDa Brown/Sam Moore (above)
Barbican Centre, Juy 2nd 2009.

"Barbican Summer Jazz, (follow the link for the full programme), part of the Blaze Festival, kicked off last night with David Sanborn's American band with veteran soul singer Sam Moore.

Next up will be Martin Medeski and Wood on July 8th, and the series culminates on July 24th with Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis.

Whether he's playing or speaking, Sanborn gets straight to the point. When he's playing you get instant recognition stuff, a point well made in Kevin Le Gendre's thoughtful programme essay about how the great saxophone solos on pop records work. It's that particular art of "making a statement" in a very few bars. The column of air going down the alto is under pressure, one of the core sounds in Sanborn's head is the high sustained wail, that reminiscence on saxophone of the electric guitar solo.

And when Sanborn spoke last night it was -in the circumstances understandably - in reverence for Ray Charles' saxophonists Hank Crawford and David "Fathead" Newman, both of whom have passed on this year. Sanborn said that they had both made a huge impression on him as an eleven-year old in St. Louis. "That's a nice job," was what he remembers thinking abou them as a youngster. Sanborn's latest CD "Here and Gone" carries thanks to Hank Crawford. If the playing was heart on sleeve, the sentiments were heartfelt.

The latest CD has an impeccable, stellar band consisting of Gil Golstein on Keyboards, Steve Gadd on drums, Russell Malone on guitar and Christian McBride- in town next week - on bass.

Sanborn's Barbican band had his regular touring collaborators such as his keyboardist Ricky Peterson, and Gene Lake, also from St Louis, on drums. All were impressive. They wisecracked to each other beyond the reach of the microphone from the moment they arrived on stage. They frequently built intensity over a four bar looped phrase, and they generally generated the crackling energy of a Chicago blues band with panache and professionalism.

Sanborn mainly shared soloing duties with guitarist Nicky Moroch. There was a VERY impressive joined-up trumpet solo on Dizzy Gillespie's Tin Tin Deo from a man named in the programmme as "Nicholas Gardel" . My Friday morning Googling skills are failing me. Who is he? He's VERY good!!

Support band-leader YolanDa Brown has a great platform manner which a lot of young musicans could learn from. She admitted that her story to date is a very short one. The band is evidently adding new material and working on and absorbing some interesting songs. When the band was at full complement- including a trio of good backing singers- the texture began to feel a bit overfull for my ears, but this is a band which is clearly developing all the time and will go places.

There are so many different types of audience. Last night I found myself part of an impeccably behaved crowd which clapped virtually every solo dutifully. I was generally surprised by how little people were moving in their seats. Blame the heatwave, I guess.

But I also couldn't help noticing that, at the end, when veteran soul singer Sam Moore came on for a couple of songs- "I've got news for you", from the record, and a purportedly unrehearsed (yeah, right....) "Come on and come over" , we all seemed to come to life a lot more, and the gig ended on a definite high.