Ronnie Scott's 50th Party Honour Roll

People still carry the flame. Ronnie's is on a roll. Here's an Honour Roll who was on at the late-night party on the 50th anniversary day itself, 30th October 2009.

(Kind completist LondonJazz readers, please get filling in the gaps with the rest of the names, and any thoughts about Ronnie's at 50- I didn't stay to the end..- so this isn't yet, the definitive version.)

Top of the bill: Jon Hendricks

MC: Michael Mwenso

Vocalists: Aria Hendricks, Michelle Hendricks, Liane Carroll, Atila Huseyin, Gill Manly, Anita Wardell, Tina May, Jack Jaffe, Barbra Jay, Jumoke Fashola and Kai Hoffman

Trumpet: Jay Phelps

Saxophones: Alex Garnett, Mornington Lockett, Simon Bates, Stan Robinson

Piano: Leon Greening, James Pearson, Simon Wallace

Guitar: Jack Massarik

Bass: Sam Burgess, Adam King

Drums: Sebastiaan de Krom, Tristan Maillot, Dylan Howe

Percussion: Jon Newey, Paul Burnett

(Photo credit: James Eckersley)


London Jazz Festival Previews (6) Patrick Hadfield

I asked blogger and avid gig-goer Patrick Hadfield what he had down as unmissable in the LJF. Here's his answer. Thank you, Patrick!

LJF gathers together a variety of gigs, with a high concentration of international stars. These are "must see" gigs, I think, if only because I feel the need to see these stars play. But, in fact, it is only with hindsight that one finds out which gigs really were unmissable!

I tend not to go to see London-based British jazz players during the festival, since I hope to have the opportunity to see them during the rest of the year; I will be making an effort to see non-London based UK players like Brass Jaw.
(photo above)

Gigs I'm looking forward to are...

-John Surman, because it is a while since I have seen him, and I love Jack deJohnette!

-Carla Bley & Lost Chords - I have always enjoyed seeing Carla play, and I love her trio with Steve Swallow and Andy Sheppard. It'll be interesting to see what adding a drummer to the mix does

-Branford Marsalis, just because he can be such fun

-I'm also going to see Tomasz Stanko.

-I failed to get tickets to see Sonny Rollins, who was so well reviewed last year - but I'll admit one reason for wanting to see him is the fear that I might not have another chance!


Django Centenary Festival - meet the grandson

Django Reinhardt's grandson David Reinhardt (above) will be just 23 when he opens a centenary festival at the Quecumbar in Battersea on January 17th 2010 .

The first tickets are going on sale on SUNDAY.

More programme details on the Quecumbar's website here, and we'll have more to say, with a Gallic shrug... quand cela nous plaira.


Steve Reich (updated with interview transcript)

One of the nice things about having moved the global/galactic headquarters of LondonJazz to N1 is what King's Place can do for the life of the mind. Last night I polled up for an interview with Steve Reich hosted by the London Sinfonietta - they're cranking up the fundraising for a new Reich commission in 2011.

And what was the 73-year young Reich talking about, with a pace, enthusiasm and verve which left his interviewer Robert Worby for dead on the starting blocks? Among many other things...whisper it gently folks: the J-Word.

Q. What has been the influence of jazz on you?

-the life-changing sound of Eric Dolphy on bass clarinet, and where that had led Reich with sounds amplified from it- he did a vocal impression of it.

-the sticks, the ride cymbal of Kenny Clarke bringing "magic buoyancy" to a big band so the whole band was floating over his beat. "Yes, Max Roach was the greater technician, but... "

-words of praise for versatile, complete musicians who have performed Reich's works -Pat Metheny and Mark Stewart

-(This more on live music in general than jazz) Ellington, "It don't mean a thing," communication. What happens when "audiences love it and musicians love to play it." "I'm devoted to people who play music live. It's what I've done for most of my life."

One moment stays in my mind. Reich was enthusing about Ella and Frank Sinatra. The interviewer tried to rein him back with a curious remark:

"You're employing crooners."

What followed was a fascinating bringing-into-context of the artificiality of the operatic voice "built to be heard over of an orchestra of at least thirty-five musicians, and normally more" versus "the conversational tone, part of what we normally associate with the voice" that amplification has brought back.

Check out the Sinfonietta's South Bank's haloween Steve Reich extravaganza programme HERE



A transcript of Steve Reich on microphones and singing

SR: Well the microphones are there precisely as you mentioned [...] how are the women going to be heard against the marimba when they're singing and drumming? They're singing like this [falsetto voice] 'doo do do do do, do do do do do'; well, if they sang like this [deep voice] 'DO DO DO DO DO' [...] it's absurd, it's a joke, it's vulgar. So they have to sing, to sing musically, idiomatically, correctly, in small voice the way, let's say, Ella Fitzgerald might have sung it. But they have to be heard, so you have to amplify them if you want to have them heard vis-a-vis the marimba. And if somebody says 'well, why don't you have 5 singers do it?' well no, sorry, no [...] they're not going to be together, there's going to be a clouding of the texture. It's why I don't write for the orchestra anymore. 18 violins can't do what one amplified violin can do...

RW: [Interrupts] You're employing crooners, aren't you?

SR: Excuse me?

RW: Crooners, the idea of crooning, Bing Crosby...

SR: You're using the word crooning... well, I shudder at the thought... [audience laughs]

RW: No, but what I mean is...

SR: I'm thinking of Emma Kirkby, I'm thinking of Alfred Deller, Ella Fitzgerald, let's stick with them.

RW: I'm thinking of the idea that crooning would never have taken off if it weren't for the microphone. They wouldn't be able to sing quietly with a big band.

SR: Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra and any popular singer of the time could not be heard without a microphone [...] the microphone had a huge influence on every singer and vocal style throughout the world after [...] after World War 1 [...] when does the microphone come in?

RW: Oh well, before that they used megaphones, didn't they? Jazz singers used megaphones to get out there...

SR: No, no no no, the microphone comes in.. in the 20s? Talking movies come in in '29, that was the first talkie... anyway it comes in very very early, and it does definitely influence vocal style [...] it makes it possible to sing in this very conversational tone [...] and pop music today, how can you hear anybody over amplified electric guitar? It's the only way. So it's become part of what we normally associate with the voice but the style of the voice I first heard with Alfred Dellar. Alfred Dellar was the first English reviver of early music. Right now we have a lot of early music singers and groups, I've worked a lot with Paul Hillier as some of you may know and he's certainly not the first, it goes back way before that... and that style of singing is non-vibrato, small voice because you can't sing Machaut and you can't sing... you really shouldn't sing Bach either for that matter, with a big operatic voice. That operatic voice was built to be heard over a minimum of 35, 40 instruments, even the Mozart opera, and by the time you get to Wagner they've got to belt it out. Why? Because you've got a huge brass section, 18 firsts (violins), 16 seconds... it's pure acoustics! The operatic voice is based on acoustics [...] real, solid musical thinking. But once you introduce the microphone, you open up other possibilities, and that's what we're talking about

RW: And that's part of the Steve Reich sound.

SR: That's part of my sound, that's part of the world we've been living in for quite some time.

RW: But it wasn't... that idea of amplifying the instruments came in... I guess jazz musicians did it a bit, but...

SR: In contemporary classical music I was probably the first to say 'look, everything is amplified' and probably because I grew up listening to - I went to concerts, sure, and I played piano […] - but I would say if you measured the number of hours, I spent more hours listening to recorded music than live music. Nowadays you ask people that question and it's like [pulls hands wide apart] recorded music [hands together] live music. So people walk around with iPods in their heads and that's most of their life. So amplified music has become... was becoming the norm when I grew up, so I'm the first generation of composers to grow up with that as the norm. I think it has certainly had an effect on Philip Glass, it's had an effect on John Adams... and rightfully so. I said before, I think all music is ethnic music, and I don't mean we all walk around in loincloths... I mean if we twist dials on radios then we say fade in, fade out, and if we use electronic equipment that's just part of our life. If we watch videos all the time, then we think about using video screens in operas [...] whatever the life is that you lead, it's going to find its way, one way or the other, into your music and if it doesn't... then you're living in some kind of bubble and that usually produces a kind of academic and uninteresting music, although there are exceptions to every rule and one exception is Arvo Pärt, who is to my ear the greatest living European composer... and couldn't give a damn about microphones and everything else we've been talking about. So there are no formulas, are there? None whatsoever.


Review: Diana Krall / Royal Albert Hall


Diana Krall was clearly in a mood to enjoy the first of her three evenings back in London, in what seemed like a near-capacity Royal Albert Hall. For such a huge venue, the atmosphere was surprisingly warm. Krall was, understandably, agreeably taken aback by the whoops of delight from the audience in response to completely inocuous lines such as "I'm from Canada" or "Andy Pandy says 'time to go home.' "

The band bounced onto the stage and pounced gleefully on what has become a Krall staple, Peggy Lee's I Love Being Here with You. Fifth gear, crotchet 280, hold on tight...(the version above is tame by comparison) . Krall played a full part in it, but she was also duty-bound: she needed briefly to pose, to grin, help out the dozen or so queuing photographers to catch the shots they needed of a trademark bare shoulder or a resplendent and swirling blonde mane. But duties over, it was back to making good music with a great trio, and to having fun. She was punching bright accented sounds like a woodblock from the very top notes of the Steinway, closing the number with a muttered calming mantra "Ray Brown Ray Brown."

Irving Berlin's Cheek to Cheek had loads to enjoy. A reverie of introductory patter on the themes of Rosemary Clooney, rosaries and vodka (don't ask!) ; a cleverly sleight-of-hand Fats Wallerish intro; a playful raised semitone repeat phrase bar; the best solo of the evening from Krall, leaning back into it, and just -that word again- enjoying it.

The thirteen numbers contrasted well. There were quotes being slipped in all over the place. References to Isn't She Lovely fitted neatly into Let's Fall in Love. The introduction to I don't know enough about you meandered around childrens' songs and boogie-woogie. Soft statements of All I want is a Room Somewhere from My Fair Lady inhabited the intro to I've grown accustomed to her face." The most reflective moment came in a delightfully hushed Joni Mitchell A Case of You. Another excursion into pop ballad territory was a beautiful closing number....[UPDATE: a kind LondonJazz reader tells me it's Departure Bay.]

Krall's piano playing is mostly light touch, hardly any pedal except in a searching intro to Bacharach's Walk On By. Regular collaborators Anthony Wilson, Kareem Riggins and Robert Hurst are all top players. Krall delivers as musician, as singer, as entertainer, as celeb. The tickets are not cheap, and at £10 for a programme, none of the sellers had a mob to deal with. It's the second time I've heard Krall this year, and - let's break the rules, I want use that same word a fourth and last time- I've enjoyed both.


Abram Wilson on Sellaband

Abram Wilson has signed with fan funding engine Sellaband, raising money for the 2010 Life Paintings tour. He's the first jazz musician to do so.

We talked this morning. The fundraising has just gone live. At the start of our conversation $700 had been pledged. By the end, not much more than five minutes later, it had gone up to $730.

There are three support levels with a range of benefits: Believer, entry level, is $15, Tour Manager costs $60 and Producer is $300, above that I would guess it's negotiable! (Scroll down for the full details.)

Wilson has been busy in the last couple of weeks. After well-attended gigs by his quartet in Milton Keynes and Canterbury, Life Paintings was launched last Saturday on the South Bank. Next up in London is a gig on November 14th at the Albany in Deptford as part of the London Jazz Festival. Prince Charles' Birthday, of course....

I wrote a preview of the album launch having listened to the album HERE


Here are the details of the benefit packages:

Package 1: $15
• An exclusive limited edition signed live CD
• Digital download of Life Paintings CD including unreleased bonus studio recordings

Package 2: $60
Tour Manager
• Soundcheck pass, meet and greet with Abram*
• An exclusive limited edition signed live CD
• Digital download of Life Paintings CD including unreleased bonus studio recordings

Package 3: $300
• Exclusive and personalised song/composition written and performed by Abram**, or
• Music lesson with Abram***, or
• Jam Session with Abram and friends***
• Complete Dune Music catalogue – Including Abrams recorded works for Dune (15 Cds)
• Soundcheck pass and meet and greet with Abram
• An exclusive limited edition signed live CD
• Digital download of Life Paintings CD including unreleased bonus studio recordings


Brian Blain's favourite venues- and Partisans tonight

Veteran promoter Brian Blain has developed a regular, sympathetic, listening audience for the gigs at Lauderdale House in Highgate. It's a venue which musicians enjoy playing.

Lauderdale House has Partisans - with Gene Calderazzo, caught in one of Garry Corbett's great photos above- performing tonight.

Brian has kindly sent in a list of his favourite haunts.

*The Lower Ground Bar in West Hampstead: great atmosphere and real jazz without self important posturing

*On good nights when there isnt too much chat- the 606

*The Crown, Richmond

*The WOW gigs, formerly at the Ramjam in Kingston and now at the Orange Tree in Richmond.


Preview: Tim Whitehead at Tate Britain/ JMW Turner

Tim Whitehead Quartet. Friday November 6th, Tate Britain , 7.30pm and 9pm, FREE

On the first Friday of each month at Tate Britain on Millbank there is an evening event called Late at Tate. It's free. You get to look around the galleries, the cafes are open, you can get into the paid-for exhibitions for half price. Basically there is loads going on. Not just in the galleries, but also in various other parts of the building.

I wrote up the one in August HERE . I was lucky to hear a lecture which Tim Whitehead gave in the tiny Prints and Drawings Room at the October one.

Whitehead's Leverhulme fellowship, which has now run for nearly a year, has had him working closely with Turner specialists, and exploring the links between Turner's artistic methods and musical improvisation. Whitehead talked with such exuberant enthusiasm about the inspiration which Turner's Colour Beginnings had given him, it was quite infectious, the visuals, and the sounds of that evening stick vividly in the mind. I could sense Whitehead reacting in particular to Turner's complete mastery of light and the way it falls on objects, the life it gives to compositions.

With a watercolour, or with a jazz solo, there is simply no turning back, whether it's from the first touch of brush on paper, or from the first agitation of the air with sound. From then on, the artist or the musician is, as Whitehead describes it, "surfing the moment." They have taken on an obligation to the viewer/listener to both shape the materials AND tell a story. And to finish what they'vestarted.

Quick musical/theoretical diversion.... he talked about two musical responses. The first was to imagine the colour clash as two keys a tritone apart- E and B, and to work through the opposition. Another response, this time to upward-swirling clouds was to play a pattern,and then to repeat it a major third higher, and then another major third. Onwards, upwards.....

Anyway.... I'm recommending the November one, on Friday November 6th, which will witness the premiere of Whitehead's new piece Colour Beginnings.

There will also be various things going on the same evening involving the Turner Prize nominees: not really my bag. I'm focussing on Tim Whitehead's Turner project, not least because because the pictures flick my switch every time.....

Tim Whitehead's performances, which in effect wrap up a very successful project- the Tate people told me how well it has worked- are at 7.30 pm and 9pm. The other players in Whitehead's quartet are top-notch, and all regulars: Liam Noble on piano, Milo Fell on drums and powerful bassist Oli Hayhurst.

My understanding is that the concerts will not be ticketed but that the rooms have a maximum capacity which can't be exceeded.

So words to remember on the night might be, for example..... "get" , "there" and "early."

Here are the details on the Tate's website


London Jazz Festival Previews (5) : Chris Biscoe on Sonny Rollins

Chris Biscoe writes about Sonny Rollins - (London Jazz Festival, Barbican , Saturday November 14th- returns only)

Sonny Rollins playing at the Festival Hall: as a number finished he walked towards the announcement microphone and tore off an extraordinary phrase, no more than a second in length. Did he even know he’d done it? Warm-up phrase, lick, pure improvisation?

The first time I heard Sonny Rollins’ music was a radio record review by Benny Green of The Bridge, his first record after the famous early 60’s sabbatical and the practice sessions on the Williamsburg Bridge, and the track selected was Without a Song. Benny said ‘It’s hard to see where Rollins has improved while he’s been away. He sounds more hesitant than ever.’ But I was hooked, and that short period including The Bridge, Now’s the Time, On Impulse, Alfie and East Broadway Rundown remains a textbook of possible ways of manipulating a saxophone to produce the wildest range of articulation, rhythm, melodic variation, ugly sound and beautiful sound, and ballads to make you think again.

For decades Sonny Rollins has remained a popular but puzzling figure, playing a limited repertoire accompanied by bands which he seems to choose for comfort rather than inspiration, but the concerts I’ve been to have always included moments of inspiration, and extended solos which no other sax player could possibly have constructed.

Nowadays you have to be very quick off the mark to get a ticket, so it’s a few years since I’ve been to a Sonny Rollins concert.

And for those of you at the concert, I suggest you put aside that niggling little question, ‘Why is the world’s greatest living tenor player performing with these musicians rather than young lions or venerated contemporaries’? Just listen.


Here are some of Chris Biscoe's forthcoming gigs:
November 10th, 8.30pm
MINGUS MOVES with Pete Hurt (reeds), Henry Lowther (tpt), Trevor Myers (tbn), Kate Williams (piano), Larry Bartley (bass), Stu Butterfield(drums)
The Kings Head, Crouch End Hill, N8

November 18th, 8.00pm The Orange Tree , Richmond
with BLINK (Alcyona -pno, Robin Fincker - reeds, Paul Clarvis - drums)
November 24th 8.30pm
CHRIS BISCOE talking about composers and bandleaders with whom he has recorded
Kingston Jazz Record Society, Druids Head, Kingston Market

(Photo: Stephanie Berger/New York Times)


Review: British Council 75th Anniversary Concert

A review of last night's British Council 75th Anniversary concert featuring Matthew Herbert (Photo above by Touslesnoms...) is on my Telegraph blog.

Follow this link

UPDATE Nov 3rd: There have been a number of comments on the piece. Particularly interesting is a lengthy contribution today by the great Alex Wilson.


Review: Sax Pastilles at Dragon Hall

Nothing will stop our Mystery Chelsea Shopper in her search for a good time out on the London jazz scene. Here goes MCS, from a wild night in Covent Garden catching the new band at the Dragon a sur le vif review for the pages of LondonJazz ....without so much as pausing for catch a breath in between.

A new season of Jazz on the last Sunday of the month at The Dragon Hall, Stukeley St, WC2 has got off to a good start, with a new young band The Sax Pastilles. This is a a five peice aggregation trumpet, bass, drums and reeds with a particularly fine pianist, Holly Roberts. Led by the clarinet/sax of Hugo Simmonds, the band plays from the standard repetoire with a recognisable chorus before taking off to some imaginative interpretations. C-Jam Blues to Dinah by way of Sweet Georgia Brown. Last night they were augmented by Tom Monahan on trombone - when he wasn't dancing his sox off. Next appearance at the Dragon Hall on Sunday 29th November and if you want to catch them before they have a regular gig at Wax Jambu, 144- 5 Upper Street (Angel Tube) on Wednesdays.

Dragon Hall : Follow this link


John Goldsby on US and European jazz

I have started to read a really intelligent thoughtful article from BassPlayer Magazine and have bookmarked it for further study. The differences between jazz in Europe and the US.....

The article is an interview with John Goldsby. He's from Louisville, Kentucky, by way of New York, and is the bassist of the WDR Big Band, based in Cologne.

Follow this link to read it. And see you at the end. And please do tell the readers of LondonJazz what you think if you get there first!


King Oliver

Not a man known for blowing his own cornet, King Oliver Weindling (above) reflects on his contribution to UK Jazz in a new piece on his blog. Is someone else prepared to back me up, and to agree with me that the recordings he has instigated represent an achievement many many times greater than he gives himself credit for here? Or to differ?


Composer Awards- British Academy and Paul Hamlyn Foundation

The nominees for the British Academy of Songwriters and Composers composers' awards have been annoincedm and the winners will be announced on December 1st. There is a Contemporary Jazz Composition award for the first time. The three nominees are:

Barry Guy for -Schweben; aye But Can Ye?

John Surman for -Rain on the Window

Jason Yarde for- Rhythm & Other Fascinations

The Scottish a capella horns of Brass Jaw will be performing the premiere of a new BBC Radio 3 commission from John Surman at the ceremony.


The (more valuable) Paul Hamlyn Foundation awards will be announced on November 9th. Recent winners have included Iain Ballamy and Evan Parker. There is not much being publicly released about the nominees this year, or for that matter about the judges either....although one composer has announced that he has been nominated.


The X Factor, Jamie Cullum and Norah Jones

At the more commercial end of the market, I'm told, things are hotting up.

Rob Mallows has just sent me this about the X-Factor

I'm reviewing Diana Krall's Albert Hall gig next week.

And in the Evening Standard, David Smyth has written a piece entitled Battle of the year's biggest albums.

Among his six categories -Robbie Williams being a genre to himself (uh?)- come "the Jazz Smoothies."

Are you sitting comfortably? Now read on. I'm curious about ragtime (?) And is anyone out there confessing to a black turtleneck?

Two of the biggest crossover successes in jazz are back in November.

Norah Jones seems destined never to match the success of her debut, Come Away With Me, which went seven-times platinum in the UK alone, so her fourth album, The Fall (Blue Note/Parlophone, 16 Nov), is being billed as her “experimental” one.
Though it shares a producer and guitarist with gruff horse-frightener Tom Waits, in truth this album is as smooth as ever, albeit heavier on the guitar and lighter on the tunes.

Jamie Cullum's The Pursuit (Decca, 9 Nov) has a jazzier feel thanks to plenty of dextrous piano, his slick croon and a ragtime feel to tracks such as You and Me Are Gone, yet it's essentially a pop album, more likely to appeal to Keane fans than the black turtleneck crowd.

If you buy one, make it:
The Fall by Norah Jones."


Review: Misterioso at Riverside Studios

Here are great vibist Orphy Robinson and actress Tamsin Shasha in a play Misterioso about Thelonius Monk which I saw last night, and reviewed for my Telegraph blog.



"The trumpet is the ultimate ex-wife" Chris Botti

Frank Griffith is keen to get out and hear his fellow Oregonian (thank you AH) Chris Botti and writes

"Chris Botti, the Oregon-born, Amercian trumpeter will be appearing at Cadogan Hall on Tuesday November 3rd. In addition to stints in NYC and LA as a session trumpeter he also toured with Buddy Rich and Frank Sinatra for whom he shares a a mutual love of song and this comes through clearly in his lyrical playing.

His fine band includes the likes of drummer, Billy Kilson, pianist, Billy Childs, and ex- Jack MacDuff guitarist, Mark Whitfield.

In the video interview for Newsweek, Chris compares maintaining his chops on the trumpet to keeping an ex-wife happy. I'm not exactly clear on how that works, but perhaps attending the concert will shed more light on this."

Or can any other LondonJazz reader unravel this mystery?


Remembering Pat Crumly (1942-2008)

A few musicians have been on to me about this one. "He was such a lovely guy," said one.
Steve Rubie is hosting a memorial gig next Tuesday for a good friend of the 606 club, Pat Crumly, one of Ronnie Scott's favourite sax players (photo above at Boaters in Kingston by John Naylor).

A bursary for a secondary school-aged soloist will be launched, in partnership with Yamaha who are sponsoring the evening. It will be called "The Pat Crumly Bursary for Young Jazz Musicians".

Already announced on the bill are tenor saxophonist Mornington Lockett, pianists John Critchinson and Nick Weldon, plus that most musical and fiery of singers Jacqui Hicks, plus Tim Wells on bass and Mark Fletcher on drums.
There's enough energy there already to put Duracell out of business. But I also get the feeling it will be oneof those "Holy-shit-look-who's-just-walked in -the-door" evenings....

Here's another super photo of Pat Crumly by Dominique Brewster. And here's Peter Vacher's Guardian obituary.


Review : Brad Mehldau Trio- by Kate Williams

It is a VERY great pleasure and a privilege to welcome fine pianist,composer and bandleader Kate Williams as a reviewer to the pages of LondonJazz with a review of last Friday's Wigmore Hall gig by Brad Mehldau's trio.

Kate Wiliams is appearing with Karen Sharp on saxophones in the National Theatre foyer on Saturday November 7th.

Review: Brad Mehldau Trio
(Wigmore Hall, Friday October 16th 2009, by Kate Williams)

The Brad Meldhau/Larry Grenadier/Jeff Ballard trio played its Wigmore Hall concert last Friday entirely acoustically. The high quality of the sound was a joy in itself, but the absence of amplification also drew the listener in more. The only small quibble would be that Brad's announcements, and therefore the titles of the originals, were lost to those of us at the back of the hall.

The trio played one long set of originals and standards, and opted for slow-medium tempo most of the time - just right for the room. I Cover the Waterfront was played just up on a walking ballad. Mehldau closed it off with a typically extended outro in which he improvised around the opening phrase of the tune, often floating a melody from the warm, left hand tenor register of the piano.

But what will stay in my mind above all from this gig is the drumming of Jeff Ballard . Cole Porter's I Concentrate On You was truly inspiring: an implied double-time groove played mostly with soft mallets and hands. Ballard has everything: dynamic control, contrast of colour and feel, intense energy, groove and momentum.

An enthusiastic audience were given three encores, the last of which, No Moon At All, was a high point. Slowish, again, with occasional hints at double-time from the drums, enormous musical subtlety from the whole trio.

This was the third jazz trio I'd heard at the Wigmore Hall -a couple of years ago, I'd heard John Taylor's and Gwilym Simcock 's trios in the same setting). Last Friday's visit reaffirmed my previous thought: this is an ideal venue for a piano trio, providing far more intimacy than larger venues like the Barbican or RFH, whilst providing an acoustic in which the attentive and appreciative audience which had packed the house could hear a pin drop.


London Jazz Festival Previews (4) Tom Cawley on Vijay Iyer

Tom Cawley writes about Vijay Iyer (photo above- South Bank/ Purcell Room Saturday November 15th, 7.45pm)

The gig I'm most looking forward to in this year's LJF is Vijay Iyer 's. I've only quite recently become aware of him, but he had such a huge impact on me that I was compelled to buy everything he's ever done, immediately! And his new trio album, Historicity, takes it to a new level again.

I'd heard a couple of bootlegs of the trio playing in Germany and France, and was blown away by the sound of the band. The studio album goes even further in capturing it. This is incredible music - highly detailed in every way but with phenomenal power. Rhythmically, it's very advanced, but he uses rhythm not to add a sort of blatant complexity - rather to add emotional depth. Things speed up and slow down (sometimes subjectively, sometimes literally), the grooves and melodies are utterly unique. He can use rhythm to create angst or wild abandon or deep sorrow. He's an artist with rhythm.

Of course, he's also about melody and harmony. He makes melodies out of anything, he uses the whole piano, all of its extremes. The trio is a proper unit; they play all over the tunes, swapping roles, against one another, with one another. On a technical level this is extremely complicated music; for them to be able to play as a group with such freedom and ingenuity is staggering.

I'm a huge fan, as you can see. For me this is what great jazz has always been about - pushing forward, freshness, ingenuity and beauty. I thoroughly recommend this gig - and his records - to any fans of modern improvised music, full stop.

Further reading: Vijay Iyer wrote for the Guardian about music and mathematics.
Peter Bacon's review of Historicity from thejazzbreakfast blog is HERE

Polish pianist Leszek Mozdzer also plays on this gig.


Preview Yuriy Galkin at the Vortex

Can I be imagining it, or does a Russian Bear have a particular grip on the jazz double bass? The bass is such a physical instrument. Russians don't do things in half-measures. Seriousness and intensity are standard issue equipment (anyone do feel free to disagree with these preposterous generalizations!) Plus they have a unique tradition in the playing of all stringed instruments - which I understand comes from the conviction that perfect articulation only comes from a very high finger action(?)

Well. I'm thinking yes, thre are some special, powerful Russian bassists: there's Boris Kozlov out there in New York, whose powerful playing propels the Mingus Big Band. I'm thinking of the astonishing Yuri Goloubev from Milan, whose bowing arm was manufactured by Rolls-Royce, and I'm thinking of London's own : Yuriy Galkin.

Galkin is Royal Academy- trained. He's won composing prizes. And he's got a cream-of-the-crop nonet of young players out at the Vortex next Tuesday 27th, called the Symbiosis Big Band. I've been enjoying the soundclips of his compositions from his Myspace. Recommended.


Review: Nikki Iles -The Printmakers

Nikki Iles, Norma Winstone- The Printmakers
Pizza Express Dean Street, Monday October 19th 2009

The Printmakers project, originates from the creative partnership of Nikki Iles and Norma Winstone. The band had its first outing in May in Derby, has been on tour, and finally arrived in London to a very warm reception at a packed Pizza Express last night.

This is band is only just starting to make its mark. I heard one early outing in Cambridge, and the gain in confidence, in stature, in presence is palpable. May in Cambridge was about searching for a distinctive spirit. Last night I felt again and again that I detected from all the protagonists the pure joy about having found it. Yes, this band really is starting to bring something different. People will take time to latch on to these things...I hope it becomes a must-have for 2009 Festivals from Moers to Monterey.

One of the joys of hearing the Printmakers is a constantly gathering storm of melodic ideas. The speed with which imitative counterpoint is being traded around the stand is mesmerising. But there's no sense of a cutting-edge cutting contest. Everything in this band is shared. The moment it's out there it's up for grabs, it's public property. This is a band where they seem to want to give each other presents. There is always the challenge to resolve, to make all the interplay supportive, pleasing, rather than in-your-face competitive.

Players like left-field world-class guitar giant Mike Walker and that towering presence in British jazz Stan Sulzmann (in Cambridge it was Mark Lockheart) seem to absolutely thrive on this challenge. They visibly enjoy it, and where's the harm in that? And there is surely no anchor more solid and creative, for a band with needs this freedom, than bassist Steve Watts. The drum chair last night was joyously occupied by the ever-inventive Tim Giles (in Cambridge it was Steven Keogh).

I particularly enjoyed Make Someone Happy. Stan Sulzmann and Mike Walker managed to combine demonic complexity with extrovertly playing out to the crowd. They got the whoops and the cheers which they deserved. But it was the final solo of poise, delicacy and smiling restraint from Nikki Iles which got the loudest cheer.

I can only respond to this level of creativity with a five star review, and I'm looking forward to hearing Printmakers again.


London Jazz Festival Preview (3) Frank Griffith on Mike Gibbs

Frank Griffith is looking forward to Mike Gibbs with the BBC Symphony Orchestra featuring Bill Frisell (guitar)

November 19th, 7.45PM. The Barbican

Born in 1937 in Harare (then Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia) Mike Gibbs learned piano and trombone, and in 1959 went to the USA to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston. After settling in Britain in 1965 he worked as a trombonist in Graham Collier’s band and John Dankworth’s orchestra. Gibbs quickly established a reputation as a composer and arranger and wrote music for radio, television and films as well as a number of his own bands. By the late 1960s he was receiving widespread critical acclaim highlighted by his album In The Public Interest being voted “best album of 1974” by readers of Melody Maker. Also in 1974, Gibbs took up a one-year post as composer in residence at Berklee School of Music which was extended until 1985 at which point he returned to London and has been based in the UK until very recently.

Gibbs’ influences range from Gunther Schuller, George Russell and Gil Evans alongside Charles Ives and Olivier Messiaen, but he avoids eclecticism and has created a personal style which borrows from many musical genres. Particularly significant in Gibbs’ work are his longtime associations with innovative soloists such as Gary Burton, Steve Swallow, John McLaughlin, Chris Hunter, Lew Soloff and Bob Moses, to name a few. These collaborations have helped to evolve and create his own distinct sound, as well as establish new horizons in developing the vocabulary and language for the big band.

The late Richard Cook wrote the below about Gibbs-

“Gibbs has the gift that all great leaders of big bands seem to require: that of making complex and daring ideas seem natural and inevitable. In these early records he fused advanced harmonic ideas with a groove that drew on Ellington, Gil and Miles, and Rock. As he demonstrated on Tanglewood 63, he could move from sun-kissed delight to moonstruck melancholy in a moment. Something about the voicing for the horns. He rarely asks for stratospheric playing, concentrating on middle register.”

In a 2003 R3 Private Passions programme with Michael Berkeley, Gibbs had this to say in response to being asked about any set approaches he might have to writing-

“I have no rules for arranging, but my relationship to the material is the source of my arrangements. Commercial considerations are the producer’s job and I try to incorporate the producer’s input. But even if a producer says he wants a Wagnerian sound or whatever, I still have to relate to the music in my own way. I analyse my own reaction to the piece. I think that’s why I’m not a producer!”

When asked how guitarist, Bill Frisell, will fit in, Gibbs has said that he planned on giving him a rhythm section part with the instructions “to insinuate himself” (into the proceedings) and to “instigate whatever he deems appropriate”.

I have every confidence that he will do both. My hope and expectation is that Gibbs will also insinuate himself at every juncture as well; he would be doing us a disservice not to.


Frank Griffith's Quartet the Lord McDuff Quartet is playing a tribute the to Jack McDuff, the great Hammond Organist at Mill Hill Sports Club on Wednesday 21st October- 8.30PM

Frank played with McDuff for many years in the 1980s in NYC's Harlem as well as throughout the USA on road tours. Featured are Ross Stanley on organ recently, ex-Billy Cobham guitarist, Carl Orr and drummer Matt Home. Details from MILL HILL JAZZ


News : Take Five Six

The Take Five professional development scheme for young professional jazz musicians supported by Jerwood, the PRSF, Arts Council England and the Musicians Benevolent Fund, and produced by Serious has announced its sixth cohort of eight musicians:

James Allsopp (Saxophones and Clarinets, London)
Tomas Challenger (Saxophones, London)
Kit Downes (Piano, London)
Adam Fairhall (Piano, Cheshire)
Fraser Fifield (Pipes, Whistles and Saxophones, Fife)
Shabaka Hutchings (Saxophones and Clarinets, London)
Olivia Moore (Violin, Manchester)
Dave Smith (Drums, London)

Previous awardees Dave Stapleton, Arun Ghosh and Nathaniel Facey will be speaking at a free public launch event on Thursday November 19th at 6pm in the Barbican’s Fountain Room.


London Jazz Festival Previews (2) - A fan perspective

Here's the second of our previews, picking out gigs from the London Jazz Festival.

These are two choices from Rob Mallows, who runs the 500-strong London Jazz Meetup Group. The perspective of an unashamed fan. Thanks Rob!

"What I'm looking forward to:

Corea, Clarke, White's Power of 3/ Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, November 15th, Barbican

Three quarters of Return to Forever hit London in a new super-group The Power of Three. Low-frequency-Lord Stanley Clarke shares the stage with his fusion compadres - It'll be like the seventies never went away. Clarke shares the bill with the Flecktones' Victor Wooten, with whom Clarke toured this year in SMV, so this is Christmas come early for electric bass fans: thumbs at the ready! Chick Corea and Fleck will be offering up a fascinating-sounding keyboard-banjo jazz shred-off to bring the gig to a close.

UPDATE: Here's the confirmed Flecktones line-up

Bela Fleck - Banjo (acoustic and electric)
Victor Wooten - Electric Bass
Futureman- Drumitar
Howard Levy - Harmonica & Piano

Marcus Miller (above) plays Tutu Revisited /Gary Husband's Drive, November 22nd, Barbican

The bass gods are smiling on London. Marcus Miller reprises Miles Davis' 1986 Tutu, which saw Davis embrace electronica in a work which amazed and divided fans. Davis' sparse trumpet, electronic drums, lush George Duke keyboards and Miller's slap bass are world's away from Kind of Blue, but reflect where jazz was in the eighties. Tutu was as much Miller's album as Davis' and showed his strong compositional skills. Gary Husband 's Drive quartet balances the electronic Tutu sound with some straight-ahead contemporary jazz driven by Husband's awesome drumming."


Weekend reading: Nostalgia, Marmite and a plug

Dave Gelly in the Observer Review writes about Ronnie's from the perspective of nostalgia and undderstandably fond memory. You can read about jazz = nostalgia HERE .

Julia Keller in the Chicago Tribune writes "I hate jazz. It leaves me cold. It sounds to me the way a child's picture book looks. It's the sort of thing only a parent could love." You can read about jazz = Marmite HERE .

You can read about jazz = wonderfully diverse living enjoyment -among many other places - RIGHT HERE

And enjoy your Sunday.


Kit Downes writes...about Aaron Parks

In the next couple of weeks LondonJazz will feature London Jazz Festival previews/choices from a number of musicians, fans and friends.

We're keen to capture, to bottle that musician buzz. It's where things start, there's nothing quite like it. So here's a VERY warm welcome to Kit Downes to the pages of LondonJazz. And a thank you.

Kit is looking forward to hearing Aaron Parks at 9pm on the opening night of the Festival, Friday November 13th in the Purcell Room on the South Bank.

Also, down there on the right of this page, under Links We Like you will find Kit's new blog.


Aaron Parks (for my money) is the ticket of the festival - obviously I am slightly biased about this, as he is a piano player - but aside from this, he could be playing any instrument and I would still go and listen.

Aaron Parks is 24 years old and lives in Brooklyn (he's originally from Seattle) where he has already made a significant musical impact in the bands of leading artists such as Terence Blanchard and Kurt Rosenwinkel. It is, interestingly, these two musicians that seem to have had the biggest impact on the pianist in recent years.

Parks seems to be heavily influenced by the classical tradition (late Romantics/Impressionists in particular) in his composition, as well as the more contemporary influences of hip hop culture and electronic music. It is in combining the old with the new (through his writing) that he achieves an accessible but still interesting take on what he calls ‘Invisible Cinema’ – a use of imagery and sense of narrative (Parks is into ‘film music’, something that he explored with former employer Terence Blanchard).

His tunes are all focused on melody, with the harmonic and rhythmic aspects of the tune united and serving the common goal – strong and memorable phrasing. This is something on which Kurt Rosenwinkel has based his entire compositional approach (in my eyes) and also something that Parks must have enjoyed about Rosenwinkel’s music whilst touring with his band.

However, my fascination with Parks lies more in his playing than his writing. He has a compositional approach to improvising, always telling an interesting and clear story through his rich melodic lines. Even at very high speed, his lines always harness harmony and time together into one pure voice that can etch their way through any chord sequence with a sense of calm, precision and restraint that implies huge pianistic and musical ability.

This strong sense of melodic line is undoubtedly in part influenced by the masters of this particular art (in the jazz setting) – Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, Brad Mehldau etc. but it becomes irrelevant who the influences are after a while – melodic playing at this level is it’s own – it comes from being at one with the instrument you are playing, no longer from who you have transcribed (though it’s fundamental to getting there).

In short, Parks’ playing is his own – something which I greatly respect. Hearing bootlegged recordings of Parks playing with Rosenwinkel’s band originally stunned me, and then heartened me, as I felt I was listening to something completely genuine. His melodic ability, coupled with a beautiful sense of compositional space and a great pocket feel, is what makes Parks so addictive to listen to.

Aaron Parks' website has soundclips. (TOP RIGHT)


News from Leeds Jazz

A story from right at the other end of our oldest motorway.*

Leeds Jazz, the volunteer promoters who have done wonders to bring 350 bands to Leeds in 25 years, will almost certainly stop promoting by the end of this year.


Leeds Jazz's 25th Anniversary Weekend Programme is HERE

*Photo: Guardian/ David Sillitoe


Joshua Redman/ Brad Mehldau review

Review Joshua Redman/Brad Mehldau
Wigmore Hall, Thursday Ocetober 15th 2009

Jazz musicians adapt. They always make the music work in the context. Brad Mehldau had given a lot of forethought into making music to suit the Wigmore Hall. He talked about this special playing situation: the pared-down (paired-down?) resources of his duo with a musician he admires: Joshua Redman. They were regular collaborators in the 1990's (as above, Bern, 1994).

The audience which packed the hall was in the mood for bold, iconoclastic, wrong-side-of-the-tracks gestures. It's the first time, for example, that I've ever heard a two-finger whistle in the Wigmore Hall.

It got one such gesture: this was probably the very first time that Nirvana's anthem for druggy apathy-anarchy "Smells Like Teen Spirit" has echoed round any part of 36 Wigmore Street.

But for me the richer rewards were to be had from the delicacy and subtlety of the dialogue, the fine interplay of two thoughtful musicians (Snob, moi?!!)Mehldau was taking on the mantle of pianists past, making very frequent use of right hand tremolando vamps and repeated left-hand-crossing (cf Schubert Bb sonata -andante). Adapting, cleverly to the vibe of the place, the genius loci.

Joshua Redman, both on soprano and on tenor saxophones always has a gorgeous, balanced and focussed timbre and a strong sense of narrative line. Love it. In the chamber acoustics of the hall his sound just bloomed. Redman carried the legato melody of Brad Mehldau's slow waltz Don't Be Sad with gentle elegance. I then stood, deliberately, behind Row X under the balcony for the encores. There is simply no better place in the world to hear music.

I can never forget what a thoughtful player Redman is, that he's just been honoured by Harvard. That he also studied at Yale Law School. Redman's final gestures are a sign-off, an envoi. They are absolutely precise and deliberate. As Blake wrote: "Art [...] cannot exist but in minutely organized particulars"

The last three numbers ended as follows:

-a slowly resolving upward-sliding semitone on soprano.
-a single reed-slap on tenor, then used as a motif in the next number
-the final word: a sonorous low B flat resonating the whole instrument and ringing round the hall.



A bit of politics next week?

Next week sees a step-up in activity around the restrictions placed on live music by the 2003 Licensing Act and the Metropolitan Police's Form 696.

Monday October 19th:

7.30pm Inside Out on BBC1 London "Matthew Wright investigates the urban music that police say is too dangerous to perform." LINK HERE

Thursday October 22nd:

12 noon, Outside Houses of Parliament. Demonstration organized by Equity

Afternoon: John Whittingdale of the Culture Select Committee follows up his committee's report from May which recommended a freeing-up of the act for small venues with a debate.
The DCMS, who designed the 2003 Licensing Act, probably hoped they'd heard managed to silence the protest until after the election, as I wrote in a grump in July.

Well, they haven't!
Further Reading: Phil Little's Live Music Forum site, activist Hamish Birchall, and @Shambles151 on Twitter are the people with their fingers on the pulse of this one.


Lower Ground Bar- New listing in Venues- Reports please?

Saxophonist Christian Brewer has been in touch about the Tuesday gig he promotes at the Lower Ground Bar in West End Lane, NW6. I did a short piece about it in August.

Next Tuesday he has Mike Janisch's group featuring Barcelona-based alto saxophonist Perico Sambeat, who's seen on a Youtube clip above in the company of..... a not completely unknown guitarist.

I haven't yet made it to the Lower Ground Bar, mainly because Tuesday is the night I honk a baritone in a big band, so would be interested to have reports. Anyone fancy going and telling LondonJazz readers about it?

Here are the LISTINGS for the Lower Ground Bar


Jamie Cullum 2010 and 2001

Take a look at the Cheltenham Festivals Website. where the news is that Jamie Cullum (left) is to be Guest Director of the Jazz Festival for 2010.

Take a look at the Smash Digital website for three previously unreleased and downloadable tracks from 2001.
UPDATE : Peter Hum from Ottawa, top blogger, and a regular LondonJazz reader... has interesting thoughts on the guest curator idea - Ornette Coleman and Brad Mehldau too - in this blog piece, with a link to a New York times think-piece on how the word "curate" is rapidly changing its meaning.


Review: Lilian Boutte

Review: Lillian Boutte,
(606 Club, October 12th 2009, by our Mystery Shopper from Chelsea)

Lillian Boutte is probably known to most of you - a New Orleans native who has been touring the world singing and acting for quite a while now.

Her sets at the 606 on Monday night were raptourously received and the eclectic mix of numbers from a great rendition of Bessie's Safety First, through standards such as Embraceable You, also including a amazingly jazzed up version of Tennessee Waltz.

She covers a lot of ground musically and her accompanying musicians are more than ably led by that terrific guitarist Denny Ilett.

Lillian reminded us about the hurricane Katrina and the theatre piece that is touring to raise money for its victims. She has also been featured in a documentary The Sound After the Storm,which has just won first prize for Best Documentary Film at the Zurich International Film Festival. (HERE's a Link to a report from JazzAscona )

Her feisty and loveable personality comes across all the time. And her appeal to the audience to continue to support jazz in all its forms by coming out to clubs as well as buying the CD's met with a more than appreciative response.

Lillian will be back at the 606 at the end of November - a definite date for my (Mulberry) diary.


Review: Kenny Wheeler

Some people reckon they can always judge the quality of a Chinese restaurant by how many Chinese families eat in them. So, I'm asking myself this morning, after being at a gig where a large part of the audience were musicians: what does the quantity of musicians (rather than "industry people") in the audience tell you about a gig?

And while I'm asking myself, I'll happily ask anyone out there reading this for your thoughts?

There is probably no other jazz musician in London with such a dedicated musician following from all generations as Kenny Wheeler. He was out at the Vortex last night with a quintet : Stan Sulzmann on tenor sax, John Parricelli on guitar, Chris Laurence on bass and Martin France on drums, for the first of two nights there.

Kenny Wheeler will be eighty next year. He played last night seated, but his economy of utterance and of movement can produce moments of wonder: when Wheeler states a melody, it definitely stays stated. He sits still, occupies his ground, keeps the flugelhorn pointing straight out - like one of those portraits that looks at you wherever you are in the room - and speaks absolutely loud and clear.

Most of the programme- which I arrived at late and was obliged to leave early- was of Wheeler's compositions: a wistful opener Kind Folk, a jaunty The Imminent Immigrant, the punchy tango Sly Eyes, the hauntingly sinuous melody of Jigsaw. The first half closer Arthur Schwartz's By Myself gave drummer Martin France the opportunity to stretch out.

Chris Laurence does the impossible on a bass with incredible mobility and accuracy. And a smile. John Parricelli is the complete musician whether adding to a texture or soloing. Stan Sulzmann, who MC'd the evening with good hmourr and modesty is a world-class gentle giant of the British jazz scene, and his musical dialogues with/ making-space-for/adding-to/ a demonstration of everything music among civilized people can and should be about.

If one of the Vortex team can, they will squeeze you in tonight, and you'd be a fool not to let it happen, Go and hear a legend of the music..


Abram Wilson album launch

Abram Wilson launches a new CD on Dune Records at the South Bank - Purcell Room on Saturday October 24th at 7. 45 pm.

All the world's a stage. And so is the year-round London jazz scene.There are many great individual characters in jazz in London,and they come from all over the world to live and perform here.

Italian dramatist Pirandello wrote: "They will live for ever because - living seeds - they had the luck to find a fruitful soil, an imagination which knew how to grow them and feed them."

Some might question the "fruitful", but you get the drift. Among the most compelling characters are quite a few Americans. There's Bob Martin from New Jersey with his wonderful unmistakeable soaring killer alto sound. There's Frank Griffith from Oregon, as completely steeped in the history and the harmony of this music as it is possible to be, there's the unique life-giving bass playing and promoting of Michael Janisch from Wisconsin (check out the fascinating new album Purpose Built.)

And then there's London's very own New Orleans trumpeter, Abram Wilson. Trumpeter is, in fact, the first of seven professions/roles on Wilson's website, the others being:

" vocalist, composer, music arranger, producer,educator, actor. "

That last profession. Actor. A practitioner of the art of mimesis. (Whoops, quick detour to Plato and Aristotle...) the art of representing, embodying, transforming oneself, of knowing only a continuous present. Having listened to Wilson's latest CD I will gladly tickbox all of those. Yes indeed, actor.

Life Paintings is Wilson's third CD. While his voice is the trumpet (on his previous album he also sang) , the parts he plays are many and varied. All the compostions are his own, and there is an fascinating range. There's hipster, there's gruff daddy bear, there's model jazz student nailing every one of the changes, there's a committed citizen marching in step (on Obama), there's romantic balladeer....

To my ears the most convincing track is one where he absolutely lets rip: the rhythmically angular Breaking Point. Wilson seems to get an energy lift from the insistent rat-a-tat ride cymbal of drummer Graham Godfrey. If I get to Saturday's gig, and I hope I do, that's what I'll be listening out for.


"Innovative, beautiful, dysfunctional, just like Britain"

Alto saxophonist, bandleader, record producer, source of energy Gilad Atzmon is off for the first time ever to China tomorrow, and I caught him just before he flies off. He was talking to me this morning about his dream of playing his Cadogan Hall with-strings date on November 6th on a Grafton alto saxophone. "I'm so looking forward to this date. Cadogan Hall, it's my Carnegie Hall."

We'll be running a competition next Wednesday for LondonJazz Wednesday headlines subscribers for a pair of tickets for Gilad Atzmon's gig.

Grafton saxes are made of acrylic. They were produced iBoldn London between 1950 and 1968. Atzmon has been trying one. Charlie Parker played one. John Dankworth played one. Ornette Coleman played one... Atzmon definitely wants one.....

"It's a speedy and responsive instrument, it looks and feels and sounds like milk. It's innovative, beautiful, and completely dysfunctional, just like Britain" says Atzmon, who can be relied on for a provocative quote. Every time.

Adrian Woods of in Denmark Street has one which isn't for sale. " We keep it in the window for display, and people can try it. We're in the business of selling new saxes. We have 160 in Denmark Street and 450 in Crowborough." Grafton altos are the repairers' nightmare, according to Adrian Woods. "They crack very easily , especially the key guards, and they have coiled springs. "

If a reader has a Grafton sax in an attic, or a store has one for sale, please let me know. And watch out for the Cadogan Hall competition. There are other UK dates for this project, listed on Gilad Atzmon's site.
John Fordham's review of Atzmon's very listenable with-strings album "In Loving Memory of America" is HERE


Look who's topping the Billboard chart!/ An extra date with Diana Krall

*Love is the Answer, Barbra Streisand's jazz standards album has just made it to the top of the US Billboard chart. The arrangements are all by Johnny Mandel, and the album was produced by Diana Krall in collaboration with Streisand.

Here's the story from Billboard

And here's some cheese from the Press Release:

"We ate a lot," Streisand reports. "There's something about recording that makes me want to eat. We would bring in Italian food, or go out to dinner. Diana taught me how to roll a piece of chicken with cheese inside and put it in the microwave."

*Meanwhile, the promoters of Diana Krall's Royal Albert Hall show are telling me that demand has been high, and that a third London date, October 30th been added in addition to the existing dates - October 28th and 29th.


Review: Salena Jones

Review: Salena Jones
(Ronnie Scott's , October 5th 2009. Review by Frank Griffith)

American vocalist Salena Jones made a triumphant return to Ronnie Scott's on Monday, backed by the stellar Ronnie Scott's Jazz Orchestra led by pianist and MD, James Pearson.

The band personnel included veterans such as trumpeter, Tony Fisher, alto saxist, Adrian Revell as well as young upstarts like Freddie "Fire" Gavita, trumpet and Sam Mayne also on alto sax. The programme included a healthy mix of 1970s pop songs - Hello and Just the way you are - as well as a sprinkling of more traditional standards like The Touch of Your Lips and Days of Wine and Roses.

Jones, petite and elegant in white (for the first set, anyway) did a fair amount of waving to various parts of the nearly full house while mentioning her previous long-standing engagements at the fabled club. There is a firm and poised quietude to her voice and delivery as well as her stage presence. Free of histrionics or gratuitous melisma, her rich contralto rings true through the styles in an understated manner.

Also noticeable was the playful, bordering on provocative visual banter between her and MD Pearson during some of the songs. Particular highlights included a tasty bossa nova treatment of Brook Bowman's East Of The Sun with engaging harmonic richness coupled with lush textures utilising flutes, mutes and clarinets especially noteworthy in an ensemble chorus following Jones' vocal.

The Billie Holiday classic, You've Changed medleyed up with Monk's Round Midnight was tendered beautifully by a trio backing. A somewhat odd choice of inserting Round Midnight at the end of the bridge (middle section) of You've Changed might have took the listener by surprise at first but the remaining stanzas were added on after the completion of a chorus of the Monk classic. Alls well ends well. A rousing flag waver arrangement of a 1960s gem, Moment of Truth completed the set, and sent audience and band - not so gently- into that good night.

The band was especially on fire in the the second set with roaring versions of the Tower of Power funkamonial What is Hip alongside a Buddy Rich feature on Love For Sale (arranged by transplanted Brit, Pete Myers) both of which spotlighting the versatile and rock solid drumming of Chris Dagley. Top solo work was in evidence throughout by Fred Gavita, angular trombonist, Dave Williamson, and the strident Jamie Anderson, alongside the more cool and foo fooey Lester Young-isms of Richard Shepherd on tenor saxes.

Most of the arrangements were by Keith Mansfield, a towering figure of British big band and TV themes having got his start writing and producing for Canadian trumpeter, Maynard Ferguson, in the late 1960s for a series of albums for Columbia. While announcing him to the crowd at the end Salena also added that she is now Mrs Mansfield - they were married in January. A most musical match in every aspect and lets hope that its not another 20 years before their next visit to this venerable Soho jazz institution.

Frank Griffith


Review : Earl Okin

Review of Earl Okin by Sarah Ellen Hughes
(Pizza Express Dean Street, October 5th, 2009)

My pre-gig research about singer/songwriter/comedy performer Earl Okin had come up with just two things: one was a quote from legendary producer Buddy Bregman : ‘One must see him in person to get him.’ And the other thing: that Okin is apparently a force to be reckoned with ....on the mouth-trumpet.

Well, Buddy Bregman is right, there's no doubt about that. I was struck at first by Okin’s ability to sing to every member of the audience – not with a fixed stare but with a knowing look – especially to the noisy table who had, it seemed, misinterpreted the ‘silence’ policy. They soon quietened down.

He was wonderfully engaging. He spent almost as much time talking to us as singing or playing, which was no bad thing. The tales he told about his career were spellbinding. His Portuguese was faultless, and truly charming within the context of his favourite style of music, the bossa nova.

He also makes you laugh: You’re My Thrill had a brilliant injection of comedy. “Here’s my heart on a silver platter – yuk!” I found myself still chuckling about that one several minutes later.

And then there’s that mouth trumpet It’s easy to think of it as just a gimmick – something to be marvelled at but ultimately not to be taken seriously. But it was every bit as good, and as musical as I’d heard. In fact, it was better. I found this instrument to be as integral to Earl’s performance as his singing, or piano or guitar playing. He has an extraordinary ability to sing a solo which really sounds like a trumpet, with accurate pitch and timbre, vibrato, even halve-valve sounds, and a characterful attack and articulation. It was so appropriate to each particular style – whether it be a haunting ballad or swinging standard. At one point my guest turned to me and said, “He can play the trumpet better than I can!” And she’s a trumpeter.

A few tunes stood out for me: Butterflies – a delightfully mellow self-penned bossa nova; Lotus Blossom – a luscious and moving piano solo. After an introduction into the origins of stride-piano, he treated us to an enthralling performance of Ellington’s ‘Black Beauty.’ He took particular pleasure in singing a version of Georgia on my Mind, which he had sung with saxophonist Benny Carter in the very same room 30 years ago.

Okin is a skilled singer, even with a voice which was suffering from the after-effects of a cold. He sings effortlessly, with a captivating subtlety. During his last tune he ended a phrase with a note that lasted and followed through an entire blues sequence of twelve slow bars.

The recordings I’ve tried are definitely worth hearing, but to see Earl Okin live is the only way to go. If he’d been on for a second night I’d definitely have been queuing up to hear him again.


Good Vibrations from a Theremin

We ran a competition for newsletter readers last week to come up with a pointless interesting fact about the theremin, an electronic instrument being featured in the F-IRE Festival (previewed here by Peter Horsfall. )

Winner, and free to claim his CD, is Derek Nash, who came up with the fact that the Beach Boys used one in Good Vibrations.

Runners -up came up with a cartoon about theremins and dating , and a variety of ways to build your own at


Vortex: helping students to Aspire

The Vortex is offering half price tickets for students (£8) for next Monday's and Tuesday's appearances by the great Kenny Wheeler.


What's your favourite London venue?

A few months ago I asked avid jazz fan Patrick Hadfield a very simple question. What, I enquired, is his favourite London venue? His answer, it turns out, is a UK travelogue.

Patrick remembers the old Jazz Cafe in Newington Green.... thinks about the current one in Camden...heads on up to Henry's Jazz Cellar in Edinburgh...and onwards and upwards to Islay (where he took the picture above) once round the Round Church at Bowmore on Islay, taking in the bottling plant at Bunnahabhain...and ends a venue which is really not very far at all from where he started.

If you're curious to know where he ends up, let Patrick tell you in his own words.

Anyone else got an answer they want to share???


F-Ire Festival at Pizza Express preview

Here's a preview by musician Peter Horsfall of the F-Ire Festival, from October 14-17 at the Pizza Express.

F-Ire Founder Barak Schmool’s Méta Méta to open the 2009 F-IRE FESTIVAL

Each of the four nights at the F-Ire festival offers a contrasting double bill, with some of the more established names on the last night, trumpeter/ BBC New Generation Artist Tom Arthurs, drummer Seb Rochford and this year’s winner of the SouthWest German Radio (SWR) Jazz Award, saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock.


Méta Méta, led by the founder of F-Ire Barak Schmool, (above, photo: Andy New) will be opening up the Festival. Which is only right: just as F-Ire has been the inspiration behind the formation of other, younger collectives such as Loop and Cobweb, Schmool has tirelessly promoted creative music for many years, inspiring a generation of young musicians.

Schmool also brings strong inspiration to the projects he leads, such as Méta Méta. Schmool, on saxophone, is joined by vocalist Geraldo (of Grammy Award winners Yoruba Andabo), percussionist Maurizio Ravalico , pianist Nick Ramm , and bassist Tom Mason. Fusing the African rhythms of Yoruba religious music, Cuban grooves and contemporary jazz improvisation. Méta Méta is perhaps the clearest embodiment of the F-IRE aesthetic. Not to be missed.

Opposite Méta Méta on the first night are innovative guitarist Jonathan Bratoeff ’s quartet, featuring drummer James Maddren, bassist Tom Mason and tenor saxophonist Mark Hanslip. Bratoeff is a powerful presence on stage, and very assured on record to: check out Points of Perception on the F-ire label from 2005.


The second night's double bill has bassist Jasper Hoiby’s trio Phronesis. Their
debut album Organic Warfare is captivating, not just for the strength of Hoiby’s original compositions but also for his virtuosic bass playing. Joined by Danish drummer Anton Eger (seen earlier this year performing with Django Bates) and pianist Ivo Neame , the trio takes inspiration from rhythms and melodies from folk music from Africa, Cuba, Brazil, the Middle East and East Europe) and builds a very individual groove-base on them.

Opposite Phronesis , Peter Whittingham award-winning pianist Dave O’Brien will lead his band Porpoise Corpus through a selection of his own epic compositions. That 'jazz-rock' tag doesn't quite do them justice: the band’s sound is its own, indefinable and extremely powerful. I heard the band on great form at the recent Mayor's Thames Festival.


F-IRE has also been important in developing links with musicians from further afield. A rare London show from saxophonist/composer Stéphane Payen highlights the collective’s strong links with similar musicians in Paris. Payen here presents his group ‘Thôt’ featuring Gilles Coronado (guitar), Hubert Dupont (bass) and Christophe Lavergne (drums) - you can expect experimental and rhythmically challenging music. Many young musicians in London will have come into contact with Payen and his band through educational workshops run by F-Ire. They should turn out in good numbers for Payen, the vibe will be very lively.

The Teak Project are an Indo-Jazz project from NY born, London-based guitarist Justin Quinn, percussionist Neil Craig and sitarist Jonathan Mayer. Mayer continues the legacy of his father , composer John Mayer (1930-2004), who did remarkable, life-long, pioneering work fusing the traditions of Indian music and western music.

The final night of the festival centres on showcasing brand new bands and material. Polar Bear’s Seb Rochford (drums) and Ingrid Laubrock (saxophones) will team up with legendary theremin player Pamelia Kurstin. Kurstin and Rochford will have just performed a number of duo shows prior to this festival date (Cafe Oto 12th October, Modern Art Oxford, 15th October. So expect the Rochford/Kurstin duo and the ever-inventive Laubrock to have some surprises for each other at this performance.

Also presenting a brand new project on the 17th, the last night is trumpeter Tom Arthurs. He returns from Berlin to perform Postcards from Pushkin , with long-standing collaborator, pianist, Richard Fairhurst. Originally commissioned by the BBC and the PRS, the material is centred around quotations from the poetry of Aleksandr Pushkin and has been described by John Fordham of the Guardian as “intimately conversational.’’

F-IRE FESTIVAL 2009 - Pizza Express Jazz Club, Dean street, Soho, W1. 14-17 OCTOBER 2009

WED 14 Barak Schmool's Méta Méta / Jonathan Bratoeff Quartet, 7pm, £15

THU 15 Jasper Hoiby's Phronesis / Porpoise Corpus, 7pm £15

FRI 16 Stéphane Payen's Thôt / The Teak Project, 7pm £15

SAT 17 Seb Rochford, Ingrid Laubock + Pamelia Kurstin / Tom Arthurs + Richard Fairhusrt play 'Postcards from Pushkin', 7pm, £20