Government "announces" small venue exemption

On the morning of New Year's Eve , the Department of Culture Media and Sport put out a press release

Here goes:

“Boost for live music as government announces plans to exempt small venues.”

“Live music performances for 100 people or less will no longer need to be licensed, under proposals announced today by Licensing Minister Gerry Sutcliffe.”

So what's the real story? Read my Telegraph blog.


Off to Paris

I'm taking a couple of days off in Paris, eg seeing the Miles Davis exhibition.

But here's something to enjoy. It's the final track, called Dad Logic, from the great 2008 album "Madhouse and the Whole Thing There" by Mike Walker. This disc has spent six months this year on my car CD player and is still refusing to lie down quietly and be ignored.

If anyone knows why we seem to be looking at Andalucian sunsets, pray do tell.

All the very, very best for success and happiness in 2010!


Crescendo Magazine

Subscribers to Crescendo Magazine received the sad news this morning from founder and editor Dennis H. Matthews that the 44-page Vol 46 Issue 3 dated Autumn 2009 will be the last ever. The issue also contained the news that Photographer Denis Williams who had worked for 47 years at the magazine had passed away in October.

Enquiries to:
Magazine Printing Co.
Mollison Avenue


A wish-list for British jazz in 2010

Ranging widely, from Kenny Wheeler above, to the legislation on small venues, to the Collectives, I have just published a wish list for British jazz in 2010 on my Telegraph blog.


Venue Review: Cafe Oto

Peter Brötzmann

Café Oto- Venue Review by John Eyles
(Welcoming a new writer to LondonJazz)

Against the odds, Café Oto in Dalston is steadily becoming one of the capital’s leading music venues. Opened in April 2008, it is located in part of the beautiful and historic Reeves Artists Colour Works building near Dalston Kingsland station. Since its opening, the development of the Crossrail link has turned the surrounding area into a large building site. In time, Crossrail will help transform and re-generate the neighbourhood - as will the presence of Café Oto. Meanwhile, it has been building a strong reputation with punters, one that is steadily spreading by word of mouth.

Located only two minutes stroll away from the Vortex Jazz Club, Café Oto did not go head-to-head with its neighbour by concentrating solely on jazz. Instead, it operates an eclectic and adventurous programming policy that embraces jazz, improvised and experimental music, rock, folk and world music, as typified by the notable performers who have already appeared there including Henry Flynt, Eddie Prevost, John Sinclair, Phill Niblock, Wildbirds & Peacedrums, Sean Lennon, and Josephine Foster.

During the daytime, Café Oto truly is a café, serving snacks, hot drinks and beers. It has a large indoor seated area as well as pavement seating outside on a quiet, pleasant cul-de-sac. It is a popular local meeting place, as demonstrated by its steady stream of customers, many with children in tow. Inside, the décor is comfortable but low-key – a bare concrete floor and whiltewashed walls offset by scrubbed wooden tables and chairs plus sofas.

In the early evening, the café slowly morphs into the performance space with a sizeable area for the players but no platform stage. There is a decent sound system. Acoustics and sightlines are good from all parts and there is plenty of seating space for the audience. Unlike the Vortex which often struggles to accommodate audiences because of its limited capacity, Café Oto feels spacious and rarely has to turn customers away.

Significantly, “oto” is Japanese for music/sound/noise. Café Oto is co-owned and managed by the Scottish/Japanese couple Hamish Dunbar and Keiko Yamamoto. One of the attractions of its programming has been the number of Japanese performers it has brought over, including Otomo Yoshihide, Kan Mikami, Satchiko M, and Toshimaru Nakamura. Each has played for a short residency, a key feature of the programming.

Other forthcoming shows that whet the appetite include runs by Peter Brotzmann, Matthew Ship, Kath Bloom, Joe Mcphee & Chris Corsano, and The Sun Ra Arkestra under the direction of Marshall Allen.

Cafe Oto's programme is at

Contact/ Address

Cafe OTO, 18 - 22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London E8 3DL /

LondonJazz welcomes other opinions.


Samples from the Orange Tree

WayOutWest have been successfully installed and playing to good houses at the Orange Tree in Richmond since September.

There's a new website with a 5 minute video sampler
The video thankfully NOT including a blogger/baritone player appearing last Wednesday with Tim Whitehead and Pete Hurt and getting a seasonal basting in Jingle Bells in concert B major. The content is

-The Pub
-Saxophonists Tim Whitehead and Julian Siegel, bassist Oli Hayhurst plus a good view of the head of Chris Biscoe
-Saxophonist Vasilis Xenopoulos' Quartet
-Singer Anita Wardell with pianist Kate Williams-Drummer Gene Calderazzo-the intake of liquids by friendly natives including legendary jazz educator Eddie Harvey
-Kate Williams and flautist Allison Neale
-applause for Tim Whitehead, Julian Siegel, Oli Hayhurst and Gene Calderazzo.The new site is


Michelle Obama on jazz

This is a heartening story for a winter's day from back in June.A few quotes from First Lady Michelle Obama. Hands up, yes I didn't pay it much attention when it came out.

There was a public jazz workshop in the White House in the summer, featuring Wynton and Branford Marsalis and Paquito D'Rivera.

"Jazz may be America’s greatest gift to the world.”

"My grandfather put speakers in every room of his house, turned up the stereo and listened to music all day long. At Christmas, birthdays, Easter, it didn't matter, there was jazz playing in our household."

"There's probably no better example of democracy than a jazz ensemble - individual freedom, but with responsibility to the group,"

Here are the original stories from the Washington Post and the New York Times (also photo credit Stephen Crowley.)

Sarah Brown should get on with it, and book Eddie Harvey, Richard Michael, Pete Churchill and Gary Crosby.

Before Samantha Cameron does.

(British cultural commentators please take note.)


Breaking News: Guest bassist for Kenny Wheeler's 80th Birthday Concert

The organizers of the Kenny Wheeler 80th birthday concert at the Royal Academy of Music on Thursday January 14th - the actual birthday- have confirmed to me today that Dave Holland is flying over for the concert.

Like all the other musicians appearing, Holland will be donating his services. Wow.

There are still ballcony seats available. But I'd be quick HERE



Subscribers to LondonJazz Wednesday Headlines can enter a prize draw for Ivo Neame's well-reviewed Caught in the Light of Day, with a stellar young quartet of Jim Hart, Jasper Hoiby and James Maddren. Also thanks to Edition Records There's a runners-up prize of an Edition Records desk calendar with a superb photo for each month by Tim Dickeson.

Entries and/or requests to subscribe to Wednesday Headlines by Saturday please.


My namesake's Desert Island Discs

Baron Coe KBE , Chairman of the London Organizing Commitee for the Olympic Games, and I, have more than the one (obvious) thing thing in common :-

We are both, evidently, afflicted with the same curious four-syllable christian name Sebastian, the name of the patron saint of archery targets, a name which ever so conveniently flat-packs into the one syllable Seb, ending in that particularly indelicate voiced bilabial plosive.

But if my namesake's enthusiasm for jazz is less well-known, take note that in this weekend's Desert Island Discs five out of eight of his choices jazz or songbook

Dave Brubeck — The History of a Boy Scout
George Melly — There’ll Be Some Changes Made
Frank Sinatra — Deep in a Dream
Lester Young — Lady Be Good
Louis Armstrong — West End Blues

Here's the Radio 4 website page with the full list. (Thanks FG.)


Preview: Tcha Limberger- Quecumbar Jan 19th

(Photo credit: )

London has one venue where the flame of Europe's gipsy jazz tradition burns strongly all year round. It's in Battersea and it's called the Quecumbar.

The team in SW11 are hosting an International Gipsy Swing Guitar Festival from January 17th to January 25th ,with support from Arts Council England, the French Music Bureau and others.

We drew attention in a previous post to the opening gig by Django Reinhardt's young grandson David, but there's another gig which has also caught my imagination. It's by Tcha Limberger,who will be appearing in a trio with his father and Hungarian bassist Vilmos Csikos on January 19th.

Tcha who? Multi-instrumentalist (violin/kaval flute/ guitar/ vocals) Limberger has an extraordinary background. He must be the ultimate one-man embodiment of many of the cultural and linguistic cross-currents, oppositions and contradictions of continental Europe. He has taken his birthright, his multiple cultural hinterlands, and rather than exploring them from one perspective or staying put in one place, has gone out of his way to seek out these varied and contradictory influences. I certainly needed to get out the map to appreciate his exploits.

Limberger is in his early 30's. His mother is Flemish and he and grew up in Bruges (Brugge) in the Flemish part of Belgium. But on the paternal side, there is the inheritance of a strong family gipsy music tradition. His grandfather was violinist Piotto Limberger and his father is guitarist Vivi Limberger who will also be appearing with him on January 19th.

I caught up with him on the telephone last week in the region he and his Hungarian wife and their two small children have called home for the past year and a half, the mainly Hungarian-speaking Kalotaszeg province in Romania. Home, that is, when he's not ...performing in Oudenaarde or Antwerp in Flanders with guitarist/composer Herman Schamp... or in Brussels with Roby Lakatos... or in London or Wales.... or giving masterclasses in Weimar... or accompanying Argentinian contemporary dance in Berlin...or experimenting with Kaval flutes in Bulgaria. (Now you see why a map is needed)

He told me about the musical fascinations which have gripped him. His first leanings as a small child were towards flamenco. As singer and guitarist, he was already performing publicly at the age of 8. At 13 he showed an inclination for contemporary classical music. "At seventeen I grabbed hold of the violin." Inspired by recordings by Hungarian violinist Toki Horvath, and by his own grandfather, he started performing widely. "But at 22 I knew I liked this music, but someone told me it was completely inauthentic. " Which was the cue for Limberfer to head for Budapest and to study with Bela Horvat, who taught him the technique and repertoire of the Hungarian gipsy violin.

Since then he has slotted into a multitude of musical contexts, an has previously visited the UK in 2008 with his Budapest Gypsy Orchestra. 


Peter Bacon's top 50 CDs of 2009

I'd like to hat-tip a highly impressive piece of work: the top 50 CDs of 2009 from Peter Bacon of the Birmingham Post and the jazzbreakfast blog. Here's the LINK


RIP Pete King (1929-2009)

The sad news has just broken that Ronnie Scott's club co-founder - and business manager for most of the 50 years of its existence - Pete King died yesterday. His last few years were sadly dominated by a battle with Alzheimer's. But his contribution to the development of jazz in this country is probably without equal. RIP.

Here's the Evening Standard 's piece


What sells on iTunes worldwide

To get to the iTunes charts for several countries, FOLLOW THIS LINK.

The lists are vocally and Gardot-Jones-Krall dominated, you'd expect that. And if nothing gets to the scale of Robbie Williams Swing when You're Winning album in the UK... could it be worse? Better?

But I am heartened to see Carla Bley's splendid album which has got me in such a good mood doing so well in the US.

Hat-tip for spotting this one to the ever-watchful eyes of Peter Hum of


What did you miss? LondonJazz's ten most-read pieces of the year

If lists of absolutely everything still haven't removed your will to live, or to read lists......'s a chronological list of the pieces you may have missed.
The ten most-read pieces from our first eleven months at LondonJazz.

-People have been steadily coming back to check out a profile of Hungarian singer Julianna Fabian (above) from February whom I also reviewed.

- Back in April 1st, an April Fool about Derek Nash picked up a big readership.

-May's feature on open mic nights seems to have been useful to a lot of people

-June saw Ornette Coleman's meltdown: the review here of Charlie Haden and the Bad Plus keeps getting visited.

-In July it was my hasty review of Keith Jarrett 's Standards Trio

-In August it was pianist Tom Cawley's personal selection of Canary Wharf Jazz Festival gigs

-September's most-read was my riposte to a crass remark about Radiohead turning itself into a jazz outfit (a rock journalist's shorthand for alienating the audience)

-Then in October there was the moment when the wheels on the bus of Diana Krall and her kids stopped at the Albert Hall and we reviewed

-In November there was my review of Sonny Rollins

-And finally, also from November, check out the many tributes to, and memories of the much-missed Jeff Clyne


Review: Cai Marle-Garcia

Review – Cai Marle-Garcia & Hyderabad
(Charlie Wright's, December 17th 2009, review by Rob Mallows. Photo credit: Mike Stemberg)

Cai Marle-Garcia is a 23-year-old self-taught player of the fretless bass. His mastery of the instrument, his groove-filled chops – and his his pink pyjama bottom slacks – bring to mind the late, great Jaco Pastorius. And, if you love bass-led jazz, that can only be good thing.

Marle-Garcia had assembled a crack band to launch his debut album Mr. Ears. The always innovative Kit Downes – bearded and hoodied – supplied some pulsing keys; Darren Altman on drums slotted in well with the bass and kept things moving along; James Lascelles on percussion used an arsenal of toys and drums to add rhythmic colour flashes (though, on a couple of tracks, I felt there was a little too much percussion); Tony Woods on sax blew, and blew hard, but he also knew when to bring it down a notch on tracks like Orpheus. Sagat Guirey on guitars spent quite some time knob-twiddling on his pedals board but, once he was satisfied with his mix, threw out some great high-end riffs to complement Marle-Garcia’s low end rumblings.

As an ensemble they were tight, there wasn't an ounce of musical fat on them. The band was full of groove, particularly on the latin feel of Black Beast of Bolivia, and they demonstrated that fusion has a place at the top table of contemporary jazz. They all seemed to be having a ball.

Unobtrusive at the back of the stage, and unfazed by the failed PA microphone limiting interaction with the (disappointingly small) audience, Marle-Garcia was content to let his bass do the talking.
Clearly influenced by Pastorius’ tone and approach -and dress sense!- Marle-Garcia nevertheless has carved out his own style: marvellous phrasing, dextrous runs up and down the fingerboard with pitch perfect precision. Marle-Garcia has that knack of making it sound perfectly natural for the guitar to be up front leading the melody. Definitely a name to watch out for.

Dan Nicholls ' Anglo-Danish band Hyderabad offered a challenging set of contemporary jazz . This band's excellent use of time signature changes and poly-rhythms shone on tracks like Kinski (so good they played it twice). Angular rhythms and jagged harmonies emulated the character of the notoriously unstable German actor. Sax player James Allsopp was on good form, mixing legato passages with Ornette-ish sweeps up and down the scales and hard-core blowing. Bit I thought some of the tracks went on a tad too long, and to judge by some of the audience’s propensity to chat, I may not have been alone in thinking this.

Allsopp was ably supported by keyboardist Dan Nicholls, bassist Petter Eldh and drummer Marc Lohr, who gave his frequently re-adjusted drum kit a full work-out. I have to admit that this wasn't my cup of tea at first hearing, but repeated listening might well bring more rewards.

Rob Mallows runs the London Jazz Meetup Group


JazzFM's List of Lists, dude

Jazz FM has gone to the trouble of compiling a list of no fewer than THIRTY different jazz lists and are still begging for more. CDs of the year, of the decade. Way to go.

My best list of the day comes from typing #jazzsubstandards into Twitter. Things like "How High Keith Moon."


Jazz and recordings and clubs and the noughties by John Fordham

A fascinating, thought-provoking piece about current trends in jazz, with interviews with Barak Schmool, Jason Yarde and Liam Noble in today's Guardian.

Here's the speed-read version: It's been a fascinating decade for jazz, one in which this restless art's power to surprise has been revitalised, and broadened its influence across many musics.


Review: Nigel Kennedy

Some interesting ideas start at the 606. Nigel Kennedy 's new, three-electric-violin "Chilling-est Violinists" or "Big Jam" project was conceived at the club, when Kennedy sat in at a gig by club regular, violinist Chris Garrick.

But this is Christmas, the time we are all reminded - sometimes positively, sometimes forcibly- that nests are there to be outgrown. This rebellious romp may indeed have already outgrown the parental home at birth. It seems clearly destined for bigger spaces, for summer festivals, for the outdoors.

The 606 was packed last night with jovial pre-Christmas folk in the mood for a celebration. Nigel Kennedy, who had donated his fee to Medical Aid for Palestinians, bounced onstage, presented violinists Omar Puente and Chris Garrick, ever-impeccable, ever-smiling bassist Alec Dankworth and drummer Krysztof Dziedzic to the audience. Every introduction led to an obligatory fist-bump. And finally: "My name's Nigel and I'm doing very well." Fist bump for the audience. Loud cheer.

Soloing duties were democratically shared out between three violinists, particularly in Nikki Yeoh's happy opener Dance of Two Small Bears. Garrick and Puente were heading off in interesting and different directions. Puente was exploring high sounds, quoting Bolero, being playful, Garrick seemed most content using pedal effects and reverb. But the guiding style they were tending to follow and imitate was Nigel Kennedy's. He tends to cut impatiently to the chase, and that chase is a sound derived from the Hendrix guitar wail. Repeated downward double-stopped glissandi at high volume, fast tremolandos, ear-splitting eeks. There were the occasional gentler moments, such as the opening to Kennedy's Hills of Saturn, but you didn't have to wait long for the rocket-boosters to get switched on. The audience loved it, I can imagine a standing crowd at a festival lapping it up even more. I found it overpowering.

The main meat of the second set, which I felt really asserted the loud, rebellious core vibe of the band was Kennedy's arrangement of Third Stone. 40 minutes might be fast for an orbit, but last night it seemed a bit too long. At one point Kennedy the rabble-rouser was facing back, eyeballing drummer Krysztof Dziedzic, as if egging him onwards to play out even louder.

But I did enjoy Omar Puente's Just Like "U" which kicked off the second half. It started with some rim-shots from Dziedzic, a jaunty bass line from Alec Dankworth, a sassy montuno from Nikky Yeoh, and then all three violinists trilling, a wash of sound. The composition then found its way to a theme resembling Average White Band's Pick Up The Pieces, which then morphed into a low-down double-time slow blues. Nikki Yeoh capped off her solo, laughing her head off, with who-cares palm clusters. There are musicians who just can't help themselves from having fun, and Yeoh is one.

An interesting first outing.


Japanese Bebop Opera

This link to a Japanese bebop opera was sent in by A.W. Pure, if strange enjoyment...Comments or illumination please?!


In the US jazz is a "national treasure"

The following resolution was passed unanimously yesterday in the US House of Representatives:

House Resolution 894 would resolve that the House of Representatives:

• "Honors the 50th anniversary of "Kind of Blue" and recognizes the unique contribution the album has made to American jazz;
• "Directs the Clerk of the House of Representatives to transmit enrolled copies of this resolution to Columbia Records;
• "Encourages the United States Government to take all appropriate steps to preserve and advance the art form of jazz music;
• "Recommits itself to ensuring that musical artists such as Miles Davis and his Sextet receive fair protection under the copyright laws of the United States for their contributions to culture in the United States; and
• "Reaffirms the status of jazz as a national treasure."

Here's the original source

Votes for: 409 Votes against: 0

Maybe John Prescott, Michael Connarty, Tony Colwyn and Ken Clarke could do something similar for Ronnie Scott's.


Looping the Loop (Feb 17th to 21st)

The Loop Collective announce a second, five-day festival at the Vortex from Weds 17th to Sunday 21st February. Triple or quadruple bills every night, including appearances from related collectives and friends.

I particularly fancy Sunday with Matthew Bourne solo, Outhouse and the Ivo Neame Quartet

Tickets: Wed, Thu & Fri £10, Fri-Sat £12
3 day pass £25, 5 day pass £40.


Review: Mary Halvorson

Review: Mary Halvorson Trio
(Vortex, December 14th 2009; Video by Shuffleboil)

New York. It's good to be reminded of the energy and the vitality of the city which never sleeps. A place where the polite English phrase "Please may I have..." translates into "Gimme...." That occasional refuel of New York caffeine is some combination of an imperative, a duty and a pleasure. And if one can get it here in London, without needing to venture forth with our sadly depreciated British pounds, so much the better.

The team who run the Vortex understand the need to get that fix, and they do their utmost to fulfil it by putting on the New York musicians from the downtown scene who are getting talked about. Brooklyn guitarist Mary Halvorson tours Europe regularly, but this was her only UK appearance this year. Sufficiently remarkable, indeed, to lure the outside broadcast team and the van from Radio 3. Jazz on 3 will broadcast the gig on January 28th.

Mary Halvorson 's trio with John Hebert on bass and Ches Smith on drums is a regular working band , currently doing a seven-date European tour. Halvorson herself has played on several of Antony Braxton 's projects, and in other settings: in a duo with violist Jessica Pavone, and in an alt-rock duo with Kevin Shea.

The clip above is typical. You often get the stating of an insistent pulse, the setting up of a groove, which doesn't so much get developed, as collided into, interrupted, and then re-asserted and revisited. None of the tunes was announced - I assumed they were all by Halvorson herself- they set up differing moods, and are allowed to speak for themselves.

In the first tune the dominating voice was the upright bass of John Hebert, (pronounced ebb-bear). A sustained, unbroken legato line based on a repeated riff was allowed to grow in volume until it got angry, then got pounced on and thumped hard by all three players, and then re-emerged quietly again from the carnage. Halvorson, directing proceedings was mostly in a subsidiary comping, commenting role here.

But even when she's leading, she doesn't overwhelm with fast licks. More likely she'll interject an insistent pulsed semitone clash, or a repeated melodic or scalar fragment. But there is always an underlying sense of control and of the structure.

Structure is a word to use with care with this music. While each number is written out, and all three players are often to be found referring to the written page, the structures are not designed to give the listener any comfort or predictability. Maybe even quite the opposite. There are false signals, blind alleys. And as for the endings, they are precise, deliberate, and clearly pre-determined; but at the same time they manage to be curious-oddball, tricky, and above all, impossible to second-guess. Sometimes silence and repose seemed to come precisely when you least expect them.

Ches Smith is a drummer with big physical presence. At one point Smith's hand was not deemed sufficient to get the tension he wanted on a side drum skin: a long leg with very large baseball boot on the end of it got lifted into service.

The effect of size and power which Smith exudes is compounded by the fact that Halvorson herself is so tiny, about five foot tall. She is a strong musician who dominates from the corner. She's calling the shots, but with undemonstrative, unshowy playing, and virtually no looping or effects.

This was an intense gig, it's music which demanded full attention and absolute silence. The Vortex has done well to cultivate an audience which responds to music of this seriousness. Not a comfortable or comforting evening, but a fascinating and worthwhile snapshot of a defiant, confident, edgy genre-crossing strand of contemporary music.


Prize draw for "The best British jazz record for 20 years"

Readers of LondonJazz Wednesday Headlines this week can put their names into the hat for a CD which has been described by Brian Morton in Jazz Journal thus:

"This is the best British jazz record for 20 years."

Courtesy of Babel Records, we are offering a lucky reader a copy of Big Air's CD.

The Babel website also has John Fordham's 5 Star review from the Guardian. Big Air are: Steve Buckley, Chris Batchelor, Oren Marshall, Jim Black and Myra Melford (above).


National Youth Jazz Collective

The National Youth Jazz Collective has a new website (copyright 2010!) which has gone live over the weekend.

The new site has a listing of all the projects coming up in 2010Q1,in Devon, Cornwall, Huddersfield, Rotherham and Norfolk, plus CPD for teachers in Cambridge. There is a very impressive range of tutors. Jazz has an amazing capacity to renew people's lives: Steve Waterman (above) even gets a new christian name (whoops, we all make mistakes...)

There are also details of the auditioning process and of the Bursary Scheme for the Summer School.

I should declare an indirect interest, as a trustee of the Foundation for Young Musicians,which NYJC describes as its parent.

Here's the new NYJC website. Congratulations to Issie Barrett and the team.


Thoughtful Kit Downes

Kit Downes writes about the bands he plays in and has played in and the audiences they attracted; with considerable candour about some negatives from his time in Empirical; and - mostly - about jazz and making music generally as a process rather than as a product.

Thoughtful stuff. The complete article is HERE.


Something very seasonal

A Glasgow advent calendar.


Alyn Shipton may have been born in 1400

Here's the first assertion in an interesting profile of Alyn Shipton from the Oxford Times : "Alyn Shipton is a renaissance man. This does not mean that he was born in 1400."

Hm. Can we prove that? How does he know so much then? Surely more than one lifetime was required to gather this knowledge. Or just enjoy the article....


Review: Hugh Masekela

Review: Hugh Masekela, London Symphony Orchestra, LSO Community Chorus, cond. François-Xavier Roth
(Barbican, December 10th 2009)

Hugh Masekela is a musician with a real soul. He has a genuine warm, charismatic, and simple way of building special relationships, both with his fellow musicians and with an audience.

Last night, in a sold-out Barbican Hall, the 70-year old Masekela was very much on home ground. A recurrent theme in this concert, reprising and developing from a similar event in November 2007, was the special relationship between the homeland of South Africa and "London" - playfully, repeatedly pronounced by Masekela with estuary vowels. Masekela paid tribute, for example, to one famous beacon of hope : the permanent 24/365 vigil maintained for many years outside South Africa House in Trafalgar Square.

All those links felt very immediate last night. Not only was Masekela surrounded on stage by London-based exiles, there were also large sections of the audience from London's massive community of South Africans. The kind of people who, one could feel, all have their own story, their own memories the apartheid years, of Sharpeville perhaps, of daily earth tremors in Johannesburg. Unlike a phony singer who recently, embarrasingly flunked it at the Stade de France, these were people who know the words to Nkosi Sikelele Africa off by heart -and needed no encouragement at all to get up on their feet and to sing it.

This was a concert with authentic and emotional moments aplenty. Nomathemba was deliciously brought to life by veteran bass clarinettist John Stenhouse of the LSO. Then the LSO Community Chorus started to dig into that infectious South African groove, where the and-of-four is always hit far, far harder than the first beat. Stimela, with Masekela falsetto-shrieking the sound of a train whistle, was electrifying and unforgettable. Masekela's brief duet with LSO tuba player Patrick Harrild in Grazing was another moment of pure joy.

Other parts felt slightly over-produced, as if multiple agendas were going on. I wasn't sure exactly why the evening needed two dry ice machines. There was busy, detailed orchestral writing which got buried - the double bass section seemed to be doing regular inaudible gym routines.

Each half began with a brief, interesting, and newly commissioned composition, dropped into the menu with the compliments of the LSO like an appetiser or zakouski. Jason Yarde 's Rude Awakening began with a gentle, pastoral Aubade, which then shifted through Messiaen's soundscapes to a cycled groove and a sudden ending. Yarde was also responsible for some very effective arrangements throughout the evening, and appeared in the second half as an inventive alto saxophone soloist. Andrew McCormack 's Incentive reminded me of Stravinsky's Agon, building tension with cross-rhythms. François-Xavier Roth conducted throughout with both precision and balletic grace. The LSO Community Chorus, in their second outing of this music, and strengthened by South Africans, were delightful.

But above all it was an evening for memory and for emotion. The morphing of Masekela from Jazz Epistle, to fronting pile-driving US fusion bands, to the statesman who now fronts a symphony orchestra, is one of the great musical journeys of our time.


Vortex : "It certainly puts the club at risk."

Vortex board member Oliver Weindling has gone public on his Towerofjazz blog on a sudden cost increase now facing the small club, putting on music seven nights a week, with a capacity of just 90 people. A five star review in the Financial Times today...but no easy solution to a problem like this.

"Any thoughts?" he asks.

(Photo above, Omar Puente at the Vortex by Helena Dornellas)

Weindling writes as follows:

PRS has confirmed to the Vortex that its PRS payment has gone up, from the summer this year, from £8 a night to £32 a night (a quadrupling!) This, I understand, is the standard rate for all small venues.

We find this a shocking increase to us as a club which already operates on a knife-edge. On many nights the club itself, after payments to the band, hardly has enough to cover core costs, let alone an increased PRS payment. To cover it, we would require, on average, an increase in audiences by over 10%, if the full increase were to be met from the club's share of door income.

So it certainly puts the club at risk, by now having to pay an additional £8000 a year, if we are going to be able to stay as a 7 night a week jazz venue, which is unfunded.

They have listened, but have been unwilling to react, to our plea about helping new composers and PRS members. They have put us in the same boat as any small venue. Even fully improvised music is subject to the same conditions.

The complaint is that a) the increase represents a quadrupling; and b) it is backdated.

Any thoughts?


The Jazz Police- literally

A disgruntled punter at a festival at Sigüenza in Spain managed to get the Guardia Civil called in. He didn't like the music and got them to investigate his claim that the free jazz he was listening to, played by a group led by American saxophonist Larry Ochs (above) was "contemporary music" and not actually jazz.

He is claiming that a doctor has prescribed that contemporary music might be "psychologically inadvisable" for him, and is pursuing a case for a refund of his ticket price. The Guardia Civil came to the conclusion (!) that the music of Larry Ochs may indeed not be jazz and that he does have a case worthy of being put before a judge.

Here's today's Guardian story including an interview with the festival director.

Here's the original story en espanol from El Pais.

I'm just curious:do the Guardia Civil still wear these funny hats?


A seat at the Village Vanguard tonight?

I make no guarantees on this one, but equally make no apologies for any unintended consequences from reading this post. Caveat insomniacus lector.

According to the blog of ever-sharp-eyed Peter Hum from Ottawa, WBGO and NPR will be webstreaming Dave Douglas's gig from the Village Vanguard from 9pm local time tonight. Yup, that's 2am for us GMT-ites.

Interested? Here is NPR's story. The article refers to Wednesday N o v e m b e r 9th....(uh?) which is making me wonder.


Review: Craig Taborn Trio

Review: Craig Taborn Trio
(The Vortex, December 7th 2009, Review by Peter Horsfall)

'Word had got out early about pianist Craig Taborn 's visit, judging by both the quantity of reserved tables and lack of standing room at the Vortex on Monday night.' Appearing regularly with an array of artists including saxophonist Tim Berne and Detriot's electronic music pioneer Carl Craig, the breadth of Taborn's musical background was evident as he led his own trio though a diverse selection of original material.

Featuring bassist Thomas Morgan (already a veteran of both Steve Coleman and Dave Binney's groups at the age of 28) and drummer Gerald Cleaver, the trio wove together a musical landscape which contrasted repetitive ostinato-based grooves with sections of free improvisation.

The fact that thirty minutes of continuous music had passed before the trio made even a (fleeting) reference to the kind of instrumental roles we often associate with a traditional piano trio highlights the pluralism of styles and approaches to the music which Taborn has adopted. The 'free' sections of the music especially proved fertile ground for the pianist to demonstrate a variety of influences in his own playing, from the blues through to the extended harmony of contemporary classical works.

In contrast, the leader's groove-based compositions are suggestive of the rhythmic complexity and hypnotic quality of Steve Coleman's music. However, the similarity ended here as the trio went about the deconstruction of these grooves, arriving at varying degrees of abstraction.

Gerald Cleaver's playing was a model of this approach, juxtaposing sections of pushy groove playing with extended textural explorations (employing his own idiosyncratic drum-kit setup). It is testament to the ingenuity of the trio that they are able to marry these seemingly disparate parts together, maintaining a high energy throughout the performance.

Well received by the musician-heavy audience, Taborn has managed to develop a trio which adopts a multiplicity of improvisatory approaches without losing a sense of its own distinct character.

The gig will broadcast early next year on BBC Jazz On 3.

Photo credit: Eddy Westveer


CD Review: No Messin' , Gareth Lockrane

CD Review. Gareth Lockrane
No Messin' (Gailforce) - Review by Frank Griffith

No Messin is putting it mildly.

This outstanding British septet (with the exception of Canadian tenorist, Steve Kaldestad) launches into a batch of eight originals expertly arranged by leader and flautist, Gareth Lockrane with considerable aplomb. Juggling an arsenal of three different flutes spanning the middle, alto and bass tessituras, Lockrane enchants the listener with his fluid melodic improvisations coupled with his wondrous mix of orchestrational and compositional talents.

The velvety flugelhorn of "Dog Soup's" Robbie Robson scores widely with his pensive but gripping melodicisms. Trombonist Trevor Mires anchors the lower mediums of the ensemble work, as well as contributing fine solos with just the right balance of angularity and lyricism. Vancouver BC- based tenor saxophonist Steve Kaldestad is up to his usual seamless yet serpentine-like improvisations showcasing a most centred and rich tone. The steady rhythm team of Robin Aspland , piano, Matt Miles, bass and Matt Home on drums provide sterling support throughout, goading soloists at every turn with incisive verve .

We'll Never Meet Again is my personal favourite of the disc. This boasts a haunting but heartfelt and lyrical melody. The leader's alto flute gingerly lopes above the subtle counterlines by various three horn combinations exploring a lower and more introspective mood with moving chromaticisms.

A fabulous collection, this, by a truly great lineup that could hold their own in any land.

No Messin' is available from

Gareth Lockrane's next appearance as leader will be with the Big Band at the Rayners Hotel on Sunday January 10th.

Frank Griffith's nonet will be at the Green Man on Wednesday January 27th.


Tomorrow's offer for newsletter recipients

LondonJazz will have a DVD of Art Blakey to give away to one lucky LondonJazz Wednesday headlines reader, courtesy of Jazz Icons. Instructions on how to put your name into the hat will be in tomorrow's newsletter (December 9th) . If you don't subscribe yet, now's the time.


Getting into the Christmas spirit with Carla Bley

I normally take a LOT of persuasion to get me into the Christmas spirit, but this CD has already done it. The surprising ingredients, i.e. carols, Bley, Swallow, and a brass quintet, are as described on the tin.

Let me explain. The compositions are constantly playful re-workings of Christmas carols by the composer-pianist Carla Bley, plus a couple of originals.

As part of the Carla Bley package comes that ineffably gentle giant of the electric bass Steve Swallow (sample his perfectly placed nonchalant fast-walking/running crotchets on Hell's Bells.) Ed Partyka is a bass trombone and tuba player from Berlin who knows and books quite exceptional brass players, all of whom have cast-iron brass chops -wonderful sound, outrageously clean ensemble and intonation - plus very flexible jazz chops.

The project started in Essen in Germany's Ruhrgebiet, of all places. The Philharmonie there was being run by an adventurous director called Michael Kaufmann, whose new gig is the annual Kurt Weill celebrations in Dessau. After a first appearance in Essen in 2006, the project was revived for a tour in 2008, and the personnel all ended up in a relaxed studio setting to record it in a village the Vaucluse. A couple of tracks at the end were recorded live in Berlin.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen has the gentlemen relaxing in 5/4. Jingle bells with brass reggae backings done with superhuman accuracy. O holy night with Swallow declaiming the melody high up on the bass. Nice.

Carla's Christmas Carols is on WATT distributed by ECM, with number 2712413.


Bulls Head, Weds16th

Nice gig at the Bull on Wednesday 16th, featuring South African born harmonica player Adam Glasser with Jim Mullen on guitar, Geoff Gascoyne on bass and Clark Tracey drums. Some South African tunes, some jazz, some very civilized dialogue.


Celebrating Ian Carr - 23rd Feb

There will be a celebration of Ian Carr 's life and music on Tuesday Feb 23rd in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, also fundraising for Alzheimer's charities.

It's not yet on the South Bank's schedule yet. On the bill are the four surviving members of the Rendell-Carr Band, a revived Nucleus, plus Guy Barker performing "Northumbrian Sketches" with a 17 piece string orchestra.

A hat-tip for Lance Liddle's bebop spoken here blog which broke the news. Serious inform me that South Bank Centre members will be able to book from this Friday, and the general public like you n me on Saturday. More details later in the week.


Cai Marle-Garcia aka Mr EARS

A few people have been on to me in the past few days about a gig on Dec 17th by self-taught 23-year old fretless bass player Cai Marle-Garcia, who is launching the CD Mr Ears at Charlie Wright's.

Pianist Kit Downes, saxophonist Tony Woods, the impeccable Darren Atman on drums, and a guitarist I'm also being badgered to get out and hear, Sagat Guirey (also on the nice clip above) are in the band. No slouches there.

Fellow blogger Ian Mann of THE JAZZ MANN has listened to the album.....

Sounds like an interesting gig! Support band Hyderabad with saxophonist James Allsopp are on from 8pm


Happy 89th Birthday Dave Brubeck

Eighty-nine today. Born in Concord (where else, you might ask ?!) , California.


UPDATE: on the day of his 89th birthday, Brubeck was honoured along with Mel Brooks, Bruce Springsteen, Robert De Niro and Grace Bumbry at the 32nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors. Here's the CNN coverage, with an affectionate tribute from Herbie Hancock. And here's JazzTimes' full account of the tribute to Brubeck


Review: Jerry Bergonzi

Review: Jerry Bergonzi
(Vortex, December 4th 2009)

In Boston student circles, tenor saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi is known as "The Gonz." Old habits die hard, so one former Berklee student told me last night at the Vortex. Even after many years, when you hear that the Gonz is in town, you dust yourself down, you get yourself out, you go listen.

Bergonzi's Boston teaching post is not at Berklee, but a few blocks further down Huntington Avenue, at the New England Conservatory. Bergonzi is revered as educator, but there's also a slight air of mystique, a distance from the fray about him. His official website biography is peppered with words like command" and "integrity." And his full, seven-part series "Inside Improvisation," which will set you back over £200, is strictly for the very determined indeed.

And as a a player? He has a big, full, individual sound, and a ferocious technique, with access to a full-toned altissimo register and multiphonics, all under super-human control. Both the Coltrane/ Brecker and the Sonny Rollins legacies have been thoroughly internalized. The physical playing stance on tenor is a very straight posture, eyes either closed or staring into the middle distance. He also found himself regularly comping over bass solos at the piano, pursuing both floaty modal stuff and voice-led changes with equal seriousness of purpose.

Bergonzi is a natural for the Vortex, and he drew a near-capacity crowd with a lot of devotees, aficionados, students, and quite a few awesome saxophonists gathered in reverent awe at the back.

Last night was the final gig in a long European tour with Bergonzi's regular trio, bassist Dave Santoro and Parisian Italian Andrea Michelutti on drums. The free improvisational language at the beginning was complex, but also fleeting, evanescent, hard to get hold of. I found greater simplicity and with it more eloquence for the first time in the fade-outro to the first number La Cucarach. And the ideas started to build and to connect more into paragraphs in the third number Splurge. Tadd Dameron's Soul Trane was a hushed delight. I also enjoyed Michelutti's solo soft-mallet soundscape opening to Stoffy, and, later in the same number, the sophisticated interplay of complex melodic ideas between Bergonzi and Santoro.

A gig like this is a feather in the cap for the Vortex, whose consistently adventurous core programming run on a shoe-string should by now have delivered them Arts Council regularly funded status. They also have Craig Taborn on Monday.

There may be post-festival fatigue around, but the idea that there is, as some Twitterers have been putting around, any kind of "hole" in London's jazz life after the London Jazz Festival can be dealt with swiftly thus: it's absolutely wrong.


Free Membership of Ronnie Scott's

Jazzwise is running a competition, and has three free Ronnie Scott's memberships to give away. Closing date is Jan 31st.DETAILS ARE HERE


Review: Yamaha Jazz Scholars

Review: Yamaha Jazz Scholars
(606 club, November 29th, review by Chelsea Mystery Shopper)

Up pops that Mulberry bag. Our irrepressible mystery Chelsea shopper has been down to the 606 in search of the unfamiliar: the Yamaha jazz scholars evening

There's been criticism of reviewers only writing about the things they think are great. So I decided I'd go to the Yamaha Jazz Scholars at the 606 club on Monday. I didn't know any of the bands. It just seemed a good idea to get out and hear some of these young music college students.

Most of the bands were trios - with occasional extra people, with an emphasis on drums. The bands were certainly various. I only really liked one of them.

There were two trumpet players and two saxophones during the evening but mostly, piano or bass and string bass and drums. With five bands to get through, no one had a lot to do - and the old fashioned thought of a 3/4 minute song came to mind more than once! All the bands played well - there was a hard time for for a rather sweet/bluesy trumpet player in Mark Perry's Quintet who had a drummer much too much in evidence, making a sort of "Rushing out to sea" noise.

The Kit Downes band gave a really professional finish to their set, but the one that I really liked was the Alex Munk Trio who had a good idea of dynamics, rather than going at eveything as though it was the last go round. I shall look out for them again.

The 606 was full at the start of the evening but I imagine lots of the people were fans of particular bands as it gradually cleared - so when the Alex Munk came on it was the really the aficianados who got the best of the evening!

You can hear these bands again as there is a covermount CD with December Jazzwise - but with other things on it too, I'd have keep on counting the tracks. Hm. Not sure about that.

Here's more background to the 2009 Yamaha Jazz Scholars


2010 Grammy Nominations

Just when you thoght there were enough best-of lists around, up come the 2010 Grammy Nominations.

On a first inspection no Brits apart from John McLaughlin (any more?) but the French do make a few showings: not least veteran pianist Martial Solal , who was out making new fans in his 80's at Kings Place.

Also up there is John Patitucci's trio CD Remembrance, which Dylan Howe was ecstatic about here in September.

Outside jazz, out there in the Urban/Alternative Performance category is a nomination for Robert Glasper, whom Peter Horsfall reviewed at the London Jazz Festival.

Scroll down for a copy/paste of the full list, six categories, heads down:

Best Contemporary Jazz Album

Stefon Harris & Blackout
[Concord Jazz]

•Sounding Point
Julian Lage

•At World's Edge
Philippe Saisse
[E1 Music]

•Big Neighborhood
Mike Stern
[Heads Up International]

Joe Zawinul & The Zawinul Syndicate
[Heads Up International]


Best Jazz Vocal Album

•No Regrets
Randy Crawford (& Joe Sample)
[PRA Records]

•Dedicated To You: Kurt Elling Sings The Music Of Coltrane And Hartman
Kurt Elling
[Concord Jazz]

•So In Love
Roberta Gambarini
[Groovin' High/Emarcy]

Luciana Souza

Tierney Sutton (Band)
[Telarc Jazz]

Best Improvised Jazz Solo

•Dancin' 4 Chicken
Terence Blanchard, soloist
Track from: Watts (Jeff "Tain" Watts)
[Dark Key Music]

•All Of You
Gerald Clayton, soloist
Track from: Two-Shade

•Ms. Garvey, Ms. Garvey
Roy Hargrove, soloist
Track from: Emergence
[Groovin' High/Emarcy]

•On Green Dolphin Street
Martial Solal, soloist
Track from: Live At The Village Vanguard

•Villa Palmeras
Miguel Zenón, soloist
Track from: Esta Plena
[Marsalis Music]


Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group

•Quartet Live
Gary Burton, Pat Metheny, Steve Swallow & Antonio Sanchez
[Concord Jazz]

•Brother To Brother
Clayton Brothers

•Five Peace Band — Live
Chick Corea & John McLaughlin Five Peace Band
[Concord Records]

John Patitucci Trio
[Concord Jazz]

•The Bright Mississippi
Allen Toussaint

Category 48

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

Bob Florence Limited Edition
[MAMA Records]

•Eternal Interlude
John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble

•Fun Time
Sammy Nestico And The SWR Big Band
[Hänssler Classic]

•Book One
New Orleans Jazz Orchestra
[World Village]

•Lab 2009
University Of North Texas One O'Clock Lab Band
[North Texas Jazz]

Best Latin Jazz Album

•Things I Wanted To Do
Chembo Corniel
[Chemboro Records]

Geoffrey Keezer

•Brazilliance X 4
Claudio Roditi
[Resonance Records]

•Juntos Para Siempre
Bebo Valdés And Chucho Valdés
[Sony Music/Calle 54]

•Esta Plena
Miguel Zenón
[Marsalis Music]

The full list from the original souce is here


In Praise of Ronnie Scott's at 50- Guardian

Here is today's Guardian third editorial

The self-deprecating one-liners about the size of the audience or the quality of the food have gone (its eponymous co-founder once said that 3,000 flies can't be wrong); it is also more commercially managed these days, but Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club at 50 is still a venue that Scott, had he been alive today, would embrace.

It is still the spiritual home of British jazz. It is not for us to say whether Ronnie's is better than other great venues such as Birdland, the Village Vanguard or the Blue Note. But it does have a unique character: audiences get up close enough up to the players to see their humanity, as Scott once said, to see when they let you down and when they shine. This was a club run by musicians for musicians, although Scott never thought he was good enough on tenor saxophone to play alongside one of his early guests, Sonny Rollins.

Like jazz, the club has been through its ups and downs: after its heyday in the 60s, it struggled later, and almost went under in the 80s. There was Scott's own untimely death and the club's sale to Sally Greene, the owner of the Old Vic. The club lost its way into soul, pop and cabaret. But Ronnie's has never been about the past, although it has a glorious one. Virtually every jazz star except Miles Davis has performed live there. It has always searched restlessly for future jazz forms, and no one can accuse this year's cutting-edge contemporary jazz programming, played to enthusiastic audiences, of being an artistic sellout.

Ronnie Scott's spirit lives on each night in Soho.


Congratulations Jason Yarde

The first ever winner of the British Academy of Songwriters and Composers Jazz Award for Contemporary Jazz Composition is......... Jason Yarde. First with the story was Jazzwise. Follow this link for more details.

Timing, you might say. The London Symphony Orchestra/ Hugh Masekela concert next Thursday at the Barbican will feature two of his compositions. Sold out, returns only.


Brad Mehldau's Wigmore solo piano concert

There are only very few seats left for Brad Mehldau's solo piano recital at the Wigmore Hall on June 4th 2010


Upstairs at Ronnie's

The range of things on offer at the upstairs bar in Ronnie's gets wider. Indeed, Ronnie's Bar now has its own WEBSITE

Here, courtesy of BBC Inside Out is a short film about tapdancing sessions featuring Will Gaines and Junior Laniyan. Until someone tells me differently I will credit the script to the BBC's Department of Stating the Bleeding Obvious - as in:

"London's a fantastic city..."


Ascot in Winter

The words "Ascot" and "winter" remind me, unavoidably of one of these. Those useless water heaters, more often on the blink than working. Brrrrr.

(Does anyone else remember these horrors?)

But that's, obviously, not the point. I'm thinking of the Sunday lunch jazz at Jagz in Ascot, right by the station. I feel warmer already. Under the watchful eye of talkative Jagz founder John Gripton, I notice some VERY nice programming for two Sundays, featuring two great singers and dream rhythm sections. It's £16 all in including a very good traditional lunch. Take the rellies. Walk the meal off in Windsor Great Park....

Enter two of the most musical singers working in jazz, and instantly likeable people:

On Dec 13th it's Trudy Kerr, with Tom Cawley, Geoff Gascoyne and Clark Tracey.

On Dec 20th it's Jacqui Hicks with John Critchinson, Dave Green and Dave Barry.

Sharing the front line duties for both is that consummately professional trumpeter (that joke wore thin years ago, sorry) Martin Shaw

Take your pick. Trudy's from Brisbane, Jacqui's from South Yorkshire. I can't decide, go to both!