Review: Big Band Metheny.
(The Bulls Head , September 27th 2009, Review by Luke Pinkstone)
You really don't want to be sitting inside on a beautiful sunny day unless you have very good reason. But, thankfully, I had a great reason: Big Band Metheny. And I had a good setting too: the welcoming, homely, well-lit, good value Yamaha Music Room at the Bull's Head in Barnes.
Big Band Metheny overflowed the low stage at The Bulls Head, filling the intimate venue with a warm, balanced sound, and not quite outnumbering the summer's day audience. The atmosphere was that of an open rehearsal, with band members swapping music, joking among themselves and clearly enjoying the performance. This relaxed feeling proved contagious.
As the name suggests, the 16-piece band is based around the music of jazz guitarist, Pat Metheny, and plays an impressive repertoire that spans most of Metheny’s career. Led by Simon Gilby on alto saxophone, this refreshingly energetic band made a fantastic sound. Slick saxophones, punchy trombones, screaming trumpets and specially catered arrangements all combined to showcase the bands’ skill and versatility.
Are We There Yet? saw the band at it’s best, with drummer Nigel Appleton supplying solid foundations with a-go-go bells and tribal sounding drums. Disjunct stabs and opposing sectional phrases gave way to a blistering solo from Nick Wilkinson before the reprise of the tune.
Even in more challenging charts such as 5-5-7, Big Band Metheny navigated this complex music with style. When in full unison, the band showed its full might but always ensured that phrasing was unanimous, and leant back on the rhythm section's metronomic grooves.
The ballad Always and Forever gave a somewhat overdue contrast to the torrent of hard and fast big band arrangements. Matt Winch took the melody on flugel horn followed by a beautiful solo that soared high above the harmonic swells and cymbal rolls.
The band finished with Song For Bilbao from Pat Metheny Groups’ 1983 album, Travels. It was a fitting end to an enjoyable performance, using typical big band styles while still doing justice to Metheny’s music.
With another performance at The Bulls Head on 25th October, Big Band Metheny is definitely worth a listen.
Festival curator Mark Holub of Led Bib clearly has eclectic tastes. All in all I heard five very different groups, which showcased the wide variety and the rude health of jazz in Britain just now.
I arrived just in time for the second band of the day, Orphy Robinson’s quartet. Robinson was playing marimba. He created a set of powerful jazz improvisation with a funk-rock edge. And in the process he created a lot of excitement too. Playing a continuous set without pausing between sections, drummer Steve Noble and bassist Camelle Hinds pushed the band along energetically, working quite a groove behind Robinson and altoist Ntshuks Bonga ’s solos. This was fusion of a kind, but behind the drive it was subtle, engaging music.
(Looking at Orphy’s blog after the gig, I was taken by his touching reflections on Hugh Hopper’s funeral.)
Next up was a very different ensemble, reedsman Chris Biscoe and cellist Ben Davis. The cello is rarely seen as a jazz instrument, but the combination of Biscoe’s alto clarinet and soprano sax and Davis’ cello improvisations worked very well – perhaps there is something in the timbre of the instruments that fit together. They played a mixture of original tunes and standards – lovely versions of Ornette Coleman’s Peace and Thelonious Monk’s Monk’s Mood – and original numbers. It was a real change in pace from the earlier set, just the sounds for a weekend afternoon in the sun!
Billy Jenkins Blues Collective (two links there, the second to the Sadtimes site...) took the early set on Sunday. This was sad, sad delta blues music: straight from the Thames delta! Billy sang “I’m a man… from Lewisham!” His blues credentials are riveted through with an anarchic brand of humour, and his band are very tight, too: their blues-shuffle-boogie would’ve blown away any Sunday hangover cobwebs. Jenkins was having laughs at the expense of the audience, children, the music, and in particular his band – sabotaging their solos and frequently pointing out the uncanny resemblance of rhythm guitarist Rick Bolton to Homer Simpson. He had the crowd laughing and clapping along. And wanting more of the same when the set was over.
Next came a real change of pace, with the trio of Stan Sulzmann on tenor, John Parricelli on guitar and Kenny Wheeler on flugelhorn, going under the name Ordesa, the title of one of Parricelli's tunes. This was a lovely, measured set – Wheeler's playing was honeyed and mellow, and the tunes suited a lazy Sunday afternoon. NB Wheeler has a couple of dates coming up at the Vortex on 12 and 13October.
There was another change of gear for the final set, a cross between avant jazzers Polar Bear and Led Bib featuring Jan Kopinski from jazz punks Pinski Zoo on tenor. I've heard tracks by both bands but hadn't seen them live before, and I had reckoned they wouldn't really my bag; this set made me think again. The line up of two drummers and two bass players – one acoustic, one electric – with saxophone whipped up a maelstrom of sound. Kopinski and the electric bass freely used feedback to add to the sounds available, and the two drummers were bouncing ideas off each other. It was a fascinating set of exciting modern free jazz. Gripping stuff!
Follow this link to Spitalfields’ Summer Stew Jazz Festival
I do like this job!
Here's a reader's request by email:
Harry to Sebastian Scotney:
Please . Where can I take a family to listen to some good jazz and have something to eat on a Sunday in London at lunch time?
Here's my reply, I could think of FOUR:
Sebastian Scotney to Harry
It depends where you are in town. And on , er , budget.
*The 606 in Lots Road?
*There are Thai and Italian restaurants in the same building as the
music room of the Bull's head in Barnes
*Check out the Royal Albert Hall Cafe Consort
*The St Pancras Grand - it's expensive if you go a la carte. Here's my review
I have that nagging sense I've missed LOADS. Help me out?
Drummer Shane Forbes won the Worshipful Company of Musicians' annual young jazz musician competition very convincingly last night.
There was a very strong field of finalists (Henry Armburg Jennings, trumpet, George Crowley and Alam Nathoo, tenor saxophones, Pete Edwards piano, Percy Pursglove bass), plus the evening was full of incident.
A review is up on my Telegraph blog
"Wow!" was LondonJazz's Mystery Chelsea Shopper's verdict on the Gareth Lockrane Big Band at the 606 (September 27th 2009, lunchtime, 606 Club)
Your mystery shopper had a great time - the band was on excellent form despite having several deps - or properly changes of personel! Am not sure just how any big band in this day and age can hope to keep the same 18 people together all the time. Anyway they were great.
Lockrane is an excellent leader as well as flute player - and piccolo on the last number. I imagine he does all the arranging and this is fluid enough to give everyone a chance to show off a bit - a great guitar player Mike Outram, and Julian Siegel rather than Alex Garnett on one of the tenors.
The rhythm section including Kate Williams was terrific - a feat when backing such a big agglomeration - there was a twenty minute medley at the start of the second set and they did a great job of changing the pace between numbers. Gareth dashed in and out to bring things to crescendos, to encourage the brass section, and to finally wind it up when all had been said!
There were several really interesting numbers including We'll Never Meet Again and Mel's Spells where Gareth played his piccolo to good effect and I look forward to the next time I can hear them and hope that the whole enterprise meets with the support it deserves - A Big Band surviving in London ! Wow.
"It seems like the only reason jazz is referenced in contemporary popular culture is to mock the music and its fans."
More on the above subject from the Twentydollars blog
My second post as Telegraph jazz blogger went up today.
As ever, I stand to be corrected, but follow this link to what may be the first guide anywhere (?) to the UK's jazz blogs.
And a big thank you to the fellow bloggers who gave me their time today.
All you'll ever need to know about Keith Jarrett, marriage break-up and non-dairy cream from Jarrett's interview with John Bungey of The Times .
But also the positive effects of an emotional crisis :
“[...] I find myself thrown into my work in a new way due to the personal things that have happened ... The emotional crisis set up some new connections in the music. Sometimes when emotions are on the surface you suddenly discover a palette that you were not using and need to get out into the air[..... ]Almost everything I did since about a year ago has been of a higher level in terms of something new than I expected."
UPDATE: Required reading for musicians. Courtesy of the ever-sharp eyes of Peter Hum from Ottawa, here's Ethan Iverson's interview with Keith Jarrett
UPDATE 2: here's Kevin Le Gendre 's interview from the Independent of Nov 26th. Is Oxford , NJ really that nice?.
All sorts of interesting things to explore in a playlist from The Wire
Tracks from Michael Garrick, Don Rendell/Ian Carr, Alan Skidmore, Graham Collier, John Surman, Nucleus, Harry Beckett, Keith Tippett. Enjoy
From today I have a new jazz blog at the Telegraph. This is the link
The first- and so far only - post at the Telegraph blog is a profile of pianist Kit Downes.
It's a timely piece: the first album in his own name has just been launched. His trio's 14-date nationwide tour kicks off in Leeds this weekend, and ends at the London Jazz Festival.
But what about LondonJazz? LondonJazz has recently been developing its own
momentum, thanks to you, its readers, and also the numerous people who help,
comment, contribute, generally make it worthwhile and bring it to life.
So LondonJazz will continue to preview, review, report and comment on London's massive year-round jazz scene. The Wednesday headlines email will continue too.
The remit of the new Telegraph blog is broader: who knows.
Tell me what you'd like to read (?........)
Photographer Rob Haines , of Grubby Faces in East Twickenham, has just performed a minor miracle, and turned the unacceptable face of jazz blogging.... into an acceptable face.
To contact or to book him , follow this link.
The "e17 Jazz large ensemble" which played a Liam Noble premiere, reviewed HERE, on Sunday, tell me they are definitely on the lookout for a more catchy zappier name.
A CD for the winning entry. My suggestion, having seen the cheerful Rachel Musson on quietly burning tenor:
LondonJazz readers, I'm sure you can do better!
Review: Jeff Beck
(O2 arena, September 21st 2009, review by Geoff Winston)
Beck (above, with fan) was brilliant – and, totally unexpectedly, playing his favourite rock and roll, ‘from his record box’, for the main part of the concert, with a snappy outfit who, as Beck said, really live the music Nominally it was singer Imelda May’s band, with Jason Rebello and a brass section with intent, which seamlessly modified its line-up to suit. Beck 's guitars were also changed to fit the material he was playing. Amongst others, he made mention of ‘Sir’ Danny Gatton, a reference to the raw, tense and pared-down sound that Beck could equally deliver.
Beck’s true rock and roll playing was just wonderful. He put so much in to the playing that it added another dimension to a usually well-trodden path – every note and sound was considered, special and instinctive at the same time - and sometimes it was what Beck didn’t play that made a musical passage so special. He gets stuff out of a guitar that you don’t even know is there, yet it is never out of context – he has total respect for, and understanding of the music. And put it this way – it was privilege to hear him play Rock Around the Clock! The best it’s ever going to sound – he gives it so much life.
And there was a spell of his more abstract composition which really makes you wonder – how is this possible? He extracts notes and sounds you didn’t think you were going to hear. Beautiful playing. We could have heard more of it.
Beck - a truly great musician - a consummate musician – he knows the repertoire, can play anything (the range was extraordinary – ballads, soul, rockers, Over the Rainbow ... and then gives it the 10 or 20 or, actually, 100 percent more without you realising it - and very modest about it, too – and his version of Goodbye Pork Pie Hat gets you very close to the Pearly Gates! If BB King (above) reckons he’s the man, well ...
St Pancras Grand is a Searcy's restaurant, in a magnificently re-furbished room in one of the twin stations of King's Cross and St. Pancras which form London's main transport hub. This district is getting better known and busier and more cultured all the time. Way to go!.
The restaurant is in a unique location, just to the side of the Eurostar platforms at St Pancras station, next to the champagne bar. The restaurant ceiling has splendid burnished gold recesses, the walls have mirrors, the aspect out into the giant station shed .....it's an extremely comfortable, memorable place.
It's less obviously placed than either the Carluccio's or the Betjeman Arms at the end of the platforms, and it's hardly signposted at all. Discreet? Certainly. Romantic? If you're into stations like Laura and Alec from Brief Encounter....why not?!
My excuse for going, as the guest of Searcy's.... is that on Sundays between 12 and 4 you can hear either the Roland Perrin Trio or (as I did) the Chris Jerome trio, and there is a special three course menu at £25 including a Grand Bellini. The a la carte prices would tend to rule it out for most people, apart from a very special occasion. These jazz sessions go on until late November.
Chris Jerome' s trio with Miles Danso on bass and Andy Trim at the drums were on good form. Jerome had eight years as Courtney Pine 's pianist. His playing bristles with life, energy and alertness. When I first walked in the trio were bouncing through Cheek to Cheek. More fitting for a station gig was Moment's Notice, and inappropriately just right was Wes Montgomery's Road Song. The trio seemed to catch the mood of the place. And, rare for a restaurant gig, they were getting applause at the end of every number. May be Londoners really are getting more polite....
Andy Trim, mostly on brushes, found absolutely the right volume level, delicate and subtle. Miles Danso is one of those great less-is-more players, the busy walking four being the exception rather than the rule. I like that. And so, I have to say, did a six-year-old boy, who stood transfixed watching the trio with his elder sister.
And promptly announced to his father. "When I grow up I'm going to be a bass player. "
Here are two photos (credit: Stephen Jay) from last Thursday's gig by the Michael Janisch Quintet at an enthusiastically attende Epsom Playhouse. This band (with Jochen Ruckert replacing Clarence Penn on drums) is at the Pizza Express tomorrow and Wednesday. Recommended.
The first shot is of the band: from left to right Clarence Penn, Janisch, Paul Booth, Jason Palmer and Jim Hart.
The second is of me interviewing Michael Janisch onstage.
Jason Palmer is a very fine trumpeter who will make a few jaws drop. Paul Booth was on fine form last week too.
The album is beautifully recorded and put to gether, and, in addition to this band, also has great contributions from the likes of Patrick Cornelius on alto and Aaron Goldberg on piano.
Review of Eva Abraham by Sarah Ellen Hughes
(Jazz Cafe, September 16th 2009)
(Welcoming a new writer, and a fine snger in her own right to the pages of LondonJazz!)
It was a confident and charming Eva Abraham who strode onto the Jazz Café stage last Wednesday. She was there to launch her second album Full Circle, which comprised most of the set, although she included 3 or 4 from her first album Shadow Gazing.
She began with the first track of the album, Babe you know me, which she sang whilst playing the piano. Eva immediately showed her mettle as a confident and experienced singer and musician – her ability to sing to the crowd whilst both playing the piano and communicating with her band was endearing.
Eva quickly got up from the piano and transferred to guitar, which provided an excellent backdrop to her luscious voice. I preferred the timbre of her songs with guitar: it seemed that she did too, as the guitar appeared to free her up – she unleashed a more daring side to her voice - it grabbed the attention more completely.
I found her style and voice reminiscent of All About Eve’s Julianne Regan, especially during Breathe - it which reminded me of Martha’s Harbour. For this song, Eva chose to abandon her instruments and be accompanied by solo cello. I found this to be an interesting choice, but it wasn’t to my taste for an entire song, as Eva with exemplary dynamic control and tuning was let down by some waywardness in both from the cellist. She found a better match in a vocal and piano duet for the next song – Bittersweet Goodbye – and I appreciated the variety of tones, dynamics and timbres that this brought to the set as a whole.
As well as Abraham’s versatility to play different instruments, and sing whilst doing so, she has an incredible versatility in her voice, a great ability to float between registers without any thought, and without any loss of intensity or intonation. The band, too, were able to swap their instrumental roles, with the bassist moving onto the piano and the guitarist taking over on the bass. The arrangements were incredibly tight and well-penned. This was a very slick set.
My particular favourite was Eva’s eighth tune Non-stop, which had much energy and was the most memorable of the set. But it was Star – the penultimate track from the album – that really got the crowd going.
I left the Jazz Café with a tune or two in my head. But it was a shame that Eva didn’t tell the stories behind any of the tunes. I am sure that there must have been interesting reasons behind their composition, and I wanted to know them. After an hour of her compositions I was left with a nagging wish to feel more connected to her and her story. Despite this, the overall energy and variety in the set was enjoyable, and perhaps I’ll get to know her better as each audience member was given a snippet of Eva to take home with them– a Limited Edition of Full Circle.
Jazz photographer Richard Kaby has been out at the Imperial Wharf Jazz Festival.
FOLLOW THIS LINK for more of Kaby's pictures. He writes to me
"I was trying to capture Stan's wonderful fingers and took loads of pictures, to get them just right. First time I'd ever got the opportunity to get that close."
Thanks for sending Richard!
Because in this short time he has got off the ground all of the following:
-Regular gigs which have been going for over 18 months.
-Other projects involving collaborations with film clubs, Indian musicians, and other community groups
-Yesterday's all-day festival, courtesy of four external funders, with an education project, four small band gigs and the evening large ensemble gig.
Pause for breath.
The Mayor of London (who will make a speech this mornig about "investing" in the arts) and those involved in the Olympic boroughs' cultural planning: PLEASE. TAKE. NOTE. OF. THIS. ACHIEVEMENT.
Note to arts funders: Supporting organizations with the creative fervour of E17 jazz is where your money will go furthest towards building cohesive communities. The best value anywhere.
Back to the gig
The E17 large ensemble is a 13-piece band. Recipe below.*
The band is made up of musicians who live in the area. Within it are fascinatingly contrasting voices. For eaxmple Jez Franks on guitar, Adam Bishop on baritone sax and bass clarinet, and most prominently Gavin Broom on trumpet , all have the scale of musical personality, both as soloists and in the band texture, which made the room upstairs at the Rose and Crown in Hoe Street feel very small last night. There are also gentler but equally strong voices, such as hugely versatile John Turville on piano and the musically punctilious singer Brigitte Beraha.
No trombones in the line-up? The reason given is that the instrument is allegedly extinct in E17. Uh?
The first half consisted of charts (not a weak one among them) written for the ensemble by band members Carlos Lopez-Real, Gavin Broom, John Turville, Dave Manington, and by trombonist (the trombone plot thickens!) Bob Dowell.
The people around me told me spontaneously which chart they would want to hear again first (It's always a good test.) : They singled out Bob Dowell's Oak Hill: sweet soft textures, some lovely legato over beautifully shifting changes, and a very affecting flugelhorn solo from Joe Auckland.
I also enjoyed John Turville's ambitious and complex Waltz for Bill, a waltz chart which chugs straight off in strict 5/4 was a neat touch, and later there was good writing for the blazing trumpet section and a repeated baritone figure nailed perfectly every time by Adam Bishop which launched Carlos Lopez-Real into a chorus of nicely building intensity.
For me the stand-out chart was the first half closer, Dave Manington's cleverly titled Gruntled which started with rhythm section rumblings, grew to a burning climax, and featured great extrovert soloing on the way from Gavin Broom on Flugelhorn, who contrasted nicely with the clever, thoughtful narrative and full-bloomed sound of Tori Freestone on tenor sax.
What draws me irresistibly towards Noble's work as both pianist and composer is two things: First, counterpont. By giving the counterpoint of different melodic voices free rein there are always surprises, clashes, it makes the journey always worth taking. And with the colours and textures available in this ensemble, the fluency of every improviser in the band, such delights were frequent. Second is the fact that Noble can pare things down to the sparse and minimal. I am normally averse to the repetitiveness and directionless of minimalism, life just seems to short.- am I alone? -but in Noble's work there is always a direction of travel.
These are pieces which deserve to be heard again. In a concert hall. And preferably soon.
(*) Recipe: take the conventional 17-piece big band line-up. Remove one trumpet and the entire trombone section, and add a singer.
This clip of Steve Grossman in action is just one clip from masses of ,photos,videos and blog posts which a team from JUSTLIKEJAZZ is sending this weekend from the Scarborough Jazz Festival.
Trinity College of Music describe the Isabelle Bond Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Performance 2009 as the "pinnacle of the College’s competition calendar". The competition was held at St John’s, Smith Square on September 16th. And it was won won by jazz saxophonist Alam Nathoo, a postgrad at Trinity, previously at Guildhall, and a member of Tomorrows Warriors Jazz Orchestra. He has Tanzanian roots. Hongera!
Here's the interesting bit:
-none of the jurors was a jazz specialist
-both Simon Purcell (Head of jazz at Trinity) and the college's press officer whom I spoke to were convinced this is the first time this top prize has gone to a jazz musician.
-Simon Purcell told me "He's a very fine saxophone player, what more can I say. And he won this prize against other artists of international reputation."
He'll be at Ronnie's next Sunday for the Worshipful Company's prize. I'm looking forward to hearing him. Here's his MYSPACE, with a few sound clips.
Kyle Eastwood Band & Yolanda Brown,
Imperial Wharf Jazz Festival, 17 September 2009
Review by Rob Mallows of London Jazz Meetup
Digby Fairweather was MC'ing last night, and he was working his socks off. He spent about ten minutes extolling the virtues of the restaurants, pubs, gymnasiums, creche facilities and dance studies in the modern - if soulless - Imperial Wharf complex. A new career might easily be beckoning on the strength of a performance like this: as presenter on shopping channel QVC?
Once these elaborate necessities were over, Digby MC’ed a great evening of jazz, and did it well. Kyle Eastwood ’s band has carved out noted success across Europe with their brand of bass-led contemporary jazz. I enjoy the way Eastwood stresses the incremental development and evolution of his insistent bass melodies, giving this preference over expression through complex chord progressions and key changes and in so doing really ensuring that the bass earns its place centre stage.
Playing tracks off the new album Metropolitain (CandidRecords - above) - my choice for album of the year so far - he showed his range, moving from the haunting souk-inspired lyricism of Marrakesh superbly balanced by Graeme Blevins ' swirling alto sax - like a muezzin giving the call to prayer - to the hard funk of Hot Box. Precise, focused and serenely meticulous up and down the fretboard, Eastwood is a picture of concentration when losing himself in the groove. He still plugs into the old-school of bassists like Ron Carter and Paul Chambers on classic cuts like Big Noise from Winnetka, but his sound gives them a definite 21st century oomph. For me, he was without question the evening’s headline act.
YolanDa Brown, MOBO award-winner, combines classic jazz sensibilities with soul and funk mixed to taste...or not, depending on your viewpoint. She is definitely at the outer reaches of ‘smooth’ on the jazz spectrum - at points, I swore she was channelling Kenny G - and the soulful undertones to tunes like Surfin’ and Misty cloyed at times. I found I gradually warmed to her , in particular to up-tempo tracks like Stay Little Valentine and Summertime, which got the crowd bopping along. On the last track, Lady, she took a musical journey via the rhythms of Sierra Leone, Jamaica, Brazil and London - reflecting the musical homelands of her band - before making her own excursion into the crowd, playing her heart out while wandering nonchalantly through the crowd.
Great free entertainment in south west London, slickly produced and pulling in a fair-sized audience for a Thursday. The Festival continues on Saturday- Stan Tracey, Sarah Gillespie with Gilad Atzmon, Ian Shaw, building up to Ska Cubano ( for more info FOLLOW THIS LINK
It can get quite breezy down there by the river, and if it looks like rain, take a brolly- there’s no cover!
(There is also a profile of Kyle Eastwood in this morning's Times- FOLLOW THIS LINK)
September 30th at Ronnie Scott's. Mark the date. To hear one of the unflinching unfailing impeccable greats of British jazz, Trumpeter Henry Lowther, in a nice context.
He is playing in Chris Biscoe 's Mingus Moves band , performing a 50th anniversary re-imagining of the album Mingus Ah-Um.
First I'll go for a few bonus points by copy-pasting the origins of the album title from Wikipedia, probably courtesy of the massive knowledge of Brian Priestley:
The title of Mingus Ah Um is derived from a Latin study form. It is common for Latin students to memorize Latin adjectives of the first and second declensions by first saying the masculine nominative singular form (usually ending in "-us"), then the feminine nominative singular ending ("-a"), and finally the neuter nominative singular ending ("-um"). Thus the adjective "magnus" (big, great) is memorized as "magnus", "-a", "-um"; this would be pronounced like "magnus ah um".
But back to Henry Lowther. What is remarkable about him is that his attitude to life, to playing. As one fellow musician put it to me:
"His approach to any musical situation is youthful and extremely open- minded. He never excludes himself stylistically. None of this "Oh yeah, such and such is my thing, that’s what I do" nonsense. As if it is superior to another kind of music. Plays with all sorts of bands, all ages as well as orchestras, chamber groups etc. He's completely unclassifiable."
Another said to me that his capacity to absorb and nail the trickiest of tunes, every time, is what keeps absolutely everyone around him on their toes. You could call that lifting a performance....
There's a quiet adagio grace about his personality, and astonishing modesty. For myself, I cannot imagine Henry Lowther ever needing, or seeing the point of a second take.
In music, live or recorded.
Or in life.
There's a link here to a site with a good biography, but it hasn't been updated for a while.
Belatedly into the recommended list. It will be a great evening.
Review of Steve Grossman/ Damon Brown Quintet by Frank Griffith
(Pizza Express Dean Street, September 15th 2009)
American saxophonist Steve Grossman, who has been resident in Bologna for 15 years, made a welcome return to London on Tuesday September 15th at the Pizza Express jazz club in Dean Street. Grossman's sideman credits include Miles Davis and Elvin Jones among many illustrious others. The very able leader, cornettist Damon Brown's quartet rose to the occasion magnificently, playing with fire and gusto while clearly deferring to Grossman -when necessary - and keeping a quiet eye on him at all times.
Dressed in jeans, dark T-shirt and a loose-fitting sport coat, Grossman carries a full head of dark hair and an amazingly youthful look, both of which belie his 58 years of age, not to mention his rather colourful and chequered past.
His playing also embodies a similar combination of seasoned experience with youthful vigour and creativity. This is achieved by his regular quoting of 1920s-1940s American popular song melodies coupled with a relentless driving phrasing, resulting in dramatic climaxes for audience and band alike.
Brown’s fine cornet work, stately and happily loping along, provided an effective foil to Grossman’s fiery and less predictable musings. His big sound, coupled with an “in the groove” onstage swagger engendered a comfortable pocket for the listener to settle into, before being taken to other parameters of convention via Grossman’s more extreme harmonic explorations.
Pianist Robin Aspland has never sounded better, not only in his exuberant and powerfully dramatic solo excursions but also with his sensitive comping skills. These was most evident on his light-fingered octaves in the upper reaches of the keyboard, as he serenaded bassist Mark Hodgson's Paul Chambers-like melodic solo on Lee Morgan’s Ceora.
Drummer Sebastiaan De Krom was equally effective as both the engine room of the band with his M25-wide beat as well as powerful soloist in his own right. His extended solo on Sam Dockery’s Cranky Spanky originally recorded by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers went a long way to showing this.
Other highlights included a spirited uptempo version of Harold Arlen’s This Time the Dream’s on Me as well as the popular bebop vehicle, Star Eyes which closed the night’s proceedings. Grossman’s explosive solo on this changed direction suddenly midway through with four-bar exchanges with drums resulting in yet another example of Whitney Balliet’s term describing jazz as “the sound of surprise” -catching all at hand unawares and all the better for it.
The night was peppered with regular on stage banter between the horn players, providing light entertainment for punters as well as clarification of appropriate tempi and solo orders, etc. This banter was also evident in the music with frequent improvised duets between Steve and Damon (accidentally, in many cases) but always leading to musically enriching results.
A welcome return to these shores for this great saxophonist. Hats off to Damon Brown for making this happen.
(Photo credit: jazzeddie)
Peter Bacon's notes this morning on a speech by Hans Koller, plus his explanations of how the scene has grown in Birmingham (picture is of Soweto Kinch)- it's a great piece. I've reproduced it verbatim.
Peter's title (below) mercifully clears the market for groaning puns.
Here's the whole piece (this link to the original source, Peter's excellent JazzBreakfast blog):
Let’s put our Hans together for Birmingham
Just returned from a very successful launch of Birmingham Jazz’s autumn season – lots of friendly faces (many of them new ones to me) in the cool surroundings of Fazeley Studios main foyer (a refurbished former church building complete with Pre-Raphaelite prints in the upstairs alcoves, chunky sofas and aromatic candles). There were the usual speeches, a brief outline of what Birmingham Jazz does, what is coming up in its concerts and gigs over the next few months, wine and buffet, and loads of chat.
There was a band for the evening which included Hans Koller on piano and, increasingly as the evening wore on, trombone.
Apart from talking to lots of very nice people, the highlight for me was listening to a speech by Hans about Birmingham, jazz and Birmingham Jazz.
I wasn’t taking notes, the PA was muddy and the crowd was chatty, so here is a rather garbled but essentially correct, as I heard it, paraphrase of what he told the assembled crowd:
He spoke about moving around Germany a lot while growing up and now living in England for the last 20 years and being based in London, and that as a result he didn’t really have a home, but since he has been tutoring at Birmingham Conservatoire and getting to know the Birmingham jazz scene, this is the nearest he knows to home, now.
He highlighted the strong links between Birmingham Conservatoire and Birmingham Jazz, and the opportunities BJ gave to BC students to play their music, out here in the real world. he said it was a relationship London conservatoires and music schools could only dream about. That they could learn their craft in the conservatoire and then get the chance to gig regularly around town and build up an understanding of what the jazz life was really all about, and the chance to develop an identity out there – it was a truly invaluable experience for them. And the quality of the music they were making reflected it.
And it wasn’t only the students who had Birmingham Jazz to thank. Musicians who had to be based in London to get enough professional work – players like Liam Noble and Phil Robson – had come to Birmingham when they had more adventurous projects they wanted to explore, and Birmingham Jazz had helped them to bring them to fruition. Not only could they not get that kind of support in London, London had then reaped the benefit when projects brought about by Birmingham Jazz toured back to the capital.
What was striking was not just what Hans Koller said but the genuine warmth and deeply-held feeling with which he said it.
It’s something that we who are committed to the Birmingham Jazz scene and Birmingham Jazz’s part in it have felt all along – it was just great to have someone like Hans, who knows quite a bit about the difficulties and also the joys of working as a jazz musician and educator in this country in these times, say it so eloquently.
Something for the London crew to think about.
There are so many good people in the Midlands. And Durban, Natal-born Peter is defdefdef one of them. Another is Arts development speciaist Sarah Gee who has brought her Glaswegian energy to the cause of Birmingham. She once said to me "We only ever have one of anything, so we tend to support each other."
Amen to that.
Under this banner proudly unfurled in the new premises of the Orange Tree opposite Richmond station, the South-West London musicians' collective got off to a great start. The pace was full to bursting for five saxophonists (Chris Biscoe, Jimmy Hastings, Pete Hurt, Tim Whitehead and Vasilis Xenopoulos) and a punchy but subtle rhythm section of Kate Williams, Pat Bettison and Gary Willcox. I dropped in briefly, and enjoyed -for example -seeing Tim Whitehead doing the throat-cut sign to the rhythm section to cue in Pete Hurt and himself for a chorus of finely matched contrapuntal unaccompanied sparring on Have You Met Miss Jones.....Jimmy Hastings (my companions' uncontested favourite of the five) and Chris Biscoe being gentle yet adventurous with Sam Rivers' Beatrice , and Xenopoulos storming with total conviction through Caravan. <
Next up next week is Tim Whitehead with Julian Siegel on two tenors, plus Oli Hayhurst on bass and Gene Calderazzo on drums. I would recommend getting there early. WayOutWest tonight in Richmond definitely found and connected with the audience which sometimes eluded them in Kingston.
I dropped in briefly, and enjoyed -for example -seeing Tim Whitehead doing the throat-cut sign to the rhythm section to cue in Pete Hurt and himself for a chorus of finely matched contrapuntal unaccompanied sparring on Have You Met Miss Jones.....Jimmy Hastings (my companions' uncontested favourite of the five) and Chris Biscoe being gentle yet adventurous with Sam Rivers' Beatrice , and Xenopoulos storming with total conviction through Caravan. <
Yes, it's that towel rail (bass flute) again.
The UK's premier jazz flautist Gareth Lockrane is directing his big band at the 606 on Sunday 27th. He tells me he has a couple of intriguing, interesting, worth -going-out-of-your -way-to-hear personnel changes for this gig. One of the tenor chairs will be taken by that complete tenor player Julian Siegel , and the piano chair will energized this time by Kate Williams.
WHAT DOES A ROCK CRITIC DO?
I'm not sure yet, but I'm starting to wonder if "Rock criticism" has anything whatsoever to do with music any more.
Isn't it rather a branch of sociology, the study of fashion, the affectation of slightly superior taste? Could, indeed, the slightest knowledge of or interest in music, constructive thoughts and words about the actual, organised sounds vibrating the air, even be a drawback? Is knowledge of music just some anorak stuff for saddos? Like musicians for example?
Forget the music, and the task becomes much simpler. The writer just positions him or herself as either a defender of the old (as in the T-shirt above) , or the new, some sort of chronological snobbery. Here's what you do: you station yourself upwind of the types of music you know least, (and therefore believe stink)..... like jazz, for example, but I guess there are others....and away you go.
IN GERMANY THE ART MAY BE DEAD ALREADY
This was in the weekend "Frankfurter Allgemine"
"If you hang around pubs, and find yourself among a clutch of music critics chatting, you risk an evening of extreme boredom. Bearded hoodie-wearers, their faces growing ever redder, will discuss Brazilian vinyl imports, body politics in R & B, the revival of Dutch trash techno. An onlooker could easily find himself wishing he would rather be among a crowd of ride-on lawn mower manufacturers. One coud say: music critics today are a boring as most music."
Wer heutzutage beim Kneipenbummel in eine Traube parlierender Musikkritiker gerät, setzt sich der Gefahr aus, einen äußerst langweiligen Abend zu verbringen. Bärtige Kapuzenshirtträger, die sich stundenlang mit stetig röter werdenden Köpfen über brasilianische Vinyl-Importe, Körperpolitik im R ’n’ B oder das Revival des holländischen Trash-Techno unterhalten, können beim Zaungast nur den Wunsch auslösen, lieber in einem Pulk plauderseliger Sitzrasenmäherhersteller zu stehen. Man könnte sagen: Musikkritiker sind heute ebenso langweilig wie die meiste Musik.
Yes, this piece did indeed strike a chord. Bald men arguing over a comb. Who cares apart from them?
THE MUSIC-FREE WRITING ZONE
There has been a substantial readership for my piece about Nick Hasted's comment in the Independent about Radiohead alienating audiences by turning themselves into what he pejoratively called a jazz group. Hasting was, according to most of the people commentating on my piece, or indeed on the Independent's website, using the word jazz to diss music he feels is beneath him.
I'd also read on Friday this long puffpiece about Massive Attack by the Guardian's "Head Rock and Pop Critic" (sic) Alex Petridis.
C'mon. What is as plain as day is that Petridis' piece is just an extended plug for a record launch. But why should that be an excuse to write it without ANY substantive mentions of how the music actually sounds, of the methods used. Or is the tonal palette here so narrow there is actually nothing to say?
Peter Hum may have started the backlashagainst these kind of attitudes in this blog post about Pat Metheny.
Someone please find some counter-examples? I do hope there are some to balance out my conjecture. I would sincerely like someone to convince me that rock criticism is not what Hans Keller used to call a phony profession; that there is still such a thing as knowledge of music, rather than just posing and attitude!
An interestingly voiced chord above from Barbra Streisand (get those thumbnails .....)
because Agent gogobetween has just sent me this:
PHIL ROBSON (of PARTISANS) plays with BARBRA STREISAND on BBC 1 TV
Guitarist Phil Robson is highly regarded internationally as a creative and versatile player, as co-leader of Partisans and leader of Six Strings & the Beat and his collaborations with many musicians over the years including Dave Liebman, Wayne Krantz, Alec Dankworth, Kenny Wheeler. On 20 September he makes up a quartet for Barbra Streisand, in an exclusive appearance by Streisand on BBC1, The Jonathan Ross Show – to be aired in October.
Most of this is in the left hand column.....
Tonight, Tuesday, is the party at which Clare Whitaker of Serious launches (above) the London Jazz Festival. They've already announced that Sonny Rollins at the Barbican is sold out....But I'll look forward to hearing the tales of the launch party afterwards.( Good money for good stories. )And to the festival site going live.
That's because I'm looking forward to a different but equally noisy berth tonight, honking a baritone in a big band alongside Garnett pere, aka Willie.
Meanwhile Frank Griffith is out reviewing Miles alumnus Steve Grossman for LondonJazz.
Tomorrow Wednesday sees the grand re-opening at the new premises in Richmond of Way Out West, with a great line-up.
Thursday, do come and see a large blogger in action in Epsom. Neither on the flat nor , indeed, over the jumps, but in the theatre. I'm looking forward to interviewing Mike Janisch and hearing his "Purpose Built" band.
I've been enjoying a pre-release copy of the album. And am still enjoying it. What it reminds me of is enjoying a series of CDs by the great Ray Brown which came out under the title of "Some of My Best Friends are..." In Janisch's case, I would be prepared to bet that any listener will hear someone they either don't know yet, or haven't heard recently. So I've been enjoying the playing of aaron Goldberg whom I haven't heard since he played in Joshua Redman's Quartet. Plus there's some wonderful alto sax playing from Patrick Cornelius. And Phil Robson on guitar is about as pretty damned perfect as ever. The touring line-up is different. New York drummer Clarence Penn on drums for example. Now there's a rumour he's an amazing chef......
And then I'm particularly looking forward to Liam Noble's premiere on Sunday. More on that later.
It was such a pleasure to receive this contribution yesterday from drummer/ bandleader Dylan Howe . You'll have read an awful lot of disengaged, uncommitted three and four star CD reviews. Well, this is isn't one.
Howe hasn't stepped onto that production line: he has been immersing himself properly , as a musician, in the pleasures of getting to know an album, and reaping the rewards. Thank you Dylan, welcome to LondonJazz. I hope you'll be a regular visitor here, the floor is yours!
John Patitucci Trio - Remembrance (Concord)
Just the other day I bought the new John Patitucci Trio album. I can't stop playing it.
This is unusual for me, because this is a new album, not something from around 1965 and on Blue Note, Impulse or Riverside. Nor does it have Elvin Jones or Roy Haynes on it. It's not that I don't like new jazz, but have found it hard to not be drawn back to the '60's after getting either a record with Ari Hoenig or Bill Stewart on it. I mean I love those guys (Bill especially), but the root for me is that era, but with this album Remembrance, I feel like I'm listening to the history of most of the jazz I like and feel in one sitting.
Trio is maybe the most exposed and special of any lineup and the sax/bass/drum option is one that can really let you hear who and what a musician really is. Maybe because you don't have a chordal instrument there, it really opens up the landscape.
The recording has Patitucci with his righthand man Brian Blade, someone who is just at the peak of his powers right now - the incredible implied pulse and balletic shifts and touch for the drums, that makes you feel like you've finally found that hybrid of Tony Williams, Elvin Jones and Billy Higgins - with the same technique and choices as Bill Stewart and Ari Hoenig are making - cutting that diamond from the same big stone - that we've all been looking for.
Completing the trio is Joe Lovano, someone who I've really finally got on this record. He is playing so beautifully and for my money, it's his finest recording. He did a really good trio with album with Dave Holland and Elvin Jones - Trio Fascination - in 1997, but this just might top that.
This album came out of a rehearsal where the piano player couldn't make it, so they played trio for the first time. Remembering that day, they got together again a few years and came up with this gem.
Sonically, the album is perfect and it's telling that JP thanks the sound engineers almost equally with the band on the liner notes...they totally nailed it too.
Almost all of the album could be grouped under the 'stand out track' description (really!), but at a push I would say; Joe Hen, Sonny Side and Scenes from an Opera (with brilliant, emotive strings added to the trio, to great effect).
I even got into the couple of slight genre shifting tracks (openish funk or latinish grooves with electric bass!) - normally I would be groaning at this point, but because of Blade and Patiticci's refusal to comply to what you would expect in this mode, it works. Also Lovano does a wicked and knowing Wayne Shorter (circa Weather Report This Is This) on Mali.
The title track and closer on the album is a bass feature dedicated to Michael Brecker, it's short (1.54) and really says more than many might on a whole album.
Patitucci's playing (and compositions for that matter) is maybe now everything it was hinting at back in the early '90's. There can only be a few living bass players to stand shoulder to shoulder with him as Christian McBride and Larry Grenadier might testify.
But this record is not about one person at all, it's about how the right three people can make such a joyful and intimate sound, making you want to listen again and again, just as I have.
To read more about Dylan Howe's projects, follow this link.
Ronnie Scott's programme for most of its anniversary month ( Oct 30th is the anniversary itself) is announced.
1st: Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra (SOLD OUT)
2nd – 4th: Nigel Kennedy
5th: Salena Jones with the Ronnie Scott's Jazz Orchestra
6th: One Night With Madeline Bell
7th: Elaine Delmar and the Ronnie Scott's All Stars
8th – 10th: Jon Hendricks (now aged 87)
11th: Funk Affair
13th: Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames
15th: Ernest Ranglin and Nu Troop (Abram Wilson on trumpet, Denys Baptiste on saxophone, Andrew McCormack on piano and Rod Youngs on drums)
16th: Ernest Ranglin and Jazz Jamaica, including his nephew Gary Crosby,
17th: Ian Shaw
18th: Natalie Williams
19th – 20th: The Bad Plus
21st – 23rd: Pharoah Sanders
24th: Carleen Anderson
25th: The Ronnie Scott’s Blues Experience feat. special guest Jack Bruce
26th: Steve Gadd & Friends (two houses each night) with baritone sax specialist Ronnie Cuber, Hammond organ maestro Joey DeFrancesco and guitarist Paul Bollenbeck
27th: Barbara Cook veteran cabaret singer.
The sheer rhythmic vitality of Brazilian singer/pianist Eliane Elias and her quartet gave a massive lift to the spirits of a full house last night at Ronnie Scott‘s. Listeners were more getting more and more palpably, physically energized by the music as the evening progressed. And a long row of professional musicians by the bar stood there. Agawp, totally transfixed. If the band didn’t get the unanimous standing ovation which it seemed to be heading towards all evening, that was for one reason, and a boring practical one at that: they don't happen at Ronnie's. It is physically impossible for the large numbers seated in the booths at the sides to raise their bodies to upright. Last night, if we could have stood, we would have. Many did.
Elias and her group, including husband/ legend Marc Johnson on bass, were in a mood to celebrate. Johnson was celebrating his return to a club which he had visited in another century as a member of the Woody Herman Band and of the Bill Evans Quartet. Eliane Elias, also a returner, was mainly celebrating fiftieth birthdays for the bossa nova, and for Ronnie's (suddenly it's fifty years of everything). Rubens de La Corte was on impeccably played nylon-string guitar, and drummer Rafael Barata was explosive yet totally controlled at the kit.They were just celebrating, and making a big statement about great music.
Elias is an astonishing pianist. The best I can do is to explain that I can't explain. How she does what she does as a pianist remains an enigma to me. That left hand is a store of huge power, the internal voicings and lines are complex, multidirectional, polyrhythmic, there is always masses of information being laid down. And yet, and yet - and this is the miracle- somehow there is always space. Marc Johnson's rollicking bass solo lines - for example last night in Chega de Saudade- were never clouded or subverted or questioned. The more I understand about this music, the more I am capable of being surprised. If someone has an answer this, then the comment section below is definitely all yours for the night, for a week, or for as long as you want it or need it.
Elias is also a fine idiomatic singer, at her best in the inherently musical inflexions of her native Brazilian Portuguese. She could be singing about anything, but I would gladly stockpile industrial quantities of the Tristeza, Amor and Alegria and the like from her Por Causa De Voce (Don't Ever Go Away), sung to her own gentle but mesmerising accompaniment.. And as for Call Me by Tony Hatch, Elias' must -please, please - be the timeless classic, and wipe the memory of the rest.
The support band last night was the Nigel Price Hammond Organ Trio: Price on guitar, Pete Whittaker on Hammond and Matt Home on drums. The neatness, tidiness and tightness of this band at full tilt in numbers like SOS by Wes Montgomery and Mozambique by Nigel Price was compelling. But they can also do low-down and loose. Price does skittering flautando harmonics disappearing up the fingerboard as well as any guitarist in the UK. Whittaker can lay down a carpet of sound as accompanist, but was constantly surprising with dynamic shifts, with colour and timbre, with melodic invention, and if they can ever clone Matt Home, then sorry guys, the metronome business is finished. Anyone giving a party where you can't be sure what mood you will need the music to reflect, these are your guys. I saw some MPs in ast night's audience: this might be just the band to book for election night.....
Another great night. The people I chatted to last night were from Washington DC, Cosenza in Calabria and Stockholm. Londoners, take it from me, kick yourselves: you missed something special.
How are LondonJazz readers reacting to the news story of Neverending Song.?
According to what I've been reading it's a PR agency trying to push the alignment of the Pizza Express brand with jazz. Pizza Express are great, long-standing supporters of the music. But what's this 7 day 24 hour stuff all about then? Apart from the extremely unappetizing prospect above....
Perhaps a marketing professional can put in his or her tuppence on what is clearly a piping hot issue of the day.....
The wake-up call which we perhaps all need, from Frank Griffith . Frank turns his attention to the inadequacy of just having good intentions, to failures in communication, and the clear and ever-present danger of displacement activity.
Don’t get it right. Get it written!
I believe that due to todays’ multitude of ways of communication- talking, phoning, texting, email, surfing, etc, in many cases communication is less effective overall. This is because many of these mediums are flawed and lead to miscommunication or lack of it. For instance, many younger people of the cyber-age have little or any experience on posting an item via snail mail. They will insist on sending the same item via email or IPhone or whatever and in many cases that might be fine. There are an equal amount of times though when an MP3 or attachment won’t take and this will invariably be followed by a lengthy phone call explaining how it should have worked. All a complete waste of time of course, as this often digresses into fruitless arguments or explanations that DO NOT solve the problem- but reveal more about exposing people’s irrationalities and/or egos (“When did you send it? What kind of computer? I told you I was right”). Huge waste of time.
Post the damn thing to me- strike or no strike!
Another bit of compositional clownery I often get from students and colleagues is “well, I haven’t had a chance to write anything out yet but I have the whole thing in my head”. Well guess what, Sunshine- I’m not in your head! And am quite happy not to be, either. Give me two pages of inscrutable scribblings on A4 paper and call me in the morning. I often quote novelist E M Forster’s line “I don’t know what I am thinking until I’ve seen what I written” By actually writing something down (even a loose sketch of what the different sections of a piece might include) one has gone just far out enough on a limb to begin making some kind of sense and headway. If this information just stays cooped up in one’s head then the risk of it actually taking shape or becoming a reality has yet to happen.
A former teacher of mine, the late arranger/composer Bill Finegan, had a particular student who would often verbally froth on to him about this great epic piece he was going to write and after a few of these regalings Bill asked him to shut up and please produce the noted parchment. His reason being that the longer one talks about something- regardless of what it is- their piece, novel, wedding or divorce plans, or sorting the garden- the lower the chance of anything actually getting done. Part of the reason being that if you talk too much about your piece, that replaces you having to write it. Simple as that- one or the other. He also believed that the reason writers arranged things (popular songs of the day,etc) was because they wanted to hear things “their way”. If you have those skills and a decent band to play them then what a great way to achieve a fantasy. Now get writing!
I'm going to be moving out of Friars Lane, Richmond in the next few weeks . So I'm looking to relocate the hottest coolest desk in London - chutzpah central, the global/galactic HQ of LondonJazz - to an equally swish new address. Do you know someone would like the opportunity of a lifetime: to rent LondonJazz and its amazing network of leads and connections a desk? Think about it... the fun may have only just begun.
Robert Mitchell’s Panacea
The Spice of Life - Wednesday 30th September.
Trumpeter Peter Horsfall has written in recommending Robert Mitchell's gig later this month, with the latest version of his group Panacea. They're at the Spice of Life on Wednesday September 30th.
The group, formed in 2000, has released two critically acclaimed albums, including 2005’s Trust on the F-IRE label. Vocalist Deborah Jordan (above, with Mitchell/photo Helena Dornellas) and in-demand bassist Tom Mason remain at the core of the band, whilst Mitchell’s familiar associate on drums, the fiery Richard Spaven, is replaced by Shaney Forbes of Empirical fame. Expect tightly-knit grooves and technical fireworks from one of London’s finest pianists.
Robert Mitchell’s Panacea also play Mau Maus on Thursday 26 Nov & The Vortex on Sat 23rd January 2010.
Intellectual, consumer, or music fan?
Here's your choice.
Stuart Nicholson's far-reaching interview with D'Arcy James Argue for www.jazz.com weighs in at 7,000 words.
Or you can just buy a D'Arcy James Argue T-Shirt (above).
Or try the music
This just landed in my inbox....three young bands and a photography show near to Stoke Newington Castle, and all for £5!
Welcome back to Wednesday Nights at the Others
We're working hard to bring you an EVEN MORE varied and exciting program EVERY WEDNESDAY
Every month will now feature an "alternative" night, a "jazz" night, a "dance improvisation" night and a "party night.... read more about them here:
This Wednesday we have three amazing groups - M BASE THEME. I have had the pleasure of hearing Pete's Group rehearsing....this is their first gig... and their music is FRESH -> a MUST SEE
The lovely Hannah Meszaros-Martin will also be exhibiting a ONE NIGHT PHOTO SHOW
PETE HORSFALL GROUP:
Bill Zoot - MC
Twinky Blu Tac - MC
Pete Horsfall - Trumpet
Dave Shulman - Alto Sax
Mike Clowes - Drums
Ruth Goller - Bass
Dave O Brien - Rhodes/'sounds'
NIKKI SIMPSON (voc) DUO WITH DAVE PRESTON (gtr)
Nathaniel Facey - alto
Kit Downes - organ
Adrien Dennfield - gtr
Sylvain Daccourt - drums
£5 admission (all proceeds go DIRECTLY to artists)
doors 7.45pm, music 8.15pm
6 and 8 Manor Road London N16 5SA
Tube: Finsbury Park (Victoria or Picadilly Lines), then 106 bus
This is one of my more obscure links. Sorry about that.
Ever since I started playing the clarinet 43 years ago this month I have noticed two words on most reeds I have used (and the ones I've discarded too.)
Those two words are FRANCE and SUPERIEURE
They came to mind when London's French Music Bureau sent me an email with the super-efficiency one expects of the superior country which designed both the Alexandrine verse meter and the Exocet missile.
The email sent me the names of the winners of last week's French Jazz Awards
French Artist of Group : Marc Ducret (guitar)
French Vocalist or Vocal Group : Bernard Lubat (voice, percussion, piano)
Best New French Act (Frank Ténot Prize) : Emile Parisien Quartet (Emile Parisien/saxophone, Julien Touery/piano, Ivan Gelugne/double bass, Sylvain Darrifourcq/percussion).
French Instrumental Album : "Around Robert Wyatt" (Bee Jazz/Abeille Musique) de l’Orchestre national de jazz de Daniel Yvinec
Public Award : Patrick Artero (trumpet, bugle)
Now comes the efficient bit. Here is where you can hear the winners, including a taxpayer-funded big band...in the UK
9/10/11 October - Marc Ducret - On the Outside Festival, Gateshead
Performing at London Jazz Festival 2009
14th November - Alban Darche Quartet - The Vortex
15th November - The Emile Parisien Quartet - Charlie Wright's
15th November - l'Orchestre National de Jazz - Barbican Centre
(Comment j'aimerais gerer un Bureau de Musique Britannique a Paris. Ca serait mon ideal, mon reve absolu!)
Nigel Tully, (NYJO Tully?) Chairman of the board of trustees of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, rang me this morning and talked me through the plans for a NYJO/ Jazz Services event this Friday 11th September in the Cockpit Theatre, which will bring together a very wide range of people with an active involvement in jazz education.
Attendance is by invitation, so anyone who should be in this loop but isn't.... should email or phone Chris Hodgkins :
020 7928 9089
The event is called "Jazz Education in England and The Future of NYJO." The discussion will be well attended, eg by several representatives of a number of relevant funding bodies.
Nigel tells me that Arts Council England, in its role as an arts development body, has- and rightly- given NYJO a wake-up call. The message, which is a welcome one, is that NYJO now needs to change and adapt, and in a number of ways.
So plans are being developed to
-broaden its repertoire and generally have more flexibility
-be much more diverse
-be open to wider influences
-work with a wide range of guest musical directors
NYJO itself, as a working band for 18-25s, needs to align its activity much more closely into partnerships and collaborations with the rest of the 18-25 jazz education world - i.e. the music colleges, and others.
Meanwhile under-18 NYJO 2 needs to find its position on the under-18 education map alongside other entities, such as the youth bands in Wigan, Doncaster, Hampshire, and to be more obviously London-centred.
A proud legacy
There is a strong feeling around that nobody has done more to further the cause of forming jazz musicians than Bill Ashton, but everyone including Ashton himself knows that the torch now needs to be passed on. There is also real bench-strength in the current team: Mark Armstrong, Paul Eshelby and Steve Titchener.
Nigel tells me that a panel of people has been helping the NYJO board. People such as Gary Crosby, Pete Churchill, Simon Purcell, Dave O' Higgins, Alex Webb, Christine Allen, Oliver Weindling...and others have given of their time and made valuable suggestions.
Such good signs here. A lot of excellent people rowing together.
(that's the "row" which rhymes with ....."mellow.")
This weekend's Kings Place Festival, 100 concerts in four days, a few weeks ahead of the first anniversary of opening, will have helped to change that. It certainly felt like that. It felt like a party. The halls and the big public areas were very busy indeed. Nevertheless, people behave well. They don't jostle. They don't leave litter.It feels like a civilized and civilizing place.
I went to hear three of the showcase sessions for producer Serious's publishing joint venture with Big Life Music, entitled In All Seriousness- sets by Jason Yarde, Andy Sheppard and Seb Rochford.
I like saxophonist Jason Yarde best as improviser, either over short , repeated riffs or free. There's an irresistible in-the-moment licence and sensuality and a looseness . Pleasure and oblivion are simultaneously and suddenly and appealingly close. He had the audience humming a concert F drone (it's the best note to grip a soprano sax firmly with the left hand, leaving the right hand free to play with the electronics) and extemporized strongly over it.
But when I think about the Jason Yarde compositions I have heard - last night performed some in duo with Andrew McCormack - one word keeps coming back to me: floatiness. Yes, there is harmonic motion in Yarde's compositions, there's a shifting of secondary dominants, but at the same time I sense that he's a bigger musician than this, that he's one day going to want to hold the listener harmonically on the rails much more, give a stronger sense of the direction of travel. I suspect, deeply, that nobody else in the world will share or agree with this reaction of mine. There's no reason they should. But I'm curious to find out... (?)
Andy Sheppard knows how to toy with the audience very well, with good humour and a knowing smile, and what matters: a superb melodic sense. He plays the soprano sax tight against the body, head forwards, his gaze straight down to the floor. He started the set with an extensive improvisation/ warm-up which seemed to drop by and pay visits to Vilia from the Merry Widow and Do You Know what it means to miss New Orleans. As Private Eye would ask...are they related?
Seb Rochford's band Room of Katinas rounded off the evening, a late slot starting at 11pm. This band, with Rochford on vocals and left-handed guitar, Mandy Drummond excellent on electric bass, plucked acoustic viola and backing vocals, and crisp, clear John Bentley on drums and backing vocals, plays simple, plaintive, childlike melodies, presents them in a self-deprecating manner. Rochford sings ethereally. For a flavour of what this band is about, try the Room of Katinas website.