Jazz in the New Year Honours

Congratulations to the one jazz musician named in today's New Year honours list: an MBE for trumpeter and leader of the long-standing - since 1966! - Apex Jazz Band, George Chambers from Jordanstown, Co. Antrim.

I guess nobody ever got involved in this music with the objective of being alone -apart from this guy, perhaps - so it's a shame (unless I've missed one) to see you without any like-minded company in this morning's list.


RIP Billy Taylor (1921-2010)

Remembering Dr. Billy Taylor, who died on Tuesday 28th December through his unforgettable tune "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free," in the form in which it has implanted itself deep into British minds.

Here is John Fordham's obituary from this morning's Guardian. And a Washington Post obituary drawing attention to his role as an advocate. RIP.


Financial Times JazzFM feature

There is an interesting short feature in the Financial Times about JazzFM. The article states that the focus is on "returning the brand to its more niche audience and finding new ways to increase revenue. That includes hosting concerts, special events and signing deals with record companies to use their jazz catalogues to produce curated albums."

JazzFM has done better than expected in audience terms - 500,000 UK weekly listeners - and in is targeting breakeven in 2011.

Some City newswires have previously carried stories suggesting JazzFM was being prepared for an imminent stock market flotation. This article is more guarded, and states that this is just one option, and that it could happen "in the longer term."

The full article is here


US jazz stamp

The US Postal Service has turned to graphic artist Paul Rogers to design a stamp celebrating jazz for release at some point in in 2011. Image Credit USPS

More details of the stamp are on the USPS website.

Previous work by Paul Rogers interpreting jazz heritage is HERE.


Geoff Winston's selection of 2010 live music

The exceptional, the provocative and the affirmative have been found in abundance at many extraordinary concerts in the past year. To pick out just a few of them is not to exclude the rest, but to give a flavour of the range and the world-class standards that we are fortunate to be able to experience on our doorstep - mostly in the confines of north-east London at trail-blazing venues Vortex and Cafe Oto, but also in the centre of town at concert halls - Barbican (drawing above in negative of Charles Lloyd Quartet- credit Geoffrey Winston), RFH, Kings Place and the Wigmore Hall.

So with a few guide-words, let's hear it for:

Raw Creativity: Bad Plus with Django Bates at Kings Place (November); an unparalleled whirlwind of ingenuity, inspiration and interplay, defying categorisation

Power and Glory: Hairy Bones at Vortex (March); the sensitivity of Peter Brötzmann's long-standing quartet with trumpeter Kondo, Nilssen-Love and Pupillo came through on both nights, even though their meal-ticket is power-play

Ensemble Extraordinaire: Vandermark 5 at Vortex (September); breathtaking dynamics, awareness and intelligence from Vandermark, Rempis and co; a few days later at Cafe Oto, Ken joined Brötzmann's Full Blast Trio for two sessions which never stood still for a moment

Delight: Martial Solal at the Wigmore Hall (November); this quasi-sacred space proved to be the perfect setting for pianist Solal's exceptional virtuosity, creativity and gentle musical wit

Joy: Han Bennink at Pizza Express, with Coxon and Thomas (May); master drummer Bennink sparkled, switching gleefully from utter precision to contained mayhem; at Vortex (October) the smiles from trombonist Ray Anderson said it all, with Bennink mucking in, away from the limelight this time

Another Plane: David Toop at the Whitechapel Gallery (September); a remarkable two-hours of tremulous sound explorations from Toop, Butcher, Durrant and Kolkowski

Class (I): Vijay Iver Trio (link is to Patrick Hadfield's review) at Vortex (August); with Crump and Gilmore, Iyer's sets had quality written all over them; solo, also at Vortex (December), Iyer's intensity and range were absorbing

Class (II): Charles Lloyd Quartet (link to Alison Hoblyn's review) at the Barbican (November): Lloyd's flow was perfectly complemented by the accomplished trio of Moran, Rogers and Harland

Co-operation: Leo Wadada Smith 's two nights at Cafe Oto (July) showed how the sensitivity of a key musician can bring out the best in his collaborators

Invention: Mats Gustafsson at Cafe Oto (April) created evocative soundcapes with Thomas and Wachsmann, and gave an outing to his vintage slide sax; at Vortex (November) he was equally inventive in The Thing's sets, which showed a welcome disrespect for musical boundaries

The Extreme: Lou Reed's Metal Music Machine Trio at The Junction, Cambridge, heard again at the RFH (April) were uncompromising and challenging - the bunker and the concert hall presented different ribcage-vibrating options and Reed, Calhoun and Kreiger battered the walls at the edge of the musical universe

Illuminating Interview: Seb's interview with Matthias Winckelmann (link to Neal Richardson's review)at King's Place (April); hearing Matthias tell his story helped give form to a label that one almost takes for granted. This could be the forerunner of a series - maybe other labels, producers, musicians ...

Great music, too, from, among others, John Tchicai, Mary Halvorson, Chris Abrahams, Andrea Belfi, The Necks, Alexander von Schlippenbach, Evan Parker, Paul Lovens, Tony Marsh, Steve Noble, John Edwards, Joe McPhee, Monty Alexander, Georgia Manci0, Norma Winstone, Brad Mehldau, Phronesis, Toshimara Nakimura, Rhodri Davies, Tyft, Buffalo Collision, Max de Wardener, Bad Plus on their own ... and averaging 8 or 10 quid to see world class music in its best format - the live performance - often in a tiny venue - this represents incredible value.

Thank you musicians, thank you promoters and venues. And best wishes for 2011.


Re-living moments from the year's gigs

So here it is. Happy Christmas. Everybody’s having fun? Here's one more piece.

I'm just going to take a minute to re-live a few of the moments from the past year of listening to jazz which have brought that unique variety of joy and completeness which only live music can bring. We all keep going to hear live music because we know that when the transformative power, the alchemy in the room works, you’re going to remember it. Maybe forever.

No, these are emphatically not LondonJazz’s “top gigs.” The gaps may be bigger than the wall. This is just a few of the moments which still remain in this listener’s heart and mind.

* * * * *

January had a Jazzon3 celebration at Ronnie Scott’s where the sheer energy and verve of Django Bates’ Human Chain blew away all before it. Django's 50th birthday year has had other great events in it. He's also written for us.

In February the Storms/Nocturnes Trio had as their last number Tim Garland’s “Blues for Little Joe” at Ronnie Scott’s. Little Joe is Tim Garland’s son, who had come through very serious illness in the time since the tune was written (as against big Joe - Joe Locke). I don’t think I’ve heard playing come from anywhere as powerfully deep this year as that particular celebration. All of which bodes well for a new album which will be launched at Ronnie Scott's next April.

From March the memories are tinged with sadness. Trevor Tomkins paid a moving tribute in words at the Guildhall School tribute to Jeff Clyne. Steve Watts then honoured Clyne wordlessly through sheer bass sound and bass presence. Also unforgettable was Jacqui Dankworth and Chris Allard’s duo gig at Blackheath Hall. Just a few weeks after her father’s death, Jacqui sang Sweet Devotion. It’s a very fine song which demands to be heard again. She sang it with a depth, intensity, beauty. And courage.

From May, I remember three experiences. Fly (Mark Turner, Larry Grenadier and Brian Blade) played the acoustic of Kings Place Hall One like the truly fine instrument it is. Then the jaw dropped on hearing Mike Walker, Gwilym Simcock, Steve Swallow and Adam Nussbaum, a band now calling itself The Impossible Gentlemen. But Mike Walker’s compositions touched the emotional bits too.

And then there was Jamie Cullum at Cheltenham Town Hall applying the extreme defrost setting to an audience as only he knows how. Cautious Gloucestersire folk found themselves pogo-ing by the end. How does he do it?

From June I treasure the memory of Wycliffe Gordon on trombone and plunger mute, and Abram Wilson (suffering a terrible flu, I learnt later) getting a crowd of uninhibited primary school children swaying in front of me like a field of corn. That was the Barbican’s Anna Rice’s education project – nice one!

From July there was a band which MUST come to London. I heard Joshua Redman’s double trio in the Jazzhus in Copenhagen. Larry Grenadier and Reuben Rogers provided an astonishingly powerful eight string bass engine, and the two drummers Gregory Hutchinson and Bill Stewart were positioned like a pair of lions guarding a gate.

From the hugely successful Britjazz Festival at Ronnie’s August I treasure the Colin Towns Mask Orchestra, giving the Kurt Weill Suite light, dark and yet more dark. That was an exhilarating edge-of-the seat performance.

From September, all I can think of is one note. Karin Krog's deeply warm E below middle C in Georgia Mancio's brilliantly curated singers' week at the Pizza Express.

(Stepping out of sequence I’m going to leave October till last)

From the London Jazz Festival in November I was mesmerized by the combination of Gary Burton’s quartet- leading and Scott Colley’s bass-playing; but also by Darcy James Argue’s ultra-vivid orchestration of the experience of acute pain, as played by his Secret Society big band at Café Oto. Robbie Robson’s arrangement of Bloodcount from the Strayhorn celebration needs another outing too.

And here are just three from many moments from December which stay fixed in the mind. At the Yamaha Jazz Scholars gig at the 606 I was completely transfixed by the freedom around/across the beat of Ivo Neame both accompanying and soloing. And then there was Alcyona Mick and Rachel Musson’s musical conversations in Rachel’s band “Skein” at the Vortex. And from this week I can still hear Yuri Goloubev’s astonishing bass playing at a private party ringing in my ears.

But there is a possibility, a danger, that one memory can eclipse much else. The world premieres of several new pieces from Kenny Wheeler (photo above: Pip Eastop)took place in Basingstoke in October, at the start of a national touur. I believe strongly that this music will still be getting played in 100 years’ time. In the classical world they are resorting to gimmicks at premieres to disguise how thin and disposable a lot of the music is. This outpouring of melody, a series of new compositions from Wheeler's 80th year is one of the durable musical miracles of our time.

Wheeler's 80th birthday concert in January (Music for Large and Small Ensembles at the Royal Academy was a very special occasion. But a performance of Long Suite 2005 the London Jazz Orchestra in November was also significant. It shows that his music is starting confidently to make its way in the hands of other performers. Henry Lowther, that supreme first take, first call trumpeter, and vocalist Brigitte Beraha demonstrated that this music has the presence and the depth and the interest to last.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to remember a few of the extraordinary people we've lost this year. Like musicians Martin Drew, Jack Parnell, Harry Beckett and Chris Dagley. But also people who made indispensable contributions to the jazz scene like Maureen Sexton and Helen Maleed. And I have to thank the people who have written and sent in images to the site. (And thank you readers, particularly if you have read this to the end!)

HAPPY CHRISTMAS. And feel free to add the things which are missing....


Review: Tamir Hendelman

Tamir Hendelman Trio
(Bull’s Head, London – December 21, 2010. Review by Thomas Gray)

Amidst the abundance of excitingly hip and innovative piano trios springing up every year, it is often easy to overlook those trios still plugging away in a straight-ahead vein. Israeli-born pianist Tamir Hendelman (with Brits Andy Cleyndert on bass and Tom Gordon on drums) reminded us of the deep pleasures the latter can still bring, particularly when that ensemble has fine-tuned its interplay and sense of swing to near-perfection with a two week stint together on the road.

Kicking off with ‘Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams’, above, Hendelman belied his slight figure and unassuming presence with full-bodied block chords, impressive Oscar Peterson-like double octave runs and an infectiously driving swing which set the tone for the rest of the evening. While his virtuosic vocabulary may have had an air of the familiar about it (with echoes of the greats of swing through to hard-bop piano), his solos were delivered with such joy and effortless mastery that they were never less than engaging.

As the set went on, Hendelman stepped confidently outside of this mainstream comfort zone, turning what was already an enjoyable gig into an outstanding one. The spiky Monk-ish dissonances in his intro to Harry Sweets Edison’s ‘Centerpiece’ showed that he casts his stylistic net far wider than the opening numbers had suggested. Then came my highlight from the first set: the Prelude from Ravel’s ‘Le Tombeau de Couperin’. This piece fitted a jazz re-working so well, with its 6/8 Afro-Cuban ‘Bembe’ feel at one point and a chord sequence almost reminiscent of Chick Corea’s ‘Windows’, that it left me scratching my head as to why it isn’t already a standard.

Cleyndert and Gordon navigated the often tricky charts with flair and precision, never missing a kick or dropping a beat. It was a delight to see Cleyndert given a lot of solo space – his articulate improvisations and confident use of the bow confirmed that he really is one of our finest bassists. My only complaint during the evening was with the piano, which was shockingly out of tune in its upper register. Hendelman coped stoically with this, where some lesser pianists might have behaved as prima donnas. I’m hoping he comes back to the UK soon; hopefully next time we can provide an instrument in a condition more fitting to his considerable talents.

*Hendelman’s latest album ‘Destinations’ is on Resonance Records*



London A Cappella Festival Preview

That's Spain. On a quieter note, try this:

The window looked out onto a pattern never-ending,
A flower and trees and little pathways far descending
To the garden far below us, the pavilions in the sunlight
Where the Peacocks proudly grace the scene.

Norma Winstone first recorded these evocative lyrics to Jimmy Rowles' tune "The Peacocks" for the first time on the album "Well-Kept Secret" in LA in 1993, with Jimmy Rowles himself at the piano. The song, called "A Timeless Place" is becoming less and less of a secret...almost a standard.

It will form part of the Swingle Singers' closing concert of the London A Cappella Festival on Saturday January 15th, with Winstone herself as guest soloist.

I spoke to Clare Wheeler, who is one of the Swingle singers, who are curating the second festival, after a very busy and successful debut festival in 2010. Last year's festival consisted of British groups, this year there are groups from Belgium (Witloof Bay) and Sweden (The Real Group), and the festival will also have educational and community events. The Real Group, I read, do a great version of Bill Evans' Waltz For Debby.

Incidentally, she also told me about the power of Morningditty, which is a Facebook group and a Twitter topic. The invitation for the Swingles to perform at the Royal Command Performance (think Regent Street and tuition fees demonstrations....) came because of it.



News on 100 Club and Abbey Road Studios

It's that time of year when Saviours appear. In headlines. And then promptly disappear if you read on. Thus did the Evening Standard headline last night proclaim, amid great joy:

HEADLINE: "100 Club saved with a little help from its friends … and a mystery sponsor"

STORY: (Quoting Roger Horton) “We are actually in talks now with somebody who's stepped forward who wants to sponsor the club. I can't tell you any more than that because I've signed terms so I'm tied to a confidentiality agreement. But I'm hopeful that something positive can be announced in the next week or so. It would involve the club keeping going — it would remain with me."

HEADLINE: Breaking news: Abbey Road saved forever

STORY: ( from Norman Lebrecht's Slipped Disc blog) :"The zebra crossing outside Abbey Road studios have been listed by English Heritage as a site of supreme cultural importance. They cannot now be altered in any way without massive bureaucratic procedure.

"The studios themselves will probably be up for sale next month when EMI is broken up by Citibank in pursuit of its heavy loans."


Winter Wonderland (aka Lewisham)

One of Tom Cawley's superb contributions to #Morningditty. The others are HERE


Three Drawings of Vijay Iyer

As an accompaniment to Geoff Winston's REVIEW of Vijay Iyer 's Solo Piano gig at the Vortex, here are three drawings by him, a short, thoughtful journey into abstraction.


Valuing the Volunteer in Jazz

Jazz Services have just issued an interesting 45-page report "JAZZ IN ENGLAND- HIGH QUALITY, BEST VALUE AND THE VOLUNTEER SECTOR," looking at the "hidden value" generated by a number of Arts Council-supported organizations promoting jazz, in unlocking the "discretionary energy" of local volunteers.

The report measures the value of the activity against the grants received in 2009-10, and estimates that the value of such grants is "enhanced" in the aggregate activity virtually threefold - a ratio of 2.89 times.

The most impressive submission is from Jazz Yorkshire, for which that ratio is over ten-fold. This ratio for our five regular full-time year-round jazz venues in London is, of course, infinite. GO GUYS!



Jamie Cullum: "I found that my voice would hurt..."

I would never have guessed: I reviewed Jamie Cullum at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival and at the Proms (photo credit: Sisi Burn) , and found his performance energy astonishing. But, he writes today - with quite some honesty and candour - that he's been really going through it with voice troubles:

"I got very sick in the first tour in the USA of last year. In an effort to get through the schedule I pushed my voice in new ways which, though I was managing to make the necessary sounds, left my vocal chords ravaged and raw. I found that I constantly had a sore throat and that my voice would hurt when I sang. A combination of never really studying the mechanics of how my voice worked, dealing with a persistent form of the flu and general exhaustion had left my singing voice in a precarious place that I had never experienced before.

"It was a scary time ...."

The full story - and how he plans to put it right - are on Jamie Cullum's Terrified Studios blog


Peter Bacon's Festive 50

Birmingham Post jazz critic and Jazzbreakfast blogger Peter Bacon may be the personification of the phrase "sympathetic ear." He does a lot of jazz CD reviewing, and does it very well. His list reflects "the music I have enjoyed the most and feel has enriched my life the most - rather than any attempt at an objective appraisal of the 'best of 2010' ."

Drum Roll (photo above from badpuns.com) He has just revealed his top ten, with a short review of each.

10 Phronesis -Alive (Edition): "The Danish double bassist Jasper Hoiby....sounds even bigger, even more pliant. Ivo Neame...brings a mixture of strong harmony and a real searching spirit to his playing. And then there is brilliant drumming of Mark Guiliana. One of the best live sounds I’ve heard in ages. ".

9 Brad Mehldau - Highway Rider (Nonesuch): "A lovely rise and fall, swell and contraction. A wide screen movie for the imagination."

8 Vijay Iyer- Solo (ACT): "Another challenging, absorbing and rewarding Vijay Iyer recording takes its very secure place in my permanent collection – his is turning into a pretty substantial body of work and one which I know will bring me fresh insights and continuing pleasures for years to come.".

7 Charles Lloyd Quartet - Mirror (ECM): "A masterclass in the art of saying so much without showing off, without shouting, with just sharing the love… "

6 Christine Tobin & Liam Noble - Tapestry Unravelled (Trail Belle Records): " Both musicians have come to that point in their art, it seems, where they have realised the beauty of simplicity and straightforwardness. ".

5 Django Bates - Beloved Bird (Lost Marble): "Bates and his Danish friends, Petter Eldh on double bass and Peter Bruun on drums, have made not only a spectacularly fine piano trio record but also the most interesting, articulate and exciting Bird album since… well, since Bird. "

4 Henry Threadgill - Zooid This Brings Us To Volume II (Pi Recordings): "The great iconoclast still sounds like no one else, and does things with his music that no one else can do."

3 Keith Jarrett/Charlie Haden - Jasmine (ECM): "I first listened to this disc at four o’ clock one morning. ... I found myself revelling in the joy of being awake. Which is, I suppose, what Keith Jarrett’s and Charlie Haden’s music is all about."

2 Paul Motian/Chris Potter/Jason Moran - Lost In A Dream (ECM): " The finest Motian album, the finest Potter album and the finest Moran album I think I have ever heard.".

1 Loose Tubes - Dancing On Frith Street (Lost Marble): "If you haven’t already done so, buy this, I urge you, buy multiple copies and send them to all those you love… And buy them from Django Bates’s website. That way, the band members get the most benefit."

And here are 50-11

50 Ivo Neame- Caught In The Light Of Day (Edition Records)
49 James Morton’s Porkchop- Don’t You Worry ‘Bout That (Fresh Ground Records)
48 Fringe Magnetic- Empty Spaces (Loop Records)
47 The Sam Crowe Group- Synaesthesia (F-IRE)
46 Francois Couturier- Un Jour Si Blanc (ECM)
45 The Necks- Silverwater (ReR)
44 Orrin Evans- Faith In Action (Posi-Tone Records)
43 Stefano Battaglia/Michele Rabbia- Pastorale (ECM)
42 Jose James & Jef Neve -For All We Know (Impulse!)
41 Tim Whitehead- Colour Beginnings (Home Made)
40 Dave Stapleton Quintet-Between The Lines (Edition Records)
39 Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble- The Tide Has Changed (World Village)
38 Cassandra Wilson- Silver Pony (Blue Note)
37 Christian Scott- Yesterday You Said Tomorrow (Concord Jazz)
36 Metropole Orkest, featuring John Scofield, conducted by Vince Mendoza- 54 (Emarcy)
35 Curios- The Other Place (Edition Records)
34 Ana Moura- Leva-me Aos Fados (World Village)
33 Ralph Alessi-Cognitive Dissonance (CamJazz)
32 Vinicius Cantuaria- Samba Carioca (Naive)
31 Lionel Loueke- Mwaliko (Blue Note)
30 Lee Konitz New Quartet- Live At The Village Vanguard (Enja)
29 Rudresh Mahanthappa & Steve Lehman†Dual Identity (cleanfeed)
28 Tom Harrell- Roman Nights (High Note)
27 Ketil Bjornstad/Jon Christensen/Tore Brunborg -Remembrance (ECM)
26 Mats Eilertsen- Radio Yonder (Hubro)
25 John McLaughlin and The 4th Dimension- To The One (Abstract Logix)
24 Mayte Martin- Al Cantar A Manuel (World Village)
23 Kit Downes- Live At The Wardrobe, 2010 – Solo Piano (Own label)
22 Food- Quiet Inlet (ECM)
21 Jason Moran- Ten (Blue Note)
20 Esperanza Spalding- Chamber Music Society (Heads Up)
19 Abdullah Ibrahim- Sotho Blue (Intuition)
18 Absolute Ensemble, featuring Joe Zawinul- Absolute Zawinul (Intuition)
17 Wadada Leo Smith- Spiritual Dimensions (Cuneiform Rune)
16 Nik Bartsch’s Ronin- Llyria (ECM)
15 Polar Bear- Peepers (LEAF)
14 Soweto Kinch- The New Emancipation (Soweto Kinch Recordings)
13 Bill Frisell- Beautiful Dreamers (Savoy Jazz)
12 Dave Holland Octet- Pathways (Dare2 Records)
11 Norma Winstone- Stories Yet To Tell (ECM)

THE FULL STORY IS AT http://thejazzbreakfast.wordpress.com/festive-fifty/


Honorary Doctorate for Yolanda Brown

MOBO-Award winning saxophonist Yolanda Brown receiving her honorary Doctorate of Arts from the University of East London at a ceremony at the Barbican on December 2nd from the University's Chancellor Lord Rix. Other recipients of honorary degrees on the same day were Deputy Mayor of London, Richard Barnes AM, human rights campaigner Bianca Jagger, Malaysian human rights lawyer Dato’ Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah and Time Out Editor Mark Frith. Alongside her performing career, Yolanda Brown is studying for a PhD (technically an earned doctorate) at the University of Kent.


Review: Vijay Iyer Solo at the Vortex

Vijay Iyer
(Vortex, Monday December 13th, 2010, review by Geoff Winston)

Vijay Iyer, seating himself at the piano, looked at it meditatively, almost quizzically, and found his optimum posture before embarking on his recital, focused on the album 'Solo' (ACT), with dedications to Monk, Ellington, Sun Ra and half a dozen other "heroes", who, as he smilingly told the Vortex audience, "keep me company."

The restraint of the introduction to 'Autoscopy' led to a range of complex textures, rhythms and explorations - bass rumbles, pizzicato runs and single note repetitions - inspired by the psychic experience of leaving the body and watching it from above. A delayed flash of recognition was prompted as the theme from Monk's 'Epistrophy' was picked out in Iyer's skillful dissection.

'I'm all Smiles', cheery, yet with a hint of melancholy, had echoes of Bill Evans (oddly, not a listed as a 'hero'); Duke's 'Black and Tan Fantasy'borrowed the structure of bar-room boogie-woogie and the feel of a New Orleans funeral march in Iyer's refreshingly unconventional interpretation.

The second set saw a delicate, hypnotic sequence segue into insistent minimalist grounded rhythms, linking in to an intricate sequence informed by southern Indian Karnatak music - Iyer's face was contorted as he concentrated on its elaborate and demanding execution - and elegiac references to his Indian family heritage.

A wonderfully daft version of what I think was 'Giant Steps' ensued and Iyer found a big sound and a heavy riff in a highly respectful rendering of Michael Jackson's 'Human Nature'- he reminded a sceptic in the room that Miles Davis, amongst others, has recorded this song.

The enraptured Vortex audience had been treated to a 'concert hall concert in your front room', characterised by Iyer's virtuosity and overwhelmingly generous spirit of communication. Magic!

Photo: ACT Music


Review: John Cervantes Ensemble

John Cervantes Ensemble
(Forge Venue, December 11th 2010, review by Jane Stringfellow)

The multiple talents of John Cervantes were very much in evidence at Camden Town's Forge Venue (above) last Saturday. First as composer: he had written seven of the nine pieces played, which on a first hearing showed remarkable exploration of texture and some moments of real depth. He had arranged all the works performed. As music director he was leading a thirteen piece ensemble with a conductor’s precision, and infinite care for balance and tuning. Cervantes, the pianist plays beautifully and lyrically.

The sight of a large ensemble (jazz octet + string quartet + harp) on stage was impressive
but how much more impressive to hear them play. The band featured many gifted musicians, well known saxophonist Stan Sulzmann, and others who may become similarly established in the future.

The set began with Latin, a tune that could have come straight out of a Havana jazz club. Themes were passed from saxophones to strings with fine soloing from Stan Sulzmann. Sulzmann’s soloing came to the fore again in Simple Song and was well matched by guitarist Alex Munk, whose fluent playing made his complex rhythms seem simple. After the concert Cervantes acknowledged the contribution that the master Sulzman made, and Sulzmann himself was very enthustiastic about the being part of the ensemble.

However the younger musicians were key too and trumpet soloing from nineteen year old Tom Hart in Day of the Mayfly was reminiscent of Cuban Jose Miguel Crego. Cervantes' use of strings in this number made one wonder why more jazz composers don’t use them; cost presumably, or lack of contact with string players.

Para Megan, by Hermeto Pascoal, was another arrangement making excellent use of strings underpinning solos. Kate Carroll played a fine violin solo the last number, Jonathan Livingston Seagull - it was a shame that we had to wait until the last number to hear a string player solo!

The enthusiastic audience would not let the band leave without an encore, they knew they had seen something special. The gig will apparently be produced as a live CD, which will be well worth listening to when it becoes available.

John Cervantes is a composer, arranger and musician to watch out for. It is testimony to the Musicians’ Development Fund Award that they provide resources for a large exciting ensemble which might be hard to finance otherwise at an early stage.

Personnel: Stan Sulzmann - guest soloist, soprano/tenor saxophone; Tom Walsh - trumpet; Joe Wright - soprano/tenor saxophone; Kieran Mcleod - trombone; John Cervantes - piano; Alex Munk - guitar; Tom West - bass; Dave Hamblett - drums; Kate Cole - violin; Alice Barron - violin; Jenny Wilkinson - viola; Alice Murray - cello; Elen Hydref - harp.

Forge Venue Website


Early Bird Discounts for North Sea Jazz

The North Sea Jazz Festival (July 8-10 2011) in Rotterdam, one of the key events in the European calendar, is giving discount to early birds, because the rate of VAT in Holland will rise from 6% to 19% on January 1st. The festival itself is also giving a EUR 10 discount before March 1st.

A three day pass currently costs EUR 179 (plus EUR10 booking fee), rising to EUR199 (+10) on Jan 1st and EUR 209 (+10) on March 1st. No programme details are available as yet. Here's who was on in 2010. To buy, go HERE and press "KLIK OM HIER TE BESTELLEN"


This week's prize draw: Get your Hicks

This week's prize draw for newsletter subscribers is the new CD from Jacqui Hicks. Jacqui is originally from Yorkshire. As a teenager and into her twenties she sang and played saxophone in NYJO. And she's been working and accumulating experience ever since.

Jacqui is a wonderfully strong jazz singer. She's made two CDs with pianist John Critchinson. The first, With a Song in My Heart, was five years ago. This new one, A Child is Born, is the second. Also on the album is a rhythm section heaven - Dave Green and Tristan Maillot - plus Martin Shaw and Bobby Wellins. First call, first take players all round.

I go for the authority with which Jacqui just nails things, and gets them down as clear as a bell. And then there's a sense of passing on the melodic line like a relay baton - which makes her and Critch ideal partners. And then there's her range - from really quiet perfection (Josef Nyrow's Autumn Nocturne is a jewel) to an incredibly punchy and forceful rendition of Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.

This is a cut-down version of a review I've just recorded for Blast Radio


The choice for Boxing Day lunchtime

What an interesting choice for Boxing Day (Photo credit: I see Modern Britain/ Creative Commons)

If you stay by a (DAB) radio or your computer there's Helen Mayhew 's interview with Herbie Hancock, going out at 1pm.

He'll be talking about ...his love of the I-Phone 4, .... the story of the inspirations behind the song Watermelon Man..... about Miles Davis ... and about the making of the album The Imagine Project as that's what he was over to talk about. That's JazzFm - 1pm on Boxing day, 26th Dec.

But a day indoors and you'll be needing a gig as a matter of desperation, won't you. Look no further than Hugo's Jazz lunch special celebration - Ten Years of Jazz at Hugo's with Bret Kean - Tenor , Kate Williams - Piano , Dominic Howles - Bass , Paul Clarvis Drums. Hugo's is in Lonsdale Road, Queens Park, NW6.

Or, sure, there are the shops.......


Mr Mumbles is 90

Happy Birthday Clark Terry


News: Index to be added to 2nd printing of Penguin Jazz Guide

Penguin Books have confirmed to us that the index to the Penguin Jazz Guide – "The History of the Music in the 1001 Best Albums was "omitted from the first printing of the Jazz Guide but it is being added to the second."

Reviewers have been hugely positive about the book, and have mentioned this problem delicately:

Peter Quinn wrote: "the lack of an index means that you're forever thumbing through the contents pages to find this or that recording."

Ian Mann wrote : "Perhaps the authors decided on this course of action to enhance the element of surprise when the reader stumbles across a totally unexpected recording, like the Acker Bilk referenced above."

Links to both of these reviews are below.

Geoffrey Winston bought a copy, and describes his experience of the book:

"On publication day, 4 November, I was thrilled to receive The Penguin Jazz Guide, via Amazon. I have, however, been less than thrilled when trying to use the book as a reference book.

"This has nothing to do with the content, which is of the exceptional quality which has always been associated with the collaborations of Brian Morton and the sadly missed Richard Cook. It has nothing to do with the presentation as 1001 best albums (about which Morton has anticipated debate). It is much more basic. THERE IS NO INDEX.... unless I have a misprinted or faulty copy, of course.

"The lack of an index makes it very hard work to find any specific reference or entry- enough to drive one insane. The only listing of the musicians and recordings is in the massive 21 page list of contents, which are presented in the sequential order in which each of the 1001 entries appears, along with its page number. The final page of the book, p730, is the final text page describing a Joe Locke recording.

"The book is split up in to chronological sections (about which there was some agonising, one reads in the foreword), so, to find out if any single musician or recording is included in the book, you have to scan the whole contents list in the eras with which they are associated - no easy task for many musicians.

"Not only that, there is no helpful articulation of the chronological order in which the entries are presented within each era. Recording dates are tucked away in the credits, and can span sessions over months, and are not what the reader will be looking for, generally, anyway - so, if you are desperately searching for a specific recording, or musician, within an era your frustration is compounded, as there are no short cuts to finding what you want, as it is not presented alphabetically - which would have been a much easier way to negotiate each section.

"So ... when I want to find out about Red Garland, or Alexander Von Schlippenbach, Martial Solal or Derek Bailey (as I did this evening), and specific recordings that they have made, where do I start looking - and how do I know if the musicians or their recordings are included in the book, without an index, and a better thought through logic within the chronological breakdown?

"If a musician is represented by more than one recording (hinted at by an irritating superscript serif ampersand by the heading - trying to be clever and stylish and failing on both counts because it's the wrong context in which to employ this typographic affectation), the process is equally frustrating, and you need to follow the footnote which gives the other recordings and page numbers in order to track down other recordings by the same artist.

"Is this Penguin being miserly, cutting the cost of a professional indexer. Or did nobody on the editorial side bother to think this through beyond obtaining the raw material? What about presenting the information clearly, logically and in a navigable format, with, above all, the essential index in place?

"Trying to use this book as a the valuable reference source it should be just becomes an intensely irritating experience, on which I have now given up. Penguin - please enlighten me."


We forwarded this commentary to Penguin, who have sent us the following reply:

Dear Sebastian,

Thanks for forwarding this to me. I'm afraid that the index was indeed omitted from the first printing of the Jazz Guide but it is being added to the second. I'm very glad that your reviewer enjoyed the book otherwise.

Yours sincerely
G... L....

Peter Quinn's review from theArtsDesk

Ian Mann's review from the JazzMann


Peter Slavid's Top CDs on UK Jazz Radio

For the past year, Peter Slavid has been producing a radio show for internet radio station UK Jazz Radio. The current show is a "Best Of.." reflecting Peter's choice of recordings.

I understand that www. ukjazzradio.com now gets over 500,000 hits each month (40% from outside the UK), and that individual shows get around 5-6,000 listeners at peak time.

Peter writes: Everyone else seems to be putting their “Top 10” lists together I thought I’d do mine - it doesn't claim to be any more than the ones which I have most enjoyed.

My 10 favourite new CDs from UK & Europe

1. Orchestre National De Jazz: Shut up and Dance
2. Wollny/Kruse/Schaefer: Live
3. Sebastien Texier: Don’t Forget You Are An Animal
4. Elephant 9: Walk The Nile
5. Renaud Garcia-Fons: Mediteranees
6. MSG:Tasty
7. Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble: The Tide Has Changed
8. Helge Sunde Ensemble Denada: Finding Nymo
9. Ingrid Laubrock: Anti-house
10. Thomas Savy: French Suite

And some other terrific CDs I couldn’t quite squeeze in!

Phronesis: Alive
Django Bates: Beloved Bird
Soweto Kinch: The New Emancipation
Mederic Collignon - Shangri Tunkashi La
Denys Baptiste: Identity By Subtraction
Christien Muthspiel Yodel Group: May
Ilhan Ersahin: Istanbul Sessions

My 5 favourite new American CDs

1. Steve Coleman and Five Elements: Harvesting Semblances and affinities
2. Henry Threadgill Zooid: This Brings Us To Vol II
3. Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Forty Fort
4. John McLaughlin & The 4th Dimension: To The One
5. Vijay Iyer: Solo

Plus a special mention: David S Ware “Saturnian”

Best Newcomer : Beats & Pieces Big Band (EFPI)

Best Re-issue (by a mile) - Loose Tubes: Dancing on Frith Street (above)

* * * *
It is possible to listen to Peter's previous shows HERE

The show at any time by clicking “listen again” HERE. Or it is broadcast at the following times: Sat 8am /Sun 6pm / Mon 2pm / Tue 3pm / Wed 9pm / Thur 1pm / Fri 4am


Review: Paloma Faith/ Guy Barker

Paloma Faith and the Guy Barker Orchestra
(Barbican Hall, Friday December 10th 2010)

Nobody creates schisms among the readership of this site quite like Paloma Faith. A review from October by Fran Hardcastle brought out raw aggression in both the Palomistas and their antagonistas. So I was intrigued to hear more, and went to the Barbican on Friday.

The stage persona Paloma Faith adopts in the "Down the End of Lonely Street" show is a deliberately hammed-up cockney sparrow. She is the latest in that honourable line which stretches from Liza Doolittle through to Barbara Windsor and Martine McCutcheon. Her character is helpless in matters of love, and is continuously asking for the audience's forgiveness and sympathy. Faith's script (mostly read or ad-libbed from -or in one instance itself hopelessly lost...) is then a jumping-off point for songs about being abandoned.

The mistakes, the vulnerability are part of the charm. This is a character which London audiences invariably take to their hearts; Paloma Faith is no exception to the tradition. Occasionally, the damsel and the first beat of a bar have to be rescued. It happens. At one point in the show she stands with a microphone in one hand, a bottle of Jack Daniels in the other. Yes, only one of these will be the right one to lift towards the mouth at the start of a song. Oh dear.

But an audience which sees things go wrong knows it is getting something live. And in an era when trust has broken down, an audience's first reaction is to be thankful that it isn't being conned. Correction: that's true for those of us who were paying attention. There's always part of a December Friday night EC2 crowd which is mentally at a 24/7 office party.

Friday night's show had sold out well in advance. It featured Guy Barker's 42-piece big-band-plus-string-section, and was an extended version of the "Lonely Street" show, which was originally commissioned to be the closing gig of the 2010 BBC Radio 2-supported Cheltenham Festival. There is a lot of interesting writing in there. I'd be very curious, for example, to hear the second half opener Underdogs under the fingers of a German radio big band, given a few more days to rehearse it and to bring out the detail. That's not to belittle the excitement which this top London band always delivers; the economics on the continent lead to a different kind of performance.

There were three spectacular vamp burlesque outfits on show: a black velvet one-shoulder sheath cocktail dress with a padded bejewelled red shoulderpiece bow and a satin and net turban for the first set. That was in its turn upstaged by a Statue-of-Libertyesque silver fan headdress with mock ostrich feather and tulle burlesque floor length split front skirt dress. And, when that got ripped (aw) , it was outshone by a shimmering two-tone pink and silver luminescent backless batwing floorlength mermaid dress. Even Guy Barker got into the shimmying when that dress appeared. Hair (Paloma's) in 1940's victory roll, and vertiginous heels throughout. (Thanks to NS for all that.)

Yes, there was shameless nostalgia in the air, but also some cleverly chosen songs. Faith made the Leonard Cohen/ Madeleine Peyroux-ish "Dance me to the End of Love" work well and hauntingly. The Willie Dixon/Muddy Waters/Etta James "I Just Wanna Make Love to You" brought one of the strongest baying ovations one will ever hear in the Barbican Hall. And the encore (above) Upside Down had the whole audience on all three levels of the hall up on its feet.

The show, clocking in at three hours including interval, was slightly too long. A guest appearance by vocalist Charlie Wood seemed superfluous. In truth, the show had already flagged a bit before its only real low-point, the musically thin Do You Want The Truth? which a lighting operator interpreted as the moment to strafe us with searchlights. Thanks.

But there was genuine heroism in the band. Ralph Salmins is a superhuman presence on drumkit, powering every heartbeat of Guy Barker's band, just as he had been in Jazz Voice in the London Jazz Festival. Mark Frost had a disaster falling off a defective chair just before the interval, but with a borrowed 'bone, was back on form in the second half. With fellow bass cleffers Jay Craig on baritone sax, bass clrinet and alto flute, and Phil Donkin on bass, the lower end of the sonic spectrum is in superb hands in this band. Sonia Slany led a fine string section, and all of the trumpets blazed fabulously. It's a great band.

This is a successful show, and is deserves more outings. But I keep asking myself another question : could the whole show with its appeal to cockney sensitivities work abroad? My guess is that it could.


A portrait of Dame Cleo

This week's Sunday Independent in Ireland has an informative profile/interview by Ciara Dwyer with Dame Cleo Laine (photo: Dankworth Management), as a curtain-raiser for a New Year's Eve concert with Jacqui Dankworth, the RTE Concert Orchestra and Mark Nightingale in Dublin.

A few extracts:

Cleo saw Groucho Marx backstage at an event. She had been a big fan but suddenly, in his presence, her mind went to mush. "Mr Marx, may I ... may I shake your hand?" she said. The comedian replied, "Lady, you can shake any part of me you like."


Work and music have kept her sane. "I call it Dr Stage. You can go on feeling like death warmed up and the stage dispenses with it all. You drop 20 years in half an hour. It's better than having surgery."


One time she exploded and pulled a painting off the wall and put John's head through it.
"Just as well it wasn't a valuable painting."


Dame Cleo also talks about her first marriage, the significance of New Year's Eve to her, sharing a bed with a "dishwasher"...It's a full and affectionate profile. For the full article, here's a LINK

Details of the Dublin New Years Eve concert (and the small number of seats still on offer) : follow THIS LINK


Book Review -Playing the Band - The Musical Life of Jon Hiseman

Book Review. Martyn Hanson. Playing the Band: The Musical Life of Jon Hiseman
(2010, Temple Music. 464pp., £16.95. Review by Chris Parker)

'The band', in this scrupulously detailed, intimate account of drummer/bandleader Jon Hiseman's musical life, is usually his most famous one, Colosseum, but the book also follows the fortunes of many other projects in which he was involved, from the pioneering Graham Bond Organization to recordings with Andrew Lloyd Webber and performances with life partner Barbara Thompson 's Paraphernalia.

Illuminated throughout by judiciously selected first-hand accounts from numerous and varied participants and observers, but depending for the vast majority of its many insights on the thoughtful, often pungent contributions of Hiseman himself, Playing the Band sheds valuable light not only on the day-to-day vicissitudes inevitably involved in bandleading and touring, but also (courtesy of Hiseman's 'parallel career' running Temple Music studios) on the fundamental changes undergone by the music industry consequent upon the introduction of technological innovations, chief among them digital recording.

A few examples will give a flavour of the range and depth of Hiseman's thought. On pop drummers: 'Several things really irritate me about young pop/rock drummers: they hit the drums so hard, they hit them so badly and they leave the stick on the drumhead for too long after each beat …' On listening back to recordings: '… all I had ever heard was what I thought of as the mistakes, so Jack [Bruce] was important to me, because he confirmed what I was beginning to suspect – most listeners don't know what is intended and only hear what you have done … and often there's a big difference'. On other drummers: 'Keith Moon is a gas … nobody seems to take him seriously – they should'; 'Stevie [Wonder]'s playing combines for me the naïveté of the beginner with that ultimate of all attributes, the ability to create drum parts which sound completely inevitable […] It is as if I can hear how every musician would like to have drums played, if all that practice and technocracy wasn't in the way.'

In addition to such perceptive comments on matters purely musical, the book also takes an unflinching look at the self-destructive drug use of figures such as Graham Bond and Mike Taylor, the unscrupulous business dealings of promoters, and the unpredictable fashions and fads dictating the behaviour of record companies. It also contains several skilfully chosen sections of colour and black-and-white photos from all stages of Hiseman's career, although the production values of the text (misspellings of words such as forgo, practise, rarefied etc.; the use of italic type for band names; the occasional intrusion of 'straight' inverted commas instead of 'curlies'; an irritatingly impenetrable index containing block entries with up to 50 page citations; unfixed widows etc.) let the book down badly at times.

Culminating in a fascinating account of the tours (and tribulations) of Colosseum II, a touching tribute to the late great Dick Heckstall-Smith (to whose autobiography The Safest Place in the World Hanson's book provides an intriguing complement) and a final celebration of Hiseman's marriage to Thompson ('the real success has been my family life with Barbara and our two children Marcus and Anna'), Playing the Band is none the less an absorbing, lovingly compiled and admirably detailed account of a pivotal figure on the UK jazz/progressive rock scene.

The book is available from Temple Music


Lalah Hathaway

Seasons Greetings for a Saturday while you get the cards done or think about braving the shops.

-Silent Nocturne from Donny Hathaway's daughter Lalah in 2006.

-All you'd ever possibly want to know about the history of Silent Night


Miles Davis Exhibition

Just heard about this one before it closes:

Miles Davis ' last remaining 100 original drawings and oil paintings are at Gallery 27 in Cork Street Mayfair until tomorrow Saturday 11th December. Opening hours tomorrow are 11am-4pm

The organizers write: "The Exhibition is being organised by The Compton Cassey Gallery and Balmain Fine Art. Half of the work contained in the forthcoming exhibition was acquired from the Art Estate of Miles Davis many years ago by Jonathan Poole and the remainder, presented by Keith Denney, was inspired by his girlfriend, Jo Gelbard, a sculptress with whom he spent the last five years of his life."

Miles Davis London Exhibition
Gallery 27, 27 Cork Street, London, W1S 3NG
Tel: 020 7287 8408


RIP James Moody (1925-2010)

That lovely direct sound and voice... alto saxophonist, tenor saxophonist, "flute holder" James Moody died yesterday from pancreatic cancer in a hospice in San Diego. RIP.

Here is the New York Times obituary


New Music 20 x 12 - Congratulations to Julian Joseph and Jason Yarde

PRS for Music Foundation is managing a project of twenty new composition commissions as part of the 2012 Olympic Games Cultural Programme under the banner New Music 20 x 12. The winners have just been announced, and the two musicians from the jazz world to receive commissions are Julian Joseph and Jason Yarde.

Here are details of their successful bids:

"Julian Joseph and Hackney Music Development Trust have won funding for jazz proposal, ‘The Brown Bomber’, based on the famous boxing battle between American Joe Louis and German Max Schmeling in 1938. The piece will bring to life the relationship between the two athletes, who were adversaries in sport, but became great friends despite the ideological opposition that surrounded them.

Composer, producer and saxophonist Jason Yarde and community band Wonderbrass, which celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2012, are working on ‘Skip, Dash. Flow’ that will explore new world rhythms. "

PRS for Music is partnered up for this project with the BBC, LOCOG (the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games) and Sound and Music, and the UK's Arts Councils are also funding it.

(Fantastic for Jason and Julian who are thoroughly deserving...I just regret that nobody thought of knocking Kenny Wheeler's door, a world-class composer in the heart of an Olympic borough.)



Michael Janisch in Shetland

Here's a story from the Shetland Times about how indefatigable tour organizer Michael Janisch is ending his year, by travelling as far in the British Isles as it is possible to go. Somehow there is a need to know more about support band Norman and the Deckchairs....or maybe not.


British Jazz Awards

The results of the 22nd British Jazz Awards organized by Big Bear Music in Birmingham have appeared in the current Jazz Rag magazine.(Thanks for the transcription services to GW)

2. Enrico Tomasso
3. Steve Waterman
4. Bruce Adams
5. Dick Pearce

2. Roy Williams
3. Ian Bateman
4. Annie Whitehead
5. Alistair White

2. Julian Marc Stringle
3. Tony Coe
4. James Evans
5. Adrian Cox

2. Peter King
3. Derek Nash
4. Jason Yarde
5. Geoff Simpkins

2. Simon Spillett
3. Bobby Wellins
4. Mornington Lockett
5. Dave O’ Higgins

2. John Pearce
3. Kit Downes
4. David Newton
5. James Pearson

2. Jim Mullen
3. John Etheridge
4. Dave Cliff
5. Dominic Ashworth

2. Alec Dankworth
3. Len Skeat
4. Paul Morgan
5. Andy Cleyndert

2. Bobby Worth
3. Ralph Salmins
4. Sebastiaan de Krom
5. Clark Tracey

2. Jim Hart [Vibes]
3. Andy Panayi [Baritone Sax]
4. Christian Garrick [Violin]
5. Roger Nobes [Vibes]

2. Val Wiseman
3. Norma Winstone
4. Liane Carroll
5. Tina May

2. Amy Roberts
3. Henry Armburg Jennings
4. Lewis Wright
5. Alistair White

3. Peter Cater Big Band
4. Michael Garrick Big Band

2. Stan Tracey Quartet
3. Kit Downes Trio
4. Brass Jaw

2. Stan Tracey Quartet - Senior Moment [Resteamed]
3. Kit Downes Trio – Golden [Basho]
4. Norma Winstone – Stories Yet To Tell [ECM]

2. Humphrey Lyttelton – 1959 [Lake]
3. Tubby Hayes – Inventivity [Candid]
4. British Jazz Artists – Vol 3: Street Of Dreams [Vocalion]


Prize Draw (2) John Cervantes premiere

The other prize for newsletter readers this week (email me)is a pair of tickets to a special gig at the Forge Venue in Camden Town.

Composer/ pianist/ trumpeter John Cervantes (above, photo: Victor Guneng) won a Development Award from the Musicians Charity MBF to compose an extended piece for twelve-piece ensemble (jazz septet plus string quartet and harp). The work receives its premiere on this Saturday in a performance by the Cervantes Ensemble featuring Stan Sulzmann.

The Cervantes players are all top young players: Tom Walsh (trumpet); Joe Wright (saxophone); Kieran Mcleod (trombone); Alex Munk (guitar); John Cervantes (piano); Tom West (bass); Dave Hamblett (drums); Gemma Sharples (violin); Zanete Uskane (violin); Jenny Wilkinson (viola); Alice Murray (cello); Elen Hydref (harp).

I've heard some clips..people are making comparisons with Brad Mehldau's with strings projects... But I just can't help wondering if there isn't a famous ancestor with a gift for story-telling lurking in the background.

There are clips of previous compositions on the John Cervantes website.

Supported by a
Musicians Benevolent Fund Development Award


Wednesday Prize Draw (1) The Little Giant

Newsletter readers can email me to put their names in the hat for one of TWO prizes this week

First up we have, courtesy of Northway Books, a hardback copy of The Little Giant - the story of Johnny Griffin by Mike Hennessey, photos by David Redfern, which retails at £19.99.



Jazz Yorkshire Awards

Since I haven't seen these reported elsewhere, stand by for the Jazz Yorkshire's awards, given out last night Decembr 6th in Halifax

Band of the Year: If Destroyed Still True (above at Wakefield Jazz)

Big Band of the Year: James Hamilton Jazz Orchestra

Business Sponsor of the Year: Fennell Gree and Bates

Fundraiser of the Year: Amy Ward (Ryedale Jazz Club)

Album of the Year: Fill it up with Ghosts - Trio VD

Club/Venue of the Year: Boston Spa Jazz Club

Composer/arranger of the Year: James Hamilton

Educator of the Year: John Ellis

Festival of the Year: Marsden Jazz Festival

Instrumentalist of the Year: Simon Kaylor

Journalist of the Year: Reginald Brace (Yorkshire Post)

Lifetime Achievement Award: Ronnie Bottomley

Pub Venue of the Year: The Phoenix Inn, York

Supporter of the Year: Gerry Moore (East Coast)

Vocalist of the Year: Nicki Allan

Website of the Year: Darren Dutson Bromley

Young Musician of the Year: Matt Anderson


Review: Rachel Musson's Skein

Rachel Musson with Liam Noble and Mark Sanders, plus Skein
(Vortex, CD launch gig, December 6th 2010, photo credit: Richard Kaby)

Forethought, planning and persuasiveness are required to achieve anything, And courage, too. Barely two years since graduating from Trinity College of Music's jazz course, Rachel Musson seems to have the first three in abundance. Last night at the Vortex she had put together a thoughtfully constructed and contrasted double bill, for the last of three dates launching her debut CD Flight Line.

But she also has no shortage of courage . For the first set she had given herself no mean challenge: launching - with a quick sound check rather than a rehearsal , I was told - straight into a forty-minute completely freely improvised set with older musicians: pianist Liam Noble and drummer Mark Sanders. It is to Musson's - and their - immense credit that it worked so well, and really held the audience's attention throughout.

Noble has tonal and harmonic resources, and the capacity to take the listener on a journey like very few other pianists in Britain. Sanders has constantly bubbling creativity and an astonishing range of expression. I sensed towards the end of the second of the trio's two improvisations that he really started to relax. He was reaching out and producing resonant pings from a spare music stand, and from one of the structural steel pillars of the Vortex. Is that pillar a regular port of call for free drummers? A Vortex habitue, perhaps, will be able to enlighten LondonJazz readers. Rachel Musson played with an authority and a variety of timbre which are bound to continue to grow. .

In the second half her band Skein, consisting of musicians of a younger generation, took to the stage and played material from the CD Flight Line. Two things about the album keep drawing me back to it. Firstly, there are Musson's compositions. One tune, Scrumpy has a curiously engaging and playful swagger; another, That Reminds me of the Time is full of twists and turns - the tune as hide-and-seek. Secondly, her dialogue and interplay with pianist Alcyona Mick is always fascinating. Skein is a double drum quintet which must be very hard to balance live. It may have been where I was sitting - but the two drummers (Josh Morrison and Javier Carmona) had a tendency to overpower and sometimes to detract rather than add. Will Collier on bass was solid throughout, and was also impressive when he occasionally stepped into the limelight.

The Vortex continues to programme coherently, thoughtfully, and to support young, developing musicians from the surrounding districts. Which also takes courage.

Flight Line is available from F-Ire.com


Preview: Sam Leak's Aquarium

Preview: Sam Leak’s Aquarium – Kings Place, Saturday 11 December, 8pm
Preview by Thomas Gray. Photo credit : Barbara Bartz

Sam Leak shows few signs of winding down in the run-up to Christmas. He has just launched his new website (www.samleak.com) and this Saturday evening (11 December) he brings his group Aquarium to Kings Place as part of the The Base gig series (see left hand column). Keeping this momentum going into 2011, the group will soon be releasing their debut album on the Babel-Vortex label. It's a highly impressive achievement.

Like his fellow Royal Academy of Music alumni Gwilym Simcock, Ivo Neame and Kit Downes, Leak is a thoughtful and resourceful young pianist with a wonderful touch and avery sensitive ear to the overall ensemble sound. What is striking on a first listen to his new material is how he patiently develops his lines anduses space masterfully, resisting the temptation to throw all of his flashy licks into the pot at once as some other young pianists fresh out of college tend to do (that said, he clearly has chops in abundance to draw on when he needs it).

Leak has picked some of the cream of his peer group to help flesh out his attractive compositions: the outstanding James Allsopp on tenor sax and bass clarinet (confidently spanning territory between Stan Sulzmann and Evan Parker), Calum Gourlay on bass and Josh Blackmore on drums. Joining Aquarium on Saturday will be vocalist Rhiannon Bradbury, who sounds almost like Norma Winstone on ‘Shades of Grey’.

This is another great young talent who looks more than capable of helping to keep the Brit Jazz flag proudly flying well into 2011 and beyond.

Extracts from Sam Leak's forthcoming CD on Babel-Vortex are HERE


Harriet Gedge

Julian and James Joseph write:

Publisher, chorister and music enthusiast Harriet Gedge lost her battle with breast cancer on November 30th 2010. Daughter of David and Hazel Gedge she and brother Nick grew up surrounded by music and her father’s work training youngsters in choral music, offering stability, comradery and consistency to those who really needed it. She had a deep intelligence and knowledge that drove her to support music in all it’s styles from the vocal work of American composer Eric Whitacre to Japanese piano sensation Hiromi and everything in between. Harriet believed in and knew first hand the good music could do in society and lived her life in the spirit of that generosity.

She worked for publishing company Music Sales which for many years kept her commuting between Britain, Europe and the Far East. Our friendship blossomed as I (Julian) became involved in opera, frequented Brecon and did more in education. I called her "Harri" and she had the most magnificent way of enthusing about a concert and speaking about the music she'd heard. She was immensely supportive to me at important times in spite of her mammoth struggle with breast cancer. She fought all the way with dignity, style and courage and kept her kind and generous personality intact which is how I will remember her. We were blessed to have called her our friend and offer condolences to her loving family. Our family, the Jazz community and music will miss her deeply. God Bless You Harri.

Julian and James Joseph


Review: The Thing

The Thing - Mats Gustafsson - tenor, baritone saxes; Ingebrigt Håker Flaten - bass; Paal Nilssen-Love - drums
(Vortex, Tuesday 30 November 2010 -2nd night of a 2-day residency); review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

The Nordic trio, The Thing, with their fresh, wild and powerful concept have been established for over 10 years. Inspired by Don Cherry's portfolio, they have also linked up with like-minded musicians such as saxophonists Ken Vandermark and Joe McPhee to perform and record. The individual members have occasionally played together in London, but appearances as a full trio have been elusive, so this overdue visit was worth the wait, particularly as their music is continuing to evolve.

They all took to the stage in black T-shirts, I noticed at least one was from Ruby's Barbeque in Austin, Texas. Incongruous attire, somehow, for a night when eyes which drifted could also see the snow billowing outside under the lights of Gillett Square. But if the eyes were receiving conflicting images, the ears were caught up in a true conversation in sound. One definition has it that sounds are 'mechanical vibrations transmitted by an elastic medium.' This phrase could also sum up The Thing's eclecticism and open-mindedness. The Thing can swing from raw, ruthless jazz or punk to a meditation on what can be achieved on a single instrument - Gustafsson's excursions on baritone were particularly masterly.

All three maintained a vital tension throughout both sets, never flagging or letting the musical possibilities pass them by. It was an interesting combination - two natural front men, Gustafsson on reeds - animated, robotically wrestling with his venerable bari, and Nilssen-Love on drums, physically economical in his movements, yet thudding out a massive sound - with Håker Flaten's bass blending, almost invisibly, as it does with Atomic (where he and Nilssen-Love form the rhythm section), to give a depth and soft edge to their harsher dynamics. It works beautifully.

They got off to a blistering start - it was 'roar and roll' from the off, with Gustafsson's bellicose, rasping and Nilssen-Love's caustic clattering. They would drift in to almost silent passages, with Håker Flaten's bow determinedly puttering on his strings by the bridge of his double bass, butterfly touches from Gustafsson on the saxophone keys and Nilssen-Love's goat bell and brushes mingling atmospherically with light cymbal work. They broke out of a repeated rising three-note figure with manic energy and a raw, rapid fire delivery, which saw the rhythm department paying dues to Elvin Jones, and effervescent runs from Gustafsson, alternating on tenor. They took on the pace and acoustics of a steam train, with Nilssen-Love in the engine-room reminiscent of O. Winston Link's monochrome images of thundering locomotives, pulling all aboard for the journey.

Gustafsson laughingly described their collaboration as "one more distorted misunderstanding", but in reality it was quite the opposite: a series of sonic jumps, clear and precisely stated. The Thing really were just the thing - for an icy night in Dalston!


Helen Maleed

I am deeply saddened today to hear from Jazz Services of the death of publicist Helen Maleed after a long battle against cancer. A thoughtful, helpful, incredibly positive person with a genuine love of the music cruelly taken from among us decades too early.


Celebrating Jim Mullen

There's probably no better place to find genuine warmth on a bitterly cold December evening than the 606, and no better occasion to savour it than the birthday gathering of a universallly liked and respected figure in British jazz, guitarist Jim Mullen (photo : Jeff Hardcastle/creative commons).

Jim Mullen inspires affection. A number of people who had hoped, expected to be there had found themselves and their trains and cars completely snow-bound. Nevertheless Matt Skelton had been able to assemble - in secrecy - an impressive line-up. A quadruple bill, no less.

A first set from Henry Lowther, Dave Cliff, Dave Green and Stu Butterfield had been and gone by the time I arrived. But the second. with Jim Mullen's organ trio with Mike Gorman and Matt Skelton was pure pleasure. Mullen's gentle way with the melody of You've Changed was special, beautiful poetic. There's always a sense of line, a feeling of being unhurried, and of having something meaningful to say with every note. And final cadenza, bringing the whole band to a millimetre-perfect landing was memorable. But their is also inner strength in Mullen's playing. The final number was Mike Gorman's Smokescreen, a fast and furious 5/4 dispatched with ease, energy and a robust swagger.

After the arrival, and the eating, of a massive birthday cake - a picture will appear here in due course ! - the third band of the night was Mark Nightingale on trombone, with much to enjoy in the contributions of Graham Harvey on piano, Mick Hutton bass and Ian Thomas, drums. Mullen joined them for a delightful and serene Stars Fell on Alabama, and an energetic Straight no Chaser.

The fourth set brought Bosco Oliveira and Curtis Stigers to the stand. Reports please???

Great to be reminded of the particular kind of warmth, affection and good humour that comes from the bandstand, and from the strong beating heart of a community of talented and dedicated people. It's what a cold climate needs.


South Bank Awards - A wasted opportunity

The three music categories in the South Bank Awards are


How totally, mind-numbingly narrow just to follow the money, and not to include some kind of award for non-mainstream music, where most of the excitement in British musical life is. A missed opportunity. Sky Arts, Lord Bragg, get back in your cloud - a total lack of inspiration. Meuh.



Wikio's Top London and Music Blogs

LondonJazz has a first-time ranking in Wikio UK's London blogs at Number 16, and we are 7th in UK music blogs across all genres.

16 LondonJazz


3Lil Wayne HQ
4Alter The Press!
5St. Peter's View
8No Rock And Roll Fun
9Live4ever - The Brit Rock Daily
10Tom Service on classical music
11Word Magazine blogs
14Southern Hospitality
15uncarved.org blog
16Slipped disc
17Song, by Toad
18On An Overgrown Path
19Da Hora
20bebop spoken here

Ranking made by Wikio