A link to bookmark

Here courtesy of someone called Yoshinobu from Tokyo, is an extraordinary nostalgia trip into British jazz of forty years ago. Follow this link

Discographies via a treasure trove of clickable LP covers of Ian Carr, Gordon Beck, Jeff Clyne, John Stevens, Derek Bailey, Robert Wyatt, Elton Dean, Keith Tippett, John Marshall, John Surman and Don Rendell.

I won't vouch for accuracy, just enjoy!


Go Peggy!

Many congratulations to risen star jazz producer Peggy Sutton, senior producer on Jazz on 3, who has been nominated for an award at the UK Radio Academy's inaugural Radio Production Awards in the category Live Music Producer - Studio Session. The winners will be announced an event on Thursday February 11th.

Tomorrow night's Jazz on 3 (11.15pm) produced by someone else at Somethin' Else, features Vijay Iyer and Chris Batchelor's Big Air recorded live at the 2009 Saalfelden Festival in Austria.


Review and illustration: Peter Brotzmann

Review: Peter Brötzmann/ Edwards/ Marsh/ Thomas
(Cafe Oto, January 29th, Day 2 of a 3 day residency, review and illustration by Geoffrey Winston)

"We finish the evening with a little short song." A characteristic understatement, at the end of the Peter Brötzmann quartet's concentrated and powerful set, from the small-framed, modest man seen quietly chatting to punters before the concert, and who would meticulously trim his woodwind reeds in moments when he was not centre-stage.

Brötzmann opened the evening with a stunning solo set, firstly on tarogato, then tenor. The clarinet and its close relations have rarely been stretched to the extremes to which it was subjected in the opening number - physically manipulated to draw out rasping, strained articulations, combined with just-audible vocalisations, Brötzmann ‘strangled’ his instrument's upper joint and barrel, coaxing sounds that conventional musicians would never get near (or imagine). Bechet's raucous tone and Roland Kirk's masterly ventures on the instrument are Brötzmann's precursors.

With other reed instruments throughout the evening – including his tenor with its beautifully engineered flat profile crook - Brötzmann brought out sounds that tended to the extreme range of these instruments’ potential, with only a dab of lyricism or hint of a more conventional melody. His focus was on a higher-pitched range which would hit stratospheric levels at key points during the second set. Every so often, his vibrating, plaintive articulation brought to mind the idea of a giant insect, and animal calls over great distances - taking his music outside the realm of purely musical traditions.

Brötzmann's co-musicians for the extended second set - John Edwards (string bass), Tony Marsh (drums), and Pat Thomas (piano) were a well-chosen foil to his peregrinations. Opening at phenomenal velocity, they maintained this tempo and a well-oiled cohesion all evening. Pat Thomas was a revelation, supplying canyons of chords and spring-loaded extemporisations, with a sense of split-second timing for each interjection. Marsh, accomplished, fluent and solid, kept the foursome in check. Edwards pummelling his bass (and its body) was not fazed by having to perform running repairs to a slaughtered string half-way through. Clearly, Brötzmann felt very comfortable with this combination, thoughtfully listening to their contributions, and watching closely as each made their own statements.

It is great that such a master has made it to club venues in London this time round (after ignoring London in 2008). Café Oto is lovely setting for this kind of music, with its Dutch warehouse feel (and great bar selection). We can look forward to his Vortex gigs with relish.


An A to Z of German jazz

I've just been at a fascinating two-day conference about German jazz under the heading "Jazz andBusiness". Here's my conference report, in the form of a (definitely unserious) A to Z. For more about the delightful conference location try the letter N.

A is for Albert Mangelsdorff (1928-2005). The late trombonist is a godfather figure for the music in Germany. A valuable prize and an archive have been named in his posthumous honour. His surname means "village of insufficiency" or possibly of washing mangles. But don't let's go there.

B is for Berlin. Berlin has a very busy scene, at least in part because it is such a cheap place for musicians to live and to study (fees low, subsidies for student travel.) The city is a magnet for players from all over the world. One conference participant said that it's now almost too easy for musicians to get gigs, suggesting - with a smile - that they'd probably appreciate them more if they had to work harder for them.

C is for Cyminology . This band is possibly the best case study so far of the German nurturing system producing a band which has gone on to develop an international reputation. Their fourth album is out on ECM.

D is for Darmstadt, home to the hard-working Jazzinstitut Darmstadt, started in 1983. Their 416-page Wegweiser/ address book is superb.

E is for ECM . Manfred Eicher's label needs no introduction. See also L and W.

F is for Feuilleton (the world-class arts features sections of the broadsheet newspapers.) There was a fascinating discussion about their editorial policy. Not enough jazz features, it was said. German newspapers feel absolutely obliged to cover major local events, and premieres, and new opera productions and spats between arts figures. If coverage of this kind is the goal, then an easy solution, I thought, mischievously..... it would get heaps of coverage for jazz.... E, K, L and W -or any pairing of the above -should stage a very public fight about something.

G is for Goethe Institut, which promotes German jazz abroad. Here's their jazz home page which gives a good flavour of the scene.

H is for Hamburg,where the preparations for a new ambitious first-time festival Elbjazz ,set to happen in May are being watched with some interest.

I is for Initiative für Musik. One of a series of generous, separate but interlocking state initiatives to support non-classical music. The funding landscape in Germany is complex.

J is for Jazzahead in Bremen. At the end of April the third edition of this important European conference and showcase will take place in the Hanseatic port which is a Land in its own right with its own radio station.

K is for Karsten Jahnke, Germany's leading live jazz promoter. The network of festivals and big venues which put on jazz is impressive.

L is for Siggi Loch of ACT records,
one of three internationally significant, all Munich-based, jazz labels, each with its different character.

M is for
the popular and respected Moers Festival in May. (Photo above). Early bird tickets have very nearly sold out already.

N is for the Naturfreundehaus Humboldstein, in a splendid setting overlooking the Rhine south of Bonn. I'm told that Naturfreunde are people who greet each other with the expression "Berg Heil" (hail to the mountain), which can also be misinterpeted as "Berg geil" meaning the mountain gets me aroused. I didn't try out either greeting.

O is for optimism. Jazz people in Germany, as everywhere, are independent-minded and open. They believe in the quality, health and diversity of their jazz scene.

P is for Plattenladen, or record shops. Allegedly the number of specialist jazz record shops still hanging on in there in the whole of Germany is now down to twelve.

Q is for Quellen which means sources. There is a great variety of influences around.

R is for radio, and for regional. The German system of radio stations based on the regions or Länder clearly allows the country's regional jazz scenes more scope to become visible than the BBC as national broadcaster. Big topic.

S is for Sparten, the German word for niches or genres. All of the journalists I met wrote about more than one genre of music. Are we in the UK on average more compartmentalizing when we think about music?

T is for the trombone, Posaune. Mangelsdorff and Nils Wogram and bandleader Nils Landgren make it a more mainstream and popular instrument in Germany.

U is for Unabhängigkeit , independence, freedom. That's jazz.

V is for Vielfältigkeit, diversity, pluralism. Why not?!

W is for Matthias Winckelmann.Holy. Shit. I thought, as the legendary founder of Enja Records (he started it up in 1971 and it's still going strong) wandered in to have a chat. How strange to meet, in person, a substantial part of one's record collection. I also discovered that he is related to J J Winckelmann (1717-68) the legendary German art historian and father of German Hellenism. Hellenism, heaven, and some amazing albums.

X is for Export subsidy. The main push will be at the German Jazz Meeting, coinciding with Jazzahead in Bremen in April.

Y is for "Yats". Germans pronounce the word jazz indiscriminately in two ways. Either as the English word or ...very curiously, thus.

Z is for Zittau. A touchstone for the breadth and depth of the scene. Zittau is a town of 25,000 people. It is at the furthest point to the east in Germany, hard on the borders of both Poland and of the Czech republic. But it has just,proudly, hosted its 14th annual jazz festival.


Preview:Loop Collective Festival

PREVIEW:Loop Collective Festival 2010
(17th-21st February, The Vortex.Preview by Peter Horsfall)

Following 2009’s highly successful and first-ever Loop Festival, the influential London collective will present 17 gigs over four days in a flurry of activity at The Vortex club in Dalston.

Three participant bands will also be launching their albums at the festival:

I saw trumpeter Rory Simmons’ 10-piece Fringe Magnetic at The Oxford in Kentish Town last year and loved it. With this upcoming festival performance they will be celebrating the release of their album Empty Spaces, on the Loop label. Simmons’ writing displays both sophisticated rhythmic counterpoint of the Django Bates model and a flare for colourful orchestration with a Modernist bent. Amongst the group are fine soloists including Blink’s Robin Fincker (clarinet), Fraud’s James Allsopp (bass clarinet).
Simmon's own trumpet playing is also suitably brought to the fore.

Also not to be missed is Allsopp’s own trio The Golden Age of Steam, featuring Kit Downes (organ) and Tim Giles (drums), who will promoting their debut release on the Babel label. Similarly, Ivo Neame’s quartet signed to the new exciting Edition Records label in October 2009 and provided one of the most memorable gigs at last year’s Loop festival, due in no small part to drummer James Maddren’s explosive drumming. (Photo above- Olly Wedgwood)

The Full Festival listings can be found here at The Loop Collective’s website.


Review: The Princess and the Frog

Review: The Princess and the Frog
(Animated Movie by Disney Studios/Soundtrack and Original Songs by Randy Newman, Review by Rodd Fogg)

You might be surprised to find a review of the latest Disney animation here on the LondonJazz blog, but this movie features a jazz-inspired soundtrack written and conducted by Randy Newman. He has written seven original songs, all infused with a New Orleans vibe in a range of styles including traditional jazz, gospel, and Cajun zydeco. Singer/pianist Dr John sings on "Down in New Orleans", and trumpeter Terence Blanchard solos on behalf of his horn-blowing animated alter ego Louis the Alligator on "When We're Human" and "Ma Belle Evangeline". Cajun accordionist Terrance Simien can be found on "Gonna Take You There".

While the soundtrack CD is an enjoyable listen, the songs work even better in the context of the film, bouncing out of the speakers with shuffling rhythms, punchy brass and rolling piano. Randy Newman is well known for his hit "Short People", but he also wrote "You've Got a Friend in Me" for Toy Story and won an Oscar for Monsters Inc. He has written many film scores and has a long songwriting career going back to the 1960s. He is known for his pithy, ironic lyrics and often acute political observation. He also has a long association with Louisiana, living there or spending summers there as a boy - check out "Kingfish" and "Louisiana 1927" on Spotify or Youtube if you have a chance. It's hard to imagine a songwriter better equipped to mix New Orleans ambience with Disney humour and story telling.

This film marks a return to the hand-drawn animated musicals that are the backbone of the Disney back catalogue, being directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, who were responsible for The Little Mermaid and Aladdin. They've managed to give the movie a classic look - something of a homage to the architecture of New Orleans and the mysterious scenery of the bayous - and it is certainly visually beautiful. The original Brothers Grimm's "The Frog Prince" is removed to the 1920s, with a few unexpected twists and turns in the story, not least because our heroine is not a princess but a waitress who dreams of owning her own restaurant. It is fast paced, humourous and fun, and a little dark and scary in some places - small children may well be upset by the evil Doctor Facilier.

I took my two ultra-cool daughters with me, expecting them to declare it too childish or boring, but my 13-year old enjoyed it and my eleven year old thought it was brilliant. It's an old-style family movie with a catchy soundtrack you'll be singing all the way home.

In cinemas nationwide from February 5th


Review : TYFT

Review: TYFT
(Vortex, January 25th 2010, review by Geoff Winston)

Firstly, TYFT - Hilmar Jensson (gtr), Jim Black (dr, electronics- photo above) and Andrew D'Angelo (alto sax, bass clarinet) - are superb musicians. Engagement guaranteed.

The trio achieve a formal balance in propositions which fuse different layers of musical interpretation required from each of the protagonists. The first hints of melody came through D'Angelo's sax overlay to the severe, rock-based riffing which underlies several of Jensson's compositions. With Black's exceptional percussive palette, the music could have gone in any direction, so it was reassuring to see the musical landscape change quite subtly through the evening, and, had it remained static in any single zone, we could have been disappointed.

So many references - from a straight stadium rock backbeat, to Hendrix in his jazzier moods, to the self-indulgence of jazz-rock - mind-numbingly riffy at times, only just rescued by the trio's musical interplay - to Ornette's free-er zones and the later Miles, to Stockhausen and to some of the more recent Scandinavian atmospherics. At times one was reminded not so much how close jazz is to rock, but how close rock can be to jazz. And this is what gave the two high-energy and demanding sets that extra dimension, keeping the audience rapt.

D'Angelo, the on-stage spokesman for the band, joked that the Icelandic title for a composition late in the set translated, aptly, as 'Relax', after the preceding ultra-high energy contributions. The intense concentration and physical demands of his alto playing are a vital part of the trio's sound, complemented by his bass clarinet where the clicking of the keypads adds an eerie abstraction. Black's drumming has such range - hammering a cymbal to within an inch of destruction, or playing with bright, fluid elegance.

Jensson, technically accomplished, was capable of musical surprises of pace and tone, and gently stamped his authority on the evening's sets and the enthusiastically demanded encore.

The Vortex again proves that it can provide an intimate and intense setting for music that sets out to ask questions from the first note.


Review: Denys Baptiste


Review : Denys Baptiste- Let Freedom Ring
(Rich Mix, Saturday January 23rd. Review and photo by Patrick Hadfield)

Denys Baptiste draws on the rich seem of politically-involved jazz which has run through the music, going right back to Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong singing “Black and Blue” in the 1920s. Baptiste released his Let Freedom Ring! suite in 2003, commemorating Martin Luther King’s speech “I have a dream”. The suite was inspired the speech patterns King used, and features words from the speech, together with poetry from Ben Okri.

Last Saturday, Baptiste played Let Freedom Ring! for the first time in a couple years, this time to commemorate the anniversary of the swearing in of Barack Obama. He assembled his ten piece band in the bar of Bethnal Green’s Rich Mix arts centre and made the most glorious sound.

They only played the suite, which sounded richer than the recorded version. Without the violin which features on the original, the brass were more upfront, producing a sound reminiscent of Mingus – enhanced by the sonorous trombone of Winston Rollins. Baptiste said after the gig that Rollins had only had one rehearsal: he did a superb job, his raucous solo bringing a gospel feel that was a pinnacle in an evening full of high points.

Hearing Let Freedom Ring! live, it seemed both cohesive and varied. Clearly conceived as a whole, the suite had the wholeness which Wynton Marsalis brings to his longer works. The band sounded Marsalis-like, too. Baptiste throws in all sorts of references – there were quotes from Coltrane, and sections where his tenor was duetting with Rod Youngs ’ drums also reminded me of ‘Trane.

Okri doesn’t perform, so his words were delivered through a Mac managed by altoist Jason Yarde. There were also projections onto a screen behind the behind the band – sometimes of the band performing, sometimes of words from the speech or Okri’s poem, but also footage of civil rights marches and riots – from 1960s America, but also more recent civil disturbances: there were clips of Palestinian’s throwing rocks and Israeli tanks demolishing buildings.

Politics was very near the surface; the film could have distracted from the music, but it served to reinforce it.

Baptiste got the audience involved, too. Normally I shy away from audience participation, but in the intimacy of the bar it was almost impossible not to sing along as he got us chanting in the final section “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”, the closing lines of King’s famous speech.

It was rousing, spiritual stuff. Once more political, Baptiste said at the end that perhaps he should have placed a question mark after “free at last”: we have some way to go.

Baptiste’s band was strong throughout. Gary Crosby played some beautifully toned bass; Abram Wilson some suitably New Orleans’ sounding muted trumpet. As well as Youngs, Satin Singh provided a range of percussion – the two worked well together.

Rather than a series of solos, though, it felt like the music was the main thing, the band as a whole. At the end of the gig, Crosby said a few words about how the music made him feel: he asserted that this was an important piece. Live, it was certainly a powerful, moving piece. And, of course, political.


Review: Mario Castronari

Review: Mario Castronari, Dominic Grant, Noel Joyce
(The Hare, Cambridge Heath, January 24th 2010, review by Rob Mallows/ Photo Mike Stemberg)

The East End is coming into its own in terms of jazz. To the success of The Vortex and Charlie Wright's - to name but two - add The Hare in Cambridge Heath Road E2. A typical East End boozer - replete with pool table, framed Arsenal memorabilia (the Emirates being just up the road) and a jazz-loving pub cat - it also offers a warm welcome to jazz fans. The Sunday night gigs there organised by drummer Noel Joyce - which have been running successfully for over a year - have seen some great line-ups and are a worthy addition to the capital's jazz scene which deserve wider support.

Tonight it was the turn of an acoustic strings trio, led by Mario Castronari on bass. One of the stalwarts of the London scene, Castronari came to prominence as founder of early nineties fusion pioneers Roadside Picnic, a fantastically inventive and pioneering band. Tonight, however, was more about having fun than breaking new ground. Castronari's mixing of standard tunes like 'Favourite Things', 'What's New' and 'I wish I knew what it was to be free' (the Film 2010 theme) with jazz interpretations of Beatles numbers - 'Help' and 'Eleanor Rigby' - and even a Carpenters and Michael Jackson track or two meant the audience were kept on its toes playing 'guess that tune' or sometimes just singing along.

Fantastically agile up and down the fingerboard, at times Castronari was not so much playing the bass as wrestling with it, real high energy stuff that grabs you straightaway. His flourishes during his solo on Big Nick were worth the £5 admission alone; this is a man who pushes the boundaries of what a bass can do in a trio. Yet on the ballads, his languid riffs gave space for the tunes to breathe and a perfect platform for guitarist Dominic Grant.

In a month when the centenary of Django Reinhardt is celebrated it was great to be reminded of how an acoustic guitar - in the hands of a magician - can bring energy and toe-tapping vibrancy to any tune. A picture of intense concentration, Grant brought some astonishingly creative sounds out of his guitar, testing his strings with some hard-core strumming then swiftly switching to intricate runs from top to bottom. With Noel Joyce pounding the skins and tying it all together, over two hours these three musicians clearly had a blast, taking requests and providing plenty of banter with the audience, who responded warmly to their efforts.

Sunday nights can often be a lazy night. Your thoughts can turn to the ironing of shirts for the week ahead, or watching a bit of TV. Cast away those thoughts and head for The Hare. Enjoyable inexpensive, East End fun.

For more information about the weekly jazz nights at The Hare, click here. On stage in February are Timeline, The Will Collier Septet, Dominic Howles and Dave Frankel.


CD release: Celebration- Zoe Schwarz/ Rob Koral

CD release. Celebration by Zoe Schwarz and Rob Koral
(Featured artists on www.jazzcds.co.uk)

Vocalist Zoe Schwarz and guitarist Rob Koral, whose new duo album Celebration is released on 33 Records are a couple, and a duo. But they have taken very different journeys.

As a sixteen year-old, self-taught, left-handed beginner guitarist, Rob Koral was first in thrall to Eric Clapton. Then to Jan Akkerman. He then moved from Bournemouth onto the London music scene as a “whirlwind of energy.” Koral remembers the life he had in the early eighties, He was rushing around town from TV recording to gig to studio with his band Sketch. Or stretching his jazz chops alongside the likes of bassists Laurence Cottle and Roy Babbington and pianists Robin Aspland and Pete Saberton. And when he talks about those times, he can savour the simple differences between then now and then: “The scene was open, you could just pick up the phone and talk to a TV producer. And there weren’t yellow lines. You could always park outside the studios.”

When Koral describes his more recent influences, the names of the guitarists which come up are very different from his original inspirations: he mentions Joe Pass, Jim Mullen, Phil Robson and Martin Taylor. What Koral strives for now, he explains on his website, is "sweet touch", combined with the "intricacies of jazz harmonies". He aims to create “a fluid sound without physical tension in the execution,”

No physical tension? But surely the guitar gives you lop-sided posture? “I’m not aware of that,” says Koral. And I noticed him recoil at the mere thought of the kind of busy guitarists who want to be the fastest in the world, attacking and driving the beat. There is a distinct calm about Koral’s playing on Celebration which clearly comes from within. And playing in the duo setting with Zoe Schwarz gives him the space for his individual voice to come through. “I can breathe.”

Schwarz’s journey through life could not have been more different. From an army family, she was always on the move as a youngster She went to nine different schools before the age of seven, when she was sent away to boarding school. “I sang all the time. I was obsessive. Classical, choral, contemporary.” Her summers as a teenager were spent at Dartington. As a high soprano with perfect pitch she was a natural for pieces by Maxwell Davies and Birtwistle. She was regularly called on to perform compositions by the students. She interrupted our conversation to do a nice impression of the screechy, anguished, eighties soprano parts.

Life then brought Schwarz both the tensions and the rewards of a succession of jobs in finance, where she rose through the ranks, and was involved in managing the risk exposures of an investment bank. But things then took a different turn, and she found herself living back with her parents and her two children in Dorchester. So, after a gap of fifteen years, in 2001, she returned to Dartington.

She met Keith Tippett who still remembered her from earlier summer schools. She had brought along ballads by Billie Holiday to sing. Schwarz remembers his reaction to her singing. He was adamant: “You’ve got to stick at this.”

Those words of encouragement from Keith Tippett were to resonate with Schwarz. She tracked down Rob Koral, who lived locally, and went to him to work on songs. His first response to her singing was also telling. He booked her for a gig. That Saturday. Their memories of that gig are different: “I only knew four songs,” says Schwarz. “She knew a dozen. She was fine.” says Koral.

Schwarz’s voice has changed, moved lower since her early singing. She has an appealing no-nonsense approach to describing the change: “When I sing I feel a real connection with my back. And, I can tell you, with each child, it’s just got better!”

Literally hundreds of gigs later, Koral and Schwarz are releasing their first album as a duo. It was recorded by Mike Hallet, who has worked on previous albums for them and knows their sound. “We just went in to his studio and literally did performances", says Koral.

“Celebration” is also a thank you and a homage to Billie Holiday. The CD celebrates spontaneity, and beautiful sound. It has that organic feel of an album derived from the experience, the joy and the spontaneity of live performance.

Celebration was released on January 11th and is available from www.jazzcds.co.uk


I'm hip

That's it. I've now read too many pieces about Noughties trends in too many kulcha supplements. Enough already.

Here's the effective antidote. Blossom Dearie singing the Dave Frishberg/ Bob Dorough song. Enjoy.


Django Reinhardt Centenary

Today is (although I gather there is some uncertainty) the centenary of Django Reinhardt 's birth. Congratulations to Sylvia Rushbrooke and her team at the Quecumbar on having put together - and on having more or less sold out! - the centenary festival which ends on Monday. Above is - I am led to believe - the only extant video footage of today's centenarian at work.


Jazz and the BBC- Telegraph piece

Today there is a piece I wrote in the Telegraph about Jazz and the BBC under the title "It's high time radio got wise to jazz". Here's the full version. There is a debate about it on the BBC Radio 3 jazz message board.


This week a critical report about the BBC was published by Jazz Services, the Arts Councul-funded organisation that supports the music. The corporation, says the report, should increase the broadcast time and the support it gives to British jazz. The BBC has been getting such complaints since the 1920‘s. Water off a duck’s back, then?

Not entirely. These are times of openness, so both Roger Wright, Controller of BBC Radio 3, and Lewis Carnie from BBC Radio 2 accepted the invitation to speak at the public meeting earlier this week launching the report.

What is extraordinary is how little some of this debate has moved on. Jazz historian Alyn Shipton has rummaged in a BBC postbag from 1925. There wasn’t enough jazz on the BBC, people wrote. Or there was too much. Or else it was the wrong sort of jazz. Or it was the right sort of jazz, but at the wrong time. All those arguments still figure in this week’s report.

There were already other complaints in 1925 which raised thornier issues around BBC’s original Reithian mission: what about all that sinful, degenerate jazz music seeping into the classical music schedules? Or, alternatively, why must the BBC pander to minority taste in its popular music programmes? Eighty-five years on, those debates still rage in some quarters.

On classical Radio 3, the report’s authors complain, jazz is a paltry 3.3% of scheduled programming. On popular Radio 2, minority jazz hovers below 2%. The BBC rebuts both these figures, which, they say, leave out the jazz which pops up on, say, Late Junction on Radio 3, or on the new Chris Evans Show on Radio 2.

But one thing which has changed is the energy and confidence of the British jazz scene. The past few years are being described as the most exciting period in jazz in Britain since the 1960’s. There’s a dynamic young, resourceful jazz scene around the UK music colleges. World-class musician-led collectives of all generations promoting gigs abound, not just in London, but also in, for example, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester.

The meeting addressed this change well. Wright, impressive, acknowledged the need to look for ways to help this smaller scale jazz extend its reach into local radio stations. The BBC’s disparate output of jazz, he also admitted, is hard for listeners and viewers to navigate round.

As for Lewis Carnie, he gave out some programming news. Jamie Cullum will take over the 7pm slot on Tuesdays on Radio 2 from April 7th. In the autumn, expect a new ten-part history of jazz.

Maybe the only certainty is that the BBC will keep on getting letters. The real challenge for the broadcaster, is to reach the large potential radio audience of people who - in the immortal phrase of John Peel’s producer John Walters - will find “what they didn’t know they wanted.”

Over eighty years of jazz on BBC channels have proved that this music is quite incapable of either getting quietly into its box, or of fitting obediently into the BBC's schedules. And audiences are changing. The young are increasingly open to sampling the new and the unexpected. Jazz, soul, blues, latin, it's all out there, and it’s all just music to the Ipod generation.



Chris Parker was commissioning editor for Quartet Books jazz list and publisher of Wire magazine and has written on jazz for Jazz Review, Jazzwise, the Independent, the Daily Telegraph and The Times).

Led Bib
Bring Your Own (Cuneiform 314)

The Gentle War (naimcd156)

Partikel (F-IRE)


Review: Calum Gourlay Quintet


Calum Gourlay Quintet
(Con Cellar Bar, NW1, January 18th 2010, Review and photo by Patrick Hadfield)

After last week’s gig featuring one upcoming youngster, I was pleased to find a whole quintet of them at Jazz at the Con Cellar Bar on Monday. And what’s more, this time the audience was a lot younger than those at most jazz gigs, too.

The Con Cellar Bar is exactly what it says: a bar in a cellar. Barely lit and without a stage, it is a very intimate venue with tables and chairs right up close to the musicians – there was no need for much amplification. But I was glad I got there early to grab a good seat.

Calum Gourlay is a young bass player from Scotland, where he’s played with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and the Colin Steele Quintet, amongst others. This was the first time I had seen him heading up his own band, with regular collaborators Freddie Gavita on trumpet, George Crowley on tenor saxophoneand James Maddren on drums. They were joined by Gareth Lockrane on a variety of flutes.

They create an interesting sound. Playing only Gourlay's own original compositions- plus his arrangement of You're Driving Me Crazy - they had quite a different feel: the flutes, particularly the rarely heard the bass flute, added an ethereal tone; the drums a controlled mania. The trumpet and sax Gourlay’s bass behind it all played appealing melodic lines.

The instrumentation and piano-less line-up, and the interplay between bass, flute and drums reminded me of the feel of another fine bassist as a leader, Reid Anderson – although a lot less free than Reid’s playing.

This was a captivating outing for a young band, and the writing showing a great deal of confidence.


Nils Petter Molvaer/ Dan Berglund’s Tonbruket


Nils Petter Molvaer: Hamada(Sula Records)
Dan Berglund’s Tonbruket (ACT Label)

By Peter Horsfall

The Southbank Centre are presenting both Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer ’s group (above) and EST bassist Dan Berglund’s Tonbruket project in the coming months. Both gigs are preceded by promising new CD releases.

The immediately recognizable trumpet sound of Nils Petter Molvaer is brought right to the foreground in his latest CD entitled Hamada. The two tracks which consist solely of Molvaer’s unaccompanied trumpet, Exhumation and Lahar, are for me the most beautiful on the record. The tone which he produces on the instrument is at once dark and delicate, perhaps only comparable to that other great Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henrikson.

A majority of the rest of the album is occupied by vast static soundscapes which act as an effective base for Molvaer’s melodic solo work and provide a contrast to the break-beat influenced Friction (by far the liveliest track on the album). Electronic musician Jan Bang’ s use of live sampling and field recordings give the music an extra dimension; this could be amongst the most dynamic aspects of the group’s up-coming Southbank appearance.

Dan Berglund ’s group Tonbruket is a mixed bag. Their cited influences are ‘from e.s.t. to Pink Floyd, Royksopp and Arvo Part’ and it is true to say that all these are present in some form on this self-titled release. Due to be released early this year EST fans are well catered for, with tunes reminiscent of that ground-breaking trio. Indeed the first track, Sister Sad, is somewhat of an epic. Berglund’s bass is complemented by Johan Lindström’s work on a variety of different guitar sounds, ranging from the ethereal and introspective to all out rock-distortion. Berglund also demonstrates his more plaintive side on the track Sailor Waltz, which starts with a fine duet with pianist Martin Hederos. Other tracks including the ominously named Monstrous Colossus document the heavier, rockier side to the group, giving drummer Andreas Werliin a chance to let rip.

Nils Petter Molvaer plays the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 22 February 2010.
Dan Berglund’s Tonbruket play the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 15 March 2010.


CD Review: Polar Bear

CD Review: POLAR BEAR: ‘Peepers’
(The Leaf Label. Review By Pete Horsfall)

Polar Bear once again demonstrate with their fourth CD, Peepers, why the concept of an improvising rock band is an exciting one. They are still forging creative new paths.

The drumming and compositions of (leader) Sebastian Rochford are both concise and punchy from the outset; opener Happy For You is reminiscent of the energy and aggression of bands like The Strokes and Brit-rockers BabyShambles (another intermittent Rochford gig). Guitarist and electronics-wizard Leafcutter John is also particularly impressive, especially when creating powerful and interactive soundscapes on tracks A New Morning Will Come and Finding Our Feet.

Saxophonist Pete Wareham leads the charge throughout this record, his rasping tone and forceful improvisations bring drama to every track. Wareham’s duets with Mark Lockheart (also saxophone) are amongst the most beautiful moments here; none more so than on the melancholic final track All Here.

Peepers is released on March 1st, 2010 on The Leaf Label. A sample track and the band's tour dates, starting in Hampshire next Friday, are HERE . I look forward to catching them live in 2010.


Promotional Video for Cheltenham Jazz Festival


Jazz and the BBC meeting - a match report

Last night BBC Radio 3 Controller Roger Wright and Radio 2 Head of Programmes Lewis Carnie spoke at a Musictank meeting where a report from Jazz Services highly critical of the BBC's jazz policy was presented.

Lewis Carnie - I had had a nudge and a wink that he would- was there with a couple of interesting new programme initiatives up his sleeve.

Roger Wright gave a commitment to help encourage better links between the jazz community and local radio, and also to look for ways to make "navigation" of the BBC's often very dispersed jazz output easier.

If I was doing a match report I would say that I saw the ball getting hoofed right out of the stadium far too often; that I saw no red card offences (on that point Keith Harris was a good ref) ....

I'll be writing more on this later. But for the time being, at the end of the day, jazz was the winner.


Review: Kenny Wheeler 80th Birthday Concert

Review: Kenny Wheeler 80th Birthday Concert
(Dukes Hall, Royal Academy of Music, January 14th 2010, Review by Frank Griffith)

Canadian- born trumpeter/composer Kenny Wheeler ’s 80th birthday concert was played to a more than packed house at the Royal Academy of Music. Located on the edge of Regents Park just a short walk away from Sherlock Holmes’ Baker Street digs, there were no significant mysteries to uncloak excepting how this octogenarian sustains his amazing flexibility on his instrument coupled with a driven and relentless lyricism equally present in both his playing and writing.

The all-star cast present on stage had a This Is Your Life aspect to it with names like Dave Holland, John Taylor, Evan Parker, Stan Sulzmann, Derek Watkins and the brothers Horler, Dave and John, along with an equal number of younger jazz stars filling out the ranks.

The programme featured virtually all of Wheeler’s seminal CD, Music for Large and Small Ensembles recorded for ECM in 1990, not only in repertoire but the players as well. This included the Sweet Time Suite arguably his best known and most successful larger work. Founded on lyrical melodies cloaked in rich harmonies with each movement dedicated to someone and featuring the distinctive voices of the world-class soloists making up the ensemble. Added to this was Norma Winstone ’s unique voice and poignant lyrics to Wheeler’s melodies coupled with the leader’s flugelhorn and John Parricelli ’s guitar. Their unisons floating over the tightly voiced ensemble are emblematic of the Wheeler sound. Plaudits also to conductor, Pete Churchill.

If this was not enough there were four more pieces to follow in the second half, including new arrangements of Dudu Pukuwana’s B My Dear and Gordon Jenkins’ immortal Goodbye which was given a credible croon by Andrew Veasy.

The musical highlight for me was a blistering, fiery and inventive free duet between Dave Holland and Evan Parker as an introduction into Mark Time. Listeners might be aware that these two are amongst the primary innovators in this genre and the excited electricity that they projected to the audience was staggering to say the least. A unique and special moment in jazz history. Evan’s slap tonguing, stop-start tenor gobblings were in perfect concert with the high pitched, pizzicatti pluckings of Holland’s bass resulting in an arsenal of rhythmia flying about that would out-dazzle a 20-piece percussion ensemble. Scintillating stuff.

Other highlights included the subtle ferocity of Julian Arguelles ’ tenor sax. His seamless command of the multi-registers coupled with long and wiry yet intriguing phrases are a glory to behold. This is also noteworthy as his very unorthodox positioning of the horn and quirky looking embrochure do not seem to affect his output in any way. The horn and he are one. Valve trombonist, Dave Horler ’s lyrical reading of For Jan brought back pleasant memories of his rendition on the recording twenty years before. Derek Watkins ’ full bodied sound and cogent improvisations on Gentle Piece brought delight to the ear as well.

The night was clearly a Two Bass Hit as the veteran and long-time KW alumnus, Chris Laurence, played the second half dancing musically throughout, coaxing soloists as well as providing an engaging arco solo interlude bridging a Norma Winstone duet with Nikki Iles (Winter Sweet) to the evening’s closer Gentle Piece.

The night would not have been complete without a rousing, yet “Wheeleresque” rendition of Happy Birthday served up happily by the band to this great jazz icon. Many thanks and congratulations to trumpeter, Nick Smart, for practically single-handedly organising the event.

There is talk of an October tour- lets hope so.


Review: Bojan Z plus John Escreet

Bojan Z 's Tetraband were kicking up an absolute storm at Ronnie Scott's last night.

I regretted not being able to stay around till the end, but what I heard from this band was mesmerising and often euphoric. The bass and drums combination of Ruth Goller and Seb Rochford were accurately described by Bojan Z as "la fine fleur" (the pick) of London rhythm section players. They got into shifting grooves, jazz, rock, whatever. They provided solid, energetic and constantly lifting and challenging support. A backdrop which left Bojan Z, a Serbian based in France, on keyboards and piano - and particularly an authorative right hand - to roam freely, to be varied , expressive, melodic, to twist and turn and be simple or complex. The recent album Humus has been well reviewed, and is definitely worth a listen. But, as ever (?) live is better. And this band, great to hear at Ronnie's would fit well into bigger venues.

The discovery of the evening, a change in personnel from the record was trombonist Gianluca Petrella from Bari in Italy who has worked with Enrico Rava and is a member of the French Orchestre National de Jazz. He plays fluently, and with real character and nuance, but also produces an extraordinary range of sound, from wolf howl to industrial noise to a whole range of multiphonics. Petrella's melding of extended technique and electronic effects was magicianly. Impressive, and, to me, he was a revelation.

Sharing the double bill with Bojan Z was John Escreet 's elite New York band featuring Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet, David Binney on alto sax, Matt Brewer on bass and drummer Nasheet Waits. Another fine band, and caught in one of those moods where the band gets absorbed, locked in, and, unplanned, link and segue not just one or rwo numbers , but the whole lot. After the thank you's, the very first words of the evening from Escreet were: "Well, that was the first set." That approach of wanting to make it different, to let it happen is the core of the way this band works - see Nate Chinen's recent New York Times review which develops this idea. I particularly enjoyed Escreet's piano explorations. There was one moment I was convinced that Don Pullen, Kenny Drew Jr. and Ligeti had met in heaven. It happens.


We Want the We Want Miles Exhibition

Why couldn't it happen here? Eh? (O2 Music Experience take note)....

In the last two weeks before it closed on Sunday, 20,000 people have been to the "We Want Miles" exhibition at the Cite de La Musique in Paris. The queue to enter was at times up to two hours long. 75,000 people saw it in the three months it was open. I understand that's more than for previous exhibitions dedicated to Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd and John Lennon. (Hat-tip to Bruno P for the numbers).

This exhibition was the second show about jazz in Paris in less than nine months, following hard on the heels of “Le Siecle du Jazz” art exhibition.

I went a couple of weeks before the end and it took me two and a half hours to get round it. People of all ages were quetly making there way through. A mother was explaining pointing at a flugelhorn and getting both her daughters to repeat “Un. Bugle.” One whole family was huddled together on the floor watching a sequence from Porgy and Bess.

“We Want Miles” was a far-reaching and major retrospective of Miles’ career. It gave a rounded portrait of the man and of the music, starting with images of the St Louis hurricane, and culminating in a final room showing extensive video footage from a concert at La Villette- the site of the exhibition- with a band including Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter just a few weeks before Miles’ death in 1991. It threw extensive light on Miles’ personality and way of operating, on the ups and downs of his life.

It also extended its gaze to many other musicians and collaborators. The massive influence on the recorded output, for example, of producer Teo Macero, who died in 2008, was particularly in evidence, with extracts from a forthcoming documentary Play That, Teo by Olana DiGirolamo, for release later in the year.

The exhibition now moves to the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Montreal where it will be from 30th April to 29th August.

A Trinity Laban/ British Music Experience co-production? You read it here first.


"What to wear for a Jazz Festival"

LondonJazz readers will have their own ideas of what to wear for a jazz festival (?), but here, on the case as ever, are the deliberations of the JAMAICA GLEANER , notably a "super-cute free-flowing jumpsuit." (above)


Review: Barb Jungr

Review: Barb Jungr/ The Men I Love
(Vortex, January 16th, Review, and photo by John Eyles)

The Men I Love does exactly what it says on the tin – it is a programme of songs by the (male) songwriters Barb Jungr loves. Rather than Cole Porter, Rogers and Hart or the Gershwins, Jungr favours more modern composers: her New American Songbook draws from Dylan, Springsteen, Kristofferson, Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon, Todd Rundgren, Jimmy Webb and Neil Diamond, and right up to Bread, Motown, Talking Heads, Iggy Pop and Jimmy James & the Vagabonds.

Jungr and her accompanist and arranger Simon Wallace weren't just doing covers. Instead, the pair had rethought each song, the original versions often barely recognizable. For instance, David Byrne and Brian Eno’s Once in a Lifetime bears no trace of Talking Heads’ funk workout. As Jungr confided, “I’m not against drums per se. I just don’t want them for me.” Instead, her version is sparse, dramatic and almost confessional, hinging on the line “my God, what have I done?” delivered with the right sense of revelation.

Throughout, Jungr radiated sheer joy as she sang these songs. She is an entertainer as well as a fine singer. She inhabiting each song and eloquently conveying its emotions. She soon established an easy-going rapport with the audience with personal anecdotes about each song. Thus, prior to singing her stripped-down version of Diamond’s I’m a Believer, she told of the time when she lived in Fulham and saw Mickey Dolenz of The Monkees shopping for fruit in the Wandsworth Bridge Road. And before singing Simon’s My Little Town, she posed the question, “How did Paul Simon know all about the town where I grew up – Rochdale?”

Although she included a variety of songs, Jungr was at her magnificent best when singing about love, especially the pain of love gone wrong. The titles of the set’s high spots tell their own tale: Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache, This Old Heart of Mine, Love Hurts, It’s All Over Now Baby Blue, Can’t Get Used to Losing You, Red Red Wine. Before Rundgren’s I Saw the Light, Jungr told the audience that during her successful run at New York’s Café Carlyle, the audience cried when she sang it, before dismissively adding, “but they’re Americans…” Nevertheless, although no obvious tears were shed at the Vortex, her poignant versions of some songs will have brought a lump to many a throat.

Jungr next returns to The Vortex for a neatly-timed Valentines’ Day performance. Meanwhile, she will continue touring The Men I Love, as the album of the same name approaches its release. Taking liberties in quoting Grahame Greene, Jungr says of the album that it is “one sliver of ice from the vast Antarctic of the New American Songbook.” I sensed that many from the Vortex audience will be near the head of the queue to obtain their copies when it comes out.

John Eyles bought his first jazz album - Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis - in 1968, and has never looked back. He has written about jazz and improvised music for a wide range of publications, and currently writes for AllAboutJazz, Dusted and BBCi. And LondonJazz


Parliamentary Jazz Awards

Nominations for the All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group (APPJAG) Jazz Awards are open online. They will remain close until February 26th.

The Awards Ceremony is on Wednesday May 19th.

The nomination form is on the Jazz Services website. FOLLOW THIS LINK
The awards are supported by PPL.

Here's our post from last year's winner's ceremony


Review: Peter King/The Bebop All-Stars

Review: Peter King/The Bebop All-Stars
(Lund Theatre, University College School, Hampstead. Review and photos by Patrick Hadfield)

Whilst the jazzerati were out at Kenny Wheeler’s 80th birthday concert, I made my way up the icy slopes of Hampstead where altoist Peter King was playing with two scions of well established British jazz pedigree – Alec Dankworth on bass and Clark Tracey on drums – youngster Henry Armburg Jennings on trumpet and pianist Robin Aspland.

The inclement weather and bigger gigs on at the same time might have combined with the January blues and kept some of the audience away – the venue was only a third full – but those that made it were very appreciative.

The Lund Theatre – part of UCS (where english teacher and jazz pianist David Lund promoted jazz for over 25 years) – lacked some of the ambience of club, but the theatre setting meant that everyone had a good view, and there was no distracting noise. There was a feeling as we sat down that we were in for something special.

With such a line-up, the real surprise was Jennings. I knew what to expect from the others – and they didn’t disappoint at all – but Jennings delivered a sound well, well beyond his years. A fellow audience member told me he’s only eighteen and active in the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, who’ve just finished a stint at Ronnie’s.

They opened as a quartet, King sitting out the Wayne Shorter tune Ping Pong. Jennings played some blistering trumpet and the rhythm section settled in to the medium-fast pace: Dankworth was grinning broadly and Tracey was clearly in the groove laying down some Art Blakey-inspired big beats. Dankworth was very expressive throughout, his face reflecting the music: it seemed like he was dancing with his bass during some of his solos.

DSC_1680 DSC_1656 DSC_1666 DSC_1641

There followed two sets of bop and post-bop standards such as Stella By Starlight, I Can’t Get Started, Body & Soul and another Shorter number, Footprints. The quintet finished the evening with a sprightly Oleo.

King was playing well, lots of fast, Bird-like licks falling from his horn in the fast numbers. For a couple of numbers Jennings muted his trumpet, a dangerous thing to do since it invites some unavoidable comparisons (or is that just me…?) – and he stood up well. Despite his tender age, Jennings on both trumpet and flugel not only had technical skill – he has a great tone – but he had the soul to back it up as well.

There are two more gigs in the current jazz season at the Lund, presented by Ollie Rosenblatt: Alan Barnes Quartet on March 11th and local man John Etheridge with Alec Dankworth again and violinist Chris Garrick on May 6th. I'm looking forward to both.


The Future of the South Bank?

I've been thinking aloud on my Telegraph blog about what might happen to the Southbank Centre if there is a change of government.


Times article about NYJO fundraising

This morning's Times has a piece by Ben Hoyle about the National Youth Jazz Orchestra's forthcoming fundraising campaign led by board chair Nigel Tully.

Hoyle writes mainly about the potential threat of closure which NYJO faces.

"Requests for further funding from the Arts Council have been rejected until the NYJO can demonstrate that it is operating as a more structured organisation, can point to greater social and ethnic diversity among its intake and adopts a more progressive musical direction."

The article has already started to attract comment.


RIP Ed Thigpen (1930-2010)

Very sad to hear of the death yesterday of drummer Ed Thigpen, nicknamed Mr Taste.

The music, the touch, the quality, the listening - in the clip above of The Man I Love with Oscar Peterson and Ray Brown - speak for themselves.


Happy Birthday Kenny Wheeler

Birthday salutations to the modest leading light of British jazz Kenny Wheeler, who is 80 today. I'm looking forward to his 80th birthday concert at the Royal Academy of Music, for which I got one of the last tickets in the balcony.

Feel free to add a comment, a memory, a thank you below.

And praise indeed for a job very well done to Peter Hum of jazzblog.ca, who's been out collecting video clips from the BBC in the 1970's, tributes from Canadian musicians. FOLLOW THIS LINK.


Review: Gill Manly

Review: Gill Manly
(Ronnie Scott's January 2nd 2010, review by Sarah Ellen Hughes)

The backdrop of the club's bandstand still has the 50th Anniversary logo emblazoned: “Ronnie Scott’s – presenting the finest jazz since 1959.” In a jazz club which seeks to entertain such a diverse range of clientele, each listener can have their own idea of what the "finest jazz" is and what constitutes a hit or a miss. For me, Gill Manly's Nina Simone Songbook was a definite hit.

The evening got off to a superb start with Sam Mayne fronting the Ronnie Scott’s All Stars – this evening featuring Leon Greening on piano, Sam Burgess on bass and Chris Dagley on drums. I was particularly struck by the haunting melodic line of Jobim's Inútil Paisagem / If you never come to me – an ethereal alto over a lilting bossa.

Then came Gill Manly. Fiercely launching into ‘Mood Indigo,’ this told the audience one thing: “I mean business!” She immediately demonstrated her massive range and the incredible drama that she brings to her delivery. She is a great singer – capable of singing with a catalogue of emotions in just an 8-bar phrase. This was a tribute - of sorts. Much of the repertoire was drawn from Nina Simone’s 1984 album “Live at Ronnie Scott’s.” We had brief bursts of recordings from interviews with Simone, and Gill was also working with Nina’s last drummer, Paul Robinson.

Gill and her band worked hard. 15 songs in the first set, only to take a break for an hour and do the whole lot again. Simon Wallace on piano, who had done many of the arrangements, duetted sensitively with Gill’s vocal line. Each song was executed finely, but there were a few that stood out for me: Little Girl Blue was poignant and powerful; Mississippi Goddam had a haunting message; You’d be so nice to come home to featured Gill’s inner-instrument by way of a well-crafted scat; and the magic of I loves you Porgy was brilliantly quiet, captivating and with an emotional aching. This was the performance which generated the biggest applause.

Gill has had an interesting life, from being a jazz singer to discovering Mahayana Buddhism, to running a café in South London. All this to return to recording and performing after the realisation that jazz was her greatest love.

Anyone expecting a Nina Simone carbon copy from Gill Manly would have been disappointed – Gill doesn’t sound like Nina, nor does she play the piano, nor does she replicate the same assortment of styles for which Simone was famed.

Be all that as it may, there is only one possible closer for a Nina Simone tribute. And Gill took care to introduce it with the same words that Nina had done 25 years ago in the very same room “I think this is what you've all been waiting for...”

So the opening chords “My baby just cares for me,” were greeted by the audience with the laughter, the applause, and the pleasure of expectations being happily fulfilled. Gill Manly's tribute to Nina Simone was an evening of hip, swinging, and very, very cool singing. More, please!


Half Moon Putney reprieved

Great to here that the landlord of the Half Moon in Putney has ageed terms with Young's and that it will continue as a music venue.

Here's the Publican magazine's story.



There are TWO prize draws reserved for newsletter subscribers this week. Expand the link for more details of both offers

1) A pair of tickets for New York's Big 3 Palladium at the Barbican Centre on Sunday January 24th

To coincide with the major BBC Four Latin Music USA series, the Barbican will be shaking things up on Sun 24 Jan with sizzling mambo, cha cha cha and salsa grooves from New York's Big 3 Palladium – one of the greatest Latin bands of all. Featuring Machito Jr, Tito Rodriguez Jr, Jimmy Bosch & Larry Harlow, playing the music of the original great big-band leaders. Support from New York’s hottest salsa export La Excelencia. The Big 3 Palladium Orchestra concert will be broadcast on BBC Four on 29 January 9pm.


2) Two for the price of one at the Pizza Express on either January 27th or 28th. Alyn Cosker, with Seamus Blake and Michael Janisch. The winner will also receive a free copy of Michael Janisch's fine CD Purpose Built featuring a stunning array of UK and US jazz performers.


Looking into the future

I've just done a phone-round of some of the larger venues and promoters to get their flavour for the first few months of the year. If there's a venue or promoter who's reading this whom I've missed out, please add a comment. The floor, the site, are all yours.

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There are big international names at the Barbican. There's Jan Garbarek with a quartet including percussionist Trilok Gurtu on January 31st and Pat Metheny's Orchestrion project on Febuary 10th.

There's also a evening of the music of Machito, Tito Rodriguez and Tito Puente on Sunday 24th January tying in with a forthcoming BBC series. Definitely one to take your grumpiest relative to.

The Barbican also have powerful singer Dee Dee Bridgewater (her Live at Yoshi's is a CD I've played to death) with her daughter China Moses in April.

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A the South Bank, I'd already noted Keith Nichols' Fats Waller tribute on February 7th. There's also jazz/electronica Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer on Monday 22nd February. And EST bassist Dan Berglund on 15th March with his Tonbruket project "playing" according to the blurb, "music that stretches from e.s.t. to Pink Floyd, Royksopp and Arvo Part."

Another South Bank thing to draw attention to is the free Friday nights in the QEH foyer. They are called Friday Tonic, with a varied programme including Tomorrows Warriors (who are in residence at the South Bank) plus I keep hearing good things about Dave Morecroft's World Service Project on Feb 12th . Details HERE

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A couple of things from the Pizza Express Dean Street programme. There will be a first anniversary edition of the piano festival in April , when a second Steinway gets blown in, and a large number of world-class pianists come on down to the basement. More details to follow. I also like the look of Mike Janisch's monthly residency. The first night this year is on Wednesday January 27th, a launch party for Scottish drummer Alyn Cosker 's new CD. Also appearing is always-worth-hearing New York tenor sax player Seamus Blake. There's a rumour of Lee Konitz appearing with Janisch in May.

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Ronnie Scott's attractions for February include top Americans: trumpeter Christian Scott (1st -2nd), the altoist who used to lead the Mingus Big Band Vincent Herring (4th -6th) pianist Robert Glasper 8th-9th (here's Pete Horsfall's LJF review). I'd also urge anyone with ears to check out world-class Manchester guitar hero Mike Walker with Norma Winstone and Nikki Iles on March 8th and 9th.

At King's Place there is a French flavour with bass clarinet legend Louis Sclavis on March 19th, and a French Jazz week May 5th-8th.

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At Cadogan Hall, I can't find the J-word until the BBC Big Band appear on April 14th.

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At the Vortex, they're looking forward to standing-room only for Vijay Iyer whose album Historicity was on hundreds of best-of-2009 lists on March 3rd. And free jazz legend Peter Brotzmann will appear on March 23rd and 24th.

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Steve Rubie at the 606 is proud to be putting on alto sax icon Lee Konitz with Peter Ind on February 16th and 17th, and then battling tenors Eric Alexander and Dave O' Higgins on March 11th. Steve is also flagging up appearances at the club by by Lithuanian bassist Leonid Shinkarenko and his band on Feb 10th , and guitarist Dominic Miller in May.


A BBC Controller will speak

Musictank announced today that their public meeting on jazz radio next Tuesday 19th Jazz On The Beeb at the Cockpit Theatre, Marylebone at 6 30 pm will have both Roger Wright, Controller of BBC Radio 3 and Head of the BBC Proms, and Lewis Carnie, Head of Programmes at BBC Radio 2 and BBC 6 Music as speakers.

The full panel is Mykaell Riley, Head of Music Production, University of Westminster (introduction), Stuart Nicholson, Professor in Music Journalism, Leeds College of Music (keynote), Roger Wright, Lewis Carnie, Chris Hodgkins, Director of Jazz Services. Keith Harris will be in the chair.

The meeting will launch a paper: “The BBC – Jazz, Policy and Structure in The Digital Age” by Stuart Nicholson, Emma Kendon and Chris Hodgkins, with a foreword by John Fordham.

There are several comparisons in the paper with Germany, where there are many times more hours of jazz broadcast weekly than in the UK. Here's a snippet from the paper's summary:

In the eyes of many in the British Jazz economy, the BBC is no longer supporting jazz to the extent that it could, and many feel, should. This paper examines the specific needs of jazz, with its particular emphasis on live performance, and how these needs are being met by the BBC in comparison to other European public broadcasters. The issues affecting jazz impact upon broadcasting policy for all niche genres, including classical and opera. The report also suggests a solution that maximises DAB’s potential to deliver targeted, niche digital radio programming to what is claimed to be a hungry yet largely under-served audience and as such, attunes well to the Government’s recent Digital Britain report.

The price for public admission is £35.

LondonJazz forecast : Wright and Carnie will take the opportunity to unveil some interesting new programming.


Links we like

Far down there on the right hand side is a list links: blogging folk and other interesting sources of information. Two new ones this weekend are:

Alex Bonney's Loop Collective blog which has details of a new recording from Hans Koller with Bill Frisell.

Jason Parker's One Working Musician blog. Jason, a trumpeter from Seattle is always provocative and very, very on the ball.

Last week I also added the blog of one of France's top critics Bruno Pfeiffer of Liberation, for readers of French. He's just put up a lengthy and fascinating interview with Marcus Miller. Bruno Pfeiffer is addicted to outrageously lively punning. Fun!

Clive Davis of The Times, on the other hand, has just signed off from his CliveDavisConfab blog. Which is a shame.


Mr and Mrs J Cullum

Congratulations to Mr. & Mrs. Jamie Cullum who were married yesterday, Saturday January 9th.




Review: NYJO residency at Ronnie Scott's

The“House Full” sign on the icy pavement outside Ronnie Scott’s said it all. On a day when absenteeism from the workplace in London is alleged to have hit 20% of employees, the Frith Street club - and particularly its stage - were completely packed. This was the third night of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra ’s BP-sponsored three-night January residency. Their twentieth stint there, we were told.

Warmers-up on a cold night in W1 were Alex Garnett on tenor, with a trio of Leon Greening at the piano, Sebastiaan de Krom on drums and Adam King at the bass, squeezed up alongside the big band‘s stands.

What caught my ear from Garnett last night was not his normal fluency or agility, but rather the beauty and balance and projection of his tone, particularly low-down, and especially on the seldom-played verse to Autumn in New York. Greening is always a very positive presence, and his three-into-four stuff on Tristano’s Victory Ball had a kicking energy about it. Adam King produced some good solo moments. But it was Drummer De Krom who rose to be the star of the hour. He went for it, and completely grabbed the attention of the whole audience. Not with Krupa barn-storming or deJohnette dervishings, but by going boldly to the opposite extreme, with a near silence that the audience had to- and did- strain to hear: a sensitive, less-is-more moment, conjuring quietly jumping cross-rhythm octaves from impeccably tuned tomtoms.

The first NYJO set consisted of Paul Hart’s six-movement suite A Christmas Carol, commissioned by NYJO, with an actor (the urbane James Smoker) reading extracts from the novel, plus two singers and the full band directed -from memory -by the composer himself. Highlights for me were Tom Walsh ’s fabulous high trumpet work on the opener, Bah Humbug, the humour of Ghost of Marley with its swaggeringly cheeky reggae backings, and then Ed Barker’s alto solo on in Long Forgotten. I found that the suite slightly outstayed its welcome, but I did enjoy the fleet, angular, Dankworth-ish writing on Tiny Tim, and also hearing NYJO showing off its chops as a show-band on a rousing closer, God Bless us, Everyone.

The second set included two fine, busy charts from trombonist Callum Au. It also brought a number of promising young soloists to the fore: singer Emma Smith was particularly impressive on the late Steve Gray’s Summer Sundays. Kwabena Adjepong has varied and characterful vocal timbres which were making me think simultaneously of Kurt Elling and Mel Torme on Paris is for Lovers. Tom Stone on tenor sax was powerful and persuasive on Mistral, and teenage drummer Scott Chapman impressed, both in his solos and when powering up the band. The published programme built to an impressive close with NYJO alumnus Gareth Lockrane ’s Groove Rider featuring mellifluous flautist Helen Wilson. Emma Smith was then summoned to round off the evening with an arrangement of Chick Corea's Spain.

NYJO has a strong programme coming up in its 45th year. There is also some (very promising) news concerning its future just about to break.



The Honours System

I thought I'd leave a discussion of jazz and the British honours system until we got to the 60th anniversary of the introduction of rationing, which falls today.

The press never points out the statistically obvious fact : hundreds of British honours are given to people in Civil Service departments, local authorities and other publicly-funded bodies, and are given in accordance with the grade people have reached. And therefore- with my linear regressions r-squareds to the fore again, I venture to suggest that there are at least a few where the correct citation should be: "for doing their job."

The people who make our jazz scene happen are at the opposite end of the scale. Things mostly happen through some combination of individual drive, passion and endeavour, persistence, volunteering, going beyond the call, reckless abandon.

Which could be a reason why honours into jazz are so....rationed.

Look in this year's New Year's Honours list and there is one (thank you RT!), tucked away in the Foreign Office's list, a well-deserved OBE for

-the first English girl to wade ashore on Omaha Beach in Normandy.
-the first English girl to marry an American in wartime Germany
-who has made her home in the US since April 23, 1946

Marian McPartland, approaching her 92nd birthday in March.

Many congratulations. If anyone upstairs is reading this: here's a quick list of some of the desrving, which, please, please, should be added to forthwith: Kenny Wheeler, Stan Sulzmann, John Taylor, Eddie Harvey.

Marian McPartland facts from this Ph.D thesis


"Jazz has become a funeral parlor"

Yippee.(Not.) Here's fresh controversy in the form of a quote from pianist Matthew Shipp, from the free jazz scene,who has worked with David S Ware and Roscoe Mitchell, from a profile in Signal to Noise Magazine.

The jazz industry has become a huge funeral parlor. Within jazz, the historical weight is so oppressive. If you look at a jazz magazine, eight or nine months of the year they’ll have the same covers you could have seen in 1972. Keith Jarrett, Dave Holland, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock. At least if Spin magazine has an article about the Eagles, they’ll hide it in the back. And if the Eagles go on tour the rock industry treats it as a nostalgia act, but in the jazz industry, if Keith Jarrett or Herbie Hancock go on tour they treat it like it’s real music and it’s important. We’ve heard enough of them—they’re millionaires, they should just go somewhere and stop playing.

I have to wonder if Shipp has been quoted fairly. Be that as it may, here's my tuppence:

If Chick Corea and Dave Holland (in common with most older jazz musicians I meet) aren't still definitely:

(a) worth hearing
(b) developing and moving forwards
(c) influencing and being influenced by people much younger than them....

Then please, will someone enlighten me.

The source of this quote isKeith Goetzman's UTNE blog.

Matthew Shipp has a three day residency at Cafe Oto on February 12, 13 and 14.
Details are on the Cafe Oto website


This Week's Prize Draw: Kenny Wheeler Double CD

Here's this week's prize, a VERY special double CD, courtesy of ECM.

To enter in the draw for it you need to
(a) be a subscriber to the weekly newsletter and
(b) write me an email by Sunday night 10th, to ask for your name to be put into the hat.

This Double CD recorded in 1990 contains the work being performed at next week's Kenny Wheeler 80th birthday concert at the Royal Academy of Music.

Details of the CD are HERE .

It was also one of December MOJO's top ten ECM albums.


Review: BBC Jazz on 3 Celebration of British Jazz

You could feel the heat. And the exhilaration. And the sheer rhythmic energy generated by Django Bates ’ band Human Chain in their second number at Ronnie Scott’s last night, called 'Three Architects Called Gabrielle... Just What I expected'

Saxophonist Marius Neset had just given a burst of rapidfire altissimo eeks. Bassist Michael Mondesir was furiously thumb-popping. But what caught my eye was the expression on the face of drummer Martin France (above- photo credit: Richard Kaby) as he sat back for a brief moment. He was blowing air up his face to try to cool it down. The updraft of breath caught his curly fringe and lifted it airborne. Quite something for a night when the temperature outside on Frith Street was below freezing.

This triumphant return to Ronnie’s by Django Bates was his first appearance back at the club since 1998. Bates’ influence is massive, his voice is unique and totally assured. But his presence on the UK scene has been irregular. The best result from this evening would be for both Ronnie’s and Radio 3 to make amends for that.

Human Chain were the fifth band of the night at the BBC’s Jazz on 3 Celebration of British Jazz. The programme went out at 11.15 last night and is available on BBC iPlayer until next Monday January 11th.

The evening worked, not just as a start-of-year celebration, but also as a sampler of the breadth and the depth of talent in the UK jazz scene. Whether referring to the individual acts or to the whole evening, people were coming up to me and talking about the variety, the range of expression they had experienced. Who knows, there might even have been something there for those British who just don’t get it, can’t see anything to celebrate in jazz, and (still) claim to hate all of it. Dontcha love ‘em.

The evening opened with Kenny Wheeler ’s quintet. The great man turns 80 next Thursday 14th , and the event is due to be celebrated at the Royal Academy of Music, with no less a figure than Dave Holland flying over and donating his services. The quintet with Stan Sulzmann, John Parricelli, Chris Laurence and Martin France opened with the deliciously shifting harmonies of Jigsaw and ended with a particularly happy and uptempo Everyone’s Song but my Own.

The youngest band of the evening was Troyka , Chris Montague ’s trio with Kit Downes on Hammond and Josh Blackmore on drums. Their short set built to a final climax with a sequence which started with the polite exchange of eerie clicks and pops, grew through quick joshing interplay, and built into an exchange of angry semitone clusters. I sensed an audience intrigued, but absolutely hooked by the twists and turns of this musical conversation.

Vocalist Cleveland Watkiss, bassist Mark Hodgson and drummer Winston Clifford are all musicians in their absolute prime. Watkiss started his set with a vocal bass line which got looped and formed the foundation for a wordless multi-tracked solo performance, with beat-boxed consonants and a beautifully controlled final fade. I also enjoyed his take on Faure’s Sicilienne, gently phrased and lyrical.

The quietest set came from Tom Arthurs on flugelhon with regular duo partner Richard Fairhurst on piano. They were finding a delicate language on the boundaries of silence, sometimes just enjoying the rocking back and forth of two chords. There were clear homages in Arthurs’ playing to the harmonic delicacy, the sound and the presence of Kenny Wheeler. But Arthurs’ is his own man, and this gentle music caught the audience’s mood well.

Getting five bands on and off stage in the evening was a feat of organization and collaboration, as was editing the performance down for broadcast not much more than an hour afterwards. MC Jez Nelson managed proceedings and a couple of interviews well- but I will confess I've now already heard the word "edgy" enough for this year.

The radio sound which I caught later is excellent, more than a memento of a very good evening. Go listen.