RIP Martin Drew (1944-2010)

It is a sad week for jazz drumming, as Ronnie Scott's reports of the death of Martin Drew after a heart attack, age 66.

The house drummer at Ronnie's between 1975 and 1995, Martin worked with many household names, including Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzie Gillespie. Martin was perhaps best known for his work with the Oscar Peterson Trio, which saw him perform at New York’s Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl.

Jack Massarik writes a full obituary for jazzwise here. Lance Liddle's blog, bebop spoken here also features a tribute to Martin by Adrian Tilbrook. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.


Long Distance Duet

Regular readers may remember this clip of saxophonist, kidney transplant beneficiary and general good guy, Andy Williamson playing a long distance duet with Dave Silk on bass, half way through abseiling down Guy's and St Thomas' hospital.

Should any of you wish to attempt to repeat this with a trumpet, double bass or miniature casio keyboard, Andy is looking for volunteers to participate and raise funds for another sponsored abseil at the hospital this Sunday 01 August in aid of the Guy’s and St Thomas' Kidney Patients’ Association. Get in touch with him through or 07980 680052.


Review: Wadada Leo Smith

Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith two-day residency
(Café Oto, 24-25 July 2010. Day 1 with Mark Sanders, John Coxon and John Edwards. Day 2 with Pat Thomas, Tony Marsh, Lol Coxhill and Steve Noble. Review and pencil drawing by Geoff Winston.)

"Wadada Leo Smith ... ‘Leo Smith’ was '90's ... 1890's." Wadada corrected the introduction lightly, but firmly. He also achieves that balance between lightness and resoluteness in his music. His intense delivery is never overbearing, but is measured and challenging. His technical fluency is deceptive, a veil for his skill in leading and bringing out the best from his co-musicians. His range and command elude easy categorisation.

Each of his two nights at Cafe Oto opened with a set of absorbing extended duets - on the first with the graceful percussionist, Mark Sanders, and on the second with Pat Thomas, effervescent on keyboards and electronics.

In both duets the piercing trumpet tones were leavened with glockenspiel-like sounds from Wadada's thumb piano, also complementing his more withdrawn delivery when using the mute. His body expression said much about the music - concentrated and focussed - he'd alternate between being bent over with trumpet facing the floor, dreadlocks obscuring his face, then upright, facing the room. "Sometimes the trumpet smokes ... I mean real smoke!", and it did, as he'd run out flowing streams of sound, the perspiration on his face pointing to the intensity of his concentration.

In his third number with Pat Thomas there were two spells of extended silence imposed by Wadada, bringing to mind his theory of Rhythm Units - 'A single sound has a mate, and that mate is a silent sound' - in this instance it included the muffled reverberations from a nearby sound system, which he used, Cage-like, to become part of that silence.

Mark Sanders's deft, exploratory drum work was contemplative and melodic. He and Wadada played balance and counterbalance beautifully.

The duets were followed by formidable ensemble sets - John Edwards (bass) and John Coxon (guitar) joining Sanders and Wadada on the first night; then twin drum kits - Tony Marsh and Steve Noble - joining Lol Coxhill (soprano sax), up-front with Wadada, and Thomas on the second.

Coxon brought an extra edge to the mix with his searing guitar mimicking the trumpet's staccato at one point, and Edwards' disciplined. energetic delivery giving a dynamic backbone to the quartet.

Wadada summed it up: :"Duets are hard, but playing with five is even harder!"

There were memorable moments in the second set of night two. The unison and mastery of the drum duo was impressive. Sounding as one instrument, with Marsh standing over an array of timpani to the centre left, and Noble seated at his kit far right, they made it all look effortless. Coxhill and Wadada played a notable duet towards the end of the night, lyrical and constrained, their tones almost interchangeable.

Wadada has a penchant for unexpected juxtapositions. "It's just like deep sea diving - if you get out alive ... be happy!"

Listeners may get the chance to plunge into these sessions again - both nights were being recorded.


Chris Dagley

Shocking news today. Chris Dagley (above) was killed when returning from a gig at Ronnie Scott's on his motor bike. Aged just 39, there can be nobody who brought such energy and enthusiasm to his work as a musician. Friends from MYJO and NYJO, Colleagues at Ronnie's, people who remember recording sessions such as an important CD with Clare Teal are talking about him today with the warmth and affection which is the norm for the British jazz community.

This is a cruel and utterly tragic loss.


-RONNIE'S BENEFIT On Monday September 20th Ronnie Scott's is hosting a benefit gig for Chris's dependents. Details HERE.

- HOW TO DONATE Following a conversation with Chris's family today (Aug 20th)

People who would like to send donations to support Chris Dagley's family should send a cheque payable to


to the Funeral Directors


- OBITUARY A full obituary by John Fordham in the Guardian can be found here.

memorial page on Facebook with several video clips

-FUNERAL Chris Dagley’s funeral was on Thursday 12th August at noon, at Breakspear Crematorium, Breakspear Rd, Ruislip HA4 7SJ

-BENEFIT GIG AUG 22ND Andy Panayi has organized a benefit concert DETAILS HERE


Ronnie Scotts' Brit Jazz Festival Preview

British jazz has just gone through its most interesting ten years since the sixties. Nobody disputes that. The initiative of Ronnie Scotts’ Brit Jazz Fest, now in its second year, will prove that.

A perfect example is the 2009 Mercury Prize nominated Led Bib, who hit new eardrums with their album Sensible Shoes. They perform in a double bill with Phronesis, one of Dave Stapletons’ gig highlights at Brecon Jazz Festival this year. Phronesis are currently drawing favourable comparison with E.S.T, from many jazz critics. Their new album Alive is exactly that. Jasper Høiby’s compositions captured me in the first few seconds and Brit, Ivo Neame’s piano playing has a beautiful lyricism to it. See them both on Tuesday 3rd August.

Nearly 14 years and four albums on, Partisans are still experimenting and thrilling. Their last album, By Proxy, took electronica, heavy rock riffs, be-bop, hard-bop and more and tied it together with coherent melodic solos and tight heads that come from great jazz musicianship and creativity. The original experimenters, Partisans, are intelligently programmed in a double bill with Trio VD, whose energy in performance is infectious. Imagine a jazz heavy metal ornette coleman part-rap part-beatbox stadium gig performed by musicians dressed as hip-hop front men and you’re half way there. Go to this gig and you’ll see what I mean.

Preview by Fran Hardcastle


Ronnie's Radio

Congratulations to the Ronnie Scott's team for getting RonnieScott's BritJazz Radio off the ground for (newsletter readers will have a prize draw offer connected with the Festival tomorrow!!)

It will broadcast direct from the club on 96.3FM (in central London) and online at from July 30th to August 14th. The presenter of a drivetime show will be Jumoke Fashola. Michael Mwenso will host a late night slot. Guest presenters will include James Taylor the Hammond organ player, pianist Neil Cowley and the (hilarious) singer-pianist Ian Shaw. After August 14th the station will revert to broadcasting online.


Review: Dave Morecroft/Leafcutter John/ Gina Southgate

Dave Morecroft/Leafcutter John/Gina Southgate
(Vortex, July 21st 2010, Review by Tom Leaper)

Piano, laptop and paintbrushes aren’t the mostly likely of trio line-ups. Whatever: the Vortex, with its open-minded, listening audience is the perfect place to give it a try. This improvised spectacle of sound and colour was provided by pianist Dave Morecroft (World Service Project) effects man Leafcutter John (Polar Bear) and artist Gina Southgate (previous work on the walls of the club). The set, consisting of three improvisations and one original composition (Morecroft’s Underneath) saw every number yield its own painting, composed using the various paints and tools by the stage.

This was an evening for bold gestures by all three artists. Morecroft kept disappearing inside the piano to slap and strum, Southgate slashed at the canvases and, after much squeaking and squealing, a stunned Leafcutter John popped a balloon in his own face. The audience were transfixed by Southgate’s movements, the sounds of which Leafcutter John recorded and manipulated. The abstract soundscapes created never lacked momentum and fused at times into pulsing groove-like trance.

The trio gradually found each other as the set progressed. It was a fascinating process to witness. Magic occurred near the end of the set when cathartic block chords, layered vocals and clattering print-making coincided to smiling approval.

I hope there's a follow up gig. See you there.

Picture credit: Cross-dress String Quartet by Gina Southgate from


Hundreds and Thousands (of gigs)

As the arts funding climate darkens, and the daily clamour mounts to stop cuts (excuse me, how could the Royal Opera possibly function without its ten salaried Press Officers?), please can we spare a particularly sweet thought for those who produce hundreds and thousands of gigs without it.

The five year-round jazz venues in London - Ronnie Scott's, Pizza Express Dean Street, 606, Vortex and Bulls Head- all unfunded, host jazz virtually every night of the week. If you do the same maths I do, the total number of gigs at these five venues alone must approach THREE THOUSAND in a year.

Concerning the Arts Council funding which does go into jazz promotion and capacity and infrastructure building, low in comparison to most other art forms, RAM postgrad student trumpeter Jack Davies has been trawling ACE documents, and come up with SOME STATS.


Quality in Nevada Street

Holy Meridian! Has anyone - apart from Phil Wain, thank you Phil! - spotted the sheer quality of the bands appearing this weekend in one of London's most intimate venues, Oliver's Bar in Nevada Street, Greenwich . I don't get down there often but here's a review.

Friday July 30th: Gary Willcox Band - Chris Biscoe on Sax, Phil Robson on guitar and Patrick Bettison on bass, Gary Willcox on drums,.

Saturday July 31st : Maciek Pysz Trio with Asaf Sirkis and Mao Yamada
Phil Wain reviewed Maciek Pysz' last London outing HERE

Here's the Oliver's Music Bar Site

And check out the world-class Phil Robson putting out a few hand-built guitars through their paces on Youtube HERE


Annie Whitehead

Annie Whitehead on Friday at the Vortex, caught by the lens of photographer Roger Thomas.As Roger writes: "She's does a great job giving amateur musicians the benefit of her gift and keeping music alive in London."


Here's a link to her workshop site


The Devil wears Prada, Christian wears Dior...

...and Esperanza Spalding (above) promotes Banana Republic. Here's a Dior-ized Christian Scott and a Prada campaign just launched, based around Fever. Hold on to your pork pie hats, ladies and gentlemen, we are definitely going through a jazz fashion moment.

There's more in today's Sunday Times "Style" section from writer Robert Ryan, including an interview with Krystle Warren, and Matana Roberts ( "try playing this thing in these heels") at the Vortex.

The article is behind the Times paywall. But necessity being a mother etc., here's Chris Parker's indispensable and timeless piece on the subject .


"40 jazz things to do before you die (or Keith Jarrett kills you)"*

A visit to Woodlawn Cemetery in NYC (above) is one of the suggestions in a list from Lee Mergner of JazzTimes, in celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the magazine (Happy Anniversary!) which also includes:

-Listen to every Miles Davis CD in chronological order and dress accordingly for each period

-Wear your JazzTimes T-shirt and pace back and forth outside the offices of DownBeat in Elmhurst, Ill.

-Cough as quietly as possible during a Keith Jarrett concert, without getting lectured or lambasted

For the British version of this extreme sport.........try walking up to one of the musicians listed in" Dave Newton's Alternative Professions" and ask them if they've ever done the job described.

*JazzTimes are responsible for this title


BRECON FESTIVAL PREVIEW. AUG 6th -8th. Dave Stapleton's Picks

The honour of playing the opening gig at the Brecon Jazz Festival this year goes to Dave Stapleton's Quintet (Christ's College Stage, Friday August 6th, 6pm) , caught on video above in Zagreb.

We asked Dave to talk about a few gigs about he's particularly looking forward to hearing once he steps off stage:

Jason Yarde and Andrew McCormack (Brecon Cathedral, Friday, 10.30pm)

I first saw Andrew and Jason at the Banlieues Blues Festival in Paris last April. I though that gig was fantastic and am looking forward to to hearing them again.
I was bowled over by their arrangements, and think that they are two of the most interesting musicians in the UK.

Phronesis (Roland Stage, Christ College, Saturday, 3.30pm)

Since working with Jasper, Anton and Ivo on their new their album 'Alive' , I've listened to their music loads, but to seeing them live is something else!

The music grabs you and the communication between each of them is so unique. Ivo Neame is one of my favourite fellow pianists - his phrasing and touch is just incredible! With the launch of their new album, I guarantee this one should not be missed!

Keith Tippett and Julie Tippetts (Theatr Brycheiniog, Sunday, 3pm)

Keith has been a massive influence on me and since meeting him at the Welsh College have worked with him many times on album projects, live projects as well as scoring some of music into Sibelius. Julie has written some lyrics for me on some of my music too. Having spent time with them and got to know them as friends it is really special to hear them make music out of nothing! They are truly extraordinary, and two of the best improvisers around.

Plus there's Hugh Masekela, Erik Truffaz, Hypnotic Brass, Andy Sheppard, Gwilym Simcock, Kit Downes, Magnus Lindgren, Dave Newton, Get the Blessing, Scott Hamilton......



RIP Willem Breuker (1944-2010)

Peter Hum's blog is reporting the death of Dutch saxophonist and bandleader Willem Breuker.

A biography is HERE


Herbie for London Jazz Festival - 13 /14 November

Two Herbie Hancock shows in the London Jazz Festival at the Royal Festival Hall, a touring version of the Imagine Project, the CD scheduled for UK release on August 2nd - have just gone on public sale.


RIP Harry Beckett (1935-2010)

UPDATE(Thurs 29th): Harry Beckett's Funeral will be at Islington Crematorium on Thurs August 5th at 3pm

The much-admired trumpeter and flugelhorn player Harry Beckett died this afternoon after a stroke on Tuesday. His last gig was Big Band Britannia with Guy Barker's orchestra last month (Photo credit: Roger Thomas).

The roll-call of bands he was in makes him a central figure of the 60s/70s British scene: Ian Carr's Nucleus, the Brotherhood of Breath and The Dedication Orchestra, London Jazz Composers Orchestra, John Surman, Octet Django Bates Ronnie Scott's Quintet, Kathy Stobart, Charlie Watts, Stan Tracey's Big Band and Octet; Elton Dean's Ninesense. He also toured with Charles Mingus.

Mike Westbrook writes:

We were very sorry indeed to read about the death of Harry Beckett. An incomparable loss, personally and musically. He was one of our greatest, and most distinctive trumpet players, and a totally committed jazz musician. We worked together a lot in the 60s and early 70s, especially in my orchestra. His solo on the last track of the Metropolis album is one to treasure. Thereafter Kate, I and Chris Biscoe often ran into him on the road, always a delight. Chris, of course, has been working regularly with Harry in small groups. At one point the two of them did a two-year stint with the Orchestre National de Jazz, in Paris. We are all going to miss him terribly.

Trevor Watts writes:

Harry was always a pleasure to play with, and always indicated to me that he enjoyed very much our gigs together. A lot of that was to do with own his undoubted good humour, encouragement and enthusiasm. We would always have a lot of laughs together, and I can hear his voice now saying "Hey Trev, how's it going," with a wry smile on his face. I'd always try and reply with some tongue-in-cheek remark, and we'd be having a laugh from that point onwards.

He was a great player that found the key all musicians like us are looking for. The way to "get it on" every time he picked up the horn. He'll be sadly missed by many people. Not least of all myself. I was glad to have known him. Very sad.

(Harold Winston Beckett, born Barbados May 30 1935, died London July 22 2010)


The Mercury Prize and predictions

Hallelujah. There is hope. People who make their opinions public can and do change them when faced with the undeniable. Until last year, Evening Standard Pop Critic David Smyth appeared pathologically incapable of mentioning jazz without dolloping in an allusion to "turtle-necks" or "chin-scratching". No longer. This year he is a Mercury Prize judge. So , rather than indulging in the generally uninformed speculation on Tuesday when the nominations came out, he wrote:

British music is so strong that this year could have had 30 nominees

[...]Unlike the Brits, which reward sales, the Mercury considers artistic merit alone, which doesn't often tally with the people's favourites. It's surprising then, to count that seven of the 12 albums have been in the UK top 10.

As a member of the dozen-strong judging panel for the first time, I can confirm that the judges are as yet no wiser on the eventual winner than anyone else. We decide on the day of the ceremony, at Mayfair's Grosvenor House hotel on September 7, moments before Jools Holland opens the envelope. [...]

And let us not forget the jazz nominees, the Kit Downes Trio, who emerge at the top of what turns out to be an exceptionally strong year for British piano jazz. Who knew? Jazz belongs perfectly on a shortlist which could only please everyone if it were 30-strong. What a great sign for British music that this year it could have been.

Wow , let's raise a half-full glass to Luke 15:7! Yes folks, this is a transformation. "Wolle die Wandlung," said the poet,

Meanwhile, at the other, grumpier end of the scale, there are laggards who haven't clocked what's going on yet, like Neil McCormick of the Telegraph.

I’m not particularly surprised by any of the other six, apart from the Kit Downes Trio, which takes the annual token jazz album spot with a record that has had no impact outside of its tightly enclosed genre whatsoever. [...] The question is, [..] does anyone still want to win the Mercury Prize? Maybe they should just give it to the Kit Downes Trio, then nobody will notice if it proves a career killer again.

I had an email from one friend responding to this: "You should take this self-important shit to task." Thanks but no thanks. I'd rather not, and here's why.

Yes, I can see that the opinion has been reached without the writer seeing any need to inform his readers with any knowledge whatsoever of what Kit Downes' music is about. The question, then, must be how long zero knowledge can remain a tenable public stance for a professional with the role of pundit, or advisor, or gatekeeper in any field.

Calmos. Heads can't stay in the sand forever. Self-correction will happen of its own accord. Unless people want to treat the profession of rock journalism as a safe way to drift into retirement on a final salary scheme, eventually they will - inevitably - latch on that something quite astonishing has been happening in the past few years in British jazz.

I'm told that up to 15% of the entries in a typical year are jazz albums. And therefore by law of averages the judges - who are paid to LISTEN, rather than to regurgitate received opinion- are probably going to find something they like.

Anyway, rather than uninformed speculation or punditry, have some information. Here's the betting. The favourite is The xx at 3/1 (apparently there's been one substantial bet) and the Kit Downes Trio have the joint longest odds at 26/1.



Meetup groups are a worldwide phenomenon, and thriving. They cover all kinds ofinterests. Take the East Midlands Dungeons and Dragons Meetup. Preferably to a safe distance, please.

The LondonJazz Meetup, run by occasional LondonJazz writer and thumb-popping bass nut Rob Mallows now has 620 members, and organizes groups to go to loads of London gigs. They also have gatherings. The next is at the Archduke in SE1 on August 7th and here are the details


Review: Tessa Souter

Tessa Souter
Pizza Express, July 19th 2010, Review by Jeanie Barton

I shared an evening of song with Tessa Souter, a charming, willowy Englishwoman who now lives in New York. Dressed in a floor length black/gold dress, her hair piled high in a top knot on her head, in silhouette she is reminiscent of a Roman or Egyptian goddess. She also creates a very warm atmosphere in which one feels like her guest, or a member of her family invited round for cocktails.

But what really draws you into the warmth is her performance. The melodies may be (mostly) uniformly melancholy, but she presents them with pride, strength and above all, style. And she writes intense and evocative lyrics, putting words to the feelings we all share but cannot necessarily articulate.

The stand out song for me was I know with time (Iwill forget). Her English lyrics to Léo Ferré’s song Avec le Temps describe many feelings just after a relationship break up - all of the love (the physical/sexual absence) that can incorporate even the negative "the cage you kept me in" as longing reminiscences - the contradiction and masochism of lust and love.

Another emotionally powerful moment came towards the end of Ana Maria by Wayne Shorter. She has written insightful words to Shorter's tune, reflecting on the untimely death of Shorter's wife in an air crash in 1996 - the ever present space that is left in our lives when our loved ones leave. "You are the light of morning, you are the new day dawning".

This was also the moment when she stopped holding back her strong and warm voice, stopped merely hinting that she has power in reserve, and truly opened out her instrument.

Nikki Iles' sumptuous piano accompaniment was as comforting as a big duvet spread over the room, combined with the gravity and reliability of the rhythm section (Mark Hodgson on double bass and Winston Clifford on drums) they helped give Tessa all the focus and intensity she delivered into her songs. Stuart Hall provided an edgy seasoning to most numbers playing a flamenco style guitar, violin and bouzouki - his birdlike stature and wide-eyed energy honed in on each member of the band in encouraging instruction.

The evening culminated with Wise One, a musing on the wisdom of new born babies - how we unlearn all the trust and instinct we are blessed with at birth. Nikki Iles expanded on the finesse she had exhibited in her other solos by throwing back the covers with a series of strides and scales across the keyboard. The band closed the show aptly swinging That’s All.

But it is Tessa Souter's warmth, and the powerful images of attraction which stay in the mind, as in a particularly haunting line from the title track of her CD Obsession: "you’re like a wind that blows in front of a storm." I was blown away.


Ramsey Lewis at LSO St Lukes

Thanks to photographer Roger Thomas, two great shots of a happy Ramsey Lewis, multiple Grammy winnner and gold disc awardee, in concert at LSO St Luke's last Friday July 16th.


Kit Downes Trio nominated for Mercury Prize

The Kit Downes Trio's CD "Golden" has been nominated for the Barclaycard Mercury Prize. Here's the profile of Kit Downes for the Telegraph which I wrote when the CD was released.

A typically laconic bass player'scomment from Calum Gourlay on his way from the announcement eventtoday. "We've known for longer than everyone else, and it still hasn't quite sunk in."

On the BBC's Listen Again is a live set recorded in May at the Cheltenham Festival


Review: Ralph Alessi and the Jim Hart Trio/ Partikel

Jim Hart Trio (Jim Hart vibes, Michael Janisch, bass, DaveSmith drums) with Ralph Alessi -trumpet
(Grey Horse, Kingston, July 19th 2010)

Jim Hart made a verbal slip-up when he presented the band after their first number: “It brings me very great pressure to introduce…”

He corrected himself immediately, smiled. apologised. "I meant pleasure." As Hart made clear in a great piece he wrote for us last week, he has been looking forward to this collaboration between his trio and Ralph Alessi. But maybe there was also a grain of truth in what he had said. Because this was the first gig of a nationwide tour, and they had only met Alessi for the first time that afternoon to rehearse. And also because Ralph Alessi’s compositions, such as Dog Waking which they had just opened the gig, are anything but simple.

But by the end of the set, there was a very strong sense of a substantial journey already having been travelled. The smiles were back. This collaboration between an American master and three players from London from a younger generation has legs, and can be thoroughly recommended.

Both Ralph Alessi 's father and his grandfather were orchestral trumpeters of great distinction. He has a - possibly inherited- unflappably calm platform demeanour. His stock-in-trade when he plays is to make the angularities and asymmetries of complex tunes sound natural, to assert their logic, to lead. There is always the sense of a direction of travel. His is an often understated, but always compelling and impressive voice. And his trumpet sound is full, focussed and a constant pleasure to hear.

There can be no more attentive and watchful drummer in the world than Dave Smith. For much of the time he had his head at 90 degrees from true, his gaze locked in on Mike Janisch’s hands. He was also keeping away from the higher frequencies, limiting his tonal palette. Janisch was on great form, his tuning as ever as good as any in the business, the tone warm and full, the ideas flowing. Jim Hart was fascinating to watch and to hear. As accompanist to Alessi he was a busy presence embellishing, encasing, showcasing, supporting, Alessi's strongly focussed trumpet line. As soloist he was reflecting, commenting, responding both to his own ideas and to those around him.

As the tour develops the free, open sections at the end of Alessi tunes such as Four Finger Grip, which were visited briefly last night, will give more chances for the band to really stretch out. Alessi may at his most creative in the role of a Pied Piper/ Duke of York/Godfather in these free forms. Hart, Janisch and Smith are completely up for the role of accomplices, and the results in the rest of the week, starting tonight in Cardiff, are going be spectacular.

A moment which stood out for me was a remarkable, completely free link passage from Jim Hart's hushed elegy "For JD" written earlier this year as a homage to John Dankworth, to Thelonious Monk's jaunty Bye-Ya. For this improvised journey from sombre hues to bright colours, Alessi was accompanied by Dave Smith, alert to everything. Memorable.

So , get down to the Pizza Express tomorrow Wednesday, and Jez/Peggy/Robert, if you are reading this, get the diary and give the Jazz on 3 microphones an extra outing. You know you want to.

I also caught the beginning of a brief set from “Partikel” (Duncan Eagles saxophone, Max Luthert bass, Eric Ford drums) It is a while since I heard Duncan Eagles play. I had the sense that he has at the same time now completely absorbed the model of his teacher at Trinity Russell Van Den Berg, but also moved away from it and developed his own clear voice. Eric Ford is a higly creative and inventive drummer, little known because he lived for a few years in Paris. He was interesting to contrast with Dave Smith. The context - a stable band versus a new encounter - could not have been more different, but Ford plays much more solistically. He made an instant strong impression last night.

Photo Credit: Monique Baan


Canary Wharf Festival August 13th -15th

Many Londoners don't yet know Canary Wharf. This is the tube station, designed by Norman Foster. But Canary Wharf does host a free (as in no charge) Jazz Festival. A highlight is Friday night. Of which more later. Here's our review of the '09 event, in the form of a list. Here's the full programme for 2010:

Friday 13th August
7 - 8pm Robert Mitchell Trio
8.30 - 10pm Alex Wilson

Saturday 14th August
1.30 - 2.15pm Jazzphonica: Roundhouse Jazz Ensemble
2.45 - 4pm TBC
4.30 - 5.45pm Matthew Halsall
6.15 - 7.30pm The Baker Brothers
8 - 9.15pm Ruby Turner

Sunday 15th August
1 - 2.15pm Ernesto Simpson
2.45 - 4pm The Haggis Horns
4.30 - 5.45pm Natalie Williams
6.15 - 7.30pm Pee Wee Ellis


RIP Dennis Matthews

We wrote last December about the closure of Crescendo Magazine. Founder/Editor Dennis H Matthews passed away in Chase Farm Hospital on July 4th, and his funeral is taking place this afternoon at Slough Crematorium.

Digby Fairweather gave us a tribute: " Dennis carried the flame for the glory days of Big Band, and for its British and American stars for decades in the columns of Crescendo." Digby remembers that Dennis also promoted gigs involving the top players in the country to celebrate the legacy.

According to the website, a substantial part of the back issues are available in digital form, for purchase. We have not been able to verify whether this material is still available and/or whether the price quoted is still current.


Tweeting during performances- What would Boswell have thought?

"I fancy mankind may come, in time, to write all aphoristically," wrote James Boswell in 1773, predicting with 20/20 foresight the advent of Twitter.

But did he, or indeed the Boswell sisters in 1936, ever imagine that people were "gonna sit right down and write [themselves] a letter" during a live performance.

It happened last week. The San Francisco Repertory Theatre designated a part of the audience as a TWEET SEAT section, the main idea being to plug the show, to pursue that holy grail of audience development by letting people outside know what they're missing.

What is it with San Francisco audiences??! I'm with Keith Jarrett on this one.


Review: Fleck/ Meyer Hussain

Review: Béla Fleck, Zakir Hussain and Edgar Meyer
(Barbican, July 16th, 2010. Review by Thomas Gray)

On paper, the line-up of Béla Fleck on banjo, Edgar Meyer on double bass and Zakir Hussain on tabla suggested that it might provide an unusual twist on a regular guitar-bass-drums trio. However, this Barbican audience was lucky enough to witness far more than that as these masterful musicians stretched to breaking point any assumptions about the role each instrument would play.

Meyer took on just as much of the melodic content as Fleck with some beautifully singing arco lines encompassing the full range of the double bass, while Hussain’s show-stopping contributions were as lyrical as they were percussive. For his part, Fleck demonstrated just what a versatile instrument the banjo can be (in the right hands), incorporating rapid-fire bluegrass picking, articulate bop guitar lines, and bluesy bent notes into his vocabulary.

Like all successful types of fusion music, this collaboration went far beyond a mere copying-and-pasting of the various genres associated with each of the musicians. It was a subtle synthesis of different musical worlds, resulting in something distinct in its own right. Hussain’s composition ‘Bahar’ exemplified this, transiently incorporating elements of Indian classical music, Americana and baroque, but refusing to rest in any one idiomatic area. A deeply atmospheric and sometimes melancholic vein ran through the music, but the dry banter between the musicians—and Fleck’s virtuosic showmanship—consistently lightened the mood.

Fleck and Meyer’s partnership spans over 25 years, and their mutual understanding was obvious through phrases that effortlessly intertwined and breathed together with barely a single glance exchanged between the pair. In contrast, the interaction between Hussain and Fleck relied more on visual cues, but produced some spectacular results. On ‘Bubbles’, Hussain picked up on the rhythmic intricacies of Fleck’s improvised lines and framed them almost instantaneously with his responsive tabla accompaniment. Fleck showed just as much awareness of Hussain’s musical universe, finding seemingly infinite ways to divide up the metre and occasionally eliciting some sitar-like timbres from his instrument.

The sophisticated and poised music created by this trio may give the industry a headache trying to classify it, but having put the audience under its spell for the best part of two hours, sticking a label on it seemed rather beside the point.



ECM at 40

Interesting interview with Manfred Eicher of ECM by Richard Williams. Film directors keep cropping up. Jen-Luc Godard as a friend and mentor of Eicher's, and Ingmar Bergman, to whom he compares himself in his role as producer. Photo Colin Eick/ ECM, from an interview from die Zeit in German from last autumn covering similar territory.


Review: Django Drom

Django Drom: Celebrating Django Reinhardt
Featuring Didier Lockwood, Bireli Lagrene and Stochelo Rosenberg.
Curated by Tony Gatlif
(Barbican Hall, July 15th 2010, Review by Edward Randell)

The Barbican’s music-and-multimedia celebration of Django Reinhardt’s centenary loses no time placing the guitarist in his cultural context. Against a projected backdrop of red gypsy skirts, a white-clad dancer (Karine Gonzalez) pounds her feet on the stage while a fiddler emerges from the audience, snaking towards the dancer, his playing urging her to more fervent gyrations.

The fiddler, in fact, is Didier Lockwood, one of the world’s leading jazz violinists and the leader of a superb French band here to recreate Django’s distinctive Hot Club sound. When the dance has reached its climax he is joined by the first wave of musicians who, all told, will comprise double bass, clarinet, accordion, second violin and a small army of guitarists – among them Bireli Lagrène and Stochelo Rosenberg.

The band’s performance style may have emulated Django’s unflappable cool, but it was obvious how much they were enjoying themselves as they romped through the likes of ‘Minor Swing’, ‘Daphné’, ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ and ‘I Got Rhythm’. The largest dose of showmanship came from Lockwood. Whether teasing out artificial harmonics or conjuring a steel-pan sound with a wah-wah pedal, he was in total command of his instrument. There was one point, in ‘Nuages’, when I wished he would leave the beautiful melody unembellished – footage of the Hot Club Quintette, played towards the end of the show, reminded us that Reinhardt and Grappelli could be understated as well as virtuosic – but this was a momentary quibble. You could not ask for a better candidate to inherit and develop Grappelli’s legacy.

If you had a phobia of guitars, this gig would have been a nightmare. Over the course of the evening six-string players continued to creep onstage until there were nine in total (all acoustics, with the exception of Jean-Marie Ecay on electric). I make that 54 strings. Lagrène, the standout soloist, was happy to share the limelight, and there was great work from Rosenberg, Sébastien Giniaux and Adrien Moignard (the latter raising chuckles with a mischievous quote from the Star Wars ‘Imperial March’). As with the original Hot Club the absence of a drummer left it to the guitars to drive the bouncy swing, and special mention must go Hono Winterstein, Lagrène’s regular rhythm player and the tireless engine of the group.

The finale, an extended set of variations on Ravel’s ‘Bolero’, featured Ecay playing soupy lead over a ballad reharmonisation before the familiar rhythm kicked in, drummed out by all 8 acoustics on muted strings. Though dramatic, the piece was an odd choice for the closer, having no special connection with Django beyond the gypsy influence – but then Reinhardt’s Manouche roots were the concert’s central focus. Gonzalez’s hoofing and traditional singing from Nomi were each featured on several tunes, while the projected film backdrop, made and mixed live by Tony Gatlif, depicted scenes from Romany community life. This is a constant in Gatlif’s work, so it was to be expected that as the concert’s curator he would emphasize it over, say, the influence of Reinhardt’s spiritual ‘brother’ Louis Armstrong.

If the world-music exoticism was laid on a little thickly, the film provided a visually varied accompaniment, helping transport the audience back to the early 20th century. But perhaps the most striking aspect of ‘Django Drom’ was how well this music has aged. The Hot Club sound still feels fresh and immediate, its infectious energy likely to keep the toes tapping for at least another 100 years.

Video above from a performance in Lyon


2010 Yamaha Jazz Scholars

Here they are. The 2010 Yamaha Jazz Scholars, posing for the camera last night (photo credit: Hayley Madden) with Big Ben, plus the front end of Boadicea's horse.

Andrew Linham - Leeds College of Music - alto sax
David Hamblett - Royal Academy of Music - drums
Dougie Freeman - Guildhall School - piano
Chris Gilligan - RWCMD - piano
Peter Randall - Trinity - bass
Lluis Mather - Birmingham Conservatoire - tenor sax

They are the fourth cohort, the scheme being supported by Yamaha in association with Jazzwise, PPL and the All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group

They each receive £1000. They performed in Portcullis House last night. All six Scholarship Award winners will be on a cover-mount CD with Jazzwise magazine, and perform at the CD launch at the 606 club.

The festivities last night also had a lively performance by Brass Jaw, with Ryan Quigley making valiant efforts to silence the chatter- people really should shut up or move away - with some heroic, stratospheric Maynard Ferguson trumpet stuff. Running the evening, with his customary cool, was Michael Connarty MP.


Jan Garbarek in King's College Chapel, Cambridge

It's just been announced that the third CD by Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble will have its UK launch at King's College Cambridge on October 2nd . The CD, Officium Novum is being released on ECM on September 20th. Officium, the first, was released in 1995, Mnemosyne, the second in 1999. And the impossibly clever folk of Kings College Cambridge have improved the spelling of Garbarek's surname to Gabarek. (UPDATE:it's been corrected)


Review: Mike Stern

Mike Stern Quartet
(Ronnie Scott’s Club, July 12th, 2010, Review by Dr. Richard Niles)

Guitarist Mike Stern ripped Ronnie’s apart last night with three of the finest musicians to have ever graced that stage. It is significant to note that the audience ranged in age from 16 to 65 and this electric and electrifying band sent them all home sweating – and not just because of the lack of effective air conditioning!

Chris Minh Doky is a double threat on both electric bass guitar and electric double bass both driving the riffs and soloing confidently. Dave Weckl is a drum icon who helped create the template for contemporary drumming with his legendary performances with Chick Corea. Last night he was as brilliant as I have ever heard him, playing with the sensitivity of a cat, the precision of a brain surgeon and the power of The Devastator!

Randy Brecker could be said to have defined and invented jazz/rock with his influential compositions and arrangements for Dreams and The Brecker Brothers. His explosive soloing last night was aided by his trusty ‘octaver’ which adds a digital octave above his natural trumpet sound. This enables him to play in context with the rock aerobatics of the leader.

I’ve known Mike Stern since we were students together at The Berklee College of Music in the late ‘70s, both studying with the 19 year old Pat Metheny. He played in my Guitar Quartet, commissioned by Metheny for my Graduation Concert. (The other guitarists were Mitch Coodley and the superb Jay Azzolina!)

Stern has gone on to become (with Metheny) one of the most consistently productive, creative and innovative musicians in jazz—certainly the finest jazz guitarist of the last 40 years to play with a rock sound. His solos strike an enjoyable balance between bebop shredding and searing blues. Only playing of this calibre could match the joy evident in his almost perpetual smile. His phenomenal facility (the result of his legendary obsessive practice routine) is balanced by an understanding of melody that is both sophisticated and non-elitist. Stern told me he finds melody everywhere.

“Melody can be heard in the air, the wind, some sounds you hear when there’s total silence. Melody can be heard in rhythm, like a drum solo, and the two are not mutually exclusive. A lot if this stuff is up for interpretation, which is beautiful. And that’s one of the great things about music or about art in general: it’s not a right or wrong, win or lose thing.

“The Beatles melodies were memorable and beautiful. But though a strong melody should be memorable, sometimes it takes a few times listening to it. A great melody can be complex—John Coltrane played some incredible melodies! The first time you hear it you think, ‘What the hell was that?’ Then you hear the melody over and over again and you get it! Or you don’t get it! Or you might say, ‘That wasn’t really ‘on’.’ In Coltrane’s case, usually he was ON!

“Getting the chance to play with Miles Davis and hearing him play night after night was a great melodic influence because he was so into singing on the horn. So a lot of the stuff he played was singable (although there was some linear stuff, some scat kind of lines that would be difficult to sing!) He used to tell me he got a lot of his phrasing ideas from Frank Sinatra, from the way Sinatra would interpret a popular melody.”

Dr. Richard Niles is a composer, producer and author of “The Pat Metheny Interviews” [Hal Leonard Publishing]


Review: Vijay Iyer Trio/Richard Fairhurst's Triptych

Richard Fairhurst's Triptych/ Vijay Iyer Trio
(Vortex, July 8th 2010, review by Patrick Hadfield)

Two piano trios shared the bill at the Vortex this week – London-based Triptych and the Vijay Iyer Trio. Their similarities and differences made a fascinating comparison, two contrasting explorations of where the piano trio is in 2010.

Richard Fairhurst’s Triptych played the first set, celebrating the release of their new album, “Amusia”. Much of Fairhurst’s playing had a lyrical, Satie-like pace. Spacious, delicate arrangements, the drums and bass quietly supporting the piano. Fairhurst’s unaccompanied piano coda to the trio’s opener was particularly gorgeous. At times, the pace picked up, with bassist Riaan Vosloo using his bow percussively, with the piano playing unconnected free-jazz phrases. And then there was interesting tension, when bass and drums broke into fast standard time with a walking bassline, while Fairhurst continued in free mode.Overall the balance of the trio works well: Chris Vatalaro’s subtle drumming complements Fairhurst’s piano, unobtrusive in the quieter sections but he held his own, as the power increased.

My only criticism – probably inevitable in a double bill like this - was that the set of listenable-to, rich but complex music felt short – I would have ideally wanted longer to explore their music.

I have seen Vijay Iyer in various formats over the last few years: solo and in a quartet in New York; in February at the Vortex when he was in duet with saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa. But I had not seen his trio.

After Triptych, it took a while to adjust to Iyer’s trio: they were loud by comparison, opening with Marcus Gilmore playing a pretty standard rock beat on the drums and Stephan Crump riffing on his bass; behind this, Iyer’s sparse piano playing sounded quite spacey. He was working against the hard beat, laying down seemingly random free chords, creating a mixture of abstract and concrete. The piano grew in intensity until Iyer took over for a full-on piano solo.

After the loud start, they settled into a more contemplative fashion, with Iyer bringng something of Keith Jarrett’s: minimalism and repetitiveness, but then building up his playing until he was producing cascades of notes.

They created contrasts within the set, moving from free jazz into standard jazz time, disconcerting after what had preceded it. They became a power trio, pushing along; the audience roared out whoops as the band sped on. For three people, they created a huge sound. They quietened down for a softer, more contemplative approach, with lots of space between the notes. The trio built, and built, and built, Iyer filling the space with low, rumbling bass chords. Over a long number they worked the dynamics of the piece, delivering a lot of power but playing quietly. At the end, the highly responsive Vortex audience was silent, not wanting to break the spell.

It would be possible to see these two trios as representative of European and American styles, but that would be too simplistic, and also do both groups a disservice. What matters is that each trio creates its own brand of intriguing, exciting and fascinating music, which holds an audience completely spellbound.


Jim Hart writes about Ralph Alessi

Jim Hart, looking forward a week of gigs with New York trumpeter Ralph Alessi (above), starting next Monday, writes:

Ralph Alessi is someone I have greatly admired since I first heard him play at the Sunset club in Paris in 2003. At the time I was heavily in to the M-Base scene and the music of Steve Coleman. I had heard of Ralph but not really had the chance to check him out. The gig in Paris featured Ravi Coltrane, Andy Milne, Drew Gress and Gerald Cleaver and they were playing Ralph's music. I could hear all the rhythmic complexity, and some of the harmonic and melodic devices that are found in Steve Coleman 's music, but it seemed to me to be much more open and organic. I was blown away.

It's kind of hard to explain how I feel about his playing and his writing. It seems to be a perfect balance of intellect, sophistication and pure heart. It's so soulful and really melodic and so full of humour, too. It also seems to encompass the wide variety of musical situations he plays in regularly. Last year I saw him play at the Village Vanguard in New York with Fred Hirsch 's quintet alongside tenorist Tony Malaby. It was a really beautiful gig and great to hear Ralph playing in a relatively straight ahead context. And I must mention one of my absolute favourite albums – Drew Gress' 7 Black Butterflies (Koch, 2005) – featuring Alessi with Tim Berne, Uri Caine and Tom Rainey. The first thing that grabs you is just the sound, and, in particular the trumpet. It's so warm and fat, his playing is so free and open. Really exciting. But when you hear Alessi's own albums, whether in duo with drummer/trumpeter Shane Endsley or with is groups This Against That or the Modular Theatre, you can hear all of these influences and more. It's imaginative writing and inspired improvising but what really comes across is that it is just compelling music that sounds great!

On the gigs, which will also feature Michael Janisch on bass and Dave Smith on drums, we are going to be playing a mixture of Ralph's and my own music with a few other things thrown in. My music has been influenced by Ralph and I am really looking forward to hearing him play it. But I'm very excited to be playing Alessi's tunes with the man himself.


Monday July 19th - Ram Jam, Kingston
Tuesday July 20th - Dempsey's, Cardiff
Wednesday 21st - Pizza Express, Dean Street London
(only central London date) - ADMISSION £5 with student/ musician discount
Thursday July 22nd - Broxbourne Golf Club
Friday July 23rd - Manchester Jazz Festival
Saturday July 24th - Jazz Bar, Edinburgh
Sunday July 25th - Vale Bar, Glasgow

Jim Hart's latest CD Narrada, with Ivo Neame on alto saxophone, Jasper Høiby on bass and Dave Smith on drums is on Loop Records.
The tour has received support from Jazz Services' National Touring Scheme.


Review: Shez Raja Collective

Review: Shez Raja Collective feat. Andy Sheppard
(‘Mystic Radikal’ Album Launch, Pizza Express, Soho, London – July 8th, 2010 , review by Thomas Gray)

While Vijay Iyer was showcasing his cerebral and rhythmically challenging brand of music at the Vortex, Shez Raja—another musician with Asian roots—reached out to a capacity crowd at the Dean Street Pizza Express with an altogether more accessible groove-based approach.

Raja delights in matchmaking genres from different continents, and achieves some fascinating results in the process. Opening with the buoyant title-track of the new album ‘Mystic Radikal’, his collective showed what a Led Zeppelin/Headhunters collaboration might sound like. They followed this up with ‘Chakras on the Wall’, infusing a raga-like melody with the energy and rhythms of a Rio carnival. ‘We Are One’ superimposed a folky fiddle line over an atmospheric trip-hop backing to intriguing effect. During the rest of the evening, the group continued to rack up musical airmiles as it hopped from Cape Town, to Islamabad, The Bronx, and Kingston, Jamaica.

A firm emphasis on the groove united all of the disparate stylistic elements, as Chris Nickolls’ unflappably controlled and crisp drumming locked perfectly in step with Raja’s bass. Somewhat disappointingly, however, the band stuck fairly closely to the succinct arrangements of the album with little in the way of adventurous improvisation in the first set as violinist Pascal Roggen and sax player Aaron Liddard struggled to light the touch paper.

The introduction of special guest Andy Sheppard on tenor and soprano sax in the second set was therefore more than welcome, and significantly raised the bar. Like Raja, Sheppard has an open ear to world-music influences, allowing his contributions to mesh seamlessly with the collective, notably so during his effusively soulful solo on ‘Carnival of Colours’. His influence began to rub off on the rest of the group, as Roggen and Liddard’s solos became less inhibited, while Raja showed off his Victor Wooten and Marcus Miller-influenced chops, playing the catchy melody of ‘Infatuation’ whilst simultaneously laying down a bass line.

By now, the band’s (and the audience’s) enjoyment was palpable, driven by Raja’s irrepressible energy and amiable patter between numbers. This music may have been a little too radio-friendly for some tastes, veering more towards tried-and-tested idioms (disco-funk, dub) towards the end of the set, but it made for great dance music and had it not been for the tightly-packed tables and chairs this audience would have certainly been on its feet.


The Shez Raja Collective headline the Crypt stage at the Ealing Jazz Festival on Saturday 31st July . Photo Credit:Guy Hatton


Postcards from Copenhagen (5)

A special word of congratulation to the new queen of Danish drinks PR Malene Schroder, for making the fish in this city as happy as the people. Such is her enthusiasm for her Copenhagen Cocktail project, that, with a subtle misprint, she has managed to re-vitalize a brand. It takes an awesome PR brain to come up with:


Whatever. This is a glorious city with a great jazz festival. Round-up to follow. Hic.

*Source: " A Copenhagen, please!" Press Release , 4th para. February 2010


Postcards from Copenhagen (4) The seven-gig day

Copenhagen Jazz Festival
(Friday July 9th, various venues)

Equipped, at last, with a bicycle, I set off to check out the sights and the sounds of Copenhagen.

First stop was a community centre in the suburb of Amager to check out one of those names which crops up again and again in the jazz fan's record collection, trumpeter Jens Winther. Born in 1960, he was solo trumpet of the Danish Radio Big Band by the age of 22. That gave him a wonderful opportunity: to get his writing and arranging chops together with a little help from the great Thad Jones. Jens Winther made no concessions to the heat of the day, and launched straight in to his set with Hancock's speedster One Finger Snap, (link to the original on Blue Note) written for Freddie Hubbard. Winther is nothing more and nothing less than one of those top-notch improvising trumpeters who doesn't know how to hide away. Being so used to the red light going on, he knows absolutely how to deliver the goods down the microphone and onto live radio every time. But this was a gig where one needed to avoid the baking sun. and move on.

The second gig found music in surroundings with a lot more natural shade. The dappled sunlight of the gardens of the imposing Kristians Kirke, where I caught the latter half of a gig by a cheerful gipsy unit called Orango Django, with not just lead vocals but also postive rhythm guitar extremely capably dealt with by Sille Gronberg.

I then caught, briefly, pianist Steen Rasmussen and vocalist Josefine Cronholm's lively and stylish latin band on the main town centre freestage in the Frue Plads. It had drawn a healthy crowd to hear great music for a summer's day.

Then the hardest choice of the day was number four. 8pm on Festival Friday was the start time for no fewer than FIFTEEN gigs. I chose perhaps the most introspective of them, a trio of pianist Jakob Anderskov ,with New Yorkers, bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Gerald Cleaver. I first clocked of the acoustics of the Literature Center, a converted church, when hearing Michael Formanek's warm-up routines. A joy in itself. I guess if any musician could warm up in that acoustic, they might think they had died and gone to heaven. Formanek was playing the building, letting it resonate. Anderskov is a musicians' and listeners' pianist, turning short melodic fragments inside and around each other like rubik cubes. A patient craft, done at very high level.

Gig number five was the recommendation of the festival organizers. Ibrahim Electric, had been recently showcased and apparently gone down a storm at the Rochester Jazz Festival. The classic Hammond trio instrumentation, with guitar and drums, but playing happy, poppy, crowd-pleasing stuff. It reminded me that the Clash used to have a Hammond in there somewhere in the eighties. The young audience were absolutely lapping it up.

Gig number six had brought out a slight sense of responsibility. This was one of our recommendations, courtesy of the generous use of his time by Django Bates. In fact I had met a guy from Berlin the previous day who had decided to come to Copenhagen when he read our post.

This was an extreme free improv gig by Fred Frith on guitar and Lotte Anker on saxophones. Frith was using any number of toys to enhance the guitar, from slinky metal springs to vilin bows, various metal rods and (possibly?) a camembert box. The setting, with the two camped under a dark green military tent, playing to a crowd sitting in the open air, was bizarre, but the sounds win you over by stealth. What stays in the mind is that the combination of Frith and Anker has a natural way of succumbing to and imitating the unpredictability of nature.

Next time a film director needs a soundtrack for rivers, shooting stars or volcanoes, forget those composers and their click-track specialists who copy and paste in Sibelius, forget electronica. Put your faith in humans, in improvisers and they will give you the best. Nature needs a human understanding of it. Haul in these two geniuses, let's hear it for human beings who know what they're doing, and can respond in real time.

One more to go. Danish singer Cathrine Legardh had instantly turned this male mid-lifer to marshmallow when he heard just one track of the Danish Jazz 2010 sampler CD. On that CD she sings Glemmer Du, a song about a lover who can remember and recount absolutely every moment of a relationship which has ended. She sings it with intonation like a bell, faultless judgment of timing and speech-rhythms, and diction like spring water. Her CD "Gorgeous Greature" (Storyville, 2008) with Scots piano god Brian Kellock, has a fine seven minute version of You've Changed. And on the gig, it was Bruno Martino's sixties classic Estate, sung in Danish, as on the video above. Legardh has an unforced, unpushy way with these songs.

Steady, don't get carried away. There were other fine musicians on the gig too. Young singer Birgitte Soojin takes songs like Caravan and Squeeze Me fearlessly by the scruff of the neck , in the manner of a China Moses or a Nikki Yanofsky. Watch out, I suspect this is a name which will be heard more of. Also the warm-toned mellifluous Icelandic alto player Sigurdur Flosason and Irish guitarist Phil McDermott, who both shone on every chorus which the singers gave them. There was some highly inventive impromptu arranging and bandleading from a soft-spoken, soft-singing bass player whom everyone seemed to call Goofy.

A day of sunshine, a critic and a bike, and the backdrop of he squares, churches, bridges and inlets of a beautiful city. Half of these gigs were free, what a great day.


Postcards from Copenhagen (3)

I made the pilgrimage to Jazzhus Montmartre, and got to hear the late great Johhny Griffin at the late night jam session. Only kidding. I heard Tomas Franck . When I closed my eyes, tough tenor chops reminded me of the master. It was as if he was there in the room. Franck was with his brother, the strong bassist Daniel, and an extremely lively and inventive pianist definitely worth hearing, and , I was told, from a Danish musical dynasty going back 200 years, Nikolaj Bentzon.

Jazzhus Montmartre has only just re-opened, on may 1st. It has had a major refurb, and is raising money. Leading the venture is Niels Lan Doky, whose website has a lot more about it. I'm told that there will be more films, with Lars von Trier's film company active on the project.

The club is small, I would guess maximum capacity about 90-100. There are three communal tables each a double plank of wood. Simple lines in natural, wood, paralleling those of the wide floorboards below. Everything directs your sight towards the stage. the place has a wonderful purity of line...I hope that is reverent enough that I might be forgiven the album cover below.


Postcards from Copenhagen (2)

An impenetrable language, but some things are simple

Hello: HIJ!

Goodbye: HIJ HIJ!!


Review: Joshua Redman Double Trio

Joshua Redman Double Trio
(Copenhagen Jazz House, part of Copenhagen Jazz Festival, July 7th 2010)

I went to the second packed-out night of Joshua Redman's Double Trio at the Copenhagen Jazzhouse. He introduced the audience to their music with an interesting remark: "We hope you enjoy this almost as much as we do. Because you couldn't enjoy it more than we do."

With the Double Trio, Redman has unleashed a band capable of communicating the sheer joy and exhilaration of live music-making as vividly and completely as any I have ever heard. It is a band which puts Redman's wish to communicate with an audience in a perfect setting. The level of energy, rhythmic excitement and mischief which these five players deliver will stay in the mind for a very long time.

Let's start in the back row of the bus. The two basses Reuben Rogers and Matt Penman stand shoulder to shoulder. They're appreciating and enjoying each other's work,cracking the occasional joke, having a great time. When two bass players get together like this, they must ask themselves questions: why they do they belong to a profession where responsibility doesn't tend to be shared? Why do they not normally have another player at eye level like this? Why is this so much fun? Musically they dovetail superbly, they have ruses to stay out of each other's way most of the time, it's what they do. Rogers often plays a sonorous lower part, his eyes sometimes fixed downwards on Penman's hands producing the higher sounds. Rogers has astonishing resonance in the sound. Penman can set up the most powerful of grooves, but they both aid, abet, and clearly respect each other. When they combined as an eight-stringed instrument, as in the final scheduled number, Gil Evans' Barracuda, they can get a storm going, and they thoroughly deserved the tumultuous applause they received.

The drummers, Gregory Hutchinson and Bill Stewart are on either side of the stage like those lions guarding the New York Public Library. You know from the start that they will at some point choose to do battlle with each other, but from a safe distance. Both have ideal combinations of power and control. But they are like coiled springs. When either is just marking, time the listener just knows that, either separately or combined the the full hurricane will be worth waiting for

And at the front is Redman. Whether playing or waiting, he registers approval, purrs contentment, whoops and squeals joy at the sights and sounds behind and around him. He bobs up and down like a surfer. He might be the conductor of a vast orchestra, or the tamer of the most ferocious of beasts. Redman is among the most communicative of players, he holds interest the whole time with his variety of expression and persuasiveness of line. If the heat in JazzHouse hadn't been so intense, I could have happily listened to Redman and his co-conspirators play for hours.

His compositions produce great variety, making the band suddenly switch from supercharged volume to to playing softly, with tenderness and simplicity.The first and last numbers of the scheduled set - Redman's Identity Thief, and Gil Evans' Barracuda, were played by the full complement, and in between there are combinations and permutations. Redman gets a different rhythm section for every number. The full band came back for two encores, one classical the other a funk-shuffle.

And Joshua Redman's remark wil stay with me too: he was delivering it the people of the world's happiest nation an interesting challenge. If they were happy on arrival, they were clearly ecstatic by the time they departed. And they showed it.


Postcards from Copenhagen (1)

I'm over here for a few days as a guest of the Copenhagen Jazz Festival. First visit. First superficial impressions. A beautiful city. A lot of water like Amsterdam or Stockholm. A lot of towers like San Gimignano or New York. The wonderful politeness and friendliness, typical of some of Europe's smaller countries - Slovenia, Portugal, Belgium...

And I'm dying to unravel a mystery. Why is the Danish phrase for when things don't turn out as you hope: "To stand with your hair (or your beard, I'm told...) in a Post Box "?

at stå med håret i postkassen

I also heard a great gig by Joshua Redman and a review is on its way.


JazzFM and the new platforms

No, not those platforms, which are in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Digital platforms.

I was talking to the folk at Jazz FM yesterday, and they are on a roll, surprised even by their success. They have launched a service on IPad which, in its first week, has gone straight to top of the charts as the most popular radio app in both the UK and the US. In the US it is also the No 5 music app.

JazzFM was already on multiple digital platforms: Android, Nokia, Blackberry, and iPhone.


Buddy Greco- Once in Love with Amy

Swansea-based singer Amy Sinha had some fun interviewing Buddy Greco and his wife, the singer Lezlie Anders for the Intowntoday site, before the couple's performance at the Taliesin Arts Centre in Swansea.

Amy says: "I snuck into the rehearsal, and talked to them both during the break. Buddy Greco is a real charmer, slightly flirtatious, even at 83, but lovely and approachable. When I told him I am called Amy, and that I am a singer, he sang me "Once In Love With Amy" straight back, remembering the tune from his days in the Benny Goodman band. Luckily on the radio you can't hear me blush."

Greco and Anders have a show "Fever, the music of Miss Peggy Lee", which they are expecting to be bring back to the West End of London in 2010.


Sam's Brasserie, Barley Mow Passage, Chiswick

After a visit to Chiswick, Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote in a new edition of the Social Contract:

"Restaurants and bars were born free, but everywhere they are in chains."*

Chiswick High Road has become a magnet for every major bar and restaurant chain. Carluccio's vies with Zizzi's and Pizza Express and All Bar One and the Gourmet Burger Kitchen. Which makes an escape to Sam's Brasserie in Barley Mow Passage all the more urgent, especially for those of us who want music and life to reflect individualism.

The eponymous Sam (Harrison) runs a very friendly restaurant/bar. Sam hosts jazz, discreetly, on the first and third Sunday of each month. And also he currently has an exhibition of photographs by the wonderful William Ellis.

Last night I heard Brazilian guitarist Josue Ferreira with singer Heidi Vogel. Bossas, lovely stuff from start to finish. Above there's Natalie Williams and Joe Stilgoe turning them blue with an appearance on Turnham Green TV. Next up on July 18th is Julia Biel.

This is also a place for beer lovers. I saw one contented chap leaving the bar looking fondly down on the head of not one but two beautifully prepared pints of Guinness. And cocktails too: my low-level cocktail appreciation skills could will have to be tested on another occasion: you can order a Sgroppino. Or an Aviation. Or a special Raspberry Bellini under a forest of greenery.

Nice place. About which Rousseau wrote: "Suffer, die or get better, but above all make sure you're still in Sam's at closing time."(**)

(*)Original: "L'homme est né libre, et partout il est dans les fers."

(**)Souffre, meurs ou guéris ; mais surtout vis jusqu'à ta dernière heure.


Review: Caetano Veloso

Caetano Veloso with Pedro Sá (guitar), Ricardo Dias Gomes (bass), Marcelo Callado (drums)
(Barbican Hall, July 3rd 2010)

The Brazilian community in the UK has recently been estimated at some 200,000 people. Around four-fifths of them live in London. And, on the evidence of last night's concert by Caetano Veloso at the Barbican, a lot of them sing, and in tune, too.

Veloso writes tunes which are easy to pick up, normally staying within a fifth. The people behind me were joining in heartily with most of the songs. I discovered that they don't always know what the songs are called or who wrote them. But Brazilian Portuguese is a language with joyous natural speech rhythms, one just gets carried along with the mood, it's like a thermal updraft.

Veloso seems to have left most of the vestiges of protest behind in his current repertoire, with the exception of "A basa de Guantanamo," sung towards the end of the show, which makes its point well with a naggingly insistent monotone.

He is a very trim at 68, and was frolicking and gambolling around the Barbican stage like a bunny-rabbit in spring. He was both enjoying the audience rapport, and knowingly whipping it up with a conspiratorial smile. The latest CD from 2009, Zii e zie (Uncles and Aunts, in Italian, Nonesuch Records) has songs with a soft and sweet centre, and the live concert experience is a crowd-pleaser.

The song Por Quem? (For Whom) is perhaps the most the saccharine-tasting of the lot. It's an unashamedly romantic slow motion waltz which Veloso makes it harder fro the crowd to join in by singing it entirely in a slightly disembodied falsetto voice. But it's a different kind of updraft: the canopy over the drum kit looked like a hang glider, the back-projected images were clouds in close-up. Cares and troubles could be safely be left several thousand feet below.

Desde que o Samba é Samba, (in the video above) a Veloso classic was another kind of escapism. Just one man and a guitar in fifties bossa nova. Joao Gilberto, the master, sings this one too. Other songs lean towards classic rock, rap... Veloso as a songwriter is up there with the very best.

There was just one song in English, again with his trademark, hypnotic word repetitions. Maria Bethania, written in 1970 from London and dedicated to his sister, the singer:

Maria Bethânia, please send me a letter
I wish to know things are getting better
Better, better, Beta, Beta, Bethânia

The words are transformed, they become things for the singer to hit, like percussion instrument.

There's good news: we will all have lots of chances to catch the Brazilian thermal updraft.

The Brazil Festival at the South Bank is just starting and runs till September 5th. Includes Gilberto Gil and Maria Bethania - so Caetano Veloso's sister is coming here too.

I discovered about the wealth of activity going on from a copy of a wonderful publication. Leros is a lively 132-page magazine targeted at the Brazilian community in London. Page after page of classified advertisements - I could never never imagined there could be so many places in London one could go to for "depilacao" or "imigracao," or even (possibly though I guess not simultaneously) both.

And if the Brazilian community in London makes gigs with these unique musicians viable, it makes London a happier city for the rest of us to live in. And for that we cannot say "muito obrigado" enough.