London Jazz Festival Preview (9) Strayhorn the Songwriter

London Jazz Festival Preview
(‘Strayhorn the Songwriter’, QUEEN ELIZABETH HALL (NB CHANGE) on Saturday November 20th, by Alex Webb)

‘The kind of things that provide inspiration are always those that nobody - by which I mean the public - ever considers. The public always considers that people who are inspired go off in a fine frenzy, tear their hair and all that business, and then come up with the Fifth Symphony. Actually inspiration comes from the simplest kind of thing, like watching a bird fly.’– Billy Strayhorn

Billy Strayhorn, Duke Ellington’s co-composer and arranger from 1939 to his death in 1967, the composer of "Lush Life" - at the age of only 18- and "Take the A Train," was charming, gifted, and an enigma.

David Hajdu’s captivating biography of Strayhorn sent me back to the records, and the more I listened the more intrigued I became. I suggested to bandleader, arranger and saxophonist Frank Griffith – another Strayhorn fan - that it would be worth doing something public to celebrate Strayhorn. It was one of those naïve ideas your throw out over a pint, and it dawns on you that you’ve committed yourself to quite a major enterprise.

There were loads of Strayhorn songs lying about, unheard – things he’d written for Lena Horne, Rosemary Clooney, lesser-known Ellington things too. Then there were the songs he might have written, or probably did write, but didn’t get the writers’ credit for. And then – and this particularly interested me - there were the great instrumentals like Rain Check and Johnny Come Lately which sounded like they were begging for lyrics, or perhaps had once had lyrics and lost them along the way.

We needed a couple of strong singers, and were able to draft in China Moses, Dee Dee Bridgewater’s daughter, from Paris, and Alexander Stewart. Frank got to work organising new arrangements from some of the great talents in his Nonet – Henry Lowther, Adrian Fry, Robbie Robson, as well as Parisian pianist Franck Amsallem. I got to work writing a spoken narrative which would link all this music together and remind people of the story of this quietly extraordinary man. Strayhorn was a string of paradoxes, a Shakespeare-loving sophisticate born poor, an ‘out’ gay in a macho world, a politically conscious black man who rejected racial classification.

Washington-born Sirena Riley, herself a notable jazz vocalist, will be narrating and the Frank Griffith Nonet performing, along with China Moses and Alexander Stewart. And yes, we’ll be doing Take The A Train, Lush Life and Satin Doll … and a lot of equally wonderful, less familiar things besides.

Billy Strayhorn by Herman Leonard
(c) Herman Leonard Photography LLC

Jazz composers have that way of leaving deep inspiration behind them, without most people ever being aware of who they are. And that inspiration is like a relay baton – you want to hand it on to your fellow musicians, your listeners. A tune like "Take The A Train" has been passed on around the world many times, and won't ever stop.

‘I started out studying the three ‘B’s - Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. Then one day I heard Ellington!’ said Billy Strayhorn. He couldn’t have imagined that for some of us, he’s now also one of the ‘B’s.


London Jazz Festival Preview (8): Anthony Strong at The Forge

Preview by Sarah Ellen Hughes

The Forge in Camden is a terrific, relatively new venue, sporting piano, café and excellent acoustics. The London Jazz Festival line-up is extensive, with shows on every night apart from 15th and 17th. On both Sundays there are two shows. Anthony Strong kicks off the Jazz Festival program on Friday 12th November.

Strong has been championed by Ian Shaw as “The REAL DEAL,” and if his debut album is anything to go by, he certainly is.

At first glance, singer/songwriter/pianist Strong may be following in the well-shaped footsteps of Jamie Cullum or Joe Stilgoe. On listening, there are surely influences of these two, detected in both the fine-voice and the slick arrangements. Oh, and he’s a great song-writer too. On further inspection, there are elements of Kurt Elling here and Michael Buble (minus the autotune!!).

The program is energetic, slick and exhilarating, with every moment having been thought out carefully and executed precisely. Having said that, there is no doubting his jazz credentials: Strong is a great vocalist and accomplished pianist, capable of delivering an excellent all-round performance.


Review: European Jazz Piano Summit in Cologne

European Piano Summit
(Iiro Rantala- photo credit WDR/ Lutz Voigtlaender, Florian Ross, Gwilym Simcock - pianos - KvB -Saal, WDR-Funkhaus, Cologne, October 28th 2010)

Greetings from the Funkhaus (above- free translation "House of Funk", why not?!). I'm here* for a short festival called WDR3jazz.cologne2010. It lasts four days and is very imaginatively programmed indeed.

It acts as a showcase for German music, and specifically for musicians from the country's most populous region, Nordrhein-Westfalen - the WDR Big Band will play a sold-out concert tonight.

It also has a strong presence of international musicians, and those with UK connections run through it like the letters in a stick of rock, or the Pennines, or indeed the Rhine.

First, happily bouncing onto the stage last night to start the festival was Gwilym Simcock. Things will be brought to a close this Sunday with a set each from John Taylor with Diana Torto, and from Dave Holland's quintet.

Last night's opening gig was a "piano summit" announced from the stage as presenting three pianists announced from the stage as nothing less than "Welt-Piano-Giganten." Gwilym Simcock may have been lexicographically usurped in the programme by the other two, but he had the privilege of opening the batting for England last night. It was a nice moment. The first copies of Gwilym's CD which will be released in January on ACTMusic "Good Days at Schloss Elmau" had just arrived hot from wherever, and the producer was in the audience.

It was an evening of contrasts. The three pianists played short individual sets, then as duos, and finally as a trio. Simcock in his solo set played "On Broadway," and "Plainsong" and "Northern Smiles" from the new CD. It was a very well contrasted, beautifully crafted and much appreciated short programme. Simcock is always moving forwards.

Second up was Florian Ross, an extremely classy pianist and composer born and raised in Cologne, and with a supreme ear for balance and texture.

But a new discovery for me, and the audience's favourite on the night was Finnish pianist Iiro Rantala. Rantala makes things easy, not least for the writer. There are some obvious externals to coment on: he has a lager-than life, bear-like physical presence. There's the luxuriant Boris Johnson mop, and a Jamie Oliver presentation style with close-to-the-bone jokes about how he resembles a butcher. He wields the big white towel Pavaroti-style, an implement which doesn't just get used for mopping his brow, it also energetically - and loudly - serves to clean the piano keyboard. He wears his heart on his sleeve, as in a sincere tribute to mentor and teacher the late Pekka Pohjola.

And there are some serious and strong musical virtues too. They say that all Finns have a singer in them, and Rantala always carries melodic line with conviction and presence. He carries intimate moments well, reducing the Steinway to pianississimo music box within the octave. But once the temperature rises, the Art Tatum runs bring the entire keyboard quickly to submission.

The pianists all explained that they had been relishing the challenge of combining forces, all rose superbly to the challenge of being additive. Simcock had described meetings of pianists as most often happening "like ships in the night." I didn't witness a single collision, even in the trios. The first was "Bernd Boogie" a new composition by Simcock written specially for the occasion, with jagged contours. And a final "Bye Bye Blackboard," started with a beautifully paced solo opening from Florian Ross, involving much inspection and rhythmic attention to all three piano casings and building to an ecstatic volume.

Some people remarked that this was an evening with too many piano keys. An eloquent friend of mine would describe it as the kind of gig where you have to go round and sweep up all the extra notes afterwards. But it was an imaginative, memorable and ultimately very successful way to get a festival out of the starting blocks.

*as guest of WDR.


London Jazz Festival Preview (7): Learning and Participation

Preview by Sarah Ellen Hughes

Learning and participation is an integral part of the work that Festival Organisers Serious do through the year, so the London Jazz Festival is the ideal time for Learning and Participation to be centred around, and driven by, jazz.

There is a series of collaboration events that involve work with artists such as Robert Glasper and Norma Winstone. These are usually on-going projects which culminate in a performance during the festival, and information on these can be found on the London Jazz Festival website.

There is also a series of workshops hosted by various artists featured in this year’s festival, details of which are below. All quotes are from the London Jazz Festival website – What’s on section.

Chris Sharkey Workshop
Sunday 14th November, Spirit level at Royal Festival Hall, 11am £5+booking
A workshop in jazz, metal and rock improvisation, aimed at 8-16 year olds. Chris is a lecturer at the Leeds College of Music, and is also a co-founder of the Leeds Improvised Music Association – LIMA (don’t you just love it when acronyms actually spell something?!) Chris also plays guitar for trioVD, so this should be a terrific workshop.

Natalie Williams Big Sing
Sunday 14th November, Barbican 2pm, £5+booking
Natalie, a stalwart London-based jazz and soul singer and recent MOBO nominee, has much experience in leading singing workshops for children. I can imagine that a combination of her music credentials and engaging personality would make for great fun in a workshop for all ages.

Pete Churchill Vocal Workshop
Sunday 14th November, The Forge 2pm, £15/£10
“Pete Churchill’s vast experience as a vocal educator par excellence has seen him work with the likes of Abdullah Ibrahim and Mark Murphy, and he is currently a tutor at the Royal Academy of Music. Leading this workshop he offers advice and inspiration to aspiring singers.”
I would highly recommend this workshop, as Pete is generally the trusted man to go to if in need of a bit of jazz advice.

Marilyn Mazur: Jazz for kids
Sunday 14th November, Purcell Room 2pm, £10+booking
Marilyn Mazur has had quite an incredible career thus far, having been percussionist for the Miles Davis, Gill Evans, and Wayne Shorter bands between 1985-9. Early this century her music took a new turn when she decided to focus on education, performing solo percussion concerts for children and writing works for children’s choirs. She is a regular at the Copenhagen Jazz Festival, where her family performances have been a highlight for many years. This workshop is aimed at children aged 7 or over.

Marilyn Mazur appears in association with the Copenhagen Jazz Festival.

Jazz for toddlers: Raymond MacDonald
Wednesday 17th November at Arts Depot, Saturday 20th at Kings Place and Sunday 21st at Discover, 2pm, £7+booking
A workshop for 2-5 year olds plus parents/carers. This session promises “fun, movement and plenty of ideas to take away.”

Arun Gosh Workshop
Sunday 21st November, Spirit Level at Royal Festival Hall 11am, £5+booking
“Clarinettist/composer Arun Ghosh leads an indo-jazz improv workshop, aimed at all instrumentalists of all levels. Ages 8–16.”

Battle of the University Big Bands
Sunday 21st November, The Bull’s Head 1pm-11pm, £5 per session or £15 for full-day pass
This isn’t a workshop but it looks like brilliant fun. I can’t imagine how loud it’s going to be!


Something New - The First JazzLotion EP from Peter Edwards

Somewhere in the mists of recording history, a couple of generations ago (and either Professor Frith or Professor Wall - or someone else ?- will probably know precisely when) we all started to, expect, be in awe of, the album.

These days, when we read one of those tiny seventy-five word accounts of a new release in the mainstream media, we assume that this measly wordcount will be describing, and probably short-changing, betweeen 50 and 75 minutes of music, and at least ten tracks.

Hey Presto. Change those expectations. The new EP by Peter Edwards which Adam Sieff and Tony Platt of JazzLotion subverts all this. It may not be Rock & Roll....but I like it.

Yes, the first thing one notices about the promo EP which I've been sent, is, to misquote Magritte :

"This is not an album."

It's four pieces. Blues- fast- slow- calypso. It has the kind of musical integrity which, say, Papa Haydn would have approved of. There's internal cohesion, some sort of completeness here.

The second thing you notice it is that the trio has been VERY well recorded. Great piano, great balance, thoroughly and completely professional.

That's not just my li'l ears: "I remember mastering a Miles Davis album from analogue tapes to vinyl that was recorded straight to stereo in New York. The sound of the Peter Edwards Trio E.P. is the closest to that I have heard since" - Ray Staff , AIR Mastering.

But this is only part of the story. The JazzLotion team definitely have appetite for more projects like this. From musicians prepared to record as live to stereo tape. There's some small print which needs inspection if anyone wants to get involved.

Everyone will contribute to make this happen - the artists, studio, engineer and backroom will all contribute their skills and facilities to make and market the recordings, then share in the net income. The artists will own their recordings and rights while agreements are for three years and non-exclusive, allowing the artists to sign and record with whomever they like.

Some people won't like it. But it looks completely fair, considering that every penny of revenue on a recording is post-dated. In many circumstances this should work for everybody concerned: musicians and studio create the value jointly. And then share in it. Maybe Guy Barker and Stan Tracey will find there way there one day as a duo.The studio is close to Manor House on the Piccadilly Line...




UPDATE: Mark from Snap Studios wrote in :

Snap Studios is the first professional build in London for very many years to combine the best of classic technology with the best of new.

Sure, we have a unique selection of classic analogue recording equipment but this is combined with the latest technology to provide a home for the best new music.

I particularly wanted to make a home for jazz, based around our spendid Bosendorfer piano, great sounding live rooms, splendiferous collection of mics, Hammond, Rhodes, Pearl vibes, vintage guitar and bass amps etc, and the results thus far have justified the investment.


Places to go, people to meet

The London Jazz Meetup Group is thriving. It now has 676 members. It performs a great function, particularly for newcomers to London who can find us natives a know... reserved...forbidding...distant (?)

Rob Mallows who runs it has just sent me a list of events during the London Jazz Festival - some free events, some paid-for gigs - where members are meeting up.



London Jazz Festival - Update on the sold (and selling) out

London Jazz Festival have just communicated a new list of sold out shows:

Esperanza Spalding, Queen Elizabeth Hall
Palle Mikkelborg & Marilyn Mazur, Purcell Room
Nikki Yanofsky, Purcell Room
Polar Bear, Westminster Reference Library
Ian Shaw & Juliet Roberts, 606

There are some newly-released seats for Sonny Rollins.

In the selling- fast category:

Hugh Maskela & The Mahotella Queens, Royal Festival Hall
Herbie Hancock, Royal Festival Hall
Paco De Lucia, Royal Festival Hall
The Benny Goodman Quartet and Beyond, Purcell Room
Strayhorn the Songwriter, Purcell Room (photo above)
Ute Lemper, Queen Elizabeth Hall
Billy Jenkins & the BBC Big Band, Purcell Room
AfroCubism, Barbican
Brad Mehldau, Barbican
Chris Potter, Ronnie Scotts


Not yet a hub...and an interesting gig

On NPR's "A Blog Supreme," Patrick Jarenwattananon draws attention to a new site called The Revivalist, with leanings towards the intersections of jazz with hiphop and R & B. But also, quite rightly, takes them to task for their fast and loose claims to be "the leading online journal for the burgeoning jazz community." Here's Patrick's post which links through to the Revivalist site. I'm always suspicious of new ventures which already reckon to be a "hub"...

The most interesting take I've heard in London on combining hiphop with jazz harmonies and improvisation comes from trumpeter/composer/LondonJazz writer Peter Horsfall's TALKING SAGES , who are on as part of the London Jazz Festival at Charlie Wrights on Friday 19th November. 9pm. £10.


London Jazz Festival Preview (6) Kate Williams solo at The Forge

London Jazz Festival Preview
(Kate Williams, The Forge Venue, Sunday 21 November 11am, preview by Lisa Gee)

Pianist and composer Kate Williams is hunting out charts for her septet gig at The Orange Tree in Richmond on October 27th. “There’s much less practical stuff to sort before a solo gig,” she remarks. She’s playing one at the Forge in Camden 11am, Sunday November 21st, as part of the London Jazz Festival. “I probably won’t decide on the programme until nearer the date, but I’ll do my own tunes, including some recent compositions – mostly music I play with my trio rather than the larger ensembles – and some standards.”

She’s looking forward to the gig. “I’ve tried the piano, it’s a very nice Steinway and there’s a good natural acoustic, so there’ll be plenty of scope to exploit the colour and texture of the instrument.” This rare solo outing offers her greater freedom to explore the piano’s dynamic range and pitch than within a group context. And, although Williams won’t deviate from her trademark precise and inventive style, she will “play slightly differently to how I play with other musicians. Instead of three or four people creating a palette of sounds and textures and so on, you’re doing it on your own. It gives you more space. I’m not afraid of leaving lots of space.”

Because she rarely plays solo, Kate hasn’t written anything specifically for solo piano. “I really enjoy writing for more instruments. And I quite often write for the musicians I work with, with their sound in mind. So, if I’m composing for the septet, I might do something where I particularly want Gareth Lockrane’s flute, and that will influence the way I write. Also, I’m finding myself drawn to the sound of several horns playing at the same time, the different textures that gives. But,” she pauses, “I might write something specially for this gig. I’ve still got a few weeks…”

This new tune may materialise, or it may not: Kate tends to develop her compositions from chord sequences or melodies that emerge organically when she sits down at the piano. Irrespective, the audience can expect an intelligently constructed, varied and absorbing programme that showcases the exceptional scope of both instrument and musician.

Kate Williams' CDs are available from the JazzCDs website.


CD Review: Amit Chaudhuri Found Music

CD Review: Amit Chaudhuri Found Music
(Babel Vortex, BVOR1089). Review by Fran Hardcastle

The second album from writer/musician Amit Chaudhuri is an interesting collection of curiousities and presentations of his aural memories, or Found Music. The album grows on the listener until one can’t help but keep returning to delve further into the intellectually quirky layers of well-known pop and rock songs fused with Hindustani raga.

The opening track, On Broadway (postcolonial version), approaches the standard from the point of view of an Indian cook and illegal immigrant who ‘hasn’t got enough to eat’. Musically this involves bringing in tabla and improvisation with Indian classical influences. The result is a pleasantly surprising, rather charming opener.

This same charm can be found in some of Chaudhuri’s original tracks such as Country Hustle, a catchy bluesy country song that will stick in your head for it’s singalong chorus, in which Chaudhuri’s voice and style show inflections of Paul Simon.

In his sleeve notes, Chaudhuri explains the intellectual approach to each of the tracks containing his Found Music. That is, aural memories from his childhood and youth, such as Lennon’s Norwegian Wood and Leonard Cohen’s Famous Blue Raincoat in both of which he hears classical raga amongst other connecting influences. The resulting music presents the songs as first heard from his perspective growing up in Calcutta.

Intellect aside, the album provides moments of heart-catching beauty. The last track on the album, Famous Blue Raincoat Suite, based around Cohen's aforementioned song seamlessly flows from Rodrigo’s Concierto di Aranjuez, played stunningly by Jonathan Impett on trumpet into raga Kafi and follows Cohen's original with two Hindi film songs. The delicate interweaving of these snippets creates a fresh aural landscape that is a pleasure to hear.

We interviewed Amit Chaudhuri last year. And reviewed a concert in Oxford


Julian Joseph wins BASCA Gold Badge

Julian Joseph (above- photo: Andreas Neumann) was one of thirteen recipients of the British Academy of Songwriters and Composers' Gold Badge Award last week. The awards are made to people who have made a "special contribution to Britain's music and entertainment industry." MORE HERE


Who's on Twitter?

Donna M from just outside Columbus, the state capital of Ohio, is on the micro-blogging site Twitter as @ElementsofJazz, and has become a focal point for disseminating information about jazz. She has just completed a massive alphabetical listing of people involved in jazz, or jazzerati worldwide, on her Elements of Jazz website

It's an impressively long list. Donna is a volunteer but seeks donations to support the work. Twitter is informative, ultra-fast...but lapses easily into displacement activity. e.g....

You soon discover that both Hammond dervish Mike Gorman and Diana Krall's guitarist Anthony Wilson are massively into food...


Review: "Living Lab" Launch at Pizza Express Richmond

PizzaExpress "Living Lab" Restaurant Launch
(Pizza Express, Red Lion Street Richmond, October 20th 2010, review by Tom Green, Photos PizzaExpress)

A collection of mirrored Bose speaker-integrated circles hang at angles from the ceiling. Large white domes float above red leather dining booths where you can adjust your own personal sound and lighting levels. You can even plug in your own iPod. The soulful tones of singer Andreya Triana, the current “go-to girl for leftfield beats producers”, resonate throughout the clean white space, whilst Italian circus chefs parade the floor juggling dough. There’s a buzz here I’ve not felt before in Richmond, let alone in a Pizza restaurant. According to the turquoise suit stood beside me, it’s only the beginning.

What’s most surprising about this newly rejuvenated venue is that it’s still Pizza Express. A typical restaurant refurbishment usually consists of a new colour scheme, a revised menu and maybe the addition of a few works of art. This goes well beyond your average paint job; an observation reflected in the titles of those behind its reincarnation.

In the choice words of Karl James, the ‘Conversational Expert’ behind the controversial staff training –a method centred on the fine art of flirting - the new Pizza Express is all about “everyone having a fucking good time when they come out.” The staff are indeed more attentive and charming, and thanks to the contribution of Sergio Luzzi - University of Florence’s ‘Professor of Acoustics’ no less - you no longer have to shout over your Sloppy Giuseppe to have a chat.

Support band My Tiger, My Timing

The brief given to these expert individuals was to achieve a perfect balance, allowing both music and conversation to flourish in parallel.All this in an atmosphere designed to engage and stimulate the senses. Tonight, Andreya Triana plays in front of a stripped down band. Her voice is pure and nostalgic, melancholy yet energetic. It sits as well on this line up as it does on Bobobo’s sonic production style, as demonstrated in their recent album collaboration ‘Black Sands’. Music like this makes an ordinary evening out memorable.

Without compromising the authenticity and integrity that has defined this restaurant chain since its Soho conception in 1965, what’s been achieved here is quite unique. Richmond is now the proud owner of Pizza Express’ ‘living lab’; an ever-evolving blueprint for the restaurant’s future development. If those at the helm of this project succeed in maintaining the energy of a live music environment, whilst upholding excellent standards of service and food, I’ll be returning regularly. I mean, where else can you watch a live band with a cold glass of Prosecco and a side of dough balls and nutella?


Review: Ray Anderson, Han Bennink...

Ray Anderson, Han Bennink, Ernst Glerum, Frank Möbus, Paul Van Kemenade at the Vortex, Friday 22 October 2010, day 1 of 2-day residency; review and drawings by Geoff Winston

Ray Anderson (slide trombone- above), Han Bennink (snare and Vortex structure), Ernst Glerum (double bass- below), Frank Möbus (electric guitar), Paul Van Kemenade (alto sax)

This multinational quintet clearly love each other's musicial company; the smiles on their faces said it all - Anderson couldn't help grinning all the way through, Glerum beamed as the band settled in, and Bennink's irrepressible laughter and whoops were just part of his rich repertoire.

The accomplished Dutch alto and rhythm section, with Anderson, a Chicagoan via New York, and Berliner Möbus have been touring twice yearly, airing their compositions since 2007. Glerum was classically trained at the Amsterdam Conservatory, and has collaborated with Bennink in the Instant Composers Pool Orchestra; Möbus spent significant academic time in the US and holds Professorships in Germany; van Kamenade, an inspiring teacher, has received many awards and accolades; and Anderson is a 6 times Downbeat Critics Poll winner.

This ensemble has a natural ability to vary the pace, and swing from one gear to another in the blink of an eye. Anderson's understated masterclass on slide trombone was an exposition of its full range and tonal richness - acknowledging, in this context, JJ Johnson's and Mangelsldorff's small groups - counterpoised perfectly by Van Kemenade's alto, batting licks mixed with precise duets, and pushing out growls straight from the Mingus canon. Bennink, wicked as ever, cooked up a rich stew of light clatterings, all manner of brushwork and sharp attacks - astonishingly, on a single snare drum - as well as assaults on the structural column holding up the Vortex! Glerum's practiced bass often set the tone, blending with Möbus's carefully placed chordwork.

They wheeled off at a tight, high-spirited pace with 'Who is in charge?', written two weeks previously. A Möbus composition, 'Petshop', followed, which started wistfully but, before you knew it, Bennink's foot was on his snare to modulate the crisp sound and the brass offered a looser, free approach, with Anderson then picking up his mute to find more internal and subdued pitches. At one point the bass was set against mellow guitar samples sounding like a record being played backwards and Bennink scraped his snare with the brushes to grind out a raw backdrop. Glerum's 'Silver Nickel', a homage to pianists Horace and Herbie, was introduced with banter about nickels, quarters and dimes, and kicked off with a bluesy bass line which then turned on a funky backbeat. The brass welled up with real force to convincingly suggest that a full big band had taken to the stage.

Anderson's 'As Yet' opened the second set, drawing on Dizzy's and Kenny Clarke's 'Salt Peanuts' - I expected them to shout it out, in authentic style! A Dolphy-esque alto and Anderson's rasping trombone gave way to Bennink's measured military/New Orleans rolls and his short solo in which he briefly had one drumstick in his mouth, tapping it with the other. Anderson's 'Funkalific' ("funkorrific", quipped Van Kemenade) saw the frontmen fiercely trading phrases against a choppy bass and quivering guitar, with an aptly quoted 'It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing' dropped in for good measure.

They finished with a gorgeous rendering of Charlie Haden's classic 'Song for Ché', captivating bowed bass and gentle, nestled guitar chords resting on the sensitive snare which accelerated before they all slowed right down to put the seal on a warm and inspired evening's music.


Review: Jay Phelps

Jay Phelps Album Launch Jay-Walkin' (Line-Up)
(Pizza Express, Thursday October 21st, Review by Jeanie Barton
Photo: backstage at the Toronto Jazz Festival, watching Charlie Rouse, by William Ellis)

Jay Phelps warmly greeted the crowd at Pizza Express to his CD launch party. An intense yet charming young trumpeter originally from Vancouver in Canada; Jay truly brings out the fun in his instrumental jazz. His face, so thoughtful at rest contorted it’s self at play to reveal multiple layers of pure happiness. This band takes their music very seriously but their equal priority was to have a good time!

Phelps and his band opened with the title track “Jay Walkin’” a perky bebop-inspired composition that truly spirited the band and audience back to the heady days of the New York clubs of the 1940s. Not only did the call and exchange within the solos create a buzz but likewise the band’s shared wit and joy bought the room to life.

Jay, looking dapper in his poppy coloured gingham suit jacket and large striped bow tie (somehow channelling Michael Crawford in Hello Dolly), was not the only charismatic man-child who liked to clown around; Shabaka Hutchings on tenor sax, clarinet and bass clarinet shared centre stage, and played with a cool hue of swinging phrases and a child like cheeky grin. Karl Rasheed-Abel on double bass also shared the mischievous glances and giggles while playing with faultless accuracy and nimble dexterity.

With Jonathan Gee at the piano and Gene Calderazzo on the drums, Jay pointed out that the ensemble was made up of various generations who challenged and inspired each other (although saying Gene was old just made everyone fall about laughing) we knew what he meant. Together they pushed the boundaries of the form of each song, stretching it as far as they could before snapping back simultaneously to the through line.

A particularly moving number was “I Love My Mama” for which Jay enlisted the showmanship of singer Michael Mwenso, whose sharp yellow suit almost eclipsed Jay’s poppy effort “I thought this was my night!” he protested. Michael or Ola as they like to call him is indeed a character, cool and comic but most of all sincere.

Through thick and thin
She saved my skin
Time and time again
She gave me unconditional love!

Swapping between swing and Latin grooves this number really is a celebration, a song of thanks. We were quite choked up. Family was a big theme of the whole evening, with lots of friends gathered together; Jay read out a card from his chums who teased him that they were confused as to how he’d ‘made it’ (this of course was ironic as everyone could tell how hard he has trained to reach this level of musicianship.)

Brian Edwards on tenor sax was another “Uncle” to join them on stage. He appeared quite meek but with a glint of worldliness in his eye matching the sparkle in his mellow tone. These featured artists were all members of Jay's adopted family from Uncle Sam’s late night jazz club (now called the Haggerstone) in Dalston where he has been hanging out since he moved to the UK aged 17.

I really relate to Jay’s experience of being taken under the wing of these kind beboppers as I am lucky enough to have been adopted by a similar crowd at the King’s Head in Crouch End. They bought their club atmosphere to Dean Street for the night and we all shared in the pride felt for Jay’s 11 year journey, mapped out in music – I’d say the party has only just begun.

Line-Up Music

Jeanie also mentions these gigs:
Jazz at Uncle Sams in Dalston

Downstairs at the Kings Head Crouch End


Review: Kenny Wheeler 80th birthday UK tour

Kenny Wheeler 80th Birthday Tour
(The Anvil, Basingstoke, October 22nd 2010)

Last night's audience at the opening concert of the tour at the Anvil in Basingstoke was treated not just to "some new music" by Kenny Wheeler, as had been trailed. What a humungous understatement that is! We heard one of the most remarkable melodic outpourings in music: ten substantial, important and remarkable new pieces.

As this band continues on its way, and gets deeper into the music, this tour will prove to have been something very special indeed. The music is played with passion, and conviction by a group of musicians of the calibre to get right inside the music and to express its astonishing character and sincerity. This is a major new contribution to the music of our time and I hope to God that someone - ECM? WDR?? BBC??? - records it.

This torrent of beautiful melody, this acceleration in creativity reminded me of the the surge in work-rate which Picasso went through, producing several works a day in 1968-1971. Or of the last four years (1893-7) and nine opus numbers (114-122) of Brahms, the period after he'd told his publisher he was packing it in. Who knows where these late flowerings in a creative life come from. They are miracles.

As John Fordham explains in an excellent profile (link below), Wheeler has always avoided, maybe even feared, the limelight. He says he likes "writing sad tunes, and then letting wonderful musicians destroy them." Wheeler's reticence, his total aversion to self-advertisement acts as a barrier to his visibility, but this is music which is strong, stands on its own merits, and will last.

"Sad tunes." It's a typically diversionary expression. Wheeler's melodies simply flow and flow, and have astonishing optimism and uplift. The tune "4,5,6" for example - Wheeler's playful approach to titles is similar to Howard Hodgkin's- is irresistible in its joy and delight. Michel Legrand would have wished he'd written it. The organizers of the 2012 London Olympics will inevitably choose music less inspired and characterful than these works from one of the world's major composers - who happens to live at the heart of one of the Olympic boroughs.

Only one of the big band works had previously been played: Enowena was commissioned by the far-sighted Lucas Schmid of WDR in Cologne. Another was a delicious re-working of the standard I Didn't Know What Time it Was, playful essay in rhythmic instability, but with sumptuous chordal writing, particularly for the trombones. The Long Waiting was a feature for Ray Warleigh, whose warm, mellifluous and thoughtful playing was worth the price of the ticket on its own.

Kenny Wheeler himself played a number of solos, that familiar sound was stronger, and the man himself looked less frail than he had done in January. Evan Parker, Stan Sulzmann and Julian Arguelles were stand-out soloists among many, each with a story to tell. Vocalist Diana Torto was at her best in Comba No 3, which suited her agile and expressive voice completely.

The rhythm section players have all been regular collaborators of Wheeler's and have a deep understanding of how his music works. They know exactly how to add punctuation to the eloquence and sheen of melodic line. Chris Laurence on bass carries through ostinato figures with total conviction and presence. The faultless Martin France has an uncanny ear for playing at exactly the right level. John Parricelli often stays hidden as an important part of the texture, but last night really shone in his solos too.

But above all John Taylor is masterful in every context. What I found particularly to enjoy last night was his way with linking passages. He has an ability to give the listener the slip, to side-step you completely, suddenly to be in new mood and feel territory- before you even know he's left the old one. Just stunning.

Wheeler has had a number of different people in recent years who have worked tirelessly to promote the cause of his music. This tour is promoted by SoundUK and managed by Andrea Marini, with fabulously clear musical direction from the ever-astounding Pete Churchill.

The tour still has five more dates to go, listed below. The strongest feeling I have is that the arrival of this music is cause for celebration. I was lucky to be at its first public performance, and will find any excuse I can to hear it again and again.

Prior to the big band works were three of Wheeler's most-played tunes, including Everybody's Song but My Own. I can't get the first sung words from the stage out of my head: "Every day I hear a melody," from J. White's lyric to the song has real resonance and could even serve as a motto for the tour.

Wheeler demonstrates that he is indeed one of the great melodists of our time.





Jessie Buckley Interview

Jessie Buckley (photo: Vincenzo) has one of those amazing voices you hear all too rarely, writes Harold Sanditen. Think a young Judy Garland. A voice that stops you in your tracks, that somehow gets inside you, that makes you understand the emotion of the song. These are remarkable traits for a well-established singer, but for a 20 year old, almost unheard of.

I first heard Jessie Buckley last March. In one of the most acoustically unfriendly rooms in London, she had the ability to get drunken, restless attendees to pay attention. Her solo show at Pizza on the Park convinced me that the 20 year-old is someone very, very special. She was "discovered" on the TV Show "I’d Do Anything" where she came in second. Jessie told me she always wanted to go to drama school, because she wants "to have a long and varied career" and sees drama school as "a symbiosis between singing and acting. Last year she applied to drama schools, was accepted at RADA, and began studies there last month.

When we spoke, she’d just come in from the zoo, where she’d been studying squirrel monkeys, the animal of the week that she would have to "be" in class - her previous weeks' conquests having been the otter and the meerkat!

She loves education, but interestingly, has had very little vocal training, although she was raised in a musical family – her Mum was a harpist and singer.She’s smart, she’s pretty, she’s perky, she’s sexy, she does a mean squirrel monkey, she can sing the socks off just about anyone around. She’s also a must see/must hear. Discover Jessie Buckley now, and you can say you knew her when.


Empirical's MOBO moment

Lewis Wright, Tom Farmer, Nathaniel Facey and Shane Forbes - Empirical - collecting their MOBO award, the proud moment captured by William Ellis.


Review : Ernie Watts

Saxophonist Ernie Watts (photo above: William Claxton) has known consistent and major success as a session and studio musician over a very long period - eg try this from the seventies when he was Marvin Gaye's first call sax player. But Watts lets it be clearly known that jazz, and jazz clubs, are where his real his heart is; that his inspirations are players such as Coltrane and Michael Brecker.

At his best - which I think is his ballad playing - his playing not only has complete presence and command, he also has a story to tell. The full house which welcomed him to Ronnie Scott's last night saluted and cheered him throughout. And in his hard-swinging and triumphant G minor blues encore "Gee Baby" we also eagerly accepted his invitation to clap the backbeat loud and strong.

The Watts presence starts with the sound. Like those other Buddy Rich alumni Don Menza and the late Steve Marcus, it is big and loud. Like David Sanborn - the studio habit perhaps ? - he often asserts his presence by blowing hard up in the altissimo. His website (apologies for nerdiness) says that his tenor mouthpiece lay is a 13, far wider than just about anyone else (Garbarek plays off a 5 according to this website)

Yes, those ballads. After two hard-driven openers (the highly complex To the Point, and Spirit Song, which didn't get properly airborne) I really enjoyed the 1959 Tommy Wolf/Fran Landesman ballad The Ballad of the Sad Young Men. Couples around me were getting closer, I noticed.

Other highlights were For Michael, in homage to Michael Brecker, which had deliberate instability in its two-against-three feel, and in its irregular phrase and sentence length. And a very affecting Round Midnight.

Watts' latest album has him playing not just with an American trio, but also with the German players whom he brought to Ronnie Scott's last night. It is an interesting reflection that entrepreneurial musicians in 2010 can lead this double life on the continent of Europe and in the US. For Ben Webster, Dexter Gordon, or Don Byas (an influence on Watts, I kept wondering?), there was an either/or choice between continents. Not any more.

The player who made the strongest impression on me in this German group was bassist Rudi Engel. He made unforgettable contributions to Spirit Song and Gee Baby. The bass is a physical instrument, and Engel is a very strongly physical player, in the mould of Mike Janisch (it would be fascinating to see them side by side one day). Arms, hands, fingers are incredibly powerful, it's an amazing resource to have. And yet he also has flawless tuning, and the ability to lay down time beautifully, clearly and simply. I was really taken.

Pianist Christof Saenger is a highly supportive and fine player with a bright right hand, creating textures out of perpetuum mobile semi-quavers, and drummer Heinrich Koebberling was subtle and strong.

The support band was James Pearson, piano with Sam Burgess, bass and Pedro Segundo drums. They played Ellington tunes. If Pearson deserved the dry Martini he publicly cajoled from the barman - and of course he he did- then fair recompense for Segundo might have been a glass of 1996 Krug for his less-is-more fours on In a Mellow Tone. Segundo was maybe taking a leaf out of rare visitor to London Leon Parker's book, and deconstructing the drum kit piece by piece brilliantly. Silence. One cymbal rim. A rain stick.

Wikipedia tells me that Pedro Segundo was Emperor of Brazil and known as "the Magnanimous." I'll second that.


Happy Birthday Dizzy

Thanks to a sharp-eyed trumpeter from just off the A1 in Nottinghamshire for bringing today's birthday Google doodle to my attention.

And here's something to lift the mood....


Empirical win MOBO Award, and a British Composer Awards Nomination

Empirical are the winners of the MOBO award for jazz, for Out'n'In (Naim Records).
The ceremony was earlier this evening in Liverpool.

But that story ain't over. One of the tracks from the album, Dolphyus Morphyus by Nathaniel Facey, is also a contender in the jazz category for the British Composer Awards.

The other two nominations are Colour Beginnings by Tim Whitehead, and The Causeway Suite by James Hamilton.

The winners of the British Composer Awards, a partnership between BASCA, PRS Foundation and BBC Radio 3 will be announced on 30th November.



A big band in your front room...."TV's Love affair with Jazz"

Andrew Missingham's blog charts what he calls "TV's Love Affair with Jazz," with a number of examples. It's an interesting nostalgia ride. Entrepreneurial Andrew is trailing a new music talk show he's working on.

I'll add another: Laurie Holloway regaled me the other day with the story of the (not very lengthy) thought processes of an ITV producer choosing this one,


Michael Garrick MBE

Congratulations to Michael Garrick who picks up his MBE at Buckingham Palace today, and who'll be out celebrating with Nette Robinson and the Way Out West crew at the Orange Tree gig in Richmond tonight.

Jazz is about call and response, and having received the call, the Queen will be receiving a response possibly more absorbing than a piece of rock from Chile she had earlier in the's a one-off compilation of the ROYAL BOX SUITE, Titles include: Happily Ever After (Princess Blue), The Royal Prerogative, The Old Pretender, Laughed Out of Court, A Lady in Waiting, The Gentleman's Gentleman, I'd Crown Resign and The Heir Apparent.


RIP Marion Brown 1931- 2010

The alto saxophonist and composer Marion Brown, who appeared on influential albums by Arche Shepp and John Coltrane in the 1960's, died on October 10th. A fuller tribute to him is on Peter Hum's blog. RIP


CD Review: In The Detail by Gordon Mark Webber

In The Detail, Gordon Mark Webber
(CD Review by Mark Ramsden)

I've always loved hearing Gordon Mark Webber's strong, rich voice storm a London club gig. Half David Clayton-Thomas, half Lou Rawls, his voice is unique but the project reminded me of Boz Scaggs's recent standards sessions - great songs recorded by a soul singer who has ripened into maturity.

This fit, stylish fifty-something guy has been gigging since he was 14, travelling widely and entertaining the Royal Family and many A List celebs along the way. Expecting some serious raunch, I was surprised to hear a different side of him on a sophisticated set which includes contemporary ballads like Sting's Fragile, (containing a soulful violin solo from Chinara Sharshenova, good throughout), a faster Sultans of Swing, a slower Rikki Don't Lose that Number, Taste of Honey given an All Blues revamp and many other fresh ideas which trigger a smile.

Gordon’s CD arrived a few days after I'd spent an afternoon obsessively trying out every version of Simon Smith and his Amazing Dancing Bear on Spotify, which Sting may think was synchronicity whereas I’m going for telepathy. Gordon’s a down to earth geezer so I’d better quickly say that this fresh swing version easily ranks alongside Randy Newman's original and Alan Price's hit, especially when Dominic Ashworth cuts loose with a gorgeous guitar solo, one of several he contributes.

The musicians are of the highest calibre, particularly the arrangers Geoff Gascoyne who has worked miracles for Jamie Cullum, Dominic Ashworth and Derek Nash. Anything recorded by Derek will sound clear and vibrant, the beautiful percussion sound in particular, although Nic France might justifiably get the hump if I don't mention that he drums sensitively throughout.

The one original is a wistful, romantic bossa which sounds like it deals with a serious relationship for its writer. In this noisy, often tasteless world of ours, it takes courage to wear your heart on your sleeve and to provide an audience with warm mellow delight.

Stand out track for me is Sting’s haunting Fragile, but they will all repay repeated listenings.

The CD is available from


Mo' Better Blues at Kings Place. Preview by Abram Wilson

Mo’ Better Blues. Preview by Abram Wilson
(Kings Place Hall Two. Saturday October 23rd. Part of the series The Base)

I’m a a big fan of Spike Lee’s work, and this Hollywood film featuring acoustic jazz that really swings has done so much for spreading the word. With such heavyweights as Denzel Washington, Wesley Snipes and a host of incredible actors, Mo’ Better Blues clearly identifies a genre and a group of people I was really close to, when I lived in New Orleans and New York.

I’ve always wanted to perform this music and I have great respect for Terence Blanchard and Branford Marsalis who performed on the soundtrack. Both of them attended the New Orleans Center For Creative Arts (NOCCA),a decade or so before I got there.

On Saturday you’ll hear two sets based on the incredible music from this film, performed by an exceptional group of young musicians and Tomorrow's Warriors alumni - pianist Peter Edwards, saxophonist Binker Golding, double bassist Yuri Galkin and drummer Moses Boyd as well as me playing trumpet.

I’ll also be portraying several of the leading characters and using some of the original dialogue. I’m very excited to be doing such a heavy piece of work, and really hope everyone is going to have a great evening.


London Jazz Festival Preview (5) Vocal Summit

Emilia Martensson

London Jazz Festival Previews (5)
(Vocal Summit at the Spice of Life. Wednesday November 17th, 7.30pm. Preview by Sarah Ellen Hughes)

A relatively new event happens during the London Jazz Festival at the Spice of Life on Cambridge Circus: Vocal Summit.

Organised by Paul Pace – winner of the 2008 Parliamentary Jazz Award for Services to Jazz – it “highlights those singers whom I consider to be the best on the scene in terms of the vocal art, individuality, and the ability to move and entertain the audience.”

Previous Vocal Summits have featured some top singers from the London jazz scene including Anton Browne, Pete Churchill, Anita Wardell, Emma Smith and Natalie Williams.

This year I’m thrilled to have been invited to sing myself, and I’ll be appearing alongside two other young singers: Emilia Martensson (above: uncredited photo from her Myspace)and Fini Bearman.

Fini – a graduate of Guildhall and Jazz-Institut Berlin – was nominated earlier this year at the London Jazz Vocalist 2010 awards; other nominees included the great Ian Shaw and Norma Winstone. In fact, at the awards evening Fini sang a number which was so compelling, one reviewer mistook it for a performance by Norma Winstone (the winner on the night).

For Emilia, this will be one of three appearances at the London Jazz Festival, the other two being at Oliver’s in Greenwich (Monday 15th) and the Green Note in Camden (Friday 19th).

Swedish-born Emilia takes much inspiration from the simple and melodic Swedish folk songs that she grew up with. She moved to England in 2000 to study at Trinity. Emilia provided haunting vocals on the sublime ‘Unresolved’ from the latest Kairos 4tet recording. These varied influences have now coalesced in a unique way, and Emilia Martensson presents a unique mix of ethereal tones, great jazz phrasing and irresistible soul inflections.

I’m looking forward to sharing the stage with these two wonderful singers.


London Jazz Festival Preview (4) Martial Solal

London Jazz Festival Preview (4) Martial Solal by Geoffrey Winston
(Wigmore Hall, November 16th)

In concert Martial Solal is extraordinary. It's not just his virtuosity and technical dexterity: those who are prepared to follow his intellect and inspiration are taken on an astounding journey at each performance. He is little known in the UK, but I have never forgotten hearing him a few years ago on a BBC broadcast from Bath. Then there was a wonderful set with the Moutin brothers at the Barbican in 1999. Later, as Wayne Shorter's guest in 2005, he opened with an extraordinary 30 minute extemporisation on Ellington's 'Caravan', which left the more grounded in the audience at the starting blocks! He then followed up with a duet concert with Shorter and a solo concert the next night, both gems.

Last year his King's Place solo concert delivered beyond what one might reasonably expect - it was marvellous in its invention, humour and joyfully tangential interpretations of the standards. He playing is perhaps best appreciated in solo and small group settings - duets with Lee Konitz, Joachim Kuhn and Johnny Griffin are all worth tracking down on CD.

The most important of his solo recordings is the 2-CD set 'Martial Solal improvise pour France Musique' on JMS (above), selected from around 30 half-hour live studio broadcasts from 1993-94 - a formidable challenge for Solal, which was beautifully met; improvisation of incredible breadth and ingenuity; not a wasted note. 'Live at the Village Vanguard' from 2001 on Blue Note captures well the flavour of his trio, not necessarily easy, quite spiky in places.

This true genius of the piano will never have sounded better than in Vikram Seth's "sacred shoebox of chamber music," the Wigmore Hall.


Bobby Wellins/ Dave Newton

The House Concert. It's making a comeback.
The tune. Out of Nowhere.
The camera angle. How much lower can you get?
The saxophonist. Seventy-five next January.


Musicians Benevolent Fund Peter Whittingham Award

2008 Winner John Randall - Photo Gary Corbett

Quick. It's Musicians Benevolent Fund Peter Whittingham Award time

-A main award of £4,000 is available annually (there wasn't one in 2009) to help fund a specific project which will enhance the musical and professional development of the artist or group.

-Further discretionary awards may also be offered.

-The Fund say that "the form of the project is not specified though the panel will be looking for proposals that are creative and have contemporary significance in fitting with today’s changing music industry.

-"Applications for funding courses of study, including research, or for purchasing instruments and equipment will not be considered, and it is unlikely that the panel will consider a project that is purely recording based. Examples of previous successful proposals include delivering a programme of workshops, a mini jazz festival and an innovative website documenting the group’s progression through audio and video."

-Closing Date for applications is November 5th. A panel nominated by the Musicians Benevolent Fund will do a first screen the appplicants and put a number forward for audition

-Auditions will be December 10th

-This year’s panel, chaired by the late Peter Whittingham's son Chris, includes John Cumming, Abram Wilson, Liane Carroll and Steve Rubie.

-The award is open to those who are studying full time on a recognised jazz course or in the first two years of entering a professional career.

- In addition to the cash, there is the offer of free attendance on Musicians Union Seminars, Workshops and Courses


2000 Paul Bartholemew and Dave O’Higgins
2001 Tom Arthurs
2002 Paul Towndrow
2003 Soweto Kinch (Andrew Morgan - Music Education Award)
2004 Andrew Stamatakis-Brown (Gwilym Simcock - Music Education Award)
2005 Led Bib(Chris Mapp, Andy Davies and John Barwood - Development Awards)
2006 David O’Brien (Matt Calvert and Seb Pipe - Development Awards)
2007 Empirical (Trish Clowes - Development Award)
2008 John Randall
2009 No Main Award (John Cervantes and Tim Evans -Development Awards)



Review: Nyman with a Movie Camera

Nyman with a Movie Camera - Music by Michael Nyman
(Barbican Hall, October 17th 2010, review by Alyn Shipton)

Michael Nyman
's work as a composer and film-score writer has never really inhabited jazz territory, but below the formal chugging surface structures of his compositions lie some improvisational ideas that have a lot in common with jazz. Furthermore, his current projects "The Glare" and "Nyman with a Movie Camera" both meld into the world of jazz and improvised events.

The former is the title of a 2009 album in which singer David McAlmont added his own lyrics inspired by contemporary news to extant Nyman compositions, giving a new dimension to the songs, especially in this rare live performance. The latter was a new film, edited from Nyman's copious amateur footage documenting his life, travel and band tours, as a conscious homage to the Russian experimental film-maker Dziga Vertov.

In 2003, Nyman wrote a score for Vertov's late 1920s movie "Man with a Movie Camera" (image above) to be played live at the London Film Festival. At the Barbican, visual artist Max Pugh - familiar to jazz concertgoers as part of the Yeast collective - had cut Nyman's own footage and a smattering of Vertov's original images into a striking new film, its visual improvisations timed precisely to fit the score written for Vertov's original.

The jazz content came in the first half from McAlmont's extraordinarily beautiful voice. I can't think of a singer who can tackle subjects as odd as euthanasia, drug smuggling in Laos and teaching geography with such a ravishing beauty that you are captive to every word. Against the somewhat relentless backdrop of Nyman's dum-dum-dum-dum scores, McAlmont's vocals soared and flew, with the slight proviso that the Barbican's creaky sound system rendered him so low in the mix that in the main part of the house, some of his lines were inaudible. Here Nyman might have directed his musicians with a little more sensitivity to dynamics, but maybe he was so preoccupied with keeping the da-da-da rhythms going he couldn't raise his hands from the keys to signal his players.

The movie was a different prospect. At one time, apparently, the plan was to show Vertov's fim in parallel to Max Pugh's. That would have made for a real multi-media experience, but in the event only the new film occupied the screen above the players. Anyone who's seen Pugh's visual improvisation - for example on the "Future Sounds of Jazz" tour a few years ago with Soweto Kinch and Jason Yarde - will know the basics of his technique. Images are established, repeated and often referred back to as the film progresses.

Here, although he took his main cues from Vertov's trams, busy streets and Muscovite eating and shopping, the material occasionally became repetitive, and the transitions between sections on, for example, machinery and markets, didn't have the smooth visual transition that one might have expected from the score. A camera dolly operator was an overused image, as was a portly Balkan traffic policewoman. There was some powerful visual juxtaposition using brief snapshots of abandoned shoes, roll calls of inmates and skeletal huts at Auschwitz / Birkenau, intercutting these with the bodes of dolls on a market stall or people in motion on trains.

There was an equally memorable sequence on machinery, bolstered by some of Nyman's most energetic chugging. Overall, Pugh's invention flagged slightly towards the end, and it would have been instructive to see whether the peaks and troughs in the score would have fitted Vertov's vision better.


Seamus Blake at Oliver's

It shouldn't be allowed to happen, but it is. Saxophonist Seamus Blake - above with others of New York's finest - will be at the tiny Oliver's Bar in Nevada Street in Greenwich next Monday 25th. He's with fabulous Northern Irish guitarist Mark McKnight. It's an organ quartet with Ross Stanley, plus James Maddren on drums. For those last two, some of the most prodigiously talented and also nicest guys around, I was surprised to learn this was their first collaboration, and am definitely intrigued to hear how that works.

It's the last gig of a tour which also includes the Cork Jazz Festival, more like the kind of gig a group of this calibre should be getting. For those that can get in it could be a contender for gig of the year. And if anyone sitting in a tower in Canary Wharf valuing stuff wants to find a definition of "acute undervaluation," just cross the river and look no further. I'm genuinely excited by this one. GO.


Review: The Blagger's Guide to Jazz

Richard Pite, a unique figure in British jazz, sets the bar quite high with expectations of doubling, trebling etc on other instruments for those who share the stand with him. Mainly to be found behind a drum kit, Pite also plays sousaphone (sometimes still with three bodily extremities in contact with the drum kit). And double bass. And he writes scripts and promotes....

So how did the others in the band rise to the challenge?:

- Enrico Tomasso was on trumpet. And cornet ..and mellifluous trombone.. and lead vocals.. and backing vocals

- Pete Long was on alto sax. And all other members of the saxophone family and clarinet. And arranger.

-Georgina Jackson was the main vocalist (she had two of the musical highlights with Gershwin's I Love You Porgy and Nina Simone's My Baby...) and backing vocals and trumpet

-Nick Dawson was on piano. And solo vocal ...and backing vocal.... and a mean clarinet

-Dave Chamberlain was as ever flawless on bass. And no less impressive on rhythm guitar

Quite a band to run through the history of jazz.

The show also had Dave Quantick MC'ing and story-telling and leading proceedings and master of humorous digressions , with Simon Poole as producer/ co-writer/ sidekick and occasional straight man, and Kate O'Sullivan and Lewis McLeod impressively character-acting, voiceovering (in one case voiceover and out before the proceedings had finished) and impressionisting.

The show was partly educational, putting the case for jazz at its best, but also aiming for laughs. With excursions into X Factor, Les Dawson impressions, Formula One, Call My Bluff, fitting in a quick tour round Diana Ross's ego.

As a live show it clocked in at just over three hours including interval. It was fun, but felt tailored to the requirements of a live radio recording. The show is due to be broadcast in segments on Radio 2.

Cadogan Hall has other goodies coming up:

Richard Pite's nxt project is a Swing Era tribute
"The Vocal Groups" on 31st October

There is a
Buddy Rich Tribute from Pete Cater's topflight band on November 15th, closing its UK tour during the London Jazz Festival.


Interview with Pete Saberton on TheJazzShowOnline

Photo Credit: Garry Corbett

Pete Saberton (above)is one of those quietly influential, maybe even central figures on the UK jazz scene. I was thrilled to find a fascinating interview with him by Alex Hutton.

Musicians , conservatoire students revere him, speak about Pete Saberton and how just good he is in hushed tones. He does the stuff others find tricky - with seeming ease. Harmonic and rhythmic work-outs, metric modulation. But his playing is at such a level of creativity, there's always a real sense of travel when he's playing. There's nothing dry, nothing predictable. Line, linkage, narrative, but always the unexpected too. Convinced yet? Check out the interview

There may be another interview with him somewhere (?), but I definitely want to salute Alex Hutton and Kate Winter of TheJazzShowOnline for doing this one.

There are three music clips in the interview which can be DOWNLOADED HERE.

Pete Saberton is originally from Sheffield. He studied classical music in Manchester music college classical music degree. The beginnings of an interest in jazz came from saxophonist and fellow student Pete Hurt: "He was interested in playing jazz tht's how I got into it."

The first track is from the Rich Core Trio with drummer Tony Levin and bassist Fred Baker. The track is also called Rich Core, recorded 5 yeears ago.

He talks about "stealing", about metric modulation, about getting students - who are often quite conservative - interested in electronics. "It's about time electronics came back in"

The second piece is "3 P's" piece with John Taylor and Steve Arguelles.

The third piece is Reverse shift, with among others Dave O'Higgins and Henry Lowther, a piece originally written for the London Trombone quartet run by Pete Beachill, and for Derek Watkins.

There are many other interviews on The Jazz Show Online


Jazz and the Media Conference at Birmingham School of Art

An interesting conference yesterday at Martin and Chamberlain's splendid 1880's-90's Birmingham School of Art (Eros - above - by Brum pre-Raphaelite Sidney Meteyard*) on Jazz and the Media, well attended by BCU and Birmingham Conservatoire Students.

The first presentation was by Mike Connolly and Tony Higgins. They told the story of the making of the three part documentary Jazz Britannia. They stressed one major factor determining their editorial choices: the availability of powerful archive material which was either rights-cleared for use or affordable. They cited a particular case. Joe Harriott got covered properly because the BBC had video footage. They had initially drawn a blank in the BBC Archives. And then discovered the film they used because Higgins had taken the trouble to check under the name of Joe Arthurlin, Harriott's original name.

William Ellis showed some fabulous photography, and talked about his coup de foudre- getting accredited to photograph Miles Davis in 1989. Is William a good photographer or what?

Alyn Shipton went through some statistics which demonstrated that Jazz Services lobbying in January has - already - increased the amount of British jazz and out-of-London jazz being broadcast on Jazz on 3 and Jazz Line-Up. But people of all ages the room were sceptical as to whether protectionism in music was such a hot idea. Indeed, someone suggested, the concept runs completely against the grain in jazz.

You have to hand it to the people in Birmingham: they collaborate well. The conference was a joint effort between the Interactive Cultures group at Birmingham City University who led and organized it, the Jazz Department of Birmingham Conservatoire and Birmingham Jazz. There was a lunchtime performance by the JJ Wheeler Quintet, who will be featured on BBC Jazz on 3 on Monday night 18th.

*Sidney Meteyard (1868-1947) studied at Birmingham School of Art and taught there for 45 years.


The Winner of the Second Nottingham International Jazz Piano Comp is....

New Yorker Logan Thomas (25).

The judging panel was Tim Richards, Robert Mitchell, David Newton, Zoe Rahman and Jonathan Gee. The competition owes its existence to Clement Pianos and Jazzsteps.

Logan Thomas is a graduate of Western Michigan University and here is his MYSPACE.

The other finalists were Jake Sherman (US) , Chris Donnelly (Canada) and 15 year old Frenchman Mathis J J Picard currently studying at Chetham's in Manchester.


Review: NYJO 45th Birthday

NYJO 45th Birthday
(100 Club, October 10th 2010, review by Frank Griffith, all photos courtesy of Steve Titchener)

The celebration of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra's 45th year featured several ensembles associated with this organisation. The picture above is of NYJO2 directed by Paul Eshelby.

The current NYJO1 (below), ably led by trumpeter/composer/arranger, Mark Armstrong, stunned the nearly packed room with the sheer impressive feats of the challenging repertoire that fit into a ninety minute set.

This included a florid but musical arrangement by Josh Daniels of A Foggy Day featuring guest soloist, Sam Mayne's searing alto sax imbued with a rich, buttery tone and plenty of ideas. An engaging but somewhat complicated sounding piece in 21/8 time had players and audiences grasping for their slide rules in haste while 16 year old whiz guitarist Rob Luft soloed fluidly throughout the piece as if it was a 4/4 blues.

No NYJO celebration would be complete without songs by its Founder Musical Director, Bill Ashton OBE. Male singer, Kwadena Adjepong, got the ball rolling with his treatment of "Paris is for Lovers" where he was joined by Bill onstage.

Other vocal highlights were Emma Smith 's delivery of "Let's Settle Down" with NYJO1, and, later on, veteran NYJO songstress, Lorraine Craig 's rendition of "Where is the Music" with the All-Stars band.

A shorter set featuring a nonet "Tomorrow's Face" allowed the intensity and volume to dim a bit and feature more improvisation from the likes of young up and coming jazzers like trumpeter, Henry Armburg-Jennings and saxophonist, Richard Shepherd, to stretch out freely on classic jazz standards including two memorable Kenny Dorham pieces. Well done, boys and more of this sort of thing in future will enable us to face tomorrow with great hope.

The concert also featured an appearance by the NYJO Originals, below, directed by Ted Rockley.

The final set was a remarkable one with a collection of a Not-So-Youthful NYJO All-Stars featuring the likes of trombonists, Mark Nightingale, and Andy Wood, saxophonists, Andy Panayi, Martin Williams and Nigel Hitchcock as well trumpeters Simon Gardner, and Gavin Mallett.

Bassist Paul Morgan was on hand as was the able drumming of Ian Thomas and Mike Bradley. For this set, Bill Ashton actually conducted the band in his inimitable and ethereal manner with the beat while the band completely slayed the audience to a heroic finish. It was as if the band, like a ship, was able to find its own way back to port, having played this music and upheld the tradition for so many years.

Happily, the spoken tributes and speeches were kept to a minimum and Bill and his wife Kay were treated to a holiday by NYJO board members, presented by Nigel Tully and Paul Eshelby, as a gesture of their appreciation for the remarkable achievement this man has accomplished. NYJO will now be evolving to new pastures while retaining some of the legacy and qualities that got the first 45 years off to a such great beginning. Long may it thrive!


London Jazz Festival Preview (3) Soweto Kinch

London JazzFestival Preview: Soweto Kinch – The New Emancipation
(Queen Elizabeth Hall on Thursday 18th November 7.30pm , Preview/ CD review by Thomas Gray)

It’s already been seven years since the alto saxophonist, Oxford University modern history graduate and MC Soweto Kinch burst onto the scene with his remarkably assured debut ‘Conversations with the Unseen’, and there has been a four year hiatus since his second release, ‘A Life in the Day of B19’. In that time, Kinch has lost none of his knack for incisive, searing solos and for penning some memorable themes, yet initial impressions suggest he has worked hardest at his MCing.

Back on his first album, the MCing was a mere hobby to his day job as saxophonist, serving to bookend the album’s largely straight-ahead jazz content. On ‘The New Emancipation’ (as on his second album), Kinch spends as much time behind the mic as he does blowing into his horn, and he raps with considerable swagger—sometimes under the guise of a malevolent alter ego, as on ‘Axis of Evil’—about familiar contemporary issues including corporate greed, unjust military intervention and celebrity obsession.

The flirtations with several disparate genres—as well as ‘Paris Heights’, a comedy skit you may only want to hear once—disrupt the flow of the album initially. But to stop listening here would be a shame: the album’s first half contains some wonderfully unfettered improvisation from Kinch and guitarist Femi Temowo on the post-bop quick-burner, ‘A People with No Past’ and includes one of Kinch’s most compelling compositions to date, ‘Suspended Adolescence’, where guest trumpeter Byron Wallen digs deep into the material.

With this in mind, I started to wonder during my first listen whether Kinch might have done better to keep his different talents separate, but his influences do come together far more convincingly in the album’s second half, particularly during ‘On the Treadmill’ which melds a wailing, Ellingtonian blues theme with some cutting-edge broken beats from the powerful and versatile drummer, Justin Brown. This album may not quite be Soweto Kinch’s masterpiece, but it does show a leap forward in his composing, and with a strong line-up which also includes Shabaka Hutchings on tenor sax and clarinet and Harry Brown on trombone, it should be quite some gig at the QEH.