James Hamilton wins British Composer Award

Congratulations toLeeds-based James Hamilton on winning the British Composer Award for a contemporary jazz composition for his Causeway Suite. (link has sound-clips)

He is being given the plaudit for the most memorable acceptance speech: "I haven't had a poo for a week."

James Hamilton has previously won the Jazzorg/ Worshipful Company award for jazz composition. Causeway Suite was produced with help from Leeds College of Music and Jazz Yorkshire. Runners-up were Tim Whitehead and Nathaniel Facey.


Review: London Horns

London Horns, The Crypt, Camberwell. Friday 26 November. Photo by Mark Dodds. Review by Fran Hardcastle

After recent heated and public debate, it would be difficult not to observe that there has been a change in management at The Crypt in Camberwell. However, judging by punters’ opinions past, there is little noticeable change at the venue in terms of ambience and appeal. The cobwebbed charm is retained. You still need a map to find it if you’re not a South Londoner. The locals continue to convene and enjoy the cheap drinks and tasty food in a buzzing convivial atmosphere. And yes, it is still a little noisy.

Fortunately, the London Horns are a band that commanded all the right attention and cut through the din of the happy crowd. Kylie Minogue’s horn section, have worked with some of the biggest names in the jazz and pop industries. Their special guests in the rhythm section on Friday night were no exception. Loose Tubes guitarist John Parricelli replaced regular member Mike Outram for the night and Francesco Mendolia of Incognito appeared in place of Andy Fisenden on drums.

The band performed some original tracks from their new album, Don’t Look Down, which shot up to no. 6 in the iTunes charts just 2 days into its release.

Mendolia’s deeply satisfying fat sound on drums pounded the beat for opening chart, Let’s Bust a Move. Saxophonist Graeme Blevins created an interesting feature solo full of dynamic contrast. The first track appearing from the album, Chunk, hit us with a bit of dirty 70’s style funk. In demand trumpeter Graeme Flowers screamed the high notes with ease in amongst a deliciously tuneful solo. The more laid back chart of I Could Be Wrong allowed for a welcome appearance from the distinctive and divine guitarist John Parricelli.

The first highlight of the evening came from the luscious slow groove, Luxe, with rich building chords in the horns underpinned by military drumming from Mendolia and on the nose bass playing from Dishan Abraham. The chart was a great platform for the rich silky tone of Barnaby Dickinson on trombone.

Moving into the second set brought storming tune, Stiff Kittens, full of the tight funky riffs the Horns are known for. For me, the absolute sparkler of the night was the indelibly catchy Intent, written by Blevins and the first track on the new album. It featured a vibrant, pleasurably dance-influenced solo from Flowers.

All of the music, whilst certainly funk heavy, takes on the scope and influence of the bands’ vast and varied experience, allowing the individually striking players to bounce of each other with gleeful results. A very enthusiastic audience didn’t want to let them finish. I would encourage anyone to catch them live.

See the London Horns on youtube and myspace.

See here for future listings at the Crypt in Camberwell.


Thursdays in December at Zizzi's

Last Thursday a new initiative was launched at Zizzi Central in St Giles High Street. Presiding, musically at the launch was a major figure in British music, pianist/composer/arranger/ educator Laurie Holloway. Hosting, singing, and on tenor sax, was Becki Biggins. And, completing the picture above, with that improbable little finger stretch down the D-string: Jules Jackson.

Central St Giles is the newest addition in London to the Zizzi’s chain. Zizzi's have strong artistic instincts and leanings - they have previously worked to promote the careers of young designers and illustrators. For this project they are welcoming singers. For the five Thursdays of the Month of December. The venture will also be raising money for the Princes Trust , supporting their work with disadvantaged and vulnerable young people.

Zizzi's explain the logic in their press release: “Recognising how hard it can be for young people to get a break now, we see our role as a provider of both a platform for talent, as well as opportunities through our partnership with The Prince’s Trust.”

Becki Biggins will appear on all five Thursdays, and will introduce/ showcase other singers - see the list below. There are also two guest spots each evening. Singers who turn up will get a chance to sing one song, and get a meal. The house band is top notch: risen star Malcolm Edmonstone's trio.

Zizzi Sessions will run every Thursday evening from 2nd December – 30thDecember at: Zizzi Central St Giles, 8 Central St Giles Plaza, London, WC2H 8LA Nearest Tube: Tottenham Court Road .

Zizzi's St Giles Central is quite a big venue. Request a table near to the music. To book call 020 7240 8447

* * * * * * *


Becki Biggins (2nd Dec – 30th Dec)
BeckiBiggins is an award-winning singer and saxophonist. In the past two years, Becki has won the Marlborough Jazz Festival’s Best Newcomer Award, US Smooth Jazz’s Best Artist and has been nominated for a Grammy for her work with 80s legend Paul (N-n-n-Nineteen)Hardcastle.

Her current US album, Jazzmasters 6, on which Becki is both co-writer and lead vocalist, peaked at No. 1 in the US Billboard, iTunes and Amazon charts, and earned her a further US Smooth Jazz Award nomination.

Nell Ryder (2nd December)
Nell is a singer, songwriter and guitarist. She started her musical career at the age of 15. Now 19, Nell is working on her debut album with renowned record producer and writer Mike Chapman and songwriter LiliReinisch, who works with many artists, the latest including Ellie Goulding. The album is expected for release in mid 2011.

Nell's music is influenced by Blues, Folk, Americana and Country.

Sarah Ellen Hughes (9th December)

Sarah, familiar to readers of this site, has been singing on the London jazz scene since 2006. Championed by leading vocalists Claire Martin and Ian Shaw, Sarah has just released her first album: “Darning the Dream” on Say So Records. The album is a mix of standard songs and original tunes, showcasing the kind of material that makes Sarah unique – her versatility and confidence in many styles is second to none. While being a true jazz singer, the album has soul-inflected moments, and her arrangements show that this is an album from the hand of a true musician. The album was selected as UK Jazz Radio’s ‘CD of the month’ for both March and April 2010.

Sarah broke on to the London jazz scene whilst spending three years as the principal vocalist of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra (NYJO). This year alone, Sarah's quartet performed at some of the UK's major jazz festivals including Swindon, Marlborough and Southport. Sarah has also gained International recognition, and in April 2010 Sarah won the International Jazz Singing Competition ‘Jazz Voices’ held in Lithuania.

Michael Lucas (9th December)
Michael has been playing guitar, singing and performing from an early age. He usually performs as a solo artist but is also at home performing with others. Michael is influenced by a wide range of music, including artists such as The Beatles, James Taylor and Frank Sinatra. Usually found gigging in the Bucks and Berks area and occasionally London, Michael relishes any opportunity to be involved in music.

Ella Davidson (16th December)
Ella is a 17 year-old singer/songwriter from Chelsea, London. As well as her incredible voice, Ella also plays the piano, guitar and clarinet. Taking inspiration from soul, jazz and mainstream pop, Ella has an individual sound and creates original songs.

Peter Thickett(23rd December)
Peter is a fresh new talent. He's 15 years old and attends the Latymer School in London. He started playing jazz piano at an early age and discovered a love for jazz singing as well. He also plays classical piano. During his evening at Zizzi's he will perform some classics standards. His musical influences include Chet Baker and Tina May.

Lily Osborne (30th December)
Lily Osborne was born into a musical family so she has plenty to live up to. Grandfather, Musical Director Tony Osborne, conducted for such legendary divas as Shirley Bassey, EarthaKitt and Judy Garland. Her uncle, drummer Kenney Jones, played with The Who, The Small Faces, and The Faces. And her father, songwriter Gary Osborne, works as a lyricist for the likes of Elton John. Over the last couple of years Lily has appeared in small parts in most of Britain’s top TV shows, from Eastenders to Bremner, Bird and Fortune.

In 2009 Lily toured Britain and Europe with Jeff Wayne’s spectacular Live War Of The Worlds tour. 2010 started with a tour of Holland with a show celebrating Eurovision, followed by a residency at the Floradita Club in Soho. The year will end with another UK War Of The Worlds tour culminating in shows at Wembley and the O2 in front of a crowd of 16,000.


This Thursday at The Miller

I definitely like the look of a gig on this Thursday Dec 2nd at The Miller in Snowfields road in the back-streets of Borough SE1, very near Guys Hospital.

Here's the blurb off The Miller's website

A superb double header featuring Jazz/funk/avant trio
Furniture and renowned guitarist Matt Stevens.

Furniture plays originals, contemporary interpretations and a few classic tunes. Sometimes its funky, sometimes it swings and sometimes it just mellows out.

Matt plays solo acoustic guitar/post-rock instrumentals using loop pedals and other electronics. Acoustic Magazine UK calls him a "one man guitar orchestra."

But I've been researching, and there are all sorts of back-stories here.

-Both Philip Wain, the bassist of Furniture, and Matt Stevens, are making returns from painful illness. Maybe those are the gigs which musicians really look forward to. The discovery, the re-discovery that one can still get out there and make it happen.

-The pianist of Furniture Rob Grundel wrote to me: "We are not trying to be the next big thing - we are just trying to be. Rob Grundel likes funk and Monk and plays keyboards. Tadas Petrikas likes The Bad Plus and plays drums. Phil Wain likes Mingus and Frisell and plays bass."

-Why "Furniture?" "The music is half original and the standards we play have had their upholstery replaced."

-Rob is a Tasmanian, has been in London since 2009. His story (worth a read, quite instructive as to how to get up and running as a musician in London) is on his well-written blog Dimaug. The tale of how this band got together is definiely worth a read.

They'll be starting quite early, 7 30. Admission is a fiver. Twenty-five folk have signed up for it on Facebook. I hope I get to hear some. See you there?


It's Brubeck Week!

Dave Brubeck will be 90 on Saturday. And there's LOADS going on.

-Dave Brubeck's sons (Darius, Chris and Dan) are on tour with Dave O'Higgins, and that hits Birmingham tonight, as curtain-raised by Peter Bacon with an interview at the Jazz Breakfast Blog

-Tomorrow the action is on the radio. There's the first half of a two -part interview Jamie Cullum did with Dave Brubeck at the Newport Jazz Festival, being broadcast on Radio 2 at 7pm. I've heard the beginning, and Brubeck tells his story really engagingly. E.g. he was being pushed into vetinary studies, until his professor said to him : "Your mind is not here with these frogs and formaldehyde..."

-On Thursday at 11 30am on BBC Radio 4, Paul Gambaccini interviews Brubeck, recorded at Brubeck's home in Connecticut.

- There is a 90-minute Arena TV documentary by and with Clint Eastwood on BBC4 this Friday. More on this in our previous post

-There's a 2-CD retrospective of tracks chosen by Dave Brubeck on Columbia Legacy

And a sad note. The designer of Time Out (above), just a few months younger than Brubeck, died a few weeks ago. A Guardian obituary of Neil Fujita is HERE


Review: Alexander von Schlippenbach Trio

Alexander von Schlippenbach Trio
(Vortex, Thursday 25 November 2010 - Day 2 of a two-day residency - review and drawings by Geoff Winston)

Alexander von Schlippenbach launched his trio's set with a full-on burst that elided into a tight duet - the first of many during the evening - with the resoundingly robust percussionist Paul Lovens. This was followed, as the pace eased off, by a spell with the evergreen saxophonist Evan Parker offering quietly bouncy phrases alongside the piano which became more of a stutter, which was then joined by Loven's thrashing drums for maximum impact.

Von Schlippenbach's musical journey has its roots in post-war West Germany, where Willis Conover's 'Jazz Hour' provided a life-line to American jazz. And maybe there is still something of the fifties rocker about von Schlippenbach's appearance. Enlightened local radio stations in Germany were inspired to pull together jazz and contemporary 'classical' strands, and this notion of a continuum in music provided the impetus for Schlippenbach's Globe Unity Orchestra in the mid-sixties, and set him on the road which has led to his 40 years collaboration with Parker and Lovens (below).

The trio has held together through thick and thin - Parker has referred to 'testing the thing to breaking point', and at the Vortex there was a sense of that mutual understanding which allowed them to change gear seamlessly and often, taking the music from maximum intensity to contemplative quietitude. At the core there was a sharing of rhythms expressed with a raw edge. The sound had a metallic quality; Lovens has a small kit to which he constantly added and subtracted small metal discs and an octagonal metal piece - plinks and clangs countering the flattened drum sound which he carefully nurtured. Von Schlippebach started the second set with sound of prepared piano wires being brought to the fore like a harpsichord, after which he extracted the metal additions to restore its more conventional timbres. Parker threw in fast foghorn passages alongside dense, syncopated piano clusterings. Harmonics from the keyboard were interspersed with Loven's rushing cymbal and Parker's vibrato tenor and sprints alternated with rhythmic and melodic cascades from all three.

Their programme took in Monk, a major interest and influence, with 'Work' in the first set and 'Blue Monk' just detectable in the second. It was fascinating to watch Von Schlippenbach's hands - his classical training was apparent as it became clear that he was playing exactly what he wanted - his hands were his instruments with the piano as the vehicle - a demanding task, yet defined, even in the most dense passages by a clarity of intent. During a lovely piano solo he quietly sang along with his improvisation, before Lovens joined almost inaudibly, demonstrating the respect each has for the other's playing, perhaps the overriding theme of the evening.


Preview: Chris Garrick Flight Mode CD Launch

PREVIEW: Flight Mode by Chris Garrick
(CD Launch at the 606 Club, 30th November 2010, Preview by Tim Woodall)

Flight Mode (Fly), the new album from top jazz violinist Chris Garrick, is dominated by ‘5-way Suite.’ In this 23-minute programmatic piece, running over five tracks, Garrick leads his rhythm section on a merry dance of moods and styles, switching between acoustic and electric fiddle with ease, and generally displaying his own special brand of high-wire improvisation and compositional flair. Each movement has its own title and corresponding mood. ‘Pigeon Among the Cats’ is suitably mischievous, and Garrick delives both a surprise, and a contrast with what has gone before, with the final piece: ‘When We Wake Up We’ll Be Somewhere Else’ is the most delicate of ballads.

Speaking to me ahead of the London launch of Flight Mode at 606 Club on Tuesday (Nov. 30th), Garrick referred to this latest recording with David Gordon (keys), Ole Rasmussen (bass) and Tom Hooper (drums) as "the most personal sort of project I do". As a much sought-after session musician and sideman – he comes to the capital following a tour with John Etheridge – Garrick cherishes his solo recordings as an outlet for ambitious music like ‘5-way Suite’. "As I play a lot of more traditional music of one sort or another, it’s nice to also keep the contemporary side up," he says.

This is the first album Garrick has recorded with this group of players since Firewire five years ago, but the quartet has been developing this new music over some time, and it shows. "It’s great to log another chapter with the guys" he says. As well as the new suite, the new record features a couple of standards, including a hard-driving adaption of ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’ ("trying to squeeze something new out of a well known piece," is how Garrick puts it), and compositions by Garrick and current and former band members. With a magnetic groove that motors towards a breakneck finale, ‘June’, by former Chris Garrick Quartet pianist Pete James, is a particular highlight.

One new innovation on Flight Mode is Garrick’s use of a newish seven-stringed Jordan fiddle. "It’s a specific animal and is only useful for special occasions," he explains. "It’s very well designed, but it’s a question of using it only when it fits with the music." Apparently, Nigel Kennedy told Garrick that he personally wouldn’t play anything more than a five-string, but for Garrick the range of the instrument gives it appeal. "In a solo piece, it’s amazing to be able to go down low," he says. It’s a typical standpoint to take for a musician who, unlike Kennedy, is an improviser first and a virtuoso second.

It will be interesting to see how a through-composed piece like the ‘5-way Suite’ will play out in 606, how far Garrick and Co. will stray from its neat architecture. Either way, I'll wager that plenty of copies of Flight Mode will be shifted post-show.

Tim Woodall runs the Culture Capital blog


Ray Gelato cooks

Here is an unexpected (to me, who thought gelato meant ice cream - groan) side to saxophonist and bandleader Ray Gelato. . As TV chef. First episode: Jambalaya.

Ray and his band will be this Sunday 5th December at PizzaExpress Maidstone (32 Earl Street), and then from Dec 13th to 23rd at Ronnie Scott's.

But watch out. This might catch on in the band...and if it does, Gelato's superb pianist Gunter Kurmayr will be letting us in on some cookery secrets of the Steiermark, the region around Graz. Yummee.


Bill Ashton OBE

NYJO's Founding Music Director Bill Ashton collecting his OBE from Buckingham Palace yesterday. (Photo Credit: Ted Rockley)


RIP BBC Radio 3 Jazz Message Board

Where will Calum da Jazbo, King Kennytone, Serial Apologist et al end up? They are some of the regular contributors to the BBC Radio 3 Jazz Message Board which will close next Tuesday.
In an announcement on the board, an unnamed BBC suit says

"In the ten years since the Radio 3 message boards were launched, the internet has changed dramatically. There are now many different ways to talk about Radio 3 and talk to each other. We have some big financial challenges ahead and so we're intensifying our efforts to find the most effective ways to use our resources.

As you may know, apart from Radio 4 and the Archers, all the other radio message boards have closed and we have now taken the decision to close the Radio 3 message boards. The boards will close at midday on Tuesday 30th November 2010."

He or she then lists the other places where BBC Radio 3 continess to be present in social media.

And then the "boardees" let rip. I guess you....some of you.... are welcome here. *cowers*


Where Jamie Cullum is tonight

There are concert halls. And then there is the Palau de la Musica Catalana in Barcelona.

But for the rest of us, oh well, there's always this gig on February 4th.


London Jazz Festival Review (29): Gareth Lockrane Big Band

Gareth Lockrane Big Band
(Spice of Life, Sunday 21 November. Review by Fran Hardcastle)

Two years after their London Jazz Festival debut in 2008, the Gareth Lockrane Big Band made a welcome return last Sunday, to the relaxed atmosphere of the Spice of Life. The Big Band provides not only a vehicle for Lockrane’s virtuosic flute solos, but a perfect platform for the rest of the band's hand picked players, for whom Lockrane’s utterly satisfying original compositions are written.

‘I remember the X-Men’, on a slightly 60’s groove set the afternoon off with a buzz. A predictably enjoyable hard blown solo came from Brandon Allen on alto sax. My personal favourite of the day, Roots opened with a righteous solo from popular pianist Ross Stanley, a man who can preach gospel-vibed piano like no other, before locking into tight bluesy groove. Robbie Harvey's eloquent trombone solo was followed by a riotously hot moment from tenor sax player, Ben Somers.

Lockrane told us that the last chart of the set, a dedication to bassist Denis Irwin, came out of his slight obsession with the gospel turnaround, with a sample provided by Ross Stanley, which he referred to as ‘the augmented axis’. Entertaining theory lesson finished, a tasty hook from bassist, Ryan Trebilcock set up the next chart, which included a great battle between tenor sax players George Crowley and Ben Somers. Gavin Broom settled into the groove with a laid back trumpet solo.

Scottish guitarist, Kevin Glasgow was featured on one of the charts in the second set. A fine player, and definitely a name to look out for. Lockrane's standout soloing performance came in Dark Swinger, a tricky chart with a super speedy theme, which also provided a great platform for trumpeter Steve Fishwick.

I would like to hear more of Lockrane’s smile inducing Big Band. In fact I would like to carry them all around in my pocket and have them play to me every day. Where is that elusive first album?


Storms/ Nocturnes is Kickstarted

Congratulations to Tim Garland, Geoff Keezer, Joe Locke (also known as Storms/ Nocturnes) and producer Nadja von Massow on successfully raising the $8,000 they were seeking for a new recording via Kickstarter, with six days to go before close.

Here's our original piece from a few weeks and a few thousand dollars ago.


London Jazz Festival- Thanks on Thanksgiving Day

Having just posted our twenty-eighth and final London Jazz Festival review, it is time to take stock; to offer a few thanks on Thanksgiving Day - with a little help from the late Nat Adderley on his birthday; and possibly to slow down.

-We have produced - in total - fifty-one pieces relating to the festival, this one not included. They were:

-Twenty previews
-A curtain-raiser and list of previews on the first day
-Twenty-eight reviews
-One which was not quite a review

-A "how was the Festival for you?" piece


-A total of twenty-two wonderful people have made contributions to the site. So a huge thank you (in alphabetical order of surname) to all of you:

Jeanie, Tim, William, Rod, Lisa,
Thomas, Frank, Patrick, Rosie,Fran,
Alison, Sarah, Andrew, Mark, Alyn, Peter,
Adam, Roger, Jon, Alex, Oliver and Geoffrey.

And to the festival organizers and others associated with it. And the musicians and venues...


London Jazz Festival (28) Review: TheBad Plus and Django Bates

The Bad Plus
(Days 1 and 3 of Kings Place residency, part of London Jazz Festival, Thursday 18th and Saturday 20th November 2010; review and drawings by Geoff Winston)

The Bad Plus delivered two greatly different concerts at either end of their 3-day residency, which speaks volumes for their collective level of confidence and imagination. Ethan Iverson (piano) , David King (drums) and Reid Anderson (bass) made themselves at home at Kings Place, and presented a series of events to celebrate their first ten years. Their powerful opening concert showcased their most recent album, Never Stop (Emarcy) the first they have released containing only original tunes. On the final night they teamed up with Django Bates for an extraordinary, uncategorisable improvised set.

Going back to the 1990s, Iverson sowed the seeds which formally became the Bad Plus at the turn of the century. Since then the three have given great dedication to the evolution of their trio, and steered a course which combines virtuosity with a bubbling inquisitive streak and a magpie sensibility. Assiduously refusing to be pigeon-holed they hover over the pools of anthemic pop, flamboyant classical and ardent minimalism, yet can always be tracked back to a jazz grounding. This wide-ranging referencing disguises their discipline and command, a trait which can wrong-foot the uninitiated.

The first night was very much about the trio. The Bad Plus responded to the space and exceptional acoustics of Hall One by treating it almost as a studio. Cheered by a dedicated audience as they took to the stage, they kicked off with the deliberate, solo bass intro of 'Let Our Garden Grow' which let in a diversionary, simple piano melody and saw King, as ever, grappling with the possibilities of percussion, scraping the end of a drumstick on a cymbal, beating a child's toy containing bells, or very quietly brushing the drum kit with his hands.

The dramatic 'And here we test our powers of observation' followed, before easing in to numbers from the new album. Their choppy changes wove a melodramatic and melancholy filmic backdrop which might have been a journey across the American continent, taking in the moods and cultures of the midwest, from which they hail. I was reminded of the Jacques Loussier Trio; Anderson as Michelot, Iverson as Loussier ... they have that ability to mine the popular and the classical from a jazz perspective.

'2PM' - 'tea time?' Iverson ventured mock-resignedly, perhaps because he was in London, was dedicated to Paul Motian, with a jaunty theme (almost 'Secret Love') and a piano deviation so offbeat it might have been 'Chopsticks' at one point. 'People Like You' and the unrecorded 'In Stitches' were memorable for their poignancy and quiet composure, qualities which infused much of their intense two-hour set.

It was in the setting of unbridled improvisation with a musician whom they all admire, but had never previously performed with, Django Bates, that they showed the other side of their musical personality. Closer to Iverson's and King's sorties with Buffalo Collision, they generously gave both house room and the initiative to Django in a one and a half hour roller-coaster ride where all four had to be at the peak of their improvisational game, lest they should drop the meteorically fast-travelling baton.

It was a remarkable dialogue of pure invention, dynamic discord and constant movement. For a spell we might have been in a Stockhausen concert where they juggled with crackly electronics and absurdist interventions, with Iverson bouncing on his piano stool to add creaks to the sonic texture. Gershwin, Rachmaninov and Art Blakey were always just round the corner, too.

Django's frenetic electric keyboard work was dazzling, changing pace and tone by the minute, augmented by his tenor horn and synthesised vocals - a great foil to Iverson's florid restraint on the acoustic grand, King's meticulous, madcap drumming collages and Anderson's ventures in to the percussive as well as the more conventional potential of the upright bass. All of which didn't stop them leaning in to a rich blues segment, beautifully held. Visually, too, Django's orange button-down shirt provided contrast to Iverson's formal monochrome, and when he launched in to one lavish solo, the Plus ground to a halt to just watch and delight in his invention.

To round off proceedings, a session with Seb Rochford and Leafcutter John in Hall Two saw them in a more relaxed mode after their earlier exertions.

Thursday was an evening of brilliant poise and balance. Saturday was a total, special, one-off. The two combined were a great adventure

Jazz on 3 will be broadcasting the Saturday concert on January 17th 2011.


London Jazz Festival Review (27) The Creole Choir of Cuba

The Creole Choir of Cuba
(Theatre Royal, Stratford, part of London Jazz Festival, Wednesday November 17th, review by Jeanie Barton, photo credit: Roger Thomas)

East London was host to an emotionally charged, passionate and energetic production by The Creole Choir of Cuba, also known as Desandann, (descendants of their Haitian ancestors). Originally bought to Cuba to work in near slave conditions in the sugar and coffee plantations, their pained but ultimately uplifting piece of theatre moved the audience to their feet.

The A Capella choir worked their show in two halves; the first predominantly featured freedom songs passed down by their parents and grandparents. The opening number Mangaje ‘Fey’ (faith) was a traditional Haitian folk song. This and all but one of their numbers were sung in Creole, Cuba’s second language. Yordanka Sanchez Fajardo’s piercing operatic soprano voice cut through the smoke filled stage, silencing the audience, followed by full African style harmonies and percussive breathing wrought with harrowing sobs, desperate chants and stamps. It was intense. It was voodoo.

Within the small Victorian theatre the stage was simply set with congas and a few microphones on stands. The choir all used hand held radio microphones enabling them to weave in and out of one another in tableau like movements and almost improvised dance. Golden spots poured on them from above like the Caribbean sun. The women were dressed in long golden brown robes; their heads wrapped in matching cloths and the men in matching shirts with black trousers. This traditional garb complemented the repertoire.

The third number, Maroule sounded more Cuban, it was fronted by Irian Rondon Montejo who looked and sounded somewhat like Omara Portuondo from Buena Vista Social Club. It is clear when you hear songs sung in their language based on 18th-century French, how the cultures have merged to create the passionate almost Parisian grooves of the Cuban music we know and love. It is a heavenly fusion.
I somehow felt I was experiencing the origins of jazz in the flesh - traditionally born from the sophisticated Creole culture, the community was classically trained and blended this knowledge with the soul and passion of blues alongside other influences - the Creole choir’s powerful voices and technical skill created a truly authentic repertoire.

Something else they cannot separate is music from dance. The close of the first half was Tande by Eddy Francois (adapt. Marcelo Andres Luis). Fidel Romero Miranda soloed, jumping down into the auditorium to work the room and then spectacularly back flipping up onto the stage for the close – breathtaking!

The second half saw the cast change into robes of primary colours, with long sparkly New Orleans style beads around their necks, swinging as they sang. They also played more hand held percussion, Marcelo Andres Luis who sang bass played a metal spanner against a metal disk as well as various shakers and guiros.

Stand-out moments were - literally - Unforgettable. They sang Gordon Irving’s ballad made famous by Nat King Cole in English, in close Ellingtonian harmony. Not only did the audience weep but also several members of the choir.
Later on, they invited up on stage two little girls from a local dance troupe – they vigorously danced the two step while everyone clapped their hands – as the show developed, it felt constricted by the confines of the small Victorian proscenium arch theatre. In a friendlier space we could have danced with them as much as they clearly would have liked us to.

It was infectious to witness their organic blend of voice, dance and percussion, for in my view these elements should not be considered in isolation. It is the embodiment of music. As the choir circled the stalls singing a melancholy Cuban encore towards their exit via the lobby, I made a note to myself: book a plane ticket there soon.


London Jazz Festival Review (26) Afrocubism

(Barbican Hall, part of LondonJazz Festival, Sunday November 21st, review and photo by Alison Hoblyn)

This was a night that underscored the LIVE in live music - there was showmanship - and for me, it was an evening as much about watching as listening. The audience was so ready to enjoy the gig; the Barbican was completely packed and buzzing.

We’d heard the story; this was an unfulfilled project from 14 years ago. Nick Gold, producer of Buena Vista Social Club (the largest selling world music CD ever) had originally intended a group of musicians from Mali to play alongside the Cubans. However, a postal snarl-up of their passports disallowed the meeting in Havana and thwarted the dream. But, at last, all the paperwork and all the diaries and all of these respected musicians, each with great solo careers, had coalesced in Madrid earlier this year - and the album AFROCUBISM was born.

In a pre-concert talk Gold described how the musicians, who had never met before, were ‘close together in one large recording space’ and immediately everything gelled; the music ‘poured out’ over 4 or 5 days and the connections just got closer and closer. Eliades Ochoa, the distinctive voice of Buena Vista Social Club described them as ending up as ‘one big family.’ Virtuosic kora player, Toumani Diabaté, said of the offspring of this family ‘Thank God for this new baby that we gave.’ So, not having heard this new baby cry, I was on the edge of my seat to witness the fruit of the union; more just had to be more.

Appropriately enough the introductory piece was entitled Malicuba – a Toumani composition which celebrated the close ties between Mali and Cuba - particularly in the 50s and 60s when West African countries were gaining independence and they were ideologically related. Certainly the musical styles seem happily related, with the regular rhythms and plaintive vocals meshing easily.

The band walked on in sequence, playing and waving to us as they moved. First a quintet of pink-shirted Cubans playing exclamatory trumpets, maracas, guitar and bass. Centre stage, Lassana Diabaté, wearing cool blue as a foil to the hot pink, was on balafon – a kind of xylophone with a softer tone. More percussion came in the form of congas (Cuba) and a delightful ‘talking drum’ (Mali), creating a underlying heartbeat. The sound built up layer by layer and gradually, the ‘stars’, came out. Djelimady Tounkara on electric guitar, Bassekou Kouyaté on ngoni – an apparently rudimentary, calabash-shaped, stringed instrument, out of which he coaxed the most complex and clear notes. Kasse Mady Diabaté, a vocalist of emotion and power, at times sounding like a melodic muezzin. Eliades Ochoa – guitarist and vocal star of BVSC and, last but not least, Toumani Diabaté on kora – a seated presence anchoring the gathering.

The Malians were resplendent in silken robes, the tall figure of Bassekou in glimmering green like a pine tree bestriding the stage. Eliades was in black with Stetson and tapping Cuban heels. (I amused myself by trying to spot the difference between a Cuban sway and a Malian sway – it’s subtle but it is different!) Not only did I enjoy this visual treat but I couldn’t have understood all the sounds without using my eyes too. At times, the complex layers of instruments tended to deliquesce into homogeneity – one sound cancelling out another. Sometimes less is more. Thankfully, I was able to rediscover the individual beauty of most of the instruments on the CD, with its crisp recording.

Musically, highlights were Jarabi (meaning passion) with a great kora solo – and Guantanamera; this began with improvisation between the strings of Toumani, Bassekou and Eliades – with only a tease of melody. When the tune emerged the audience erupted into the applause of recognition; by the time the brass and drums came in with power, people were up on their feet dancing – and many remained in that mode for the rest of the evening! There was no interval, which meant the spell of the performance was never broken – and the amazing energy was maintained to the end. It was living mix of visual and audible delights.

For more spirit-lifting moments, they will be performing at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh on December 2nd and at the Royal Albert Hall on June 27th 2011

This concert will be broadcast on Radio 3 on this Saturday 27th November, in World Routes, at 3pm


Vortex Fundraiser - Jamie Cullum in Margate - New Date Feb 4 2011


UPDATE TO PREVIOUS POST: "Due to unforeseen circumstances the Vortex Fundraiser at The Winter Gardens in Margate has been postponed until 4th February 2011. Jamie Cullum is extremely sorry about this and promises to make the show extra special in the new year.

All original tickets for the show, now called ‘Jamie Cullum and friends’ will remain valid for the new date but if you wish to receive a refund on a ticket you have already purchased you must contact the box office by 10th December on 01843 296111.

Tickets £27.50, £25.00. Call: 01843 292795 or 296111.

(I'm wondering if they'll do the song Kurt Weill wrote about Margate....)

Note: The Vortex , which Jamie is supporting through this gig, is a dedicated arts venue in Dalston staffed almost entirely by volunteers. It puts on adventurous programming every night of the week, has a maximum capacity of only 100. Despite its international renown, it has only ever got on to Arts Council England's radar once: ACE paid for half the cost of the club's piano.


Your Ship Comes In

Jim Mullen, the most poetic of guitarists, will be celebrating his 65th birthday this Saturday at Kings Place (a Spitz promotion) with a great young band. LondonJazz newsletter subscribers can enter a prize draw for a double prize. We are not just offering two free tickets for the concert. The superb Rotunda restaurant at Kings Place has also stepped in - thank you - and offered our winner and his or her guest a free meal either before or after the concert.

Here's Kurt Weill's My Ship. The floating of the melody is gorgeous. Classical music enthusiasts will appreciate the passing nod to Mozart's G minor Symphony. Jazz nuts will pick up "It might as well be Spring."

And if there is a techie out there.... who can tell me how the hell I can stop my Dell laptop transposing Jim down a major third into Db, you're my new best friend!


Review: Gill Manly

Review: Gill Manly
(Jazz Café POSK, Saturday 20th November. Review by Fran Hardcastle)

This was my first visit to POSK and it most certainly won’t be my last. From the second I walked through the door, I was made to feel very welcome. Entering the club downstairs, I walked into a lovely relaxed atmosphere, created by its warm, young and mainly Polish audience. I suspect this place will quickly become my favourite weekend hang out. Sebastian gave it a full review here.

A sparkling opener to the first set came from her trio of the jazz singers’ pianist of choice Barry Green, bassist Geoff Gascoyne and former Seal drummer Michele Drees.

Back in January, Manly performed a very well received tribute to Nina Simone at Ronnie's, so her first song, Simone’s Exactly Like You was a welcome start. Manly has a huge, soulful instrument that impresses in powerful bluesy numbers but her defining skill is her ability to equally offer arrestingly sensitive and gentle tones. Her choice of repertoire was a fantastic showcase for the vast range of her voice.

The uniquely delivered, Try a Little Tenderness , was a perfect vehicle for the rich bluesy sound she can produce. As a consummate musician, Manly can play around with a melody enough to make it her own, whilst avoiding the occasional jazz singer mistake of losing it entirely.

A highlight of the first set was the beautiful Italian bossa, Bruno Martino's Estaté, which started with a lusciously delicate delivery from Manly, before evolving into a rather dirty little groove and foxy mama scat. Barry Green’s solo in This Masquerade continued the funky theme. Former Seal drummer, Michele Drees impressed with her tasty solo in You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To, and her duo with Gill to end the chart was utterly delicious.

The second set featured a guest spot from singer Shireen Francis. With Go Away Little Boy, charmingly conveyed by Francis through excellent, playful improvisation.

Manly showed off her swing credentials with standard, It Don’t Mean a Thing, featuring a perky bass solo from Gascoyne. The most touching moment of the evening came when she sang the James Taylor song, Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight, something she explained as an apt choice on the eve of her cardiac surgery. Whatever the reason behind it, her haunting emotional delivery sent tingles down my spine. The rest of the audience also savoured the moment.

Gill Manly will be appearing at the Pheasantry on 17 December. A highly recommended gig.


London Jazz Festival Review (25) Harlem Gospel Choir/ Golden Gate Quartet

Golden Gate Quartet / Harlem Gospel Choir
(Royal Festival Hall, part of London Jazz Festival, 19th November, review by Alison Hoblyn)

The London Jazz Festival has brought us a width of talent, young and old, and the 82 year old Clyde Wright, singer in the Golden Gate Quartet will - along with Jon Hendriks and Martial Solal - have been one of the senior performers.

Wright's membership of the group, founded in 1934, spans 56 years and his last London gig was the Palladium in the 50s. But his energy was still palpable from the back of the Royal Festival Hall.

The Quartet, four dapper dudes in DJs began the concert singing a capella with butter smooth voices. The impossibly low bass voice of Anthony Gordon, had the stirring tones of a Russian Orthodox chant. In the favourite, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, he encouraged us to join in the chorus and the warm-up effect soon spread through the audience.

The concert had been introduced by a confident Jumoke Fashola in a striking red turban who remarked that this "might not be the night when you decide to be completely British." A good proportion of the audience complied; many were on their feet by the time they sang Standing in the Need of Prayer. The voices of Frank Davis (1st tenor) and Paul Brembly (baritone) were also highlighted but Clyde Wright finished their set; he sang his own prayer, Only Believe, and asked us to concentrate on someone or something who needed healing whilst he sang it. It was an open display of faith that may have discomfited the "completely British" but, judging by the rapturous applause, certainly engaged the majority.

After the interval, with the audience warmed through, the Harlem Gospel Choir was assured of a fine welcome. The lighting ramped up X-Factor-style, but my expectations of a huge chorus were confounded when just nine people appeared; four men and five women. Despite this they exploded on to the stage belting out "God you are good and your mercy endureth forever."

Personally, I found the sound rather over-amplified, as if to make up for the small numbers. In fact, one of the most powerful moments for me was when they all stepped forward from their microphones and communicated with plain voice.

A choir member explained this was the launch of their Songs of Praise tour, ahead of the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the choir's founding in January 1986. They tour extensively raising money for children's charities and sing in three separate groups; another arm was presently in Prague. Our contingent had flown in the night before, were back to the US the next day and on to Russia within the week. No wonder they need supernatural energy.

Certainly a gospel spirit conveyed itself in a great version of Amazing Grace with a pure solo by Daria and a bluesy chorus. I really enjoyed the pleasure of the audience; we were soon on our feet waving arms Pentecostal-fashion to Holy,Holy,Holy.

Our presenter had said that "the swing and groove of jazz" was integrated in these gospel performances. My feeling was more that these performances took jazz back to its roots - but who cares anyway when the music can take you over so completely?!


London Jazz Festival Review (24) Strayhorn the Songwriter in 11 pictures

Strayhorn The Songwriter
(Queen Elizabeth Hall, part of London Jazz Festival, essay in photos by William Ellis)

First you need some great songs, and they don't come greater than "Take the "A" Train"....

And a few instruments might help

And a man with a concept who's researched Strayhorn: Alex Webb

And a bandleader - Frank Griffith - to take care of the music, and his nonet (Jimmy Hastings, Mick Foster, Henry Lowther, Robbie Robson, Adrian Fry, Tim Lapthorn, Simon Woolf and Paul Clarvis)

And a singer, Alexander Stewart

And a diva, China Moses. Yes please.

And sometimes a little bit of company is nice too

And Sirena Riley to present the show - professionally

And the singers can get a little sassy

And quite friendly too....

But in the end, Strayhorn's songs speak for themselves, and make a great evening


EUROPA JAZZ 2010 – a Christmas Celebration- Dec 14th

Take any excuse to celebrate. Try this one:

"130 years of British – Romanian Diplomatic Relations and Romania’s European vocation."

Yup. I kid you not. It's a free evening of European Jazz at Europe House, at 32 Smith Square, London SW1P 3EU, on Dec 14th from 7-10pm.

How do you get in? : email london@french-music.org and tell them whether you want one or two places

Who's on?

7.30pm - Hannes Riepler & Philipp M Moll – Austrian guitar and double bass duo
8.20pm – Myrddin – Belgian flamenco guitar virtuoso
9.20pm – Marc Demuth & Sofia Ribeiro Duo Luxembourg doublebassist
and Portuguese singer
9.50pm - “130” Façade Video Projection by the Romanian Cultural Institute in London

Attendees will also get a free copy of the double CD 'Europe House presents Europa Jazz 2010'



Preview: Esther Bennett on the songs of Duncan Lamont Sr.

Esther Bennett writes about the songs of Duncan Lamont Sr,. which she is singing at the Pheasantry in Kings Road on Monday November 29th.

A quick walk through Duncan Lamont Sr.'s credentials shows that he has been a studio player (often featured soloist) on tenor saxohone for Henry Mancini, Benny Goodman, Gil Evans, Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby,Tony Bennett and Paul McCartney...

And that as a composer his songs have been performed and recorded by Natalie Cole, Blossom Dearie, Mark Murphy, Cleo Laine, Norma Winstone, Claire Martin and Ian Shaw...

These are songs which transport the singer and audience straight to a particular time and place, or mood or feel. The lyrical content of "Pretty People," for example, is wryly observant:

"He does something in the city she’s in fabric and design
they’re pretty people, such pretty people.
They’ve a house right on the river and a cellar full of wine,
they’re pretty people”

or try the conversational and secret-sharing intimacy of "I Didn’t Know You At All":

"I thought I knew you so well?
I never quite heard your laughter.
I took your love in my stride.
Now…..I remember your laughter."

The recent "I’ve Just Said Goodbye To The Blues" invites you to “live laugh love and Samba your cares away.”

From a personal point of view, I feel that Duncan’s lyrics reveal a deep understanding of the human condition, and of women, and that the music itself contains a great deal of soul.

As one would expect from a musician, composer and arranger of Duncan’s sophistication, the melodic lines that are often far from predictable, offering many unexpected intervals and rhythmic tricks and turns that are a joy to learn.

I am opening the show with "52nd Street." The quotes and references speak for themselves and fully illustrate a lifetime's experience and education in jazz.

Thank you Duncan. It is a privilege to work with you, and will be an honour to have you with me (and John Crawford on piano and Simon Little on bass) at The Pheasantry on Monday November 29th. I look forward to continuing to give your songs the love and respect they deserve.

www.pizzaexpresslive.com/ 0845 6027 017 -SHOWTIME 8.30PM / £17.50


The King of Kings Place

Here's David King, drummer of The Bad Plus, caught in full flight by the lens of Tim Dickeson at Friday night's London Jazz Festival gig with Wendy Lewis. At least one stick got broken and flew across the stage.

A wonderful, quieter moment came later when the trio and Lewis sang unplugged, a capella, in four-part harmony, to pindrop silence in the pristine acoustic of Kings Place Hall One, this couplet from Neil Young:

Keep me searching for a heart of gold.
And I'm getting old.


London Jazz Festival Review (23) Sonny Rollins at 80

Sonny Rollins at 80
(Barbican, part of London Jazz Festival, November 20th 2010, review by Rosie Hanley)

At a packed-out Barbican Hall, more than 1,900 fans, musicians and industry leaders waited excitedly to hear the revered saxophonist Sonny Rollins. The atmosphere was electric and as Rollins shuffled onto the stage he received a standing ovation. The audience held their breath waiting to hear that unmistakeable sound.

The first two tunes didn’t disappoint, but it was only after his ballad that his stamina seemed to double and his playing exceeded our hopes as Rollins blew us away, pointing his sax at lucky front row audience members. Rollins reached all the limits of the tenor saxophone playing through the registers with ease, with particular power in the very low register. He started his solos at high intensity; no need to build them up, he just slammed them from the start.

Trading fours with other members of the band, Russell Malone (guitar), Bob Cranshaw (bass), Sammy Figueroa (percussion) and Kobie Watkins (drums) Rollins proved his sympathetic ear and creativity. The extended drum solo by Watkins was incredible.

Playing ‘In a Sentimental Mood’ Sonny easily quoted ‘I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart’, ‘C Jam Blues’ and ‘Don’t Get Around Much Anymore’ , Rollins’ whole body coursed with the music, he surely has jazz, instead of blood, running through his veins?!

Stepping up to the mic after over two hours of straight playing, Rollins addressed the Barbican Hall with words of love for London saying, "I dig it here", and offering pearls of wisdom such as, "the only thing in life is to live life straight" and "it’s so important to have good friends, that’s how we live". I could feel a teardrop in my eye, and I know I wasn't alone.

Ending with the unbelievably energetic signature calypso tune, ‘Don’t Stop the Carnival’ Rollins had people up on their feet dancing and whooping. The roar from the audience when the song was over was deafening! The entire audience stood in respect and the applause seemed to last forever. An incredible night, which will live in the memory for many years.

Everyone backstage after the show was buzzing. Courtney Pine, Soweto Kinch and Moira Stuart among others were all excitedly talking about what we had just heard. I spoke to Sonny later one and he told me that all jazz musicians are blessed – we aren’t all as blessed as you, Sonny, with your incredible talent, kindness and humility. A true inspiration.


Review: London Jazz Orchestra - Kenny Wheeler Long Suite 2005

London Jazz Orchestra
(Vortex, November 21st 2010. Photo credit: LJO sax section by
tigz pix/ Em Baker)

Who knows why this gig at the Vortex, during the London Jazz Festival, didn't make it into the festival programme. Whatever. If the London Jazz Orchestra 's appearance at the Vortex on Sunday afternoon didn't demand attention, it certainly deserved it. Mainly because the main work being played, Kenny Wheeler's "Long Suite 2005" is music of a significance, and of a value as great and as lasting as anything else which has been played in the past ten days.

There was some talk of anniversaries at the gig: not just Kenny Wheeler's 80th birthday in January of this year, but also 20 years of the "new" London Jazz Orchestra" (it also existed in the 1960's) due be celebrated next year.

The LJO is a band of top-flight professionals, totally committed to the music it presents and plays. Musicans in their day-to-day lives have to strike a balance, to juggle between the need to earn money and the deep compulsion to perform music of the highest quality at the highest level. And all the points in between. The LJO is at the the quality-plus-commitment end of that particular spectrum. One player had got in a car at the crack of dawn in Sunderland in order to play this rehearsal and gig. It's similar to the motivation of the classical players who respond to Claudio Abbado's call to perform in his Lucerne Festival Orchestra.

Conductor Scott Stroman explained to the Vortex audience that LJO has always had the feel of a "band writing its own music" The first half contained interesting charts by Pete Hurt, Henry Lowther and Pete Saberton. "Bill's Canadian Snowmobile" ended the first set on a high.

"Long Suite 2005," a continuous, through-composed piece which twists and turns. Under the sheen of a beautiful melodic line there are fascinating shifting harmonies It just bursts with melodic invention.

Kenny Wheeler was a founder member of the orchestra. What was fascinating about this gig was to hear the music start to move away from him. Music of this quality will inevitably start to develop its own life away from the original dedicatees. The vocal part was performed with limpid grace and impassioned flawless precision by Brigitte Beraha. The Kenny Wheeler flugelhorn part was played by Henry Lowther, whose every phrase tells a story. Among others, Martin Speake on alto saxophone and Phil Lee on guitar took their solos with grace and conviction. Among the younger players, bassist Dave Manington and trumpeters Robbie Robson and Yazmin Ahmed caught the ear.

As someone who listens to a lot of music for the first time, I have a scale of responses. And the only response I can conceivably think of to this music is that I hope it gets performed, again, soon. And that I will be there, again, when that happens.


London Jazz Festival Review (22) Louis Moholo Moholo at Seventy

Louis Moholo-Moholo at Seventy- Seven for Seventy plus No Gossip
(Purcell Room, part of London Jazz Festival, Friday November 19th 2010, review and photo credit: Roger Thomas)

Legendary South African drummer Louis Moholo celebrates his 70th birthday this year. Sole survivor of the uncompromising Blue Notes who hot-tailed it out of the repressive South Africa in 1964, his playing right from the start of this Purcell Room concert showed no signs that his three score years and ten have dimmed his fire.

Moholo has said that No Gossip, the duo with long his time associate and friend, pianist Keith Tippett, gives each of them the opportunity to explore things musically which they would not normally be able to do in larger ensembles. The first set was a continuous performance, in which Moholo played from the outset a subtly energised undercurrent of patterns, complementing Tippett's gentler-paced piano. Tippett moved through different textures of sound, creating moods that you would not think possible over the effervescent Moholo.

At one point Tippett placed what looked like pieces of card and other paraphernalia across the piano strings giving the piano a sound similar to that of a harpsichord or zither and creating a mood I felt reminiscent at one point to Eric Satie, which together with the hustle and bustle of Moholo's drums I felt I had been transported to a Parisian thoroughfare with Moholo's drums providing the traffic and pedestrian noises.

Another mood they created together seemed to bring back their respective pasts. Tippett conjured up a child-like sound playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. The quiet chanting of 'Mongezi, Mongezi, Mongezi Feza', in memory of that great trumpet player was highly emotional; as was the embrace and look of total enjoyment they emanated at the end of the performance (below).

The second half served up Seven For Seventy: Moholo was joined by Francine Luce - vocals; Jason Yarde - alto,soprano & baritone sax; Henry Lowther - trumpet & flugel horn; Ntshuks Bonga - alto & soprano sax; Alex Hawkins - piano and John Edwards - bass.

Moholo took full charge of the energy tap directing the proceedings from his drum stool. There were times, I would guess, when Moholo had simply overruled or spontaneously changed what had been rehearsed, to go with what he was currently feeling. This rawness, together chants and stage discourse at various points made for a happy township atmosphere. With the occasional bellowing of Jason Yarde's baritone and the sonorous sound of John Edwards' bass, I felt compelled to move my body.

Proceedings did mellow out in places - not necessarily for Moholo to catch his breath, but to treat us to the expressive voice of Francine Luce. One song which was delivered in French/Creole elicited a response from the gentleman sittling next to me, 'bellisimo'. He was obviously Italian, and indeed it was beautiful and certainly showed how strong her voice is through its entire range.

The set eventually concluded with a reprise of one of the songs played earlier in the set and during the township like discourse on stage you would hear a voice saying ' I know we've played it before'.

The audience at the end were all on their feet trying to stomp up an encore, but, alas, to no avail. Moholo still has the strength: he is reputed to have played an almost three hour set with that great pianist Cecil Taylor recently, non-stop!! For which all I can say is Happy Birthday Louis, and Viva La Moholo!

This concert will be broadcast on Jazz on 3 on 24th January 2011. Louis Moholo-Moholo will also be on Jazz Library on December 4th


London Jazz Festival Review (21) Nikki Yanofsky/ Brass Jaw

Nikki Yanofsky plus Brass Jaw
(Purcell Room, part of London Jazz Festival, November 17th 2010, review by Rosie Hanley)

First up on the Purcell Room stage was the Scottish quartet, Brass Jaw - Ryan Quigley (trumpet), Paul Towndrow (alto sax), Konrad Wiszniewski, (tenor sax) and Allon Beauvoisin (baritone sax).

Their arrangements were meticulous, their rhythms impeccably tight and their tempi impressively precise throughout, and all without the safety net of a rhythm section. Each of the band members compose for the group and noteworthy originals played this evening were, ‘Well Dented Clavicle’ by Towndrow and ‘Rochester Rumble’ by Beauvosin.

Wiszniewski, and Towndrow played the most explosive solos of the foursome. Quigley seemed to have the lung capacity of all three sax players together and Beauvoisin’s articulation was immense. Brass Jaw finished their well received forty five minute set to rapturous applause.

At the tender age of 16, Montreal-born Nikki Yanofsky has already caused quite a stir. Critics compare her to Ella Fitzgerald and the majority comment on how her voice belies her young age. Nikki came bounding onto the stage and her friendly demeanour made her immediately likeable. She opened with ‘Take the A Train’. Her voice was beautiful with meltingly mellow tones in the lower register and pitch perfect power in the high register.

Introducing ‘You’ve Changed’, Yanofsky endearingly recalls, “I’ve been singing this song since I was like 12” as though it was centuries, and not merely four years, ago. Nikki’s rendition of Ella Fitzgerald’s ‘You’ll Have to Swing it (Mr Paganini)’ was simply excellent and her vivaciousness poured out of every Ella inflection which she sang perfectly.

I was so mesmerised by Nikki and her confident ability to engage with the audience that I completely forgot to take note of the band until halfway through her set. Andy Dacoulis (guitar), John Sadowy (piano), Rob Fahie (bass) and Richard Irwin (drums) were slick, accomplished players who provided excellent support for Nikki. Her set mixed jazz, rock and pop. She appears to be currently at her strongest singing jazz though, as her renditions of Don Henley’s ‘Heart of the Matter’ and the Beatles’ ‘Two of Us’ still have further to develop to be fully convincing.

The hype is true. When Nikki sings her voice really does belie her young years. She deservedly finished the evening to a standing ovation. It feels safe to predict that her innate musicality will continue to grow as undoubtedly her audience will too, bringing more, much needed, listeners to jazz.

Nikki Yanofsky's new album, Nikki, is due for release in the UK 10th January 2011 on the Decca label.


Top UK Jazz Blogs Listing

-A belated thank you to Cision.com for including us a few months ago on their listing of the top five UK jazz blogs

-Congratulations to Orgy in Rhythm for coming top - they have most recently featured Bobby Jaspar (above)

-And a tip of the hat to Tyneside and Lance Liddle's Bebop Spoken Here blog for spotting the list


London Jazz Festival Review (20) Benny Goodman Quartet and Beyond

After You've Gone: The Benny Goodman Quartet and Beyond
Purcell Room, part of London Jazz Festival, November 20th 2010, review by Alyn Shipton)

One aspect of several of the concerts I've managed to get to at this year's London Jazz Festival is that they've been good fun. Across the stylistic spectrum, introspective beard-stroking and head nodding has given way to broad grins and foot-tapping. But few events have had quite so much uninhibited joy as Richard Pite's Jazz Repertory Company paying tribute to the four members of the Benny Goodman Quartet. As well as Pite's extrovert, Krupa-esque drumming, Pete Long (clarinet-above left with tenor sax), Colin Goode (piano) and Alan Grahame (vibes) stomped through a fine selection of the quartet repertoire, before turning their attention to music made independently by each of the original participants. Joan Viskant (above right) sang her way elegantly through some of the Billie Holiday / Teddy Wilson classics, and although Long seemed to be grappling with the intonation of his tenor on "Mean To Me", the band cleverly evoked the spirit of those 1930s sessions, as they also did with some lively blowing on the Hampton small group material.

Where the concert really moved up a gear from very good to excellent was in the Gene Krupa section. Rico Tomasso and Joan Viskant mugged their way through "Drop Me Off Uptown" with some fiery Eldridge-style trumpet from Tomasso. Then Richard Pite's flair for capturing Krupa's show-biz tricks came to the fore. He hammered deftly on the strings of Jerome Davies 's bass on "Big Noise from Winnetka" , turned in a solo that involved juggling his sticks, then throwing them up high in the air and catching them in time to come thundering in on the down beat, and rounded it all off by playing a solo on a matchbox with matchsticks that finally (almost) burst into flame. When hokum is combined with fine musicianship, the whole experience becomes even more good humoured.

By the end of the Krupa-focused numbers, the audience was in party mood, and the final Goodman sextet pieces with Martin Wheatley 's vintage electric guitar emulating the authentic sound of Charlie Christian , saw everybody off happily into the dusk. It is to the Festival's credit that it finds a place for traditional and mainstream jazz in its programme. and when it is as well played as this, and such straightforward fun into the bargain, it all adds to what has been one of the most enjoyable of recent London Jazz Festivals.


London Jazz Festival Review (19) Curios/ Geri Allen

Tom Cawley's Curios/ Geri Allen
(Purcell Room, part of London Jazz Festival, November 17th 2010, review by Patrick Hadfield)

An evening of pianists at the Purcell Room: first Tom Cawley's band Curios, and then Geri Allen. Matching these two pianists on the same bill illuminated two alternative approaches to the music.

Curios create an open sound, with lots of space. Joshua Blackmore’s drumming is restrained and quiet, and Sam Burgess’ bass solid behind Cawley’s simple piano forms. Often starting from seemingly mathematical, repetitive structures which brought classical minimalism to mind, the trio built the intensity without needing to fill every moment with sound. The silence between the notes seemed as important as the notes themselves. This music was understated, with a typical English humour – a very thoughtful, enjoyable set.

Geri Allen’s set was very different. Ostensibly playing solo, she played with a backing video; sometimes it was just her piano playing, sometimes both video and piano, and sometimes just video. The changes between the two media were very smooth – it sounds disjointed, but the energy flowed between the two forms. Allen explained the evolution of the project: she had written a suite in tribute to her influences, Cecil Taylor, McCoy Tyner and Herbie Hancock, when filmmaker Carrie Mae Weems approached her with a view to collaboration.

The resulting film features Allen’s music, so at times she was playing live with her recording. The repetitive images – snow falling, a figure climbing a staircase (Ms Allen, I think), women wearing angels’ wings, an ancient wall (perhaps the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem) – were interesting, but distracted rather than added to the music, for me.

Compared to Curios’ open style, Allen produced dense, intense music. She filled all the space with notes. The influence of Taylor was clear, with rumbling, thunderous bass notes. I could hear Tyner in there, too, as Allen played lots of block-chords. Maybe I was looking too hard, but I thought I heard bits of Hancock’s Maiden Voyage in there, too!

The suite was played as one piece, with no interaction with the audience between sections. All of Allen’s attention was on the notes she played, sometime clearly reading – it was complex music – sometimes staring intently at the keys. Her playing was deep and emotive: this music clearly meant a lot to her.

Once the suite finished, she left the stage, but the audience brought her back for an encore. Introducing it as “the music of Charlie Parker”, I thought perhaps she’d play some of Bird’s bebop. Instead, she took us on an exploration of Bird’s music, the starting point being a string of Bird’s solos. Lighter in tone than the suite, this was still intense, as Allen played her bebop exposition at great speed – wonderful stuff.

The audience that remained loved it; but many people had walked out during the earlier suite. I had been surprised that this gig wasn’t a sell-out: there were a lot of empty seats, the only gig in the London Jazz Festival of the many I have been to which wasn't fulll.

Having heard Allen play in other ensembles, the opportunity of hearing her play solo was one not to be missed: but that made it risky and different, too. I’m surprised that jazz fans weren't prepared to give this concert a fair hearing.


London Jazz Festival Review (18) Paco de Lucia

Paco De Lucia
(Royal Festival Hall, part of London Jazz Festival,18th November 2010, review by Rod Fogg)

Jazz has travelled freely around the world, soaking up influences and being reinvented in places far afield from its birthplace. We have French jazz, Swedish jazz, British jazz and so on. Flamenco, in many ways a close relative, has also traveled well but without ever losing its connection to its homeland. Wherever it is played, it speaks of Spain, Andalusia, and its origins in the poverty and oppression of a minority.

In his own country Paco de Lucia is both hero and legend; he is the embodiment of a free creative spirit, yet he remains rooted in tradition. Making his debut as a boy in a different world, in Franco's Spain in 1958, he went exploring, pushing at the boundaries, inventing jazz/flamenco fusion and bringing in new instruments and an extended harmonic language. You could sense the affection in the cries of support from the many Spanish speakers in the audience.

Flamenco shows tend to follow a predictable route, full of intensity and passion, with guitar introductions joined by singing and dancing leading to an ensemble climax. In many ways this was a very traditional concert. It began with a solo piece, played freely, perhaps even hesitantly, as if feeling his way; with gently plucked strings, closely voiced chords and guitar percussion, blending European, Gypsy, Moorish and Arabic and yet not sounding like any one of these. Gradually, Paco de Lucia was joined by his ensemble; two singers, a dancer, a second guitarist, bass guitarist, percussion, and keyboardist who doubled, spectacularly, on harmonica.

The music was engrossing, moving, perhaps at times even transcendental. There was so much virtuosity on display, and not just from Paco. The first half followed more-or-less the traditional flamenco structure; the second half was more jazz-influenced, with extended solos from all the musicians and themes stated in unison between guitar and harmonica. Though the sound was a long way from the traditional rawness of the guitar supported only by cajon (a boxlike percussion instrument) this was still flamenco more than jazz, while the broader textures afforded by the large band hinted at world music. This was the sound of Paco de Lucia drawing inspiration from his roots, blending the earth song of flamenco with elements of grooving jazz improvisation. The lengthy standing ovation at the end of the concert says it all.

Notes: (1) There are post-concert comments on Andrew McCormack's preview.
(2) If anyone knows/ would like to add the names of the others onstage, please do - thanking you in advance! (3) Photo Wikimedia)


How was the festival for you?

Here's a place to tell LondonJazz readers what you think about the London Jazz Festival ? Not specific gigs, unless you can't find them covered here, but your overall experience.

The talk I've been hearing is that, yes, there have been amazing gigs, but also clashes, things people wanted to hear but couldn't. And then there's the question of whether the festival needs a "heart."

Go on then, what do you think?


UPDATE: Here's Peter Slavid's account of what HIS festival has been like:

I have been reading the reviews of festival gigs here and elsewhere with great interest – but since none of the events I attended seem to have been covered I thought it was time to give my account.

First of all some general comments. Like most of you I have to pay for my tickets, so attending a dozen or more £20 gigs simply isn’t on. Let alone the big set piece gigs at £35 and upward. So I spend a lot of time at free gigs and I pick what tickets I’m willing to pay for. (which would be a lot easier if the printed programme included the prices!)

Like any good festival, there’s too much to choose from, and I made some brilliant decisions and some really awful ones – but I got to see some fantastic music in what I think has been the most interesting programme for years if you like your music cutting edge.

-My first gig was the Jazz on 3 free gig at Ronnie Scott’s. Good fun, and a terrific set from Chris Potter – but all too short.

-Sunday I was at the free Clore Ballroom for Alex Riel ’s talented group, then Little Red Suitcase (an interesting duo I thought were bit overwhelmed by the space – I’d like to see them in a club setting) and Ibrahim Electric (great Scandinavian jazz rock).

-Then on to the free stage in the QEH to watch Soweto Kinch and Shabaka Hutchings giving their take on the history of modern jazz. This was articulate, interesting and brilliantly presented – and made me want to throw things! I fundamentally disagree with their Wynton Marsalis-like views on jazz as a music that is only legitimate if it draws its inspiration from the tradition. What a shame there was no opportunity for debate.

-On Monday I was away from the festival, watching Fela! At the National Theatre (incidentally am I the only person who realised that the brilliant sax playing wasn’t done by the much lauded star? Let's hear it good 'n' loud for Idris Rahman, playing superbly in the background while the star mimed!)

-Tuesday was one of my highlights – the Orchestre National de Jazz led by Daniel Yvinec playing music by John Hollenbeck. This is a fantastic group of young musicians playing exciting modern European Jazz (it’s broadcast by Jazz on 3 on November 22nd and on iPlayer after that) [IT'S ALSO ON VIDEO, THE FOLLOWING DAY'S CONCERT, THE FRENCH PREMIERE IN RHEIMS HERE]

-On Wednesday I went to see Marilyn Crispell and Raymond MacDonald at the Vortex. Another terrific gig.

-Saturday 20th was my bad decision day. I was at the free Clore Ballroom watching a great gig by Outhouse with Hilmar Jensson (I’m playing a couple of tracks from their new CD on my show on www.ukjazzradio.com this week!). Being lazy I then decided to stay put and go to see “Matthew Herbert composes the Guardian”. As a result I missed a couple of great gigs – and this was a big mistake! There were a few nice pieces in the concert, and a bit of playful fun, but it all felt a bit juvenile and there wasn’t enough good music to compensate.

-And then finally on Sunday another highlight – Billy Jenkins and the BBC Big Band. A spectacular finale that left everyone feeling great.(to be broadcast on Jazz Line–Up on Sunday January 30th)

Overall the festival is now massive, but its starting to develop a number of mini-festivals: on the South Bank, at the Barbican and less obviously in Dalston – and that’s probably the way it needs to develop given the size of London and the variety of music available.

Definitely this was the best yet – long may it continue.

UPDATE TWO (Nov 24th) : London Jazz Festival's Official Survey with Prizes. FOLLOW THIS LINK