Six and a half minutes of the mesmerizing Marcus Miller with drummer Poogie Bell from Jazz a Juan last year, just posted today on Youtube.
Review: Will Collier Septet/John Turville Trio
(F-IRE Festival of New Talent, The Pheasantry, May 28th, 2010, review by Thomas Gray)
In a parallel universe, 120 million Eurovision viewers would watch, and then vote for the type of thrillingly inventive music played by the F-IRE collective. These viewers would, of course, be unaware of the cheesy pop music being played in small cellar bars like the Pheasantry in Kings Road, Chelsea (above), where the performers nearly outnumber the audience.
Back in reality, and seemingly undeterred by the sparse crowd in attendance, Will Collier’s septet gave a spirited performance which showcased some fine original material. These compositions, mostly by Collier, drew on a broad stylistic palette. This was music coloured at different moments by Dave Holland’s polyrhythmic complexity, by Kenny Wheeler’s harmonic sophistication, Steve Reich’s minimalism and Charles Mingus’s raucousness. Yet each of the pieces had a distinct, contemporary character of its own.
There were punchy horn riffs on top of multi-layered ostinatos, effective build-ups towards exciting climaxes, pleasing stripping-down of the texture to a solo horn plus rhythm section, or just improvised conversation between two instruments. At times during this set, the septet managed to sound like a much larger band, a testament to the quality of the writing. The attention was consistently held by an impressive variety of mood and timbre, driven along by the propulsive grooves of Ben Reynolds on drums.
While few of the pieces contained extended blowing sections, there was clearly plenty of improvising talent within the band. Jon Shenoy on alto saxophone and George Hogg on trumpet—both filling in as deps on the night—stood out with some thoughtfully structured solos. After eventually resolving some difficulties with amplification, Collier also demonstrated his capabilities as an instrumentalist, making his bass really sing on a couple of solos. But none of the soloists outstayed their welcome, allowing the compositions to take centre stage.
The group finished with echoes of the South African sound of Abdullah Ibrahim through its soulfully lilting close harmony horn parts. The audience, though small, could not be faulted for its enthusiastic response.
The John Turville Trio were due to play the next set, but because of a late-finishing early evening gig and some fiendish Friday night traffic, Turville found himself in a gridlocked taxi when he was meant to be taking the stage. Going above and beyond in his role as festival organizer, Dave O’Brien stepped in at the piano alongside the rest of trio. He gave a lively 7/4 reworking of ‘It Could Happen to You’ and an elegant, Keith Jarrett-tinged account of ‘Come Sunday’. What a demonstration of the "bench-strength" of pianists in London.
Turville eventually arrived, although almost literally at the eleventh hour, so that his truncated set inevitably had the feeling of an encore and never quite caught fire. Nevertheless, it offered a tantalising glimpse at his considerable talents as a pianist very much in the John Taylor mould, and demonstrated his strengths as a composer (on ‘Hand Maid’) and arranger (on the trio’s subtle rendition of Radiohead’s ‘Scatterbrain’).
And here's the good news from that parallel Eurovision universe: with performances like these on display, the UK never again comes last in the voting.
Unsure how to pronounce Versace ?
Do you know how many members there are in Claudia Quintet?
Or how the band originally acquired its name ?
Uncertainty over. Drummer/bandleader John Hollenbeck has provided the answers.
Did anyone else know this? Since changing its name to Smooth FM, the Guardian Media Group's station has continued to have an obligation to broadcast 45 hours of jazz per week on its FM Frequencies. Which it has done, between the hours of midnight and 6am.
But, as far as I can see, without taking the trouble to tell anyone about it. The station's website doesn't mention it. And now, according to this news story, it is seeking permission from Ofcom to get out of the obligation.
Here's a typical playlist. And here's the Radio Survivor blog story. What a wasted opportunity.
"I like to hear you think through this."
Keith Jarrett here talking about Charlie Haden for a documentary "Rambling Boy", by Reto Caduff.
Which led to the two men making the studio recording Jasmine a few months later, their first collaboration since (er, a long time ago...), just released. The playing on the CD is sublime. Among a host of others, Peter Bacon has reviewed it. And done their quiet, thoughtful, new ECM CD justice.
Han Bennink, Pat Thomas and John Coxon
(‘A touch of Dutch’ mini-fest, Pizza Express, Dean Street, May 26th 2010; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)
'Dapper Dutch drummer dons bandana, saves world!' could have been the headline. One moment Han Bennink is to be found mixing casually with the audience in blue business shirtsleeves. The next moment, onstage in a white T-shirt, on with the turquoise bandana and suddenly he's drum-Superman.
Supported by Pat Thomas on keyboards and electronics, and John Coxon on guitars, Bennink demanded the full engagement of everybody in the room, with a whirlwind of creative energy and edginess. Bennink's exquisite technique was just as much at home with straight-down-the-line mainstream as with as the out-on-the-edge improv on which he has built his formidable reputation. His timing and his timekeeping were impeccable.
The first set started with an intense, jarring barrage which saw Coxon deliver wah-wah with a vengance, bringing a smile from Bennink; Thomas hinted at a calypso and then the flush-faced Bennink delivered a Roadrunner-pace rhythm, piling it on and clearly enjoying every millisecond. He then planted his whacking great boots on the drumskins to dampen the sound, and much later briefly ran his sticks across the wall to get a clickety-clack into the mix. His unpredictable staccato blasts are just as full of intent as on his early ICP albums, and punctuated the sets with an intuitive precision.
Thomas excelled, blending moody samples with his accomplished runs on the Steinway and Yamaha. Coxon's birdcalls were eerily regurgitated in the sampling, while his guitars veered from thunderous chordal layers to skipping, lyrical flights as the trio hinted at the jazz standards. Bennink whooped joyfully at times and in the name-check proclaimed 'and I am ... Gene Krupa!' before throwing his white towel over his head, Surrealist-style - the towel found its way on the drum kit, too. Later he asked 'Where do you start?' 'At the end!' was his own answer.
Guided by Bennink's focused drive, the trio hit a total groove in the second set, switching gears, offering dense sound fields, then snatches of boogie-woogie and Monk-ish off-beats. There were no concessions to the genteel surroundings - but the audience responded in kind, and would not let the band depart without an encore. But what this member of the audience would have wanted from Bennink was the reassurance of a particular one-liner, not from Superman this time, but from Terminator: "I'll be back."
For Geoff Winston's pencil drawing from the gig, follow this link.
Stopping: The Con Cellar Bar
After nearly four years of promoting, Richard Turner has decided to call it a day. Monday June 28th will be the last gig he promotes at the Con Cellar Bar in Camden Town. The list of people who have squeezed down those narrow stairs and played to punters who, if they got any closer would have been inthe band, includes Fly (Mark Turner, Jeff Ballard, Larry Grenadier), Donny McCaslan, Ingrid Jensen, Will Vinson, Matt Penman, Joel Frahm, Julian Siegel, Phil Robson, Gwilym Simcock, Kit Downes, The Calum Gourlay- Freddy Gavita Big Band, Matt Penman....
I hope some readers will go to hear Richard's band Round Trip on June 21st, add a comment, or a thank you for some great music.
Starting: Nomad Jazz at the Map Cafe
Damon Brown and Leon Greening are putting on a Wednesday gig at the Map Cafe, 46 Grafton Road, NW5. It kicks of with the great Peter King this Wednesday June 2nd. WEBSITE HERE
Starting: Trio Manouche at Wilton's
Guitarist Simon Harris 's Gypsy Jazz group Trio Manouche will start a Monday residency at one of the most atmospheric haunts in the East End on June 7th, Wilton's Music Hall. Admission is free. Special guest on the first night - celebrating Simon's birthday - will be Quentin Collins, and two members of the vocal group Mediaeval Baebes, Bev Lee Harling and Esther Dee.
(Photo: Camden New Journal)
The Crescent Arms at Mornington Cresent, 1 Camden High St, NW1 7JE has just been re-named the Lyttelton Arms in honour of Humph.
Stephen Lyttelton's Herculean efforts in celebration of his late father have been directed to putting on a concert which we reviewed HERE. That concert raised £67,000.
Stephen set up a trust to support young jazz musicians, thehumphtrust.org which is accepting online donations HERE
Clive Davis of The Times reports on the temporary reprieve of Pizza onthe Park (hurrah!) and then gets a tad gloomy (aw.)
A drink might do some good. I probably owe him one for the name-drop anyway.
Fran Hardcastle previews London Horns, on at the Spice of Life on Thursday May 27th
If name-dropping for musicians' bios ever becomes an Olympic sport, then expect the three man front-line of London Horns Graeme Blevins (sax), Graeme Flowers (trumpet) and Barnaby Dickinson (trombone) to hold their own medals ceremony: the roll-call of who they've worked with includes Quincy Jones, Guy Barker, Kyle Eastwood and Phil Collins, and - who should be so lucky? -they are recently back from a two year world tour with the pint-size pop princess herself, Kylie Minogue.
These stadium tours have furnished them with the habits of working well together, and they produce a slick, tight and powerful combined sound. In addition to this, all three are extremely accomplished jazz improvisers.
The band is completed by that darned good guitarist and prolific and witty Twitterer Mike Outram, with Andy Fisenden on drums and Dishan Abrahams on bass.
Their original charts draw on their various influences: soul, funk and pop fusion. The music is groove heavy, overlaid with aggressive horn arrangements, showcasing the section's distinctive sound. Expect some high energy solos from any one of the six players in the band.
There is bound to be a strong female presence in the audience, it being a well known fact that the musicians in this band are as easy on the eyes as they are on the ears.
The sound of a home counties "BRA-VEUH," is to be heard every night at the opera, but is still very unfamiliar at jazz gigs. It must sound so awfully quaint to American ears. Pamela Rose, who brought her high-octane show "Wild Women of Song" from San Francisco to the Bull's Head last night took the "bravo" she received gracefully, copied it, and seemed to savour it.
Rose and the four women who make up her band will have it as a nice memory of Barnes, and of the appreciative audience who came out to see them. Something to tell the folks back home about on the next gig in Sausalito, perhaps.
I caught the end of the gig. "Wild Women of Song" is a well-researched tribute to the American women singer-songwriters of jazz. Pamela Rose has unearthed songs by a number of them, tells their stories, salutes their courage and their achievements, and delivers their songs with energy and panache. There are visuals too. Old photographs on lilac wallpaper projected onto a screen, lists of their songs,a lot of information.
The songs I heard were a tribute to Kay Swift, composer of the 1930 musical Fine and Dandy. Her song "Can't we be friends" was set in the context of - and may indeed allude to - the dilemmas of her own close and creative partnership with George Gershwin.
Ida Cox was the composer of the show's closer "Wild Women," a soulful number in which Pamela Rose revealed a remarkable voice which seems, at first hearing, to get ever stronger as it goes lower. Nice.
Rose has a lively, energetic and tight band. I found myself listening out for great kicks and prods coming from New York-based drummer Alison Miller , highly creative and fiery.
Ruth Davies had great presence on her travelling stick-bass , Kristen Strom plays a full-toned and melodical, invigorating tenor sax , and I would welcome another opportunity to hear the thoughtful, commanding piano playing of Tammy L Hall.
A very lively night, which finished with the whole happy Barnes audience on its feet.
Pamela Rose's CD Wild Women of Song is on Three Handed Records
Byron Wallen/Cleveland Watkiss
(Kings Place Hall Two, part of Out Hear, May 24th 2010)
This was a very neat idea indeed, and decidedly the better for being so simple. Byron Wallen and Cleveland Watkiss, two busy, extremely versatile musicians were invited as part of the Monday Out Hear series in Kings Place to just to go with the flow, bring along some visual and audible props, talk, sing, play, and follow their well-honed instincts as performers and their imaginations.
John L Walters was the instigator of this performance, but, modestly, doesn't claim the credit for the idea: he says that a previous performance which he saw, and reviewed at Stratford in 2003 , had stuck indelibly in his mind.
It was a natural, unforced, well-paced performance which didn't need programme notes. In fact, congratulations to John L Walters for keeping his description of what we were going to hear to just one elegantly turned sentence in the hand-out. Any more would have been superfluous, and normally is. Glossy books and over-production just aren't necessary to overlay a performance this assured and personal.
Too many concepts and too much exegesis can get in the way. In fact it makes me wonder how much second-rate stuff gets overblown through an excess of verbiage. These artists can just be their excellent selves, perform and let their music speak out. And to tell the occasional nice story - like Wallen's memory of an encounter with Dizzy Gillespie's trumpet -above- prior to its sale at Christie's. The context - and good sound and visuals engineering, as ever from the Kings Place team - allowed them to do that.
It started well with an uncluttered piano improvisation by Byron Wallen. But most of the sounds were produced with breath. Wallen conjured up a fascinating range of timbres on open trumpet, on Miles-ish muted trumpet, on flute and on various conch shells and pipes. Watkiss's vocal compass and dexterity and electronic effects are a national monument. I particularly enjoyed some harmonizing which carried reminders of Schumann's"Of Foreign Lands..." and just before the end a duo version of Blue Monk. Loose, laid back. mellow, loved it.
The audience gathered in Hall Two was disappointingly small . And the programme might be better next time limited to an hour. But this is a show which for its honesty and warmth deserves to be heard again and again.
The next Out Hear is by the Elision Ensemble
on June 7th.
UPDATE 2nd JUNE. This was a false hope. It will shut on June 18th
Pizza on the Park has just been given a temporary reprieve as an entertainment venue. It will be putting on shows until the end of September. We covered the issue in detail HERE
The Facebook group protesting agains the closure, which we instigated, is HERE
COMMENT: Hold on to your hats.There may be reason for gratitude, but there is no reason for celebration.
The Decision by Westminster Council's planning committee is dated November 22nd 2007, and is conditional on the work having been COMMENCED within three years of the date of the consent, ie 22nd November 2010. And to the further condition that once commenced the permitted works should be completed.
The landlord has put significant investment into getting the planning permission granted, and will not be letting the November date pass without having started the works.
Antonio Forcione Quartet
(Riverside Studios, Hammersmith, May 15th 2010, review by Rod Fogg)
Antonio Forcione is on tour over the coming months with solo, duo and quartet gigs in the UK and Europe. When playing solo gigs his style is "contemporary acoustic", with two hands on the neck, percussion on the body and a melody that leaves you wondering how he manages it all. So if you find he's playing solo down your way go and seek him out - he's one of those guitarists who really seems to play the whole instrument, and there's plenty of laugh out loud humour too.
The quartet presents Forcione in a different light, however. While he still occasionally picks up the steel string acoustic for a duet with one his colleagues, he mostly plays nylon string guitar with a pick, accompanying Jenny Adejayan 's cello with chords or harmonising the melody. The cello reciprocates by riffing gently while the guitar solos. Adriano Adewale (on percussion) sits drummer-style surrounded by the widest range of hittable objects you've ever seen in one place, none of them resembling anything like a conventional drum kit. He produces an intriguing, absorbing mix of sounds; thuds, rattles, clicks, drones and squeaks - and some conventional drum and cymbal sounds - all grooving nicely with Jonny Gee's broad-toned string bass.
They make a wholesome acoustic sound, this band. It's uplifting. The beguiling sound of plucked strings from the guitar, the complex colours of the hand percussion, the rich sonority of the cello and the deep grooves of the bass take you all around the world - Spain, Italy, Africa, Brazil... jazz meets world music at its very finest. The packed Riverside Studios produced a crystalline acoustic and the lighting was sensitively judged. If over the coming months you have the chance to hear this wonderful sound, give your ears and your soul a treat.
Details of Antonio Forcione's forthcoming concerts are on his WEBSITE
Gwilym Simcock, Mike Walker, Steve Swallow, Adam Nussbaum
(CBSO Centre, May 22nd 2010, second night of tour)
The new, stellar, quartet of Gwilym Simcock, piano, Mike Walker, guitar, Steve Swallow, bass ,and Adam Nussbaum, drums, has a couple of surprises up its sleeve.
I attended the group's second (ever) outing, at the CBSO Centre in Berkeley Street in Birmingham on Saturday night, and, as I expected was never less than mightily impressed by the level of technique, listening and collective musicianship on display. Yes, the jaw duly drops. But while the music is complex, it is primarily about expression rather than display. And what I certainly wasn't expecting at this early stage of the band's life, was to find much on offer which can touch the emotions and really bring out the goosebumps.
Two of these moments of sheer beauty were in the last tune of the first half, When you Hold Her, a new composition by Mike Walker. At one point Walker and Steve Swallow were playing a tricky, sinuous melody in octaves, in perfect lockstep, making one poignant heartfelt voice. The emotions take over. At another point, towards the end of the same tune, Gwilym Simcock was intoning and carefully fading three note rising and falling motifs. Again, complete beauty. I overheard an audience member afterwards, emerging into the foyer talking about how that tune had brought flooding back what sounded like distant memories from over fifty years ago, of hearing a particular piano as a child. There were similar poignant moments in the encore, Simcock's Plainsong, which brought a touching solo high up in treble clef, a beautifully sustained melodic line from Steve Swallow.
Mike Walker 's playing, for those who don't know it, is one of the greatest joys of British jazz. To say he's in the league of a John Scofield or a Mick Goodrick may mean little. But in the live situation he can lead the listener literally anywhere. There's a capacity to play on the borders of silence, and yet with an astonishing range of colour. And to build from there, organically to full-on Hendrix. He never disappoints.
Complete fluidity of movement around the drum kit seems like second nature to Adam Nussbaum. He is some sort of ideal of the creative drummer who brings astonishing vitality and freedom to the sound. I find Steve Swallow 's subtle, gentle presence, his economy of movement and language completely and consistently mesmerising.
Gwilym Simcock also is in his element in this group. He had spoken to me a few weeks ago about bringing together four very distinct and individual personalities and sounds, and was enthused, even thrilled by the prospect of the collective sound which would emerge. I particularly enjoyed his Corea-like excursions on Mike Walker's composition Laughlines, but there was much else to enjoy.
I hope that the only London appearance by this group, at Ronnie Scott's tonight is packed to the seams. It should be. For those of us in the South -East there won'tbe another opportunity to hear them until July 22nd in Dorking. There will be a radio recording of a set in Manchester at the end of July. A CD recording is also planned.
This should be the start of something big.
UPDATE: Check out a recent live interview
The full-on mainstream media promotion of a tour takes some getting used to. Thirty-four year old Canadian ratpack singer Michael Bublé was on ITV last night, plugging ten dates at major UK venues in September/ October.
When music is designed to be this predictable, when the market only functions if singers stay millimetre-close to their records, I've stopped listening. The commerce becomes the spectacle in its own right.
ITV was milking the ad breaks for all they were worth. An ad for seatwave.com just happened to feature a fictitious poster for the tour. An ad for ice cream had as backing track the same song in the same key that had preceded the ad break. . So, ITV chooses to play fast and loose with Article 2.1.2 (b) of the CAP/BCAP advertising code on the separation of advertisements and programmes. But such is the search for the honest buck, perhaps.
I watched the programme intermediated by flow of Twitter comment. Sad, me? There were literally hundreds of women of all ages every minute declaring that they "<3" Buble. But there were also several mentions of AUTOTUNE, a device which corrects the pitch of a singer in live performance. And some of those made the assertion seemed pretty confident that distortion on the sound makingit "vo-coderish" was a dead giveaway. I don't know. I'm not making the allegation, just reporting it.
But it raises two questions. First. It would be interesting to know if he was using Autotune. And there are clearly going to be ITV technicians who know. Or could deny it.
And secondly, does it make any difference? Some argue that amplification is the thin end of the wedge, and the use of tricks like this is just a logical extension? Or that music which is there to reassure a large public rather than challenge it might as well go the whole hog. Any thoughts?
St Johns Church, Waterloo, May 20th 2010, review by Frank Griffith
This was a remarkable collaboration of jazz and jazz-influenced mid 20th Century music. It was given as part of the South Bank Sinfonia 's regular Thursday Rush Hour concert series at St Johns Church Waterloo (above). Along with the substantial forces of Britain’s leading orchestral academy (source: SBS website) were an arsenal of talented players from the GSMD Big Band led by the gaffer of all things jazz at Guildhall, alto saxophonist, Martin Hathaway. Conducting and organising this event was the redoubtable Sandy Burnett, a modern day Andre Previn doffing a multitude of musical millinery with no discernable bumps or demarcations between styles or idioms.
The one hour programme was based around two major 1940s works; Leonard Bernstein's On The Town and Duke Ellington's Black, Brown and Beige suite orchestrated by Maurice Peress in 1974. Both pieces were performed with precision and spirit by the highly skilled yet open-minded and versatile recent music college graduates which helps point the way for the future of orcherstras' survival amongst the current climate of declining funding and audiences for conventional classical music programmes. For this generation of talented and versatile musicians, the notion that boundaries have existed between genres is becoming increasingly archaic and irrelevant.
An additional item was composer/pianist and academic, Malcolm Edmonstone 's treatment of the popular standard But Beautiful which rocketed away in a fantasy-like exhibition of reworked themes, and tempo and feel changes. In addition, an intoxicatingly engaging harmonic riff like figure brought this epic to a close escorting the listener through a wondrous journey utilising this impressive ensemble's forces. Floating and soaring over the top melodically was Hathaway's melliflous alto sax and his inventive extemporisations.
A wonderful and effective confluence of contemporary and traditional sounds and hats off to conductor Sandy Burnett and to the Sinfonia's Katharine Verney for, respectively, directing and getting behind a highly innovative and successful piece of programming.
Trumpeter/bandleader Pete Horsfall has made three picks from the upcoming F-IRE Collective Festival of New Talent.
Commencing tonight at the Pizza Express in Dean Street, the F-IRE Collective’s Festival of New Talent will showcase what Time Out Magazine has called ‘the future of London jazz’. The presence of F-IRE Collective pianist and composer Dave O’Brien will be felt throughout the festival. O'Brien has hand-picked the groups playing for the opening night at Dean Street, and for the rest of the festival which is to take place at cult-1960’s hangout The Pheasantry on the King’s Road (also a Pizza Express venue) throughout next week.
Monday 24th: Dave O’Brien works part-time in his parents’ piano shop (Knightsbridge Pianos at Parsons Green). Not only does provide him with time and space for practice, but more importantly, it has proved to be a great opportunity for other pianists to come and jam with him. These jam sessions, featuring various piano personnel over the years lead quite organically to my first recommendation, the ‘Keyboard Kinship’ event. Featured alongside O’Brien are the talents of the fantastic Kit Downes, Empirical’s George Fogel, the in-demand Rick Simpson and Tom Rogerson who will be taking a brief break from his breakthrough electro trio ‘Three Trapped Tigers’ (you must check them out) to join the festival. Originally intended to take place behind closed doors at the piano shop in Parsons Green, they will be making use of organs, synthesisers and fender rhodes as well as the ‘regular’ piano. This meeting of minds will present music with a huge diversity of influence including, I am told, a version of David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ as played by British electronic music pioneer Aphex Twin.
Thursday 27th. Winning the Peter Whittingham award for jazz in 2006, O’Brien has concentrated on developing his own band Porpoise Corpus, who will be featured on Thursday (again at The Pheasantry). With a progressive rock sensibility, the band retains that exciting jam-band energy while executing O’Brien’s intricate and powerful compositions. Tom Ward and Tom Challenger feature on saxophones as well as French guitarist Jonathan Brateoff who will also be playing a set with his quartet on the same night, launching his latest CD ‘Mindscapes’.
Saturday 29th. The final night of the festival features bands with fine singers. Ben Davis, the cellist of Basquiat Strings, which gained a Mercury Music Prize nomination, brings his new collaborative project Portrait Bellevue to the Pheasantry. Featuring the enigmatic mezzo-soprano Fumi Okiji alongside the inimitable multi-instrumentalist Zac Gvirtzman on piano, this trio truly breathes a life into the oldest and deepest of jazz standards.
Following that, another Dave O’Brien group will take to the stage: Shadow Writing is a quartet playing some of the most progressive soul music in this country. Vocalist Neo Joshua of the in-vogue A cappella group The Boxettes fronts the band alongside co-shadow writers Rich Gold (gtr) and Ed Hiller (drums).
For full listings of the festival see our previous post on the festival
Pete Horsfall's own band TALKING SAGES will be appearing tomorrow, Sunday 23rd, opposite Same Crowe's ban. Talking Sages features freestyle MCs Bill Zoot and Twinky Blu Tac, with Pete himself, Dave Shulman on alto Saxophone, Ruth Goller, bass, Dave O'Brien, keyboards and Mike Clowes on drums.
Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue
(Jazz Café , May 19th 2010)
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue exploded onto the stage at Jazz Cafe with their custom fusion of rock, funk, jazz, hip-hop and soul. Could this be jazz that appeals to the masses? I went to find out.
The claim that Trombone Shorty has coined a new a genre of music, ‘Supafunkrock', in order to describe his signature sound may be quite a radical one. But he is clearly on to a good thing and has successfully fused an array of musical influences to create a very individual sound. His popularity was evident from a near sellout at the Jazz Cafe, the fans cheering and hollering. It’s led him to relatively starry international acclaim, previously touring with his idol Lenny Kravitz, and recently releasing a new album "Backatown", the title deriving from the locals’ term for the area of New Orleans that includes the Tremé, the neighborhood where Troy was born and raised. He will be appearing in the HBO TV series Treme, so his visibility will be increasing.
Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews (who got his name at four years old when his older brother saw him marching in a street parade with a trombone twice his size) is backed by an energetic band of fellow young guns. Orleans Avenue comprises of Tim Mc Fatter on tenor saxophone, Pete "Freaky Pete" Murano on guitar, Michael "Bass" Ballard on bass guitar and Joey "In And Out" Peebles on drums.
The band's hot mix of New Orleans style horn riffs, choppy rock power chords and funky rhythm section was matched by Shorty’s showmanship and energy on stage. The intensity was persistent, and the crowd clearly loved the set menu of funky grooves, but the music didn’t leave much room for musical interplay. The closest thing was Shorty’s string of complex hand gestures to the rhythm section which cued precise unison hits, spurring on another of Tim Mc Fatter’s impressive screaming sax solos.
Shorty is clearly a virtuoso. Indeed, I overheard someone say “Is there anything he can’t do?” Whether on trumpet, trombone or vocals, he wowed the crowd using fast phrases, circular breathing, rapid-fire articulation, screaming high notes and extravagant trombone slides. A particular highlight was the moment when Shorty left the flamboyant fusion behind and really showed the audience his New Orleans roots with an "Old Skool" trumpet intro. Intricate phrasing, Armstrong style half valve "whinny’s" and wide vibrato - this was refreshing to hear, but it didn’t last long, as the band promptly broke into a rendition of Marvin Gaye’s 1973 Motown hit "Let’s Get It On".
After a tirelessly vivacious set of original music and popular classics, the night ended with a modern take of "Oh When The Saints". A last chance to wow the crowd didn't get missed as the band broke into the classic "Everybody Needs Somebody" with trademark choreographed Blues Brothers style dancing. A very happy crowd left the Jazz Cafe saying things like “He’s amazing." An enjoyable night of showmanship, virtuosity and energy.
Review by Luke Pinkstone, who was the guest of New Orleans Original Southern Comfort (website for over 18's)
Here are the first shows to go on sale in the London Jazz Festival
Jazz Voice: Celebrating a Century of Song
Barbican ,Friday 12 November 2010, 7:30pm
Hugh Masekela & The Mahotella Queens
Royal Festival Hall, Friday 12 November 2010, 7:30pm
Queen Elizabeth Hall, Saturday 13 November 2010, 7:30pm
Brad Mehldau, Joshua Redman and the Britten Sinfonia
Barbican,Saturday 13 November 2010, 7:30pm
Royal Albert Hall , Tuesday 16 November 2010, 7:30pm
Wigmore Hall, Tuesday 16 November 2010, 7:30pm
Paco de Lucia
Royal Festival Hall, Thursday 18 November 2010, 7:30pm
The Bad Plus - alone...
Kings Place, Thursday 18 November 2010, 8:00pm
The Bad Plus - "For All I Care"
Kings Place ,Friday 19 November 2010, 8:00pm
Sonny Rollins at 80
Barbican, Saturday 20 November 2010, 7:30pm
The Bad Plus - The Plus meet Django Bates
Kings Place, Saturday 20 November 2010, 8:00pm
I was recently urged to hear a young singer with the following lines.
"She's amazing. she really does stop traffic."
Here is the view from York Way. Norma Winstone and Glauco Venier - it's just one of the amazing line-up of gigs tonight.
Yes folks.SUPER THURSDAY IS HERE.
The politicians who came onto the stage to give awards out last night in the Terrace Pavilion are very much feeling their way. They clearly find the current cessation of all hostilities, the suspension of political tribalism very unfamiliar. "Perhaps I should be holding hands with Ed Vaizey," quipped veteran politician Lord Steel.
Yes, politicians are learning to improvise, tentatively testing their ability to convince in a new language. Standing alongside each other in a spirit of collaboration.
The live music, later, showed them how it's really done. Commandingly. with strong voices, no room for wimps. The regular fixtures on the stand were guitarist Phil Robson, last year's Musician of the year, and bassist Dave Whitford. Drummers - Gene Calderazzo, Dave Wickens, Seb Rochford - took turns, as did vocalists Christine Tobin and Cleveland Watkiss. This was mesmerising stuff, as far removed as a jam session for beginners as you could ever get.
The only overtly political speech of the night was from Lord (Tony) Colwyn. And it contained a couple of sentences which counted: "Jeremy Hunt will remove the restrictions on small gigs." Colwyn expressed the intention to re-instate the Liberal Democrat's Live Music Bill, and to make it into law. This commitment received the loudest applause of the night. And- maybe more significntly - it also got both a grin and a thumbs-up from Arts Minister Ed Vaizey.
There were nine awards.
Musician of the Year was Mark Lockheart. You don't get a more popular and deserving winner than that. He is comfortable alongside all the generations of Britiah jazz, and they with him. Bravo.
Group of the Year was won by Nigel Price 's Organ Trio with Pete Whittaker and Matt Home. Let's hear it for organ trios : I urge you to read Pete's review of the Jimmy Smith Jazz Icons DVD.
CD of the year : Gareth Lockrane's "No Messin' ." Frank Griffith's review is HERE
Broadcaster of the Year was Alyn Shipton. As Paul Gambaccini concurred, 21 years on Radio 3 is one hell of an achievement. His award was presented to him by Jacqui Dankworth. That was a nice touch, after Alyn's superb work compiling the definitive four disc retrospective "I Hear Music"
Educator of the Year was Kathy Dyson. She tahanked her students. A nice touch.
Publication of the Year was Jazzwise, well-deserved.
Journalist of the year: Mike Flynn, who writes superbly for Jazzwise and Time Out.
Venue of the Year was theJazz Bar in Edinburgh. A good line from Bill Kyle's acceptance speech: "Any venue putting on jazz deserves an award."
Lifetime Achievement: Brian Blain, for his work as promoter, journalist activist. His in-self-caricature line: "Sorry to spoil the party, but that's the kind of guy I am." His message: get involved in the Jazz Services petition for more Jazz on the BBC.
The awards are organised by Jazz Services, sponsored by PPL, and the leading light is Michael Connarty MP. He thanked Bob Blizzard MP for a major contribution.
If Michael Connarty is successful in recruiting some of the "freshers" who ventured into the awards last night, it would only be right.
Because improvising is the future.
And yes we can......... all learn from those who really can.Like the musicians who won awards last night.
Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick (above) are headlining a memorial concert for the late Diz Disley at the Half Moon in Putney on Wednesday May 26th. Also on the bill are Dick Laurie's Elastic Band, the Hot Club de Londres, the City Ramblers Revival with ChasMcDevitt, Denny Purssord and Bobby Clarke. TICKETS HERE . And here's Peter Vacher's Guardian obituary , eloquently describing a life of ups and downs.
Jazz Musician Gwilym Simcock, Mark Lockheart, Sebastian Rochford
Jazz CD Janette Mason ‘Alien Left Hand’, Liam Noble Trio ‘Brubeck’ , The Gareth Lockrane Septet ‘No Messin’’
Jazz Ensemble Nigel Price Organ Trio, Phronesis, The Printmakers ,trioVD
Jazz Venue Café Oto (London) ,Jazz Bar (Edinburgh) ,Old Fruit Market (Glasgow)
Spice of Life (London) ,Vortex (London) ,Wakefield Jazz (Yorkshire)
Jazz Journalist Daniel Spicer, John Fordham, Mike Flynn
Jazz Broadcaster Alyn Shipton, Helen Mayhew, Jez Nelson
Jazz Publication Jazz UK, Jazzwise, LondonJazz.blogspot.com
Jazz Educator Gary Crosby, Kathy Dyson, Nick Smart
Services to Jazz Brian Blain, Tommy Smith, Tony Dudley Evans
BEATS N PIECES PREVIEW
Beats n Pieces (above) are a 14-piece band from Manchester. I checked them out with Manchester Jazz Festival Artistic Director Steve Mead.
"They're young, enthusiastic, energetic, and mostly fresh out of RNCM. They're just beginning to get known. We've got them perform ing on the closing night of the MJF . They use electronics and sampling. There is a real free Loose Tubes-ish spirit about them. And there are some really good instrumentalists among them. The key personnel who also write charts include guitarist Anton Hunter, saxophonist Sam Andreae....
They're really enterprising. They've released a debut record on EFPI, theirOWN LABEL . The conductor Ben Cottrell is also a sound engineer. It's tight, energetic. Some groove, some free, always gutsy."
MANCHESTER JAZZ FESTIVAL
I also took the opportunity to ask Steve Mead about the highlights of the Manchester Jazz Festival, running from 23rd - 31st July.
He picked on
- A double bill being recorded for live transmission by Jazz on 3. of Gwilym Simcock 's Quartet with Mike Walker, Steve Swallow and Adam Nussbaum. Plus guitarist Stuart McCallum.
-Vibraphonist Jim Hart's superb trio (Michael Janisch bass, Dave Smith drums) with guest trumpeter Ralph Alessi.
The world premiere of Neil Yates piece for 19 players incl trumpeters Percy Pursglove and Robbie Robson, and pianist Les Chisnall. Yates' last commission of theis kind, Tarnished Silver was for me one of the unforgettable gigs of the 2007 Cheltenham Jazz Festival.
-And Beats n Pieces
Check out the Manchester Jazz Festival's website and why not subscribe to the newsletter and try your luck for Friday.
BEATS N PIECES - SHORT REVIEW
UPDATE: Peter Slavid went to the gig, and sent in a short review:
Beats & Pieces are an exciting band of players in their teen and twenties , and they succeeded in attracting an equally young audience - apart from me= to the Forge.
They play big-band music composed and arranged by their leader Ben Cottrell which has enough creativity to satisfy the real jazz fan – but is accessible enough not to frighten the nice young folk of Camden.
The music is quite complex, with real extended solos, and some use of electronics. There are echoes of people like Colin Towns and Matthew Herbert. Apart from admiring anyone who can take a-13 piece band on the road, the individual musicians show real quality and Ben Cottrell who composes, arranges, conducts and organises the band deserves a lot of credit.
Individual members include saxophonist Sam Andreae who is also about to go on tour with the Hunter/Andreae Quartet also from the EFPI stable.
Listen to some of their music HEREand then go to the EFPI website and buy their EP and get out to see them live!
The Arts Council commented on its withdrawal of funding from NYJO that NYJO needed to be "an organization with young people that really represent where jazz is today.” If the Arts Council sincerely wishes to remain consistent with that aim, then it could do a lot worse than put some money into this group of talented and highly enterprising young musicians who play music that is genuinely new and exciting!
(Vortex, Wednesday 12 May, review and line drawing by Geoff Winston.)
A couple of scintillating sets at the Vortex from Phronesis, a young yet seasoned trio, which is never short of fresh ideas, proved to be the perfect foil to the day's post-election fanfares and fall-out .
Swedish drummer, Anton Eger, just in from Norway, drove the proceedings with precision and ingenuity, treating his kit as a melodic instrument, rather than simply laying down the beat. On string bass, leading the trio, Dane Jasper Hoiby, resident ten years in the UK, quietly demanded respect for his confident mastery, dextrous, spider-like fingers drawing out assured acoustic patterns. Ivo Neame, on the Steinway, drifted in and out of a flowing, Scandinavian jazz piano style to reveal an assured and personal voice, with phrasing at times bringing to mind Herbie Hancock, and even Jarrett - no bad thing.
Interestingly, coming from a bunch of northern Europeans there was a lot of Latin groove in the rhythms and the spirit of the playing. More than straight jazz, the funk and the heat of the carnival was unmistakable once you'd spotted it.
They included material from their first two albums, opening with the hesitant pace of 'Five Songs Six Words'. 'Happy Notes' saw Neame gliding into lush, romantic piano territory. In the second set they were fully into their stride, oozing class in a very relaxed way. 'Love Song' was a nice reminder of the dynamics and humour of the ensemble, with Hoiby asking 'shall we start together?' before making his strong case for the acoustic bass.
Eger was at the core of lively, inventive duets, which also allowed each player to stretch out. He swapped between brushes, sticks and mallets, and like Jim Black and Dave King, didn't allow conventions to get in the way of all sorts of miscellaneous tapping on the body of his kit.
The precise definition of phronesis may be uncertain; the band interprets it as "being proactive and responsive to achieve the optimum." And, musically, that's exactly what they do. An enriching and enjoyable evening.
Phronesis' new CD, Live in London , recorded at the Forge Venue, is due for release on 26th July
The great pianist and composer Hank Jones died in New York yesterday. Here's his official site.
His younger brothers, the trumpeter and composer/arranger/bandleader Thad (1922-1986), and drummer Elvin (1927-2004), both pre-deceased him. That great flowering of piano geniuses from Detroit will live on through their records, and with younger luminaries Barry Harris and Kirk Lightsey.
A very sad loss. RIP.
UPDATE: Nate Chinen's blog has a classy piece.
UPDATE: Tim Dickeson has sent in this fine picture taken by him at Jazz a Juan 2008, where Hank Jones performed with Cheikh Tidiane Seck.
A Youtube promotional video about the lively and charismatic 24 year-old Trombone Shorty. He will be bringing his taste of the Treme neighborhood of New Orleans, his "superfunk rock" to the Jazz Cafe in Camden Town this Wednesday 19th. we'll be reviewing, courtesy of some new friends from Southern Comfort.
I was also pleased -at last -to see a piece of coverage of the TV series Treme , by Howard Reich of the Chicago Tribune, which actually talks about the presence of jazz , and is unashamed to use the J-Word..
(Ronnie Scott’s, May 12th 2010, review by Luke Pinkstone)
Nothing quite compares with the experience of hearing and seeing Kenny Garrett 's storm-force alto saxophone playing live for the first time.
It’s one thing to hear the records. And there are many to choose from, including affiliations with titans such as John McLaughlin, Chick Corea and Pharoah Sanders (above). But seeing one of the last major graduates of the Miles Davis bands, rocking back and forth on the stage of Ronnie Scott's in full improvisational fury is something else. With near apocalyptic sounding saxophone shrieks and wild cheers from the audience, it's a surprise that the roof stays on.
The quartet summons up a superb visual and audio spectacle, and in the course of the night finds a vast range of colours and moods. Nathan Webb’s James Brown-esque drum grooves, Johnny Mercier’s single chord gospel clicks from his Hammond organ and Kona Khasu ’s solid bass riffs were all contagious. Garrett was last to join the mix with his trademark cutting tone and rhythmic precision. Single note stabs built to an impressive wall of sound with Garrett soon scaling the full range of his saxophone. As Mercier’s flat palms hit either register of the organ keyboard, Garrett tapped another effects pedal, and took the quartet down a fiery path of musical interplay.
Kenny Garrett’s clip on saxophone mic gave him freedom to turn to Webb to share rhythmic ideas, feed from the groups energy, or stand over a keyboard and accompany Mercier’s organ solos.
The image of Kenny Garrett lit centre stage facing his band, staring up at the sky (or a low ceiling in the case) with organ drones and persistent drum hits in a mesmerising trance is certainly a striking one and verges on almost biblical imagery. He stayed motionless for a tense few seconds, then strolled up to the microphone and dismissed the whole ordeal with a simple “Thank You” and a smile. It was impossible to predict this quartet’s next move, and I more than once caught myself wondering if the Garrett MC-ing to an adoring crowd playing his sing-along hit “Happy People” was the same one that was crying into the microphone moments ago.
As another long and intense musical journey came to a close, the band cooled things down with “Asian Melody”, an intimate and soulful lullaby between Garrett on soprano sax and Johnny Mercier, who had deserted his whirling organ for tender piano chords. The audience was silently transfixed by the lilting melody.
After a turbulent evening, many people were clearly happy to hear the familiarity of a reprise of the crowd pleaser “Happy People.” A great evening.
I've nothing against the Kultorvet in Copenhagen (above), but sometimes one just feels lucky to be in London.
Because the choices available to the music-curious or the jazz-obsessed are completely mind-boggling.
There is so much music going on in town this Thursday May 20th, it feels like the hazards of programming have bequeathed us a completely accidental one-night festival.
Take your pick. And for readers outside London, I'm bitterly sorry: you'd better just look away now. Or move here.
HERE ARE THE CHOICES:
*In the fabulous acoustics of Kings Place, there is the ECM-recorded, Grammy-nominated, winner of the (serious money) 2009 Skoda Jazzahead Award, the first lady of European jazz singers herself, Norma Winstone with Glauco Venier at the piano. She's singing in the clip above.
*At LSO St Luke's there's the "great performer," with five gold records, three Grammy's and 80 albums...welcome to London, Ramsey Lewis. [UPDATE: this gig has been cancelled. Volcanic ash problems with flights]
*Then at the Pizza Express it's the second night of a two night residency by the very great Lee Konitz. He'll be going on till late...Catch his second set perhaps??? (See my interview with him from last week)
*Sandy Burnett has the Southbank Sinfonia and Guildhall School forces out performing Ellington in the early evening (6pm at St John's Waterloo). Details HERE
*Then at St James Piccadilly there is Italian pianist Gabriele Faja's re-creation of Kind of Blue
*Or at the Spice of Life in Soho, the focus of the Tomorrow's Warriors Showcase is on the compositions of young pianist Peter Edwards, with Saleem Raman, drums and bassist Nick Walsh
*At the 606 it's funk/rnb vocals from Dave Lewis and Noel McCalla
*At Ronnie's there's drum legend Roy Haynes, and a chance to hear much-talked-about saxophonist Jaleel Shaw
*At the Vortex try continent-hopping without leaving N16: Anglo Filipino-vocalist Mishka Adams is with her band and a guest from Argentina
*At the Bulls Head, Ministry of Sound drummer Steve Taylor has his Big Band
So, listen to the call, get out and enjoy a gig...Something is already telling me we've missed something?: send in a comment or an e-mail.
Strictly virtual. The results of an online competition, organized by backing track download site PureSolo.com , in association with Jazz FM have been announced.
Dennis Rollins and Snake Davis set up the backing tracks. The judges were Snake Davis, Denis Rollins, Gary King of Jazz FM and myself. Ten versions of Lover Man later, the four of us emerged, bleary-eyed, into the light of a cold grey dawn etc.....(no we didn't, actually. All the judging was done online too)
Lifting a virtual cyberglass to the winners (hic), here we go:
The winning instrumentalists were Dan Johnson and Robbie Harvey. The winning vocalists were Esta Benjamin-Daley and Claire Phoenix. Puresolo have announced the full results HERE on their website.
John McLaughlin and the Fourth Dimension
(Barbican Hall, Tuesday May 11th, 2010, review by Rod Fogg)
John McLaughlin may not exactly be a household name in the UK but he is legendary in the jazz world. When jazz went electric in the 1960s he was there. Let's briefly name check "In a Silent Way" era Miles Davis, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Shakti and "the Guitar Trio" with Larry Coryell (or Al Di Meola) and Paco de Lucia as starting points for novices to explore his legacy.
This lineup can be found on McLaughlin's new album "To The One" -Mark Mondesir on drums, Gary Husband on keyboards and Etienne M'Bappe on bass. Gone are the Indian stylings of "Mahavishnu John McLaughlin" - at 68 years old he is tall, silver haired and distinguished-looking and takes centre stage with a solid body electric (it always used to be jazzy hollow-bodies often with double necks), producing a warm slightly distorted tone not unlike that found on early John Scofield albums.
No one out there can play guitar like this. Speed, dexterity, accuracy and invention are all present in mind-boggling quantities. And stamina? The band played for two hours straight and looked like they are hardly broke sweat. Age has not dimmed McLaughlin's abilities in anyway; quite the opposite - there seems to be a certainty about his approach that can only come from years of experience and exploration. He knows who he is; he speaks the truth.
Mark Mondesir creates effortless thunder, transformed in a moment to the hushed beating of butterfly wings, and all in complex time signatures. Which he grooves to like an old-time funkster while sitting impassive and smiling surrounded by his kit. Gary Husband plays supporting keyboards, solos on synth and piano, and on Unknown Dissident switches to drums to trade " fours" with Mondesir over a long looping asymmetrical riff from McLaughlin and M'Bappe. It was so exciting the audience were literally on the edge of their seats, breath being held. Seldom has a solo section being rewarded by such genuine astonished applause.
But don't think this music is just about technique. It can be achingly beautiful, roller coaster ride fast, surprising, exciting. I read that Jeff Beck said John McLaughlin is the greatest guitarist alive today. I absolutely agree. The precision and musicianship of this band has me wondering if they are also the best live band around. The last few days I've woken up smiling just thinking about it.
Interesting article from the Wall Street Journal about four enterprising jazz widows: Laurie Pepper and Sue Mingus (above), Maxine Gordon, Francine Belson and their savvy dealings with their late husbands' legacies. They are the exception rather than the rule, says the article, by Marc Myers of jazzwax.com.
Living your life at the cutting edge is all very well. You just keep a stock of Elastoplast. Or earplugs.
But sometimes it's good to step back from it, and enjoy the work of a great musician who has devoted him- or herself to a particular style from the past. New Orleans-based clarinettist Evan Christopher has completely absorbed the clarinet voices of Barney Bigard and Sidney Bechet (both Creoles from New Orleans) and Albert Nicholas and Edmond Hall.. and taken them forward. True to the spirit of his idols, he plays an Albert system clarinet which the late Kenny Davern found for him.
I reviewed his Pizza on the Park gig back in February HERE
The next London gig is at the Bloomsbury Theatre on June 5th. Marvel at the endlessly subtle, understated rhythm guitar playingof Dave Kelbie. Recommmended. Other tour dates are HERE
Evan Christopher's website
Here's his circular, just published:
Conservative Jeremy Hunt is the new Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, according to reliable sources.
Junior DCMS ministers will be confirmed tomorrow or Friday.
At the beginning of April Mr Hunt told The Publican magazine that the Licensing Act had been 'a disaster' for live music and that his party backed the campaign for an entertainment licensing exemption for venues up to 200 capacity:
The exemption is also a Lib Dem manifesto commitment (page 46) :
'Cut red tape for putting on live music. We will reintroduce the rule allowing two performers of unamplified music in any licensed premises without the need for an entertainment licence, allow licensed venues for up to 200 people to host live music without the need for an entertainment licence, and remove the requirement for schools and hospitals to apply for a licence.'
There were awards on Monday night at the Sony Radio Academy for Jools Holland 's Radio 2 programme.
There was also a bronze award for live event for the London Jazz Festival.
The award went to the organizers of the festival, the independent producers -Unique, Somethin' Else to BBC Regions, Wales, and Scotland, and to Radio 3.
The award citation said:
"A real feast for the ears. From intimate club setting to vast concert hall, BBC Radio 3 managed to capture great performances, great anecdotes and the wonderful atmosphere of enthusiastic audiences surrounding it all. This was a treat for amateur and aficionado alike."
Jazz FM’s Saturday night show presented by Mike Chadwick, ‘Southern Comfort Big Easy’ show took the Silver Award for Best Use of Branded Content. (Above are Mike Vitti and Christian Bragg of Jazz FM reciving the award.
Two events featuring guitarists this Saturday
As part of the London Guitar Festival, there's a rare solo appearance by Joe Zawinul Syndicate stalwart Amit Chatterjee at the Purcell Room. I'm told he'll also be popping in to teach at the ICMP in Kilburn.
Reports on that one definitely welcome.
And Rod Fogg writes:
A guitar related jazz treat is on offer at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith from the Antonio Forcione Quartet. (Saturday 15th May, 8.00pm). Antonio's solo gigs are top-notch not only for his mind-boggling multi-dextrous "two hands on the neck while playing a tabla rhythm on the body and a melody at the same time" guitar style, but also for his sense of humour. Expect added groove and exoticism when you add Nigerian Cellist Jenni Adejayan, Brazilian hand-percussionist Adriano Adewale and effervescent British bassist Johnny Gee to the mix.
(Ronnie Scott's, May 8th 2010, review by John L Walters)
There's no act remotely like New York's Manhattan Transfer. The close harmony vocal quartet can do everything from Doo-Wop to Broadway schmaltz, from big band swing to fusion. In a long career, they've steered a Grammy-encrusted course between jazz credibility and the sweet smell of pop success.
Yet for their short run at Ronnie's, any fears they might rest on their past glories were swiftly dismissed by the opening Spain, a complex, exhilarating tune reinvented - with new lyrics and a beatbox shuffle - for The Chick Corea Songbook, (Four Quarters) their latest album. Another Corea tune, One Step Closer, featured lyrics by Man Tran founder Tim Hauser and Van Dyke Parks.
They wear a ferocious musical intelligence and erudition on their elegant sleeves: they are masters of vocalese, the art of singing new words to improvised melodies. They tipped a hat to Annie Ross (at Ronnie's just a few days ago) with the Lambert, Hendricks and Ross version of Horace Silver's Doodlin', also name-checking pioneers such as King Pleasure and Eddie Jefferson.
Manhattan Transfer have continued to develop this craft, commissioning Jon Hendricks to write vocalese words for an extraordinary version of Tutu: Cheryl Bentyne delivered an almost shamanic invocation of Miles Davis's solo from that landmark track. Sing Joy Spring featured Janis Siegel, clothing the improvisations of another great trumpeter, Clifford Brown, with Hendricks's Shakespeare-quoting lyrics.
They can do simple and fun, too: Siegel sang Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You with guitar accompaniment. A couple of numbers pay tribute to the 1950s street-corner vocal groups of Harlem and Brooklyn, formed a cappella, as Hauser explained, “because the kids couldn't afford instruments”.
They closed the show with their joyful version of Weather Report's Birdland and an encore medley of hits, including Chanson D'Amour and Tuxedo Junction. If this is autumn of their career, it still sounds remarkably like summer.
The BritJazz Festival last year at Ronnie's in August was a great success. A whole month of British acts sold out. Entry prices were kept low. It went so well it's about to happen again. Not much yet on specific names...
Ronnie's will also be trying something new to go with it. A radio station. Ronnie's Radio will carry "interviews, broadcasts and music coming direct from the club for the duration of the festival." There will certainly be a digital station. Local broadcasting on FM in central London is being mentioned. Which sounds simply too good to be true. Is it?
Photo: Georgia G, Ottawa
John Scofield Quartet
(Jazz Arena, Cheltenham Jazz Festival, May 2nd. Review by Lewis Clement)
John Scofield has a unique voice on the guitar. It's his, and it's matched by no other improviser. Just as Bill Frisell and Pat Metheny have created guitar sounds individual to them, Scofield has developed in his own direction. Following his instincts into RnB, Blues and Funk, his lively post-bop vocabulary can always surprise the listener.
His acid funk project Uberjam played Cheltenham’s jazz festival in 2002. This year, the eager Cheltenham audience was treated to the work of his quartet, featuring Bill Stewart on drums, Ben Street on bass and Michael Eckroth on piano and keyboards.
Scofield took to the stage in a casual manner, just counting straight in to the first tune. However, it became immediately apparent that this was going to be a tough gig for keyboardist Michael Eckroth. He played the head of the first tune on a Nord keyboard with an organ sound. But from the moment he switched to the grand piano, Eckroth and the sound crew were having to battle with the thin sound and the intonation problems of a very poor instrument.
Scofield, however, was on jubilant form. He manipulated his guitar sound endlessly, twiddling with tone and volume knobs and giving each note its own personal articulation in the style reminiscent of Miles Davis.
Highlights included a bouncy version of Parker’s Relaxing at Camarillo which featured the original piano introduction from Eckroth and exciting solos all round. There was also a beautiful rendition of I Want to Talk About You which showcased Scofield's masterly improvisation skills .
Regardless of the poor sound, the crowd was able to forget the cold weather, and to lap up every second of this stellar band. When music is this high in quality, you fall into the trance, you cling on to every note. However, next year, maybe the Jazz Arena could be saved for the more commercial acts, so that the listening gigs by respected jazz artists can be heard properly, in more conducive settings.
Alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, born in Chicago in October 1927, is one of the indisputable living greats of jazz. He's playing in London next Wednesday 19th and Thursday 20th at the Pizza Express Dean Street. in a quartet with pianist Dan Tepfer, bassist Michael Janisch, and drummer Jeff Williams.
I talked to Lee Konitz about next week's London dates by telephone. Konitz is eagerly looking forward to them. He worked with 28 year old Dan Tepfer on a well-received duo album in 2009 entitled "Duos with Lee" (Sunnyside)
Konitz describes Dan Tepfer as "a very nice man, very talented. He likes to play communicative music, the kind I like, so we have a very good conversation." Konitz has worked with Jeff Williams in the past, "but it's been quite a while," so he's looking forward to renewing the collaboration. The association with bassist Michael Janisch is a new one.
Konitz is one of the most reflective people on his craft in the business. He talks about the greater economy with which he now plays. It's partly by necessity: "I don't have the breath control I once had. But also by choice: "The more notes you play, the less attention you can pay to each one. So I tend to put more faith in single notes. Held notes."
We got talking about the floating concept of rhythm and metre. He talks of having a sense of embarrasment when things free up completely. And in this context he has particularly enjoyed playing recently - and recording - with Brad Mehldau. Konitz is a firm admirer of Mehldau's "contact with the one." (first beat).
I asked Konitz where any sense of embarrasment on issues like that might come from? To whom, then, does he feel responsible to when performing? "We're responsible first to ourselves, then to each other, then to the audience. Definitely in that order. "
But doesn't that possibly imply detachment, I asked him? "I've been called cool, in a negative way. Because," - and he enunciated these words carefully - "I don't wear my heart on my sleeve. But emotion is the main point. What it's all for is to make an emotional contact. When I'm playing, when I 'm listening to myself, that's always what I'm listening out for, and hearing."
And what about life and still playing at 82. I was curious if Konitz knew the works of another Chicagoan from a similar Jewish background, Saul Bellow. He hasn't read any Bellow recently. Bellow was interviewed at exactly the same age, (by Joanna Coles in the Guardian) and he said:
'When I opened my eyes 82 years ago I found myself suddenly here, in existence, which struck me as marvellous, tremendously moving and energising. I'm here, this is my life! And these people coming at me, these strange, beautiful, marvellous people! You want to get a grip on that, to clutch that sense of what it is to be in the world."
Konitz, as you might expect, has very similar sentiments, but he is more succinct:
"I'm lucky I can still play. I'm enjoying it more than ever."
Catch him while you can. Pizza Express Dean Street, May 19/20.
Mark Turner and Baptiste Trotignon Duo/ Fly
(Third night of Partager Festival, Kings Place, May 7th 2010)
Having been at their Cheltenham Festival gig, I couldn't resist the opportunity to hear Fly - (Mark Turner- saxophones), Larry Grenadier (bass) and Jeff Ballard (drums)again, which made it twice in a week. The second occasion was on Friday evening at Kings Place.
The atmosphere at Cheltenham had been special, it was an eagerly anticipated gig which had been sold out long before the day. This was different, not much more than a half-full house. This time I could really HEAR. Everything. With total clarity. In the near-perfect acoustic shell of Kings Place Hall One, with Fly using a minimal touch amplification, what one hears is taken to a different level.
I also got the sense that the trio were using the hall's acoustic to full effect, trying out the impossible, giving yet more colour and shape to the line, placing phrases and pauses with even more care and accuracy than normal, allowing their skills to be tested to the full. In these acoustics, lesser musiicans might be found wanting, but these three seemed to want to leave a speacial mark on it, to create the kind of experience which leaves the listener (ok, this listener) with an indelible memory.
The soft outros to some of the tunes, notably "Emergence Resurgence" were just stunning. Turner knows well how to float a line of slowly shifting long notes in ethereal subtone, fading to nothing, but here at Kings Place he, Ballard and Grenadier were testing the boundaries of silence.
Maybe there's a danger here. Once you've heard music played in these ideal surroundings, it becomes harder for other gigs to live up to it.
The preceding set was also something very special. Mark Turner's duo with pianist Baptiste Trotignon was a different kind of perfection. They are completely settled as a duo. Both at the top of their game, playing with poise, control, charm, delicacy, and astonishing unanimity as they walked seemingly effortlessly through fascinating changes and time signatures, while keeping a completely involving melodic narrative going . The last number, fittingly was Mark Turner's homage to Lennie Tristano, "Lennie's Groove." The possibilities emanating from the polytonal style of "Out on a Limb" are far from exhausted. Turner and Trotignon are taking that language further.
Arts Council England had their logo proudly emblazoned on the Partager Festival's publicity material. ACE decided- very late in the day- that they weren't even going to give this innovative festival a minimal grant. After the large hand-outs sloshed to its favoured children I find that shameful.
John Kieffer has an interesting piece in the Guardian about "sound art". It's PR for the sound installations in Somerset House, and for the one about to open in Kew Gardens. "Sound Art is here to stay," screams the title.
It's mainly there because museum Health and Safety officers (and accountants) love it. It gets their vote every time compared to live music events.
But how durablee is it? This stuff tends to be ephemeral and take-it-or leave it, it exists in its place in its time.
But, Private Eye style, the assertion does enable me to re-write the history of Western music. Yes, here are the antecedents of Sound Art.
First comes the absolute pioneer Adrien Will Art (1490-1562) (clip above).
Then the great Moats Art (Salzburg 1756-Vienna 1791)
In the nineteenth century there was a lull, but it did bring the Art for Art's sake movement, of wich the musical manifestations were the liaisons of Theophile Gautier with interchangeable singing and dancing sisters of the Grisi family.
Then in twentieth century you get the fabulous front line of Farmer Art (1928-1999) and Pepper Art (1925-82).
All of whom ARE here to stay for rather longer than Sound Art.
Interested in taking the argument further? Try a piece about John Cage and the presence/ absence of "purpose and meaning" in music. "If a tree falls in the woods, can you call it music?" from the Music Think Tank blog. And then think about how MUSIC caqn move you.