Arts Council -"a brave new world or more of the same?"

In a typically thoughtful piece for his jazzbreakfast blog, Peter Bacon starts by thinking about why Birmingham has just missed out on Joe Lovano, and proceeds to ask the right questions- like the one above. The photo of Gary Fletcher above was taken at the venue that never was...or only briefly.. Ronnie Scott's in Birmingham..


CD Review: Fringe Magnetic - Twistic

Fringe Magnetic - Twistic
(Loop 1012, CD Review by Chris Parker)

Impossible to describe without resorting to phrases such as 'ranges between' or 'touches bases from …', the multi-faceted music produced bytrumpeter Rory Simmons's medium-sized band Fringe Magnetic takes in everything from freeish jazz to through-composed music, from eccentric sea shanties (Andrew Plummer's 'Fire in the Galley') to touchingly intimate sung ballads (Elisabeth Nygaard's 'Awake Like This') and from folk-based melodies ('Near Morningside') to rhythmically tricksy avant-jazz ('Twistic').

In addition, those whose idea of jazz is firmly fixed on conventions such as rhythm sections and front-line horns will find even Fringe Magnetic's basic instrumentation odd (the core sextet comprises trumpet, flute, clarinet, violin, cello and drums, occasionally augmented by piano and bass). This said, many of jazz's defining qualities (unfettered imaginativeness, unpredictability, tension between improvised and composed passages, hospitality to individual quirkiness etc.) are present in abundance in this determinedly original, wholly individual programme.

Although some may find the formal restlessness and consequent slight air of fussy contrivance disquieting, those more sympathetic to post-Downtown jazz will find much to enjoy in Simmons's music – there's even a guest appearance from his most celebrated employer, Jamie Cullum.


Jazz Services Statement on ACE Funding Announcement

The board of Jazz Services, chaired by Bob Blizzard, has put out this statement today: "Jazz Services is disappointed with the substantial cut in its Arts Council funding. However, we are still very much in business and are determined to deliver an exciting programme, in partnership with NYJO, which develops and promotes British jazz from the grassroots to international showcasing, and we will be seeking financial support from the public for our popular magazine, Jazz UK. Overall, a golden opportunity has been missed to redress the imbalance in financial support for the main musical genres in which jazz remains grossly underfunded in relation to the size of its audience." What does LondonJazz think? I refused to publish some of the insulting comments targeted at the Arts Council funded bodies yesterday, partly because they were borderline libellous, but also because I believe so strongly that we, all of us, collectively are in a GROWTH SECTOR. British jazz is becoming better organized and more unified by the month, and the fact that some people are more fluent in Arts Council-speak than others will progreessively even itself out as the numbers grow, as jazz becomes harder to ignore on the radar. We have a long way to go before we can get to the levels of recognition of the French or the Norwegians, but things are definitely happening.


Review: Food- Iain Ballamy, Thomas Strønen, guests

Review: Food -Iain Ballamy (Saxophone) & Thomas Strønen (Percussion) with guests Alex Munk (Guitar) and Kit Downes (Organ)
(Forge Venue, Camden, March 28th 2011, review by Roderick McKinley)

This concert was a wonderful way to wind down the day. Starting alone, Ballamy and Strønen set up a calm meditative space. Various bells and gongs alluded to eastern sacred music as the saxophone offered its prayer. Their outputs were augmented by electronics which opened up the space in the music further with delays, reverberation, and ambient harmonic drones.

Strønen displayed a ranging virtuosity spanning a breadth of percussive ideas. Textures varied from minimal micro-patter (reminiscent of electronica group Mum’s more minimal beat-palette); to intricate, rolling, polyrhythms; to complex abstract rhythmic sentences, some figures from which he surprisingly span into a groove. These cannot be convincingly delivered without pin-needle accuracy, which he effortlessly exercised.

It was not of the music for Ballamy to show off similar technical virtuosity. Nevertheless, he impressed with his unwavering focus and heartfelt involvement – absolutely necessary for the phrases to be as compelling as they were. These tended to be smooth with a few open intervals, often employing note duration for expression – often I was drawn to recall the opening bassoon lines of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.

Guests Munk and Downes joined midway. To some extent, they supplanted the role played by the electronics in the first half; the organ now providing drones and the guitar echoing and countermelodying the sax. Having these elements under human control also helped avoid the odd fits which sometimes result while triggering automatic electronic loops, though electronics still were used to layer effects as earlier.

Both Munk and Downes were sensitive and true to the understated and ambient character of much of the music. They melded well all together, providing a welcome enrichment to the sound palette.

It was a refreshing pleasure to attend a concert of improvised music which wasn’t fixated frantic energy and chaos.

Quiet Inlet, by Food is on ECM

See also: Jack Davies' preview of this gig

Iain Ballamy's website


London University Battle of the Big Bands

Suzy Jackson, President of the University of London Union Big Band (above), tells the story of this year's University of London Battle of the Big Bands

Last year’s first ever Battle of the Big Bands was a casual affair at the University of London Union, but this year, previous winners, King’s College, decided that this year the ante needed some upping.

King’s College, Royal Holloway, City and the University of London Union Big Bands fought it out for the hotly contested “University of London Big Band of the Year Award” on Sunday night March 27th.

For the first time, we had a judging panel comprising jazz composer and performer, Mike Mower, NYJO musical director, Mark Armstrong and West End and BBC Radio Two Big Band Award winning drummer, Elliott Henshaw. A fourth vote was given to the audience who submitted ballot papers.

There were some new rules too: each band’s half-hour set had to include Latin, Funk and Swing numbers, with vocals being optional.

City opened the evening, followed by Royal Holloway. The University of London Union band went next, and the evening was rounded off by the defenders of the title, King’s College. The end result was City in fourth, King’s College in third, Royal Holloway in second and the University of London Union Big Band emerging as the winners with an entirely instrumental set.

Our set consisted of Harry James’ Trumpet Blues, which put the trumpet section to the test from the off and a lively Rob McConnell latin arrangement of Take the A Train, the highlight for many of which was Ronnie’s favourite, Ed Richardson, on an open drum solo. Following this, as a centrepiece for the set the band played The Change, composed by Chris Whiter, a member of the band, which had only been premiered by us a week earlier!

After breathing a sigh of relief at getting to the end, ULU continued with Basie’s April in Paris, with lead trumpet Dave Runkel being praised for his interpretation of the Thad Jones’ solo (reportedly why he left the Basie band) and finished with Tower of Power’s funk classic, What is Hip?, complete with choreography!

Thank yous to... King’s College for hosting the event... Amber Nunn as the main organiser... the judges....the KCLA for donating a trophy... and all the other staff who made it possible.

A great night was had by all, and we also raised some money for music therapy charity, Nordoff Robbins.

Suzy Jackson also manages Bright Young Events


Arts Council Funding Decisions

Arts Council England announced todaythe grants it will give to the organisations it funds regularly, and significant changes in the portfolio of organisations it funds

Here is how organisations relevant to jazz in London have fared.

The numbers are for 2010/11, 2011/12 and 2012/13 (£'000)

Serious Events
: 505/470/449
Jazz Services : 465/433/340
Tomorrows Warriors : 174/162/162
Resonance FM : 93/87/160

A few relevant large organisations in London fared as folows:
Southbank Centre : 22173/20643/19714
Royal Opera : 28294/26342/25208
Barbican : 261/245/570

Outside of London, some organisations which look as if they have disappeared, are in fact being absorbed/ rationalized.

Birmingham Jazz, as a producer, applied jointly with Town Hall Symphony Hall.

NWJazzworks in Manchester is absorbed within the Manchester Jazz Festival. East Midlands Jazz gets a substantial increase.

UPDATE: Here is the list of RFOs which will no longer receive Arts Council money. A wordsearch for jazz produces four: NWJazzworks and Birmingham Jazz as mentioned above, but also Jazz Action in the North East, and Jazz Yorkshire, based in Leeds. Informal contacts with the Northern organizations are suggesting that there will be some positive outcomes.

Overall, jazz represents a tiny proportion of Arts Council funding.

This spreadsheet gives the complete list, in order of region.


Review: Avishai Cohen

Avishai Cohen
(Avishai Cohen, Union Chapel, Thursday 24 March. Review by Fran Hardcastle)

The beautifully lit Union Chapel was positively buzzing on Thursday night. Avishai Cohen's trio drew an international audience of enthusiastic and very vocal fans.

Promoting their new album, Seven Seas, the opening number, Dreaming introduced Cohen's lilting vocals, with a voice not dissimilar to Sting in its comforting tone. What could have remained just a pretty tune was lifted by some funky underpinning on piano and the first taste of the whirlwind of sound to come from drummer Amir Bresler.

In the delicate dancing melody of the second number, Shai Maestro showed the most sensitive touch on the piano, with Mozartean improvisations. The sound engineer, Simon Jouin deserves a mention for one of the most clear sound set ups I've heard in years, picking up every nuance of the trio.

The album title track itself, Seven Seas showed showman Cohen at his best. The musicians seemed utterly at ease in a very tricky chart with a virtuosic solo from Cohen who animatedly bounced around his bass. His percussive play on the body of his instrument interjecting the lightning fast finger work.

The highlight of the evening came from a traditional Ladino song, in which the bass and vocal intro kicked into a dizzyingly energetic trio chart. Maestro created a hurricane of sound in the piano leading into a marathon solo from Bresler. The drummer shot sparks of electricity into the room, spurred by whoops & whistles from an ecstatic audience, in a performance that left my heart racing and made every hair on the back of my neck stand up.

The joyous salsa closing number brought a stadium sized sound out of the trio and a vibrant display of showmanship from each of the players. Theatrics included switching instruments and Cohen ending the chart strumming his bass side-on as an electric guitar at a Rolling Stones gig. Leading to one of the loudest, most deservedly appreciated rounds of applause I've heard since I saw EST for the first time 9 years ago in Paris, prompting Cohen to tell the crowd 'You're better than the French!'.

As a live performer, Cohen is hard to beat.

Avishai Cohen's album "Seven Seas" is on Blue Note.


Review: Quentin Collins/Brandon Allen Quartet

Quentin Collins/Brandon Allen Quartet
(Ray's Jazz Cafe at Foyle's, 28th March 2011, Review by Chris Parker

In an interview in April 2007 to mark the release of his debut album, If Not Now, Then When?, trumpeter Quentin Collins (above) was already thinking of a follow-up recording which, he hoped, would be 'more melodic', with fewer 'over-complicated chord sequences' than his first Sunlightsquare CD. To achieve this aim, he could not have chosen a more suitable frontline partner than Australian tenor player Brandon Allen. In a jazz world that seems to be increasingly dominated by music-school graduates determined to explore the tricksiest chord sequences they can think up, Collins and Allen are something of a bracing tonic, their approach harking back to the classic jazz of the 1950s and 1960s epitomised by the output of the Blue Note label, but with its roots in bebop, Basie and Ellington.

In that same interview, indeed, Collins, after citing Miles Davis, Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard as important influences ('powerful, great music'), said unequivocally: 'I'm basically an Ellington disciple and love bebop. I think the history's very important, so I always listen to old records, right back to the 1930s.'

Given these predilections, it was no surprise to find the Collins/Allen quartet (completed by organist Ross Stanley and drummer Enzo Zirilli) delivering over an hour of unfussy but melodic hard bop, delivered with grace, but infused with zip and bristling with bustling energy. They began proceedings with the title-track of their new album, What's It Gonna Be? (Collins appearing to have a penchant for the interrogative in his titles), on which both Collins's rattling vigour and flaring brilliance and Allen's driving power (Tubby Hayes seems to be the model most frequently mentioned in accounts of his playing, and with good reason) were given free rein. The rest of the set, particularly a Zirilli take on 'Tea for Two' entitled 'Teeth for Tooth' (don't ask), was similarly vital and unpretentious. All four participants -plus the impressive trombonist Trevor Mires who made a guest appearance - were striking sparks off each other, both in their swiftly traded solos and in their longer excursions over the accommodating sequences provided for them by Collins and Allen's bright, accessible themes.

A ballad, 'Dark Shadows', brought out Allen's more contemplative side, his solo a little gem imbued with bruised tenderness, but overall, this was an irresistibly lively, even sassy performance, and a great showcase (as it was intended to be, of course) for the band's forthcoming album.


RIP Graham Fox

I was shocked and saddened to hear yesterday of the death in his early thirties of drummer and bandleader Graham Fox. Graham had a First Class B. Mus from Trinity, and was a busy drummer on the London scene. He toured with Graham Coxon, formally of Blur, and worked with UNKLE. I cannot forget above all his lively presence as one of the early members of the WayOutWest Collective in the tiny cauldron of the RamJam Club in Kingston, where he brought huge energy and inspiration to the bands he led or played in.

Condolences to family and to those close to Graham. This is another tragic loss.

Graham's brother Richard has set up this tribute page on Facebook


Preview/ Interview (and Prize Draw): Charles McPherson at Pizza Express

Preview: Charles McPherson
Pizza Express Dean Street, Wednesday March 30th-Saturday April 2nd

Alto saxophonist and composer Charles McPherson, who has a residency at Pizza Express Dean Street this week, is an intrinsic part of the jazz heritage. Newsletter readers can email me try to win a pair of free tickets as this week's PRIZE DRAW.

From my experience of hearing him and reviewing him (complete with a terrible pun in the third paragraph) last year is playing with an energy and conviction which belie his age: he is in his early seventies, but you wouldn't know it.

I talked to him on Sunday afternoon at his home in San Diego in southern California, and he reminisced briefly about two early formative periods. Born in Missouri, his family moved when he was nine to the same street as the legendary Bluebird club in Detroit." It was within two blocks." The club is associated with pianists such as Barry Harris, Tommy Flanagan, Hank Jones, Kirk Lightsey.

He describes the early fascination, what it was that had him completely hooked: "I would see people walking in that direction," he told me. "these people looked different, they were jazz fans. Jazz fans ARE different, a special type of person, there was something civil, classy about them. They were racially mixed, which at that time was unusiual, to see black people and and white people together. Sophisticated people, I thought, with some kind of street-wiseness about them."

As a twenty year old, he moved to New York. The dominant figure for the next twelve years was Mingus - "He was a charismatic and bigger-than-life personality - there was never a dull moment. Misically I learned a lot, especially about composition. He was a towering figure, a hard task master who wanted his music played a certain way. But he always pushed the envelope. Indeed Miles got the credit later for some of the things which Mingus had already done."

McPherson is known for having followed closely the Parker sound and vocabulary in his early career, but what has increasingly emerged is his complete mastery of bebop language. As the late Richard Cook wrote in his Jazz Encyclopedia , he is "fully and engagingly his own man."

McPherson continues to write and to play in a style he calls "neo-bebop," but it is now nine years since his last recording, Manhattan Nocturne. Why, I asked? He expressed disillusion with the recording industry in general, but would definitely be open to the possibility of working with a small label, and swap the big marketing budgets of old for greater integrity......if the terms were right.

Charles McPherson will be with a top British trio: Barry Green, piano, Jeremy Brown, bass, and (Irishman) Stephen Keogh on drums. The dates are from Wednesday March 30th until Saturday April 2nd. There are late (10pm) sets on Friday and Saturday.


"Remembering Tony Levin"

Simon Spillett pays tribute to the late Tony Levin, and writes about the strong line-up which has been assembled for the "Remembering Tony Levin" gig at the 606 Club on April 19th

The death of drummer Tony Levin, aged 71, on February 3rd robbed both the British and the international jazz scene of one its most accomplished, dynamic and resolutely dedicated individuals.

Levin had been fighting a debilitating form of cancer for close to a quarter of a century, itself a remarkable struggle, but concurrent with this fight he maintained a busy schedule, touring internationally and making all-too-rare appearances at home in the UK, each performance a testament to the energy he could bring to any band stand. Levin's career began humbly.

Self-taught, he began gigging around the Midlands jazz scene in his teens, working with musicians such as Joe Harriott and Ronnie Ross, before being plucked from a late-night jam session by none other than Tubby Hayes, the tear-away saxophonist whose skills had elevated British jazz to an international level. Hayes realised that Levin's youthful audacity and confidence, and his style marrying elements of the latest drum pioneers Elvin Jones and Tony Williams, was unrivalled anywhere on the London jazz scene and although the drummer remained a key part of the family business in Birmingham he joined the Hayes quartet, earning the nickname "The Second City Steamer" for the lightning trips he'd make to and from Birmingham to honour the bands gigs. The album the group made in 1967 "Mexican Green", remains a classic, mixing ferocious free-form, delicate balladry and scorching hard-bop, each stylistic turn knowingly underpinned by Levin's immense musicality.

At this time he was also the choice accompanist of a number of visiting American jazzmen, ranging from Zoot Sims to Hank Mobely and beyond. In the 1970's Tony Levin's workload broadened further with stints with both Humphrey Lyttelton and Nucleus to his name and there were close associations formed with saxophonist Alan Skidmore and pianist John Taylor.

Levin's enthusiasm for free improvisation led him into collaborations with many European musicians and in the 1980's he co-formed Mujician, a sort of avant-garde supergroup with tenorist Paul Dunmall, bassist Paul Rogers and pianist Keith Tippett which produced a series of intensely passionate albums into the 21st century.

During what was to be the last year of his life, Tony's musical activities continued unabated; he was a much valued contributor to the teaching faculty at Birmingham Conservatoire and, as a performer, was working with both the Peter King quintet and the European Jazz Ensemble, an international line-up featuring old friends including Alan Skidmore and Gerd Dudek.

His last gig, with Peter King, barely a few days before his death contained all his signature energy and musicality, making his sudden tragic passing all the more lamentable. Unlike many jazz veterans, Levin was still creating and operating at the top of his game. To his friends and colleagues, Tony Levin was a man of grace, wit and extreme intelligence. He was universally liked, admired and respected and never lost sight of the basic belief that music was an arena that was best entered unburdened by ego. Indeed, he was a rare combination of a beautiful soul and a beautiful performer, one whose contributions to jazz will be sorely missed.

The tribute gig held at London's 606 Club on April 19th will feature many for Tony's friends and colleagues, including Alan Skidmore, Stan Sulzmann, Steve Melling, Dick Pearce, Clark Tracey, Andy Cleyndert, Mark Fletcher, Peter King and Miles Levin, Tony's prodigiously talented drummer son.

Proceeds will go to the Shropshire Blood Trust Fund (Reg. Charity 1107883) assisting those who continue to live with the condition that Tony so bravely combated for many years.

More details on the 606 Club's website


Carroll, L ; Shaw, I ; Steinway, D.

Liane Carroll, Ian Shaw, and a piano from last Saturday at Kings Place. Photo credit: Roger Thomas. The performers previewed this gig for us


Review: Buck Clayton Legacy Band

The Buck Clayton Legacy band (Pizza Express, Dean St, 24th March 2011, Review by Peter Vacher, photo above taken at Holywell Music Room, Oxford)

The late, great Basie trumpeter Buck Clayton was also a fine composer and arranger. Years back, he passed a box of original music to bassist-publisher Alyn Shipton who had helped him with his memoirs. Its contents form the repertoire of Shipton’s nine-piece tribute band which made its London debut last Thursday, rightly earning an ovation from the house-full audience.

Concentrating on swing and ensemble colour, Clayton’s compositions call for solo enterprise and strong ensemble playing, both in evidence here. Visiting saxophonist Matthias Seuffert had reshaped Clayton’s originals for the nonet, while he and Shipton recruited players who know the swing lexicon off-by-heart and wanted to give their all. And so they did. With Seuffert on tenor and the omni-present Alan Barnes on alto, flanked by a brass trio of trumpeters Menoo Daams and Ian Smith, and trombonist Adrian Fry, the assembled company did full justice to Clayton’s canny charts, handling up-tempo, jaunty things like ‘Party Time’ or ‘Outer Drive’ with commendable verve before easing down on ‘Smoothie’ where the Hackett-like Daams excelled. Add in a the foot-tapping capabilities of ex-Barber drummer Norman Emberson, Shipton’s bass, the guitar of Martin Wheatley and Martin Litton’s sparkling piano and you have quite a force for good. Ideal for a festival or club near you.


Tunes By Another Name

I've compiled a "Spotify Sunday" playlist for the Spectator's Arts Blog

The seven tunes are:

The Photographer's Song
The Cheese Song (above)
Let's face the Dhansak
The Ram's Lament
The Pub Song
Everybody Owns This Song But Me

To hear the music you need to be signed up to Spotify.


April 25th, 606 Club- Queensland Relief Fund Charity Concert

PREVIEW: CHARITY CONCERT IN AID OF THE QUEENSLAND RELIEF FUND Trudy Kerr writes about a special event at the 606 Club on Monday April 25th

When Sophie Garner contacted me to tell me that she was organising a fundraising event for the victims of the Queensland Floods, I was touched.

I am a Queenslander, born and bred, but have lived in London for the past 20 years. It is hard to imagine the size of the area destroyed by flood in Queensland but indeed entire towns have been wiped out. (not to diminish the recent devastation in Japan where so many lives were lost) In Toowoomba they received 150 mm of rain in 40 minutes, creating an inland tsunami with 7 metre high waves. The water could not be contained by the dam that protects Brisbane, so the equivalent of two Sydney Harbours of water had to be released daily and this caused Brisbane to flood.

Although my immediate family were not affected, some of my relatives and friends have suffered from flooded homes and lost jobs. Also the beautiful Brisbane Jazz Club (above), the hub of live jazz in Queensland on the banks of the Brisbane River, was completely submerged by the flood and needs donations for a complete rebuild.

In true British style, with a heartfelt conscience for those less fortunate, many of the great UK singers and musicians have united to offer their services free of charge for the event at the 606 club in Chelsea. Steve Rubie at the club has also been extremely generous, offering his club for this special night too.

So, people of London, come to the 606 on Monday 25th April and please give generously to the Queensland Flood Appeal.

You will be entertained by this star-studded line up: -

Sophie Garner
Ian Shaw
Liane Carroll
Gill Manly
Natalie Williams
Georgia Mancio
Emma Blake
Kaz Simmons
Kerry Hodgkin
Polly Gibbons
Nia Lynn
Pete Churchill
Mark Fletcher
Janette Mason
Simon Little
Simon Wallace

There'll a song from me too, and with this kind of event, you just never know who might show up on the night. So come along and support!

More details on the 606 Club website. Admission £18


Round-up review: Guildhall School Jazz Festival

Guildhall Jazz Festival (24th and 26th March, Guildhall School, fourth and sixth days of festival)

The Guildhall Jazz Festival 2011 contained one event which I can already see in contention for a place in my gigs of the year. The festival has expanded this year. It encompassed twelve events over six days, and for the first time included an Improvisation Fringe, co-ordinated by Gail Brand. The whole festival was led by Head of Jazz studies Martin Hathaway.


I caught the second half, but wow. It consisted of Malcolm Edmonstone directing a complete, fresh re-creation of the 1982 album "The Nightfly" by Donald Fagen from the keyboard, and based on transcriptions by Edmonstone himself with the students support.

Until about a week before the concert it had not been clear whether the ambition to have all eight tracks of the album performance-ready was realistic, so the advance publicity had been limited. In the event it was a complete triumph.

The visual layout and the circumstances of the performance reminded me of what it must have been like for Bach to get his St. John Passion ready for Good Friday in Cothen. Indeed, "The Nightfly" in live performance has something of the feel and the visuals of Mark Padmore’s recent attempt to re-create the original performance feel of the St. John Passion.

Like the Passion, it captures fervour, but the object here is not religious, rather a deliciously palpable venal mood of eighties naivety and optimism. Not just the Zeitgeist, but also perhaps Fagen branching out from Steely Dan. To hear such words as: "What a beautiful world this will be / What a glorious time to be free" "We'll be eternally free yes and eternally young" sung with such indomitable conviction and energy by a group of nineteen- and twenty-year olds was very moving, and will stay in the mind for a very long time. Cynicism, world-weariness get quickly forgotten in these circumstances.

The two-way traffic of mutual inspiration and affection between a musical director and the musically directed sometimes just works alchemically. All the performers on Thursday were absolutely giving of their all, caught in the elation of a moment which, even after one of the tracks had been encored, was over all too quickly.

What will I remember? Sleeve-rolling-up remarks from Edmonstone like “now I have to do some work” before one number, the warm alto saxophone sound of young Scot Ru Pattison in the transcribed Brecker solos; then there was the sight of one of the top drummers in Europe in the audience in the row in front of me, moving with the rhythms, not missing a split-second; and the Guildhall Singers (including fine soloists) swaying in rhythm, responding, being asked to nail things and hitting them every time; a pair of bright pink shoes - it was all a part of just being completely transfixed.

This performance deserves to be seen again, recorded, filmed, immortalized.


The culmination of the festival was a concert featuring ten pieces by Stan Sulzmann for big band. "The thing about writing." said Sulzmann, "is that you need the opportunity, and a band to write it for."

The earliest work was his remarkable and richly fulfilling, growing, powerful arrangement of the standard "The Thrill is Gone," the first arrangement Sulzmann did for big band. (That is as hard to believe as it is to write). It appears on that memorable, treasurable album from 2000, now quite hard to obtain, Birthdays Birthdays (Village Life - above).

The most recent works were new commissions from the Guildhalll School receiving their first performances at this concert. An idea which Sulzmann had taken to heart is to arrange compositions by other British musicians for big band. Sulzmann is such a huge and respected presence on the British jazz scene, that these other writers tend to be people who at some point have benefited from being nurtured, encouraged, "brought on." This is part of his unique contribution to British music. Just one example: he told the story of a fourteen year old alto saxophonist from Guildford who had been invited to play with him at the Bulls Head. The young Iain Ballamy was doubtless daunted by the prospect of playing with Sulzmann, but will have left that gig emboldened for a life, and for a career and a profile in music which is still strengthening.

But the main deal was Sulzmann’s writing for band. Sulzmann takes good tunes and then as writer and as improviser goes through a process of doubly out-thinking them. On Nikki Iles' “Westerly,” there was sumptuous writing to state the theme for eight part brass chorus – superbly balanced by the players and directed by Martin Hathaway. But then the magic of a sax section countermelody, leaving the mood of solace and repose intact, and encouraging tenor soloist Alec Harper to solo in the spirit of the tune and float free. And then the unexpected interruption of the mood with stab chords, reinforcing what has gone before.

Another moment to savour was alto Ru Pattison dialoguing over a beautifully-played tuba (Theon Cross) countermelody on “Meaning of the Blues.” Sulzmann had introduced this tune by saying: “When I found out Gil Evans had arranged this tune, I thought: “Oh my Gawd, maybe I shouldn’t have.” The joyous full band ending to that chart gave its own answer. The chart deserves – and I would venture probably will - be played for generations.

The forward motion in these charts is irresistible, elements, cross-rhythms balance and converse. There's a sense of completeness. It’s a whole world apart from a contemporary classical composer whose work I heard later on the same evening on the radio. This man's method was to take a few so-so ideas and evidently stretch them out bby copy-pasting them with Sibelius software. I’m told it’s called minimalism. In that case, Stan Sulzmann is a maximalist. I know which I would rather hear.

Declaration of interest: I am a trustee of the Foundation for Young Musicans, supporting CYM, a division of Guildhall School

UPDATE: Trevor Bannister's review of Michael Garrick has appeared identically in


The Jazz Mann

Jazz Journal


Book Review: Flying High, A Jazz Life and Beyond by Peter King

Flying High, A Jazz Life and Beyond, by Peter King (Northway Books, Book Review by Stephen Keogh)

Peter King has written an account of himself which is not only compelling, but touching in its honesty and openness. In much the same way as he plays a solo he gives you everything, in detail.

Another great master, Louis Stewart, once said about King: "I was always amazed that someone who seemed beset by so many problems was always able to stand up and play so much."

Peter cannot help but give his all when he plays. This book is filled with the wisdom of a true master, and should be an obligatory read on the curriculum of all music schools and colleges. It is full of insights into the stuff that cannot be taught in a conservatoire. It describes the dedication and devotion needed to attain the level of playing that few manage to get to. It is a must for anyone seriously engaged with improvised music, whether it be jazz or any other musical category.

There are many stories of the road (on tour), which are by turns dramatic, heart breaking and hilarious. The descriptions of the things that occur on the way to gigs, the amazing coincidences and serendipitous happenings, some of which if they were part of a movie script wouldn't be believable. The meetings and encounters with musical legends, film stars and personalities of all types. There is really even too much here for just one movie.

Peter's honest and candid description of his battle with drugs, the devastating and destructive effects that they had on his life, and his eventual triumph over them should both resonate with and inspire many people who are battling addictions of all kinds.

The book should be available in public libraries and rehabilitation centres everywhere as it describes the before, during and after. Peter should be regarded as a national treasure. Hopefully with the release of this book, more people inside and outside of the UK will become of aware of that. It's very important that the younger musicians in the UK are conscious of just how great he actually is.

Years ago during a conversation about how difficult it was becoming to get work, Art Farmer said "Peter King? That guy should be working wherever, whenever and with who ever he wants".

Having known and played with Peter for over 20 years, when reading this book I could hear his voice telling me these stories. He has captured himself on paper and the book really feels as though it is him sitting there talking to you.
Peter King has a great story to tell, it is the story of a survivor. It's a real slice of life, his life, and a big one at that.

-Flying High will be published on April 6th and is available by pre-order from Northway Books.

-Peter King will be talking to Ian Shaw in the upstairs bar of Ronnie Scott's om Wednesday April 6th at 6pm.

-Peter King will talk about the book and sign copies in the Gallery at Foyles Bookshop, Charing Cross Road, on April 7th at 6.30pm. Pre-booking advised: -Peter King will be at the 606 Club on April 11th.

-Stephen Keogh is appearing this week with Charles McPherson at the Pizza Express (it was Saturday's gig of the week in The Independent. )


Review: Mike Stern

Mike Stern Band
(Union Chapel, Islington, Friday 25 March, Review by Chris Parker)

Electric guitarist Mike Stern has an impeccable c.v. (Miles Davis, Michael Brecker, Billy Cobham, David Sanborn and Bob Berg have all shared stages with him over a three-decade career) and an impressive discography, but his gigs in the UK outside jazz clubs have been relatively rare, so this quartet appearance in a concert setting, leading a dream band (fusion drummer supreme Dave Weckl, tenorman Bob Malach and bassist Tom Kennedy) promised to be a genuine treat.

Stern is an indefatigable improviser, his appetite for exploring his relatively straightforward but compellingly listenable tunes apparent from the moment he steps up, his trademark blissed-out grin signalling his delight, and launches himself into one of his slow-building, initially spangly then increasingly urgent, hard-edged solos. He is at his best when he allows himself plenty of time to reach the frenzied climaxes that make his playing so exciting, and he stretched out on this occasion to such an extent that the band performed fewer than a dozen tunes, embracing everything from blistering jazz-rock to swooning ballads, in a ninety-minute set, mining his back catalogue for the likes of 'KT' from the 2006 album Who Let the Cats Out? and 'I Know You' from 2004's These Times.

Skilfully exploiting the tonal contrast between his rapturously fluent, sweet-toned guitar and Malach's throaty urgency, Stern clearly entranced a full house with solo after solo that exploited the full range of the sounds and textures available to his instrument, and the standing ovation he and his band received before launching themselves into a short encore was richly deserved.

All the more dispiriting, then, to have to report that the Union Chapel's acoustics, which rendered rhythm-section subtleties (and Weckl and Kennedy are past masters at providing these in spades) redundant, reducing the most bristlingly precise of Weckl's drum solos to rackety clatters in which individual strokes were almost indistinguishable, were a great deal more of a hindrance than a help to a top-flight band in fine fettle.

'One of the best electric guitarists of his generation' (and amen to Mike Zwerin's assessment, quoted on Stern's website) surely deserved better.

Photo from


London University Battle of the Big Bands

What a heartening sight to see the extent of big band life among London's mainstream student population. Battle of the Big Bands 2011 involving up to five big bands (have UCL scratched?) is hosted by KCL Jazz Society and starts tomorrow evening Sunday 27th March at 6pm at Tutu's Club in the Strand. Judges are Elliott Henshaw, Mark Armstrong and Mike Mower. The organizers' Facebook page with more details is HERE. For those on Twitter the hashtag is #BOTBB2011 .


Review: Sector 7

Sector 7, 606 Club, Wednesday 23 March. Review by Fran Hardcastle.

A warm and friendly audience, replete with many jazz singers and musicians welcomed Sector 7 to the 606 stage on Wednesday night for their first gig. Sarah Ellen Hughes funky a capella arrangement of My Favourite Things got the evening off to an impressive start.

Hughes has put together a stellar young vocal line up. Emma Smith – at just 20 years old and still a student at the Royal Academy is a bold performer who can raise the hairs on the back of your neck with every note. Joining her is fellow Academy student, Kwabena Adjepong, possessing a spine-tinglingly rich voice. If you’re in tomorrow night, he will be appearing on your screens with NYJO on the new BBC2 show, ‘Goldie’s Band: By Royal Appointment’. Shakka Philip brings a different dimension to the group, with a powerful contemporary soul sound. If his original material is anything to go by, he’s likely to be climbing up the Brit pop ranks quite soon.

The quartet was supported by the exemplary musicianship of pianist George Moore, Ronnies regular bassist, Tim Thornton and drummer Andy Chapman.

The tasters of vibrant ensemble arrangements from Sarah Hughes and the display of each singers plentiful talents left the audience crying out for an encore. And that pretty much sums up the gig. More please.


Congratulations Beats & Pieces - Winners 2011 Burghausen European Young Artists Jazz Award

Hold on to that cheque for EUR15,000.(Photo Credit: © Frank Rasimowitz). It represents the First Prize in the 2011 Burghausen European Young Artists' Jazz Award, which was won on Tuesday by Manchester band Beats & Pieces, led by Ben Cottrell.

The band's trip to Germany was supported by the Musicians' Benevolent Fund - B & P won their Ensembles and Groups Award and this supported the costs of travel.

Beats & Pieces were winners from an initial field of sixty bands. The other finalists were from Germany, Austria and Denmark. Their performance - as support for Chick Corea and Gary Burton, was recorded for later transmission on national TV in Germany.

Burghausen Jazz website/ EFPI Records website


Review: Joyce Moreno

Joyce Moreno
(Ronnie Scott's, March 24th 2011, Review by Sofia Wilde)

Rio-born Joyce Moreno is one of Brazil’s most revered singer-songwriters. In a career spanning forty years, she has recorded over twenty solo albums and been nominated for three Latin Grammy awards.

"To play bossa nova you have to be able to play well softly as much as loudly”, the ‘father of bossa nova’ - Joao Gilberto - once said. This is precisely what Joyce and her band do so well. The music breathes; it ebbs and flows and teases the listener with rollercoaster rises and falls in tempo and dynamics.

From the very first number ‘A Banda Maluca’ (The Crazy Band), the band were out to prove just how crazy they could get. Helio Alves on piano, Rodolpho Stoeter on bass and husband and collaborator, Tutty Moreno on drums all performed with absolute mastery. It was impossible not to want to move. Ronnie’s has a great atmosphere but I can only imagine the enthusiasm in a venue where there’s room to dance. The rhythm and energy the band exude seems to come so naturally one would like to believe that they were simply ‘born that way.’ During one of Helio’s absurdly brilliant solos, a Brazilian musician sat next to me was prompted to say, "I think I’ll give up". 

Joyce's voice has a breathtaking tone and wonderfully percussive inflections, but she’s also an extremely accomplished guitarist, composer and interpreter. Playing her trademark back-to-front pipe cleaner guitar, she went on to perform several of her own compositions, the highlight for me being ‘Caymmi Vista Tom’, a song that imagines Tom Jobim and Dori Caymmi meeting in heaven. Then there were compositions by Brazilian heavyweights, Johnny Alf, Vinicius de Moraes, Baden Powell and of course Tom Jobim. Joyce performing ‘Águas de Março’ on her own was another highlight.

Being half-Portuguese, I appreciate the lyrical content of the songs, and love philosophical musings such as: "Medo de amar, nao faz feliz a ninguem" - "Afraid of loving, doesn’t make anybody happy" and "Preciso aprender os mistérios do mundo prá te ensinar" – "I need to learn the mysteries of the world so I can teach you". Inspiring lyrics like this feed the soul, and lift the heart. In English there was ‘Slow Music’ - written by Joyce and Robin Goldsby - with a gem of a line: “time doesn’t fly, it flows”. It’s a song inspired by ‘Slow Food’ a movement promoting good, clean and fair food. Joyce recommends we savour those same things in music instead of swallowing ‘junk music’.

This was her annual one-date gig in Great Britain - she's also appearing in Belfast on this trip. She's in her early sixties, so let's hope she keeps on touring, and that the UK stays on her itinerary. What a treat.


CD Review: Twelves - The Adding Machine

Twelves - The Adding Machine
(Babel BDV1088, CD Review by Chris Parker)

With the addition of electric guitarist Rob Updegraff, the former Twelves Trio have not only become Twelves, but have beefed up their sound, making it rockier and more hard-hitting in the process.

Bassist Riaan Vosloo explains that the original trio, touring on the back of their first album, kept finding themselves playing to rock-oriented audiences, so 'learned to "put it out a bit", and to experiment', and The Adding Machine (the title comes from a 1923 expressionist play by Elmer Rice) encapsulates the musical results of this change, containing as it does a heady mix of Prime Time-like keening and Sco/Lo-type driving urgency.

With tenor player Mark Hanslip and drummer Tim Giles completing the line-up -– both experienced operators in the fertile hinterland between free jazz and more structured playing, the former primarily with Outhouse, the latter with the likes of Age of Steam and Fraud -– Twelves are well equipped to move, as they do, between dramatic, anthemic rock and tumbling freer music. On this album's seven in-band originals and one arrangement of a traditional folk song ('Shallow Brown') they perfectly capture the spirit of Rice's play, which also dramatises a shifting emotional world of dark revenge, unsettling fantasy and hope.


CD Review: Trygve Seim, Andreas Utnem - Purcor

Trygve Seim, Andreas Utnem - Purcor
(ECM 274 3227, CD Review by Chris Parker, Photo Credit: Morton Krogvold)

Pianist/liturgical composer Andreas Utnem describes the music on this, the debut recording from his 13-year duo with saxophonist Trygve Seim, as 'improvised church music', but the album's subtitle, 'Songs for Saxophone and Piano' is perhaps more revealing, since it embraces the entire range of Purcor's repertoire, which includes the odd folk song and improvisation as well as Kyries, Credos, Agnus Deis and Pater Nosters.

That said, the music Seim and Utnem produce is imbued with a quiet reverence entirely appropriate to its church setting (which also imparts a useful echo to the sound), and as Seim himself notes, there is 'a special simplicity and clarity' in both Utnem's compositions and playing. The more secular-minded, however, will be immediately impressed by the extraordinary textural variety in Seim's saxophone playing, whether he's operating on tenor or soprano. Exposure to Asian and Middle Eastern music has left its mark on his approach: many pieces, for instance, begin with just breathing audible, tone and body emerging only sporadically fromhis horn like flames flickering from the smoke in a smouldering log; others employ microtonal phrasing, smears and wisps interspersed with full-blooded skirls of Garbarek-like intensity.

Consequently, the duo's music is meditative and occasionally rapturous, but also surprisingly adventurous and original, and this is a consistently absorbing, sometimes downright hypnotic, fourteen-piece programme.


Review: Sir Richard Rodney Bennett 75th Birthday

Claire Martin, Richard Rodney Bennett, Watts/ Skelton/Hitchcock, Nash Ensemble cond. John Wilson
(Wigmore Hall, March 23rd 2011, Photo Credit: Schirmer & Co)

"He looks in pretty good shape for ninety-six, doesn't he," joked Claire Martin. This concert, in honour of Sir Richard Rodney Bennett's seventy-fifth birthday next Tuesday, consisted of a mini-set of four songs and - eventually - two charming and happy encores for their regular duo, plus seven off Bennett's arrangements for voice chamber ensemble, from about forty years ago, originally commissioned by Amelia Freedman for the Nash Ensemble, and specially reduced for tonight's smaller forces, deftly conducted by John Wilson.

Richard Rodney Bennett has a very special way of making different elements co-exist peacably in music. In the first duo set he even set up a civilized context for two songs to talk amicably and collaboratively to each other. It seemed to symbolize the evening. With Bennett's gentle persuasion, Ray Noble's "The Very Thought of You," and Jimmy Van Heusen's "I thought About You" seemed to get along together very well. Double-songs don't normally work as well as this.

In "I don't want to rock and Roll" by the prolific composer Maury Yeston, Bennett zipped through a history of music with composers' names cleverly rhymed - "Pergolesi" and "driving me crazy" just one of a torrent - and then inserted a coda which embraced just about every single rival faction of the British classical contemporary music scene- except for Turnage: there are some names for which not even Richard Rodney Bennett can find a sentient rhyme.

Rhyming, peacable co-existence, it seems to fit into a pattern. The best examples (I’m enjoying this theme) came in the beautifully varied arrangements. Gershwin's "My Man's Gone Now" was perhaps the most remarkable. Here a strict metric three-four with lush harmonies showcasing the skills of the Nash players co-existed a hard-swung swung three-four from the jazz players, with Bennett at the centre of things.

In the final arrangement, Rodgers' "It might has well be Spring," Bennett freed himself up to spin delicious jazz countermelodies while simultaneously seeming to unravel the slow movement of Ravel’s G major piano concerto in the upper reaches of the piano.

Matt Skelton is perhaps uniquely capable of bringing a drum kit sound down to the point where nobody could possibly question its rightness and suitability in the Wigmore Hall. Nigel Hitchcock’s jazz solos were massively impressive – zipping through the changes in “Love for Sale” for example - and so were his feats of blending, timbre and accuracy – right there in the ensemble of the top chamber music players in Britain he seemed nothing less than a full member of the Nash ensemble.

Claire Martin, both in the duo setting and in front of the chamber group made each song, each moment come to life. "My Ship," at the tempo of a gentle barcarolle over Steve Watts' Ron Carter-ish boss bass playing was a delight. "It Never Entered My Mind" found Martin exploring a sonorous lower register with Karin Krog-like warmth. More please. "When the Midnight Choo Choo Leaves For Alabam'," the final encore, caught exactly the right note of celebration to bring proceedings to a close.

Bennett said that the arrrangements had originally been commissioned for Eartha Kitt. (LondonJazz tangent alert.) That had me reaching back into a comforting past for the Monty Python spoof of Eartha Kitt with her most famous sex-kittenish song "Old-Fashioned Millionaire."

I found myself drawn in by one line from the Monty Python Eartha Kitt spoof, which speaks with clarity of the musical values and virtues which Sir Richard Rodney Bennett has lived and demonstrated ever since his Quaker schooling in the immediate afermath of the Second World War. (It was the perfect antidote to Budget Day, with a procession of our politicians treating us to the unconstructive spectacle of blaming and tribally loathing each other, egged on by the willing media. Meuh).

"I don't want a state founded on hatred and division."

Amen to that, and A Very Happy Seventy-Fifth, Sir Richard.

"Witchcraft" by Sir Richard Rodney Bennett and Claire Martin, reviewed HERE, is on Linn Records.


Loop Festival at the Forge Venue Round-Up

Loop Collective Festival
(Forge Venue, March 17th and 18th 2011, Days 2 and 3 of a 4-day festival
Photos Credit: Stephanie Knibbe)

Ivan Hewett's Telegraph review of the first night of this year's third Loop Festival at the Forge Venue in Camden captured the spirit of the whole enterprise very accurately:

"Loop Collective [is] a bunch of musicians with the likeable trait of sharing ideas and resources. During the Festival’s opening gig at the Forge, a cool, wood-panelled, galleried venue in north London, each band listened in to each other’s sets and between times manned the joint CD stall. The sense of communal endeavour was as cheering as the music itself."

I heard four acts during the Festival - (PLEASE FEEL FREE TO ADD COMMENTS AND BROADEN THIS OUT!)

- (Thursday) I heard the duo of Mathieu Donarier and Poline Renou, Kindergarten, which describes itself as "an acoustic project off the beaten track."

Donarier has been heard in other contexts in London, on soprano and tenor sax, but he is capable of making the kind of sweet sounds on a clarinet which I have never, ever heard before. He plays that extinct beast, the metal clarinet. The metal clarinet was only ever made between 1889 when Conn took out the patents and 1940, and is generally written off as a historical aberration. There is a specialist site for if anyone apart from me is in clarinet-nerd mode.

Donarier has found a particular instrument on which he can play exceptionally in tune. He does a reed-slappery which makes the clarinet sound like a thumb-piano. The duo play short compositions, mainly by Donarier, and work hard at blending the voice and the clarinet sound. The results - eg on a track called Jig-Jig from Kindergarten's album on Yolk Records (scroll to bottom of page, it's the featured track) have to be heard.

- Arthurs. Hoiby. Ritchie is a good vehicle for Arthurs to build his quietly persuasive narratives, and the strong, swaggering musical personalities of Hoiby and Ritchie. There was more presence in Arthurs playing here than in the Berlin group he brought to last year's Cheltenham Festival.

- Fringe Magnetic. This band was a great closer for the evening. An upbeat, lively and expert nine-piece plus vocals was getting energetically stuck into some brand new compositions from Rory Simmons. I had to bale out before the end, but there were colours a-plenty in the orchestrations of the bits I heard, and it gave me appetite to hear the whole set. In the exuberant first number, it was as if Copland, Stravinsky and Gil Evans had met and combined their best features. I also enjoyed the opening conversations of the second number "Only a Poltroon (Despises Pedantry)", which cunningly combined bass clarinet (the strong voice of James Allsopp) with cello, plus flute and vibes (the crystal clear voice of Jim Hart). Can someone tell me where this band is booked to play next? I'd love to hear it again!

- (Friday) Pianist Alcyona Mick, with the ethereal sound of violinist Calina De La Mare and the subtle voicings of guitarist Jon Wygens performed Alcyona's score for the silent film Sunrise. The music captured the shifting moods of the film deftly and subtly. I thought it worked brilliantly, and would go and see/hear it again without hesitation. At 70 or so minutes it is the perfect length,and never outstayed its welcome. It was slightly confusing to be watching a Czech print of the film, which is mainly set in the US, but it added old-continent charm. We also interviewed her and previewed this gig.

We've had a few comments on the Loop Collective Festival, notably on the audience .....HERE


CD Review: Kairos 4tet – Statement of Intent

CD Review Kairos 4tet – Statement of Intent
(Edition Records, CD Review by Tom Gray)

The music on this second album from saxophonist Adam Waldmann’s Kairos 4tet retains many of the elements which made their debut ‘Kairos Moment’ so appealing. As before, the overriding tone is of Middle Eastern-tinged melodies which unravel beguilingly over a complex rhythmic framework. But somehow the grooves are even deeper here, the solos are delivered with more conviction, the group dialogue appears to take a step closer to true telepathy.

Part of this is undeniably down to the recruitment of pianist Ivo Neame, who joins drummer John Scott and his Phronesis colleague, bassist Jasper Høiby. They make up a formidable rhythm section which sails through these often tricky charts with knockout precision and inventiveness. The leader selflessly and shrewdly allows them plenty of space to fully explore the possibilities of each piece before making his entries.

‘You And Me, 100 Degrees’ is a perfect example of this, with Neame and Høiby’s finely detailed interplay reminiscent of Bill Evans and Scott LaFaro, but transposed to an altogether more fired-up setting, progressively building up the kind of heat suggested by the title. Waldmann responds with typical intelligence, stepping in with some long sustained notes which he patiently works into a solo eventually matching this level of intensity, his tone on soprano almost at breaking point.

Away from this ferocity, there are more contemplative moments which provide ample balance. The yearning theme of ‘Simpler Times’ is like an instrumental soul ballad, although Neame’s oblique voicings also point towards something darker. As on their first album, vocalist Emilia Martensson makes a welcome appearance on a couple of numbers.

For listeners who enjoyed ‘Kairos Moment’, getting hold of a copy of this fine follow-up album should be a no-brainer. For those who missed that release, ‘Statement of Intent’ provides an opportunity to catch up with a rapidly maturing group who have something exciting and original to say.

‘Statement of Intent’ is released on April 4th. The London launch is at the Vortex on 13th aprilTour starts in April. Other tour dates and CD ordering on the Edition Records website.


Fashion Models

The news broke today in British Vogue that American choral composer Eric Whitacre has been signed by Storm Model Agency. One American site reckons that no fewer than fifteen US jazz musicians would have what it takes. Storm have Scottish pop singer Paolo Nutini signed up. Who's next?


CD Review: 1224 Project -What Happened to the Foot

1224 Project -What Happened to the Foot
(JBCD03, CD Review by Chris Parker)

A collaborative trio formed in 2008, 1224 Project are guitarist Dylan Kay, bassist Leslee Booth and drummer David Bouet.

Their music, the bulk of it composed by Kay (although a highlight is an insistently powerful version of Kurt Cobain's 'Come as You Are' from Nirvana's most celebrated album Nevermind), will attract admirers of contemporary jazz-guitar figures such as Kurt Rosenwinkel and Wayne Krantz (or, to bring it all back home, Phil Robson, Mike Outram and Tassos Spiliotopoulos); it's relatively complex, meter-wise, but fluent and pleasingly multi-textured courtesy of Kay's imaginative resourcefulness.

Booth will be familiar to admirers of another UK-based guitarist, Branco Stoysin, and his six-string bass not only provides sonorous but powerful support to Kay's excursions, but also another compelling solo voice in the band.

With Bouet driving the music, which ranges uncontrivedly between funk, jazz and slightly skewwhiff fusion, with all the versatility and assurance that might be expected from a man who's played with tribute band Lavida Santana, this is an immediatelyappealing, gritty, tough but musicianly album from a trio that sounds as if it might really deliver the goods in a live setting.

1224 Project will launch "What Happened to the Foot" on Friday 1st April at 7.30pm at The Spice of Life


Planning a trip to the Vortex?

The Vortex is giving a glimpse into the future, some of the bigger names, and bands coming from the US and Europe in the next few months. Come on down?

May 2nd
Big Air (also appearing at Cheltenham)

May 9th and 10th
Kenny Wheeler and Liam Noble duo

May 25th
Craig Taborn Solo

May 31st
Pascal Schumacher Quartet

June 16th
Thirteenth Assembly

July 13th and 14th
Mostly other people do the Killing

August 21st to 23rd
Fete Quaqua - three day free improv festival / guitarist John Russell

26th + 27th August
Polar Bear


Review: Peter Edwards Trio/ Binker Golding Quartet

Peter Edwards Trio/ Binker Golding Quartet
(Kings Place, March 19th 2011, in The Base series, Review and photos by Roger Thomas)

Well, on Saturday at Kings Place, it was all about Dune Music . Two of its proteges were being featured, namely Peter Edwards and his Trio followed by Binker Golding with his Quartet.

Kings Place billed the event as "Nu Beginnings," and although these two both missed the gestating Teen Warriors phase they have clearly benefited from the Tomorrow's Warriors nurturing and their ethos of 'from the cradle to the stage'.

It's Peter Edwards - piano that first takes the stage featuring Max Luthert - bass and Saleem Raman - drums. They hit us with an Edwards composition Byron's Blues. No formal introduction, but I guess that was to affirm that they understand and acknowledge traditional things.

By the third song things had warmed up for Peter to now borrow from a distant Caribbean heritage another original composition, Mas Calypso. You can hear the transposition of the piano into steel pans with percussive octave lines creating a happy carnival atmosphere with Max providing a bumptious swing and Saleem the joyous skip. Oh yes, there is a lot of jigging in seats now!

As if to chastise us for shaking our bodies so much, Peter switches the mood from the vibrant and sunny to an abrupt and sombre Dark Sunshine. The thought-provoking piano lines at one stage gives way to a short slightly melancholy bass solo complimented by some light stick work from Saleem. Such was the mood it immediately brought to thought—for me at least—realisation of all the crazy things happening around the world at this moment. Great crowd control Peter. Better watch out that you're not drafted to perform these duties for the State (smile).

Peters mastery of moods continues with the more upbeat Safe And Sound which in itself was a sort of microcosm of moods as piano pulses out phrases that help launch Max and Saleem to some great crescendos and subtle moments of release.

We are again brought back to ground level by a fresh interpretation of Body And Soul which I was hoping would be on the CD (The Peter Edwards Trio) that was on sale in the foyer but alas not—well it is an EP and not a full album after all. Let's hope one is in the pipeline, from this performance I reckon it would be good listening.

The second half of the evening started unannounced with Binker Golding and his Quartet walking calmly onto the stage. With Rick Simpson - piano, Dave Hamblett - drums and Pete Randall - bass taking their places. They were greeted with a warm applause as Binker counted off Mr. KK an original composition dedicated to the late Kenny Kirkland. This energetic piece showed how they all gelled as a communicative unit.

With everyone settle in by the third song we were treated to a rendition of Ellington's Don't Mean A Thing followed, by again delving deeper into the old masters catalogue, a most adventurous arrangement of Beethoven's Sonata no. 30 Opus 109. I'm not 100% sure if this was a Binker Golding arrangement, but if it is then hats off to you mate. This adaptation to a jazz setting showed great ingenuity, I'm sure Ludwig would have approved.

Now I'm beginning to think there might be a little conspiracy going on in the Dune camp to jolt the audience as much as possible. A if to wake us from the reverie of Opus109, the stark contrast of Blind Man Stomp takes us along a path with Binker playing a flurry of 4th intervals on sax where you can imagine the possible staggering of a blind man on a dance floor with some excellent interplay between Dave Hamblett and Pete Randall.

Still with foot on the gas, Maenads—another Golding composition—launches us into the mythological world of Dionysus and his voracious groupies. With some Coltranesque 'sheets of sound' coming from Binker complemented by the high energy vamps of Rick Simpson and occasional section of just sax and drums debaucherous scenes and bacchanal fill my mind at which point. I checked for all the exit signs as looking around it seemed to me that the audience were ripe and ready for some bacchanalia, more than I can handle in one night.

Goodness me Binker, what on earth were you thinking of when you composed that little ditty!!

Well at least he did spare a thought for the state of the audience by finishing off the set with a very calming rendition of Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water, just what was needed to help us all recover from the previous frolic.

It was an excellent night all round. It was full of surprises and drama which has left me thinking less in terms of Tomorrow's Warriors but in view of the writing and arrangement abilities displayed I see more possibilities of a Tomorrow's Leaders.


Jazz FM goes national

As of today JazzFM becomes available nationally on DAB radio (with 90% coverage of the population.)

According to the press release: "This is the first time in its 20-year history that Jazz FM has been available nationally. Jazz FM has been available in some parts of the UK like London and Glasgow, but this will more than treble the number of DAB listeners who can receive it."



Review: Tessa Souter

Tessa Souter
(Pizza Express, Dean Street, Sunday 20th March, Review by Chris Parker)

The concluding track on Tessa Souter's recent album Obsession, 'Usha's Wedding', neatly encapsulates her artistic strengths: the ability to imbue everything she sings with ingenuous sincerity, a keen ear for a simple but deeply affecting melody, a genuine rapport with her bandmates.

On this occasion, a performance with the Nikki Iles trio in front of an attentive, highly supportive audience, she blended her soulful vocal with that of her drummer, Winston Clifford, to produce a touching version of the song she originally wrote to celebrate the wedding of a photographer friend, Richard Conde, to the eponymous Usha. Obsession also provided four other standout pieces: Paul McCartney's dramatically emotive evocation of perseverance in the face of loneliness, 'Eleanor Rigby', Nick Drake's hypnotic 'Riverman'. a clever mix of the Mongo Santamaria/Oscar Brown Jr classic 'Afro Blue' with Wayne Shorter's 'Footprints' and the album's striking title-track itself, but Souter is a skilful selector of songs from all parts of the musical world, so she also visited the American Songbook and the work of contemporary songwriters (Sting's 'Fragile') in two hour-long sets.

Some of the Songbook selections were taken from an album Souter made with pianist/arranger Kenny Werner, Nights of Key Largo – Jimmy Dorsey/Paul Madeira's 'I'm Glad There is You', the dreamy Bacharach/David classic 'The Look of Love' (sensitively de-bossa'ed), the Altman/Lawrence Sinatra vehicle 'All or Nothing at All' – but there was also a visit to Cole Porter ('Night and Day') which, while its slightly up-tempo treatment compromised the song's languorous, yearning quality, was none the less an effective showcase for the assured, intimate Souter voice. Iles's trio, completed by bassist Mark Hodgson, provided discreet but supple support throughout, Iles herself characteristically unshowy but cogent in her solo spots, and Clifford brisk and delicate by turns, showing his resourcefulness at one point by playing tuned bottles perilously perched on his snare drum.

Souter is shortly to record with Steve Kuhn in New York (where she now lives); the resultant album, on this showing, should be well worth investigating.

Tessa Souter's blog "Anything I Can Do You Can Do Better" is mightily, unreservedly recommended


Normal for Norfolk?

Suddenly it's all happening up there in Norfolk (image: Quietways Cards)....

-(Could this be the explanation?) It's been the weekend of the perigee super full moon.

-Air strikes have been launched from RAF Marham, next to Sandringham, which was in the news no more than a week ago for very different reasons.

-Norfolk's leading jazz critic Bruce Lindsay has pronounced that "this month, there's nothing wrong with the British jazz scene". He writes, (in a typically well-informed and interesting piece) : "It's been a very good year."


Jazz at Searcy's St Pancras

Sarah Ellen Hughes went to St Pancras for Sunday lunchtime:

Searcy’s at St Pancras is billed as the longest champagne bar in Europe. In fact the bar itself is about 16-foot square, but the seating runs for an incredible 96 metres, alongside the Eurostar platforms.

The bar is host to a superb program of weekly Sunday afternoon jazz, courtesy of Sound Generation, a teaching and talent agency keen to promote young London-based singers. Sound Generation started off its work in Yorkshire as a music teaching agency and soon grew its roots into London, promoting live music in venues such as Sam’s Brasserie, The Yellow House, and Bar Boulud.

With predominantly singers on their extensive books, the Sound Generation agency does a good job supporting young jazz acts.

Today I went along to Searcy’s to enjoy a delicious lunch with my companion, accompanied by the dulcet tones of singer Anesha Blair and Norwegian guitar maestro Werner Christiansen. The atmosphere created by this understated jazz duo was perfect for a Sunday afternoon sipping champagne, although the music was sometimes lost to the chatter around, even when sitting quite close to the band. The long set (1-5pm) means that there’s plenty of opportunity to catch the live music.

Anesha’s spellbinding tone and gorgeous vibrato were complemented well with Werner’s incredible guitar playing. The repertoire choices stayed with the ‘safe’ standards rather than branching out too much. More individuality in the material would have been welcome in what is promoted as a jazz gig.

Nevertheless, the restaurant is an ideal setting. It's a relaxing and sophisticated way of spending an afternoon – either waiting for a train, or just making an excuse to listen to some good jazz. There is even jazz in the toilets (not the live jazz, unfortunately!) but this is clearly a restaurant which is promoting its live music as a major Sunday afternoon feature, and with good cause – class London jazz acts for no entrance fee.

So whether it’s waiting for a departure, a loved one, or for an excellent meal with champagne to boot, Searcy’s is a great place to spend your Sunday afternoon.

Acts already booked over the next few weeks are:
Sofia Wilde Sunday 27th March
Elisa Caleb Sunday 3rd April (Mother’s Day Special)
Alexander Stewart 10th April
Natalie Williams 17th April
Sarah Ellen Hughes 24th April

SoundGeneration website

Searcys at St Pancras Grand


CD Review: Brass Jaw - Branded

Brass Jaw Branded
(Keywork Records KWRCD011, CD Review by Chris Parker)

At the end of Brass Jaw's previous album, Deal with It!, the band – trumpeter Ryan Quigley, altoist Paul Towndrow, tenorman Konrad Wisniewski, baritone saxophonist Allon Beauvoisin – crack up laughing at a wrong note in the alternate take of Neal Hefti's 'Falling in Love All Over Again', and although the follow-up CD is laughter-free, it is infused with a similarly joyous, freewheeling spirit.

Like its close relative the saxophone quartet, a band comprising just 'a cappella horns' relies for its effect as much on crowd-pleasing swagger, wit and exuberance as on musicianly grace and poise, and Brass Jaw, their coherence clearly springing from long mutual acquaintance in bands such as the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, possess all these qualities in abundance. Their material is mostly in-band originals written to show off springy section work as well as blazing solo skills, but a particular highlight is a version of what must be one of the most uplifting album-openers of all time, 'Peaches en Regalia', from Frank Zappa's groundbreaking Hot Rats.

Every little twist and felicitous touch from this evergreen classic is faithfully reproduced in Paul Towndrow's arrangement, and the controlled vigour with which it is delivered epitomises the power and skill that characterise the rest of a richly varied and absorbing programme. On a personal note, too, the album's logo solves a little mystery that's been exercising me for some time: the source of a small but perfectly formed model cow that appeared one day in my post.


"It's going to be outrageous"

Two extracts from Malcolm Edmonstone's Facebook, yesterday:

- To the wonderful musicians who endured a very long and very warm rehearsal in B8 tonight....thank you. It's going to be outrageous.

-'It', by the way, is a complete performance of Donald Fagen 's seminal debut album 'The Nightfly'. Start to finish, choir, massive rhythm section and horns. Next Thursday @ Guildhall, free entry.

Details of this gig on Thursday MArch 24th, and of the rest of next week's Guildhall Jazz Festival are HERE


Preview: jazzahead! in Bremen

In its six years of existence, jazzahead! in Bremen has grown in stature and importance. In the words of one UK industry figure, it has now unquestionably become "most important jazz conference in the world."

What is jazzahead! ? It describes itself on its website - using one of those great compound nouns which can only really exist in German - as a "Conference-Festival-Meet-And-Greet-Tradefair-Symposium-Showcase-Event."

I interviewed jazzahead! Artistic Director Ulli Beckerhoff by telephone. A trumpeter and composer with a distinguishedplaying career, he has run jazzahead! in partnership with former radio producer Peter Schulze (official title Artistic Consultant but de facto Co-Director ) since its inception. However, with that modesty which is typical for jazz, Beckerhoff refuses to take any of the credit for having started it. He gives that honour to Hans Peter Schneider, who runs Messe Bremen. Beckerhoff (below) says that Schneider came and approached him with the already partly-formed idea of a jazz trade fair.

Schneider and his team at Messe Bremen do indeed seem like an imaginative lot, to say the least . In April they will also be hosting - wait for it - fairs for ...Chidren's Toys and Clothes, Reptiles and Amphibians, School Leaver Careers , Model Railways...... so jazzahead! will be rounding off a pretty varied month.

There will be at least 300 jazz organisations participating in the professional meeting. This year there will be participants from countries not previously represented: Russia, Brazil, Indonesia and Greece. One highlight is the award of the valuable annual jazzahead! -Skoda Jazz Prize - this year going to Claude Nobs of Montreux. (See our previous news story).

There is also an extensive music programme. In previous years it has been centred around the Schlachthof venue. This year the organizers have a different ambtion - to make the "whole city vibrate with music." Some observers are sceptical, and fear that the focus of the conference may be dispersed. Beckerhoff is excited about the programme.

The first name he mentioned to me was that of the most successful pop singer and producer in Turkey, Sezen Aksu.

Here she is, singing "şinanay" (it's -interestingly - a word which I'm told everyone in Turkey understands, but which Google Translate doesn't even attempt!)

I also noted that the Rotterdam Ska Jazz Foundation will be at a DJ club called Tower, that at the Rooftop there will be another Turkish musician, Ezra Dalfidan who works with Paer Lemmers from Berlin. Radio Hall will be hosting an ECM showcase with bands led by Swiss pianist Colin Vallon and Norwegian trumpeter Matthias Eick

The UK presence is expected to be around 30 industry people. In 2009 there was a UK band showcase with four UK bands.This year the only British band playing is Partisans. They're on the Thursday.

jazzahead! runs from April 28th to May 1st. (See you there?)