London Jazz Meetup reaches 400 events

Organizer Rob Mallows has just emailed the 822 members of the London Jazz Meetup Group:


We've just hit 400 meetups at the London Jazz Meetup, of which you're a member!!

Thank you, very much:

To all the 822 members.

To all the event hosts.

To all the assistant organisers.

To all the great bands we've seen.

To all the great artists we're going to see.

To all the smashing venues we've checked out, and those we haven't yet.

To London, for being London...

Here's to the next 400!


Review: Liza Minnelli

Liza Minnelli. Image reproduced under
Creative Comons Licence
Liza Minnelli
(Royal Albert Hall, 29th June 2011, part of Bluesfest London. Review by Kai Hoffman)

With a professional career spanning nearly 50 years, Liza Minnelli still has more charisma in her little finger than nearly all of the manufactured pop stars of today. The Royal Albert Hall was jam-packed – and the audience so enthusiastic, I gave up counting the standing ovations.

Instantly assuming the individual character of each song, Liza’s vast stage presence was absolutely magnetic. Chatting with the audience as though she had knew all of us personally, Liza chose songs spanning the length of her career, from Ebb and Kander tunes like ‘Liza with a Z’ and ‘My Own Best Friend’ (from Chicago), to Charles Aznavour’s ‘What Makes a Man a Man’ and Peggy Lee’s ‘He’s a Tramp.’ I have to admit, seeing THE Liza Minnelli perform her Cabaret showstoppers was a (personal) dream come true – and she was utterly in her element with Maybe This Time and Cabaret.

Admitting that ‘But the World Goes ‘Round’ was her favourite song of all time, Liza was half-way through,
coming up to a climax when, to everyone’s surprise, she stopped, saying she wanted to do it better for everybody, and – to a huge standing ovation – belted it out with twice the power of moments before.

With anecdotes ranging from the very personal – confessing that, battling with shyness as a child, she had collected song lyrics and expressed herself indirectly through them – to the star-studded – how Frank Sinatra had rung her up to ask if he could sing her tune ‘New York, New York’- she created an incomparable rapport with the audience.

Having battled with numerous health issues and addictions, it wouldn’t be fair to expect her to be the same as she was forty years ago. However, you come along to see the legend – and with her unmatchable energy, commanding – and endearing – presence, it was a night which will not be forgotten!

Bluesfest London website


Summer Holiday, Simon and Stephanie

Simon Purcell has just, thoughtfully, put up a round-up piece on Jazz Summer Schools.

And while we're on the subject French "rues" and "roues" (above)....., best wishes on the road back to France to Stephanie Knibbe, who has been a highly effective organizing wheel on the London Jazz scene for the past five years and will be sorely missed. Bonne Route!


Book review: 'The Power of Jazz: Photography by John Watson'

Henry Grimes. Photo (c) John Watson/

'The Power of Jazz: Photography by John Watson'
(Blurb, 2011, 110 pages, 20 x 24cm, Bookeview by Geoff Winston)

John Watson captures his musician subjects with an alert and sensitive eye. A practicing musician himself, his early journalist's career became increasingly focused on his jazz photography which, because of his passion for the music, has taken him to leading venues in New York, London, Birmingham, and way beyond, to photograph many of its leading exponents.

In the second edition of his book, 'The Power of Jazz', Watson takes the reader through images loosely arranged by the instruments played - a section on keyboards has Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock, on one double page spread, in relaxed and concentrated modes, respectively - and ends with sections on big bands and the filming of live concerts.

Watson gets remarkably close to his subjects without any evidence of being intrusive, and skilfully - and deceptively effortlessly - captures something of the essence of each of their personalities, stage personas and technical approaches.
Carla Bley: Photo (c) John Watson/

There are many excellent shots which stand up on their own as portraits, as well as records of an event. It is worth noting, too, that Watson, in his pursuit of the honestly envisioned image, resolutely eschews computer manipulation of his photographs, so this portfolio is all ‘live and direct’ from the camera. These include: a trio of stunningly stark, elegant photos of Carla Bley (above); a sequence showing the octogenarian Sonny Rollins in full flow at the London Jazz Festival; a moment of laughter with Carol Sudhalter at the canalside; a thoughtful, pensive Arve Henriksen; an enigmatic monochrome portrait of Tomasz Stanko; a razor sharp Pat Martino; and Stan Tracey beautifully captured with a half glance at Watson. There is a lovely spread, in black-and-white with Stanley Clarke on upright bass, looking a touch like Mingus, complemented by a haunting image of Henry Grimes (top image), head tucked behind the fretboard, caught with a look that is half-way between an assertive twinkle and deep poignancy, a window to the soul, perhaps.
Watson ends with a summary of his career and philosophy, but it is disappointing, however, that there is no index of the specific dates and venues for each photo, nor reference to the musicians featured in the more abstract images early in the book, and, like the recent Penguin Jazz Guide, without a general index, selective navigation is not possible.

That aside, the images themselves are the main protagonists of this book, and they reward repeated viewing. Watson has received recognition at New York's prestigious JJA Jazz Awards: he was nominated this year for Jazz Photo of the Year for his photo of Carla Bley (above) and last year for one of Sonny Rollins. As a body of work, Watson's portfolio is a valuable and personal record of some key figures in recent jazz which the London jazz community will surely appreciate.
Cover Illustration of Charles Lloyd
Photo (c) John Watson/
John Watson's website.

Copies of the book are available from


Review: Keith Rowe

Keith Rowe: Drawing by Geoff Winston (*)
Keith Rowe
(London Review Bookshop on Wednesday 18 June 2011; review and drawing* by Geoff Winston)

The London Review Bookshop, by the British Museum, was an inspired choice as a venue for free improviser/ tabletop guitarist Keith Rowe's solo concert. The shop's lower floor, with its full width staircase forming a raked seating area behind the 'stalls,' held an audience of about fifty people, who heard two concentrated sets of around 20 minutes each.

Rowe got into jazz from art school, playing with Mike Westbrook, but ultimately found the genre too restricting, and co-founded the exploratory and fluid music collective, AMM, in 1965. He now works independently, and is based in France. Rowe prefaced the proceedings by explaining that Cornelius Cardew, the pioneering composer, who was another early associate would have been 75 this spring, so the "point of departure" of the first piece would be a page of Cardew's 'Treatise' - page 68 of its 193 graphic scores which impose the discipline to interpret the score firmly with the performer - followed by Christan Wolff's 'Edges', also a graphic score, written in London for an augmented AMM in 1968.

Rowe had surrounded his 6-fret table-top guitar with small electronic devices, a cheap transistor radio, various objets trouvé and the two scores. The dense and intense sounds which ensued had both a spatial and a mineral-like quality - something of the compressed, coloured layers of certain rock formations. Surrounded by books on all sides, nearest to 'Cultural Studies' and 'Religion', Rowe created a flow which included unearthly background hissing and glass-like radio signals, crackles, creaks and drilling sounds, scutterings, scrapings, screeches like unwinding packing tape and the thudding beats of helicopter blades - even an odd guitar strum. Working directly on the fretboard with a metal scouring pad he extracted sharp, angular stutters and applied light brushings, reminiscent of Cage's 'Fontana Mix', and blended in the amplified whirrings of a toothbrush and fan, both battery-operated.

Live Wimbledon commentary was picked up to form another strand, later echoed with a brief excerpt from a chamber piano quintet, either broadcast or sampled. Rowe said in a 2007 interview that "I've always considered what I do on the guitar as an act of painting", an apposite metaphor for the magical soundscapes that he had created in this small central London oasis.

* Image copyright Geoffrey Winston. All Rights Reserved.


Celebrating Forty Years of Jazz in London

Here's an anniversary worth celebrating. The indispensable listings guide,  Jazz in London, is forty years old this summer. We first asked the driving force behind the publication, MARY GREIG, to tell us her story. We then invited a few people to show Mary their appreciation for her irreplaceable contribution to the capital's musical life.

Mary Greig writes:

The story of Jazz In London started in 1971, forty years ago . . . at a time when contemporary Jazz was even more of a minority music than it is today. At that time, there were only two major clubs ( Ronnie Scott’s and the 100 Club ) although, interestingly, the jazz audience could support three specialist Jazz record shops within walking distance of each other (Dobell’s, Asman’s and Collet’s). It was a very intimate, small sub-culture in Soho in those days, and it would be no surprise to find yourself drinking alongside the great American musicians who were performing at Ronnie Scott’s at the time, or alongside luminaries of the art world like Francis Bacon.

Jazz in London was started by John Jack, a record producer and champion of the contemporary end of Jazz music. He lived, as he does now, in Charing Cross Road, and ranthe jazz sessions at Ronnie’s Old Place in Gerrard Street, which provided a showcase for many of the young players who have since gained international recognition:- John Surman, Mike Osborne, Mike Westbrook and many others.

This was pre Time Out London, and information on where to hear Jazz was mainly word of mouth and posters, so John started to produce a folded A4 sheet called Jazz in London, with a strapline of “Mainly The Newer Trends In The Music”. The early editions listed around a dozen venues, two of which were weekly venues run by Jazz Centre Society, the forerunner to Jazz Services.

In 1973 John took on the full-time commitment of Cadillac Records, so Jazz In London was passed over to me. I was very involved in the jazz scene and was active in running clubs for Jazz Centre Society, and working in Collet’s Jazz Record Shop. I knew a lot about the Jazz scene, but nothing about how to produce a publication. In this pre-technology era, I learned to use cut-and-paste typed text and Letraset to compose the layout, pasting it all out on boards and taking the boards to the printer. Some of the early issues look extremely clunky now, but nobody seemed to mind at the time.

I’ve continued to produce Jazz In London single-handedly since then, and over that time it hasgrown from a single A4 sheet to the multi-page publication that it is today. Although a bit of a technophobe, I’ve managed to get to grips with the fundamentals of desk-top publishing, so these days it gets sent to the printer down the phone line, rather than on bits of card! In recent years I’ve been immensely aided by Mick Sexton, who since 2003 has been the person who puts the publication online, (LINK) and also helps me with the distribution.

I think the extraordinary longevity of Jazz in London is essentially down to it having been a one-person operation, and being very pro-active about getting information. Also, I’ve always kept to the simple format of providing information, rather than branching into editorial content. And by keeping it simple, costs are contained and therefore advertising is very affordable to small promoters. It reflects a genuine network of promoters, performers, punters etc. who all contribute in their separate ways to a healthy scene. So that now, something that started as a labour of love seems to have become an important underpinning of the London Jazz community, and I suppose I’m rather proud of that.

The Jazz scene has, of course, now changed beyond recognition, with the huge expansion ofwonderful young talent and the recognition of the music conservatoires that jazz is a music worthy of their curriculum. These days I find myself typing the names of many musicians that I’ve never even heard, whereas 35 years ago, they were all my mates!

Steve Rubie, 606 Club:

Jazz In London has been an essential part of the London jazz scene for as long as I can remember. Tirelessly put together every month, without a break for the last 40 years or so, by the indefatigable and immensely knowledgeable Mary Greig it is a major resource on the UK jazz scene. Although now available on-line Mary still produces this unique free guide in it's original printed version and it says something about how important it is that here at the Club we regularly distribute quite literally hundreds of them every month. As a leading UK venue we consider being in JiL a core part of our promotional strategy and greatly value its effectiveness in getting knowledge of our gigs to the listening public. Long may it continue...

Simon Carter, Boaters Jazz:

I don't know where we'd all be without Mary! I've known her for almost 20 years, and yet we've never met! However, we talk regularly on the phone and she has always shown a great interest in the gig at Boaters and been incredibly supportive over the years. The London jazz scene owes Mary a huge debt of gratitutde as without her tireless efforts to produce accurate and informative listings there would be no platform for the small jazz gig to survive and thrive. She deserves a medal for her incredible work.

Paul Pace, Ronnie Scotts , Spicejazz at the Spice of Life:

Mary, you have been steadfast and totally reliable in providing the best unbiased, accurate and most comprehensive listings publication of the contemporary jazz scene in London. It also rivals the jazz listings of other major world cities including New York, and to have single-handedly produced a publication at this level over an impressive 40 years deserves the utmost respect of the jazz community, from both punters and performers alike. You and JiL have been an integral part of the scene for as long as I can remember and you have been very much a friend of the music and its practitioners, a consistent supporter of ‘grassroots’ venues, Ronnie’s and for a while, a welcoming sight behind the counter at Ray’s Jazz Shop during your earlier years in London. I raise a glass or two in your honour, and look forward to seeing you soon – A big thanks Mary, and I am sure, from many others too!

Simon Cooke, Ronnie Scott’s:

We at Ronnie’s are grateful and fully appreciate the not inconsiderable effort that goes into compiling the best jazz listings publication that London has to offer. Thanks for your unflagging support through the years. May we congratulate you on your anniversary and the singularly high quality of ‘Jazz in London’!

Norma Winstone:

Like many other musicians, I know how much Mary’s painstaking work over four decades has contributed to bring audiences to gigs in London, week in week out. Thank you for keeping all of us in touch!


Review: Afrocubism

The world music supergroup Afrocubism, consisting of musicians from Cuba and Mali, perform music which people will eventually, inevitably want to get up and sway to. The question with a London audience is how long it will take before they do.

“Sway” – as Alison Hoblyn pointed out in her review of Afrocubism seven months ago at last November’s London Jazz Festival, is a better word than “dance” to describe the way in which an audience moves to the loping grooves of Afrocubism.

It’s also worth making the distinction because a genuine dancer was onstage last night: there was the briefest of appearances by the supreme Cuban ballet dancer Carlos Acosta at the end of Afrocubism’s Royal Albert Hall concert, to present Afrocubism with their Songlines Award for Cross-Cultural Collaboration. The band is about to head off on a North American tour.

For the record , Alison’s review and Robin Denselow's for the Guardian have a fascinating insight into the origins of the band.

So, on the hottest day for five years in London, it was interesting to see how long it would take a not-quite full Royal Albert Hall to respond to the music, and to get up on its feet. Indeed, the Malians kept on asking the audience in an intrigued rather than a concerned tone of voice : "are you enjoying yourselves?" The answer came back that we were. But , for all that, it still takes a surprisingly long time for British reserve to be overcome other than by a few brave souls, about an hour and a quarter into the set, more or less at he point when people start to get the idea that the set might be coming to an end. We are a curious race.

Visually it was the imposing presence of the resplendently tall Bassekou Kouyaté in his flowing gown which caught the eye. Musically, the stand-out moments are the dialogues between kora and ngoni, and between African and Cuban percussion. But what stays in the mind are the contrasting but deeply emotional qualities of the two main vocalists, the Cuban Eliades Ochoa and the Malian Kasse Mady Diabaté. Their magic made the Royal Albert Hall feel, even with its (understatement) uniquely challenging acoustic, feel like an intimate space.


Review: Jools Holland Rhythm and Blues Orchestra at Boisdale Canary Wharf

Jools Holland Rhythm and Blues Orchestra with Sandie Shaw and Ruby Turner
(Boisdale Canary Wharf, June 21st 2011, Review by Kai Hoffman)

The designers of the new Canary Wharf-based Boisdale have managed to very successfully transfer the comfortable old- school decadence of the original Boisdale (a character-filled 17th century building) to
this brand-new location- complete with candelabra and the world's largest whisky collection.

With a stage easily four times the size of the original Boisdale, it was still quite a spectacle to see the entirety of Jools Holland's Rhythm and Blues Orchestra –easily twenty performers in five or six rows!- filling the space. It is very rare thing to be within a few feet of a world-class big band, rarer still to see all of them on such an intimate stage.

Packing out venues like the Royal Albert Hall, Boisdale Canary Wharf’s new patron included a huge range of styles in the program, from good old rhythm & blues to reggae, jive, pop and rockin’ boogie woogie.
Blinding solos by sax player Derek Nash – in fact the entire brass section - kept the energy level as high as it gets. With a members roster including some of the biggest names in the business- and some of the world's finest musicians- it was an absolute pleasure to be in the audience at Boisdale!

Guest singers included superstar pop legend Sandie Shaw, who appeared in all of her barefooted-glory in a glamourous black sequined dress, singing tunes including her 1960s UK-number-one chart topper “(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me”- immediately getting the audience out of their chairs.

Following Sandie’s set, powerhouse soul singer Ruby Turner took to the stage, with tunes including ‘He Gives Me Love, Crazy Love’ – keeping the audience going right through to ‘Enjoy Yourself, It’s Later Than You Think’ where she was joined by ska-trombone master, 76-year old Rico Rodriguez.

Jools Holland’s Rhythm and Blues Orchestra are without doubt one of the hottest big bands in the world today – their nearly two-hour set at Boisdale Canary Wharf was perfectly paced, immaculately
orchestrated,  immensely enjoyable Five stars! .


Awards for Jamie Cullum's BBC R2 Radio Show

Jamie Cullum's weekly Tuesday evening show on BBC Radio 2, which has been running since April 2010, and is produced by Folded Wing, picked up two bronze awards at last Monday's New York Festivals Radio Awards

- Best Regularly Scheduled Music Program
- Best Jazz Format


Round-up review of INNtoene Jazz Festival

LondonJazz on its travels: my round-up review of the three-day INNtoene Jazz Festival, held earlier this month at Diersbach in Upper Austria, in an 800-seater barn on a working pig published by HERE



Review: Neil Cowley Trio plus Polar Bear (Spitalfields Festival)

Neil Cowley. Photo credit: Patrick Hadfield

Neil Cowley Trio plus Polar Bear
(Village Underground, Shoreditch, Part of Spitalfields Festival, June 21st 2011, Review and photos: Patrick Hadfield)

This double bill, part of the Spitalfields Music Festival, felt more like a rock than jazz gig. It was standing-only in a large, barn-like space in Shoreditch, the crowd seeming a decade or three younger than typical jazz audience, the speakers were stacked high on the stage. The gig also started dead on time.

Neil Cowley Trio were first up, living up to the billing of their second album, “Louder… Louder… Stop!” They were loud, and they tailored their set to their more rocky numbers. This was high-energy music which got people dancing at the front. Cowley’s physical and percussive piano playing and Evan Jenkins’ powerful drumming dominated the sound, sometimes overwhelming new bassist Rex Horan’s playing.

A few more of Cowley’s more subtle, contemplative pieces would have added a bit of variety. But it was hard to fault their performance – and they were clearly giving the audience exactly what it wanted.

Mark Lockheart and Tom Herbert of Polar Bear
Photo credit: Patrick Hadfield

Polar Bear have a completely different aesthetic: from the start, their set was dominated by Seb Rochford’s off-kilter drumming – his bass drum laid down patterns pushing the music along. They created brooding ambient jazz-dub soundscapes, the double-tenor sax frontline of Mark Lockheart and Pete Wareham often working as much against each other as in unison. This felt like crazy reggae created by Ornette Coleman: slow and intense, but still danceable. Tom Herbert’s bass was always somewhere deep in the mix, and it was good to hear him emerge from it and take an extended solo.

Polar Bear’s music felt cutting edge and experimental at the same time as harking back forty years to early Pink Floyd or the German band Popol Vuh: they sounded like the soundtrack to an apocalyptic movie, dark and moody. But there was also humour, with “Leafcutter John” Burton adding a range of textures, from choppy guitar through electronic noise to complementing the saxes by playing a balloon – a playfulness that was startling in its effectiveness. Polar Bear cre ate a curious mixture, but it worked superbly on Tuesday night.


Review: Axel Dörner, Phil Minton, Mark Sanders

Axel Dörner. Drawing: Geoff Winston(*)
Axel Dörner, Phil Minton, Mark Sanders
(Café Oto - second night of a 2-night residency - 18th June 2011. Review by Geoff Winston)

Axel Dörner brought a calm focus and varied colour to three improvised sets - duos with Mark Sanders and Phil Minton, respectively, and the trio to round off the evening. Dörner facilitated an impressive range of responses from Sanders and Minton, with whom he has played occasionally over the last 15 years. Their sets ventured into a relatively restrained zone that saw a progression from the more musically literal to tenuously abstract areas of sound exploration.

Dörner played a rarely seen 'Firebird' slide trumpet, with an angled bell to allow the functioning of the 4-stop short slide - the original was built for Maynard Ferguson, but that's where all affinities with the Canadian trumpeter and bandleader begin and end.

The electronics which Dörner uses include a form of valve synthesiser which is detachable from the trumpet, plus a foot pedal for samples and other effects. The mutes were wafted in front of the trumpet bell to create air flows, and he would also move from side to side in front of the mic which caught the sounds of his exhaled breath. Muted washes and rushes served as a foil to intermittent piercing brass blasts.

Mark Sanders' contribution on percussion was pure acoustic invention; his flattened drum rolls, light scrapings and fine brushwork set in motion Dörner's sequences of mechanical hisses, jet engine rumbles, an unnervingly invasive aero-copter intrusion and the near silence of steam and breath. With Minton, both were seated, as if to emphasise the conscious restraint in their delivery.

Vocalist Phil Minton's light cooing and imputed engagement with both the core and periphery of language blended with Dörner's faintly audible hisses and escapes of air - a sense of leaky valves and drifting vessels. Minton's clusters of coughs, sniffs, and faint whistles, his rasps and passages of air and almost-found words were the prelude to a spellbinding silence near the close of their duet.

In trio format the activity was more exercised, Sanders opening with gongs and a metallic tone, using ultra-thin sticks to tinkle a tiny bell. Dörner brought in radio interference, mixing with Minton's feral exclamations and receding voices. Sanders tapped his drumstick through a broken hand-held drumskin from which a metal spring dangled in something of a quasi-Dada gesture. Dörner ran the mute around the bell as Sanders swept the air with his bow - all sounds which would be picked up on the recording which was being made. The concluding passage had the feel of a Kabuki soundtrack, minimal whacks and swipes, to confirm a commitment to the abstract realm. Dörner's careful, lightly inspiring presence was always opening up possibilities, greatly appreciated by a faithful turn-out at Cafe Oto.

(*)Image copyright Geoffrey Winston. All Rights Reserved.


Three shots of Watts (Charlie Watts at Pizza Express)

Charlie Watts. Photo credit; Roger Thomas
Three shots from sounds like one of the great nights at Pizza Express last night. Charlie Watts, on the first of two nights with his ABC of Boogie Woogie Band, including Dave Green on bass, and vocalist Lisa Ammons (granddaughter of Albert, niece of Gene).


Blues Fest London starts on Monday. A quick guide

-Suddenly, it's all happening. The first Bluesfest London consists, as of today, of THIRTY-NINE gigs at EIGHT venues, and it starts this Monday 27th.

-The big venues are the Royal Albert Hall (with BB King on Monday 27th - sold out), and Liza Minelli on Wednesday) , and the Royal Festival Hall (Al Jarreau, next Sunday July 3rd)

- Bluesfest London marks the arrival on the London scene of a gem of a new venue which very few people know about yet- we visited it - underneath Chelsea Football Club  - called Under the Bridge. See the ad on the left hand column.

- In addition to BB King, other gigs which we are aware are sold out are: Ian Shaw's Pizza Express gig on Tuesday, and Jamie Cullum at Under the Bridge, and Dr John
-Check out some great jazz names:  Annie Ross at Pizza Express, Monty Alexander or Roy Hargrove at the Union Chapel.

-One previously advertised gig has been pulled: Bucky Pizzarelli at Pizza Express Dean Street on Monday, but he's replaced by a Strictly Come Dancing band special: Tommy Blaize and Dave Arch

Monday 27th June
Georgie Fame                            Bush Hall
Incognito                                   Under The Bridge
Monty Alexander                        Union Chapel
Echoes of Ellington Big Band        100 Club

Tuesday 28th June
B.B. King                                   Royal Albert Hall (SOLD OUT)
The Blind Boys of Alabama         Under The Bridge
Marcus Bonfanti                         Bush Hall
Roy Hargrove                            Union Chapel
Ian Shaw                                   Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho (SOLD OUT)
Paul Jones & Friends                  Jazz Cafe

Wednesday 29th June
Mike Sanchez & His Band            Bush Hall
Jon Cleary                                 Jazz Café
Get The Blessing                        100 Club
Tony Smith Live at BluesFest      Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho
Al Di Meola                                Union Chapel
Liza Minnelli                               Royal Albert Hall
Jamie Cullum                             Under the Bridge (SOLD OUT)

Thursday 30th June
Buddy Greco                              Bush Hall
Booker T                                   Under The Bridge
Martin Taylor                             100 Club
Tony Smith                                Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho
Hayley Sanderson’s Rhythm and Blues Revue       Jazz Cafe
Kirk Whalum                              Union Chapel

Friday 1st July
Chris Barber                              100 Club
Dr. John And The Lower 911       Under The Bridge (SOLD OUT)
Scott Hamilton & Harry Allen       Bush Hall
Annie Ross                                Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho
Sandi Thom (support from Scoundrels) Jazz Café
Kirk Whalum                              Union Chapel

Saturday 2nd July
Ray Gelato - The Homecoming Show       Bush Hall
Annie Ross                                              Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue        Under The Bridge
Ramsey Lewis - The Sun Goddess Tour   Union Chapel
The Quireboys                                       100 Club

Sunday 3rd July
Max Weinberg Experience           Under The Bridge
Annie Ross                                Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho
Dr. Feelgood                              100 Club
Al Jarreau                                  Royal Festival Hall


Two Sunday gigs from Tom Millar and Gareth Lockrane

Mike Walker: Photo credit: Vernon Hyde

Just back from holiday this morning, it's a joy to be writing about two linked gigs with just that right sprinkling of optimism. They're both on Sundays (one this, one next), they're both debut outings, they both involve the Mike Walker (above). Until quite recently, Mike was extremely successful in keeping virtually all knowledge of his genius as a secret within the BB4 postcode, but that secret is now definitely getting out!

This Sunday June 26th at the North London Tavern from 7 30 pm marks the debut of Tom Millar as bandleader. A couple of years ago, Tom was trying to make the Cambridge University undergraduate music course bend, extremely unwillingly, in the direction of jazz. After a stint at the Royal Academy of Music, he's now clearly in his element. I'm looking forward to Sunday. Tom's other band members are James Opstad on bass, Alex Roth on guitar, and Mike Clowes on drums. Featured composer: Mike Walker.

Next Sunday lunchtime 3rd July at Ronnie Scott's Mike Walker is featured as soloist with three small bands and one big band from the Royal Academy of Music's junior jazz programme. This Ronnie's gig marks the first major outing for Gareth Lockrane in his new role for the Academy's head of the Junior jazz department.


A four-night celebration of British Jazz at the South Bank

Serious and the Southbank Centre have just announced "Great British jazz:  six decades of tributes, stories and improvisation".  the dates are July 19th, 23rd, 26th (Purcell Room) and 25th (Queen Elizabeth Hall). The third evening is a tribute to the late Dankworth hosted by Dame Cleo Laine, with a big band led by led Alec Dankworth (above), and featuring a performance of What the Dickens. Full details

1) Evan Parker: The Freedom Principle: 50 Years of British Impro

Tuesday 19 July, Purcell Room, 7.45pm, Tickets £15 £10

2) Tomorrow's Warriors Jazz Orchestra playingthe music of Steve Williamson

Saturday 23 July, Purcell Room, 7.45pm, Tickets £13

3) A big  band tribute to John Dankworth,  : What the Dickens?

Monday 25 July, Queen Elizabeth Hall, 7.30pm, Tickets £25 £20 £10

4) Soweto Kinch evokes the spirit of Joe Harriott
Tuesday 26 July, Queen Elizabeth Hall, 7.30pm, Tickets £20 £10


CD Review: Moholo-Moholo/ Pukwana/ Dyani/ Wright:

Louis Moholo-Moholo/Dudu Pukwana/Johnny Dyani/Rev. Frank Wright
- Spiritual Knowledge and Grace
(Ogun, 2011; rec. 1979. CD Review by Alexander Hawkins)

One of the most attractive things about live recordings for me is that they seem to capture something at once exceptional and routine. Exceptional in that they capture a trace of that moment Dolphy spoke of which is otherwise ‘gone in the air’; and routine in that they capture something more ‘ongoing’ about the relationships of the musicians on stage, and invite reflection about what it was like on all those other, unrecorded, nights.

On this, the first official release of a 1979 concert in Eindhoven, the Reverend Frank Wright (subbing for an indisposed Chris McGregor) joins the other three of the then-surviving Blue Notes – Louis Moholo-Moholo, Johnny Dyani, and Dudu Pukwana – for two 30-minute-plus sets; half-hour journeys taking in visits to various half-realised themes. The resulting group dynamics are fascinating: the ‘three and one’ of the South Africans and their American guest; the ‘one versus one’ of two combative saxophonists each with plenty to say for themselves; the ‘one and one’ of the same two saxophonists, whose shared enterprise is to make music together; and the ‘us and them’ of a rhythm section on devastating form that day, seemingly offering infallible support at the same time as threatening to overwhelm anyone in their way.

There is also here the captivating dynamic which can result from the juxtaposition of strong, simple diatonic ideas with the farthest reaches of expressionism – think, for example, of the music of the Brotherhood of Breath, or of Albert Ayler (with whom Frank Wright had worked).

To my ears, Dudu always had a gift for blurring these ideas in any case – making the melodic sound intensely expressionist, and the most ‘out there’ expressionism essentially melodic; and, unsurprisingly, he is the horn player who generally ‘makes the first move’ – introducing a new melodic fragment to worry, or jumping in on top of a Dyani bassline. Wright typically takes stock of the new situations, and then – being a card-carrying tenorist – wades-in with his own magnificently brawling contributions.

But wonderful as the horn players’ contributions are – Dudu as urgent and searing as ever playing on the themes, Wright trying to blow them apart – it’s the rhythm section which floors me on repeated listens to this album. On some recordings (often in the Brotherhood, for example), it’s Louis’ bass drum which is the heartbeat; in recent times, it’s often been his ride cymbal which corrals the band; and at the outset here, it’s that martial snare drum which dictates, crackling in a way that it crackles only in his hands, or those of Roy Haynes. The energy which he summons and transmits throughout is extraordinary, as is his mastery of pacing: starting with an almost alarming intensity, never letting it flag, and indeed, consistently ratcheting it up, just when another crest would seem impossible.

Together with Dyani’s mile-deep sound and mile-wide ‘pocket’, the effect is spectacular. Thinking about it, Louis would probably call their feel ‘DANGEROUS’. I’m trying to imagine playing with this rhythm: what would my precise balance of exhilaration and intimidation be? Not to say that there isn’t shading: amongst other things, the shifting textures resulting from Dudu and Johnny taking occasional turns on the piano, and Wright even spelling Dyani on bass at one point, see to this.

At any rate, going back to my idea of the exceptional and the routine. As I write about this album, I seem to be writing more about the exceptional than the routine. And that makes me slightly uncomfortable, because I’m loath to romanticise one single night, especially one in the career of such a great working band.

So maybe that’s the best way to leave it: for those who didn’t have the good fortune to hear these musicians ‘back in the day’, and to garner some idea of the extent to which this was just one night amongst many, this is an essential release. For those who did have that good fortune, please listen all the same, so that you can tell the rest of us if it really was this good every night.


Cd Review: Toni Janotta – Is It Magic?

Toni Janotta. Photo credit: Janine Stengel
Toni Janotta – Is It Magic?
(Airie Records. CD Review by Sarah Ellen Hughes)

Toni Janotta, a jazz singer based in Ventura County, California, has three vocal jazz albums to her name. The third – Is It Magic? – combines a few straight-ahead jazz tunes with a selection of contemporary hits and original compositions.

Opening with a beautifully understated Is It Magic?, we immediately get a sense of Jannotta’s capabilities as both singer and as musician from her impressive range and wonderful phrasing. Jannotta is also a composer, as this is one of eight originals on the album. The vocals and the band complement each other here, showing sympathy for each other's input, while proving consistently that they are skilled individuals. .

There are some quirky moments – a cover of Madonna’s Borderline is an interesting idea and I really like the band’s groove, although I feel the vocals are a little rigid and rhythmic which doesn’t quite seem to work with the band’s lyrical and relaxed feel.

The band really impresses on Take Five and, with Jannotta singing Iola Brubeck’s lyric, we can appreciate her perfectly placed soprano range. I’m particularly impressed by the saxophone playing of Scheila Gonzalez – both virtuosic and complimentary to the vocal line in equal measure. In general, the production of the CD has captured a great ‘live’ vibe, which is no easy feat in a studio.

Jannotta’s writing offers an interesting perspective – this is not an album of your usual “my heart’s broken” type of songs; rather a take on Jannotta’s experience through the world of people and places. Pluto and Narcissus & Echo are two particularly interesting tracks. The vocals in Ventura are packed full of expression, and the quirky Opposites Attract has a light and clever lyric. I love the lush chords and mood of Storm’s a Comin’, and pianist Greg Gordon Smith shines throughout with an authoritative tone.

One can hear the influence of pop artists such as Sting on this singer’s writing, and this is re-iterated with a cover of Sting’s Fragile, in a mesmerising 6/4.

The album closes with a wonderful piano and bass feature called Ruthie’s Themes. There’s no singing on this track, which is an interesting way to end a vocal jazz album, but it reminds us of Jannotta’s elegance as a composer and obvious mutual respect amongst the musicians involved in making this CD.


Review: Morecroft/Goller/Holub

Ruth Goller. Photo Credit: Richard Kaby

(Vortex, January 16th 2011, Reviw by Frederick Bernas)

In any listings guide, this new trio would look enticing. Two more established players, Ruth Goller (bass) and Mark Holub (drums) – of Acoustic Ladyland and Leb Bib, respectively – joined pianist Dave Morecroft, whose musical leanings may be known to some readers through the award-winning WorldService Project.

The group’s penchant for combining acoustic and electric sensibilities was clear from the outset, as they rattled through an opening number with echoes of The Bad Plus. Goller’s humming, whirring tones were a little overpowering at first, but Morecroft asserted himself with crunchy chunks of chords that emerged as a strong feature of his playing throughout the night.

Giving each other time and freedom is a big part of the collective aesthetic. All three musicians enjoyed long unaccompanied improvisations, with these solos frequently used to segue between melodic hooks or rigid grooves. The conversation was always open. Moods shifted from crackling backbeats and punchy basslines to psychedelic keyboard tinkering and a tune described as “Stravinsky-inspired punk” that lived up to its billing.

It would be hard to find a more adept rhythm section for tapping into the so-called ‘punk jazz’ idiom. Although this term has become rather commercially distorted in recent years, the Morecroft/Goller/Holub project clearly holds no such pretension – and, in the instance above, it was interesting to see how the musicians themselves define their sound.

On a localised jazz scene driven more by informed concertgoers than record sales, coming up with convenient musical labels is indeed less of a headache. The apparent revival of ‘punk jazz’ emerged from mainstream promoters seeking to describe a rising trend in accessible language that often carries little relevance for the artists involved. A frustrated Pete Wareham, of Acoustic Ladyland fame, once told me that no one was more punk than Mingus in an eloquent tirade about the industry’s relentless effort to blandly categorise his work.

Another genre-crossing band which may soon fall victim to this persistent urge to pigeonhole is Saltwater Samurai, a hotly-tipped quintet that rounded off a fine Thursday evening at the Vortex. Frenetically melting together screaming sax lines, live electronics and deep, booming bass, the group creates a toxically pleasing cocktail with great potential for reaching out to wider audiences – as airplay from Gilles Peterson has already illustrated.

Both groups are well worth listening out for. Morecroft’s trio delivered a promising performance at its debut gig and, with any luck, this review will serve as a tempting taste of things to come.


Preview: Jazz Middelheim in Antwerp. Featuring both Jamie Cullum and John Zorn

John Zorn. Photo credit: Stefano Bertoncello

Peter Slavid previews the Jazz Middelheim festival, which takes place in the Park den Brand in Antwerp from 12-15 August

If you feel like a few days of spectacular Jazz this summer you could do a lot worse than join me in Antwerp for Jazz Middelheim from 12-15 August. Set in a beautiful park, a short bus ride from the city centre of one of Belgium’s most interesting and cosmopolitan cities, this is a festival of the type we simply don’t get in the UK any more.

Middelheim has been going for over 30 years, but still retains a sense of adventure, its all in one massive tent, and over the weekend you will here everything from Swing to Avant Garde, from Jamie Cullum to John Zorn, and lots of interesting stuff in between.

By British standards the festival has a fine selection of food and drink -although with the current state of the Euro its not cheap! On the other hand the entire festival comes for a weekend ticket price of € 118,00 for all 14 concerts - and the music is top quality!

Brits have a reasonable representation, Mathew Bourne guests on the opening concert with an interesting looking Belgian group - Trio Grande; and that first day that closes with harmonica maestro Toots Thielmans who is the key patron for the festival.

Saturday is devoted entirely to the music of John Zorn’s Book of Angels. Zorn has always been a controversial figure both for his avant-garde approach to music but also for his overt Jewish religious symbolism and his ambivalent, or at least unclear, political views on on Israel.

Leaving that aside, his music has covered jazz, rock, classical, film music, klezmer and lots more. It moves from the most accessible of melodies to the most extreme of free improvisation.

However his position as a giant of the New York scene and of jazz in general is not in dispute, although I find it difficult to imagine a major jazz festival in the UK devoting a whole day to music that is so clearly not commercial. And yet he is a regular at Jazz Middelheim.

At the end of 2004, Zorn wrote 300 tunes for his Masada project, each one named after an angel. This material became The Book of Angels. The music can be found on 15 CDs performed by different groups – and one of the key characteristics is the sheer quality of artist that he can attract to perform his music.

The day starts with Uri Caine on solo piano

Then we hear from Mycale – a quite astonishing female a-capella group from Israel, Morocco and Argentina.

That’s followed by what is known as the Bar Kokhba Sextet which is definitely very accessible music. - Marc Ribot on guitar, Mark Feldman and Erik Friedlander on violin and cello, Greg Cohen on bass, Joey Baron on drums and Cyro Baptista on percussion.

And then finally the more aggressive Masada Sextet which has the same rhythm section, but changes out the lead artists for another brilliant batch comprising John Zorn himself on alto, Dave Douglas on trumpet and Uri Caine on piano.

This may not be to everyone’s taste, but it demonstrates an appetite for innovation that you can only admire.

Sunday is a more relaxed day featuring amongst others Dave Douglas, Allen Toussaint and finishing up with Jamie Culllum.Monday starts with a solo set from Cuban pianist Omar Sosa, continues with the veteran free improviser Fred van Hove and his Octet (including Evan Parker) then features the Randy Weston African Rhythms, and the festival finishes with Charlie Haden’s Liberation Orchestra (following their recent 5 star concert at the Barbican) with Brits including Andy Sheppard, Oren Marshall, John Parricelli, and Jason Yarde.I first went to this festival a couple of years ago and I can heartily recommend it – but you need to go with an open mind. For those of you that can’t make it, I’ll report back after the event!

For full details of the programme go to


"Seat for Monk"

This "brilliant corner" of Krabi Airport in Thailand, was spotted by eagle-eyed LondonJazz reader Peter C.


The Peter King Residency at Pizza Express

Peter King. Photo credit: Roger Thomas
The four-day residency of Peter King at the Pizza Express, showing one of the greats of British jazz in four different contexts, started last night and runs till Saturday. More details at


The choice for newsletter readers this week

Two shades of blue to choose from for LondonJazz newsletter readers in this week's Prize Draw. Subscribers can put their names in the hat, either for the new solo acoustic album from Pat Metheny (Nonesuch)... ....or for the debut album from The Impossible Gentlemen (Basho)

We welcome new subscribers. Every day. There's a box to subscribe on the right


Review: The Impossible Gentlemen

Photo Credit: David Forman
The Impossible Gentlemen
(Pizza Express, Dean Street. Monday 13th June. Review by Chris Parker)

Devoting their first set to pieces from their eponymous Basho album, but airing (mostly) new material in their second, The Impossible Gentlemen (left to right above: Steve Swallow, Gwilym Simcock, Mike Walker, Adam Nussbaum) utterly charmed a full house on this, the first of their two-nights
engagement at the cellar club.

The 2010 tour by this band, (reviewed by LondonJazz here) resulted in three out of five Jazz UK journalists voting their gig the best of the year, and praise for their album has been uniformly warm – 'imagine guitarist Pat Metheny's trio masterpiece, Day Trip (Nonesuch, 2007), add a pianist of commensurate genius, and you are banging on the disc's front door. It is that good' a representative example – so they're clearly doing a lot of things right, and their opening number, guitarist Mike Walker's 'Clockmaker', contained a fair number of them: ease of interaction, graceful but powerful soloing, a rhythmic buoyancy attributable in no small part to Steve Swallow's deft picked basslines, but also to Adam Nussbaum's restless probing round the beat.

With the mellifluous, resourceful piano of Gwilym Simcock intertwining with Walker's delicate guitar work, the bar was set high for the rest of the concert, but Simcock's 'You Won't be Around to See It' (loosely based on 'Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise'), Walker's 'Wallenda's Last Stand' (dedicated to the leader of a family of tightrope walkers), his driving album-opener 'Laugh Lines' and the slow-building burner 'When You Hold Her' maintained the musical standard, each tune drawing a precisely appropriate guitar tone from Walker and solos of cascading but controlled urgency from Simcock.

The US rhythm section provided most of the second set's compositions, Simcock's appropriately breezy Fremantle Doctor' (inspired by a refreshing afternoon wind in the Western Australia port) aside, and the consequent slight shift in emphasis, from fluent, almost pastoral lyricism to a tenser, slightly jazzier approach, was immediately noticeable. Nussbaum's 'Sure Would Baby' drew yet another cracking guitar solo from Walker, Swallow's set-closing 'Ladies in Mercedes' proved a joyous romp courtesy of its relentlessly ascending melody, and Nussbaum's 'Days of Old' (based on a tune sung by his then eight-year-old daughter) was a tender (but surprisingly gutsy) encore.

The hallmark of the band's album is the quartet's discernible enjoyment of and respect for each other's playing; this live performance, assured and relaxed yet consistently musicianly, each participant unfussily virtuosic, was simply small-group jazz at its unequivocally enjoyable best.


Review: The Nevada Street Four

The Nevada Street Four
(Cakewalk Cafe, Dalston, June 8th 2011. Review by Sarah Ellen Hughes)

Every Wednesday night, Passing Clouds – a trendy Dalston first floor bar – transforms into The Cakewalk Café, a 1920s-themed live music venue where hip cats can go to jive. This success story owes the fact of its existence to Ewan Bleach, a Trinity College of Music graduate. The Café first opened as a one-off music event. It soon graduated to become a fortnightly, then a weekly affair. Live bands such as TJ Johnson, The Boomtown Swingalings and Trio Manouche perform each week.

The Nevada Street Four (named after the location of Oliver's Bar in Greenwich) is a traditional jazz outfit featuring the vocal and instrumental talents of Malcolm Earle-Smith (trombone), Richard White (clarinet and baritone sax), Colin Good (piano) and Martin Wheatley (guitar). This may seem to be quite an unusual line-up, particularly for dancing (and there was dancing!) but Martin Wheatley ably and brilliantly provided the rhythm on guitar, while the bass duties were shared by Colin Good’s piano and Richard White’s baritone.

Taking us through a plethora of great old standards including Deed I Do, Wrap Up Your Troubles in Dreams and Undecided, The Nevada Street Four put on a slick show, featuring the most animated clarinettist I’ve ever seen in Richard White – his legs were moving faster than the dancers’ and he was sitting down!

Speaking of dancers, there were quite a few couples doing their thing, probably having migrated from their dance class downstairs. Not that dancing was the only thing to do at The Cakewalk Café. The reasonably-priced bar promised good cocktails and there was enough seating to host a sizeable listening audience.

I have already hinted at the vocal talents of The Nevada Street Four – something I was excited by when looking at the listings – and they didn’t disappoint. The group gathered round a couple of mics and Martin Wheatley’s guitar for numbers such as I Got Rhythm and Lazy River, which were executed with slick arrangements and sympathetic singing from each member. With good vocal harmony work throughout, this was a thoroughly enjoyable evening - well worth another visit.


Review: Battles

(Heaven, Villiers Street WC2, 8th June 2011; review and drawing* by Geoff Winston)

Heaven is a cavernous place. The paint is black, the acoustics boomy, making the barrage of sound which came from Battles ( Ian Williams (keyboards, guitar) , John Stanier (drums)and Dave Konopka (bass guitar, electronics) all the more intense.

Once they had set up their equipment with the road crew, the trio returned to swamp the venue with a primordial volume, an orchestral ambition, and a touch of dry ice. The distinctive plink-plink keyboard lick from Williams on 'Africastle' picked over the top of Konopka's industrially vibrating bass and Stanier's crashing percussion.

This was unabashed notice of a hard ride through songs drawn exclusively from their album, 'Gloss Drop' (Warp), released two days before the concert. Onstage, the trio worked in an ultra-energetic state of constant improvisation and flux, as they ripped apart their own source material. They hauled the audience along with them, chopping and galloping, building a mesh of complex sequencing in amongst juddering, spacey phrases which had the naive freshness of the early Talking Heads.

They built up untrammelled dub reggae archives and simultaneously processed the disembodied vocals and film of their virtual 'guest' vocalists - Kazu Makino, Matias Aguayo and Gary Numan - on twin screens. Cowbell echoes and woodpecker drilling was dropped in for punctuation. Blinding white light suggested the white heat of the Velvet Underground. A sliding, country twang, a hint of glockenspiel led in to 'Ice Cream', extending the vocals of Aguayo in a complex, melodramatic mix, cutting and recutting the monochrome footage of his performance to heighten the power of the delivery, a statement of artistic control.

With parallels in jazz improv and minimalist repetition, the band's confidence and experience carried them through a welter of lost riffs with a sense of extemporised play that gave the partisan audience no chance of dropping into a comfort zone. Dynamic, drenched in sweat, the trio delivered a definitive riposte to critics who have bemoaned their recent change in personnel.

Talking Heads' song may persuade people that 'Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.' Battles went some way towards proving the opposite as they carved out their monstrous redefinition of what a live performance can be.

* Drawings copyright Geoff Winston 2011. All rights reserved.

Battles at Warp Records


Jazz Journalists Association 2011 Awards

Here is a complete list of the award winners at the fifteenth annual Jazz Journalists Association Awards. THE ORIGINAL POST IS HERE

The Awards Gala was held yesterday at the City Winery in New York. The JJA - of which I am a professional voting member - is "independent, international, culture-and-community-wide"





RECORDING OF THE YEAR - Bird Songs Joe Lovano Us Five (Blue Note)

HISTORICAL RECORDING, BOXED SET OR SINGLE CD REISSUE OF THE YEAR - The Complete 1932-1940 Brunswick, Columbia, and Master Recordings of Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra - Duke Ellington (Mosaic)







TRUMPETER OF THE YEAR - Ambrose Akinmusire







FLAUTIST OF THE YEAR - Nicole Mitchell



BASSIST OF THE YEAR - Christian McBride








BLOG OF THE YEAR - A Blog Supreme, by Patrick Jarenwattananon

BEST BOOK ABOUT JAZZ - I Walked With Giants: The Autobiography of Jimmy Heath, by Jimmy Heath and Joseph McLaren (Temple University Press)

BEST LINER NOTES OF THE YEAR - Steven Lasker – The Complete 1932-1940 Brunswick, Columbia, and Master Recordings of Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra (Mosaic)




SHORT FORM VIDEO OF THE YEAR - Sonny Rollins: Getting It Back Together - Bret Primack, producer/director

PHOTO OF THE YEAR - Sonny Rollins by John Abbott

JAZZ HEROES (a new category featuring supporting/volunteer roles)- Omrao Brown, Peggy Cafritz, John Gilbreath, Dr. Maiterya
Padukone, Don Z. Miller, Ed Reed, Mike Reed, Roger Spencer and Lori Mechem, Elynor Walcott and sons Paul, Frank and Lloyd Poindexter

JJA Website


Gwilym Simcock and the singers

The Pheasantry has an interesting week in August: 1st to 7th

Gwilym Simcock will be working with a host of great singers. The choice among those with surnames beginning in "W" is amazing enough..Winstone, Watkiss, Williams, Wardell....

GWILYM SIMCOCK will be appearing with:



Wed-03-Aug IAN SHAW


Fri-05-Aug NATALIE WILLIAMS (above)





Davell Crawford

The late set at the Inntoene Festival last night (1.10 am till 2. 25am) came from Roberta Flack's godson singer/pianist Davell Crawford, a new name to me. He was getting a lot more more out of the festival's Boesendorfer than out of the crate above, and holding an audience of 600 plus spellbound. (My full festival write-up will be on

LondonJazz readers please tell me more?!


Gretchen Parlato Interview

Gretchen Parlato gave us an interview in May 2011.

LondonJazz: Tell us about your third album “The Lost and Found” (Obliqsound)

Gretchen Parlato: There’s a lot more original material, or lyrics that I wrote for other musicians’ melodies. There’s a song of Taylor’s (Eigsti) a song by Alan (Hampton) a song of Ambrose (Akinmusire) that I wrote lyrics to. There are pop covers as well – “Holding Back the Years” (Simply Red ) and “All that I Can Sing” (written by Lauryn Hill in 1999 for Mary J Blige) I like to say it’s another branch, growing from the same roots. It’s where we left off, but with the production team of Robert Glasper and me, there’s definitely a different sound.

LJ: Robert Glasper’s been a friend for a while, right?

GP:We met when I first moved to New York , this was 2003. He was one of the first people that I met. Robert and I became friends and musical collaborators from the beginning. We’d write and arrange music, try to write songs. We’ve only played together a few times. Where are you from, and where did you study? I’m originally from Los Angeles, and that’s where I moved from in 2003. I did all my study at UCLA where they have an enthno-musicology program, with a jazz studies specialization within it. Then I did the two-year progam at the Thelonius Monk Institute. It was an instrumental program before, and the year I heard about it they were opening auditions for singers. I believe it was Herbie Hancock who said he wanted to include singers, so they were specifically trying to find the right person to make it work.

LJ: And there’s music in your family background too?

GP: My father played bass in one of Frank Zappa’s groups. He’s a jazz musician as well. And he did a lot of rock music. In Los Angeles in the seventies and eighties, he was a session player, and that was the big-time for sessions. His father had been a singer and a trumpet player. On my mother’s side, her father was a recording engineer. He built a studio, and recorded Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. So there’s a lot of history with the entertainment industry, and specifically music in my family. It’s in the blood for sure.

LJ: Sarah Ellen Hughes wrote in her London Jazz Festival review about your “rhythmic confidence,” and the way you “feel the beat through [your] whole body.”

GP: Thank You! Rhythm does come from that nature/ nurture thing. If it’s in your blood, that definitely helps. It’s an instinctual thing, but if you hear it your entire life, especially if you hear different rhythms from all over the place, and very early, you think about it. And it helps to hear and to work with people from other places who have that sense of rhythm. Like when I worked with Lionel Loueke. That forced me to get it together, just being able to keep a steady beat while he’s weaving all over rhythmically. Someone needs to be steady so that the others can be interactive and play around it. There’s some part of my body that’s doing something that’s keeping it steady and another part that’s the soloist. And it’s a lot of practice. Study. Practice. You do it and then you don’t think about it any more.

LJ: You have also done a vocal duet with Lionel Loueke. What about the language?

GP: Yes, we did lyrics in a dialect that Lionel Loueke speaks. I had no idea what it meant – he told me, gave me general translation. I was learning that phonetically so there was a part of me that was saying: “This is really cool , but what’s my story? What do I have to reveal?” In a good way you turn that into something...

LJ: And you are also singing less in Portuguese?– there’s only one track on the new album.

GP: The Brazilian repertoire goes back to when I was thirteen years old. I was looking through my mother’s album/ vinyl collection, and I found the classics, Stan Getz, Gilberto Ipanema. I put that on and just fell in love with the sound. The whole sound of bossa nova, but very specifically Joao Gilberto’s voice, his approach. Even as a 13 year old I could hear and be moved by that, so detailed but you’re drawn in. It’s a pefect example of something being deceptively simple. It’s very tangible but there’s so much going on. And since then I’ve listened more, studied more, developed.... I do my best to be influenced by that whether I’m singing in Portuguese or English there’s so much there. I like to do Flor de Lis, often its about love, a study a listening Since I came to New York, I haven’t really immersed myself in the Brazilian scene. It’s been more jazz and my own music. I won’t really sing in Portuguese except one song here and there in the set. I’m not Brazilian. I don’t really sing the language, so I’m not really understanding every word as I’m singing it. But I realised I could take the rhythmical influence, the theoretical sound of Brazilian music and absorb that into writing my own music in English.

LJ: It must help to be playing regularly with the same musicians?

GP: That’s true, everyone speaks the same language. I’m so lucky with these guys. There’ definitely a sense of love and respect and admiration. And listening. That’s the probably most important part, just to be able to step back and appreciate whatever might be needed in the music , not trying to force your idea, or your sound, or who you are.

. LJ: Has “Butterfly” become something of a signature tune?

GP: I hadn’t realised it (laughs). But now when I start singing it or announce it, people start clapping. And it’s so crazy especially for a jazz musician, because that’s such a pop thing. As a lover of all kinds of pop music that’s something that you do and its like YEAH. But for people to react that way to a Herbie Hancock song that I arranged is pretty awesome. That’s also a Youtube thing. Whatever is on Youtube, people have seen that a lot. I think that is a lot to do with that live version from Germany. We do sing that every set. That is something which gives a nice balance.

LJ: Also on Youtube are some comedy videos...

GP: It’s an alter ego, another character. It’s a character that I created that taps into the absurdity of life. I put on a wig. The other singer is Becca Stevens. If you don’t know her, she’s incredible. There has been miscommunication. Maybe even criticism I’ve received. But it’s totally me, being fun.

LJ: And where does that come from?

GP: There’s a part of me that has always wanted to act. I’ve done improv. The feeling that I’ve got when I’m on stage or in a video – it’s making someone laugh I get the same joy as I do singing, even serious songs, there’s that community, that release.

LJ: So what you’re saying is that’s important to you to have a sense of humour, to be able to laugh?

GP: Yes. It’s totally just me being fun. It’s so important to laugh at life. Even at things that are extreme and painful and dark. You can find the beauty in it, you can smile about it. There’s some kind of absurd humour in there. When I think about being funny or laughing – either I’m making someone laugh , or someone is making me laugh, for that split second they’ve forgotten about whatever they’re in trouble with [...] I think that’s something that runs in my family too, I come from funny people crazy people, when you grow up with funny parents you learn that that’s normal.

LJ: And how does humour work in the band?

Gretchen Parlato: This band is so funny A lot of artists before they perform they like to maybe connect with each other as a band, get together and say a prayer – I’ll have that desire, or the desire to just – laugh. That’s usually what we do. Jokes, jokes right up until the very moment when we go on stage. As soon as we’re on stage, there’s humour underneath it, but we’re focussed, serious...

LondonJazz: Which seems like a good point to wish you well for the gig. Thanks for the interview.


Claire Martin OBE

Congratulations Claire on your OBE, in today's Birthday Honours List.


Off to Austria

Photo credit: G. Kerschbaumer
I'm heading for the Innviertel area of Austria for the three-day Inntoene Jazz Festival. Trombonist, Festival Director and record label proprietor Paul Zauner is someone I have come to respect a lot. I will be writing up the festival for . A change, arguably, being as good as a rest.


Live-streaming the Moers Festival

Who wants to check out a live recital by Abdullah Ibrahim this weekend?

Or Chris Dave and friends? Nils Petter Molvaer perhaps.

They're all on your screen. Live. Here in the creative cauldron of the Musicbase at Kings Place, a few seats behind me, sit the folk from Plush Music. They tell me they will be live streaming this weekend at the Moers Festival.

Here's THE LINK to the full programme


Celebrations at Hideaway, Streatham

Photo credit: Mike Stemberg

There were MAJOR celebrations on Monday following the well-deserved Parliamentary Jazz Award for Promoter of the Year to relative newcomer Hideaway in Streatham.  Above are Fran Strachan (right) carrying the award itself, with Abram Wilson. Below are Fran offering her thanks to Hideaway's staff, an performers from the evening: vocalist Gill Manly and drummer Sophie Alloway.

Photo Credit: Roger Thomas

Hideaway's programme is here. A forthcoming highlight is the new album launch from Liane Carroll "Up and Down." -see our review of the album

Photo credits: Mike Stemberg