London Jazz Festival: Sold Out and Selling Out Shows

Toumani Diabate

The London Jazz Festival has just announced their sold out and selling out shows.

The following shows have now sold out:

Toumani Diabate: Union Chapel, 11 November
Alison Krauss & Union Station: Royal Festival Hall 12, 13, 14, 15 November*
Robert Glasper: Kings Place, 17 November
Abdullah Ibrahim: Wigmore Hall, 18 November
Portico Quartet: Purcell Room 3pm + 7.45pm, 19 November

Tickets for the following shows are selling fast:

Chris Potter Masterclass: Southbank Centre, 12 November
Phronesis: Purcell Room, 16 November
Jazz at Café Society: Purcell Room, 17 November
Robert Glasper Masterclass: Southbank Centre, 19 November
Bill Frisell: Queen Elizabeth Hall, 20 November

For tickets and full listings, go to


Report: Anthony Strong EP Launch

Anthony Strong

Paul Jefferies reports from Tuesday's Anthony Strong EP Launch:
I love pizza, but I love jazz even more - so was delighted to consume both last night at the AJ Strong EP launch gig at Dean Street's Pizza Express.

Mr Strong served up a well rounded helping of jazz standards, performed with aplomb. Eloquent musicianship and some fine AJ Strong arrangements rendered the familiar exciting and the not so well know as intriguing. However, the highlights for me were Strong's solo piano and voice interlude (especially the exquisite 'I'm Through With Love" and a duet performing a truly Jazz version of L.O.V.E with erudite bassist Tom Farmer.

Although I felt myself wanting a little more 'soul' on occasion this was overall a technically superb performance with some very great musical moments. 


Charles Lloyd and Maria Farantouri

A new ECM album features Charles Lloyd 's stellar quartet (with Jason Moran, Reuben Rogers and Eric Harland) , performing live with the Greek singer Maria Farantouri at the ancient theatre of Herodes Atticus, downhill from the Parthenon in Athens. This promotional trailer gives a good feel of the album.


Emma Smith at Boisdale Canary Wharf

One day, it shouldn't be long, maybe only be three to five years from now, Emma Smith will ( I dream, I hope, I wish...) be singing in supper clubs to audiences which will appreciate her, and her singing. Diners in the Oak Room at the Algonquin in New York, in the Regatta Bar of the Charles Hotel in Boston, in Yoshi's in Oakland, in Demetriou's Jazz Alley in Seattle... will recognize, understand and like what they hear, and will greet her with loud applause.

Because Emma Smith has the heritage, and is developing the skills to ascend to these temples of the art, and to conquer them. American audiences will hear a singer who has absorbed Billie, Ella, Ernestine Anderson, looks the part, carries the phrase, inhabits the song and communicates it to the manner born.

But back to reality. Boisdale Canary Wharf is a different proposition from these venues. While I salute the management of Boisdale CW for loving and supporting the music, the sound from the stage last night was swamped by the ambient thrum of diners loudly tucking into their one pound (in weight) steaks. Emma Smith was making heroic efforts to connect with those of us who had come along to listen to the music, but found herself working against insuperable odds.

Even the the humble craft of reviewing felt like an extreme sport at this noise level. I found my mind was getting inhabited by less and less rational and constructive thoughts: as a waiter brought in yet another tray of the vast steaks, I was starting to plan a Boisdale celebration of the centenary next May of the birth of Georg Borgstrom. (he of "it takes 2400 gallons of water to make a pound of steak" fame). Thinking that to spend too much time with such thoughts was unhealthy, I baled out at the intermission.

Emma Smith has clearly progressed and gained in confidence in the past couple of years. But these are early days: she has only just passed the half-way mark in the Royal Academy's jazz course. She had an excellent trio who knew the arrangements well, and landed every time on the dime - Matt Robinson, nimble and expressive on the Boisdale's electronic grand piano, Tim Thornton supportive and strong on bass, and Andy Ball crisp, clear and inventive on drums. A highlight of the first set was an up tempo, hard-swung but touching (I'm Afraid) The Masquerade is Over.

It will be fascinating to hear the radio version of this performance, or rather act of heroism, in JazzFM's Discovery Show next Tuesday evening.

Going down in the lift I overheard the line, spoken in typical Wall Street grey-hair white-shoe monotone drawl: "the real oppor-tooonities are in emerging markets. We need to re-visit that" No mate. The real opportunities were right there in front of your nose. And you've just talked right through them.

Jazz FM Discovery Show at Boisdale is supported by Aberdeen Asset Management


Book Review: Esi Edugyan - Half Blood Blues

Esi Edugyan - Half Blood Blues
(Serpent's Tail, 345pp., £10.99. Book Review by Chris Parker)

First, the good news: a book with jazz musicians as its central characters, set at a time when the music came closest to being popular worldwide, and informed by what appears to be genuine love of and respect for said music, has been shortlisted for the most prestigious prize in the English-speaking literary world: the Booker.

Now the bad news: both as a novel per se, and (particularly) as a representation of jazz and the musicians who play it, it's extremely disappointing.

Purely as a novel, Half Blood Blues fails on numerous levels: it's derivative (the plot, hinging on betrayal and invasion, is oddly reminiscent of Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner with occasional flashes of Irène Nemirovsky's Suite Française), formulaic (demotic first-person narrative written from an 'older/wiser' perspective) and simplistic (all shades of morality bleached out by the ghastly glare of Nazism); it also fails to individualise any of its characters, all of whom are unrelievedly 'flat' in the Forsterian sense, and it has no narrative 'pull', since the most interesting event in it takes place right at the beginning.

In short, if you're after thoughtful reflection on war and its effects, with special reference to Franco-German hostility, read any of Storm Jameson's novels on the subject rather than this somewhat superficial yarn.

As far as the representation of jazz and its practitioners is concerned, Edugyan's novel also disappoints. Of course, fiction writers (or film makers for that matter) are under no obligation whatsoever to present jazz musicians in a favourable light; what they are obliged to do, however, is to present them in as nuanced and subtle a manner as possible. This Edugyan signally fails to do: the 'half-blood' (German-Senegalese) trumpet prodigy at the centre of the book is simply a cipher, given little dialogue with which to express his feelings about being raised as a mixed-race child in an increasingly hostile atmosphere as the Third Reich replaces the Weimar Republic; the novel's eightysomething narrator is self-confessedly 'unreliable' and unsympathetic, so fails to engage the reader's interest, let alone sympathy; his old friend and bandmate Chip is guess what? a hard-drinking ex-junkie with a nasty line in locker-room humour.

One incident will suffice to illustrate the paucity of imagination, the reliance on unpleasant cliché and stereotyping that characterise the novel: the narrator concludes one passage of reminiscence with the words 'The jazz life. I was hooked.' So what constitutes 'the jazz life' for him? Sneaking into a jazz club in his early teens, watching his friend Chip play drums, being introduced to two women who turn out to be prostitutes, then running away from the brothel to which they take him without paying for the sexual initiation he undergoes there.

All this would not matter so much were it not for the fact that Half Blood Blues is an opportunity missed: anyone who's read anything on the subject of the Nazis and their attitude to what they termed entartete Musik (there is a short Bibliography in the back of Edugyan's book, but one of the most revealing works on the subject, Mike Zwerin's La Tristesse de Saint Louis is not mentioned) will undoubtedly be mystified as to just how such a fascinating subject falls so flat in these pages. And as a final insult, the central character's name is misspelled on the book's cover.


Review: Grand Union Orchestra - If Paradise…

Baluji Shrivastav in the Grand Union Orchestra
Photo Credit: Roger Thomas

Grand Union Orchestra Dir. Tony Haynes. If Paradise…
(Queen Elizabeth Hall, September 25th 2011. Review by Adam Tait)

Tony Haynes, composer and the Director of the Grand Union Orchestra, describes If Paradise… as ‘a kind of musical journey – but through emotions’, and there is indeed a constant sense of progression in the music.The narrative develops, not just through lyricism and theatricality, but also in the interplay between the contrasting English and Bengali voices, and mirrored in the interaction of the various instruments.

The recurring themes of spirituality and war, which are consistently explored and expressed, are mirrored in the recurrence of sitar and trumpet dominance. The story telling, with its powerful images drawn from religion and war support the music, and vice versa.

If Paradise... deals well with emotional peaks and troughs of lament and celebration. The music is pulled by such conflicting tendencies throughout, at times indulging in wild improvisation before delving back in to driving, pulsating rhythms. Serene calmness contests with frantic energy. Far from making the music awkward or mismatched, the divergence and contrast captivatingly adds to the sense of an emotional journey.

The Grand Union Orchestra is a tremendous coming-together of world music, spanning continents both in personnel and artistic influence. Even more impressive is the effortless slide between these different musical cultures. Pieces built around Indian ragas or West African drum pattern quickly turn in to snappy, bristling jazz rhythms, all controlled in unforced stylishness by drummer Brian Abrahams .

The musical narrative is carried alternately by blasting brass and shimmering sitars. Paul Jayasinha and Kevin Robinson on trumpet provide musical focal points with dazzling and soaring blasts. The exchange between the alternating traditions is delicately balanced and carefully planned. This is more than a little down to the fantastic talent pool from which the Orchestra sources its members, comprised of musicians from around the world, including Uruguay, Ghana, South Africa, Bangladesh and England, all of whom display vast virtuosity through out Claude Deppa’s striking trumpet solos and energetic struts around stage, and the tranquilly seated blind sitar player Baluji Shrivastav, balanced and entirely immersed in the music. His calm presence, juxtaposed against the feverish bursts of animation from the drum kit, is the image which will stay longest in the mind.


Cd Review: Kate Williams Septet - Made Up

Kate Williams Septet - Made Up
(kwjazz737. CD review by Chris Parker)

'Lucid and inventive' are the adjectives applied by the late Humphrey Lyttelton to the pianist/composer Kate Williams, and this, her fourth – and most ambitious – album to date (previous outings have involved a trio, quartet and quintet; this features a septet on six of its eight tracks) might have been specially made to embody these qualities.

Unshowy, subtle, musicianly, Williams has always inhabited the area of the music previously occupied by the likes of John Lewis, or to come closer to home and change instruments, Kenny Wheeler, her music relying for its considerable power not on climactic grandstanding but on elegance and grace, just as her own playing is notable for its delicate but none the less effective rhythmic displacements rather than sizzling solo runs played at blistering speed.

Here, she has skilfully assembled a band of like minds – Gareth Lockrane (flutes), trumpeter Steve Fishwick, reeds players Ben Somers and Julian Siegel – to supplement her regular rhythm section, bassist Jeremy Brown (replaced by Oli Hayhurst on a couple of tracks) and drummer Tristan Mailliot and they negotiate her pleasingly tricksy themes (and the one non-original, Eliane Elias's 'One Side of You') with stylish brio.

Cogent, lively and insinuatingly memorable, Made Up provides, in spades, further evidence of a considerable composing (and bandleading) talent.

Kate Williams at


Preview:REvoice at Pizza Express Dean Street - Oct 6 -14

Sarah Ellen Hughes previews the second Revoice!

After an incredibly successful festival last year, ReVoice! returns to Pizza Express for 9 days in October. 

Tirelessly promoted by Georgia Mancio, herself an Internationally acclaimed award-winning vocalist, last year’s festival brought stars Maria Pia de Vito, Karin Krog, Rebecca Parris and David Linx for a 5-day celebration of vocal jazz.

“It was an opportunity to bring some artists together who inexplicably never or rarely play in the UK,” says Mancio, “and I felt that European vocalists were particularly under-represented here.” 

A few years ago, Mancio won a jazz singing competition in Brussels and was invited back the following year to be part of the judging panel, thereby meeting a selection of other International stars such as Belgian singer David Linx - whom she invited to perform at last year’s festival, and will also be featured this year.  The judging experience she says, “was such a great learning experience listening to very diverse vocalists back to back; to be influenced but also to retain and strengthen your own musical fingerprint.”  So ReVoice! was born - a chance for others to be influenced by a diverse range of vocalists, and to bring together singers from different jazz scenes.

This year, the festival has grown, kicking off with the Norma Winstone Trio on October 6th, and followed by artists such as Grammy-nominated Gregory Porter (his shows are sold out) , Sachal Vasandani and Kenny Wheeler (vocals from Diana Torto).

Over the festival, Mancio chooses from a plethora of British talent to accompany her on the opening set to each gig, including Laurence Cottle, Jim Mullen and James Pearson, and finishing with a festival special double bill with Ian Shaw on October 14th.

Let’s rejoice in jazz voice!


Kai's Cats Upstairs at Ronnie's October 6th - and this week's prize draw

Kai's Cats - (Kai Hoffman, vocals, Gavin Broom, trumpet, Sam Bullard, saxophone, Simon Whiteside, piano, Dave Chamberlain, bass and Darren Altman, drums) have had a monthly "Live and Let Jive" residency in the upstairs bar at Ronnie's since 2008. That's a lively group to say the least, one day I must sample the wisecracking..... The music is a brand of jump jive and swing, always potently rhythmic. And Jump Jive and Swing is also the title of the group's bouncy album.

Kai is a New Englander, an adoptive Londoner, and has also written some great pieces for LondonJazz, including this, what is almost certainly the last review anywhere of  Fran Landesman.

The album is this week's prize for LondonJazz newsletter readers. Detour: I have a soft spot for the 1990 album "Flood" from "They Might Be Giants," and the track Istanbul (Not Constantinople) gets given a 40's jump jive makeover and spruce-up from Kai and her crew.

'Why did Constantinople Get the works?
That's nobody's business but the Turks'

Ronnie Scott's Bar, October 6th /


Three books in the news with (OK tenuous) jazz connections

First of the three books is "Half Blood Blues" by Esi Edugyan. A book with jazz connections shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Whoda thunk?  Unexpected juxtapositions in imagery abound: at one point trumpet playing is  described as  “wild and unexpected, like a thicket of flowers in a bone-dry field.” The story engineers a meeting between the main fictional character and the real Louis Armstrong in Paris, there are stories of (fictitious) musicians on the run from the Nazis.. one of our writers is currently reading it...

Second, it is announced today that "The Rough Guide to the Future" jazz writer Jon Turney - he recently wrote a round-up of Brecon for us - has been shortlisted for the Royal Society's Winton science book prize. Congratulations!

Third is David Guterson's Ed King. Thanks to a representative of the publisher - who also happens to run an important jazz gig, we will have a copy of the book to offer as a prize draw for newslettter readers. Ed King is unlike Guterson's previous work, and is an artful updating to our time of the Oedipus myth, with a brilliantly amoral central character called Diane Burroughs. UK Publication date is October 17th.


Preview- Nicolas Meier Group and Trio

Tony Heiberg previews gigs this week by the Nicolas Meier Group and Trio

On Wednesday 28th September guitarist Nicolas Meier's Group will be performing the album Journey (MGP, 2009) with the original lineup of Pat Bettison on bass and drummer Asaf Sirkis who both play superbly on the album while Roberto Manzin stands in for Gilad Atzmon on reeds.

Missing will be pianist Jose Reinoso who does a convincing job of emulating Atzmon's authentic middle eastern phrasing on the cd. Many of the pieces on the cd begin slowly and build with contrasting sections of eastern horizontal segments and vertical western passages. Fans of guitar-led world music and East/West collaborations will find much to enjoy at this concert.

Thursday 29th September sees the Nicolas Meier Trio playing selections from their album Breeze (MGP, 2010) on which the band contrast Meier's eastwards looking originals with familier standards like Body and Soul and Autumn Leaves along with Corea's Spain and Coltrane's Countdown. Bassist Paolo Minervini and percussionist Demi Garcia have the same high standard of musicianship, technique and versatility that distinguish Meier's guitar playing.

Pizza Express Dean Street - Start: 8:30pm

MGP Records


CD Review: Simon Allen Quintet - Any Minute Now

Simon Allen Quintet - Any Minute Now
(SACD001. CD Review by Chris Parker)

Playing in Clark Tracey's quintet, as saxophonist Simon Allen has done since winning the Daily Telegraph 'Young Jazz' competition a while back, is a sure sign of musical competence (Tracey being the UK equivalent of Art Blakey or Betty Carter in this respect); add to this experience with the big bands of Laurence Cottle (the bassist on this recording) and Colin Towns, and you clearly have a top-flight musician on your hands.

He plays all the saxophones with aplomb, though his alto playing perhaps stands out for its ebullience and searing articulateness; on this album he also reveals a considerable but unshowy arranging talent, filtering the likes of Kurt Weill's 'Speak Low', Clifford Brown's 'Joy Spring' or Harold Arlen's 'Come Rain or Come Shine' through his own jazz sensibility so they emerge as fresh, punchy vehicles for a sparky quintet completed by trumpeter Martin Shaw, pianist Tom Cawley and drummer Mike Bradley.

Shaw and Allen are both assured soloists, whether blazing through up-tempo numbers or emoting in the album's quieter moments, and both Cawley and Bradley are suitably lively and inventive, but special mention has to be made of Cottle, who is simply the most deft, tuneful and musicianly electric bassist this side of Steve Swallow, his occasional solos an absolute joy, his grounding of the band sound simply immaculate.

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable album from a smart, unfussy but surprisingly powerful band.

Copies of Any Minute Now are available from Simon Allen


Lewis Wright wins Worshipful Co. Young Musician Award

Lewis Wright
The finalists on the 2011 Worshippful Company of Musicians Young Jazz Musician competiton, held on Septeber 25th at Pizza Express Dean Street were: Josh Arcoleo (saxophone), Freddie Gavita (trumpet), Dave Hamblett (drums), Adam King (bass), Matt Robinson (piano) and competiton winner Lewis Wright (vibraphone).

The six musicians, according to a possibly unique competition format, play the gig as a band, working collaboratively together, and the audience votes for a "Man of the Match." All six contestants distinguished themselves for blending, listening, and musicianly virtues which have nothing to do with competition. I sensed  quite a bit of support in the room for Freddie Gavita and Adam King as well as for Lewis Wright, and certainly one of the high-points of the night was a Freddie Gavita composition Night Watchman.

The first ever winner of the competion Tina May sang an opening short set with Nikki Iles, and also joined the band for a couple of numbers. The over-riding impression was of music of high quality being delivered with great care. The whole occasion - inevitably perhaps -  has a respectful, buttoned vibe. I look forward to occasions when any of these six fine craftsmen - as I am sure they all can...- will take the opportunity to obey Mingus' exhortation to "act crazy. That said, the standards of musicianship rise every year, and this was a band without a weak link.


Prize Draw - UPDATE

This week's prize draw for newsletter readers, for the Charles Mingus Original Album set, has had a big response.There can, (aw) there will be only one winner, drawn from the hat on Tuesday night. The five album set is inexpensive...

But in checking what the price should be, I discovered a murkier story....I knew CD retailing was tough, but I wasn't aware quite how tough.

If, as I would earnestly recommend, you choose to buy it from a small retailer, such as my friends Ian and Judy of  who run family business in Birmingham (here's their Mingus album listing), or Rise Music in Cheltenham.. you will pay VAT on your purchase and it will probably cost you £13.99

But, as Voltaire wrote as long ago as 1770, "God is on the side of the big batallions." ship from the Channel Islands, and avoid VAT on sales. As, I believe, do Tesco. For those interested in this uphill battle on behalf of onshore retailers has the detail. Amazon don't just find the loopholes in Europe, they find them and fight their corner in the US in similar fashion (here's the story). A specialist told me today that the California state legislature has been fighting this one for years.


Review : Black Top

Orphy Robinson, Steve Williamson
Photo credit: Roger Thomas
Orphy Robinson, Steve Williamson
(Cafe Oto, September 22nd 2011. Review by Roger Thomas)
There was both disappointment and excitement at Café Oto as Thursday's billing of  Pat Thomas, Orphy Robinson, and Steve Williamson - Black-Top - appeared as a duo. They were  minus Pat Thomas, his gadgets and lap-top (from which the trio derived its name). Pat Thomas had had to rush abroad at short notice to visit his ailing mother. Black-Top are, apparently, already booked for a future trio performance at Café Oto.

As it was, however, Orphy and Steve wooed and mesmerised an audience. In the dimly lit but cozy surroundings of Café Oto it was still easy to notice the coterie of musicians in the house. For each improvisation Steve would do most of his work on tenor sax with short forays on soprano. Over a bed of chords and patterns laid out by Orphy's marimba he feeds ideas that are quickly snatched by Williamson who then explores, digests and regurgitates new interpretations.

I was transfixed, found I simply didn't want to miss anything. I was also told that this was the first occasion in a very long time that Steve had taken his tenor sax from its case and played it. Amazing.


News x 3 about Stacey Kent

Three interesting dates in the diary of adoptive Londoner Stacey Kent..

October 12th. She has been invited to perform at the eightieth anniversary celebrations of the 40-metre Cristo O Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) statue on Copacabana mountain. See the preparations above (for the anniversary, rather than specifically for Stacey Kent's performance...)

October 31st. Stacey Kent's third album for Blue Note, "Dreamer in Concert," recorded in concert at La Cigale in Paris in May, will be released in the UK on October 31st. The first two have sold in large quantities, above all in France, where Kent has been honoured with a Chevalier d'Honneur des Arts et Lettres.

October 31st to November 4th. Five nights at Ronnie Scott's .


Barry Green previews Blue Note Night at the North London Tavern - Sep 25th

Catch Barry Green talking about Blue Note albums by, among others, Duke Pearson.
It's one of a series of podcasts from the North London Tavern, with musicians previewing gigs, with musicians talking in an illuminating and interesting and straightforward way about their music and their influences- the podcasts are free, but you need to have downloaded iTunes. FOLLOW THIS LINK.

The first three feature Reuben Fowler, James Opstad and Rory Simmonds. The one just gone up today is a preview of Barry Green's Blue Note band including Henry Lowther and Jeff Williams, appearing tomorrow night.

Jazz at the NLT on Facebook


"So we're back." - Mondays at the Oxford in Kentish Town

Monday nights at the Oxford kick off on 26th September with a double bill of Hungarian guitarist Zsolt Bende and James Allsopp doing a solo saxophone set. Mondays at the Oxford has a NEW WEBSITE with some intriguingly minimalist gig descriptions.

10th October has saxophonist Martin Speake with guitarist Mike Outram (above- Mike says he's been on a "practice-a-thon") and drummer Jeff Williams. That one's in the diary.


CD Review: Robert Mitchell 3io - The Embrace

Robert Mitchell 3io - The Embrace
(3io Records 3IOCD001. CD Review by Chris Parker)

A glance at the composing credits for this, the 3io's second album (their first, The Greater Good, won a Gilles Peterson Worldwide Award for Best Jazz Album in 2009), might suggest that The Embrace is a
wildly heterogeneous affair.

Beginning with an Aphex Twin cover ('Alberto Balsam'), and including material by Swedish electronica group Little Dragon ('Twice'), an original with African inspiration (the title track, written for Robert Mitchell's father) and the band's core nervily percussive compositions before finishing with a visit to Robert Schumann's 'Traumerei', the album should, by rights, resemble nothing so much as a magpie's nest, given its apparently promiscuous borrowing from all quarters.

Instead, it coheres impressively, courtesy of the consistency and power of the 3io's approach, memorably summed up in two telling phrases from previous reviews: 'Mitchell [ ...]mprovises in unexpectedly juxtaposed motifs rather than long postbop lines' (John Fordham) and '[the 3io merges] the angular voicings and textures of contemporary classical music with the trance-like funkiness of the UK's urban music underground' (Selwyn Harris).

Although this restless, probing energy is as traceable to the utterly contemporary-sounding drumming of Richard Spaven as to the often exhilarating pianistic virtuosity of Mitchell himself, it is perhaps the
intensity of the overall group interplay (Tom Mason providing the perfectly complementary 'cushion' for the other two with his generous bass sound) that is ultimately responsible for the consistently arresting and
intriguing nature of the 3io's music.

London Dates:

Oct 6th: Rays, Foyles, Charing Cross Road, 6pm
Oct 13th Vortex
Nov 12th London Jazz Festival - RFH Ballroom - Jazz Line-up (Radio3) - 4pm


National Jazz Archive Looking for an Outreach Officer

Jack Teagarden
I am personally convinced that all outreach officers should be trombonists. And vice versa. Boom tish.

There is a key job going from January 2012 at the National Jazz Archive. Lists close on October 15th. HERE ARE THE DETAILS.


CD Review: McCormack & Yarde Duo - Places and Other Spaces

McCormack/ Yarde Duo - Places and Other Spaces
Edition Records EDN 1028. CD Review by Chris Parker)

The cover photo of this, pianist Andrew McCormack and saxophonist Jason Yarde's second duo album (their first came out on JoY aNd EaRs in 2009), finds them in somewhat stern, even sombre mood, but the music on Places and Other Spaces runs the emotional gamut from the relatively uncomplicated, celebratory feel of the rousing opener, 'D-Town', through the affecting charm of McCormack's 'Spanish Princess' to the haunting reflectiveness of 'Other Spaces'.

Both players, of course, are well-known figures on the UK scene, and they demonstrate an impressive rapport throughout the ten originals and concluding Gershwin piece that make up this programme, McCormack ringing the changes between rumbustious inventiveness, fluent dexterity and sensitive accompaniment, Yarde between sinuous, often pleasantly strident urgency and multi-textured power as required by the various pieces.

Recorded at Dartington Hall in April 2011, this is an intimate but consistently communicative, even eloquent set from two gifted


Preview: Highgate Jazz with Soul Festival

Highgate Jazz With Soul Festival. The Old Crown, Highgate. Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th September. (Preview by Fran Hardcastle.)

This weekend sees the inaugural Highgate Jazz and Soul Festival. In days of cuts to jazz funding, it is always cheering to find musicians supporting other musicians and creating new jazz treats for audiences.

A quick glance at the programme shows plenty of home grown favourites at a bargain ticket price. There are a dozen gigs plus jam sessions.

Saturday’s highlights include an early bird special from Alex Garnett with Steve Fishwick and a solo show from wit and voice extraordinaire, Liane Carroll.

On Sunday, the Next Generation are bound to capture attention. Must see of the whole weekend will be Tim Lapthorn Trio with the Navarra String Quartet. Curator and host of the festival,Brandon Allen will also be livening things up with his Double Whiskey Amnesia.

Tickets also include an exhibition by painter Jamie Boyd.

Saturday 24th September

1.30pm Alex Garnett/Steve Fishwick Quintet

3pm Quentin Collins/Brandon Allen Quartet

4.30pm Abigail Boyd Quartet plus guests

6pm Liane Carroll (solo)

7.30pm Michael Mwenso feat. Leon Greening

9pm Double Whiskey Amnesia (upstairs- Funky Club Night!)

11pm-1am Jam session

Sunday 25th September
1.30pm Allison Neale Quartet

3pm Pete King Quartet (upstairs)

4.30pm Next Generation feat. Oneke Tebbs, Ruben Fox, Tyrone Isaac-Stuart and Mark Kavuma!
5.30pm Tim Lapthorn Trio with the Navarra String Quartet (upstairs)

6.45pm Trevor Mires/Tom White Group
7.45pm/8pm The Brandon Allen Sextet feat. Nigel Hitchcock and Mark Nightingale (upstairs)
9.15pm-10.30pm End of festival jam session.

Tickets on 0207 281 7608 /


Prize Draw: Five Charles Mingus Albums in one box

The Clown from 1957, featuring that spoken monologue by Jean Shepherd, is just one of the five Mingus studio albums from the Atlantic label which are assembled in a Warner "Original albums" box, released this month.

The others are  Pithecanthropus Erectus (1956),  Blues and Roots (1959), Oh Yeah (1961) and Tonight at Noon (1957 and 1961) .

We have a copy as this week's prize draw for newsletter readers. The others in the current batch of Original Album releases are listed under Jeanie Barton's review of the Al Jarreau box


"Man, there's 12 f * * * ing notes. What's going to be new?"

Thanks to Ivo Neame for spotting this polemic from Branford Marsalis

Everything you read about jazz is: "Is it new? Is it innovative?" I mean, man, there's 12 fucking notes. What's going to be new? You honestly think you're going to play something that hasn't been played already?

The interview, from the Seattle Weekly, asserting the primacy of melody, is HERE


Gwilym Simcock's next recording project announced

Gwilym Simcock at Kings Place
Photo credit: Paul Harrison
Gwilym Simcock has announced that his next recording project is with the Lighthouse Trio (with Tim Garland and Asaf Sirkis), to be recorded for the ACT label in November, for later release.
The announcement came as Gwilym Simcock's trio was performing the opening night of the 2011-12 The Base series at Kings Place on Saturday. The session recorded for transmission on BBC Radio 3's Jazz Line-Up in October, and with guest Tim Garland.

The trio played mostly new material, of which a highlight was Kenny's Way, a new tune in homage to Kenny Wheeler, involving that idea of soaring into a higher register. Tim Garland and Gwilym Simcock also played a Round Midnight as a duo, in memory of Tim's father-in-law. The sheer speed of bassist Yuri Goloubev's fingers on a bass, and the range of effects and the sound palette he can summon up - double stops on harmonics for example -  were impressive.

Yuri Goloubev
Photo credit Paul Harrison
The gig attracted virtually a full house, a good start to the new season of Saturday nights here at Kings Place

Left to right: Gwilym Simcock, Yuri Goloubev, Tim Garland, James Maddren
Photo credit: Paul Harrison


Fifth Anniversary of the Green Note - September 25th-26th - dedicated to Richard Turner

Jazz at the Green Note in Camden will be celebrating its fifth anniversary this weekend. This monthly gig had its origins as a jam for young players, many of whom were on the Royal Academy jazz course. People like Huw White, Calum Gourlay and Josh Blackmore came and played the early gigs . This part of North London did not have the showcases for the players which it has now - there was a feeling that there was nowhere for the up-and-coming players to play.

The gig has been a monthly fixture since then, run by Alexa von Hirschberg. It has featured in the London Jazz Festival three years in a row, and has a deserved reputation as a showcase platform for younger musicians, the place where one might, just might, hear them first...

This festival consits of two double bills
DOWNES/GOLLER/KALIA/SARIKIS: Feat. Ruth Goller (Acoustic Ladyland) on electric bass, Kit Downes (Troyka) on keyboards, Kalia Baklitzanaki on flute and nay and Vasillis Sarikis on frame drums, this new band is inspired by the line between folk music, jazz and music from the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

KAIROS 4TET: Adam Waldmann's with bassist Jasper Høiby, pianist Ivo Neame and drummer Jon Scott.



ASAF SIRKIS TRIO:  Drummer Asaf Sirkis's trio features Tassos Spiliotopoulos on guitar and Yaron Stavi on bass

HUTCHINGS / ROCHFORD / DOWNES TRIO: A new trio, featuring, Shabaka Hutchings, Seb Rochford and Kit Downes : minimal-leaning compositions, improvised soundscapes and dusty grooves.

But there was only one person to whom this celebration couldbe dedicated: the much-missed Richard Turner. Alexa von Hirschberg writes for LondonJazz :

Richard started The Con only two weeks after Green Note began and we spent the best part of 5 years sharing ideas and frustrations, and helping to promote each other’s nights.

He played regularly with Round Trip and was the first person I’d call when something went wrong. Once I went over to his flat and saw he had one of my Jazz Festival posters up on his wall. “We’ve got to stick together” he said. His determination, honesty, humour and unending support was one of the reasons the night is still going. Rich, I hope you’ll be watching over us at the weekend and grinning from behind your hair. We miss you!

GREEN NOTE WEBSITE - Address is 107 Parkway NW1. Doors 7pm.


Review: Brad Mehldau and Chris Thile

Wigmore Hall
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. All rights reserved

Brad Mehldau and Chris Thile
(Wigmore Hall, Friday 16 September 2011; review and drawings by Geoff Winston)

Pianist Brad Mehldau's concert with Chris Thile, dubbed 'King of the Mandolin', was a real one-off. Difficult to call in advance, the two virtuosi had an easy and natural rapport which translated into a beautiful improvisatory flow, drawing on popular and American folk repertoires for its flavour. Mehldau had invited Thile to join him for one of his series of four curated concerts at the Wigmore Hall - the first time they'd played a full concert together.

Thile's 25-minute opening spot won over those unfamiliar with his playing with an exquisite, light touch on the fretboard and soulful vocals, neither of which were amplified. When he gathered speed in true bluegrass style, the dazzling fingerwork was mesmerising, reminiscent of the Dillards in full flow. Thile loved the acoustics, commenting that "this hall sounds so incredible", not lost on the reverent audience, either. Throughout the set you could have heard the proverbial pin drop, before the cheers erupted. He segued the Louvin Brothers' 'Broadminded' ("That word ... is spelled S-I-N") with the traditional 'Rabbit in the Log', quipping that it was about "the inherent tastiness of rabbits". "Brad asked if I'd play Bach", and the three movements from the D Minor Partita were so sensitively interpreted that they might have been written for the mandolin ("... tuned the same as the violin").

Mehldau then joined Thile, in intense but relaxed mode. He dropped his guard and was able to enjoy the meandering and thoughtful interplay as they blurred the roles of collaborator and accompanist, both so closely attuned that their instruments would fade in and out of focus, at some points virtually indistinguishable. There was a touch of Punch and Judy as Thile bounced around onstage and Mehldau struck taut, expressive poses at the keyboard. With Mehldau in shirtsleeves, they brought the house down on Dylan's 'Don't Think Twice, It's Alright', injecting a Joplin-esque ragtime feel, eliciting spontaneous applause with each solo. They drifted in to darker, moody territory with 'Tomorrow, Tomorrow' from the tragically troubled songwriter Elliott Smith, and an elaborate hint of Nirvana's 'Teen Spirit'. Going upbeat, they traded sparkling, syncopated licks with touches of latin, funk and blues, and towards the end of their single set, Mehldau broke away from the folk melodies and in to his signature, 'symphonic' jazz style, letting rip with purposeful and joyous clarity.
Brad Mehldau and Chris Thile
Drawing by Geoff Winston - All rights reserved

The recital had the fresh and idiosyncratic feel of an 'unplugged' session, of intimate musical discourse between two acoustic masters, for which the audience showed its appreciation clearly and resonantly.


Review: Kit Downes Trio

Left to right: Kit Downes, Calum Gourlay, Lucy Railton,
James Maddren, James Allsopp
Photo credit: William Ellis. All rights reserved
Kit Downes Trio
(Chappell of Bond Street. Thursday 15th September. Review by Fran Hardcastle.)

As part of their bi-centenary, Chappell of Bond Street presented the Kit Downes Trio with guests James Allsopp (reeds) and Lucy Railton(cello) in a charity concert for Centre Point. The Grade II listed Novello building on Wardour Street provided a stunning concert setting.

This was my first time hearing Kit Downes' group. The organic fluidity of his music is breathtaking. The compositions with their notable themes and structures can evolve seemlessly into free improvisation. The writing gives space for the solos to appear and to take their leave naturally. It is a context where nothing needs to be forced.

The mutual sensitivity and awareness between James Maddren on drums, Calum Gourlay on bass and Downes, is telepathic. This flawless interaction was extended to the quintet, despite being their debut appearance as a group. Maddren and Allsopp in particular showed a communal intuition in a new tune, Bleydays. In With A View, Allsopp’s sound on tenor was nothing less than heavenly. Gourlay’s bass solos are enthralling and oh so satisfying. Downes’ melodic solos bring pleasure with every phrase.  While Maddren’s playing is a completely integral part of the sound,  he also has the latitude to play with astonishing freedom.

The Chappell Charity Concerts continue on Thursday 01 December with Jamie Cullum. That concert is sold out. Centre Point is a charity which works with homelss young people. More about there work is at

Kit Downes appears at Pizza Express Dean Street in the London Jazz Festival on Thursday 17 November.


CD Review: Mark McKnight Organ Quartet – Do or Die

Mark McKnight Organ Quartet – Do or Die
(Whirlwind recordings. CD Review by Thomas Gray)

Belfast-born guitarist Mark McKnight has pulled off a coup in enlisting the services of Seamus Blake on tenor saxophone for his second album ‘Do or Die’.

The New Yorker imbues this album with an unmistakably American sound, from gutsy R&B-inflected hard-bop playing on ‘Nightcap’ to a standout solo of lyrical beauty on ‘Bewitched’, which manages to carve out fresh angles from the timeworn standard.

No less shrewd is the pairing of Ross Stanley on organ and James Maddren on drums who make a classy, responsive rhythm section. These two once more show how the gap between the best UK musicians and Blake’s fellow countrymen has been obliterated. Stanley makes a particularly valuable contribution, drawing on a diverse array of timbres to enrich each piece and turning in a few solos that strongly suggest the influence of Larry Goldings in their unhurried yet adventurous development.

In this high-calibre company, McKnight easily holds his own. His elastic sense of time, subtle use of distortion and fluent, complex lines bring to mind Kurt Rosenwinkel. Yet his virtuosity is balanced by a sense that he wants to take the listener with him, throwing in a well-judged hook here and there to allow us to catch up. The strength and variety of his compositions, from the laid-back swung waltz ‘Pieces’ to the knotty drum & bass of ‘Tease’, also mark him out as a notable talent worth paying attention to.

The album boasts a superior recording quality, and is released on Michael Janisch’s Whirlwind Recordings label, which after less than two years of existence is steadily building an interesting catalogue.

The "Do or Die" Album Launch Tour starts tonight in Bristol. London dates are September 19th , 606 Club, and 29th, Ronnie Scott's. FULL TOUR DATES


Burg Vischering in Lüdinghausen

Jazz festival programmers feel free to turn green with envy. If the skill of the programmer is to put the right band into the right location, it certainly helps to have a few magical locations up your sleeve. This is the moated castle (Wasserburg) where Münsterland Festival programmer  Christine Sörries was able to put on the trio of Tommy Smith, Arild Andersen and Paolo Vinaccia for an atmospheric, beautiful gig last night, on the second night of the Festival. A full report of my visit to Münsterland will be on the JazzFM website next week.  


Film: LOUIS: Louis Armstrong, Charlie Chaplin and the birth of jazz

Anthony Coleman as the young Louis Armstrong

Abram Wilson reports from this week's press screening of LOUIS

Throw the story of a young Louis Armstrong who dreams of his own cornet, the black and white silent film tradition of Charlie Chaplain, the lustful red light district of early 20th century New Orleans, not to mention some great music and you have the new silent film directed by Dan Pritzker.

Based on a montage of fictitious stories told from several points of view, LOUIS: Louis Armstrong, Charlie Chaplin and the birth of jazz reinforces how jazz runs directly in line with the life that it came from.

The talented and charismatic Anthony Coleman plays a fictitious six-year old Louis Armstrong, his passion is his small, old cornet which he doesn’t know how to play but does it anyway regardless. He was a real joy to watch and left me wanting more of his story.

The beautiful and captivating Shanti Lowry plays Grace, a mulatto prostitute living and working in the dark corners of the whorehouses. Her story tells one of many black women during that era and the daily battles they faced leading them to make some extremely harsh decisions.

Jackie Earle Haley plays the grotesque, vain and ambitious Governor Perry. Haley succeeds in getting under your skin, stopping at almost nothing to get what he wants and demonstrating strong comedic elements of dark humour throughout the film.

With its crystal clear picture, the sharp cinematography gives a contemporary feel to the traditional silent movie genre. But, unsurprisingly, the highlight was the music, gracefully switching between compositions by Creole pianist and composer, Louis Moreau Gottschalk performed by pianist Cecile Licad and music by Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, and Wynton Marsalis. The latter was performed by an all-star septet including Marsalis himself, Wycliffe Gordon, Wessel Anderson, Herlin Riley and Reginald Veal. The music was of the highest quality and its execution was flawless and most importantly, swinging. This, along with Armstrong-esque versions of West End Blues and Tiger Rag made me very excited at the thought of seeing the band perform this incredible music live to film at the London Jazz Festival.

Louis will be screened at the Barbican on Sunday November 13th at 3pm and 8pm as part of the London Jazz Festival


Repacing Dave Jones at Richmond Jazz School

Dave Jones, who has inspired adult jazz students at the Saturday Richmond Jazz School for several years, is leaving. Applications for someone to replace him close next Friday 23rd September. HERE ARE THE DETAILS


Opening Night in Münster

Left to right: Orchestra leader Midori Goto, conductor Fabrizio Ventura,
Geoffrey Keezer, Tim Garland, Joe Locke. Opening concert
of  Münsterland Festival 2011. Photo: Caroline Bartmann
A major five-week celebration of British culture got under way last night here in Münster  with a concert from Storms/ Nocturnes (Garland/ Keezer/ Locke) and the Sinfonieorchester Münster. I will be doing a fuller write-up on the JazzFM website.

At the launch event the Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy in Berlin, Andrew Noble, spoke in perfect German of  his long association with Münster, twinned with his home city of York. Irish Ambasador Dan Mulhall then got the best applause by asserting his connection: he was proud to declare that he hails from the province of..Munster. As an Irish mate of mine responded on Twitter: "Who wouldn't be."

One discovers interesting stuff by going to these events. E.g:  Münster University has a world-leading  centre for studies of Jonathan Swift

The Sinfonieorchester Münster played Tim Garland's arrangement of "Where is love?" from Oliver  to Lionel Bart, and Garland's Frontiers Suite. They had really got the hang of this complex music, and there was a palpable sense of enjoyment and full engagement from the stage. Storms/ Nocturnes seemed to have built a happy partnership in no time at all.

The second half was Holst's Planets, in which Ventura and the orchestra portrayed particularly vividly the power and intensity of Saturn, and the mystery of Neptune.

This is the sixth version of the festival, which has the strapline "The Best from Europe's North-West," and uses a wide variety of locations in the region to showcase the culture of a different country each year.

Tonight it's Tommy Smith, Arild Andersen and Paolo Vinaccia and a moated castle.....

Muensterland Festival website (in German)


CD Review: Original Album Series - Al Jarreau

Original Album Series - Al Jarreau
(Rhino/ Warner Classics and Jazz 8122-79769-7. 5CDs. CD review by Jeanie Barton)

This is an enjoyable, neatly re-mastered five album CD box set. It contains card sleeve replicas of the original artwork, re-released by Warner Music Group.

The albums are: We Got By (1975) and All Fly Home (1978) produced by Al Schmitt, Glow (1976) produced by Al Schmitt and Tommy LiPuma, This Time (1980) and Breakin’ Away (1981) produced by Jay Graydon.

Although Al Jarreau had been recording since 1965 enjoying long time collaborations with Bill Withers and Al Green, it wasn’t until 1975 that his big break came commercially when he was signed by Warner Bros and made the first of these albums. He went on to record the phenomenally successful live album Look to the Rainbow in 1977; which reprised numbers from We Got By and Glow as well as showcasing other numbers old and new, upon which he spread his improvisational wings, employed his unique signature style and secured his status as a vocal jazz legend.

There does seem to be a subtle departure from jazz when Al Schmitt makes way for Jay Graydon in the producer’s chair – Al’s Grammy award wins emphasise this also - 1978, Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Look To The Rainbow - 1979, Best Jazz Vocal Performance, All Fly Home - 1982, Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, Breakin' Away. Al manages to cling onto his jazz roots during their first record, This Time, with track 6 (his beautifully crafted vocalese on Chick Corea’s Spain) however to me the track stands apart from smooth disco-edged funk feel on most of the album.

Fewer musical risks appear to be taken from here on in, but this perhaps only echoes music fashion as a whole in the 80s when synthesised machines began to eclipse instrumentalists.

After all the hits and sync deals (We’re in this Love Together as the theme of Moonlighting theme secured Breakin’ Away’s commercial success) it was great to see Al Jarreau live this summer on his greatest hits tour - in front of an audience he shows, for all the fame and money, he would never be persuaded to fully depart from his beloved jazz.


The other sets in the current batch of re-releases in the Warner Classics and Jazz/ Rhino Original Album series are:

Antonio Carlos Jobim: The Wonderful World of Antonio Carlos Jobim; Love, Strings and Jobim; A Certain Mr. Jobim; Urubu; Terra Brasilis

John Coltrane: Giant Steps; Coltrane Jazz; My Favorite Things; Coltrane Plays the Blues; Coltrane’s Sound

Ornette Coleman: The Shape of Jazz To Come; Change of the Century; This is Our Music; Free Jazz; Ornette!

Herbie Mann: At the Village Gate; Do the Bossa Nova With Herbie Mann; Nirvana; Muscle Shoals; Nitty Gritty; Hold On, I’m Coming


CD Review: Steve Melling Clark Tracey Special Septet - Special One

Steve Melling Clark Tracey Special Septet - Special One
(Melljazz MJCD007. CD Review by Chris Parker)

The personnel on this septet album should tell you most of what you need to know about this splendid recording: in addition to the co-leaders, pianist Steve Melling and drummer Clark Tracey, there is the latter's current first-choice alto player, Simon Allen, trumpeter Mark Armstrong, trombonist Mark Bassey, bassist Geoff Gascoyne (who also provides the cover art) and either Dave O'Higgins or Josephine Davies on tenor.

Composing duties are shared between Armstrong, Melling, O'Higgins and Gascoyne (with an Allen arrangement of Ray Noble's 'Cherokee' thrown in for good measure), but it is arguably the manner – tight, assured, powerful, musicianly but pleasingly informal – that impresses as much as the matter here.

Melling's 'Alfred the Great', for instance, recalls all the slow-building power and roiling intensity of one of the UK pianist's most obvious influences, McCoy Tyner; Tracey's 'The Mighty Sas' memorably fleshes out the version (also involving Armstrong and Allen) on the drummer's 2006 quintet album of the same name; O'Higgins's 'In the Zone' unfussily incorporates one of the most celebrated of jazz staples, 'Giant Steps' into its energy and bustle.

Overall, an unalloyed treat from eight of the UK's finest in top form.

The album is available from and at gigs.


London Jazz Festival 2011 Programme Launched - with a surprise

The full Programme for the London Jazz Festival is now published. The launch party, with speeches from Arts Council England, Serious and Radio 3, is still in full swing as this is being written

- Dates are Friday November 11th to Sunday November 20th.

- The full brochure is online

- The statistics: 280 events spread across 53 venues. There are over 50 free events

- Festival on the Move artists are Arun Ghosh, Emillia Martensson, De Jongens Driest

- There are foreign presences: Iceland, Estonia, Romania, Swizerland, Scotland, France, Lithuania, Poland, the Netherlands

- One unexpected new bonus element not in the brochure: the Royal Festival Hall closing concert on Sunday features Ornette Coleman - full line-up to be announced.

- Last year LondonJazz provided the most comprehensive coverage of the festival with 51 previews / reviews.


Review: Lean Left

Lean Left
* Image copyright Geoffrey Winston. All Rights Reserved.

Lean Left
(Café Oto, Sunday 11 September 2011 - night 1 of 2 night residency. Review and drawings by Geoff Winston.)

Lean Left are a lethal combination of radical commitment, sonic intensity and breathtaking fluency from four musicians who, between them, have rarely strayed from the outermost borders of jazz and punk.

We knew we were in for a tough night when guitarist Terrie Hessels ominously took to the stage with a screwdriver gripped firmly in his jaws. Hessels and Andy Moor, the guitarists from punk vanguard band The Ex, have honed to perfection their distinctive approaches to the guitar, and provided a driving, pneumatic wall of sound from the left and right flanks of Café Oto's stage. Hessels applied screwdriver and drumstick to the pickups, strings and body of his Mad Max-battered brown customised guitar, used his fingers instead of the traditional bottleneck in slide guitar passages, to leave a trail of continual invention in his wake. Moor, equally energetic, was a constantly vibrating body of energy, red T-shirt, red guitar body, mixing a relentless chordal onslaught with brief acoustic touches.

Ken Vandermark set off at a blistering, supercharged pace, coaxing an astounding expressive range from his tenor, recalling his duets with Peter Brötzmann earlier in the year, and later used the clarinet to carve out sputtering patterns while Hessel held his guitar head to the floor, like a geiger counter, sending metallic vibrations through the instrument. Paul Nilssen-Love's complex brew of articulated post-punk-jazz percussion consistently maintained the rhythmic backbone with ferocious technical aplomb.

The relentless flow was reinforced as they each bounced ideas off each other with disarmingly telegraphic reflexes. There was genuine sense of enjoyment as they perhaps surpassed their own demanding standards, characterised by a parity and unity in both intensity and invention. It felt like being right at the working coal face - only the coal dust was missing. Amidst the industrial tension riffs surfaced and evaporated. The echoing bells and buoys of Hendrix's '1983 ... a Merman I should turn to be' were evoked in an abstract passage from Nilssen-Love at the end of the first set, giving an almost surreal, nautical twist to the proceedings.
Lean Left * Image copyright Geoffrey Winston. All Rights Reserved.

For the second set they were joined by master saxophonist Ab Baars, whose searing, whistling runs saw the ever-generous Vandermark take a back seat to allow Baars the freedom to build his own carefully wrought structures. Their ensuing high octane tenor duet was followed by a brief solo spot where Baars's dexterity and nuanced playing was given that bit of extra breathing space, before the ensemble built up an emphatic final crescendo.

The density, clarity and balance maintained throughout the two sets was a breathtaking reminder that this stormy, industrial territory is where many of the most pressing questions are asked of the structure and content of jazz today.

Ken Vandermark (tenor saxophone and clarinet)
Paal Nilssen-Love (percussion)
Terrie Hessels (guitar)
Andy Moor (guitar)
Guest: Ab Baars (tenor saxophone)


30th September at Cafe Oto- this week's prize draw

This week's prize draw (for newsletter readers) is a pair of tickets for the fourth annual Sottovoce festival's evening on September 30th at Cafe Oto.

The main event is a screening of Alan Roth's 2002 documentary "Inside out in the Open," plus performances by drummer/ composer/ producer Martin Brandlmayr from Vienna, Mexican electronic music producer Rogelio Sosa, Norwefian guitarist Håvard Skaset and Swedish composer Ida Lundén.

The documentary is based around eleven interviews with Marion Brown, Baikida Carroll, Burton Greene, Joseph Jarman, Roswell Rudd, Alan Silva and John Tchicai who were present in the early 1960s, plus, from later generations, Daniel Carter, William Parker, Susie Ibarra and Matthew Shipp.

30th September Sottovoce 2011 at Cafe Oto /  Sottovoce Festival website


CD Review: Jan Kopinski's Reflektor - Mirrors

Jan Kopinski's Reflektor - Mirrors
(Jazz Services JSLCD005. CD review by Chris Parker)

Although it contains more than a few discernible traces of saxophonist Jan Kopinski's characteristic 1980s Pinski Zoo sound (a full-on, multi-textured roar/strident wail over a hypnotically heavy rhythm-section growl and clatter that inspired contemporary bands such as Led Bib), Mirrors is a perfect example of his later, more reflective style of music-making.

Supported by his son Stefan Kopinski (electric bass)and daughter Janina Kopinska (viola), plus ex-Zoo keyboardist Steve Iliffe, drummer Patrick Illingworth and vocalist Melanie Pappenheim, Kopinski has produced a suite-like collection of nine pieces inspired by his twenty-year history of visiting and collecting images of Poland, for performance via a mixed-media project commissioned by Opera North.

Perhaps the defining image (used on the cover and on the CD itself) is Warsaw's Palace of Culture, a Soviet-era brute of a building that was always slyly described in official Polish guides to the city as 'overshadowing' the Polish capital, but which now apparently attracts mostly (ironic) affection from young Poles. Such ambiguous, nuanced and highly individual reactions characterise the entire work, which ranges unaffectedly from romantic melodies to multiphonics and effects, and from passionate free-ish skirls to the most plaintive and plangent of folkish material (the very beginning of 'Folk House', for instance, is oddly reminiscent of 'The Lark in the Morning').

Kopinski's is a pleasantly grainy saxophone sound occasionally capable of producing melancholy meditativeness, and infused as it is with an intensely personal passion and urgency, this is a consistently affecting but powerful album from one of the UK's most distinctive composing musicians.


Kings Place Festival 2011 Saturday Round-Up

Marius Neset, Jasper Hoiby, Anton Eger, (Nick Ramm out of shot)
Photo credit: Cat Munro

Kings Place Festival 2011 Round-Up by Sebastian Scotney

There's a common link between The Arts Desk, Edition Records, Aurora Orchestra, all featured during the Kings Place Festival, and Kings Place itself. The conection is that none of them existed six years ago. Aurora is the six-year old, Edition Records is 3 1/2, Kings Place was having its fourth September Festival, ie its third birthday, The Arts Desk was celebrating its second birthday.

So each in its turn will have gone through the phases of "Does London/the UK really need another..."/"How long can you afford to keep this going?/ "You're 'brave' and probably off your trolley to start a..." [reviews website/ jazz record label/ chamber orchestra/ arts venue"/  ].

In each case  the organization has become a success in its field, sturdy, shaping the agenda, increasingly seen as benchmarks of quality for other players in their sector. Thus:

-Aurora is now ACE-funded

-One national newspaper critic congratulated the Arts Desk on Twitter with the following compliment: "[I] hope you continue to flourish (and keep the rest of us on our toes)."

- One commentator called Edition "The UK's best jazz record label  (IMHO)"

-Kings Place is not just London conference venue of the year, the arts programming is now seen as seeting the trend in breadth and imaginativeness

The first event of the festival which I attended was the Arts Desk's second birthday symposium on the Art of Performance, cleverly thought through, and worth catching in its live stream version. A singer, a dancer, an actor and an instrumental musician compare their experience of performing.

Neil Yates at Kings Place
Photo credit: Cat Munro

I caught two Saturday events in the Edition Records showcase. Dave Stapleton's group performed his varied, through-composed "Catching Sunlight" suite, featuring the soulful inimitable trumpet of Neil Yates. I found I missed the generous but commanding bass presence in this group of Paula Gardiner who appears on the record.

By way of complete contrast was Marius Neset's fiery quartet on the final gig of it's UK tour giving a sell-out audience the ride of its life. Anton Eger  in particular was playing as if his life depended on every touch of a cymbal. Inspiring.

The Aurora Orchestra produce some of the most imaginative classical programming to be had anywhere. Diary of One Who Disappeared by Janacek is a piece which makes the distinction between  song cycle and mini-opera irrelevant. A great story, with John Reid a the piano digging deep into Janacek's emotive piano writing, and providing faultless continuity and support for the singers. Also memorable was the fanfare from the Janacek Sinfonietta performed in the atrium, socking it to the punters and echoing round the building.

Then the most optimistic possibe ending to the day, seeing Iain Ballamy lead a band of Royal Academy of Music students through his compositions. "It Needn't End In Tears," featured Ballamy's own playing at its most gentle, focussed and balanced. And to watch the students as they looked on and listened intently to him,  absorbing, it seemed, every nuance into their individual consciousnesses, was enough to confirm one's faith in renewal.
Believe in new.


Current entertainment licensing laws are “inconsistent, illogical and capricious” (DCMS- they designed them)

The Department of Culture Media and Sport put out a press release overnight Friday/Saturday in which - officially - it no longer seeks to defend the indefensible (known to you and me as the disproportionate and unnecessary powers given to local authorities by live entertainment provisions of the 2003 Licensing Act which the DCMS itself devised)  and now states that it intends to move in the direction of freeing up the rules.

From the tone of the press release there has probably been a change in personnel, finally? Maybe the civil servants who spent years in their bunker defending the 2003 Act have been replaced.

What the DCMS is actually doing is to do what it always does, to launch yet another consultation (nice work if you can get it)... but the tone does seem to have changed.

The conservative minister John Penrose is championing the freeing-up, but downplaying any significance in this process of the Lord Clement-Jones (Liberal) Live Music Bill. Politics eh.  When Guardian journalist Dan Sabbagh got this story leaked last week,  his piece didn't even mention it. (The comments on that piece have some interesting tales from Hackney).

It's a subject where, frankly,  the news flow, sometimes even from the same person, is confusing. Feargal Sharkey of UK Music, talking to the Morning Advertiser has predicted doom while popping up a week later in the Guardian to defend the new DCMS line. Possibly no more than a sign that to UK Music this issue is peripheral, not really part of the day-job, compared to, say, copyright protection.

UPDATE: The Live Music Forum Website throws in a severe note of caution, and is basically suggesting that the leaks and the DCMS Pres Release are an Orwellian exercise in Doublethink.

Ready for this? Paragraph 2.25 of the consulation is suggesting that currently licensed venues will need to go through more rather than fewer hoops to avail themselves of the liberalisation. HERE'S THE POST

Can the DCMS civil servants be quite so cynical? Are they hanging yet another licensing minister out to dry?


RIP Graham Collier (1937-2011)

Graham Collier
UPDATE 20th September. John Gill, the late Graham Collier's partner, has updated the Jazz Continuum site with the obituaries and tributes
Composer/bassist/educator/author/polemicist Graham Collier died suddenly in Greece on Friday night at the age of 74. There is a full biography on the Graham Collier website Collier was the first British student at Berklee, he founded the jazz course at the Royal Academy of Music, was an instigator behind the formation of Loose Tubes, and leaves a substantial legcy of compositions and an important book, The Jazz Composer.

Django Bates has written:

I am eternally grateful to Graham for choosing the young musicians, organising the rehearsal space, finding the funding, and starting the workshop band which went on to become Loose Tubes. Graham had sensed there was something exciting in the air and, in the spirit of great improvisation, he captured the moment.

Ann Cotterrell, publisher, has written:
The sudden death of Graham Collier has shocked his many friends and admirers. Graham was a highly significant composer and his writing about jazz is clear, articulate, frank and courageous.

He had praise to offer to composers working to extend the parameters of jazz composition while still retaining its traditions and believed strongly in jazz improvisation (his interpretation of this is complex but includes both collective and individual aspects) and, more simply, in giving soloists space. As he put it, 'jazz happens in real time, once.' He has left a body of recorded music that is challenging in its breadth and originality.

Collier achieved international recognition for his music at some cost to himself. He left the UK with his long-standing partner John Gill in 1999 to live in Spain, before they moved to Greece in 2008. Although he lived in the beautiful town of Ronda, and later on a small island off the coast of Greece, his motivation for the move was at least in part financial. He explained this to my partner, Roger Cotterrell and myself when we visited him in Spain, and the same view was expressed in an interview with Duncan Heining.

It was our loss in Britain that such an innovative musician had to move abroad to find the time and space for his composing, but move he did and his output continued to grow.

From these homes he travelled widely, giving talks, supervising workshops, and conducting new music. In February this year he was in New York for a discussion of his book, the jazz composer - moving music off the paper, at Columbia Univerisity and then he went on to Halifax, Nova Scotia to conduct performances of his compositions. (Link to recent reviews)

Graham's talents extended through his music to his teaching, his books and his always engaging conversation. His recognition of the connection between early jazz and free jazz is recorded in his book and interviews. So perhaps, when he visited us and we talked about jazz styles, we should not have been surprised to find that he sat enraptured listening to a recording by Pee Wee Russell. Graham wrote about C-Jam Blues as 'the epitome of the perfect jazz composition' but believed that jazz compositions should always be reworked in performance.

The subtleties and enigmas in Collier's work should provide scope for much discussion in the future. His insistence on lower case for the title of his book the jazz composer is perhaps typical of the man and his view of his work ; he was concerned to show that the book was not just about him as The Jazz Composer but about the identity and role of the jazz composer more generally. He used punctuation and formatting of his work as a poet, or perhaps as a musician. His approaches posed challenges but also opportunities for those working with him and his roles of composer, educator, writer and musician were in the end as intertwined as the artistic themes in his compositions.

Graham will be greatly missed by his fans but especially by the musicians with whom he worked.