The LondonJazz Dave Douglas Interview

Dave Douglas builds to blazing, glorious conclusions - both above (with Brass Ecstasy) or in an interview ( below, with Jack Davies asking the questions for us ).

Douglas describes eloquently the joys of music, and particularly of working with young musicians. Dave Douglas will be the first jazz International Artist in Residence at the Royal Academy of Music, a residency culminating in a concert on Thursday January 26th. He is clearly looking forward to taking on that new role:

Jack Davies: Your career has been characterised by a series of disparate projects. How have you gone about binding these together to create a cohesive musical narrative?

Dave Douglas: Thanks, Jack. I like working on music a little bit every day, and I like playing with a lot of different personalities. I suppose I also have something I am looking for in writing music, but I'm not sure I could put it into words. But the thing that keeps me creating and dreaming up new projects is the joy of hearing something fresh and feeling like I haven't repeated myself or anyone else. And that the music connects. The search is for each day to be able to find a new way to say 'I Love You,' or whatever it is one would like to say. I think you'd find a lot of artists of all varieties agreeing with that feeling.

JD: In an environment economically and politically dominated by the church of Marsalis, you have forged your own path. Has that been a difficult process?

DD: I've never felt that any path was dominated by the church of anything. Economy, Politics: other than as one more source of inspiration for the work, they have never been an impediment to the work of a musician. The harder thing is to figure out who you are and then figure out to express that in music. That's the work. I can honestly tell you I have never experienced this dominance of Marsalis that you describe. I think it is a sad misperception and an exaggeration in writings about jazz and new music.

JD: Some European jazz is moving further away from the US jazz tradition. Your music seems to be influenced by that of both continents - how important is tradition to you?

DD: I am definitely an American and I feel consciously that my music is American Music. That is simply a limitation of who I am and where I am from. But I don't feel my nationality as a heavy policing against loving and learning from music around the world.

As to the different question of how important tradition is. Tradition is all we have. We don't have the future yet, only the past. So my feeling is it is incumbent on us to learn as much as we can from the music that has been made.

JD : You wrote recently that when composing it is important to step back and assess whether a work is coherent and clear. Do you tend towards compositional distillation and simplification?

DD: That's a great question, Jack. As the years go by I do more and more revising and distilling. I don't necessarily feel that distilling is simplifying. In fact, I find that cutting away written notes, especially in the case of writing for improvisers, can make a piece deeper and more complex. It's figuring out WHAT to cut that's the crux of the game, isn't it? In my residency at the Royal Academy we will be doing a lot of cutting, a lot of refining to make ideas as clear as they can be. Sometimes it's good to use more erasers than pencils.

JD: Finally, in the past you have largely avoided being a member of a conservatoire's teaching faculty, but you have recently been appointed International Jazz Artist in Residence at the Royal Academy of Music here in London. What excites you about, and what do you hope to achieve in this new post?

Thank you, Jack. I learn so much in working with young musicians, but I've never worked within a set curriculum.

What I hope to achieve is an honest, open conversation about our likes and dislikes, about our working methods, about what's funny and what's tragic and how we can really share that through music. I don't have all the answers but I have a lot of experience grappling with the questions. I see young musicians break through into new territory all the time, so I hope to learn just as much as they do.

For me the most enduring challenge and the deepest source of satisfaction is working with music. That is why it is such an honor and a thrill to be Artist in Residence at the Royal Academy of Music.

Working with young musicians always elicits a refreshed view of the perennial mysteries and joys of music making. I am honored to be invited to share my experiences and thrilled to get to play in this company. In addition, to be associated with a program that has such close links to Kenny Wheeler (through the Kenny Wheeler prize, the Kenny Wheeler archive etc) is both elevating and humbling. I look forward to a residency filled with exciting music and engaging conversation. Thank you.

Bookings for the Dave Douglas Concert


Rudy Van Gelder to be honoured at Grammy Awards

That legend among recording engineers, notably of countless great albums for Blue Note, and thereafter for CTI, Rudy Van Gelder is to be homoured at the 2012 Grammy Awards. He will be given a Grammy Trustees Award for "Special Merits" alongside the 91-year old composer  Dave Bartholomew and a posthumous award for Steve Jobs at a private ceremony the night before the main Grammy awards night, which will be in Los Angeles on Feb 12th.


Roger Odell of Shakatak writes...

Duo Music Exchange in Shibuya, Tokyo where "Meet the Shakatak", above, was filmed in in 2005 - has a capacity of 1350. They've just played the Abai Kazakh State Opera and Ballet Theatre in Almaty in Kazakhstan. Shakatak don't normally play venues quite as small as the Pheasantry in Kings Road. Roger Odell writes about Shakatak's 2011 and looks forward to New Year's Eve:

After a 30-plus year career, Shakatak are still going strong and if anything are busier than ever.

Looking back over 2011, we started the year with some UK dates including our annual visits to the Pizza Express jazz rooms at both Maidstone and Soho, and were off to Japan for concerts in Tokyo and Osaka at their prestigious Billboard Live venues. We had full houses for our show at The Stables in Wavendon and at the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich, recorded live by BBC Radio Suffolk.

In December the band has headlined at the Penang Island Jazz Festival and we're back from a concert on the 19th at the Opera Theatre in Almaty, Kazakhstan, which surpassed our expectations.

It's great to be ending 2011 back in the UK on New Year's Eve in the more intimate surroundings of The Pheasantry.

Pheasantry bookings at Pizzaexpresslive


RIP Sam Rivers (1923-2011)

Saxophonist/ flautist Sam Rivers died yesterday, in Florida where he lived,
at the age of 88. Peter Hum of the Ottawa Citizen has assembled a collec,ion of Youtube clips. I just can't get Beatrice out of my head this morning, and I don't think I ever will. RIP.


Deirdre Cartwright: looking for more groups

Deirdre Cartwright

Deirdre Cartwright writes:

- Blow the Fuse is looking for more groups for short first sets for our next season at the Vortex.

-Running from January to May we’re putting on some new things and we’d be very interested in hearing from groups/musicians that we haven’t programmed before. Only stipulation is that the group must feature or be led by a woman instrumentalist...

-The season begins Tuesday January 10 with an evening with the cult dance band the Electric Landladies - Unplugged aka Acoustic landladies!

-Their Christmas gigs were sold out, now is your chance to see their alternate pop reality. Amy Winehouse, Patti Smith, Steppenwolf and the Rolling Stones reimagined. (Laka Daisical vocals/pno, Sarah P vocals/perc, Deirdre Cartwright guitar, Diane McLoughlin sax, Alison Rayner bass/voc, Ann Day drums)

Interested? Please contact Blow the Fuse (preferably with a YouTube link) at
info [at] blowthe fuse [dot] com


CD Review: Lisa Mezzacappa & Nightshade - Cosmic Rift

Lisa Mezzacappa & Nightshade - Cosmic Rift
(Leo CD LR 613.CD Review by Chris Parker)

Bassist Lisa Mezzacappa is a resident of San Francisco, and this richly atmospheric album marks the debut of her quintet Nightshade, a band completed by clarinettist Cory Wright, electric guitarist John Finkbeiner, electronics operator Tim Perkis and vibraphonist/percussionist Kjell Nordeson.

The quintet operates in a musical area straddling free improvisation and contemporary classical music, and much of the material here springs from responses to the work of visual artists Yehudit Sasportas (based in Tel Aviv and Berlin) and LA-based Edgar Arceneaux, but if this makes their music sound overly cerebral or strictly programmatic, it's misleading, for what immediately impresses about Cosmic Rift is the extraordinary rapport between the participants.

Indeed, such is their apparently instinctive agreement on overall tone and approach that Perkis, on being told the quintet's name after the band's first rehearsal, said: 'How did you know to call us that?' Nightshade conjures up thoughts both of crepuscular gloom and, perhaps peripherally, of the poisonous plant, and there is indeed a dark solemnity to both Mezzacappa's pieces and her intriguing arrangements of Frank Zappa's 'The Eric Dolphy Memorial BBQ' (the quintet's use of clarinet and vibes particularly apposite here) and Messiaen's 'Regard de l'étoile', but leavened as it is by Perkis's skilful use of electronics, Finkbeiner's scrabbling guitar, and Nordeson's extraordinarily resourceful utilisation of percussion and vibes, the band sound is varied enough to sustain and ultimately richly reward listeners' attention throughout what is an absorbing, imaginative and wholly original set.


CD Review: Denman Maroney - Double Zero

Denman Maroney - Double Zero
(Porter Records PR4063. CD Review by Geoff Winston)

Denman Maroney is a New York-based pianist and composer who deals in complexities and subterfuges. He subverts the piano with a range of techniques and physical interventions that he terms 'Hyperpiano', evolved after a formal musical education which brought him into contact with Bill Dixon, Jimmy Garrison and Morton Subotnick, amongst others.

This solo concert performance, comprising the uninterrupted nine movements of Double Zero, took place in 2008 at New York's cutting edge music venue, Roulette, temporarily located in SoHo, prior to its recent move to the refurbished Memorial Hall in Brooklyn, and was, incidentally, Maroney’s ninth appearance at Roulette since 1982.

The pristine mix captures all the nuances and ambiguities of Maroney's performance and, apart from the applause at its conclusion, there is no hint of the audience's presence. Maroney utilises a range of implements applied to the strings and innards of the piano to create a lush mesh of sonorous suggestions, intermittently in unison with conventional keyboard technique.

Maroney's masterly control of the interaction of copper, steel, ceramic and plastic tools with the piano wires evokes the lightly metallic and the lyrically atmospheric. The complex temporal layering that he enacts singlehandedly - in the manner of Nancarrow's player-piano pieces - is a stunning achievement.

Interviewed at The Stone, he referred to this aspect of his composition: "There is a score, all this music is quite precisely notated, actually ... [there] are usually several layers of time, which is common to almost all the music I write, and that just reflects my view that that's the way life is!"

The richness of the layering contributes to the impression that the uninitiated listener might have, that Maroney has a small ensemble at his disposal, with a vigorous slide guitarist, an extreme string section, and a light percussionist as well as the pianist, all working in unison. The colours and moods of Double Zero indirectly suggests the stratospheric, the steelyard, the power station and electronic transmission wires, along with damped rhythms, chimes, creaks and whines that elude definition. That they are all orchestrated and performed by Maroney alone in this rigorously constructed imaginative voyage, is a major achievement which Porter and the Roulette have succeeded in committing to CD with exemplary dedication.

Recorded 13 March 2008 at Roulette, NYC as part of the Interpretations series. Mixed at Roulette studios by Jim Staley and mastered by John Guth. /


Kylie on Blossom

Alyn Shipton has co-produced tonight's tribute by Kylie Minogue to Blossom Dearie. BBC Radio 2. 10pm.


-Annie Ross
-Dave Frishberg
-Bob Dorough
-Will Friedwald
-James Gavin
-Dame Cleo Laine
-Spike Wells


Remember April

The 606 hosted a Queensland Flood Benefit back in April. And a video got uploaded...that's some line-up of London's jazz singers, all in the same place on the same evening!

Trudy Kerr had written us a preview for us explaining what it was all about.


Radio 3, 11pm on Christmas Day - Peter Pan by the late Michael Garrick

Gabriel Garrick directing the Peter Pan Suite
Maida Vale Studios, 19th December 2011
Photo credit: Sisi Burn. All Rights Reserved
No fewer than three readers who were at the recording of Michael Garrick's Peter Pan suite at Maida Vale have written in to say how special it was.

"It lifted me out of a really stinking bad mood", wrote one. "A magical interpretation of J.M.Barrie's classic tale, with a sprinkling of stardust from Julian Joeseph at the piano", another. Get thee to a radio...

Jazz Line-Up, BBC Radio 3. Christmas Day, 11pm.


2011 - Geoffrey Winston's selection

Peter Brötzmann
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston, February 2011. All Rights Reserved
Geoffrey Winston writes:

There has been an avalanche of tremendous music in 2011 at London's most adventurous and committed jazz/new music destinations, the Vortex and Cafe Oto, and at other offbeat and high profile venues.

This selection, I hope, will give a flavour of the riches that were on offer.

- Craig Taborn's solo piano sets at the Vortex had a sprinkling of magic about them, articulating the essence of what makes great live performance so compelling. With his virtuosic expression came both a rare tension and clarity, and his near foetal posture as he drew closer to the keyboard spoke volumes about his relationship to the piano.

- This was a fitting complement to Matthew Shipp's earlier trio performance at the same venue where, in the company of Michael Bisio and Whit Dickey, Shipp subversively reinterpreted the mainstream in a rushing stream of invention.

- When the eleven-man Brötzmann Chicago Tentet settled in for 3 nights at Cafe Oto, its massed firepower constantly shifted gear with synchromesh fluency, such that it became a near-Ellingtonian spectacle where musicians, all of whom qualify as leaders in their own right, were happy to subvert their egos to Peter Brötzmann's gently directorial impulse in a continual blaze of wonderfully painted sound strokes and washes.

- A few nights earlier Peter Brötzmann and Keiji Haino gave an astounding two and a half hour improvised concert - the perfect balance of two masters - which saw the guitarist head into the viscerally abstract and Brötzmann, on brass and woodwind, echoing, then leading off from Haino's initial statements, before they duetted with a joint imagination that kept reconstituting itself as the ideas kept on flowing.

- Christian Marclay's graphic score, 'Manga Scroll' was interpreted by improvising singer Phil Minton with breathtaking and electrifying immediacy. Minton makes no concessions to convention as his inspired and illuminating delivery took in all kinds of peripheral and unexpected sound articulations which linked the primeval and the inchoate to the emotional and expressive. Steve Beresford completed the triumvirate, turning a tabletop of gizmos into a giant keyboard, while Marclay nudged the proceedings with abstracted fragments emanating from a bank of Calofone turntables.

- Peter Evans joined Okkyung Lee and Evan Parker for a rivetting evening which mixed highly attuned ensemble and duet sequences with inward-facing solo extemporisations. Evans employed the principle of the trumpet's mute with vision and temporarily dismantled his instrument to give voice to a purely breath-driven passages while Lee sensuously elicited timbres, tones and percussive notes from her cello and Parker skated to fill in with sparkling soprano trills and a full tenor roar.

- The year wouldn't be complete without mention of a wild card - the massive achievement by highly accomplished saxophonist, Andre Vida, who gave 403 half-hour performances - nine a day - as the improvising performer in Anri Sala's film and sound installation at the Serpentine Gallery. I saw the first, the penultimate and one other of the improvisations which Vida made against Sala's film and the soundtrack of Jemeel Moondoc, filmed whilst playing alto sax suspended from a bleak tower block in Berlin. Vida's stamina and mental resolve were unflinching, his technical depth and range were impressive, making each session a uniquely enriching experience for the gallery's visitors.

There were other memorable performances - Lean Left, Aaron Goldberg Trio, Eugene Chadbourne, The Thirteenth Assembly, Mainly Other People Do the Killing, Archie Shepp and Joachim Kühn, Wadada Leo Smith,Henry Grimes, Keith Rowe, to name but a few - all of whom deserve more than a mention.

A huge thanks to the musicians, the promoters and the venues for bringing this to London’s table. Good wishes, in any key, for the year ahead!


2011 remembered - by Sebastian Scotney

Ruth Goller. Photo credit: Richard Kaby


- In January 2009 I set out to convey the endless vitality and 24/7 buzz of London's live jazz scene. Because both are there in such abundance, LondonJazz has worked. QED.

-We are not far short of 750 pieces in this, our third year- plus we have an active and mostly civilized comment forum under many posts.

- Brilliant contributions have come in from all sides - Geoff Winston and Chris Parker have been prolific throughout the year.

-We had 100,000 page views in November.

-We produced 25 London Jazz Festival reviews, covering 30 gigs- I wrote just two of them, so that makes twenty-eight gigs covered by others.

-Gifts come in too: we've had newsletter prizes for our readers from thirty-five different partners.


The internet shortens communication chains. Musicians have responded amazingly to the invitation to get involved, and have written when they've wanted to tell people something. The voice from the participant on the stand is the authentic voice. It breaks down the barriers, it brings people in. And that is why it is of such value.

Just a few examples of who's been writing:

- We had Jamie Cullum looking forward to being "spanked..and inspired" by Liane Carroll and Ian Shaw.

- Liane Carroll and Ian Shaw wrote about each other.

- Nick Smart wrote about the Kenny Wheeler Celebration at the Jazz Standard in New York.

- Stan Sulzmann wrote about one of the most significant composition projects of our time (He didn't call it that, I did.)

- When Kai Hofmann wrote about Fran Landesman, little did she know she was describing the great singer-lyricist's last appearance.

- Pete Churchill wrote touchingly about the excitement of working with the London Vocal Project:

The secret of our cohesiveness is that LVP is more than a choir – it is a meeting place for people who have found that they like to spend time together. And I believe that the music we make benefits from this sense of community… all the eating, drinking, baking, laughing and crying we do together is reflected in how we sing as an ensemble. In a world where people seem to be trying to spend less time together, it is a rare thing to find an ensemble that have invested so much time – regular time – in each other.

- Back in March, Fran Hardcastle guest-edited for us, and her intervention produced no fewer than twelve wide-ranging pieces by women writers in celebration of International Women's Day. They included a fabulous, truthful, completely unsolicited piece from Ruth Goller.


From my own experience their have been lots of powerful experiences. Here are just four which spring to mind out of many:

- I loved the white heat of Malcolm Edmonstone's re-creation of Donald Fagen's Nightfly album back in February.

- I got so carried away by Kenny Barron in The Very Thought of You I found myself getting all Pseuds Cornerish with a Rilke sonnet.

- The debut performance by BLINQ in the Britjazz festival in August was astounding.

- I've been lucky to get to a number of festivals this year. I shan't forget New Orleans singer/pianist, and heir to Donny Hathaway, Davell Crawford at Inntoene in Austria.


Gigs bring people together. They reinforce the sense of community and common purpose. But in this context, how can one not also feel deeply the sudden loss of inspiring musicians, people who had given their all to make life more complete for the rest of us.

- We miss Richard Turner and Graham Fox intensely, deeply, because they have both departed from us far too young.

- I was also deeply moved by the tributes which came in for Gordon Beck and Michael Garrick.

Thank you everyone who's been involved for supporting LondonJazz in 2011.


Chris Parker's 2011 CD Round-up

Chris Parker's 2011 Round-up .

Chris has sent in a "list of ten UK releases, in no particular order, plus an eleventh for good measure, plus three CDs from the rest of the world that have given an old man a great deal of pleasure this year." The links are to Chris's reviews - he has produced over seventy reviews for LondonJazz this year.

Top Ten releases (UK artists, in no particular order)

Kit Downes Trio: Quiet Tiger (Basho SRCD 34-2)

Eclectica!: Flight of Fancy (MGPCD004)

Julian Siegel Quartet: Urban Theme Park (Basho SRCD 35-2)

Impossible Gentlemen: Impossible Gentlemen (Basho SRCD 36-2)

Simon Allen Quintet: Any Minute Now (SACD001)

John Surman: Flashpoint (Cuneiform Rune 315)

Howard Riley: The Complete Short Stories (NoBusiness Records NBCD 21–26)

Stan Tracey Quartet: A Child's Christmas Jazz Suite(ReSteamed RSJ111)

Mike Gibbs: Here's a Song for You (Fuzzy Moon FUZ005)

Joe Harriott: The Joe Harriott Story (Properbox 160)

Plus the eleventh:

Phil Robson's The Immeasurable Code (Whirlwind, WR4620), writes Chris, "was also one of the year's most satisfying releases, and gets to stand on its own like this because I didn't review it myself." The link is to Tom Gray's review.

Three more (non-UK) that couldn't be left out
Keith Jarrett: Rio (ECM 277 6645)

Iro Haarla Quintet: Vespers (ECM 274 3616)

Wadada Smith's Organic: Heart's Reflections (Cuneiform Rune 330/331; my CD of the Year)


“Embrace our handicaps, and use them, and go beyond them...” (Ben Okri)

The Dune Website has a touching story today from the father of an autistic boy about the power unleashed by the Denys Baptiste album Let Freedom Ring with Ben Okri.

The full story is here


Review: Caro Emerald

Kai Hoffman heard Caro Emerald at Shepherds Bush Empire last Tuesday December 20th:

Having been asked to learn a Caro Emerald tune - "That Man" - to perform at a private party earlier this year, I was curious to hear more. So I jumped at the opportunity to hear the 30-year old Dutch
singer (real name Caroline Esmeralda van der Leeuw) at  Shepherds Bush Empire last week.

"That Man" has a great, "Sing, Sing, Sing"- Charleston-type of feel, in combination with the modern mixing and samples - which sounded fun, retro and hip all at the same time. Naturally, anyone who is bringing vintage style to a wider public also gets my vote!

Emerald and her band played to a sold-out audience at Shepherds Bush Empire. Some of her other songs felt a bit underpowered, but "That Man" had exactly the right kind of snappy slickness, and immediately had the crowd dancing and enjoying themselves. With 1.8 million Youtube hits, the song looks set, deservedly, to become a repertoire staple.


Peter Bacon's Countdown to Thursday

Peter Bacon, who writes/edits the Jazz Breakfast blog and contributes to the Birmingham Post, tells me that he will be launching the final top ten of his "Festive Fifty" first thing this Thursday morning 22nd. Congratulations Peter. It's a major endeavour! Here's the countdown from 50 to 11, just the album names. On Peter's site every one is linked to a review:

50 Denys Baptiste Identity By Subtraction (Dune)
49 Jacqui Dankworth It Happens Quietly (Specific Jazz)
48 Corea, Clarke and White Forever (Concord)
47 John Scofield A Moment’s Peace (Emarcy
46 Ma The Last (Loop Records)
45 Julian Lage Gladwell (Emarcy)
44 Neil Yates Five Countries (Edition Records)
43 Seamus Blake Quintet Live At Smalls (Smalls Live)
42The New Gary Burton Quartet Common Ground (Mack Avenue)
41 Paolo Fresu Mistico Mediterraneo (ECM)
40 Mark McNight Organ Quartet featuring Seamus Blake
39 Mason Brothers Two Sides One Story (Archival Records)
38 Eliane Elias Light My Fire (Concord)
37 Phil Robson The Immeasurable Code (Whirlwind Recordings)
36 Kairos 4tet: Statement of Intent (Edition Records)
35Wadada Leo Smith’s Organic Heart's Reflections (Cuneiform Records)
34 David Binney: Graylen Epicenter (Mythology)
33 Francois Couturier Tarkovsky Quartet (ECM)
32Tom Harrell The Time Of The Sun (High Note)
31 Donny McCaslin Perpetual Motion (Greenleaf Records)
30 Marilyn Mazur Celestial Circle (ECM)
29 Steve Coleman's Five Elements The Mancy Of Sound (PI Recordings)
28 Empirical Elements Of Truth (Naim Jazz)
27 Giovanna Pessi/Susanna Wallumrod If Grief Could Wait (ECM 277 7197)
26 Kit Downes Quiet Tiger (Basho)
25 Marcin Wasilewski Trio Faithful (ECM)
24 Stefon Harris, David Sanchez, Christian Scott Ninety Miles (Concord Picante )
23 Magnus Ostrom Thread Of Life (ACT)
22 Marius Neset Golden Xplosion (Edition Records)
21 Kurt Elling The Gate (Concord)
20 Gwilym Simcock Good Days At Schloss Elmau (ACT)
19 Dino Saluzzi/Anja Lechner/Felix Saluzzi Navidad de los Andes (ECM)
18 Branford Marsalis/Joey Calderazzo Songs Of Mirth And Melancholy (Marsalis Music)
17 Enrico Rava Quintet Tribe (ECM)
16 Craig Taborn Avenging Angel (ECM)
15 Meadow: Blissful Ignorance(Edition Records)
14 Charles Lloyd/Maria Farantouri Athens Concert (ECM)
13 Yellowjackets - Timeline (Mack Avenue Records)
12 Vinicius Cantuaria and Bill Frisell - Lagrimas Mexicanas (Naive)
11 Brad Mehldau - Live In Marciac (Nonesuch)


CD Review: Frank Harrison Trio - Sideways

Frank Harrison Trio - Sideways
(Linus Records LDCD01. CD Review by Chris Parker)

Pianist Frank Harrison is probably most often heard in Gilad Atzmon's Orient House Ensemble, in which he plays both acoustic and electric instruments, but leading his own trio (as documented by Basho on the impressive 2006 album, First Light) he plays only the former, alongside bassist Davide Petrocca – who has replaced Aidan O'Donnell from First Light – and drummer Stephen Keogh.

It's worth stressing at the outset that this is very much a trio outing, Harrison's mellifluous, lyrical playing (tellingly leavened by vigorous, occasionally even tumultuous power where appropriate) interacting impeccably with the sonorous, full-toned Petrocca and the dexterous Keogh (the latter's contribution to a band perfectly summed up by US saxophonist Charles McPherson: 'He's not just a time keeper, but is a rhythmic co-creator as well').

This said, however, it is Harrison, at once lucid and elegant, but with an ability to imbue everything he plays with affecting tension, frequently released in sparkling, intense runs, who sets the tone of both the standards ('Autumn Leaves', 'How Long Has This Been Going On', 'You and the Night and the Music') and originals (not to mention an intriguing closer, the traditional 'Riddle Song') on this absorbing and musicianly album, the music from which can be heard on a UK trio tour, to take place in February 2012.

Tour Dates:
3 Derby Jazz
4 Cheltenham Jazz Club
5 Herts Jazz Welwyn Garden City
6 Jazz Hastings
9 Watermill Jazz Dorking
10 Fleece Jazz, Leavenheath, Colchester
17 Wakefield Jazz Club
29 St Michael at the North Gate Oxford


Three-gig round up

Friday 16th December - Township Comets at Cambridge Modern Jazz
Saturday 17th December - Abram Wilson's New Orleans Christmas at Kings Place Hall One
Sunday 18th December - Sound Generation Christmas Party. Sam's Brasserie, W4.

Press play. This short clip from the Vortex last weekend (festival directors please take note/ marquez ce nom/ eine Band in Erinnerung zu bringen!) gives a sample of the Township Comets' sheer verve and energy,and of what a resoundingly strong trumpet-player Chris Batchelor is. The Comets, who focus on the music of Dudu Pukwana were at Cambride Modern Jazz in the Hidden Rooms in Jesus Street. The club was welcoming its new piano, the money raised from donations, notably a charity gig at the 606, and Cambridge-born Adam Glasser absolutely did justice to the occasion. Saxophonist Jason Yarde and trombonist Harry Brown completed a powerful front line Dudley Phillips in a Robin Hood hat was impeccable, and Frank Tontoh on drums was sensitive but also gave the fireworks when required.

Reuben James, Alex Davis, Abram Wilson, Myrna Hague
Jason Marsalis, Dave Hamblett. Kings Place Hall One
Photo Credit: Roger Thomas

On Saturday I was at Abram Wilson's "New Orleans Christmas," bringing good music and a thoroughly good and warm vibe to Kings Place Hall One, with Jamaican vocal legend Myrna Hague, highly impressive Birmingham pianist Reuben James (check him out here) Alex Davis on bass and guest drummer Jason Marsalis, joined at the end by Wilson's regular drummer Dave Hamblett. They were playing new music, and the confidence and the extroversion grew righly, greeably, through the course of the evening. Everything Wilson does with this group is based on dialogue and communication rather than display, and is all te better for that. As MC, poet, singer, composer (perhaps above all as composer), and as an ebullient presence on the London scene, we are truly blessed to have our very own resident New Orleans trumpeter.

Sunday night was a party. Sofia Wilde was out celebrating a successful year for her promotions company Sound Generation. Michael L Roberts and Elisa Caleb were singing Christmas songs with an orchestra called Jo Caleb. Guests Fran Hardcastle and Esther Bennett completed the line-up.

The range of gigs on offer is astonishing. Any of these three evenings would be thoroughly recommendable, for the positive energy and life-affirmation at it heart, the reality of invention, of interaction. of involvement in particular strands of the music, of generous spirits and open minds. Joy.  


CD Review: Sector7 - The EP

Sector7 - The EP
(SaySo Records SEHSO02CD. CD Review by Chris Parker)

Close-harmony jazz singing, whether (apparently) straightforwardly exuberant (Andrews Sisters-style) or self-consciously hip (à la Manhattan Transfer) is a relatively rare treat these days, so Sector7 are a breath of fresh air.

This five-track EP sets the vocals of Sarah Ellen Hughes, Emma Smith, Kwabena Adjepong and Shakka Philip against a tidy, discreet jazz trio (pianist George Moore, bassist Tim Thornton, drummer Andy Chapman), and stylistically embraces everything from touching traditional material ('She's Like the Swallow'), a standard (Gershwin's 'But Not for Me') and a couple of contemporary songs (Silje Nergaard's 'Be Still My Heart', Stevie Wonder's 'Superwoman') to Chick Corea's tricksy classic 'Spain'.

The harmonies/arrangements range from rich and lush to relatively adventurous, but it is arguably the quality of the solo voices that really grabs the listener, the various singers agile enough to negotiate all the twists and turns of Corea's enduringly popular tune, but warm and affecting where required (the Nergaard and – flawlessly sung – one of the pop Mozart Wonder's loveliest tunes from his richest 1970s vein).

The vocal forces on display here are impressive, and the manner in which they are deployed, whether to emphasise their contrasts or the ease with which they can be blended, equally so. A great calling card for an outfit that Ian Shaw has described as 'possibly the most exciting thing to happen to the London jazz vocal scene'.

Available from


RIP Bob Brookmeyer 1929-2011

Sad to report the death on Thursday in Grantham, New Hampshire of popular valve trombonist, composer and educator, the superbly mellifluous Bob Brookmeyer, a few days short of his eighty-second birthday .

His work with Gerry Mulligan, Jimmy Giuffre and Clark Terry from the 1950's onwards is an essential part of the history of the music, and he also leaves a massive legacy as influence and teacher of important composers of our time: Maria Schneider, John Hollenbeck, Darcy James Argue.

The clip above from the 1990's with Jim Hall is a BBC recording from Bath. His last visit to the UK was unforgettable: as artist-in-residence at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival in 2007. RIP.


A few Christmas gift ideas

Just a few ideas for gifts....

1) Sardinian guitarist Peo Alfonsi's CD Itaca (EGEA) recorded in 2008 and issued in 2009 ticked quite a few of my boxes when Icaught up with it a couple of months ago. Alfonsi caught the ear when he appered in duo with Al Di Meola at Union Chapel earlier in the year. The CD is beautifully played, recorded, plus some lovely landscapes are lovingly photographed and the whole thing is stunningly packaged. And for clarinet nerds, Gabriele Mirabassi is absolutely the business. The distributor assures me that Amazon have copies

2) We had a good old whinge last year that Penguin had published The Penguin Jazz Guide by Brian Morton and the late Richard Cook was published without an index. Penguin have done a reprint with one. Make sure you get the version with 768 pages and not the first print with only 730.

3) Something seasonal. I don't seem to tire of Carla Bley's 2009 album Carla's Christmas Carols. Here's our review

4) Feeling flush? A Ronnie Scott's membership costs £175.

5) Feeling less flush. How about six quid (or just £4 for download)? Chris Parker tells me this morning that he's enjoying the new EP from Sarah Ellen Hughes' Sector 7.

Please feel free to add recommendations!


Charlie Butler Mortlake under threat of demolition

The new owners of the Charlie Butler pub in Mortlake which hosts jam sessions want to demolish it and are seeking planning permission to develop the site for residential units. Details of the proposed scheme are on the Richmond Council website .

Robin Beynon has written:

You may have heard that there is a Planning Application in to the Council to demolish the Charlie Butler pub, where we have had a very successful open mike session every Monday for the last 15 months.

Young’s Brewery sold it this year, the new owner obviously only buying it as a development opportunity. Over the 18 months, the new landlord has turned it around to make it a very successful venue, particularly for aspiring and mature musicians…

The only case for getting the Application refused is on the “Change of Use” from a Public House (drinking establishment - Class A4) to Residential (Class C3).

I would be grateful if you would be prepared to support the opposition to the Planning Application to demolish the pub, on the grounds that it is an important community facility.

The important thing about Objectors is that they should either live or work in the Borough of Richmond upon Thames – so anyone outside the borough must qualify their objection by saying, for example, that they are musicians who use the facility – and don’t want it removed. (Otherwise the Council will ignore the objection.)

So, below is the link to the web site (ref: 11/3819/FUL) – objectors should click on the button which says “object”, and say their bit…;jsessionid=5C90EE42431B83A0DBA956DFF972A571action=CreateApplicationComment&applicationType=PLANNING&appNumber=11/3819/FUL

Hoping you can help!

Robin Beynon
robinbeynon [at]


Jack's been thinking about...Three Wishes

Our Friday columnist Jack Davies writes about pianist Tom Taylor's initiative to ask jazz musicians for their THREE WISHES

Between 1961 and 1966 the wonderfully named Pannonica de Koenigswarter (more commonly known as “Nica” of ‘Nica’s Dream’) compiled what was to be come the book “Three Wishes”, later edited by her great-niece and published in France in 2006.

Pannonica had a disarmingly naïve premise: to ask jazz musicians what their “three wishes” would be. The result is insightful and intimate, and a revealing document of the US jazz scene of the early 1960s.

Inspired by this concept, pianist Tom Taylor has embarked on a 21st-century version, focussed initially on the London jazz scene. Fittingly for this modern update, Tom is using a blog format – updating it each time he gets a response from one of his wish-makers.

Tom is one of the most broadly grounded musicians I know, and one of my favourite young UK pianists. He was originally classically trained, before later studying with Liam Noble, and this has given his playing a constant sense of structure and shape. His playing is always interesting, engaging and unpredictable.

Tom states his aim in starting the blog: “I thought that it would be interesting to do a modern version, in blog form, for our generation of jazz musicians. To see how different or similar the wishes of a 21st century jazz musician are, as well as to capture some element of the personality of what is such an exciting scene.”

So far, Tom has had responses from saxophonist Martin Speake, pianist Liam Noble and trumpeter Nick Smart (whose wishes include that more Pandas would fancy each other!). He has also opened the floor, inviting responses from jazz musicians of all ages. Tom’s adoption of Pannonica’s innocent approach has already coaxed out touchingly honest answers. It will be very interesting to watch this project unfold.

Tom Taylor's “3 Wishes” blog


Wynton Marsalis named CBS News Cultural Correspondent

Wynton Marsalis in Glasgow 2010
Phto credit: William Ellis
Here goes with the Press Release: (Full Text)

Wynton Marsalis, internationally acclaimed musician, composer and educator, has been named Cultural Correspondent for CBS. It was announced today by CBS News Chairman and 60 Minutes Executive Producer Jeff Fager and David Rhodes, President, CBS News.

In this role, Marsalis will provide insight into a broad range of cultural and educational developments on CBS THIS MORNING and CBS SUNDAY MORNING. His first CBS News appearance will be on Monday, Jan. 16, 2012, as the nation observes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday

COMMENT: YES! The jazz musician's voice is the not-from-the-bulllshit-zone, non-Autotuned, unpranked, disintermediated , authentic, generous-spirited voice. EXACTLY what the media needs in an era where trust has broken down. In the UK we had Humph. We now have Jamie. And are immeasurably better for it.


Review: Henry Grimes at Cafe Oto

Henry Grimes at Cafe Oto, 12th December 2011
Drawing by Geoff Winston. All Rights Reserved

Henry Grimes / Paul Dunmall / Roger Turner
(Café Oto, Monday 12 December 2011.  Review and drawings by Geoff Winston)

Still waters run deep. There is something special about Henry Grimes. It's in his eyes. It's in his playing. It's in his poetry. Determination and belief are embedded in his bearing, yet there is a poignant, distant aspect to his gaze, hinting at an entirely different landscape, reflecting, maybe, his hand-to-mouth existence, working as janitor and labourer, and sustained by writing poetry during all those years. Then, suddenly, he'd beam with great warmth at the end of a set, when he allowed his concentration to relax.

Tracked down in 2002 by long-time fan, Marshall Marrotte, after 35 years away from the music he played with Ayler, Rollins, Cecil Taylor, Monk and a host of other key players in the 60s, and encouraged by William Parker, who donated bass and bow after Margaret Grimes had put out the call, Grimes has thrived ever since. Asked about the years in the wilderness, Grimes rationalises obliquely - "I stopped playing in order to eyeball my own perspective better." *

This was an evening of contrasting sets, the first with Henry playing solo on bass and violin, the second, a renascence of The Profound Sound Trio (recorded by Porter Records in 2008), with heavyweights Paul Dunmall on saxes and Roger Turner, taking over Andrew Cyrille's spot on drums.

Henry Grimes's performance was a meditation on the double bass - no more, no less. He worked with the instrument, bringing out its rich, chestnutty resonances right from the start, exploring its possibilities with a quiet clarity of intent. A combination of his huge experience and a wonderful openness.

Henry Grimes at Cafe Oto, 12th December 2011 Drawing by Geoff Winston. All Rights Reserved

In preparation for the performance, Grimes, wearing a jet black headband and elegant grey attire, sat at the back of the stage, attuning himself with the room and the arriving audience. His onstage entrance revealed a diffidence, a shyness, in the delivery of one of his poems, before he picked up the bass (not his now legendary green 'Olive Oil') and his first pizzicato notes resonated marginally with the onstage snare, before the drum was attended to - in an interesting parallel, just as the musical bass notes in Anri Sala's recent film installation intentionally caused a snare drum to vibrate in the Serpentine Gallery.

The pace was even, there were no pyrotechnics, nothing gratuitous. No licks, no riffs, no easy catch phrases - just Grimes plucking or bowing the instrument. With strong, nimble fingers, which he'd always exercised throughout the lean times, he communicated a deep inner equilibrium, a rare link with a darker, personal zone, where words are left behind. And that steadiness has always been with him, as clarinettist Perry Robinson has recalled: "Henry said that when he played he used to imagine himself walking on an endless conveyor belt, just constantly moving forward at a regular pace. ... It’s a magic momentum that’s always moving; you’re walking, but at the same time you’re being conveyed because the rhythm is carrying you." **

Grimes thinks in structures, and hints of Bach - linking back to Grimes's classical training at the Juilliard - reconciled his innate feel for abstraction with a gently expressed mathematical precision.

Henry Grimes at Cafe Oto, 12th December 2011 Drawing by Geoff Winston. All Rights Reserved

In an exquisite interlude, Grimes, on violin, was joined by singer/voice artist, Elaine Mitchener, for a glittering, exotic musical conversation, a complex, witty emotive discourse, close to the high-pitched calls of animals and birds - their second performance together - the first one having been the night before in Ghent, Belgium (with David Toop).

With Turner, who turned from power percussion to the softest of touches with mallet and brush, and Dunmall, whose muscular delivery drew on Rollins and Coltrane, Grimes quickly found his level. Their thunderous opening threatened to engulf Grimes, but he quickly responded as the sound levels were adjusted. When they picked up the pace, Grimes defined the rhythmic route. Intense passages, recalling Ayler’s groups, were interposed with muted pauses where each played off the other. Dunmall's light soprano sequences and Turner's games with hand-held cymbals were the counters to the hardball assaults, and gave Grimes the space to make his core connections right down in the depths of the music.

Henry Grimes: double bass
Paul Dunmall: tenor and soprano saxophones
Roger Turner: percussion
Guest: Elaine Mitchener: voice

* ' A fireside chat with Henry Grimes' by Fred Jung at All About Jazz, 13 November 2003

**Perry Robinson: 'The Traveler' by Perry Robinson and Florence Wetzel


Congratulations Claire

Claire Martin receiving her OBE from Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace yesterday. Some things are just meant to happen.


Westminster lifts parking threat- till March

The campaign to get Westminster to think again about their proposed tightening of parking restrictions on Sundays and weekends is a LONG SLOG, but they have responded by delaying application again till March,having already postponed it once by a month back in October. Phew.

Bassist Paul Moylan was the first person I was aware of back in July to draw attention to the effects of the decision. Also I think it wasanother bassist Simon Little who set up the frst petition, which we covered in August.

But it does look as though former Rambert Dance board member and Westminster Council Leader Colin Barrow has his sights firmly fixed on the extra revenue, and assumes the council will eventually get its way. This one ain't over yet.  


Book Review: Pat Martino with Bill Milkowski - Here and Now!

Pat Martino with Bill Milkowski - Here and Now!
(Backbeat Books. 208pp., £16.99)

The blurb of guitarist Pat Martino's autobiography describes it as 'remarkable … extraordinary and revealing', three adjectives that might lead seasoned observers of the jazz memoir to expect something along the lines of Art Pepper's Straight Life or even Charles Mingus's Beneath the Underdog. Instead of the often downright lurid sensationalism of such accounts, however, Here and Now! is replete with mature and considered reflection on life, music and the healing power of love. Indeed, so mellow, thoughtful and non-judgemental is Martino that his account is occasionally characterised by the deliberately uncontroversial blandness associated with mainstream showbiz memoirs, or (to cite a jazz example) Duke Ellington's Music is My Mistress.

Willis 'Gator Tail' Jackson (one of Martino's first employers) is 'something else'; Wes Montgomery 'great … magic … a sorcerer'; Joe Pass 'someone I greatly admired … a special person'; Joey DeFrancesco 'an incredible player and a lovable person' – it is almost a relief to find that, during the recording of a project with which Martino was always uncomfortable (Blue Note's All Sides Now), he 'lost control and literally turned the table over' in his anger at the recording's producer Matt Resnicoff (although he later apologised).

The book's saving grace, though, is its heart-on-sleeve honesty. Martino's story – supportive but strict Catholic Italian parents, professional musician in his teens, a series of acclaimed albums culminating in the still-underrated fusion classic Joyous Lake, near-fatal aneurysm resulting in memory loss, followed by slow recovery, happy marriage and triumphant return to his current status of universally respected guitarist and music theorist – is an unequivocally heartening and inspiring one, and he relates it with patent sincerity.

True, it is somewhat slight (Martino's contribution actually makes up only about half the text; the rest is provided by journalist Bill Milkowski's judicious insertions of other musicians' accounts and the occasional square-bracketed piece of factual information, plus nearly fifty pages of tributes from other guitarists and interviews with film maker Ian Knox and neuropsychologist Paul Broks), but none the less moving and uplifting and – perhaps most importantly – it simply demands that the reader re-examine an extraordinary body of work produced by a unique individual.

Backbeat Books


CD Review: Aquarium - Aquarium

Aquarium - Aquarium
(Babel BDV1195. CD Review by Chris Parker)

John Taylor (who should know) calls this album from pianist/composer Sam Leak's band Aquarium 'a set of absorbing compositions', and goes on to highlight 'excellent playing and interaction … intelligent use of space, colour and dynamics'.

Variety and freshness do indeed characterise Leak's pieces: the album begins with a quietly arresting chimer, almost minimalist in feel, and touches a satisfying number of musical bases thereafter, including Jarrett-like singing lyricism (Leak heads up another quartet dedicated to playing the US pianist's music), passages of fiercely interactive free playing, splashes of tasteful funk, hints of Shorteresque terseness, etc.

Such a wide-ranging remit might have resulted in glib superficiality, but the quality and commitment of Leak's bandmates (reeds player James Allsopp, bassist Calum Gourlay, drummer Josh Blackmore) ensure that all the musical territory he opens up is thoroughly explored, Allsopp in particular providing a series of powerful yet sensitive solos on both tenor and bass clarinet.

With Leak himself a more than worthy addition to the UK's current crop of talented young pianists, and his rich and varied compositions receiving scrupulous attention from a whip-smart, versatile band, this is an extremely auspicious debut.


Ronnie's in March

It's definitely worth a sneak peek into Ronnie's schedule for March

- 4th and 5th Charlie Haden's Quartet West
- 16th and 17th Chris Potter
- 19th and 20th Marcus Roberts
- 26th Ambrose Akinmusire


Last Prize Draw of the Year - Tulipa Ruiz. And thanks!

The last newsletter of 2011 goes out tomorrow, and with it the last prize draw of the year (Tulipa Ruiz at Cargo next Monday- scroll down for a video) . I'd like to thank all thirty-five (I hope I haven't missed any) suppliers of Prize Draw prizes in 2011. It's been a pleasure to work with you! Here's the list

Babel Label
Basho Music
Bloomsbury Publishing
Charlie Wright's
Dune Music
Edition Records
Forge Venue
Green & Fortune
Green Note
Kai's Cats
Kings Place
Linley Weir
London Jazz Festival
Loop Collective
Pizza Express Live
Provocateur Records
Ronnie Scott's
Sotto Voce Festival at Cafe Oto
Sound Generation
Splashpont Digital
Target Live
Trio Records
Warner Clasics and Jazz
Whirlwind Records

PRIZE: Tulipa Ruiz live in concert at Cargo Bar next Monday 19 Dec 2011.
Direct from Sao Paulo, she’s on a European tour, backed by a tight-knit band driving out rock, pop and electronic grooves. Her debut album Efêmera (2010/ Totolo / Harmonia Mundi) won Rolling Stone Brasil’s  Best Album of 2010.


Live Music Now is auditioning. Closing date is January 12th

Brazilian singer guitarist Gustavo Marques has given over 100 perfromances
for Live Music Now. Photo Credit: Elisabeth Blanchet

Live Music Now, with a 30 year history, and the largest provider of live music to the UK's welfare, educational, justice and health sectors, is auditioning to recruit musicians for its London branch. Live Music Now supports musicians at the outset of their careers. The application deadline is 12 January. Auditions will be held on 23 and 24 February.

Assistant Director Ann Marie Boyle says: "We warmly welcome musicians from ALL genres to apply."

Guitarist Maciek Pysz writes

“LMN provides me with paid performances opportunities, and I play for people living in challenging circumstances - older people, children with special needs.

I  have been working with LMN for 6 months now, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to grow as a musician and who wants to share their music with people who really need it.  I have learnt a great deal about approaching different audiences - it's a new situation every time and you have to be prepared to be creative and able to come up with new ideas very quickly! Establishing a good rapport with the audience and communication are key to making those concerts successful.

I have found these audiences very receptive to jazz, a lot of them are familiar with the older jazz standards repertoire. They also very much enjoy interacting with us and respond enthusiastically to improvisations. Many members of the audience have come up to us and said we made their day or made them feel better and this is really rewarding! I think Live Music Now does a fantastic job.”

For more details go to the LMN website or contact annmarie.boyle [at]

To donate and support LMN's work


2011 Peter Whittingham Award Winner Roller Trio

The 2011 Peter Whittingham Awards have been announced. Winners are Leeds-based Roller Trio.

Roller trio are: saxophonist James Mainwaring (saxophone/electronics), Luke Wynter (guitar) and Luke Reddin-Williams (drums). A debut album on F-IRE next year. The award will support The band will use their award a video project with film-maker Ray Kane, and a tour. The next London date is on March 28th at the Vortex.

- A Development Award goes to Chaos Collective, (Laura Jurd, Elliot Galvin, Corrie Dick)

- A Commendation goest to Ayanna Witter-Johnson.




CD Review: The Great Wee Band - Light Blue

The Great Wee Band - Light Blue
(Trio TR589.CD Review by Chris Parker)

The Great Wee Band (christened thus after an early gig by guitarist Jim Mullen) exists to play what might be termed classic jazz (standards, established jazz originals, the odd in-band original in keeping with same) in a dignified, thoughtful but none the less virtuosic and vigorous manner.

In addition to Mullen's cultured, classy playing, this album showcases the burnished, full-toned lyricism of Henry Lowther's flugelhorn and the pinpoint accuracy and fluency of his trumpet playing; the unobtrusive but impeccable bass of Dave Green, and the tasteful propulsiveness of drummer Stu Butterfield (plus the elegant saxophone of Stan Sulzmann on three tracks).

The material ranges from out and out classics (Ellington's 'Prelude to a Kiss' a ravishing opener beautifully interpreted by Lowther, Gershwin's 'I Loves You Porgy', standards such as 'I Wanna be Loved', 'You're My Thrill' and 'For Heaven's Sake') to slightly less well-trodden ground (Monk's title-track, Ahmad Jamal's 'New Rhumba'), plus compositions from Johnny Mandel ('Emily' and Henry Mancini ('Dreamsville'), but what is more important than the matter is the manner of the playing.

As the cover's photographs suggest, this is a band that is totally at ease with itself and its remit, which is to address the core jazz repertoire employing core jazz values: total familiarity with the material that in no way compromises freshness and  originality, mutual responsiveness and respect, all the qualities that add
up to merit that rarely applied adjective, 'musicianly'.

Light Blue is available from Trio Records


Messiah: A Soulful Celebration

Malcolm Edmonstone , with the Guildhall Jazz Choir, Jules Jackson and Andrew Bain plus guest Jacqui Dankworth had a triumph last night with a fresh new performing edition of eleven numbers from the classic 1992 album.  A virtually complete Dankworth dynasty was in the audience. A hugely successful collaborative evening, but it is impossible not to give special mention to a double limelight-grabbing role for Becca Toft on clean-as-a-whistle high baroque trumpet and exhilarating mains-powered soul vocals.  


Review: Aaron Goldberg / Reuben Rogers/ Eric Harland

Aaron Goldberg, Reuben Rogers, Eric Harland
Pizza Express, December 2011
Drawing by Geoff Winston. All Rights Reserved.  

Aaron Goldberg / Reuben Rogers/ Eric Harland
(Pizza Express, Dean Street, Sunday 4 December 2011; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

Aaron Goldberg recently asserted that "the way... communication happens on the bandstand really is a great model for how communication ought to happen in the rest of the world, and you can see that bands that really get along onstage always move an audience."* His tremendous trio with Reuben Rogers and Eric Harland is a shining example of this principle in practice. That the three of them made the time to play together in the intimate surroundings of the Pizza Express was a mouthwatering prospect.

Goldberg's credentials are impressive and take in four years of touring and recording with Joshua Redman, six months with Wynton Marsalis's quartet, and various collaborations with Kurt Rosenwinkel; he's also performed with many other jazz notables including Betty Carter, Al Foster, Freddie Hubbard and Madeline Peyroux.

The rhythm section of Rogers and Harland was seen at the Barbican a year ago as members of Charles Lloyd's breathtaking quartet, and the keen anticipation that marked their return with Goldberg was amply rewarded. They, too, have strings of impeccable credentials and are two of the most in-demand musicians around.

The mutual respect and camaraderie that these three exceptional musicians have fostered over the 10 years they have worked together underwrites every aspect of their performance. It is a team game, but it is not competitive, it is supportive, and this is what made it such a special experience for the receptive audience at Dean Street.

They enjoyed a kinetic, probing dialogue, asserting each musician's independence within their integrated platform. Themes rooted in the popular and jazz repertoires were thoughtfully stated and, just when it seemed that a closing passage has been reached, the trio turned a tune on its head and used it as a springboard to head off into open-ended zones where their interdependence encouraged new iterations of the initial statements. Not without discipline - quite the contrary - their schooling and experience has ingrained an understanding of the "language of jazz" and a rigorous mastery of their instruments - prerequisites to the fulfillment of Goldberg's "dream of becoming an improvising jazz musician for a living"*.

There was a positive tension in the ways that they played out the challenges they set themselves. Concentration and an alertness to every nuance and movement allowed the freedom to explore. It was far more subversive than it seemed on the surface. Even the principle of the solo was subverted - unusually, at no point were the mooring ropes cut; two musicians were always there in the background, in unison, just dropping in a beat or a note or a minimal statement of a song's structure to give skeleton support to the musician in the spotlight, following every note with a smile. When Rogers took a seat, holding his bass by his side as Harland flew into an intense percussive flow, he remained fully engaged, offering, with Goldberg, a pattern of judiciously placed notes to light the way.

It was a case of 'less notes, more happening' for much of their dynamic ninety minute set - there were no signs of embellishment, nothing florid, even when the pace changed from the purely melodic to a racetrack speed. Material was drawn from the albums 'Home', 'Worlds' and 'Bienestan' - which Goldberg, with his broad agenda, described as "an imaginary country ... in the recesses of your mind - [where] only good things happen ...". The haunting Manhã de Carnaval (from Black Orpheus), with its touches of bossa and an initially spare interpretation saw both Goldberg and Harland negotiate daunting rhythmic conundrums - going in and out of temporal step, but never losing it for an instant.

Goldberg is a deliberate player, yet he spared the Steinway, and spun off into bright, beautifully controlled flights, pushed to the limits, his light touches complemented by Harland's brushes and taps and Rogers' supple, muted bass lines. As Harland touched the cymbals with a soft mallet and then held them to let them shimmer, Goldberg reached in to the back of the piano to add timbres. Harland patted the toms, Rogers bowed, keeping in with the piano and took out the next number with a diminuendo after a lively brush with calypso.

Reuben Rogers, Eric Harland
Pizza Express, December 2011
Drawing by Geoff Winston. All Rights Reserved.

Rogers burst into a mellow, plucked solo, whooped, "Hey, Aaron Goldberg," before they unleashed Wonder's 'Isn't She Lovely?' in its full glory from a spacious, lingering starting block - and then left the audience hanging on an extended silence - which, by then, they'd learnt was not the conclusion - and closed this great set with a bluesy hint woven in to its fabric.

Harland engaged informally with young musicians after the set to discuss the importance of learning from previous generations of jazz musicians, a generous, open gesture which summed up the spirit of the evening perfectly.

( * Josh Jackson interview with Aaron Goldberg on WBGO for NPR, February 2011)


CD Review: Geoff Eales and Isorhythm - Shifting Sands

Geoff Eales and Isorhythm - Shifting Sands
(33JAZZ226. CD Review by Chris Parker)

As pianist/composer Geoff Eales explains in his liner notes, this is the fusion album he has been waiting nearly 30 years to make, since fronting the self-explanatory Electric Eales band in the early 1980s.

He also explains that 'isorhythm' refers to a 'principle of construction where a fixed rhythmic pattern undergoes a series of melodic transformations throughout the course of a piece', but knowledge of all the above is by no means essential to appreciation and enjoyment of this fiercely lively, intelligently programmed album.

Eales is a keen and astute observer of the contemporary jazz scene, and he has hand-picked something of a dream band for this project: guitarist Carl Orr, saxophonist Ben Waghorn, electric bassist Fred T. Baker, drummer Asaf Sirkis and guest violinist Chris Garrick. He has also provided said band with a series of pleasingly varied, gutsy but subtle pieces, incorporating telling traces of so-called 'world' music (Sirkis particularly suited to these) but mostly drawing on the strengths of fusion music: bustling or anthemic themes, hard-hitting solos, thunderous climaxes, all held together by Eales's powerful acoustic piano or rattling fender rhodes.

Orr and Waghorn (the latter doubling effectively on bass clarinet) contribute spikily mesmerising and swaggering solos respectively, and the rhythm section is impeccable, Sirkis once again proving that he is one of the most sensitively propulsive percussionists in the music, alert to every rhythmic nuance yet also capable of delivering straightforward punch and drive where necessary.

Eales, a wide-ranging career (embracing everything from work on cruise ships to playing behind the likes of Shirley Bassey) behind him when he began making unalloyed jazz albums in the early 1990s, is a thoroughly mature and versatile musician, and this vibrant album is a welcome addition to his impressive discography.

Available from Proper Music


Blue Train Jazz & Blues Bar Opening Night Report

Al Cherry, Rob Mullarkey, Natalie Williams, Phil Peskett
Opening of Blue Train, 2nd December 2011
Photo credit: Gary Fox
Zena James reports on the opening night at the Blue Train Jazz & Blues Club, 56 Stamford St, London SE1 9LX:

London’s newest jazz & blues venue has arrived. Less than 10 minutes’ stroll from Waterloo, this compact club has plenty of potential and genuine warm enthusiasm.

Easy to spot with its bright blue neon frontage, a packed Blue Train pulled out full steam ahead on opening night and jazz-soul vocal star Natalie Williams and quartet made sure it stayed that way. From the engaging R&B vibes of You Send Me to the groove-laden 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, this was the perfect choice of band for a celebration that sought to get a crowd on-side.

A cheerful, slightly overwhelmed young team, spearheaded by attentive owner John Dignam and entertainment manager, ex-NYJO trumpeter Ray Butcher, guided guests on arrival swiftly towards drinks and contemporary big band sounds in the upstairs bar (formerly an Indian restaurant). With waitress service, candlelight, a satellite screen to beam up the action from the jazz room beneath to non-paying upstairs customers (curious decision), cool metallic high cocktail tables and chairs, a low level comfy seating area and a late closing time - it bodes well, though it might benefit from more soft furnishings to soak up the boomy acoustics. Billed as ‘the restaurant’ with music duos Monday – Wednesday 6.30 – 9.30pm, it doubles up happily (and better in my view) as an atmosphere-setting bar.

The dark downstairs main music room is billed as ‘the jazz bar’ but was in fact the restaurant on opening night. Seating around 50, this former conference room is pretty intimate when full and wouldn’t look bare with 25 guests. A quirky Tapas-only menu cooked up by an ex-Gordon Ramsay chef ranged reasonably from £4.50 for fried Whitebait to £7.50 for beef fillet. And so to the music. The minimal stage is so far equipped with a Brodmann Baby Grand piano and house sound system, but there is talk of bringing in a house kit for (grateful) drummers (no car park and a narrow get-in).

From the outset, amidst a persistent excited chatter, Natalie Williams, Al Cherry, Phil Peskett, Rob Mullarkey and Martyn Kaine had a challenging night ahead. Opting for (possibly not their original intention) full-on soul & pop classics but only scarce glimpses of jazz (apart from a randomly popular rendition of Nature Boy), the expertly-delivered mainstream upbeat sets were one giant crowd-pleaser. Competing throughout with a few sound system issues and a VERY spirited audience, Natalie and her faultless soul-soaked vocals did an admirable job of keeping the energy train rolling. But the sheer volume of chatter suggested little respect in the room for her craft or the band’s collective swathes of talent and experience.

This may well have been an opening night one-off and could be eased in future by a gentle pre-gig club announcement, but is potentially a recurring challenge for busier nights at the Blue Train. Attentiveness and ‘jazz-familiarity’ of the guests it ends up attracting are still an unknown quantity and it’s a tough one at this stage for the club or interested artists to predict. In short, the band played what they knew would suit the room, but possibly not what the club ultimately wants to be known for long-term. Ray Butcher has booked well-established (mainly vocal) London-scene artists for the first month’s programming with an apparent vision to broaden this out to further-flung, less London-centric talent as the club develops.

It is as yet far too early to judge whether we have a true jazz club alternative joining the ranks of Ronnie’s, Pizza Express Dean St, the 606 and the Spice of Life, characterised by respect for the artists, or whether populist soul & blues and happily chattering crowds become the Blue Train’s way forward. Both are fine and are perfectly viable business options, but let’s hope it’s the former. Good luck, Blue Train.

Blue Train Jazz & Blues Bar


Review: The Magic Band

Rockette Morton at Scala, 30th November 2011
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. All Rights Reserved
The Magic Band
(Scala, Wednesday 30 November 2011; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

The Magic Band, includes three stalwarts from Captain Beefheart's various original Magic Bands of the 60s and 70s, and impressed because of their musicianship and discipline, and the authentic, fresh sounding interpretations of the Beefheart canon. They avoided the pitfalls of being a homage or tribute band, imposing their own character on the material drawn from the breadth of Beefheart's creative output.

John 'Drumbo' French is very much the mover in forming this 5-piece, as are ATP, who have also released their CD, Back to the Front, on their own label. He joked that they'd looked for venue in a 'small town' since playing at The Garage two years ago and they then proceeded to balance the poetic - 'Steal softly through sunshine, steal softly through snow' - with the spikey, driven rhythmic engine which makes the case for Beefheart's strong affinities with Ornette Coleman.

Ornette was one of Beefheart's major influences, particularly in composition and also his approach to the various saxes that he played, and this seam has been maintained faithfully by the band - not an easy path to follow. Certainly it is not the way of least resistance, so it was gratifying to witness their commitment to the quirky, complex structures and the balancing act that it requires to succeed.

Rockette Morton excelled with a bass solo that powered along with real intent and then melded in to a phenomenal guitar and bass trio with Feelers Rebo's equally astonishing creative slide guitar and Erik Klerks' spiralling, energetic fretboard drive, leading into Blows Its Stacks. 'Drumbo' has adopted the role of singer, harmonica player, occasional drummer - he briefly took over the drum stool from the solid Craig Bunch - with respect and enough distance to avoid being a clone of the Captain. His delivery owes much to Beefheart's, but he qualifies this with both humility and unbridled enthusiasm, so comes across as a disciple, spreading the word - he defended their corner, "We are The Magic Band - we miss him, but the music lives on!"

The audience were devotees, some young and pogoing, others who would have seen the band in their original incarnations; they recognised favourites all the way through - Clear Spot, Abba Zabba, the iconic Electricity ("Eeeee-lec-triciteeee"), Bo Diddley's Diddy Wah Diddy, the chunky Nowadays a Woman Gotta Hit a Man, and a tremendous Big-Eyed Beans From Venus - weirdly otherworldly - to mention only a few. The surreal poetry and the jerky, rhythmic concoctions blended with the raw blues in an irresistible concatenation for almost two hours.

The only minor reservation was with the mix which over-amplified the bass and pedal bass drums. And thanks to the Captain Beefheart blog which has posted an autographed setlist from the night.

The Magic Band are an important link in the chain which binds together much of today's experimentation and crossover between the adventurous ends of the rock and jazz spectra - they'll be back next year and well worth seeking out.

Denny 'Feelers' Rebo: slide guitar and guitar
Mark 'Rockette' Morton Boston; electric bass
John 'Drumbo' French: vocals, harmonica, drums
Eric Klerk: guitar
Craig Bunch: drums