Review: Tommy Smith's Karma


Review: Tommy Smith's Karma
(Pizza Express, April 28th 2011, review and photos by Roger Thomas)


In the photo I tried to capture one of those contempative, meditative Zen moments, with Tommy Smith crouching hidden next to the piano, musing as the band played on. I smiled as the thought came to me that perhaps he's been overcome by thoughts of his own Karma. Looking around at the audience, that mood had communicated to them, people were still, transfixed, caught in their own inner thoughts.

This show was dedicated to the performance of tracks from his latest album, Karma. Jazz improvisation, and sounds reminiscent of Weather Report were mixed with Indian rhythms, the rituals of Japan, but there is also a chilled urban feel, tasteful electronic keyboards and funky/hip-hoppish drumming.

The arrangements were thought-provoking and showed a great understanding of how to combine all of these disparate elements. Smith has written specificially for musicians whom he knows well - which added to the distinct character of each composition.

Tommy is now the musician's musician, at least to judge by the number of colleagues who were not just present, but were also clearly showing their appreciation of, and admiration for this new project. They weren't alone in that: this is one album I will definitely be buying.



Personnel: Tommy Smith - Tenor sax, Shakuhachi; Steve Hamilton - Piano/Keyboards; Kevin Glasgow - six string bass guitar; Alyn Cosker - Drums.

Karma is on Spartacus Records

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Review: Kyle Eastwood


Kyle Eastwood
(Ronnie Scotts Saturday 23rd April, Review by Rosie Hanley)


Last Saturday was the last night of Kyle Eastwood’s residency at Ronnie Scotts, part of the tour promoting his new album, Songs From The Chateau. Listening to the album at home before the gig my expectations were high. This latest oeuvre from Eastwood is a solid set of new and old material and proves his compositional skills by including a mixture of cool, laid-back tracks, energetic calypso and funk, all the while maintaining cohesion.

My high expectations were met and exceeded as the album was far better experienced live. Eastwood was joined by Andrew McCormack (piano and keyboards), Graeme Flowers (trumpet and flugelhorn), Graeme Blevins (tenor and soprano saxophone) and Martyn Kaine (drums) aka ‘the hardest working musician in Ronnies’ that night, since he played the support and main act sets.

From the moment he entered the stage, Eastwood exuded elegance, introducing the numbers and chatting easily with the audience, telling of the origins of the compositions. There was no arrogance or element of competition from any of the men on stage- just great jazz.

Eastwood displayed technical prowess on double, electric and six string basses. He remained the star throughout, while allowing the other band members to showcase their equally impressive talents. Andrew McCormack was at his absolute best relishing the juicy harmonies and navgating with confidence and ease the unforeseen cadences and modulations of ‘Soul Captain’. ‘Tonic’ featured a mature and thoughtful solo from Graeme Blevins.

A highlight of the evening was ‘Café Calypso’, a joint band composition. Martyn Kaine proved his stamina and energy with his electrifying performance on this number. Blevins also played a storming rhythmic solo contrasting with his more melodic solo of earlier in the night. Another highlight of the evening was ‘Cosmo’, a funk number inspired by Herbie Hancock and Starsky and Hutch! McCormack and Kaine laid down the funky groove before Blevins and Flowers began their onslaught of awesome solos.

Having seen Eastwood perform on previous occasions, I knew (and hoped) to expect that he would play the soundtrack from Letters from Iwo Jima. Saturday night’s rendition however, was like nothing I’ve heard before. It was heartbreakingly beautiful and brought the whole of Ronnies to complete, concentrated silence. Eastwood made his electric bass sound effortlessly melodic and beautiful and McCormack’s playing was tender and gorgeous, ending the piece to loud applause and exclamations of astonishment and awe.

We were treated to two encores. The first, ‘Andalucia’ from the new album featuring a superb extended solo from Eastwood and the second, ‘Big Noise’, the uptempo 1940s crowd pleaser. The band deservedly received a standing ovation before the early crowd kicked out and the late set began…and poor Martyn Kaine had to do it all over again!

www.ronniescotts.co.uk

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An A-Z of a first day at Jazzahead



The first day at what has become the worlds largest jazz conference leaves a mass of impressions. It's a huge event. Here they are as an A to Z

A is for All Present
. Everyone, or nearly everyone from European jazz whom you might expect to see at a bash like this is here. From record labels to major festivals, it is now a major draw. Apart from the broadcasters, perhaps - it clashes with EBU. People aren't necessarily buying exhibitor packages - some major players just rock up as visitors and buy themselves day-tickets. Just to be here.

A is also for ACT Music and its boss Siggi Loch, who gave a moving speech presenting the 2011 Skoda Jazzpreis to Claude Nobs of Montreux Jazz Festival.

B is for Bremen. I'm hoping to get to know the city by the Weser rather than just its Congress Centre..

C is for Creative Scotland. The Scottish presence here is impressive.

D is for Duc des Lombards. I met the people from the Paris club which recently gave rise to a row on the internet. With a capacity of just 70 people, and putting on jazz 285 nights a year without subsidy, they are doing this for a purpose other than financial return.

D is also for determination. I met delegates today who had, variously, taken an overnight sleeper from Austria and got up in the Thames Valley at 2am. Nothing 9 to 5 about this lot.

E is for Ertegun. The influence of the Ertegun brothers Nesuhi (1917-1989) and Ahmet (1923-2006) were mentioned by both Siggi Loch as he presented the Skoda prize, and by Claude Nobs as he received it - there is also a strong connection with Turkey in this year's conference. (See also T)

F is for fourteen forty-five. (See P)

F is also for Fran Hardcastle our regular contributor and highly capable guest editor doesn't have to try that hard to be popular, but with a few pre-release copies of the Impossible Gentlemen's new CD to give to selected people, her stall had an orderly queue for much of the day.

F is also for Forty. Which is how old the ENJA label is this year. Many happy returns. But they are not folk to spend money on friperies. Their banner still modestly claims "thirty-five."

G is for Growing. Delegates this year are well over 2000, there are 357 exhibitors from 30 countries, roughly 30% up year-on-year.

H is for Hamburg. The ElbJazz people are here - we'll be featuring Colin Towns next week. In his role as composer in residence of the NDR Big Band, he has written the festival's main new commission, a composition portraying the history of Hamburg harbour

I is for Inntoene. I heard about a rural weekend festival in Upper Austria - I'm tempted to go there.

J is for jazzahead! and its co-organizers Peter Schulze and Ulli Beckerhoff, whose team have done a good job.

K is for das Kapital, one of the most talked about young German bands.

L is for Dave Liebman. I 'm hearing that he's just recorded an amazing Miles Sketches of Spain for radio with a top pro band in Graz. Now that I'd like to hear.

N is for the Nokia theme. I thought we'd heard that infuriating Gran Vals by Francisco Tárrega, until it came in, mezzforte, right on cue, as Jef Neve and Pascal Schumacher did a particularly subtle and quiet ending. (See also V)

N is also for next year. jazzahead! 2012 dates: April 19th - 22nd. (See also S)

O is for Out to Lunch, what a great name for a promoter (from Australia). I didn't want to tempt fate and check if anyone was actually manning their stand. I did check out one Italian Festival to be told that although they had a sign up, they weren't actually coming. Can Italian lunches last three days?

P is for Partisans. (See also F) 14.45 was the mid-afternoon time allocated to Partisans for their showcase slot. But it would appear that the clock isn't an obstacle: Phil Robson and Julian Siegel can resume their high-energy games of pursuit at any time of day or night and bring themselves and an audience to life.

Q is for Thierry Quenum from France, one of the few foreign journalists here, and someone with open ears for music across our continent. He's be a natural for .....(see X)

R is for Ryanair. They got me here safely, but I've heard the story of a musician returning today on whome they used their baggage restrictions as a blatant money-spinner. Gotta be careful.

S is for Spain. Announced officially today as 2012 partner country for jazzahead!

S is also for Star Trek and Star Wars. I learnt today that allaboutjazz.com was seed-funded by the profits of an entrepreneeur who had caught the brief vogue for Star Wars and Sar Trek screensavers.

T is for 2011 jazzahead! partner country with a strong presence here - Turkey

U is for Ulli Beckerhoff. As the man who (refuses to take any credit for having) instigated Jazzahead, he clearly has a success on his hands.

V is for Slo-VENIA. They joined forces with the Swiss and the Austrians to pour Welschriesling. (See also Z)

V is also for vibraphone. That duo from the linguistic fault-lines of Europe, Pascal Schumacher from Luxembourg and Jef Neve from Geel in the east of Belgium played a lively set full of delicate and happy interplay. Until they were interrupted by (see N)

W is for Wedding. The Germans kept telling me there was a weeding going on in London today. What were they on about?

X is for Jazz-x. I like what is at the heart of this project to make local coverage global by getting high-quality web-based content about specific European jazz scenes translated. It is flawed, but it should happen in some form or other.

Y is for Jason Yarde. Dave Stapleton who is here has just announced that MY Duo with Yarde and Andrew McCormack will record their next CD for Edition.

Z is for Ozma. I missed the showcase by French cellist Adrien Dennefeld's band - it was the Austrians and they made me drink. I should have spotted this sign pointing to the jazz and the wine.




www.jazzahead.de

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Review: Daryl Sherman



Daryl Sherman Trio
(Pizza Express Dean Street, 26th April 2011, Review by Frank Griffith)


Cafe Society comes to Soho. New Englander, and now NYC-based jazz chanteuse and pianist Daryl Sherman, brought her own blend of that culture to Soho's Pizza Express on Tuesday.

A frequent visitor to our shores since 1999, her trio, consisting of Howard Alden on guitar and Brit bassman Dave Green, had previously racked up many seasons at Pizza on the Park, Hyde Park's recently closed venue. As a result, she has migrated to the flagship venue for modern jazz, Pizza Express, Dean Street. The lighting, table layout, room shape and general ambiance were much more conducive at the POTP for the song and storytelling kind of menu that this artiste delivers.

Sherman's chat and anecdotes contribute nearly as much to the show as do the actual songs and jazz. The seamless segue and interplay between these two elements works wondrously in her hands. The audience is simultaneously entertained, and educated about the lives and classic offerings of the British and American songsmiths.

Hailing from Woonsocket, Rhode Island, Daryl has deep roots in thism nusic. Her father, Sammy Sherman, a restaurateur, doubled on trombone and violin. She forged longtime musical associations with other jazzers from that area such as Dave McKenna, Ruby Braff, Harry Allen and the sadly missed cornetist, author and general knower of all things, Richard Sudhalter.

She took the theme of April songs for a medley ("I'll Remember April" and Bill Evans' "In April"). Another sequence, interspersed with eloquent anecdotes, consisted of four Johnny Mercer songs in succession, including "Jeepers Creepers" and a pair of his Dream titles, all of which were sung with aplomb.

At one point Daryl rose from the piano and took centre stage to deliver a heart-rending reading of Burton Lane's "Too late Now". Her eye contact with the audience, body language with the band and general stage presence had risen in exponential proportions. Perhaps having freed herself from the piano helped her up the ante in attaining a poignancy in delivery, a touch of magic..

Sherman also writes well-crafted and characerful trio arrangements which leave plenty of space for solos. She is no mean pianist, both as accompanist and soloist. Her vertical "hopping in place" motion in time to the beat is a sight to behold-which is in keeping with her scamp-like improvisations mixing light asides and riff trading with Alden and Green. both of whom are driving soloisits in their own right. Dave Green's bass feature, Oscar Pettiford's "Laverne Walk," was a worthwhile diversion from the songfest, as Green put Alden and himself through their paces on this rarely heard jazz classic.

Cafe Society indeed. A dying art to some perhaps, but in Ms Sherman's case, in ever so able hands. A true celebration of melodies, language and songdom.

Daryl Sherman's next London appearance is at The Pheasantry in Chelsea on 5th May. Bookings at pizzaexpresllive.co.uk

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A Tentet of Drawings of the Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet

Geoff Winston produced this series of ten drawings(*) which stand as a unique record of the visit to London last week of the Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet to Cafe Oto. Geoff attended two of the three nights, and also reviewed for us.



Per Åke Holmlander (Tuba)



The Tentet




The Tentet



Michael Zerang, Jeb Bishop, Paal Nilssen-Love



Ken Vandermark and Peter Brötzmann being interviewedby Jez Nelson



Kent Kessler




Left to right: Joe McPhee, Kent Kessler, Peter Brötzmann



Mats Gustafsson and Peter Brötzmann



Joe McPhee



Johannes Andreas Bauer and Peter Brötzmann duelling


(*) All images copyright Geoff Winston 2011. All rights reserved.

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CD Review: John Martin Quartet - Dawning


John Martin Quartet - Dawning
(F-IRE CD 40. CD Review by Chris Parker)


This debut recording from composer/saxophonist John Martin comes recommended by Kenny Wheeler ('a lovely album with all the players sounding very comfortable with the music') and Iain Ballamy ('honest, cohesive and sophisticated'), and the former's lyrical fluency and the latter's rapturous intensity are indeed defining features of Martin's music.

Although there are elements of the eclecticism characterising contemporary London-based jazz discernible throughout Dawning, the overall impression is of a quintessentially 'European' sound, a limpid sincerity often associated with folk music and a slightly wistful melancholy its chief ingredients. Martin's is an affecting, attractively fragile approach (not unlike Ballamy's), perhaps more effective when he plays multi-textured tenor rather than the less overtly nuanced soprano, but which imparts considerable warmth and emotion into both his multi-hued
pieces ('Moving On', which moves easily between what Martin himself terms 'elements of gospel, afro and jazz') and his more straightforwardly emotive compositions ('Quiet Song', a lullaby for his sister).

His band, pianist Jonjo Grisdale, bassist Tim Fairhall and drummer Andy Ball, acquit themselves well throughout a varied programme, Grisdale in particular proving a suitably mellifluous and thoughtful soloist, his combination with Martin occasionally bringing Keith Jarrett's 'Belonging' band to mind.

As Ballamy points out, the John Martin Quartet, on this evidence, is 'a band to listen out for in 2011 and a credit to the F-IRE Collective'.

Dawning is available from jazzcds.co.uk

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Lift to the Scaffold - 606 Club, Wednesday May 4th



It's 53 years since Jeanne Moreau ran the tips of her fingers langurously over the paintwork of those parked cars, to the accompaniment of Miles Davis. The young Louis Malle had spent just three years, mostly in a diving suit filming underwater for Jean-Jacques Cousteau, and was making his first full length film. The year was 1958, that film was was "Un Ascenseur poul l'Echafaud/ Lift to the Scaffold"

Martin Shaw - with Andy Panayi, sax and flute, Leon Greening piano, bassist Geoff Gascoyne and drummer Sebastiaan de Krom will be perfoming to the film. That's one set of an alluring double bill next Wednesday at the 606 Club.

In the other set, Brazilian singer Jandira Silva, with a quartet led by pianist John Crawford will be performing to the Marcel Camus film Orfeu Negro. Here's a clip from the film with a famous song and a possibly confused goat.


The event is a preliminary one in the lead-up to the Sound on Screen Festival in spring 2012. The team producing it is Michael Etherton and Andreas Boyde. Great idea

www.soundonscreen.org

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Preview: the Charlie Haden London Concerts, May 21st and 22nd


Preview : Charlie Haden at the Barbican May 21st and 22nd
(Also featured as this week's prize draw for newsletter readers)


Bassist, composer and bandleader Charlie Haden, one of the key figures in the development of jazz in the past half-century, once described the aspiration and the vocation of the artist as having two distict sides:

"to bring beauty to the world and make a difference in this planet."

The Barbican's two Charlie Haden concerts in May, presenting the "artist in focus" will bring to the fore each of these sides of Haden's creative soul during two very different concerts:

The concert on Saturday May 21st will feature Quartet West. Quartet West was founded in 1987, and three of the original four players still form the current group: saxophonist Ernie Watts, pianist Alan Broadbent and Haden himself. Haden moved to California as a nineteen year old in 1957.

The concert is built around Haden's 2010 album "Sophisticated Ladies," which alternates vocal numbers and instrumentals. The singers featured in the concert have yet to be fully announced. The BBC's reviewer wrote that the songs are "a wholly nostalgic surrender to the days of sweetly melancholic relationship-doom."

Haden knows deeply the Californian cults of beauty, of cinema and of lifestyle, but his vision questions the dream, and recalls these words of Joan Didion:

"California is a place in which a boom mentality and a sense of Chekhovian loss meet in uneasy suspension; in which the mind is troubled by some buried but ineradicable suspicion that things better work here, because here, beneath the immense bleached sky,is where we run out of continent."

The concert on Sunday May 22nd features a very different aspect of Haden's reativity. Political song, the yearning for revolution and change dominate the up-to-date 2011 version of the Liberation Music Orchestra, with its Anglo-american personnel.

This group were one of the highlights of Ornette Coleman's Meltdown at the South Bank Centre in June 2009, when they made their last appearance here with Roberrt Wyatt. Try John Fordham's 5 star Guardian review.

The Americans in the band include Carla Bley and Tony Malaby, the Brits John Parricelli, Andy Sheppard and Jason Yarde, ad Oren Marshall.

Here's a clip from 1992:



BOOKINGS


charliehadenmusic.com

The Charlie Haden London concerts are produced by Serious, whose previous Barbican "Artist in Focus" series has included Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock.

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Review: Hans-Joachim Roedelius


Hans-Joachim Roedelius
(Vortex, Friday afternoon, 22nd April 2011, Review and drawing by Geoff Winston*)


Roedelius's relaxed, idealist outlook and optimism infused the atmosphere at this afternoon session, during which he played "a little bit of the past", through an excellent sound system, to illustrate highlights of his substantial, self-taught career in electronic music, and to play on the Vortex’s Steinway, commenting that the piano is his "most loved instrument".

There was a question and answer session, where he deferred to his wife, Christa, for translation of the more oblique questions. Born in 1934, he is a pioneer of the German music scene which had its roots in the Berlin underground of the 60s, where he met Moebius (then a cook and graphic designer), and with whom he founded the Zodiac Arts Lab, and Conrad Schnitzler with whom they formed Kluster. He then went on to collaborate with, amongst others, Eno and The Edge. He eschewed the trap of falling in with the commercially driven musical Zeitgeist, describing his music as "anachronistic". He explained that Conny Plank was the only producer they could work with, and that their attempts to work with the market-facing Peter Baumann of Tangerine Dream came to nought.

Roedelius was a practicing physiotherapist, which perhaps was a way of expressing his very human sensitivity, and his life became commune-based after long spells on the road - even Eno had to muck in when they worked together! His early music was created in a Revox and put through a bounce back system to create growing and receding musical forms. "Pure music which came out of my belly," as he put it.

These days he, like Han Bennink, who appeared at the Vortex in the evening, is more drawn to classical music - particularly Slavic, Russian and Czech composers.

On stage, Roedelius’s piano solos were wistful, reflective, nostalgic. Whilst not technically complex, there was an engaging and deceptive simplicity to the melodies, in an area between folk melodies and ambient. Rarely straying into the upper reaches of the keyboard, he created a mellow, meditative mood which permeated the packed Vortex.

Still highly active, he hosts the 'More Ohr Less' Festival in Lunz am See in Austria, and, in the spirit of the afternoon, Christa mentioned that festival-goers can be collected from the local airport!

(*) Copyright Geoffrey Winston 2011. All rights reserved.

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Review: Norma Winstone at the Oxford Jazz Festival


Norma Winstone, Klaus Gesing, Glauco Venier
(Randolph Hotel, April 24th 2011,part of Oxford Jazz Festival, review by Paul Guest, photo credit: Barker Evans)

  
My first encounter with Norma Winstone in concert was at the London Jazz Festival in November last year. I remember that I had been apprehensive beforehand, but that her trio's performance had dramatically changed my perspective: music which I hadn't known at all had brought me the same feelings of contentment as the renewal of an old friendship.

Now I find myself in Oxford to hear their beautiful music once more, as part of the Oxford Jazz Festival. You couldn’t have had a more perfect day, with Oxford basking in the sunshine. I decided to arrive at the Randolph Hotel early to get the feel of the venue, to take stock of the audience before the concert began.

In London I had been greeted by a wealth of young people. I wanted to know whether this transcended to the Oxford Jazz scene: Not really. I sat in the bar waiting and all I saw was grey hair after white hair, but then, late - as ever - a flock of young professionals came through the doors, thank god!

On first impressions, the venue was dire; it was the room where I would have had my sixth birthday party with a cheap DJ, party balloons and probably a twister mat: Yes, my parents were that cruel to me. Not that I’m a usual jazz goer but the seating seemed much too formal, I really wanted to be in a dark room with the spotlight on Norma; you know, something much more intimate, because that is how I feel when I listen, like Norma’s best friend, it can be very personable.

“I wear flats for the sound check and heels for the gig” Norma said while adjusting her mic. The music began, instantly I had disappeared into a world of just the music; the venue that I hated didn’t matter; the damn photographer snapping photographs in front of me didn’t matter.

Norma Winstone, Klaus Gesing and Glauco Venier are a trio matched in heaven; they can read each other like books and they also create beautiful music but not only do they create music but they give you story, a journey. That journey begins from the very first note and only ends at complete silence. Gesing’s well-placed harmonic lines slyly become the second voice with his beautiful velvety notes from either the bass clarinet or soprano sax that acted so versatile throughout the performance. Venier on the piano becomes a master of his craft visibly using both eyes and ear to deliver a compilation of chord, melody and décor; he gives the piano some touch love. When Norma Winstone starts to sing the flower blossoms, the Barbra Streisand of Jazz; her beautiful lyrics combined with her sublime vocal colour of a deep red transport you from reality to another world; far away, somewhere unknown; you feel the floor disappear beneath you.
The programme was a mixture of work from the trio’s most recent album “Stories Yet To Tell” and the previous “Distances”.

During a chat with Norma she told me “I never remember the order… I didn’t even realise we were going to perform ‘Mermaid’… it just felt right, right key, right time” – It shows just how lost Norma is in the music too. Renditions of ‘Just Sometimes’, ‘Among the Clouds” and a personal favourite “Goddess” all portrayed immense beauty. Norma sings into the microphone as it if were a delicate rose. ‘Rush’ is most haunting, beautiful too.

Even the incredibly technical improvisations and the mass of talented, articulate scat singing that split up the trio’s softer songs came together to create something so perfectly infectious, in fact I found it really overwhelming. During the improvisation you had to search through a jungle of notes to find the melody- appropriately like a musical egg hunt.




I’ve read things about Norma that suggest she has found success late in the game; I disagree, her voice has matured into something of great beauty and almost like finding your soul mates, she has found two perfect musical partners in Venier and Gesing.

The magic of their music is that the Piano, Voice and Saxophone coalesce into one, one self, one existence.

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CD Review: Carol Kidd & Nigel Clark - Tell Me Once Again



Carol Kidd & Nigel Clark - Tell Me Once Again
(Linn AKD 377, CD review by Chris Parker)


Scottish singer Carol Kidd and guitarist Nigel Clark have been including a duo feature in her live act for many years now, but this is the first time they have devoted an entire recording to it.


Setting out their stall with the ultimate exposition of the pathetic fallacy, the
Arlen/Koehler classic 'Stormy Weather', and judiciously interspersing standards and show/film tunes with more modern songs and the odd original thereafter, Kidd and Clark explore the world of problematic and lost love with a rare delicacy throughout this twelve-song set, reproducing the hushed intimacy they achieve in their live performances with touching visits to the familiar ('The Shadow of Your Smile', 'Moon River', 'Alfie') and the more contemporary (Stevie Wonder's 'Moon Blue', their own 'Tell Me Once Again').

A sure indication of Kidd's subtlety and sheer class as an interpreter of the confidential ballad is her ability to inject new life into perhaps over-familiar material; here, she somehow manages to perform 'Alfie' as if thinking aloud, brings out all the slave-era tragedy of 'I Loves You Porgy', and infuses 'Moon River' with a degree of touching wonder that has enabled her to make it a new signature song.

Less overtly dramatic material, too (most notably Jerry Herman's 'He Won't Send Roses'), is tenderly delivered, Kidd's characterful voice perfectly complemented by Clark's spare, sympathetic guitar, and overall, this is both a valuable record of a long-lasting musical partnership and an affecting programme of intelligently selected songs, flawlessly presented.

linnrecords.com

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Review: Han Bennink



Han Bennink Trio and Steve Noble
(Vortex, Friday 22nd April 2011, review and drawings by Geoff Winston*)



Han Bennink (above left) and Steve Noble (right) are both drummers who can play it absolutely straight or wheel off at a tangent.

Their sprightly snare drum duet saw Bennink set a hard, metallic tone, using his sticks on the chair and drum body, then his booted foot on his drum. He whistled nonchalantly, brushes in action, while Noble tapped a massive tuning fork resting on his snare. Noble added a small hand held cymbal and a maraca to vary the range, with a short, hard-headed mallet scraped slowly across the drum skin to produce an eerie, wailing sound. Never to be outdone, Bennink put one stick in his mouth, hitting it with the other, and in their short, final piece ended by hitting the piano strings.

For the Trio's single 40 minute set, Bennink sat behind his full kit, brushes setting a good, driving pace, and then fell back to let his his young cohorts map out the ground. There was a feel of the wartime night club as they manipulated and extended the centrepiece of the set, Charles Trenet's 'La Mer' (apparently written on toilet paper on a train by Trenet!).

Pianist Simon Toldam was deliberate and lightly restrained on the Vortex's Steinway which, earlier in the day, had been appreciated for its rich sonority by Roedelius. Joachim Badenhorst was similarly withdrawn on B flat and bass clarinet - which he often played in its higher register - and tenor sax which he pushed into trills and gargles as Toldam brushed light chains on and off the piano strings. Bennink, ever the showman, threw his sticks out of their plastic bag which he promptly absorbed into his repertoire, clattered a structural steel column, sat on the floor to play one of the venue's marble-topped tables and returned to his snare front of stage onto which he hoisted a bentwood chair before the trio ended on a subdued note with clarinet in Giuffre mode and Bennink raising his sticks to his head in antler style!

New arrivals were, not unreasonably, nonplussed when turned away at ten o'clock, on being told it was all over for the evening.

*Drawings copyright Geoffrey Winston 2011. All Rights Reserved

www.vortexjazz.co.uk

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Review: Alex Garnett Quartet



“It’s taken a long time to get this together.” Having recently turned 40, Alex Garnett has just recorded his debut album “Serpent” (Whirlwind Recordings) He played the tunes from the album to a small but very appreciative audience at the 606 last Thursday, the night before the Easter holidays.

Garnett seemed to want to apologise for his hesitancy. Why? He has had a career as a trusted and in-demand sideman for most of the past two decades. He has that rare ability to be completely at home on alto and tenor. He always has a story to tell when he plays. If he has not rushed into the role of leader, not been in a hurry to get a CD with his name on it into a marketplace which is small and hesitant, even at the best of times, it is something understandable, maybe evan to be praised.

The story of the production of the album is that Garnett went to New York with Michael Janisch, and that they recorded the new album in Brooklyn at Systems Two Studios. Appearing with Garnett and Janisch on the album are pianist Anthony Wonsey and drummer Willie Jones III.

Garnett talked about the mad energy of New York, and one larger than life character -a Latino Brooklyn carwash proprietor - who had unwittingly given his inspiration to a title for a tune: The Pimp.

The equivalents of Wonsey and Jones on the UK tour (*) have been Ross Stanley on piano and Enzo Zirilli on drums. The tightness, balance and expressiveness which this band could achieve at the unforgiving tempi of the faster numbers stays in the mind. While Zirilli resorted to using sheet music for a few of the numbers, Garnett, Janisch and Stanley played the whole gig from memory, and the interaction was constant, energetic and inspiring.

The tunes on the album are all originals but draw on a wide range of inspiration - and he leavened the mix with a couple of standards. Garnett mentioned the influence of a particular line of tenor players – Hank Mobley and Dexter Gordon – as well as Joe Henderson, for whom "the serpent" was a nickname. (The title also refers to the ophecleide or serpent, which Adolphe Sax was experimenting with when the saxophone emerged as one of the by-products.)

The interplay of Garnett and Janisch, particularly on the tune "Three or a Moor" which Garnett dedicated : " to my father's record collection," caught the ear. Garnett's style carries more than just a memory of that unique tenor player Hank Mobley, whose career was cut lamentably short by lung problems. One of his traits as a player - and Garnett is in the same mould - is often to use the first beat as a springboard, to hang behind it, to respond to it. Janish was laying down a strong first beat to the three-four bar, and just leaving the space, staying completely clear of the second beat so that Garnett could weave beautifully turned and infinitely varied responses to it. A further reminder of Mobleyishness came on a standard which Mobley himself recorded: "I Should Care."

This music is a personal statement which comes from very deep inside a fine musician. What you see is what you get, rather than concessions to fashion or edginesss. I thought of Paul Desmond's quip: "I was unfashionable before anyone knew who I was." These musicians don't chase fashion. They are what they are, and do what they do as well as anyone.

It has been worth the wait.

The new CD won’t be officially released until September. For the moment it is available from Michael Janisch’ Whirlwind Recordings website

(*)The Alex Garnett Quartet's eleven-date UK tour was made possible by the Jazz Services touring scheme.

More details of the album are on Ian Mann's Jazzmann site

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Preview: Maria Neckam at Pizza Express on May 12th



Vocalist Maria Neckam priviews her London debut at the Pizza Express on May 12th.

I am very excited for my upcoming London debut, on May 12 at Pizza Express. I will be singing the music from my latest album Deeper (Sunnyside Records), as well as some brand new material, with a group of amazingly talented, creative and experienced musicans: Aaron Parks on piano, Michael Janisch on bass and Colin Stranahan on drums.

This music is a reflection of my life in New York, where I’ve moved from Vienna via Amsterdam five years ago, and where I’ve had the pleasure of working with many of the most exciting musicians on the scene, such as Thomas Morgan, Aaron Goldberg, Jeff Ballard, Mike Moreno, Peter Eldridge, Jonathan Kreisberg, Mark Guiliana, The Mahavishnu Project and many more.

My European, classical roots intertwined with the pulse of my generation and touched by the powerful force of New York’s modern jazz are all expressed in these songs, each one a story on its own.

It has always been my goal to challenge boundaries and bridge gaps, therefore I strive to befriend the easy with the complicated, the deep and serious with a little lightness. Yes, we are young and crazy, and we love jazz, so we will see how far we can go on our instruments/voice, but we are first and foremost human, and this is what we’d like to express.

Aaron Parks is widely known for his 2008 release on Blue Note Records, Invisible Cinema, as well as his work with such greats of jazz as Terence Blanchard, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Joshua Redman and many more.

Colin Stranahan began touring at the age of 15 with the likes of Bill Frisell and Ron Miles, since then has performed with Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter as part of the prestigious Monk Institute and toured Europe and Asia with Kurt Rosenwinkel.

Michael Janisch has a record of wonderful achievements as well, including performances at Carnegy Hall and the Blue Note in New York, with such jazz legends as Shirley Horn, Quincy Jones, Dianne Reeves, just to name a few. He has also enhanced the British jazz scene tremendously since his move to London in 2005.

marianeckam.com


pizzaexpresslive.co.uk

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Review: Bobby Wellins


Bobby Wellins Quartet
(North Wall Arts Centre, Oxford, 23rd April 2011, part of Oxford Jazz Festival Review by Hamish Birchall; photo credit: Barker Evans )


North Wall Arts Centre is an intimate venue, a small theatre with an excellent acoustic, perfectly suited to the confiding style and sublimely beautiful improvisations of Scottish tenorman Bobby Wellins. His performance was, in turn, perfectly complemented by the sensitive yet powerful trio of Liam Noble, Dave Wickens and Dave Whitford.


At 75, Wellins might be forgiven for taking it easy. But while he confessed to a touch of sciatica, there is no sign of an artistic sunset. His unique jazz talent shines as brightly as it did in the 1960s.

He dedicated his opening number, a ballad, to his friend Ray Smith, who died only a week ago. Wellins and Smith shared a London flat in the 1950s. Smith, a drummer and jazz devotee, opened the famous Ray's Jazz Shop in Shaftesbury Avenue in 1983 where it remained for nearly 20 years, until moving to Foyles under new management.

The magic began with the opening melody. Wellins' characteristic thoughtful phrasing, and slow vibrato, full of pathos, made every note count. Noble's piano was delicate and supportive, while drummer Dave Wickens applied minimal percussive decoration, susurrating brushwork and gentle cymbal touches. Dave Whitford's warmly resonant double bass underpinned the whole, even while taking a lyrical, well-paced solo.

Wickens' superb brushes continued, opening the second piece, 'Mad about the boy', with an irrestible samba groove. Introduced by Wellins as a tribute to Noel Coward, the phrasing in his own solo took up the infectious rhythm effortlessly. Noble is clearly more than adept at latin grooves himself, but never heavy-handed, implying rather than stating the time. Whitford again moved from groove to solo and back without any loss of momentum.

Gershwin's 'Fascinating Rhythm' was delivered with equal artistry by all. Noble started the Rogers and Hart ballad 'It never entered my mind' with a masterly, introspective solo, and Wellins' solo was tenderly evocative.

Returning after the interval, Wellins paid generous tribute to the musicianship of Soweto Kinch, a fellow OJF highlight, and who was in the audience. The second set began with one of Wellins' own compositions from the late 70s, 'Dreams are free'. Starting in African 12/8 time, it metamorphosed seamlessly into swing and double-time. Wickens solo was a joy, always musical, never dominating.

Wellins left the stage to the trio for 'Take 5', from their 2009 CD 'Brubeck' (which prompted Brubeck himself to write in fulsome praise to Noble). But although the treatment was inventive and the playing collectively masterful, the evening's focus was temporarily lost. It returned in full strength, however, with Wellins' return. Moving renditions of Antonio Carlos Jobim's 'If you never come to me' and 'Monk's mood' by Thelonious Monk. The evening closed with a 12 bar blues.

Thanking the audience, Wellins turned to the band: 'These gentlemen are an absolute joy to make music with'. Undoubtedly true, but they must surely say the same of you, Bobby.

www.oxfordjazzfestival.com

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Hugh Laurie Swanee River on Jools Holland

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Review: Preston Reed at Oxford Jazz Festival


Preston Reed
(Modern Art, Oxford, 23rd April, part of Oxford Jazz Festival, review by Hamish Birchall; photo credit: Barker Evans)


'It's not really jazz, is it?' Before I got anywhere near Preston Reed's gig at Modern Art Oxford, it was clear that some festival-goers considered his inclusion on the programme inappropriate. Well, he's not modern art either, but he is a very good guitarist. Indeed, he is an amazing guitarist.

If we're going to pigeon-hole music, Reed is not jazz. Born in New York, and based in Scotland since 2000,his influences are predominantly bluegrass, blues, rock and country. His often programmatic compositions do include a relatively small proportion of certain chords, rhythms and improvisation that jazz fans prefer. These sections are not, in my opinion, his best.

But this is to miss the point. He is rightly lauded in America and Europe not only as a fine exponent of finger-picking guitar, with many albums and broadcasts under his belt, but also as a genuine innovator. In 1987 he invented a way of two-handed playing that integrates the full percussive potential of the guitar body. On the acoustic six-string he really can sound like a one-man band.

Opening with a piece called 'Hangman', Reed's optimistic, energy-packed performance blew the cobwebs out of the rather stuffy, claustrophobic basement, already standing room only. At first sight, his technique looks awkward, left hand hanging over the guitar neck from above, playing almost keyboard-style, with both right and left hands at the same time tapping and slapping for bass drum and snare backbeat effect. Two numbers in similar vein followed, one inspired by the Japanese 'bullet train' and going almost as fast.

For 'Street Beat' he switched to semi-acoustic, gentler in tone and mood - jazzier too, although of the easy-listening variety. 'Half life' followed, a jaunty shuffle and catchy tune from his most recent album, 'Spirit'.

'Overture', he explained, switching to a 12-string guitar, 'was about the moments immediately before and immediately after the birth of my daughter'. A series of chiming chords built the tension. A repeated two-note bass figure suggested things were moving. The jangly, bluegrass finale was, presumably, the happy outcome (she will be 18 on Monday).

Reed played on without a break for 90 minutes, a total of 18 original compositions. Those that stood out included the funky 'Fat Boy', named after his favourite model of Harley Davidson, 'Far Horizon', an evocative, almost mournful ballad, both played conventionally on six-string acoustic. 'Delayed train' (yes, engines seem to be a theme) chugged along nicely with bottleneck slide, and his encore piece 'Rainmaker', featured a convincing drum solo.

This genial guitar wizard enthralled his audience from the start, and they stayed with him to the finish.

www.prestonreed.com

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Review: Soweto Kinch at the Oxford Jazz Festival



Soweto Kinch
(Oxford Town Hall, 22nd April 2011, part of Oxford Jazz Festival, review by Hamish Birchall; Photo credit: Barker Evans)


Multi award-winning alto sax virtuoso Soweto Kinch topped the bill last night at the third Oxford Jazz Festival, a four-day Easter treat with over 50 performances, talks, interviews and workshops in 32 venues.

The ornate, cathedral-like space of Oxford Town Hall reverberated to Kinch's exuberant fusion of jazz, hip-hop and MC rap. His intelligent and humorous introductions quickly established a warm rapport with the audience, and the thoughtful and creative spirit behind the music.

The evening's programme was taken from his third and most recent album 'The New Emancipation', a musical exploration of the idea of freedom.

A soulful sax cadenza opened the show, morphing into the medium-slow funk of 'Never Ending', with hints of a reggae drop-beat. Drummer Graham Godfrey ('The Big G') expertly navigated varying time signatures with crackling snare accents, Karl Rasheed-Abel delivered a solid, subterranean bass, guitarist Femi Temowo supplied the first of many mellifluous and apparently effortless solos, not to mention a beaming smile that lasted all evening. The audience was hooked.

Interviewed days before by Julian Joseph on BBC R3's 'Jazz Line-up', Kinch talked about his influences, ranging from Delius to Ellington and Booker Little. His idea was 'to embrace the whole gamut of African diaspora expression to tell this story...'. If it is not always entirely clear how the music and these ideas connect, there is no doubting the sincerity of the project.

'Trying to be a star', had Temowo doubling on backing vocals while Kinch rapped a tale of futile striving for celebrity. Rasheed-Abel was effective on electric bass this time, and again drummer Godfrey shone with a series of increasingly intense fills.

'An ancient worksong' followed, appropriately to a slow shuffle beat, then 'A people with no past', a headlong post-bop tumble seemingly on the edge of chaos but with bravura solos from Temowo and Kinch . The set closed with a dramatic change of mood, 'The love of money', a brooding, lumbering number, Kinch again in declamatory vocal mode.

The second half began with 'Trade', a lazy swing groove. Kinch and Godfrey exchanged rhythmic phrases, and Rashid-Abel took a lyrical and inventive double-bass solo. 'Axis of Evil' had Kinch MC-ing: 'Is the Obama nation an abomination when it bombs a nation?', with echoes of the pioneering socio-political rap of 1970s Gil Scott-Heron.

An instrumental, 'Escape', was introduced as a deliberate excursion 'to a far less morose universe', and succeeded with a subtle but accessible melodic theme.




The evening closed with two audience participation numbers, obviously enjoyed by the whole band. 'Freestyle' showcased Kinch's formidable improvisatory rhyming skill. Members of the audience were invited to shout words beginning with the letters of 'Freedom'. These included 'eggs', 'David Cameron', 'Oxford' and 'mojo'. Improbably, and to the delight of all, Kinch wove them into a coherent and comic rap.

The finale, 'Raise your spirit', had the audience shouting 'spirit' as one, a tribute to Soweto Kinch's talent for fusing diverse genres, and bringing their otherwise fragmented audiences together in one joyful celebration.


Oxford Jazz Festival website

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Review: Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet



Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet
(Café Oto, 18th and 20th April 2011; nights 1 and 3 of the Tentet's three-day Residency. Review and drawings by Geoff Winston* .)

UPDATES:

-Ten drawings of the residency are HERE.

-Jazz on 3 will feature a recording on Monday May 2nd.


There is arguably no other large improvising jazz ensemble to match the Brötzmann Chicago Tentet for sheer firepower, wealth of musicianship, flair and inspiration. Bound together by shared musical imperatives, the Tentet took root in Chicago in 1997, initially as an octet, and after all these years have made it to London for the first time - and what a treat it was!

The two concerts I saw were successions of seamlessly changing musical combinations - solos, duets, trios ... mass band blasts - it was all there! Each night brimmed with surprises. Per Åke Holmander's solo tuba set on night 1 was muffled growls, breathy sonority and piercing interjections (he also played the rarely seen cimbasso with the large group). Kent Kessler's dextrous, soft-toned bass solo spot on night 3 with its classical undertone was in sharp contrast to the preceding reed trio which had Brötzmann on alto in hot pursuit of Ken Vandermark on clarinet, all over the registers of their instruments, to be joined by Mats Gustafsson in blazing, honking homage to 'Machine Gun'.




Joe McPhee's presence (drawing above) was pivotal in this stellar line-up; like Brötzmann, exemplary in his contribution of poise and pacing to the maelstrom, just when it was needed, he was an anchor in the perpetual flux that is the essence of the Tentet, and perhaps its unsung hero.

The greatest revelation was the lightning speed with which the terrain changed, so adept and intuitive were the powers and skills of each player in maintaining this state of flowing elision. Charting the changes in flow of the musical combinations would have yielded a complex diagram, indeed. Dual trombones, dual drums, pairs of saxes, the bass and cello, clarinet duets, all underscored the importance of the duo, and echoed the sentiment of Ornette's ‘Free Jazz’ double quartet of 1960.

Whether it was a concerted blasting ramp up the register by the brass, a near cacophonous interlude sounding like 'The Rite of Spring' gone mad, or the perfect accord of the two-man percussive force on either side of the stage, the impact was immediate and one could only marvel at the skill with which the balance was sustained throughout their lengthy sets. Brötzmann's Hawkins-like tone broke in to harsher, poignant middle eastern phrasing in a duet with Zerang, whose hollow beats brought a spacious feel to the texture. Lonberg-Holm added an electronic dimension to his cello input, and Brötzmann's feisty duel on tenor with Johannes Andreas Bauer's trombone at the close, preceded the final crescendo which unleashed the full force of the Tentet's wall of brass.

The key to the functioning of this group is, explained Brötzmann (in the earlier interview with Jez Nelson for BBC's Jazz on 3, on night 3), "to give everybody responsibility", and combined with the enthusiasm, respect and sheer enjoyment that each brought to the party, the sum of the parts was often close to overwhelming.

The good news is that Brötzmann hopes to bring the Tentet back, having enjoyed the three nights at Café Oto so much! It just needs another sponsor with the same vision as the Goethe-Institut.

Personnel:

Peter Brötzmann (Reeds)
Joe McPhee (Pocket Trumpet/Reeds)
Mats Gustafsson (Reeds)
Ken Vandermark (Reeds)
Paal Nilssen-Love (Drums/Percussion)
Fred Lonberg-Holm (Cello)
Per Åke Holmlander (Tuba)
Johannes Andreas Bauer (Trombone)
Michael Zerang (Drums/Percussion)
Kent Kessler (Bass)
Jeb Bishop (Trombone)

*Drawings copyright Geoffrey Winston 2011. All Rights Reserved

The Tentet’s Residency was supported by the Goethe-Institut.

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Review: Kurt Rosenwinkel



Kurt Rosenwinkel
(Ronnie Scott’s, 18th April 2011 -first night of two - review by Tom Gray)


The notable presence of young, attentive listeners in this Ronnie’s audience spoke volumes about Kurt Rosenwinkel’s influence among the next generation of up-and-coming musicians. As he demonstrated here, he unquestionably belongs in a select group of guitarists including John Scofield and Bill Frisell, who, through a skilful synthesis of technique and electronic effects, have crafted a deeply personal sound that would rarely trouble anyone in a blindfold test.

On this gig, Rosenwinkel headed up a quartet which paced itself like a pack of elite marathon runners during a set of serious post-bop originals spanning nearly two hours. For the first four numbers, the tempos of the tunes barely exceeded a gentle canter, yet the brawny and unpretentious playing of Eric Revis on bass and Justin Faulkner on drums maintained a slow-burning intensity, which later progressed into a full-on simmer on the samba undertow of ‘Brooklyn Sometimes’. This is a rhythm section who make it emphatically clear about where ‘one’ is in each bar, which served the music well in this case.

The rather oblique heads of some of Rosenwinkel’s tunes came and went fleetingly, barely registering in the memory. This brought the improvisation into much sharper focus, and with some meaty and unconventional harmonic progressions to get stuck into, Rosenwinkel and the impressive Aaron Parks on piano stretched out, showcasing their contrasting approaches. Rosenwinkel favoured effusive and densely contoured phrases of sustained notes which sung through like a horn player’s lines and he occasionally allowed himself the odd flourish of metal-head guitar heroics. Parks, on the other hand, constructed his more spacious solos with Zen-like restraint, avoiding the merest hint of cliché or a half-baked idea. It is not hard to see why Kit Downes is a fan.

Compared to Rosenwinkel’s nonchalantly breezy playing with his standards trio, this music demanded a significant investment of patience from the listener. The pay-off—which became more and more apparent as the tempos finally broke free of their shackles towards the end—was a thrillingly absorbing set that was about as good as a guitar-led ensemble can get.

ronniescott's.co.uk

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Pictures of "Remembering Tony Levin"


That characteristic, immortal gesture from Steve Rubie of the 606, trying to get the conversation volume level down. Just one of many pictures (credit:Melody McLaren) from the "Remembering Tony Levin" gig at the 606. Steve Melling instigated and organized, Steve Rubie donated the club, the musicians donated their services. The other pictures are HERE

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Jamie Cullum Solo - Live from Cheltenham next Sunday to a cinema in...



...a LOT of cinemas. From Dunajska Streda to Ystradgynlais - Jamie Cullum's solo performance at Cheltenham - which came up in our recent INTERVIEW with him is being beamed to....

UNITED KINGDOM

Cineworld Cinemas

Aberdeen Union Square
Ashford
Birmingham
Cheltenham
Chichester
Didsbury
Fulham Road
Isle of Wight
Sheffield
Stevenage
Yeovil


Abbey Gate Picturehouse, Bury St Edmonds
Aberystwyth Arts Centre
Aldeburgh Cinema
Arts Picturehouse Cambridge
BFI Imax
Broadway Nottingham
Cameo Edinburgh
Cinema City, Norwich
City Screen York
Clapham Picturehouse
Exeter Picturehouse
Glasgow Film Theatre
Greenwich Picturehouse
Harbor lights Picturehouse Southampton
Haslemere Hall
Little Theatre Cinema, Bath
Phoenix Picturehouse, Oxford
Picturehouse at FACT, Liverpool
Picturehouse Uckfield
Ritzy, Brixton
Roses Tewkesbury
Scala Prestatyn
Screen at Winchester
Stamford Arts Centre, Stamford
Stratford Picturehouse (london)
Stratford Upon Avon Picturehouse
The Dukes Lancaster
The Electric, Portobello Road
The Galtres Centre Easingwold
The Light House, Wolverhampton
The Maltings, Farnham
The Regal Picturehouse, Henley
The Royal Spa Centre, Royal Leamington Spa
The Welfare, Ystradgynlais
Theatre Mwldan, Cardigan
Torch Theatre, Millford Haven
Zeffirellis Ambleside


Ireland

Castlebar, SGC CInema
Dungarvan, SGC CInema
Movies at Dundrum
Movies at Gorey
Movies at Swords

Germany

Berlin
Düsseldorf
Halle
Karlsruhe
München
Nürnberg

Holland ( http://www.pathe.nl/)

Amsterdam
Rotterdam
The Hague
Groningen
Eindhoven


Czech Republic

Praha
Olomouc
Ostrava
Decin


Slovakia ( http://www.cine-max.sk )

Dunajska Streda
Kosice
Nitra
Presov
Poprad
Skalica
Trnava
Trencin
Zilina

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Happy First Birthday Sound Generation



Now then, as they say in Yorkshire. Happy Birthday to Sound Generation, and congratulations Sofia Wilde on your first year of "providing quality music teachers in London and North and West Yorkshire and musicians/bands nationwide."

Go Wilde. And please write for us again.

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CD Review: Julian Siegel Quartet - Urban Theme Park


Julian Siegel Quartet - Urban Theme Park
(Basho Records SRCD 35-2. CD Review by Chris Parker


Whether he's playing with the jazz-rock band, Partisans, he co-leads with guitarist Phil Robson, or with more mainstream projects: his Anglo-American trio (completed by Joey Baron and Greg Cohen) and hisquartet (which produced 2002's Close-Up), Nottingham-born reedsman Julian Siegel simply exudes class and thoughtful elegance.

While never a showy, gung-ho soloist determined to demonstrate his technical facility at every opportunity, he is none the less a completely assured front man for a band like the one on this recording (long-time associate Liam Noble on piano, bassist Oli Hayhurst, drummer Gene Calderazzo), not only firing off a series of intelligent, cogent but powerful solos on tenor, soprano, bass clarinet and clarinet, but also providing a tight, sensitively interactive band with nine varied and absorbing original compositions.

It might be all too easy to overlook such an ungimmicky figure – his style is not to swagger through the tricksiest of time signatures, nor to overload his pieces with sudden blasts of electronic noise or fusillades of hip-hop – but Siegel (like the ever-resourceful Noble, who throughout this album proves himself once again the perfect partner for the saxophonist) has gained his place at the centre of UK jazz by sheer talent and musicianship.

He is as confident in the field of hard bop (Wayne Shorter and Joe Henderson his more obvious influences) as he is in slightly more outré styles: ('Game of Cards' borrows its form from Stravinsky, 'Drone Job' sparingly utilises electronics etc. , and Urban Theme Park is a polished, subtle but engagingly vigorous piece of work.

An early candidate for CD of the Year.

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Jazz at the Langham




The John Watson Trio,
(Every Friday and Saturday night. Palm Court, The Langham Hotel, W1. Report by Bob Blizzard)


John Watson has been the resident pianist for The Langham Hotel for a number of years. Solo piano continues in the afternoon, seven days a week. Since last month, however, he has had a bassist and a drummer for company on Friday and Saturday nights, to play to people dining, or just spending time at the bar. Bob Blizzard, Chair of Jazz Services, reports:

Most often, piano bar music is designed as merely an accompaniment to the meal or drinks, and few take much notice. Not so with the John Watson Trio at The Langham, where the owner loves the jazz. This is powerful piano, with serious solos from John and his bassist, Miles Danso, backed up by Joe Caddy on drums. Their choice of jazz standards and popular tunes attracts a wide audience but the band takes them further with vigorous improvisation that let's people know what jazz is all about. Their 'Song for My Father' by Horace Silver was really mean. The band is truly centre stage, so if you like jazz in elegant surroundings with top quality food, check it out.

Full details, timings and bookings on the Langham Hotel's Website

John Watson's Website


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Review: An Evening With Fran Landesman

An Evening With Fran Landesman
(Leicester Square Theatre, April 19th 2011, part of the Art of Sonf Festival. Review by Kai Hoffman)


I can count myself as lucky to have seen iconic Beat-generation poet Allen Ginsburg perform, shortly before he died back in the 1990s. That energy, enthusiasm, dry humour, stabbing wit, poignancy and boundless zest for life – I’ll never forget the power of that performance.

Tonight, I was equally privileged to see the amazing Fran Landesman, American poet, lyricist and one of the last living links to the Beat Generation. What a woman. What chutzpah. Her energy, enthusiasm, dry humour and terrifically pointed one-liners, along with her incredible catalogue-like memory of her poetry – at age 84 – are astounding. Her lyrics describe the things one often only wishes could be expressed in words (or said out loud in polite company) – from the poignant ‘Scars’ and ‘Tomorrow Never Came’ to the sassy ‘I Want to be Good’ – there are boundless brilliant lines.

Last night’s show, celebrating Fran’s vast career of more than 50 years, was a moving, funny, and evocative evening of songs, words and laughter, performed immaculately by celebrated jazz vocalists including Ian Shaw, Gwyneth Herbert, Sarah Moule and Nicki Leighton-Thomas.

The performance featured a trio of double bassist extraordinaire Dave Green, with Fran’s guitarist son, Miles Davis Landesman, plus her expert composition partner of nearly twenty years, pianist Simon Wallace. He had co-written all but three of last night’s tunes. It started out with award-winning vocalist Gwyneth Herbert and ‘The Ballad of the Sad Young Men.’ Gwyneth’s clean, eloquent phrasing complemented the text perfectly – and set the mood for a fantastic evening of Fran Landesman’s varied and witty lyrics. The synergy between Landesman’s words and Wallace’s scores is evocative, sometimes melancholy, sometimes frisky, and always right-on-the-money. Amazing!

Host Joe Paice guided Fran expertly through various key moments of her illustrious career, including anecdotes involving Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan, Susannah McCorkle, Dudley Moore, Annie Ross, Marty Feldman, Bette Midler and countless other famous names from the 20th century. One of her songs in particular, ‘Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most,’ boasts recordings by Ella Fitzgerald & Barbara Streisand among countless other famous names – and Fran’s favourite rendition, by BBC Jazz Vocalist of the Year two-time winner Ian Shaw – who once again delivered the song immaculately at Leicester Square Theatre last night.

Fran’s own singing and recitations of her poetry were sensational – I particularly loved ‘Crown of Thorns,’ ‘It’s Not Your Night’ and her tear-provoking ‘Scars.’ Other highlights of the evening included Nicki Leighton-Thomas’ dynamic version of ‘Damned if I Do’ (also available on her wonderful CD dedicated to the songs of Wallace & Landesman), guest singer Pete Atkin’s moving version of ‘Snows of Yesteryear,’ and Sarah Moule’s versatile rendition of ‘Nothing Like You’ (a song which was recorded by Miles Davis in 1967 on his album ‘Sorcerer’).

Having been nicknamed the ‘Patron Saint of Lovers & Losers,’ Fran Landesman’s remarkable lifetime catalogue of songs were celebrated in a worthy manner last evening – may there be many more such nights!

franlandesman.com

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First names for Brecon


The first names for the Brecon Festival are up. The Festival dates are 12th to 14th August 2011and headliners are:

Femi Kuti & The Positive Force

Allen Toussaint

Monty Alexander,



Other names announced:

BBC Radio 2 Big Band and Maceo Parker.
Matthew Herbert Big Band.
John Surman.
Clare Teal.
The Core.
Courtney Pine + Zoe Rahman.
Yaron Herman Trio.
The Robert Glasper Experiment.
Polar Bear.
Gilad Atzmon & the Orient House Ensemble.
Hidden Orchestra.
Alice Russell.
Sara Mitra.
Christian Prommer


Tickets go on sale on TUESDAY 10th May. Brecon Jazz Website .

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CD Review: Round Trip - Round Trip



Round Trip - Round Trip>
(F-IRECD 39. CD Review by Chris Parker)


'Swing, groove and exploratory improvisation' are trumpeter Richard Turner's chief concerns on this, his quartet Round Trip's debut recording. The band's overall approach, however, recalls the early (acoustic) recordings of Ornette Coleman, in which a melodic line is sketched by the front-line horns (here, Turner's partner is alto player Michael Chillingworth) then explored, with all the harmonic freedom conferred by a lack of a chordal instrument, through solos propelled by a lively, springy rhythm section: bassist Tom Farmer and drummer Joshua Morrison.

Turner himself is a resourceful player, as readily employing sounds and textures from 'free' music as from more straightahead jazz; Chillingworth, although slightly more conventional in his approach, has a pleasingly piercing tone, and together they are a powerful, often tellingly contrasting front line, whether the band is addressing the above-mentioned Colemanesque themes or the more through-composed material that also interests Turner.

Lively, fresh, spontaneous and musicianly, this is an absorbing debut album from a quartet whose live performances are well worth seeking out.

F-IRE

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RIP Ray Smith


Ray Smith of Ray's Jazz Record Shop - not to be confused with Ray Smith the jazz radio producer at WGBH - died on Sunday at the age of 76. His name lives on (above).

Jack Massarik's Obituary of Ray Smith is at Jazzwise Magazine.

UPDATE: Richard Williams' obituary of Ray Smith is in the Guardian.

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Photos: Newton/Aspland and Mason/Shaw

Here, caught by Roger Thomas's lens, are - left to right - Dave Newton and Robin Aspland (above) and Ian Shaw and Janette Mason (below) from the 2011 Steinway Two Piano Festival at Pizza Express Dean Street.


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Review: Stiefel and Simcock/ Herman and Cawley


Left to right: Simcock, Herman, Cawley, Stiefel


Piano Duets: Christoph Stiefel and Gwilym Simcock/ Yaron Herman and Tom Cawley
(Pizza Express Dean Steet, April 16th 2011, early set. Part of Steinway Two Piano Festival. Review by Jeanie Barton)


This was an ear expanding yet nostalgic evening for me. The four-hand configuration could not help sounding like Rachmaninov (his massive hands were able to cover the interval of a thirteenth on the keyboard - a hand span of approximately twelve inches). During the late 90s I listened to little else, and this evening’s pairing of Christoph Stiefel with Gwilym Simcock and Yaron Herman with Tom Cawley reignited my piano passion.

The first set saw Christoph Stiefel (from Zurich) face Gwilym Simcock (from Bangor). They proceeded to blur the lines between classical and jazz with Gwilym’s composition These Are The Good Days. The rolling rhythmic keys somehow evoked Europe and Russia’s romantic masters; this might have been down to Christoph’s national identity (coincidentally during the 30s Rachmaninov made Switzerland his home, he also wished to be buried there although his death during the second world war made this impossible) or by Gwilym’s own influence of classical composers like Maurice Ravel and Igor Stravinsky. They share a love of experimental technique also; Christoph bowed a string which sounded rather like a raw violin or fiddle and Gwilym’s percussion inside the piano frame added tension and a contemporary edge to the instrument. Another number saw Christoph lay a straw on the stings to create a harpsichord effect which bought to my mind Nina Rota’s score for Fellini’s Il Casanova - an eerie sound.

In and Out of Order by Christoph employed a technique called Isorhythm (where the same rhythmic and tonal pattern is repeated) in this case in 6/4 time, upon which Gwilym layered a heavy R&B groove, somehow making the piano frame sound like a double bass. There were also moments of sensitivity with a drop of pace when both pianists seemed bird-like, communicating with soft feathery touches. It appeared that a lot of rehearsal had gone into this presentation, only being able to communicate with their eyes, shoulders and heads, they never the less played complex changes and rhythms simultaneously.

Tom Cawley - like Gwilym Simcock - first attended Chetham’s music school in Manchester and then the Royal Academy of Music; Yaron Herman is an Israeli who studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston and now lives in Paris. Their set opened in a contrasting gentle style with Yaron’s Blossom. Evocative of music from the early 19th century it built with Michael Nyman-like intensity before ebbing back to a genteel waltz. Tom voiced their concern that Gwilym and Christoph would have been rehearsing so his and Yaron’s response was to buy matching T-shirts so they at least looked as one. They did blend superbly but in more of a call and response way than with intensive layering, however they did shell each other, Yaron taking the outer register of keys and Tom filling the mid range or vice versa, there was more of a sense of improvisation and space and their communication was evident in their super-mobile faces, which also added to the duet’s comedy.

They were very inventive too, employing more contemporary techniques; creating dead key knocks by muting the strings with their palms also Yaron sang along, somehow making kazoo-like noises. Quotes were exchanged from I Loves You Porgy and Get Happy, with Gospel enthused harmonies and Latin/Salsa grooves. Their last number, Radiohead’s haunting composition No Surprises, had the audience in raptures. I felt it took me full circle, sounding strangely like the close to the second movement of Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto.


Pizza Express Live

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Vortex shortlisted for "Live Promotion Team of the Year" in the MusicWeek Awards



This is what a minnow looks like. Many congratulations to Oliver, Todd, Joe, Clarissa of the Vortex who have just been nominated alongside HUGE promoters as:


Live Promotion Team of the Year in the MusicWeek awards. Here is the list of nominees:

AEG Live
Beyond
Live Nation
New Vortex Jazz Club
SJM Concerts


Quoting the release: "This year’s awards take place on May 24 at The Roundhouse in Camden where PPL chairman and CEO Fran Nevrkla will receive The Strat in recognition of an outstanding contribution to the music industry."

Story from Musicweek

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BBC Introducing - four winners for Cheltenham announced


The four winning bands for the "BBC Introducing" showcase on a freestage at the Cheltenham Jazz , at 5.30pm on Sunday May 1st, have been announced:


Saltwater Samurai:
Luke Georgiou - Alto Saxophone
Alex Horky - Keyboards
Huw Bennett - Double Bass
Hugh Jones - Electronics
George Bird – Drums

Skein
Rachel Musson - Saxophones, composer (photo above)
Alcyona Mick - piano
Will Collier-bass
Javier Carmona and Josh Morrison- drums / percussion

We reviewed skein HERE

The Discordian Trio (from Edinburgh)
Jack Weir - guitar
Craig Macfadyen - bass
Richard Kass (21)- drums.
website

Trish Clowes

Trish Clowes– saxophone/ composer
Alex Munk – guitar
Calum Gourlay - bass
James Maddren - drums
Heidi Parsons – cello

Trish Clowes' CD Tangent is on Basho

The four were picked by Jez Nelson, Gilles Peterson and Jamie Cullum from a longlist selected from the public entry by Somethin' Else, producers of Jazz on 3.


Jazz on 3 will broadcast a highlights programme on Monday May 16th. The music will also air on Jamie Cullum (Radio 2), Gilles Peterson (Radio 1) and Stuart Maconie's Freak Zone (6music).

To listen to the four bands, FOLLOW THIS LINK

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Preview: Jan Akkerman Band at Bush Hall


Preview : Jan Akkerman
(Bush Hall, Saturday, 30th April, Preview by Rod Fogg)


Dutch Guitarist Jan Akkerman first came to international attention in the 1970s when he fronted the band Focus together with keyboardist Thijs van Leer. After a few successful singles such as "Hocus Pocus" and "Sylvia" - which were somewhat surprising for a progressive rock band from that era, Akkerman left the band to concentrate on solo projects.

In fact, Akkerman's career both preceded and succeeded the Focus years; born in 1946, he first performed at the tender age of 12. He is not only a fine virtuoso guitarist but also has an unusually wide range of references, ranging from Renaissance and Baroque lute music (mostly arranged for guitar) on albums like "Tabernakel", through self penned acoustic guitar solos (often on nylon-string classical guitar) and on to the prog rock that he became best known for.

In amongst his solo albums are also some choice jazz cuts, mostly in a kind of jazz-lite funky vein. "Old Tennis shoes" and "Funkology" from the 1986 album "The Complete Guitarist" are good examples, with more found on "C.U." from 2004. Overall his back catalogue ticks the boxes "interesting" and "adventurous" more often than not, with some top-notch soloing in evidence.

After an absence of some 20 years Akkerman toured the U.K in the late 1990s and continues to do so on a fairly regular basis. He's here this time in support of his latest release "Minor Details" (Digimode), but expect some reference to the 20 or so previous albums and - who knows - maybe some of the old Focus favourites too. Worth catching, and not just for those into 70’s nostalgia.

janakkerman.com. Photo: Langcaster

Tickets for Jan Akkerman at Bush Hall, 30th April

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