Review: Gert Dudek and the Hans Koller Trio

Gerd Dudek. Drawing by Geoff Winston.
Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

Gerd Dudek with the Hans Koller Trio
(Vortex, Sunday 29 January 2012; final night of Evan Parker's 'Might I Suggest ...' curated season at the Vortex; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

Sunday's concert at the Vortex was the perfect counterpoint to the season's opening night. Whereas Systems Quartet - reviewed here - had been wilfully off-beat, this closing night of the six brought to the fore both Gerd Dudek's masterly affirmation of the power of the saxophone, and proof of the richness of the contemporary jazz compositional legacy. Furthermore. the contrast between the two demonstrated quite how broad Evan Parker's range of interests is. The series had been made possible thanks to the London office of the Goethe Institute, and this final night was being recorded for future broadcast by Cologne's WDR.

Dudek is a pearl of a player - well respected in Germany, with his roots in its burgeoning free-jazz scene of the 60s, but over here virtually unknown. He was recorded only for the first time as leader, in a similarly classic setting, by Parker for his psi label in 1998 ('smatter by Gerd Dudek, psi 02.01). What is surprising and somewhat disarming, given his early musical associations, is what a mellow, thoughtful and serene player he is. He and Koller's exemplary trio worked off sheet music, travelling unflinchingly through the changes of early Shorter, Coltrane, Dameron, Monk and Ornette.

Dudek's playing is characterised by intense currents of rippled phrasing and a tonal consistency that has affinities with Charles Lloyd and Stan Getz, roots that hark back to Coltrane, and a robust side that hints at Rollins. There is a gravity and serenity to his delivery - mellifluous, meditational and steeped in a deep understanding of both the heritage and its possibilities. One sensed the perfectionist, with an acute sense of detail, modest yet carefree when the timing suited, at one with his instruments.

On soprano for Coltrane's 'Central Park West', he built on the flowing tenor passages unleashed in the opener, Shorter's 'Blues à la Carte'. Koller expressed with some amusement, his mild embarrassment at springing the complexities of Herbie Nichols's 'Step Tempest' on him at such short notice, but Dudek took it in his stride, gluing together the theme and the variations with an effortless panache, introducing a hint of bluesy tenor as he got to grips with it.

Throughout, Koller's trio were disciplined, fresh, with a keen understanding of the repertoire. Hayhurst's tender bass solos, Calderazzo's disciplined, muscular interventions and Koller's bright explorations created a well-textured platform for Dudek.

It was Ornette's 'Congeniality', the second number in the second set, that brought out the tougher side of this gentle giant - with Calderazzo and Hayhurst blowing up a storm, its curves, bends and chicanes were negotiated with fierce expressive resolve as Dudek flew, breaking with its tight structure. Moving away from the essential foil provided through both sets, Koller's spiky solo saw a quirky, unpredictable exploration combining a spacious quality with a light wit, to which Dudek added a thoughtful, melancholic twist.

Bowing out with a jaunty take on Coltrane's '26-2', Dudek wore his brilliance with characteristic modesty, bringing the 'Might I suggest ...' season to a close with these German, British and American musicians in fittingly harmonious alignment.

Gerd Dudek: tenor and soprano saxes
Hans Koller: piano
Oli Hayhurst: bass
Gene Calderazzo: drums


CD Review: Vitor Pereira Quintet - Doors

Vitor Pereira Quintet - Doors
(F-IRECD 47. CD Review by Chris Parker)

Guitarist Vitor Pereira moved to London from his native Portugal in 2004 (to study jazz under Stuart Hall, Mike Outram et al. at Middlesex University), and his band on this, his first album as a leader, contains some of the capital's most celebrated contemporary players: Led Bib's Chris Williams (alto), Fraud/Golden Age of Steam's James Allsopp (tenor), bassist Ryan Trebilcock and drummer Eddie Hick.

Pereira's music (all eight tracks are his compositions) is a heady mix of immediately accessible jazz, hard-hitting rock (admirers of the MoonJune label's output will love this CD) and hints of so-called 'world' music, all summed up in the album's title, which (like Jim Morrison's band's Huxley-inspired name) refers to mental doors, opened to admit a myriad of such influences.

Punchy and vibrant though most of Pereira's music is (and the band has an extremely effective habit of suddenly throwing in loud, grungy sequences to punctuate the more discursive jazz-based playing), it does have its quieter moments, where it takes on a softer quality, occasionally even approaching the mellowness associated with label-mates Oriole.

For the most part, however, Doors rocks and swings hard, both saxophonists tellingly featured in both straightahead mode and the odd freer passage, and Pereira himself decorating the vigorous band sound with intelligent, cleanly articulated solos. An auspicious debut.



Dave Douglas at the Royal Academy of Music. A Round-up

Dave Douglas at the Royal Academy of Music
Photo Credit: Hana Zushi/ Royal Academy of Music
Royal Academy of Music postgraduate guitar student Alex Roth gives his first-hand account of Dave Douglas' inaugural week as International Jazz Artist in Residence at RAM.

The events open to the public were a public masterclass on Wednesday 26th January, and a concert the following day.

Alex Roth, who participated in these, and in the full programme running up to them, writes:

The week was split into two main areas of focus: composition workshops and big band rehearsals.

Composition Workshops

We started out discussing problems often encountered when setting out to compose music - getting started, dealing with a sense of tradition, using influences creatively, developing fragments of ideas into cohesive forms etc. After that, Dave set us a series of tasks each to be completed in 10 minutes. First, we had to design a graphic score. Next we had to write a melody using a 12-tone row. Finally he asked us to compose a piece without any restrictions except that it had to fit onto 1 page of A4. All of these were done away from our instruments. We then workshopped some of these pieces, with insightful critiques from Dave. He asked us to make revisions of our pieces overnight to be tried out the next day.

Each day we would play the new versions of people's compositions and discuss whether the revisions had improved them or not. My own piece benefitted from a clearer notation and layout, stronger transitions between sections and more specific instructions for the improvised material.

Big band rehearsals

Having already had several rehearsals leading up to Dave's arrival, we had become familiar with the written music (from his album 'A Single Sky') so he was free to concentrate on the finer details: working on ensemble time-feel, shaping improv sections, honing drum grooves etc.

Dave Douglas
Photo Credit: Hana Zushi/ Royal Academy of Music

The Final Day

The last day with Dave was somewhat more relaxed, having reached the climax of the week on the gig the night before. He played us some tracks that had been important to him (Ahmad Jamal, Joe Henderson, Booker Little, Rufus Wainwright, Kirk Franklin, Duke Ellington) and explained what he liked about them all. We then played some standards and tried a few of his small-group pieces, and several issues came up that hadn't been discussed in depth so far. Chief among these was the subject of time-feel and in particular the fact that Dave felt we all had a tendency to lay behind the beat, and in some cases actually slow down. We tried a few exercises with the metronome to solidify the time and he tried to get us to play more on top of the beat.

The power of music

One of the most inspiring things for me was to witness a great composer rehearsing his own music. There seems to be a fine line between perceived arrogance and sheepishness when composers lead an ensemble through their own music, and it was refreshing to see that while Dave knew exactly what he wanted from the big band he always found a way to impart this that was clear but not inhibiting. I had the impression that the confidence to do this came from Dave's belief that the music was not 'his' per se but rather a kind of greater force on whose behalf we were all working. He talks a lot about the power of music and the gift of being a musician and I think this is what he means by it.

Compositional Momentum

It was energising to be given such short deadlines, and to rise to the challenge of producing something worth pursuing. I would never have thought I could write anything of value in 10 minutes, but Dave was keen for us to proceed on the basis that great works of art don't necessarily have to have grand beginnings, and in fact they can often start from the simplest of ideas.

During the course of the week we collectively produced something like 20 new pieces ready for performance and being part of that process right from the outset was an eye-opener in terms of understanding both the importance of self-discipline and the realities of the creative curve, not to mention the great feeling that comes with compositional momentum and productivity!

Dave Douglas
Photo Credit: Hana Zushi/ Royal Academy of Music

Kenny Wheeler

The concert coincided with the announcement that the Academy is to receive Kenny Wheeler's archive of compositions, and the residency solidified Nick Smart's strong relationship with Douglas, following his involvement in Douglas' Festival of New Trumpet Music which was dedicated to the work of Kenny Wheeler. Wheeler himself was in attendance at the big band concert, and Dave Douglas was keen to pay tribute to the Academy's close links to the great man, composing a piece specially for him.


Perhaps the over-riding impression I have of Dave from the whole week is just how much he means what he plays and writes. It all seems to come from somewhere really deep and at the same time it's as though he's had to work really hard for the facility to channel it. Sitting right next to him on the gig and sharing in the creative experience was really powerful for me.

This week had the feeling of something far more than a normal class.

Royal Academy of Music

Dave Douglas's Greenleaf Music

Alex Roth Music


Love Supreme Festival 2013 unveiled. Brighton. Outdoors

Plans for the UK's "first outdoor jazz festival", in 2013 in Brighton, involving an investment of £2m,  were unveiled yesterday. Here's the full story. 


Jack's been thinking...about Dagda Quartet's tour in April

Dagda Quartet. Photo Credit: Sebastian Charlesworrth
Trumpeter/ bandleader Jack Davies, in his weekly column, looks at a nationwide tour in April by Dagda  Quartet

An often heard criticism of the modern jazz scene is that there are few opportunities to play, and even fewer to work with the same group of musicians on the same music night after night. Alto player Tom Harrison seems to prove single-handedly that this needn’t be the case.

Harrison's band, the Dagda Quartet, is embarking on its second major national tour in two years, this time visiting a total of nineteen venues across the country. While the music was communally written, Tom booked all of the players and gigs himself – this is an opportunity he has created for himself through hard work and dedication.

He remarked to me that the last tour they did changed the way the band played together. The band have an intense tour schedule, and the musical growth that occurs from such repeated immersion in the music is exactly what he is trying to achieve again.

This tour is to support the band’s debut album, and Tom notes the impact live performances have had on his own music: “Much of the structure was formulated on live gigs. A tour of this size will hopefully develop the compositions in unexpected ways.”

Alongside his regular quartet of Billy Adamson (guitar), Tom West (bass) and Mike Clowes (drums), Tom has enlisted the services of some distinguished guests, including tenor players Jean Toussaint, Joe Wright, Paul Booth and trombone player Tom White.

Tom clearly relishes the input these musicians will bring: “I have selected a series of instrumentalists who I believe will really bring something of their own distinctive playing to the compositions, each of whom offer very different approaches to improvisation and help take the compositions in new directions.”

Sharing a stage with Toussaint for four gigs in five days will also give Harrison something else that the modern scene often lacks: a taste of the kind of musical apprenticeship Toussaint had in the years from 1982 to 1986 as a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.

Dagda Quartet's tour (supported by Jazz Services) will be in April. London dates abnnounced are 15th at the North London Tavern and 20th at the Forge in Camden Town (FULL LIST OF TOUR DATES ).

Dagda Quartet's album will be released on LYTE Records .


The What's your Blues Name Chart

No claims that this is original content, nor can I find an attribution to the creator (?) I quite like the idea of a legend of Welsh rugby (and later an orthopaedic surgeon) as Boney Back Jefferson.


Sam Leak writes about the Wednesday Jam at Oliver's in Greenwich

Pianist Sam Leak writes about the Wednesday jam sessions at Oliver's Music Bar, Nevada Street, Greenwich

Olivers Jazz Bar, an authentic old fashioned style Jazz club hidden away in a basement near Greenwich park, is one of Greenwich's best kept secrets.

For years some of the best known UK and International Jazz Musicians have graced it's stage, from Mark Turner and Will Vinson to Kit Downes and Jim Hart. The Wednesday Jazz Jam has long been a favourite haunt for London's top Jazz musicians and students, particularly from the local Trinity College Of Music.

Recently the Jam has been taken over by the new promoting team of Saxophonist Tom Stone, Vibraphonist/Drummer Lewis Wright, Pianist Sam Leak, and Saxophonist Jon Shanoy who have recently unveiled an exciting new season featuring some of the top names in British Jazz including Anita Wardell, Steve Fishwick, James Maddren, Jim Hart and Gareth Lockrane.

The Jam is an open environment for Musicians to perform music with a wide variety of musicians, often including some of the best musicians in the UK. The promoters say: "The Jam has a welcoming and supportive vibe and is always an exciting night for musicians and members of the public alike."


01/02/2012 - Sam Leak/Gareth Lockrane/George Crowley/Calum Gourlay/Jim Hart
08/02/2012 - Lewis Wright/James Gardiner-Bateman/Will Rixon/Steve Pringle/Tim Thornton
15/02/2012 - Lewis Wright Quartet
22/02/2012 - Jon Shenoy/Sam Crowe/Spencer Brown/Corrie Dick
29/02/2012 - Jon Shenoy/Alam Nathoo/Pat Davey/Matt Ridley


07/03/2012 - Tom Stone Quartet
14/03/2012 - Lewis Wright/ Josh Arcoleo/Bass tbc/James Maddren
21/03/2012 - Sam Leak/Brandon Allen/Steve Fishwick/Sam Lasserson/Jim Hart
28/03/2012 - Jon Shenoy Quartet


04/04/2012 - Tom Stone/Billy Adamson/George Moore/Tom Farmer/Shane Forbes
11/04/2012 - Lewis Wright Quartet
18/04/2012 - Sam Leak/Mike Chillingworth/Alex Merritt/Sam Lasserson/James Maddren
25/04/2012 - Jon Shenoy Quartet

We reviewed an evening in 2009

Olivers Music Bar at Myspace


Review: Systems Quartet

Rudi Mahall. Drawing by Geoff Winston
Copyright 2012. All Rights Reserved

Systems Quartet
(Vortex, Tuesday 24 January 2012. First night of 6-night season, 'Might I suggest ...', curated by Evan Parker. Review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

For the first of six Anglo-German collaborative concerts at the Vortex, devised by Evan Parker and generously supported by the Goethe-Institut, Systems Quartet offered a reassuringly uncomfortable collision between live instrumentation and electronic intervention in what Parker reckoned would probably be the most confrontational event of the series.

Axel Dörner with his specially adapted Firebird slide trumpet and laptop, and Rudi Mahall on a substantial bass clarinet, took up the leftstage, complemented to the right by the black-clad rhythm section of Adam Linson on string bass and electronics and Parker's long-time collaborator, percussionist Paul Lytton.

They served up a complex sonic brew, rarely straightforward, often juddering in and out of bleak, mechanically-hinted environments, with the spectre of electrical malfunction hovering overhead. The insinuation of unlikely processed sounds and a perpetual unravelling of morphed transformations suggested the shifting scenes of a film's soundtrack. Frenzied and frenetic, rising to the density of sound associated with the ICP Orchestra, they could equally drop to ethereal, delicate pulses and waves.

Paul Lytton used his fingers so lightly on his snare that a ladybird might have been scuttling across the skins. Dörner blew on a mike which picked up the edges of his breath; he sampled and reprocessed sounds so that for moments there would, disconcertingly, be no active players, even though virtual duets were being enacted.

Sparks and crackles, thunderous semaphore and various strands of interference were introduced to build up a spacious yet condensed landscape. Evan Parker has described Mahall as one of the few players "who can play hard reeds on big open mouthpieces" (Point of Departure, Issue 9, January 2007), and his sustained, physically demanding flights of pure jazz woodwind owed as much to Parker's soprano sax phrasing as to Dolphy's pioneering bass clarinet work. Linson's intense application to fretboard and bridge confirmed an anchoring presence, linking in to Lytton's exceptional, low-key percussive invention with great assurance.

The nervous anguish of the siren sounds, the waves of weather and insect swarms were complemented by the odd touch of humour - Mahall and Dörner battering a single high note with ear-splitting intensity, only for Muhall to return to it for a moment in a faux introduction to the next number, with a great smile making sure that the audience understood the gesture.

Carefully considered randomness it may have been, but the musicians' instincts and experience made it all hang together with  finely-wrought coherence.

Adam Linson: bass and electronics
Rudi Mahall: bass clarinet
Axel Dörner: trumpet and electronics
Paul Lytton: drums


Previewing: Spitz Collective Sunday Nights at the Park Plaza SE1

The Park Plaza Hotel in SE1 hosts Sunday night jazz, produced by Spitz Collective.

Saxophonist Pete Grogan (above - appearing this Sunday January 29th with Hannes Riepler – guitar- and Karl Rasheed Abel – double bass) writes:

For me, the great thing about the Spitz collective
is it's uniqueness in bringing together such a diverse collection of musicians and allowing them to share in their mutual love. Its very easy in London to feel the divide between musicians that is, to a certain extent dictated by geography if not by genre/sub genre etc.

The get-together's and 'plays' that we all have on a regular basis become locked into small groups of musicians simply because it's tough to travel the length or breadth of London to play for an hour so - it makes sense to do this with your neighbors. The Spitz blows this problem out of the water by inviting us all to come and play. It works out as a great way for us to meet and play with fellow musicians and combinations arise that otherwise would simply not happen. This alone means it never fails to be an enjoyable and exciting play. Thanks a bunch.


Saxophonist Pete Wareham (appearing on February 5th with Lewis Wright – vibes- and Tim Thornton – double bass) writes:

The Spitz Jazz Collective is a great thing to be part of as it has a relaxed, informal feeling to it and one regularly meets musicians of all ages who enjoy playing jazz in an untroubled, unaffected way.

When I turn up to play at the Park Plaza on Sunday evening I'm never quite sure who I'm going to be playing with as I know that whoever Jane Glitre has booked to play that night will be friendly and interesting musicians.

The trio gigs down there are always very enjoyable as one gets treated exceptionally well by the hotel itself, and the audiences are always enthusiastic.

Long may it continue!


RIP Clare Fischer (1928-2012) - An Appreciation

Composer/arranger/ pianist Dr. Clare Fischer died yesterday following a heart attack earlier in the month.

The track, In The Beginning from The Clare Fischer Big Band album, Continuum (Clavo Records) is nominated for a 2012 Grammy award in the Best Instrumental Arrangement category.

Frank Griffith writes:

Pianist, and composer/arranger, Clare Fischer, has died at 83. Originally from Durand, Michigan, he achieved a Masters Degree in Composition from Michigan State University before traveling with the singing group The Hi Los for 5 years. He then settled in NYC for several years before moving permanently to LA where he thrived for over 40 years.

His early collaborations were with leading jazzers of the day, including trumpeters, Donald Byrd and Dizzy Gillespie as well as moving on to Cal Tjader and George Shearing. Particularly noteworthy are his string arrangements for Byrd's 1957 LP, "September Afternoon" which were well ahead of their time utilising 20th Century string writing techniques brought about by Debussy, Ravel and Bartok coupled with modern jazz reharmonisations of standards like "Stardust", The Touch of Your Lips" and Ellington's "Moon Mist". Up until this point, string backings for jazz soloists were largely the preserve of things like Bird and Strings (Charlie Parker) which while being musical enough were quite conservative and predictable in terms of string writing. Interestingly, this album was not actually released by Warner Brothers until 1982!

Clare's 1960 album with Dizzy featuring Duke and Strayhorn material is also refreshingly forward thinking but in this case utilising a nonet somewhat based on the Birth of The Cool instrumentation. Another key album featuring his string writing was a 1963 date with San Francisco vibist, Cal Tjader, of songs from West Side Story. All of which contained provocative and ground breaking settings for strings and soloist.

Fischer's output of arrangements was huge and varied, the imprints he has left within jazz, but also on the evolution of Brazilian and popular music in general, are massive and unique. He collaborated with everyone from Hubert Laws and Vince Guaraldi to The Singers Unlimited and aforementioned Hi Los to singers Diane Schuur and Natalie Cole. Clare's collaborations with Pop icons Prince and Robert Palmer are unique and unparalled. The passage of time is bound to increase general awareness their significance.

His arrangements for Joao Gilberto's 1991 CD, "Joao" are state-of-the-art, with his treatment of Cole Porter's "You Do Somethng to Me" standing out. Its asymmetrical floating rhythmic effect creates a magical dynamic between band and singer mutually bouncing off of each other aboard a gently erratic wave.

Thank you, Clare for your gift and your rich musical offering to so many different musics. You will never be replaced or forgotten.

Frank Griffith.


Neil Yates - Five Countries

Neil Yates - Five Countries
(Edition Records EDN1029. CD Review by Chris Parker)

The 'Five Countries' of the title refers to the various birthplaces, migration destinations and current homes of the three musicians involved in this project: trumpeter Neil Yates, classical guitarist Zsolt Bende and percussionist Cormac Byrne.

Yates, who plays flugelhorn, whistle and tenor horn, plus FX, in addition to trumpet, composed most of the music on this ten-track CD, and it ranges unaffectedly between softly pattering flamenco, traditional Irish music and folk-tinged jazz, Yates's pleasantly breathy playing tellingly complemented by Bende's gently propulsive but strikingly dexterous guitar and Byrne's skilfully chosen percussion sounds, which include bodhran and cajon drum.

The natural world is clearly the inspiration for much of the set, and 'Storm on the Irish Sea' begins with tempest effects, while 'Frozen Forest', 'Snowdonia' and 'Rainy Harbour' are all suitably atmospheric, Yates meditative or strident as required, Bende delicate or neatly brisk in support.

Another fine, carefully programmed and impeccably recorded album from Edition.


Honours refused. Humph (?) Garumph.

A very surprising omission from the list just published by the Cabinet Office of people who refused honours in the years 1951-99.

The Lyttelton family have correspondence concerning one honour turned by Humphrey Lyttelton (1921- 2008) under the Callaghan government in the late 1970's, and also of a knighthood offered to him under the Major government in the early 1990's. Samantha nods in approval. A legend.


CD Review: Andy Sheppard/Michel Benita/Sebastian Rochford - Trio Libero

Andy Sheppard/Michel Benita/Sebastian Rochford - Trio Libero
(ECM 278 6630. CD Review by Chris Parker)

Andy Sheppard first played with Algerian-born bassist Michel Benita in the 1980s, when the former was a Paris resident, playing with the performance big band Urban Sax, but all the members of Trio Libero, which is completed by drummer Seb Rochford, first performed together as part of a band celebrating the music of Serge Gainsbourg at the Coutances Jazz Festival in 2008.

Sensing a mutual compatibility, described by Sheppard thus – 'I just felt that anything was possible with these guys' – the Bristolian saxophonist 'locked the trio in a room for four days and said: "Let's just improvise together, record everything and see what we come up with."' In this way, they achieved an ease of interaction based on hair-trigger sensitivity to each other's playing that is apparent throughout this thoroughly absorbing album. Sheppard sums up their approach: 'Improvise, write it down, develop it, then replay the tune with fresh improvisation: a trio libero.'

This mix of spontaneity and familiarity infuses everything the trio play with improvisational tension, each player (as in many ECM productions) clearly having a firm grasp on the outline of each piece, but able to plot his own highly distinctive and original path within it. The resultant (largely rubato) music incorporates not only Sheppard's great strengths – a sure ear for an affecting melody, a sculptural approach to his saxophones' sound, an ability to move seamlessly between freedom and structure – but also Benita's extraordinary versatility and Rochford's uncanny ability to choose precisely the right cymbal/skin stroke to push the music along and subtly embellish the band sound.

The overall effect will perhaps remind many ECM aficionados of Paul Motian's various albums for the label, but Trio Libero's strength comes from the grace and elegance with which three utterly distinctive talents have been able to gel to form a unit that consistently lives up to its name.

Trio Libero will be touriing in the UK in May / ECM Records


BLINQ at Bedales School

BLINQ: Brendan Reilly, Liane Carroll, Natalie Williams,
Ian Shaw. (out of shot: Gwilym Simcock)

The debut of BLINQ at Ronnie Scott's last August was one of my gigs of the year.

So, for the sheer pleasure of hearing them again, I've just driven down the A3 to Petersfield and heard their second outing.

No regrets. Only joy. For sheer exuberance, entertainment, collective madness, impromptu harmonizing.... this group (Natalie Williams, Liane Carroll, Brendan Reilly, Ian Shaw, Gwilym Simcock) may have its equals, but it certainly won't be beaten. They're fabulous. And already, from gig 1 to gig 2 the repertoire has expanded.

And if entertainment to keep the listener attentive through every moment of every tune is not enough, then those who love a piano, and their purely musical treats will have been knocked out too: to give just one example of many, the smoky magic which Simcock was conjuring up in a Scriabinesque, impressionistic, quiet preamble to Noel Coward's Mad About The Boy was something very special indeed.

Bedales School has a fine purpose built theatre with very good sound. Their next promotion is on 4th May - Abram Wilson's Septet featuring Peter King, Jean Toussaint and Winston Rollins.


Mark Murphy at Ronnie Scott's and Morley College

Mark Murphy comes to town.

On 30th-31st January, Ronnie Scott’s will play host to one of the greatest jazz singers in the world today: 6 time Grammy nominated Mark Murphy,writes SARAH ELLEN HUGHES.

This return trip to London has been a long time coming – for the last three years Murphy has been very ill, his situation exacerbated by the fact that for two years he had been misdiagnosed with Alzheimer’s and placed on incorrect medication. Now, thanks to a re-diagnosis and correct medical care, a wonderful new agent and a new record (which was recorded whilst residing in a care home), Murphy can tour again.

He will be bringing with him George Mesterhazy, who was Shirley Horn’s pianist when she could no longer play the piano (Horn had to have a foot amputated following complications from diabetes.) In the past, Murphy has not been able to bring a pianist to London, so this will be something very special indeed.

I spoke to Gill Manly about his visit, as she has had a massive hand in organising his trips to London in the past.

They met in 1991, when Murphy was playing a gig at Pizza on the Park, and only two people turned up to watch – Gill and Ian Shaw! From that day they became great friends, Gill starting off as his fan, then his student, and then organising workshops for jazz singers when he came to town. This was before there was a plethora of excellent jazz courses available in this country, so singers such as Tina May, Christine Tobin and Anita Wardell would all come to Mark Murphy workshops for part of their education, surely helping them along the way to forging formidable careers themselves.

So, to take advantage of the fact that Murphy is such a great educator, Gill has organised an event which was initially intended to be a simple workshop – but because of Murphy’s profile and the fact that it’s been so long since he was in this country, it’s turned into an interview/demonstration/Q & A session which will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Jazz Lineup.

Claire Martin will present the session, talking about his career, health and education, and inviting Murphy to sing a couple of songs and ‘demonstrate some of his teaching techniques for jazz singers.’

A panel of British jazz stars including Ian Shaw, Norma Winstone, Pete Churchill, and possibly Curtis Stigers, who is an ex-pupil of Murphy’s, (Cleo Laine has been advertised but unfortunately will not make it owing to illness) will each pose a question to Mark. This will focus on the development of jazz education and his role in the education of jazz singers, especially in London.

There are only 80 tickets – which are available for free to Morley College students, and only £10 to external visitors. It’s not just a singer’s event – horn players come down too! See a man who’s played with some of the greatest horn players in the world.

The event runs from 11-1pm on Monday 30th January at Morley College, Westminster Bridge Road, SE1. Tickets are available by pre-booking only. Email to reserve a place.


Review: Rachel Gould

Rachel Gould with the Renato D'Aiello Quartet
(Pizza Express Dean Street. January 19th 2012. Review by Sarah Ellen Hughes)

Rachel Gould is an American jazz singer, now resident in the UK having spent many years living in Holland. As such, the maturity and experience that she brings to her profession is considerable. A singer who has recorded with Chet Baker amongst others, proved at the Pizza Express Jazz Club, that she is up there amongst the best.

Gould was performing with an international quartet led by UK-based Italian saxophonist Renato D’Aiello, whom she met whilst singing in Europe. Their friendship has remained strong, and their rapport on stage showed the mutual respect they have for each other.

The quartet was fantastic: Enzo Zirilli, as always a force to be reckoned with at the drums; bassist Nicola Muresu with his nimble fingers. Renato D’Aiello was superb on tenor saxophone, his soloing terrific throughout. Boy, can he swing. And Bruno Montrone was a revelation at the piano, drawing lyrical horn-like phrasing out of the instrument, whether ballad or bebop. No wonder he’s hailed as one of Italy’s finest young players.

Gould, though, was the star of the show. Admittedly, I felt that she was not entirely comfortable at points – this may have been owing to her slight bashfulness and unassuming personality – but she certainly nailed the vocals. There was a touch of Carmen McRae about her, particularly in the swooping and soaring of phrases, the deeply resonant low notes and faultless diction. Gould's sprightly and sure-footed octave-hopping (I reckon the range is about three) in I want to be happy was particularly impressive.

Two tunes really grabbed me. A D’Aeillo original (instrumental) called Sea Goddess, was wonderful, and gave Muresu a chance to show off his fast fingerwork. Gould’s rendition of What is there to say, by Vernon Duke, was the highlight of the second set – a daringly slow arrangement impeccably delivered.

Now that she’s a resident here, I hope to be seeing Rachel Gould on our jazz stages much more.

Rachel Gould at


CD Review: Andre Canniere Group - Forward Space (and this week's prize draw)

Andre Canniere Group - Forward Space
(Whirlwind Recordings WR4619. CD Review by Chris Parker)

Written while trumpeter Andre Canniere was in the process of relocating from New York to London, the material on this album, which he calls his 'first major statement as a composer and bandleader', is appropriately dynamic and wide-ranging in both its musical styles and concerns.

Few record labels are as suitably named as Whirlwind -– previous releases include albums by Partikel, Phil Robson, Alex Garnett, Jeff Williams, Patrick Cornelius and Michael Janisch – and the sheer driving urgency of Canniere's music is what immediately impresses (the opening track, 'Crunch' derives its slightly hysterical, frenetic vigour from Canniere's reaction to the 'false sense of euphoria that existed leading up to the [2008 global credit] crisis').

Subsequent tracks, however, ring the changes between the imaginative originality of the title-track (perfectly described in the album's publicity material as 'Steve Reich typing Morse Code at a party while dancing to Parliament Funkadelic') and more contemplative, often downright wistful lower-tempo material ('Marshlands Blackout' was inspired by a visit to Canniere's childhood home in rural Pennsylvania, 'Song for J', on which Canniere plays trumpet, Rhodes piano, guitars and cahon, by his feelings for his son, Jonas). Forward Space is thus a perfect demonstration of the freewheeling energy that is generated from close association (Canniere's bandmates, guitarist Hannes Riepler, keyboards player George Fogel, bassist Ryan Trebilcock and drummers Jon Scott and Chris Vatalaro have all, according to Canniere, 'played an important role in developing these specific compositions in an organic and intuitive way' since the trumpeter's arrival in London in 2008).

An impressive debut from a technically assured, highly individual soloist and a gifted composer.

- Forward Space was successfully fan-funded via Kickstarter

- A copy of Forward Space is offered as the LondonJazz weekly prize draw, an exclusive for newsletter readers. The sign-up box is top left.



"Book now for Stalin at the Ashmolean" - first Oxford Jazz Fest @oxjazz gigs on sale

Couldn't resist the headline. Swedish vocalist Cecila Stalin will be singing in the Ashmolean Museum Dining Room on Thursday 5th April.

It's one of the first gigs announced and on sale for this year's Oxford Jazz Festival . Here's what else is there/ on sale so far:

Thu, 05 Apr Cecilia Stalin Quartet Ashmolean Dining Room 7.30pm

Thu, 05 Apr Adam Waldmann with The Spin Trio Spin Jazz Club 9pm

Fri, 06 Apr Larkin’s Jazz with Alyn Shipton Randolph Hotel 3pm

Fri, 06 Apr Abram Wilson 10 Year Anniversary Tour Randolph Hotel 8pm

Sat, 07 Apr Michael Janisch and the New York Standards Quartet Tim Armacost- sax, David Berkman - piano Oxford Playhouse 8pm


CD Review: Zoe Rahman - Kindred Spirits

Zoe Rahman - Kindred Spirits
(Manushi Records manucd005. CD review by Chris Parker)

Since establishing herself as one of the UK jazz scene's most talented pianists in 2005 with her Mercury-nominated album Melting Pot, Zoe Rahman has steadily consolidated her reputation with a trio (plus guest Idris Rahman) recording from London's Pizza Express (Live, 2007) and a jazz/Bengali music fusion album, Where Rivers Meet.

Kindred Spirits draws on all the musical influences, from straightahead jazz (she cut her teeth in Clark Tracey's 2000s band) to the music she hears when visiting her family in Dhaka, that informed these albums, but adds another strand: Irish traditional music, experienced on Rahman's recent tour of the country that was her maternal grandmother's home.

Add the inspiration drawn from the 150th anniversary of Bengal's most celebrated writer/musician and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, and you have an absorbingly multi-faceted set, beginning with the tumultuously robust 'Down to Earth', in which Rahman strikes sparks off her fiercely interactive rhythm section, bassist Oli Hayhurst and drummer Gene Calderazzo, and concluding with a characteristically irresistible Stevie Wonder tune, 'Contusion' but, in between, touching bases ranging from Tagore compositions featuring brother Idris's clarinets, Irish folk ('Butlers of Glen Avenue') and even the odd burst of free music ('Outside In'). Rahman, though, is very much her prodigiously gifted self throughout, whether throwing off alternately sparkling and thunderous runs, merging more delicately with her brother or guest Courtney Pine's playing on less overtly jazz-based material, or spinning compelling piano-trio jazz from her own infectiously lively compositions.

A rich confection of what Rahman simply describes as 'tunes that I love playing', Kindred Spirits provides what liner-note writer Julian Joseph accurately terms 'a powerful and fresh portrait of her combined English, Irish and Bengali heritage'.

Kindred Spirits was released on Friday 19th January. Tour Dates include Pizza Express Dean Street on February 6th and 7th.


Preview: Bob Van Luijt writes about Cuong Vu at the Vortex on Feb 20th

Vietnames-American trumpeter Cuong Vu, with Dutch-based German drummer Yonga Sun and Dutch bassist Bob Van Luijt will be at the Vortex on February 20th, straight off a seven-date tour in the Netherlands, and just before a recording for Dutch TV.

Bob Van Luijt writes:

I first heard the music of trumpeter Cuong Vu in 2004 - I was just 18 years old - in the Dutch TV programme "Vrije Geluiden" (Free Sounds) and since then have followed Cuong's music, especially with the Pat Metheny Group - the albums Speaking of Now and The Way Up - as well as his collaborations with Bill Frisell and Jamie Saft. His beautiful lines and note choices combined with electronic effects are unique! I find that I get drawn in,both by the rougher edges of, and by the beautiful and the melodic in his playing.

The video above is of Cuong Vu at Berklee in 2010 with bassist Stomu Takeishi (recently in London with Henry Threadgill) and drummer Ted Poor.

Cuong Vu gave one of the most talked-about concerts at the 2010 Cheltenham Jazz Festival. John Fordham wrote in a Guardian review:

Vietnamese-American trumpeter Cuong Vu probably stole the day, with a thundering mix of orchestral electronic effects, flat-out improv of astonishingly assured audacity, unexpected dissections of a couple of standard ballads, and the raw power of a free-rhythmic rock trio.

Bookingss: / more information at


Live Music Bill passed in House of Commons/ RIP Etta James

Two news stories broke simultaneously today.

AT LAST (1) . After years of fighting the disproportionate and unnecesary powers given to Local Authorities by the 2003 Licensing Act, Don Foster's Live Music Bill which removes the need for small venues to have licenses for events ending before 11pm has been passed. The devil will be inthe detail, and never underestimate the complexities and "transition provisions" yet to be dreamed up to complicate the system and make it more costly...but this is a victory, most notably for that completely indefatigable campaigner on the issue, jazz drummer Hamish Birchall.

AT LAST (2) RIP Etta James, whose death today at the age of 73 has just been reported. Sad.


Jack's been thinking... about voting for the Forge Venue

The Forge Venue in Camden Town
Photo credit: Chris Huning

Our regular Friday column from trumpeter/ bandleader has a suggestion for who to nominate in the Parliamentary Jazz Awards (lists close 20th February). Jack writes:

Before you cast your vote in the venues category of the Parliamentary Jazz Awards, I’d like to draw your attention to the work being done at The Forge Venue in Camden Town.

While most London jazz gigs take place in the upstairs or downstairs room of a pub, or clubs where music seems to be little more than a soundtrack the comings and goings of waiters and barmen, The Forge is a rare breed: a quiet, dedicated arts space.

True, weekends see the large wooden walls slide back and open out onto the attached restaurant, but the respect for the music is always maintained. The venue is at its intimate best when in chamber hall-like small form. The impressively appointed wooden floor and spacious size provide a warm, generous acoustic, while unusually good lighting completes the sense that this is something special - real care has gone into the design and planning of this place.

Adam and Charlotte Caird are the pair who have shouldered the burden of planning, programming and maintaining this venue. They are both musicians –Adam a composer / pianist, and Charlotte a saxophonist – and their musical openness is one of the factors that makes The Forge such an important venue.

Their programming exhibits a bravery and trust that few venues can compete with. Focussing purely on the jazz side of things (which belittles the cross-genre importance of this place), The Forge has put on London debuts for many fantastic bands, as well as programming a myriad of things other venues fail to put on. It is worth noting a few: Joe Wright’s pioneering duo with drummer James Maddren had its first outing at The Forge, and Kit Downes made his prepared piano debut on the Forge’s Steinway with Shabaka Hutchings in 2011’s London Jazz Festival at the special request of The Forge’s Adam Caird (There's more on Kit’s blog). And a Jazzwise album of the year was recorded there.

The venue announced last month that Loop Collective are resident musicians for 2012, and the launch event of their residency series will take place on Friday 10 February 2012 , featurnig Rory Simmons' Monocled Man and Hanslip/Hurley/Sanders.

Other events to look forward to are Shabaka Hutchings' Sons of Kemet, as well as a new multimedia project emerging from the Royal Academy's jazz course.

Charlotte and Adam set aside a Friday night to put on my own big band a year or so ago when I was struggling to find venues to perform at, and the full hall turned a potentially nerve-wracking debut into an immensely rewarding and most of all encouraging experience.

London needs more places like The Forge, and The Forge deserves our ongoing support, and appreciation.
And here's the place you can show it


Preview: Rob Garcia/ Noah Preminger at Servant Jazz Quarters/ Oliver's/ Spice

George Crowley writes:

I’m looking forward to the opportunity to see some fantastic musicians unfamiliar to UK audiences next week, in the form of three gigs from the Rob Garcia / Noah Preminger Quartet.

Drummer Rob Garcia (Wynton Marsalis, Anat Cohen, Chris Cheek) has been a mainstay of the New York jazz scene for over ten years. Along with the highly lauded young tenor saxophonist Noah Preminger (Cecil McBee, Billy Hart, Fred Hersch) and Barcelona-based bassist Masa Kamaguchi (Paul Motian, Dave Douglas, Tony Malaby), he will be hitting London next week for three gigs as a leg of a European trio tour. On the London dates, they will be joined by Jim Hart on vibes.

Gigs like this always fill me with anticipation. Though Rob Garcia and Noah Preminger are regular collaborators in NYC, this line-up with Jim is an altogether newer thing. The prospect of witnessing musicians of a really high calibre playing and exploring together without a great deal of playing history provides, for me at least, a genuinely exciting and fascinating experience.

I’m particularly looking forward to hearing Noah Preminger. His album "Before the Rain" (Palmetto) was in no fewer than seven Best Albums of 2011 lists in the US. He has a lovely sound, an open approach and a knack for finding surprise in his lines and phrases, and I’m excited at the opportunity to hear him opening out on tunes in such great company. I don’t mean to ignore the contributions of the other members, but hey, I’m a tenor player!

Jim Hart is a musician who never approaches any playing situation with anything but an open mind and heart, and the remarkable ability to adapt and support to an incredibly high standard.

To anybody who’s feeling the January blues, and the urge to check out some great original music from some players they might not have previously been aware of, I couldn’t recommend these gigs highly enough – see you on Monday!

The Rob Garcia / Noah Preminger Quartet play at

- Servant Jazz Quarters in Dalston on Monday 23rd (NOT the Oxford as advertised)

- Oliver’s in Greenwich on Tuesday 24th

- Spice of Life in Soho on Wednesday 25th with vocalist JO WALLFISCH.

Musician biogs and more details at


St Paul's Cathedral. 12thJuly. The return of Garbarek/ Hilliard Ensemble

Look up. Next Monday 23rd Jan, booking will open for the return of Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble to St Paul’s Cathedral. been invited back for the 50th anniversary season of the City of London Festival.

Last time they were here was June 2009. They played a memorable 90-minute set. What they do works in the space. And large audiencesenjoy it. I can vividly remember Garbarek's mischievous smile as he sent out a "row of sonorous, low honking B flats, chasing each other around the cathedral. How satisfying as a saxophonist, how impossible to resist, to hit home hard , low and powerfully into every last corner of Christopher Wren's vast echoing masterpiece."

The date this year is July 12th. Here's a link to the COLF site.


Jazz Video Guy's Six Minute Report on JEN

JEN is the Jazz Educators Network, who have just had their third annual conference in Louisville, Kentucky. JEN emerged from the ashes of the IAJE which filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy with debts estimated at around $1m in April 2008. An enthusiastic report, stressing the vital sense of community in jazz from Bret Primack.

Jazz Education Network


Dave Ohm at Ronnies

Dave Ohm
Photo credit: Oleg Katchinski
Dave Ohm is in residency  this week at Ronnie Scott’s Club. Georgia Mancio writes:
Drummer, bandleader and producer Dave Ohm has long been an unsung hero of the British jazz scene; a crime that seems to befall many other very fine players of the same instrument. For a change the billing is reversed as he takes up residence at Ronnie Scott's 16 -20 Jan to lead five different groups in the support slot opposite Carmen Lundy and James Taylor Quartet.

His recent work includes Gregory Porter, Karin Krog, Rebecca Parris, Dena DeRose, Wess Anderson and Benny Golson but his association with Ronnie Scott’s Club goes back over 15 years where he has performed many times with Claire Martin, Deborah Brown, Ian Shaw, Peter King and the Ronnie Scott’s Allstars.

A creative and musical drummer with an almost uncanny intuition, Ohm is at once a "powerhouse" (Time Out) and subtle storyteller. You can hear the Art Blakey and Elvin Jones dynamism, you will also recognise the crisp brushwork of John Poole and yet always unmistakeably his own sonic stamp.

His collaborators over the week will include: Nigel Hitchcock, Paul Stacey and Laurence Cottle (18 Jan); Ben Castle, Mark Edwards and Arnie Somogyi (17 Jan); Georgia Mancio, Nikki Iles and Julie Walkington (20 Jan) as well as some very special suprise guests. Who can resist?


Preview/Interview : Eddie Daniels

Eddie Daniels
Preview/Interview: Eddie Daniels. Barbican Hall. Thursday February 9th 2012 by Sebastian Scotney

Benny Goodman, who commissioned a Clarinet Concerto concerto from Copland in 1947, once called the clarinettist Eddie Daniels “my successor”.

On a rare visit to the UK – the first for about fifteen years - Daniels will be performing the concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra, on Thursday February 9th at the Barbican, So let' be clear: we're talking about a performance of authority, legitimacy at an off-the-scale level. And - yes, still, at the age of seventy - serious chops.

The clarinettist has lived with the piece, thought about it, and performed it, for decades now. In a conversation which I had with the him by telephone at his home in New Mexico earlier this week, he launched straight in with how he will approach the work:

“We'll be opening the doors, we're letting Benny in”.

One part of the concerto where this will be abundantly clear is the cadenza. The concerto comes complete with a long, fully written-out solo cadenza section which links the movements. It has its problems. Classical players who follow it verbatim. struggle to find the right kind of freedom. For Daniels the constraints of it are different: he suggested to me that Goodman had already moved on stylistically from the primitive swing feel of that cadenza by the time the work was written. Daniels will be playing most of the original cadenza, but will be "peppering it with entrances or doorways for Benny to come in, in several places. "He [Benny]will go wild!" promises Daniels.

Eddie Daniels will also bring to the work the unique experience of having had several part-improvised concertos written for him, and collaborated actively and productively with their composers, something which didn't happen – for various reasons - with Copland and Goodman.

Daniels also brings a level of technique which will enable him to breeze through the screechily high parts of the Copland Concerto which Goodman disliked, and chose to take down the octave.

Carying forward that idea of legitimacy, Daniels also has it when it comes to the performance of the Leonard Bernstein work, Prelude Fugue and Riffs. Daniels also quoted to me something which Bernstein wrote – to a New York periodontist, about Daniels' album Breakthrough:

Dear Ron, Your friend Eddie Daniels combines elegance and elegance and virtuosity in a way that makes me remember Arthur Rubinstein. He is a thoroughly well-bred demon. Lenny

This "well-bred demon" has had an extraordinary career, and there is a substantial and valuable back-catalogue. An early record which is still getting played – two friends told me unprompted it is something they go back to a lot is a duo session on which Daniels plays flute, clarinet and bass clarinet with guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli from 1973 entitled A Flower For All Seasons on the Choice label, later reissued on CD as Blue Bossa.

As the years have gone on, Daniels in the conversational duo context has moved far beyond that. Bucky Pizzarelli was a fine swing/rhythm guitarist, but in pianist Roger Kellaway , with whom Eddie Daniels has recorded two albums – the latest recorded in the Library of Congress in February 2011, and attracting rave reviews , there is that sense of being able to travel anywhere. “Roger has the whole universe”, Daniels told me.

Daniels' recent work with the WDR Big Band with Mike Abene (the two have known each other since they were teenagers in the Newport Youth Band is vintage stuff. This live performace of Daniels' tune/arrangement "This Is All I Have" recorded live (!) deserves a play:

Daniels' visits to the UK have been lamentably rare in recent years. I remember him playing the Weber Quintet at the old Stables in Wavendon in the 1980's. Brian Priestley told me he has fond memories of interviewing him for radio when he visited the Bass Clef in London, again in the mid 80's . Daniels also recorded the album “Breakthrough” with which Larry Rosen and Dave Grusin of GRP with the Philharmonia, which launched the most visible phase of his career. Eddie Daniels reckons it's at least fifteen years since he last played here.

If Daniels was once capable of nailing everything as the perfect sideman - listen to him on Freddie Hubbard's Hub of Hubbard, or in the key albums of Thad Jones-Mel Lewis or Don Sebesky, or indeed on Billy Joel's album Nylon Curtain or Sister Sledge's hit I've got to love somebody ) these days he has earned the right to take absolute authority as soloist.

As clarinettist Paquito D'Rivera has said: “I would dare to say that his enormous contribution to the almost extinct art of Jazz-clarineting is so significant, that now we can even talk about the instrument as BE and AE (Before Eddie and After Eddie)."
So the end of the Barbican concert will be the moment when we can really celebrate the presence of a unique figure in jazz at the Barbican. Daniels says that condutor Kristjan Järvi has instructed him what he wants him to do in Duke Ellington's “Harlem” –

“I want you to come out, and just blow over it.”

When Daniels walks out on the stage at the end of the evening, his hand-built Morrie Backun clarinet in hand, this is the kind of invitation Eddie Daniels will, as ever, fulfil completely.

Barbican Hall , Thursday February 9th
London Symphony Orchestra
JOHN ADAMS The Chairman Dances
BERNSTEIN Three Dance Episodes from 'On the Town'
COPLAND Clarinet Concerto
MILHAUD La création du monde
BERNSTEIN (orch. FOSS) Prelude, Fugue and Riffs

Eddie Daniels will also perform with the David Rees- Williams Trio at
St Edmunds School Canterbury on Sat Feb 11th


Benefit gig for John Barnes - 100 Club 9th Feb Lunchtime

There's a fundraiser for once ubiquitous baritone saxophonist/clarinettist John Barnes, organized by Alan Barnes.

It's at the 100 Club on Thurs 9th Feb, start time 11.30am.

John Barnes has been a major figure on baritone saxophone, Downbeat Rising Star on the instrument in 1969, on the strength of an appearance he made at the Newport Jazz Festival.

John Barnes had a stroke while on holiday in Greece and then ensued an undignified scrap with a medical ensurance. After delays he is currently recovering in hospital in SW14.

The loyal and strong turnout which John deserves is promised. Here's the line-up:

Trumpets: Bruce Adams, Digby Fairweather, Rico Tomaso, Mike Cotton
Trombones: Roy Williams, Ian Bateman, Mike Hogh
Reeds: Art Themen, Julian Stringle, Robert Fowler, Ron Drake, Alan Barnes, Willie Garnett
Vocals: Val Wiseman
Guitar: Jim Douglas, Dominic Ashworth
Piano: John Pearce, Nick Dawson, Martin Litton
Bass: Dave Green
Drums: Bobby Worth

Plus other Special Guests


A new venture- Platform 33 (@cbplatform33) - Will Rixon writes

This Thursday night 19th sees the launch of a brand new night – Platform33, run by Chloe Booker.

Chloe aims "to showcase the most interesting and exciting artists in an informal and fun way - removing the pretence and introducing the people and stories behind the arts. It will showcase the most diverse art forms."

The launch event this Thursday alone features an opera singer, a graffiti artist, a string quartet, a beatboxer a dj and ...WILL RIXON - jazz trumpeter.

Will Rixon will have 33 minutes on Thursday, to communicate on his own terms, to educate and to inspire the audience about jazz.

Will Rixon writes:

Here is a typical conversation for me:

Girl in bar: “So what do you do for a living?”
Will Rixon: “I’m a musician.”
Gib: “Oh right! So are you in a band?”WR: “Sort of. I play in a few bands, I’m a freelance musician.”Gib: “Do you play the guitar?”WR: “No, the trumpet. I play jazz mostly.”Gib: “Ah jazz, I really wish I was into jazz - but I just don’t understand it…”
Thes conversations set me thinking about how I could contribute to changing things, bringing people closer to understanding jazz.

Sometimes I talk about the process of improvising; explaining a bit about what is actually going on during a performance with a hope that it might help them enjoy the experience more. But the point it is not to try and make everyone a semi-jazz-intellectual, it is to excite them about the true purpose and meaning of the music. After all, it was the beat, the interplay between the musicians, the sensitivity and love I felt that drew me in at the age of 10.

For many people, the idea of jazz oozes sophistication and cool but when they turn on a recording they are met with a sound that is often esoteric and impenetrable so they give up. I can guarantee to any new listener that it’s not about trying to understand anything; it’s about being open. Jazz is more than a type of music, is an experience that you feel. It’s a palpable, live art form steeped in a history of old masters and technicians.

Jazz clubs are not simply places to go and listen to music. They are sacred places that give you the unique opportunity to witness moments of art unraveling. There is nothing like watching the process of 5 people move together, improvising a sound that has such a breadth of sincerity and maturity. Ears and minds are open. Added to that is the happiness I get from seeing a room of ordinary people feeling it, everyone on the same page. Each night is a party that celebrates the music and its depth ofemotion and empathy.

Complex things to master and to convey but so natural and powerful that it will be running through your body by the time you find your seat. If you simply wish to enjoy the music, forget 'understanding': leave the mystery to the participants - this takes years of dedicated and passionate practice. Everyone reading this has a responsibility.

Musicians don’t lose sight of your purpose. Jazz fans spread the word. And new fans, just take my word for it.

Platform 33 this Thursday 19th Jan is at the Upper Bar of Union Chapel, Upper Street N1.
£11 in advance and £15 on the door.

All profits are going to the NGO Thinking Development, which works with earthquake victims in Haiti.
Twitter: @cbplatform33


Review: London Vocal Project

London Vocal Project
(Kings Place Hall One, 14th January 2012, part of London A Capella Festival 2012. Review by Frank Griffith)

The London Vocal Project is an eclectic ensemble bridging a multitude of styles including Afrobeat, Gospel, 1970s Soul and post-war swing. The twenty strong choir boasted mostly women along with seven male singers which included their illustrious director, Pete Churchill singing bass.

Talk about a polymath, there is nothing that his guy (Pete Churchill) cannot do. His subtle, yet clear conducting while covering the bass parts were augmented by his frequent and detailed announcements describing the numbers and the choir's processes learning them. In addition, Pete's arrangements were widely featured varying from treatments of songs by Neal Hefti, Steve Swallow, Kenny Wheeler and Stevie Wonder. The music of Bobby McFerrin was also included to great effect.

The LVP featured a handful of soloists that brought alot to the party. These included Kwabena Adjepong 's passionate reading of Stevie Wonder's Love's In Need of Love Today while the choir "cooed and hawed" underneath. Newcomer Emma Smith also shone on Steve Swallow's folksy yet profound City of Dallas which closed their set with her repeated mantra of "sweet dreams when you sleep".

Not to shirk away from soloing chores himself, Mr Churchill offered his refreshing take on John Beasley's Lucky Old Sun (popularised by Ray Charles, apparentlly) that included a more than credible scat chorus or two.

A couple of points also worth noting are that the LVP make a strong visual impression as well. Their well themed oufittery- largely black with the odd addition ("oddition") of a white or red pastel along with red silk ties on the blokes gives off a distinct glow.

They are clearly engaged with the music and the audience with their subtle moving and grooving to the music without being over the top or distracting with it. Of equal importance of course is the wonderful blend they exact along with the immaculate control of pitch and articulation. This, coupled with thier flawless memorisation of lyrics and parts make the London Vocal Project a truly impressive ensemble. Bravo!


Your Call, York Hall, Radio 3 and boxing

Boxing poster from 1980
If you turn on BBC Radio 3 early in the morning, the presenters trail a highlight coming up later in the programme. The announcement comes - intrusively -  between almost every piece of music. They don't give an explanation: I guess you're supposed to already know what it's all about.

To this Londoner, clearly not in the know, and who drops the occasional "H" it sounds for all the world like YORK HALL, a 1200-capacity venue in Bethnal Green which also has a gym and a swimming pool, and which for generations (since 1929 in fact) has been synonymous with the aspirations of young boxers from the East End wanting to hit the big time. And each other. Something tells me that in the rarefied world of Radio 3 there are very few people interested in boxing. What can they mean? :).....


NEA Jazz Masters webcast

The whole NEA Jazz Masters ceremony, held in the  Rose Theater of Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York on Tuesday January 10th, celebrating Jack DeJohnette, Sheila Jordan, Von Freeman, Charlie Haden and Jimmy Owens is available as a webcast HERE


Review: Guildhall Jazz Singers

Guildhall Jazz Singers / Stroman
(St Martin in the Fields, 10th January 2012, part of Brandenburg Spring Choral Festival)

The Guildhall Jazz Singers brought sounds of jazz, scat and gospel to St Martin in the Fields, their contribution to a predominantly classical program at the Brandenburg Spring Choral Festival.

Artistic Director Bob Porter introduced the concert with, “This may not be what you are expecting to hear in this setting,” but he’s a jazz fanatic, and thrilled to be able to broaden the festival’s programming to encompass this genre.

Led by Scott Stroman, himself singing in most of the numbers, the group entertained with an eclectic program, backed sometimes by a group of musicians from the Guildhall School.

The eight singers (some of whom aren’t actually first study vocalists) worked well together, delivering some superb tunes: a luscious a capella version of My Romance; a very jolly Button Up Your Overcoat. There were moments too for individuals to shine: postgrad student Martynas Vilpisauskas captivated the audience with his rendition of Skylark – complete with mouth trumpet solo.

The singers' sound didn’t carry very well in this vast building – I wonder if they might have fared better downstairs in the Crypt. I expect that the forthcoming jazz choirs (Surrey Youth Choir – 27th April, London Vocal Project – 16th March, Capital Connection – 16th Feb) will fare better in this acoustic.

Brandenburg Spring Choral Festival


John Ferguson (1932- 2011)

John Ferguson
Photo credit: Antoinette Haselhorst
Jeanie Barton writes:

Generations of London’s jazz fraternity came together at Golders Green Crematorium yesterday to say goodbye to long time bassist and talented all-rounder John Ferguson.

Known more recently for his regular gigs with the Laurie Morgan Trio Downstairs at the King’s Head in Crouch End on Sunday afternoons, and the Friday afternoon sessions at the Spice of Life in Soho with Jack Honeybourne on piano and Dennis Smith on drums, John had a long and varied professional career.

Born in Glasgow on 2nd June 1932, he embraced his love of music by enjoying the vibrant local dance band scene; he learned trombone and had singing lessons with opera singer Queenie Hall, he also enjoyed ballroom dancing and took up tap dancing as a serious hobby. By the time he added the double bass to his arsenal John was in demand and became a professional musician. He was invited to join the Durham Light Infantry band and moved to London age 26.

After being spotted by Vic Damone among others, John joined a tour with Val Doonican and stayed with the band for 2 years, only leaving because he couldn’t stand to look at his cardigan any more… He continued to play in numerous ensembles and was with Dick Williams band “The Dick 6” to perform at the first Ealing Jazz festival - he continued to participate every subsequent year without fail.

John will be remembered for his sharp suits, his velvet voice and his cheeky yet shy demeanour. He was affectionate and occasionally grumpy but always great fun; every year he would enjoy going to play at Orpington Naturist Camp with Jack and Dennis and was the first to disrobe, halfway through their opening set, asking Dennis to hold his bass (only the bass) while he stripped off.

After a short illness John succumbed to mesothelioma cancer just before Christmas which was brought on by exposure to asbestos during building work in his youth. He will be sadly missed by his family, his lifelong friend Maurien Venables and by us all.


Jack's been thinking...about Birmingham Jazz/ Cobweb London nights

Our Friday columnist, trumpeter/ bandleader Jack Davies writes about a new Sunday night gig at the Salisbury featuring emerging artists from the Birmingham and London scenes.

The Cobweb Collective and Birmingham Jazz both have well established jazz promotion pedigrees in Britain’s second city, and this Sunday sees the start of their new London night at Jazz @ The Salisbury.

The organisational team (including Ryan Williams and Hans Koller) state that the gigs at the Salisbury will “show the range and variety of the Birmingham scene”. No doubt these concerts will also start to create some cross-pollenation with the London scene – each gig will be a double-bill with one Birmingham and one London-based band.

Sundays seem set to be the busiest night of the week for small jazz nights – the North London Tavern’s programme continues to thrive, and Charlie Wright’s in Hoxton has also started a similar programme of bands from Birmingham and Leeds double-billed with new London-based projects.

The first of the Salisbury gigs presents the Birmingham-based drummer Jonathan Silk’s quartet, with a two tenor front line of John Fleming and Nick Rundle and Nick Jurd on bass. London will be represented by the great Alam Nathoo’s saxophone trio with Pete Ibbetson on drums and Marcus Penrose on bass.

Music will start at 8.30pm, and entry is only £4. The address: 1 Grand Parade, Green Lanes, Harringay, London N4 1JX
For completeness,  other gigs on this Sunday are:

Trevor Mires Quintet + Tom Taylor Quintet at the North London Tavern
George Crowley Quartet at Charlie Wright’s Jazz Club


Parliamentary Jazz Awards - Nominations Open

Nominations are now open (it's a public vote) for the Parliamentary Jazz Awards. Lists will close on February 20th. Here's the link . And here's who won last year. There's not been a press release yet (?) So, thanks to the sharp eyes of the Bebop Spoken Here blog, who spotted the announcement on the Scottish Jazz Federation's Facebook page.


Review: Denman Maroney, Tim Hodgkinson & Dominic Lash; John Butcher & Hannah Miller

Maroney/ Hodgkinson/ Lash/ Butcher/ Miller
Cafe Oto 9th January 2012
Drawing by Geoff Winston. All Rights Reserved

Denman Maroney, Tim Hodgkinson and Dominic Lash; John Butcher and Hannah Miller
(Cafe Oto, 9th January, 2012; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

The first musical event of the new year at Cafe Oto was a civilised affair, in the best sense of the word. In John Butcher's duo with Hannah Miller, the trio of Denman Maroney, Tim Hodgkinson and Dominic Lash and the final set which brought all five together onstage, any individual expression was for the benefit of the common good.

There was no showboating and no overtly dominant voices - it was a subtly balanced and democratic confluence of like-minded musicianship where instrumentation bordering on the unusual did not even raise an eyebrow - it was the right blend at the right time in the right place.

Before the commencement of the first set, John Butcher paused a couple of times to make sure that incidental sounds from the room were all but banished, so that the finely balanced tensions that he and Hannah Miller were to contrive could be heard by an undiverted audience. Miller and Butcher share a deep respect for their instruments which recognises few conventional boundaries in the quest for the lighter edges and the cores of expression. Phrases of fluent technique were gently placed in fields of more deviant explorations as if to offer faux reassurance. Butcher's puffs and punches of breath, clicks, hisses, rubbery squawks and sustained whistles were complemented by Miller, whose approach to the cello as both object and sonic vehicle saw her drag the bow down the fretboard with broad sweeping strokes, and grasp the strings to force out creaking strains. In the glow of the low registers she kicked out an intense drone and a glutinous flow of indistinct patterns which Butcher countered with sparks, wit and jabs, creating skeins of glistening indirectness.

The rich peregrinations of the trio started with an assertive force which was then dissipated and revisited. Denman Maroney, over from New York to reconvene with Tim Hodgkinson and Dominic Lash after their performance at The Stone in the autumn, has refined his technique of hyperpiano where the boundaries of the keyboard and the piano's inner workings are dispensed with. Despite the physical demands of this approach, which involves reaching to the innermost parts of the piano body and the application of a range of implements to its wires and structure, Maroney maintained a gentle underpinning role, intermittently introducing chimes, jangling, zither strums and grating sawing - sounds that might conceivably be echoes from the outer voids - and lightly percussive structures from the keyboard.

Hodgkinson added an exhilarating stream of expressive statement, on an elegant, skinny metal clarinet - briefly dismantled and reconstituted sans the lower part of the barrel - and a grenadilla wood clarinet, introducing a more rounded tone, to offer a combination of bright precision and abstraction.

Lash, alert and confident on a massive double bass, like Miller earlier, mixed dynamic rhythmic momentum with a process of divination for the tones which the instrument might reveal through bouncing the bow on the strings, tapping the body, or a flurry of pummelling with his thumb close to the bridge.

Together, always sharply attentive to the hints and phrasing in the air, they achieved an engaging equilibrium in their search for lost phrases and resonances.

Finally, the quintet followed the routes set out earlier, and saw Maroney become the third string player before returning to the keyboard, with the group balancing points of accent - jumps, hops, steps, scrapes and hiccups - with an egalitarian quest for anonymity and diversion, to foster an impressive benchmark for the year ahead in Dalston.

Denman Maroney - hyperpiano
Tim Hodgkinson - clarinets
Dominic Lash - double bass
John Butcher - tenor sax
Hannah Miller - cello