Mica and Ahmet Ertegun Scholarships at Oxford

The Ertegun brothers Nesuhi (1917-1989) anf Ahmet (1923-2006) have left a unique legacy of recorded music on the Atlantic label. Go back to the early days: Giant Steps was the first album to consist entirely of Coltrane's own compositions. There are the great Mingus albums...

The Ertegun family are continuing to make a difference through philanthropy, and the record in the past decade, at the instigation of Ahmet's widow Mica Ertegun, is substantial.

The Nesuhi Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame at Jazz at Lincoln Center was established in honour of the older brother in 2004

At Ravensbourne, a BA Course in Music Production has been set up , and a studio financed by the Ertegun Education Fund.

It was announced today that the largest ever philanthropic gift to the Humanities in the 900-year history of the University of Oxford has been made, to support postgraduate research work. Money was raised at a Led Zeppelin reunion put together by Harvey Golsdmith, Bill Curbishley and Philip Casson in 2007. As John Paul Joones said at the press conference: "We're talking about music from the soul. These scholarships could not have come from a better place."

There will eventually be thirty-five graduate scholars financed by the programme. They will be fully funded "needs-blind" scholarships open to postgraduate students of distinction from throughout the world. 37A St Giles in Oxford will become "Mica and Ahmet Ertegun House for the Study of the Humanities" a study centre for the Ertegun Scholars.

Here is Oxford University's statement.


Review: Jim Rattigan Quartet at the Salisbury

Jim Rattigan, Ryan Williams, Dave Mannington, Chris Draper
Salisbury Arms, 26th Feb 2012
Drawing by Geoff Winston. Copyright 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Jim Rattigan Quartet
(The Salisbury, N4. Sunday 26 February 2012; review and drawings
by Geoff Winston)

Jazz is blossoming in the Harringay Spring. Continuing an inspired series of Sunday night concerts, Jazz at the Salisbury, Jim Rattigan's keen, young group showed the merits of this collaboration between the Birmingham and London jazz scenes.

Rattigan is a seasoned, sensitive french horn player and composer, who has bridged the divide between the classical horn and jazz, with pretty well all points in between. This quartet featured Birmingham Conservatoire graduate and Tony Levin Drum Prize winner, Chris Draper, with Dave Manington (bass) and Ryan Williams (guitar and co-promoter), who have been building up considerable experience since their days at London's Guildhall jazz course.

It was nothing short of a revelation to see the french horn so seamlessly adapted to the jazz repertoire in Rattigan's hands. His strong rapport with Ryan Williams' complementary guitar sound and phrasing recalled the fertile Bob Brookmeyer-Jim Hall collaborations.

Rattigan's 2010 CD, 'Shuzzed', was the perfect focus for a small group performance at this intimate and venerable venue. Running through their paces on half a dozen of Rattigan's elegantly structured compositions, bringing to mind the light complexity of Hall's TelArc excursions, and supplemented by a handful of Parker and Coltrane classics, Rattigan set the bar high, drawing out from the group a combination of measured restraint and sprightly versatility.

Rattigan would set the example, swiftly laying down the themes, then casting off into improvisatory runs, before passing the baton, to set in motion sequences of solos and duos, supported by interventions which added extra depth and momentum. He stepped back to give space to his trio, but also gave the sense of casting a gently proprietorial eye over them, as they worked closely to their scores.

Rattigan has an interesting tonal palette, from a softly cosseted trombone-like sound to a sharper, icy muted trumpet sound. Williams was a model of classic fretboard modernity, slipping elegantly between chordwork and fluid runs, eschewing pyrotechnics. The rhythm section was brightly disciplined in a similarly supple dialogue. Throughout the two sets, the quartet garnered applause for a string of crisply crafted solos.

The pace was ramped up in Parker's 'Donna Lee' - in a "version that ends twice as fast as it starts" - and Draper's fiery drum licks and Manington's committed bass runs gave an extra sizzle to 'Yardbird Suite'. Williams' treacly harmonics brushed the filmic theme of 'Leaded Light' and in 'Lament' a single guitar chord was repeated like a record stuck in a groove, before bass and drums set off into a equally offbeat zone.

Rattigan's subtle compositions and the quartet's naunced interplay maintained the highest standard of the Salisbury's programme. This musician-led venture would be a perfect destination for the likes of the Jazz Meetup Group. For us music-loving locals of Harringay and environs, it's real quality right on our doorstep.

Chris Draper and Jim Rattigan talking in the break
Salisbury Arms, 26th Feb 2012
Drawing by Geoff Winston. Copyright 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Jim Rattigan - French Horn
Ryan Williams - Guitar
Dave Manington - Bass
Chris Draper - Drums

Jazz at the Salisbury Facebook Group


Stan Tracey at the National Portrait Gallery

Stan Tracey. The Guildhall, Bath, 2003
Photo Credit William Ellis. All Rights Reserved.

This portrait of Stan Tracey has recently been acquired by the National Portrait Gallery. Photographer William Ellis has been interviewed by the New Statesman's Cultural Capital blog on the subject of portrait photography. The article concludes: "It is impossible to say definitively what the elements are that combine to make a great portrait. What's clear is that Ellis captures the warmth and personality of his subjects. So often, he manages to get a photograph that becomes the defining image of that person in my mind."

Read on? See two fabulous photo-essays which William Ellis has done for us.

- Stayhorn the Songwriter from the 2010 LJF

- The final concert of the JALC 2010 Tour


Tim Berne Interview

Tim Berne
Photo credit: Matt Brown/ Creative Commons

“I love London”, says Tim Berne, profiled and interviewed for LondonJazz by ALEX ROTH prior to Berne's two nights at the Vortex:  Wednesday March 14th and Thursday 15th.  

One of the most respected figures on the New York jazz scene, saxophonist and composer Tim Berne, has led a series of groundbreaking ensembles since the late 70s.

One measure of his quality is the company he has kept down the years: drummers Paul Motian, Tom Rainey, Jim Black, Joey Baron and Bobby Previte and bassists Drew Gress, Mark Dresser and Michael Formanek have all featured in groups spear-headed by Berne at one time or another, not to mention guitarists Bill Frisell, Nels Cline, Marc Ducret, cellists Hank Roberts and Erik Friedlander and pianist Craig Taborn.

He also prefigured the current crop of musician-led record labels by founding Empire in 1979 and Screwgun in 1997 to release his own albums and those of his collaborators (John Zorn and Dave Douglas are other notable NY-based improvisers to have done so, with Tzadik and Greenleaf respectively).

Berne's latest album Snakeoil (reviewed here by Chris Parker) is a new departure in two respects; it's his first outing on the ECM label under his own name (having previously appeared on releases by David Torn and Michael Formanek, and is also the premiere recording of his new quartet featuring clarinettist Oscar Noriega, pianist Matt Mitchell and drummer Ches Smith.

Berne answered a few questions I had about recording, touring and composing, writes Roth.

Alex Roth- Your latest album Snakeoil is on ECM, rather than your own Screwgun label. Why's that?

Tim Berne : I've been trying to do something with them for years. It's a great label and it's too expensive to do a studio album on my own. I didn't really change my approach for the recording.

- What was it that appealed to you about this particular line-up?

This band has been playing together for over two years now - before those other groups actually.

I love the sound of this instrumentation because it's extremely flexible. The players are great too!

- There's some lovely and very distinctive contrapuntal writing on the album. Are there any specific composers whose music has informed your approach to polyphonic writing?

Ha…not really, although I'm a big fan of [Henry] Threadgill, Ty[ondai] Braxton, Antony and the Johnsons and numerous others.

- One of the central themes in your catalogue to date seems to me to be the integration of compositional order and improvisational freedom. Are you aware of any specific influences (musical or extra-musical) on that aspect of your music?

Braxton, [Roscoe] Mitchell, [Julius] Hemphill, [Henry] Threadgill, [Marc] Ducret, [Michael] Formanek etc.

- Would you say that there are any other over-arching themes in your music, and if so how have these developed over the years?

I think I've been approaching things pretty much the same way since the beginning; I love juxtaposing complicated written forms and wide open improvisation.

- Several of the most celebrated young bands in European jazz (notably TrioVD in the UK and RedivideR in Ireland), not to mention New York, cite your music as a primary influence - are you aware of having an impact on younger musicians and if so how do you react to hearing them?

I'm not really aware of anyone I've influenced but it's nice to know I guess. I always enjoy listening to these bands.

- What do you like to do in your time off when you're touring?

I watch movies, bodysurf and eat Indian food in London.

- Any favourite spots in London?

I don't remember names but I love London.

Vortex, Dalston -March 14th and 15th. BOOKINGS

Alex Roth is a guitarist and composer based in London. (Twitter:@alexrothmusic )


Jack's been thinking about...the London Jazz Meetup Group

Our Friday columnist JACK DAVIES writes about the London Jazz Meetip Group

Warm appreciation is deserved for the for The London Jazz Meetup Group. It is making a real contribution to the London scene. This intrepid group of jazz fans have proved that British jazz is not an ivory tower, but that we are a generous and welcoming community, of which the Meetup group already feels like an established part.

Founded in 2006 by Rob Mallows the group is a collection of people drawn together by the desire to discover more about the music, and to experience concerts in the company of like-minded friends, and, as the name suggests, to meet up. Rather than doing things the old London way, and arranging to meet people under the clock at Waterloo Station (above), they use the technology of the internet to facilitate meetups at jazz gigs.

The now group has over 1,200 members on meetup.com, as well as a range of sponsors and supporters. The group is free to join (they ask that members give £2 occasionally if they can to support the online presence), and the website features mini-reviews of previous meet-ups and listings of the upcoming ones.

Rob Mallows himself wrote the following on a comment on my last comment column for LondonJazz:

“I setup the London Jazz Meetup partly because I was in the position of being new to jazz, but wanting to find out more and needing to find other people to share that experience with. While I'm still no expert, I've been able to chat with musicians and fans and get to hear a whole range of jazz, and find out what I like.”

The group seem to be able to see through PR and marketing budgets and get to the core of some of the great things happening on the London scene.

They're not lacking for imagination and good ideas either. I’ve spotted them cunningly arriving early to take advantage of the (few)good seats at the Con Cellar Bar, as well as joining the audience at the Royal Academy’s free ensemble series, where students play the music of major artists they have been recently coached by.

I would urge members to also check out the things happening at The Oxford, The North London Tavern, The Salisbury and Charlie Wright’s – other venues which don’t have a huge amount of marketing reach, but each with fantastic programmes of live jazz.

The group is in good health, with new members joining their Facebook group and their Meetup.com pages all the time.


Give Me The Night...of 28th June - George Benson at the Albert Hall

Booking have gone on sale today for George Benson on June 28th at the Royal Albert Hall. Support from trumpeter Christian Scott.

Other UK dates

29th June Birmingham Symphony Hall
30th June Manchester Bridgewater Hall
2nd July Glasgow Clyde Auditorium
3rd July Nottingham Royal Concert Hall
4th July Bournemouth BIC


Review: Tony Kinsey Quartet

Tony Kinsey

Tony Kinsey Quartet
(Way Out West at the Orange Tree Richmond, February 22nd 2012. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

Tony Kinsey,a central figure in British jazz for several decades, will be 85 in October. You'd never guess it, though. It is nothing short of miraculous that the drummer, composer and bandleader should be playing with the spark, vigour, drive, control, relish, crispness, presence and tonal resourcefulness that he displayed last night.

A bigger venue than the Orange Tree in Richmond should be offering to help him celebrate his birthday in October, and he certainly deserves a significant London Jazz Festival slot in November.

In Johnny Mandel's 'El Cajon', a play on the name of Al Cohn, to whom it is dedicated, Kinsey's use of the brushes caught the eye and the ear. As one LondonJazz reader waxed poetically to me by email this morning: "as soft yet as sinewy as a cat's tail." Thank you for that.

Kinsey looked a little wary at the start of the evening, which was understandable: he explained that the piano and bass chairs in his quartet were being filled by people by musicians who had stepped in at short notice, and whom he had never met before. Gradually, however, that inimitable Kinsey smile of intense concentration returned, as he started to clock the sheer quality of the players whom the fates had wafted in to play alongside him.

Bassist Calum Gourlay, nearly sixty years younger than Kinsey, was the epitome of professionalism, respectfulness, watchfulness. His calm and his sweet tone were to the fore on his very first read-through Kinsey's tune 'Vine Fields', in which he naturally caught the dappled shadows of Kinsey's gentle vision of twilight in rural France.

Pianist Jim Watson has huge variety of language, and invariably has something convincing to say, even at speed. Kinsey set a breakneck pace for Bill Evans Funkalero, around crotchet equals 280, a speed at which reveries and flights of fantasy would turn most of the human race into a danger to traffic and to themeselves. It was a pace at which Watson's secure hands and flow of ideas were mesmerizing.

A different kind of professional hazard awaits saxophone players: to have the eyes of their peers examining their every move. Sam Mayne had Bob Martin and Frank Griffith and Tim Whitehead and Chris Biscoe all gazing forth at him. But the only audible reactions of those observers - indeed the only ones possible - were gasps of approval, because Mayne was on strong form. There were many highlights where Mayne showed how the individuality of his voice grows all the time. Mayne has big experience as big band soloist, burning from the outset, but in the longer opportunities of the quartet setting, his ideas develop convincing shapes, the paragraphs are getting longer and more interesting, notably on Cole Porter''s "All of You."

Chris Biscoe also guested on Kinsey's Groove Squad and did the kind of multi-tasking challenge which rock and classical musicians rarely need to prove they can rise to: Biscoe was not only trading musical ideas eloquently with Watson and Mayne, he was also running the box office and settling the accounts for the raffle last night.

The Wednesday Orange Tree gig run by the musicians collective Way Out West, right by Richmond station, now in its eighth year, is one of the hidden gems of the London scene. World-class musicians, friendly bar staff. Go.

The next Way Out West gig is Nette Robinson on Weds Feb 29th


Jazz Yorkshire 2012 Awards open for nominations

Welcome to Yorkshire. Close your eyes and feel the brakes as the train slows down on the approach to Doncaster station. You have just arived in God's own county.

It's an essential part of the British jazz scene, and here's an opportunity to get involved:

...Jazz Yorkshire are currently inviting public nominations for the

Jazz Yorkshire Awards 2011 - 2012



(Monpas Records. Recording Review by Kai Hoffman)

From beat one of the album-launch at the 606 last month, I couldn’t wait to hear John Crawford’s new recording. The live gig had me engrossed, and I didn’t want it to end. With "Ulía River of Time," John and his band have achieved a rare feat, and have captured the kinetic energy of their live performance.

Just as on stage, this recording immediately insists upon the listener’s complete and undivided attention. You are transported to an exotic land of delicate beauty, majestic landscapes and wild intensity.

'Rio Ancho', originally written by Flamenco guitar master Sanchez Gomez is a particularly shining example of John’s virtuosic Latin-piano expertise. With 'Erghen Diado', John masterfully translates an intricate Bulgarian choral arrangement into a vast, electrically-charged instrumental soundscape, whilst 'Mi Chiquita' is an ethereal beauty – painting evocative pictures of faraway destinations. 'Madrid', one of two vocal tracks on the album, is truly poignant, with guests Emma Blackman (vocals) and Trevor Mires (trombone) delivering heart-felt performances of this unusual tune by Israeli bassist Avishai Cohen. 'Flower of the Levant', John Crawford’s original tune on the album, showcases entrancing communication between the players, with special guest Jorge Bravo on guitar.

For those of us in desperate need of winter sun, Ulía River of Time is the next best thing to flying off on a round-the-world tour, a journey I look forward to making many more times.

Ulía River of Time is available for download from CD Baby and Amazon


Review: Cuong Vu

Cuong Vu, Vortex, 20 February 2012
Drawing by Geoff Winston.
Copyright 2012. All Rights Reserved

Cuong Vu
(Vortex, 20 February 2012; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

The Dutch bassist Bob van Luijt, still in his mid-twenties, has assembled a finely balanced trio consisting of himself, drummer Yonga Sun, with whom he crossed musical paths two years ago in Holland, and ground-breaking Seattle-based trumpeter, Cuong Vu.

Their single extended set took in seven van Luijt compositions and oozed natural empathy and instinctive dynamics. Tingling excursions into the funk zone - with crisp bass and drum duets reminiscent of Hunter and Amendola - mashed it up with undercurrents of menacing atmospherics wrought by Vu, who constructed rich, grainy textures and dangerous liaisons as he played off against his own sampled sonics, in the indistinct, abstract zone often associated with the Necks.

Van Luijt, on a custom crafted, light-hued electric bass, referenced the choppy, percussive dynamics of post-Headhunters funk and the flowing fretless drive of Jaco Pastorius, its clear, acoustic tone complemented by subtle electronic interventions and echoes. He found his voice in extended solos comprising fluid, melodic statements from which he returned with ease to the bassist's more familiar supporting role. This was home territory for the precise, energetic Sun, who was not afraid to throw himself into the fray with alarming sharpness, or to subvert the metronomic concision with dreamy effects generated by holding the mike over the cymbals or close to hand-held clusters of threaded bells.

Cuong Vu's contribution drew its power from his assured elision from tempered precision to layered imprecision. He is in that group of trumpeters who ceaselessly redefine the instrument's possibilities - from Wadada and Jon Hassell to Peter Evans and Axel Dörner - and every so often there was a nudge towards Miles's constant rule-breaking - with hints of Miles's version of Lauper's 'Time After Time' surfacing intermittently.

Midway through the set, Vu's bubbling, volcanic roar prefaced the release of a densely pressurised cloud of crushed abstraction, which bounced back and forth off the walls, eventually subsiding to a snail's pace finale, imposing muddily indistinct structure on an inescapably powerful statement.

On 'King Komodo', Van Luijt's funky, flighty bass line, à la Weather Report, and Sun's hollow drum sound generated a momentum from which Vu launched off in a mercurial spin, contrasted on 'Petit Bourdon' (a reference to a low drone string of the hurdy-gurdy) by Sun's eastern tinkling bells and cymbals which gave space for gliding bass lines and a round of haunting trumpet notes, each lingering electronically as Vu's lips left the mouthpiece.

There was a sense of freshness about the whole performance, which was all the more impressive considering the trio's schedule: they had rounded off a short tour of Holland, had just taught a masterclass to the jazz students at the Guildhall - including as much discussion as playing, they said - and were about to head straight back the following morning to record for Dutch TV at the Bimhuis. A return visit, even a short season, from this trio should be encouraged!

Bob van Luijt: electric bass
Cuong Vu: trumpet and electronics
Yonga Sun: drums


Review: Beats & Pieces Big Band

Beats & Pieces Big Band with Tony Platt (fourth from right)
Livingston Sudios, November 2011 at the recording sessions for
Big Ideas

Beats & Pieces Big Band
(Ronnie Scott's, 20th February 2012. Review by Frank Griffith)

Beats & Pieces Big Band, a newish group drawn from Manchester's finest, made an impressive showing at a packed out Ronnie Scotts on 20th February. To describe Beats n Pieces as an out and out jazz big band would be missing the mark a bit, since their playing and repertoire borrow from many other genres other than conventional big band jazz.

Leader and conductor, Ben Cottrell, writes most of the material, which included a medley of two Radiohead songs that fit well into the whole scheme of things. Also notable on the programme was saxist Ben Watts' piece "Sisterhood" which closed the (all too brief) forty-five minute set.

It must be emphasised that the band is tops in terms of cohesive blend, pitching and negotiating the many tricky technical passages presented to them. A first rate ensemble indeed- especially the separate horn sections' (3 trumpets, 3 trombones, 4 saxes) ability to find their way through the angular and notey unison lines.

Cottrell's music tends to be layered rather than concerted, which is to say sections collectively playing contrasting motifs as opposed to the same theme together in harmony. There were occasionaly shades of a Don Ellis influence with the odd metered time signatures and engagingly erratic melodic twists.

This is music for the 21st century for sure, with its internet-like attention span, surfing through a plethora of different grooves, moods and tempos, all of which are squeezed into relatively short (5-6 minute) pieces.

An apt name for the band, although the emphasis on the Pieces could benefit by swerving towards sustaining and exploiting the Beat a bit more. Be sure to access their debut CD "Big Ideas" as well as the remainder of their Spring tour including dates throughout the UK.

Next tour datess:

24th March - The Sage, Gateshead (Gateshead International Jazz Festival)
28th March - Queen’s Theatre, Barnstaple

Beats & Pieces Big Band is supported by Serious and the Arts Council England. They are also grateful to the Musician’s Benevolent Fund.



Toots Thielemans 90th Birthday Tour

Two bollekes in the Groenplaats in Antwerp. What better way to celebrate International Jazz Day on 30th April, than to raise them in honour of Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Isidor, Baron Thielemans, universally known as Toots. 

30th April, in Antwerp, is the opening concert of the harmonica-playing jazz legend's 90th birthday tour. The Smithsonian transcribed a lovely interview with him when he was made an NEA fellow. The actual birthday falls on April 29th - same day as Duke Ellington's. The complete tour dates (they're all in Belgium, but he's covering the whole territory) are at  toots90.be.


Cafe Oto to launch its own record label

Cafe Oto. Photo Credit Ewan M/ Creative Commons

It was announced at the gig last night. Cafe Oto is currently test-pressing the first album on its own, new record label, OTO Roku - roku means record in Japanese . The record, entitled "the worse the better", will consist of a set recorded at the club at the end of January 2010 by Peter Brötzmann, John Edwards and Steve Noble.

There won't be a CD. That's right, no CD. The recording will appear on vinyl - with cover art by Brötzmann himself (whose extensive work as artist is on his website)....on archival/ conservation quality Duke parchment card. 180 gram pressing by Record Industry Netherlands, and mastered at D & M, Berlin.....or by download, direct from Cafe Oto's website.

If there are no glitches, release/ launch are scheduled for end-March.



CD Review: Bojan Z - Soul Shelter

Bojan Z Soul Shelter
(Emarcy B006UKB0TE. CD Review by Tom Gray)

Last year saw a bumper crop of solo piano recordings, including impressive releases from Keith Jarrett, Gwilym Simcock, and Craig Taborn. On his second solo recording, Belgrade-born Bojan Z (Bojan Zulfikarpasic in full) continues this welcome trend, adding Fender Rhodes and subtle electronic washes to his armamentarium to stretch the boundaries of what can be expressed by an unaccompanied keyboardist.

As far as opening tracks go, they don’t get much better at pulling in the listener than ‘Full Half Moon’. A plaintively singing single-note line is accompanied by gently percussive rumblings on the piano body, before evolving into an absorbing exploration which takes in propulsive ostinatos, knotty counterpoint and full-bodied Rachmaninov-esque chords.

Elsewhere on this varied set, recorded in the Fazioli Concert Hall in Sacile, Italy,  Bojan Z’s lithe post-bop lines fit in seamlessly with Balkan dance rhythms, funky backbeats and folk-tinged laments. The album’s sublime closing number, Duke Ellington’s ‘On a Turquoise Cloud’, begins with gorgeously voiced stride playing, which is then overdubbed with electronically-manipulated piano to evoke a suitably dreamlike-state.

For its rhythmic verve, lucid melodies and sheer pianism, this is an album which invites repeated listening and serves as great starting point to anybody as yet unacquainted with this remarkably individual talent.

Soul Shelter will be released on Feb 27th/ Soul Shelter on Vimeo


Cheltenham Jazz Festival (2nd - 7th May) Public booking opens today 20th Feb

Tony Dudley-Evans (above on the official preview video) and Jon Turney (below) preview this year's Cheltenham Jazz Festival (2nd - 7th May):

Brecon may be going through another uncertain time, but Britain’s other best programmed small town jazz festival remains in rude health, going by this year’s line-up.

Public booking opens today (Monday 20) for the six-day programme, with the main events as usual packed into the Saturday and Sunday of May’s first bank holiday weekend.

You can tell it is a proper festival - there’s more than any single punter can possibly hear. And there are sounds to suit all tastes, with a particularly rich mix of vocalists (artist in residence Paloma Faith, Melody Gardot, Jacqui Dankworth, Gregory Porter and last year's guest director Jamie Cullum), plenty of blues and soul, and a good helping of venturesome jazz.

Hard to choose even among the latter, but a personal top five is headed by reedsman Chris Potter, seen in inspired form last year with the Overtone Quartet, returning to lead a festival band of the cream of Birmingham Conservatoire students playing his own compositions.

Another welcome returner is Bill Frisell, touring this time not with the quartet he brought to London in 2011 but with the Beautiful Dreamers trio. It’s an apt name, quartet stalwart Eyvind Klang’s viola blending seamlessly with Frisell’s warped Americana.

It means a sprint to a different venue, but also looking forward immensely to drummer Jeff Williams' US quartet, having heard his UK ensemble play material from his fine new CD Another Time last year. It will be good to hear how the New York players, trumpeter Duane Eubanks, bassist John Hébert and the brilliant tenor player John O’Gallagher, deal with Williams’ tunes as vehicles for their freebop flights live.

Equally mouthwatering is the prospect of Fieldwork, the improvising trio featuring a collaboration between three of the most stimulating young players and composers around, Vijay Iyer on piano, altoist Steve Lehman, and drummer Tyshawn Sorey.

That only leaves one more for a quintet of gigs. A shame, as there are at least five more which leap out of the brochure – but festivals are like that. I choose Liam Noble, one of those undersung-because-not-gifted-at-self-promotion players who lend the British scene its sparkling creativity. He’s appearing with his own group, a five piece with former Loose Tube Chris Batchelor on trumpet and the energetically ubiquitous Shabaka Hutchings on clarinet.

With those inked in the diary, there should still be time for some incidental encounters, on the freestage and the festival fringe. The main venues this year include a big top on the main canvas-bedecked festival site – the, ahem, comforts of Cheltenham’s Town Hall having been set aside – and the nearby and rather swish new (RIBA- Award Winning/ follow link for pictures...) Parabola Arts Centre, courtesy of Cheltenham Ladies’ College, no less.

All this an easy day trip from London – though you’ll need to check the times of last trains if you don’t fancy driving. Here’s hoping for good weather – last year was balmy, 2010 chill and clammy. Well, the beginning of May is chancy, but the music will warm you even if the weather doesn’t.

Jon Turney 's Bristol Jazz Blog

Cheltenham Jazz Festival website


Prreview: Tony Kinsey in Richmond this Wednesday February 22nd

Tony Kinsey EP cover fromthe  CoverJazz Archive

Wednesday 22nd Feb' at Way out West, The Orange Tree Richmond :  Tony Kinsey Quartet  (Sam Mayne Alto sax, Tim Lapthorn Piano, Andy Cleyndert Bass, Tony Kinsey Drums)

Veteran drummer/composer, Tony Kinsey (Wikipedia entry) , one of the unquestioned legends of British jazz, is still playing with undimmed energy and enthusiasm at the age of 84.  He is leading a strong quartet this Wednesday at the Orange Tree, right by the station  in Richmond.

Kinsey was the original drummer in The John Dankworth Seven, part of the generation of British jazz musicians who took on the bebop flame. As first call accompanist for visiting American musician from the late 1950s onwards, he worked with Ella Fitzgerald, Buddy De Franco, Oscar Peterson and Billie Holiday. In addition to Tony’s fine drumming, he is an accomplished composer/arranger as well. This includes several film scores (See IMDB LISTING) A composition popped up today on Radio 4's
Poetry Please - September Song in Christopher Logue's homage to Pablo Neruda - the recording produced by George Martin, just before taking the producer took on full-time management of the Beatles

Tony Kinsey discography on David Taylor's site



Jack's been thinking...that the Telegraph's "Opera Novice" format would work for jazz too

Our weekly columnist Jack Davies writes:

The Daily Telegraph  has a new column from Sameer Rahim, a.k.a. the "Opera Novice". "Might it be interesting to have a novice’s-eye view on a world that often seems forbidding?" he asks. Judging by the comments online, all his readers seem to be paid-up opera aficionados, rather than fellow newcomers to the music.

Could the experience of a "jazz novice" in one of the broadsheets help coax more people across the thresholds of our jazz venues? It's definitely worth a try.

The Guardian’s rock and pop critic Alexis Petridis did write a one-off article for the Guardian in 2008 on his 6-week crash course in jazz. But, as wonderfully entertaining as Petridis’ article is, perhaps a more practically useful perspective would come from someone with the kind of regular slot Sameer Rahim has, which would give the opportunity for a writer to follow their own path, make their own choices, to develop their own long term affinity with music which appeals to them, rather than making one snap judgment and moving on.
My own experience of attracting new audience members through running a weekly gig is mostly positive. The vast majority of people who come to the venue stay and evidently enjoy the atmosphere and the music, often becoming regular audience members. But an incident a few weeks ago did set me thinking:

A young couple approached the door of the upstairs room at the North London Tavern, peering nervously inside to see Shabaka Hutchings, John Edwards and Mark Sanders midway through an intensely beautiful, abstract set. They scanned the room, looking mildly terrified, had what looked like a short but intense discussion -  and  retreated back down the stairs to the pub below.

The couple had clearly been enterprising and adventurous enough to find the venue,  and to be drawn upstairs by the sound of the music, but maybe found that they just weren't in the mood to listen.

I’ve had conversations with friends who seem mystified by jazz – they often think they need to completely understand everything that is going on to appreciate the music. They often seem strangely reassured when I tell them that - sometimes - I have no idea what is going on either, that my attention also wanders.

But I know that there are also times when the music is a transporting force, an ecstatic, ephemeral experience of sharing the same air with others whose attention is completely taken. Or as Keith Jarrett said: "Jazz is there and gone. It happens. You have to be present for it. That simple."

Is there a Jazz Novice out there whom we can try to show the richness, energy and excitement of all the different kinds of jazz going in London every night of the year? Get in touch, we'll guide you, but in the end you will not be getting told what you're SUPPOSED to like, when it's important to pay attention, etc. as in opera. You will be free, you'll find your own likes and dislikes. What's to lose?


Preview Global Music Foundation Easter Weekend Workshop and Festival at Kings Place

GMF Conducting Workshop, Italy 2008
"It’s such a rounded, holistic experience, it makes you a complete musician." Edward Simon

Helen Wallace previews this Easter's international jazz course at Kings Place, combining intensive teaching with star-studded public concerts and free foyer events, and interviews drummer and course/ festival director Stephen Keogh.

‘Not so much a school as a celebration’, is how one participant described a Global Music Foundation jazz course. And for the first-ever GMF course at Kings Place, over Easter 2012, director Stephen Keogh is determined to make the whole building buzz: ‘We’ll have free foyer events where anyone can come along and learn Samba, bring their kids to the children’s concert or listen in to some great vocal performances.’ Then there are the impressive evening concerts followed by late-night jam sessions at Pizza Express in Dean Street, for which everyone’s welcome to pile in too.

For the intensive four-day course, Keogh has assembled an exceptional faculty. Joining Jason Rebello, Deborah Brown, Jim Mullen, Peter King, Davide Petrocca, Kit Downes, Bruce Barth, Jean Toussaint, Frank Harrison and Darragh Morgan are Guillermo Rozenthuler, who explores the body and vocalisation, Keogh himself leading pulse training, Pete Churchill leading vocal ensembles, and Francesco Petreni doing Samba workshops.

As legendary saxophonist (and GMF teacher) Scott Hamilton commented: ‘The faculty here consists of the people I’d meet on gigs rather than those you’d find just in a music school.’

But though they may be big names on the international circuit, Keogh is keen to point out their other qualities: ‘I would say that this group of people are not only great musicians and teachers, but wonderful human beings, devoted to their craft and to sharing insights. I’ve been working with them for over twenty years, and they are so generous with their time and knowledge, they are inspirational.’


With such a stellar cast, who is qualified to join the course, I ask? ‘We are open to anyone over 17 who is really serious about music and wants to develop all areas of their musicianship. We don’t audition: we’re looking for those with the right attitude, not those with particular qualifications. We’ve had people with quite basic skills on an instrument develop remarkably during a course. Many of our students are at music college or have been in the past. But I would advise anyone looking for a gentle jazz-themed holiday not to apply – we have great fun but expect
everyone to work!’

He says the sheer intensity and quality of teaching (six hours per day) will give students a total immersion’ in music with activities including instrumental classes, master classes, performance opportunities, supervised rehearsals, group workshops and ensemble sessions. Add to this choir, Samba, pulse training, ear training, coordination and movement, and numerous opportunities to play with fellow students and staff, and it’s clear why this is a course with a difference. As Venezuelan jazz pianist Edward Simon put it, ‘It’s such a rounded, holistic experience... it makes you a complete musician.’

Keogh points out that fundamental aspects of musicianship, such as pulse and rhythm, often get overlooked at college when students are focused on virtuoso instrumental technique. ‘Sometimes all the fun in music-making has been bashed out of students, it’s become a dry, mechanical exercise. Discipline is vital, but the result of all the work should be joyous and we find people rediscover that joy on these courses.’ As one pianist alumnus remarked, ‘It’s given me back my love of music’.

Having run courses all over Europe, the UK and in China, Stephen Keogh’s thrilled to come to Kings Place: ‘It’s a dream come true to be able to run a course in London, one of the great music centres of the world, and this is one of the most exciting venues in the city.’

Course participants have free entry to these concerts at Kings Place:

Friday 6th:
Deborah Brown sings the American Songbook in a Double Bil with Giulermo Rozenthuler's "Viva Brasil"

Saturday 7th: a rare performance of the Janus suite by Peter King in a double bill with Jim Mullen and the Jean Toussaint Quartet

Sunday 8th:
Piano spectacular triple bill. A solo piano set from Kit Downes, Bruce Barth, Frank Harison

PLUS all students are invited to attend the Late Night Jam at Pizza Express, Dean Street.

Global Music Foundation is a not-for-profit company. Global Music Foundation WebsiteHelen Wallace's feature appeared originally in the Kings Place What's On Magazine


Jamie Cullum's song chosen as Eurovision entry - by Germany

Roman Lob from Cologne, singing Standing Still by Jamie Cullum, will represent Germany in the Eurovision Song Contest in Baku, Azerbaijan on 26th May. So there's more than three months of unflagging excitement still to go., then....


CD Review: Gianluigi Trovesi/Gianni Coscia - Frère Jacques – Round About Offenbach

Gianluigi Trovesi/Gianni Coscia - Frère Jacques – Round About Offenbach
(ECM 278 1135. CD Review by Chris Parker)

Following on from their treatments of the music of Milanese composer Fiorenzo Carpi (In cerca di cibo) and the self-explanatory Round About Weill, the Italian duo of clarinettist Gianluigi Trovesi and accordionist Gianni Coscia have now turned to the music of a figure somewhat neglected by 'serious' observers: Offenbach. In many ways, the German-born French composer of operetta is an ideal choice for this pair, since their music is always characterised by wit, charm and (elegant) vim and pep, never taking itself too seriously and always firmly prioritising entertainment, even fun.

Trovesi's clarinets (piccolo and alto) are at once agile and full-toned; Coscia's accordion jaunty and occasionally downright effervescent, and on these selections from La Belle Helène, La Périchole, La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein and Les Contes d'Hoffmann (interspersed with originals in the spirit of Offenbach), the two men intertwine, strike joyous sparks off each other, and simply revel in each other's playing to produce an irresistibly enjoyable album, which (as has become customary) comes with a bonus: a thought-provoking essay on the music from Umberto Eco.

Frere Jacques at ECM Records


John Prescott sings to defeat the NHS Bill

Abigail Hellens persuaded John Prescott to "sing" I'm Going to Sit Right Down Write Myself a Letter at Pizza Express Dean Street, accompanied by her dad, Laurie Holloway.

Abigail Hellens tells me the understanding which she and Prescott reached: Prescott was assured that his vocal would help gather thousands of signatures for the Labour Party's....



30th April is UNESCO International Jazz Day

UNESCO and the International Music Council have declared April 30th 2012 to be the first International Jazz Day


International Jazz Day, celebrated worldwide on April 30, will have its official kick-off at UNESCO Headquarters on April 27th. The UNESCO celebration, organized in cooperation with UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock, will set the stage for a series of events to take place around the globe in the following days. The Day will bring together performers, educators, governments, experts, and fans alike, as they explore together the history, meaning, impact, and legacy of jazz music throughout the world.

Thank you for the heads-up to Live Music Now, who, as a member organization of IMC/CIM will be promoting jazz in care homes, special needs schools and hospitals on International Jazz Day. April 30th would have been the 89th birthday of bassist Percy Heath (above at Alexandra Palace in 1982).


Preview: Sarah Ellen Hughes album launch - tonight

Drummer DARREN ALTMAN talked to Rosie Hanley about tonight's official launch of SARAH ELLEN HUGHES' second album at Hideaway Live in Streatham:

“Working with Sarah is always a pleasure, whether on live gig or in the studio. For me, she is the complete singer: she writes, arranges, has great time, perfect pitch, is a fantastic improviser and swings like mad! As a drummer that gets asked to play in a wide variety of styles, I love the fact that Sarah is not afraid to cross genres. She embraces all styles of music and is not afraid to mix it up, both in the studio or on gigs. It's rare that you find a singer that is comfortable on a jazz ballad, burning up-tempo flag-waver, contemporary pop tune or ballsy Blues number! When I gig with Sarah, I know it's always going to be a creative, fun experience.”

Sarah Ellen Hughes Album Launch
Hideaway, Streatham
Thursday 16 February
8.30pm £10

Sarah Ellen Hughes vocals
Rick Simpson piano
Tom Farmer bass
Joshua Blackmore drums
Chris Allard guitar



Review: Sunday night jazz at the Salisbury, Harringay

Nick Jurd (bass)
Pencil drawing at the Salisbury by Geoff Winston.
Copyright 2012. All Rights Reserved

Hans Koller Quartet and Matt Ratcliffe Trio
(The Salisbury, Harringay, Sunday, 12 February 2012; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

The Salisbury pub is a Harringay landmark - and is the venue that is putting jazz on the map in the area. Sunday's quality gig was the third of the series co-curated by Birmingham Jazz, the second city's Cobweb Collective and locally-based musicians Hans Koller, Ryan Williams and Andy Button. Jack Davies wrote a feature about the series. The Birmingham Conservatoire's links were strong; Koller teaches on the jazz course and Matt Ratcliffe's Trio are all alumni.

This double bill was a nicely balanced platform for emerging and experienced talents alike, with strong classic roots running through the whole evening. Monk, Shorter, Nichols and Wheeler pieces featured in Koller's set and Tristano and Waldron were mixed in with Ratcliffe's own standards-based compositions for the second.

Both pianists led by example, their distinctive styles shaping the course of each number, yet sitting back to allow space for each musician to give rein to their technical and expressive prowess and a well-honed sense of small group dynamics.

Koller has a subversively deviant streak in his quiet improvisations and, as with Gerd Dudek a couple of weeks ago at the Vortex, he favoured the inclusion of demanding repertoire such as Nichol's 'Step Tempest' to stretch his quartet. Teamed with Jeff Williams, he has one of the most accomplished and versatile drummers on the scene, with snares and cymbals shaping the percussive tone in their 'straight ahead' set.

Nick Jurd's light and supple bass style found easy resonance with Williams and with Mike Fletcher's impressive alto. The English pastoral mood of Kenny Wheeler's 'We Support The Night' was the perfect vehicle for Jurd's limber runs with Williams picking his accent points in response and Fletcher dropping in to build up the momentum.

Fletcher was the key to the statement and restatement of themes with a clear, acoustic sound that leant towards Pepper rather than Hodges. The conversational phrasing of his less-is-more delivery was underpinned by a mature confidence and he could up the ante to fill the room with powerhouse volume.

In the second set, Tymek Jozwiak proved to be an engaging drummer with impressive ability, who responded in kind to Matt Ratcliffe's energetic lead, with a range that took in the softest of mallet touches and crisp flights of swinging brushwork, enjoying light, rhythmic banter with Jurd, who doubled on bass for both groups.

Ratcliffe's piano anchored a glutinous, lingering dissection of Monk's 'Misterioso' which led circuitously back to its blues roots to round off the final set with challenging, oblique style.

The attentive, enthusiastic audience helped make the make the whole evening gell, auguring well for the Salisbury's fortnightly jazz programme and the treats it has in store.

Hans Koller Quartet
Hans Koller - Piano
Mike Fletcher - Alto Saxophone
Nick Jurd - Bass
Jeff Williams - Drums

Matt Ratcliffe Trio
Matt Ratcliffe - Piano
Nick Jurd - Bass
Tymek Jozwiak - Drums


CD Review: Julian Joseph - Live at the Vortex in London

Julian Joseph - Live at the Vortex in London
(ASC Records asc cd 132. CD Review by Chris Parker)

It's difficult to believe that one of the pivotal figures in the much-vaunted 1980s UK jazz 'renaissance', pianist Julian Joseph, has not made a recording for over 15 years, but he has toured the world in this period, premiered two operas, and presented radio programmes galore, so his reputation with the public – as demonstrated by the rapturous reception he receives on this rare gig from the Vortex in 2008 – remains undimmed.

As a solo performer, he brings a veritable cornucopia of musical styles to the table: he is as familiar with Bartók, Prokofiev and Gershwin as he is with Monk (here represented by 'Think of One'), and as the sleevenote to this album proclaims, 'from classical to rock and pop, everything is relevant' to him.

Such natural eclecticism is manifest to varying degrees in everything he plays, although his default position is a florid, Tyneresque tumultuousness that builds, frequently via thunderous double-time passages, from original themes such as the opening 'Bluesprovisation' or the evocative 'The Reverend (back home to glory)'. Such slow-burning but relentless power might perhaps have been set off against the odd quieter moment to bring a little dynamic variation to the set, but this is determinedly a tour de force in which all Joseph's considerable chops are on display throughout, and is, arguably, none the worse for that – a wildly enthusiastic Vortex audience certainly (and audibly) enjoys every moment of his 45-minute performance.

ASC Records


Review: 2012 Dankworth Prizewinners Concert

Trinity Jazz Ensemble 2011
Photo credit: David Sinclair. Reproduced by permission of TLCMD

Dankworth Prize for Jazz Composition- 2012 Prizewiinners' Concert by ensembles from Trinity Laban
(Ronne Scott's, 13th February 2012. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

The Dankworth Prize for Jazz Composition is now in its fourth year. For me, it’s an annual reminder that nothing stands still- probably because our write-up of the very first Prizewinners’ concert in 2009 was also the very first review ever to be published on these pages.

That night, John himself presented the award, which didn’t yet carry his name. This year, the second anniversary of his death having fallen last week, it was the turn of a new generation of Dankworths to step up and present the prizes: John’s granddaughter Emily Dankworth wielded the envelopes, spoke clearly and succinctly, and officiated extremely well.

There have been other changes to the prize in the first four years. The prize originally had both big band and small band categories, and now focuses solely on big band, with a prize for the winner (this year James Opstad) and a runner-up (William Gibson) .

What of the winning pieces? Gibson’s piece Solicitude had a sonorous opening for brass choir, and appealing antiphonal writing, and a melodic sweep reminiscent of Maria Schneider. The piece gave a good platform for soloists such as Johnny Murray on trumpet and Tom Varrall on guitar. Opstad’s winning piece “What Was the Question?” was far bolder. Opstad develops a real sense of narrative and build, by alternating rhythmically insistent monotones and semitone clusters with unexpected melodic shapes. It's the sort of piece which doesn’t give everything it’s got on a single hearing.

The Dankworth Prize evening ushers in the new, but has also invented its own tradition by sticking to some unchanging virtues. The annual event serves as a celebration of the craft of the arranger, not just in encouraging students to write new work for the medium, but also by setting these works in the context of a concert bringing into life pieces from the repertoire . The work which Malcolm Earle Smith does to inroduce students to older repertoire – arrangements by Benny Carter and Fletcher Henderson were played by the Trinity Jazz Ensemble with panache, Corrie Dick particualrly bright and alert on drums. Trinity is steeped in big band tradition – Bobby Lamb’s band – I think? - pre-dated the jazz course.

The evening also serves as a showcase for a large number of the student jazz musicians from Trinity (Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance). And a demonstration of the TLC with which the conservatoire nurtures its students. There did seem to be a particular buzz last night, probably because Trinity has such a strong cohort of musicians this year. Sam James' trio opened proceeding, showcasing a tenor sax player capable of projecting to audiences in the manner of Joshua Redman: Leo Aaron- Richardson. Laura Jurd was highly impressive taking solo turns. Frank Sinclair is a strong-toned lead alto player in the manner of Bob Martin.

Mark Lockheart directed the Contemporary Jazz Ensemble through most of Gil Evans’ 1960 album “Out of the Cool.” in celebration of the Gil Evans centenary. The moodier numbers : Sunken Treasure and Where Flamingoes Fly were atmospheric, effective. Pianist Elliott Galvin’s solo spot on La Nevada may – with good reason- have garnered the loudest applause of the evening.

It was the kind of Ronnie's evening when the bush telegraph functions well: professional players and singers were dropping in from the bar upstairs and muttering things like “What a band”, or “that drummer!” (referring to George Bird). A great night.

The Dankworth Prize is supported by the Worshipful Company of Musicians and the Wavendon Foundation, was instigated by Art Mead. The judges were Nikki Iles, Tim Garland and Frank Griffith. The prize is produced in association withTrinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and Ronnie Scott’s.


The Day Music Criticism Died?

When reading this opera review from the LA Times, I did pause to wonder if music criticism will or can sink lower.There are still good critics around, but they need to make a lot of noise to be  heard...


Review: Dave Jones' Affinity

Dave Jones' Affinity. Left to right: Tony Woods, Meredith White,
Dave Jones, Simon Pearson, Pete Callard 

Dave Jones' Affinity
(Orange Tree, Richmond, 8th February 2012, presented by Way Out West. Review by Jonathan Whines)
In the sub-zero temperatures of last Wednesday night, some hardier souls gathered in the cosy basement of the WOW Jazz Club at the Orange Tree in Richmond to hear new compositions from the bassist Dave Jones and his wonderful band Affinity.

Dave’s band has been around for some years - there's a great first album Dave Jones' Affinity (Black Box) - but he has clearly been busy writing new material in the past year. The title of one of his beautiful ballads “Joy at Finding A Beautiful Thing in an Unexpected Place” sums up the experience of hearing this music for the first time: Dave’s writing is sophisticated and nuanced. Just when you think you know where he’s going, there is a change of texture or tempo, you do find yourself in an unexpected place and …. it’s beautiful!!

Drummer Simon Pearson’s effortless and intricate rhythms and Dave’s surging bass propelled the music,while Tony Woods (saxes) always brings such commitment to his music and can shift between the sweetest lyrical playing to the growling and screaming full ahead sax.

A particular pleasure was to hear the harmonized guitar or piano line give a finished edge to the melodic sound. Pete Callard (guitar) is a dazzling soloist, who also offers a whole palette of shifting textures and sounds. Pianist Meredith White, whilst not indulging in the technical fireworks of her colleagues brings an amazing quality of presence to her playing. She is a very sensitive accompanist and her improvisation has a very particular quality. If jazz is about endeavouring to create in the moment then Meredith seems to embody this in her playing, which makes for compelling listening.

This delicate yet powerful music requires the band to really listen and interact which they do to great effect. As with all good music these musicians can draw you into their particular harmonic and melodic world; the analytic brain of the listener can quietly close down, allowing the simple and great pleasure of just listening to a really great band..

Were you a stranger in Richmond on that freezing night and you happened to stumble upon this gig I have no doubts you would have experienced “Joy at Finding A Beautiful Thing in an Unexpected Place ! ”. I understand a new album of the current material is being planned. Definitely a band to look out for..

Way Out West (wowjazz.org) is weekly Wednesday gig. This week 15th: the Pat Bettison Trio


2012 Jazz Grammy Awards

Grammys Time. Just reporting.... The jazz category winners were:

30. Best Improvised Jazz Solo
500 Miles High
Chick Corea, soloist
Track from: Forever (Corea, Clarke & White)
[Concord Records]

31. Best Jazz Vocal Album
The Mosaic Project
Terri Lyne Carrington & Various Artists
[Concord Jazz]

32. Best Jazz Instrumental Album
Corea, Clarke & White
[Concord Records]

33. Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album
The Good Feeling
Christian McBride Big Band
[Mack Avenue Records]

Looking further up and down the list.....

- Tony Bennett: his Duets II album won in three categories
6. Best Pop Duo/Group Performance (Body And Soul with Amy Winehouse)
11. Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album
59. Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s)
Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me) - Arranger Jorge Calandrelli

- Pat Metheny won 29. Best New Age Album for What's it All About
- Alison Krauss, a headliner at last years LJF, won 44. Best Bluegrass Album for Paper Airplane

-Béla Fleck & Howard Levy won 57. Best Instrumental Composition
for the track Life In Eleven from Rocket Science.

- The Tedeschi Trucks Band, great at 2011 North Sea Jazz, won 45. Best Blues Album for Revelator

-Booker T Jones - who headlined at last year's Bluesfest London - won 7. Best Pop Instrumental Album for The Road From Memphis

-Manfred Eicher of ECM had received a nomination - for classical producer - but didn't win.


CD Review: Partikel - Cohesion

Partikel - Cohesion
(Whirlwind Recordings WR4618. CD Review by Chris Parker)

Anyone who enjoyed the self-released eponymous debut album by Partikel will be unsurprised to find their follow-up recording appearing on Michael Janisch's aptly named label, Whirlwind; like its predecessor, Cohesion conforms to the enterprising label's house style by being hard-driving and unpretentious, and it fairly bristles with the verve that comes naturally to a band that continues to hone its interactive skills in regular Monday-night jam sessions at its 'base', Streatham's Hideaway.

Saxophonist Duncan Eagles cites Sonny Rollins as a major influence, and this is apparent not only in his burly sound, but also in the melodic freedom frequently cited by the great American as one of the main reasons he enjoyed playing in his occasional celebrated pianoless bands.

Bassist Max Luthert and drummer/percussionist Eric Ford (and the post-solidus noun is just as important as 'drummer', since the album's textural variety is a vital ingredient of its appeal) provide enough energy to light Streatham, let alone entertain it, and all in all, with its tumultuous but considered (see album-title) approach to improvisation on an impressive range of forms, from jazz to African and South American music, with a dash of funk thrown in, the trio's second album is a more than worthy successor to its fierce, freewheeling predecessor.

The London launch of Cohesion is at the 606 Club, Wednesday 16th February at 10 15pm

Partikel at Whirlwind Recordings


"Grass Roots Jazz in Crisis" in the North East, says Lance


CD Review: The Ronnie Scotts All-Stars - Jazz Classics

The Ronnie Scotts All Stars - Jazz Classics
(RSR001. CD Review by Sebastian Scotney)

Ronnie Scott's has its own record label. Again. Which is right, and the CD is a good and joyful thing.

The CD Jazz Classics has catalogue number RSR001. I know what's coming. Some are going to argue that it isn't REALLY No 1.... that Ronnie Scotts has a whole history of previous recordings. While we're at it, the pedant might also question whether all the songs are in fact “Jazz Classics.” Whatevs.

The CD, recorded partly in front of an audience, and partly - in the same acoustic of the club - without one, works well as a showcase for the house trio of Ronnie Scotts music director James Pearson – piano/arranger, Sam Burgess – bass, and Pedro Segundo - drums, who regularly play the early evening slot at Ronnie's. They often have to work their socks off to distract the Ronnie's punters from their workaday conversations and to concentrate on the music. Which they do brilliantly. Night after night. Segundo's charm and theatricality have, in a very short time,  become a fixture. The sleeve notes have a touching reminder of the tragic death of Ronnie's house drummer Chris Dagley, which is still sorely felt at the club.

But the thought of this being the 1 stayed in the mind. The reason that the front line of this quintet, vocalist Natalie Williams and saxophonist Alex Garnett work so well as sparring partners is what they do with the 1, the first beat.

Williams asserts it, lands hard on it, possesses it, reinforces it, often decorates it with an inverted mordent. Her work here is an affirmation. That originally Italian song "More than the Greatest Love" has probably never been performed with quite this level of conviction, of complete persuasiveness.

She has a German heritage, and brings something personal and different to this music. There is a German word "betonen" - untranslatable (?) - which just seems to me to describe well how Natalie Williams has a way of living on, at, with every first beat.

As a result Williams produces her best singing on record yet. RSR001 is Natalie on peak form. The words get the treatment. Rickie Lee Jones' Dat Dere is characterful, teasing, hilarious, with some magic on the side-drum rim from Segundo, and Johnny Griffin-ish tenor swagger from Garnett. But there's more: check out inimitable, ecstatic Natalie lion-house noises at 2' 16” and 5' 16” of Bye Bye Blackbird. We'll offer a prize for the best transcription.

As for Garnett, in the legacy of Hank Mobley, the saxophonist responds to the first beat, uses it as a springboard, hides behind it teasingly (as in “I can see you but you can't see me” ), suggests it, tricks it, avoids it, finds surreptitious ways to lose it. What the hell, it's something you can always pick up from lost property in the morning, because with a rhythm section of this class, it's going to be there anyway.

As on his debut CD Serpent (Whirlwind Records, 2011), Garnett stakes his claim to be among the most inventive and subtle saxophonists we have.

The CD is cheery, life-affirming, and will work superbly as what the Japanese call "Omiyage", a present from a specific place - check the references to Frith Street in Lionel Bart's “On the Street Where you Live.”

RSR001 contains good music, well played and recorded, and is an ideal means to remember, and keep in the memory, our No 1 Jazz club, Ronnie Scott's.



CD Review: Barb Jungr, Kuljit Bhamra, Russell Churney - Durga Rising: An Indo-Jazz Adventure

Barb Jungr, Kuljit Bhamra, Russell Churney - Durga Rising: An Indo-Jazz Adventure
(Keda Records KEDCD46.CD Review by Chris Parker)

Recorded in 1996, but available only by mail order until now, Durga Rising is billed as 'an Indo-Jazz Adventure', but compared with, say, the Mayer/Harriott Indo-Jazz Fusions recordings, or the intriguing albums made for Babel by Amit Chaudhuri under the thought-provoking rubric 'This is Not Fusion', singer Barb Jungr, percussionist Kuljit Bhamra and the late pianist Russell Churney combine to make music that owes a great deal more to pop and even jazz cabaret than to either advertised form.

Not that this is necessarily a disadvantage: Jungr's voice, always a wonderfully affecting instrument, with its trademark throbbing tremolo emphasising particularly dramatic moments, and its ability to switch seamlessly between delicacy and power, is tellingly set against Bhamra's subtly dexterous tablas and Churney's limpid, elegant piano to make an immediately attractive and frequently downright hypnotic album, its originals infectiously catchy, its covers (which include a raunchily effective version of Bob Dylan's 'Blind Willie McTell'and a sensuous reading of John Martyn's Go Down Easy') utterly compelling.

There are guest appearances from guitarist/banjo player James Tomalin (who also co-wrote three tracks) and the exceptional cellist Stanley Adler (who was often heard with Mike and Kate Westbrook at this time), and overall, this fifteen-track album (four hitherto unreleased songs are included here), while not exactly the 'genre-defying' music that might be expected from its packaging, is none the less pleasing, even beguiling, for that.

Available from Keda Records


Interview: Leszek Możdżer

Leszek Możdżer. Photo credit: mozdzer.com / Krzysztof Szlęzak

UK-based Polish journalist Sławek Orwat interviews the pianist Leszek Możdżer.

Sławek Orwat. Where did your adventure with music begin?

Leszek Możdżer . I pretty much knew from the age of four that I wanted to be involved in music. As soon as a piano appeared in the house - I was about three or four at the time - I spent a lot of time on it. I knew then that that was it. Music filled my dreams, I prayed I could be a musician. I dreamt of the stage. I played in bands with my school friends. From the very beginning music was my companion and my first love.

S.O. Gdańsk is a city which rejuvenated many aspects of Poland, from politics to culture. Would you say the city has a particular ambience?

L.M. There’s one very important thing in Gdańsk: the sea. When you stand by the sea and look into the distance, something changes in the way you think. It brings a sense of perspective into your everyday thoughts and makes you think about your life; it brings your hopes and dreams to the surface. Whenever I arrive in Gdańsk, the first thing I do is head straight for the beach and stare into the distance. That's a very important ritual for me. I think that that space, that sense of infinity, definitely changes the way people think.

S.O. 1991 was a breakthrough year in your career. How do you look back on that year now?

L.M. When Tomek Gwinciński left Miłość the need arose for a new harmonic instrument. So Tymon Tymanski made me an offer to work with them. I was a beginner back then with a head full of dreams. The band shaped me majorly, and it was for many years what you could call my 'maternal' band. In it I felt sheltered. I could experiment and develop safe in the knowledge that I was in the avant-garde; I played underground, I was changing the world and I had something to gain.

S.O. But there came a time when you became so popular that you were asked for your handprint for the promenade of stars in Gdańsk. You said at the time that it was the silliest thing you'd ever done…

L.M. Of course saying that was spite on my part; it was with pride and joy I took up the offer of leaving a mark of myself behind me. I think that everyone can create beauty, as well as devastation, with their hands. Hands are tools like any other. The secret doesn't really lie in the hands. The secret lies in the search for the truth, the purity of one's intentions and in trying to succeed in one's dreams.

S.O. I'm holding your Chopin CD, and a copy of 'Nowy Czas' magazine with a review of your album 'Komeda'. It seems like you're reaching for the greatest Polish composers. Is this fusion of classical and jazz going to continue in your future projects?

L.M. I think that the fusion of jazz and classical music is inevitable and that sooner or later the two worlds will have to meet. In my opinion the only thing that separates the two musical styles is that jazz is amplified when played and classical music is played without amplification. That's really the only area in which classical music loses out to jazz, to rock, to rock 'n' roll and to pop. It's because it's not presented in a modern way. It's primarily presented in an old fashioned way, without loudspeakers, without lighting, in costumes of bygone times. If all the modern methods of presenting music were used to present classical music it could be equally impressive to the public as rock music - I predict a great comeback of classical music in the charts.

S.O. What emotions accompany you when playing the work of Krzysztof Komeda? You've been inspired by his work before - will this composer inspire yet more of your creations?

L.M. I think that this will be the only CD that I record with Komeda's work. I don’t think this will happen again. When I recorded this album I was mentally and financially exhausted, and I didn't have it in me to create my own album, and besides, I finally felt mature enough to record an album of Komeda's music. I had been through quite a long alcoholic period in my life, just like Komeda had.

So I think that all the factors came together and recording the album gave me closure at an important point in my life. Combined with the impulse to release an album, and taking my mental state into account, recording Komeda's music was the ideal solution for me. The Komeda CD became a bestseller unexpectedly. After recording the album, a lot in my life changed.

S.O. You've turned 40 this year?

L.M. I feel like I'm still only at the beginning of my journey. I don’t think I've recorded an important CD yet - my best recordings are still ahead of me. I don’t know what to think about the whole idea of being 40. We'll have to wait and see what happens. I'm waiting. I'm interested to see what life has to bring.

This interview appeared in its original form in the influential UK Polish magazine Nowy Czas. An extended version, also in Polish, is on slawek-orwat.blogspot.com. With thanks to Justyna Fenrych for the translation.

Leszek Możdżer artist page at ACTmusic.com


Eddie Daniels at the Barbican

Eddie Daniels, Kristjan Järvi, members of the London Symphony Orchestra
Barbican Hall, 9th February 2012
Photo Credit: Roger Thomas
A concert which went out on a definite high, with Luther Henderson/ Ellington Harlem, the final section reprised as a blowing session, and Eddie Daniels doing exactly what he said he would  in our interview last month. The action now switches to Canterbury.


Review: Gilad Atzmon

Gilad Atzmon at CBSO Centre, January 2011
Photo: Russ Escritt/ Birmingham Jazz

Gilad Atzmon with Strings
(Ronnie Scott's, 8th February 2012. Review by Chris Parker)

In his latest book, The Wandering Who? A Study of Jewish Identity Politics (Zero Books), Gilad Atzmon attributes his Damascene conversion from 'Jewish nationalist' to 'ordinary human being' who had 'left Chosen-ness behind' to his sudden exposure, as a teenage conscript, to the music of Charlie Parker, specifically the great alto player's Bird with Strings album, described by Atzmon as 'an intense, libidinal extravaganza of wit and energy'.

Thirty-odd years on, the Israeli-born saxophonist/clarinettist documented his devotion to Parker, bop and his consequent idealised picture of the country that spawned them in an album, the title of which reveals the depth of his subsequent disillusionment: In Loving Memory of America. The music on this recording takes the jazz-soloist-with-strings format and explores its possibilities, partly via the Parker route (standards in which searing alto improvisations blaze like so many comets across a lush backdrop of shimmering strings) and partly via original compositions ranging from smart tangos to intense personal meditations.

This rich mix also informed this ravishing performance: beginning (as his album does) with the touchingly rueful 'Everything Happens to Me', and interspersing other standards ('If I Should Lose You', 'What is This Thing Called Love', 'April in Paris') with heartfelt originals (most memorably his scornful portrait of a recent US president, 'Burning Bush'), Atzmon delivered nearly two hours of characteristically fierce, committed music, in which his soaring alto and deliciously full-toned clarinet were tellingly set against a jazz rhythm section led by pianist John Turville and a string quartet led by Lizzie Ball (perhaps best
known in the jazz world for her work – both instrumental and vocal – with the folk/jazz outfit Eclectica!).

Driven with bristling energy by drummer Eddie Hick, this was music which, like its 1950 template, was an utterly beguiling mixture of swooning beauty and protean energy, Atzmon's alternately passionately vigorous and affectingly brooding solos perfectly complemented by his seven musical accomplices, to the obvious delight of a hushed but properly appreciative audience.


Gilad Atzmon at Zero Books