CD Review: George Crowley Quartet – Paper Universe

CD Review: George Crowley Quartet – Paper Universe
(Whirlwind Recordings WR4622. CD Review by Tom Gray

Tenor saxophonist George Crowley brings to this recording the kind of sage judgement and restraint you would more typically associate with a veteran of the scene than a twenty-something music college graduate. The young London-based player eschews showy pyrotechnics in favour of unhurried, lyrical playing on an accomplished and assured debut.

The album’s title references the German writer W. G. Sebald’s description of the chaos of an academic’s office. It is the absence of clutter, however, that characterises this music. There is an abundance of space: between the thoughtful introductory statements of Crowley’s solos; in the sparse, alert comping of pianist Kit Downes; in the glacial opening theme of ‘Still Life’.

This latter composition brings to mind groups such as Fly and Polar Bear, but Crowley’s writing also embraces the tradition with echoes of the free-bop of Ornette Coleman on ‘Marty McFly’ and the sophisticated balladry of Wayne Shorter on ‘Embracing Air’. The most discernible influence on Crowley as an instrumentalist appears to be Mark Turner, from his attractively breathy, vintage tone to his snaking upper register turns of phrase. ‘Demerara Days’, a mid-tempo swinger, is presumably a nod to Turner’s 2001 album, ‘Dharma Days’.

The line-up is completed by the remaining members of Downes’s working trio, with Calum Gourlay on bass and James Maddren on drums. Though operating in a more straight-ahead context here than in Downes’s trio, their fine-tuned interplay and ear for more abstract realms helps to get the most out of the material, giving it a contemporary edge.

This is the kind of debut on which illustrious careers are built, and which deserves to raise Crowley’s profile well beyond the London scene.


CD Review: Euan Burton - Occurrences

Euan Burton - Occurrences
(Whirlwind Recordings WR4621. CD Review by Chris Parker

Scottish bassist/composer Euan Burton has been working on the compositions forming this seven-part suite for several years, and there is, consequently, a discernible refinement and polish to the finished article, on which he is joined by NY-based saxophonist Will Vinson, Irish guitarist Mark McKnight, a fellow Scot, pianist Steve Hamilton, and drummer James Maddren.

Burton himself comments: ‘I was trying to think like a film director or screenwriter in some ways, developing a narrative, pacing it right for the audience and leaving space for the actors to make their roles their own’, and his ‘occurrences’ (somewhat unhelpfully titled simply ‘One’ to ‘Seven’) are indeed thoughtfully arranged, interspersing elegant restraint with vigorous bustle, the attractively soft-textured but lively Burton meshing with the ever resourceful Maddren to provide a platform for a series of absorbing solos from the front line.

McKnight has been hailed as ‘the future of Irish jazz guitar’, and his clean, clearly articulated single-note solos are complemented by similarly accomplished Vinson statements, but overall this is very much a group endeavour, each player’s appreciation of Burton’s understated but insinuating compositions (often built from a deceptively simple repeated melodic phrase) palpable from their commitment to what is a classy, but commendably unshowy, piece of work.


Review: Christian Lee/ Flea Circus/ Sabrina Mahfouz at Platform 33

Sabrina Mahfouz. Photo Credit: Naomi Woddis

Christian Lee/ Flea Circus/ Sabrina Mahfouz at Platform 33
(Servants Jazz quartrs, Dalston, 26th April 2012. Review by Jeanie Barton)

The Servants Jazz Quarters, just to the rear of The Vortex on Bradbury Street in Dalston was completely packed. We had trouble finding it, but we were perhaps the only ones. A plain entrance door with small brass letters SJQ above led us into a warm bohemian underground retreat, where the young, hip, artistic crowd had assembled to see Platform 33’s unusual triple bill of magic, poetry and jazz, a showcase for emerging artists programmed by popular host Chloe Booker.

Each act has approximately half an hour to perform a little of what they do and explain how they came to be doing it; Christian Lee went from working in holiday camps and as a dancer on cruise ships to being an in demand magician and comedian; playing to the likes of Tony Blair’s family at Number 10 and for Tom Cruise’s son’s birthday party. He impressed us most with his entrance of inflating a surgical glove and popping it to reveal a bottle of red wine inside. I could have watched him do that all night.

Jack Davies provided the jazz component, his quartet comprised of himself on trumpet, Rob Cope on soprano and bass clarinet, Aidan Shepherd on accordion and James Opstad on double bass. They were giving a pre-launch airing of their new album Flea Circus; a collection of experimental original numbers combining unusual time signatures and with folk/classical features and jazz improvisation. The overall sound brought to my mind the music of Nina Rota for the more bizarre Federico Fellini films and the recently commercially successful Gotan Project. Alongside Davies’ compositions - which included a sad lament based on two of his cats dying from Aids - their interpretation of Mahler’s Symphony no 1 was bewitching. (See Chris Parker's review of Flea Circus).

The evening was rounded off by performance poet Sabrina Mahfouz a stunning petite cockney brunette who still has an Egyptian passport, preventing her from pursuing a career at the Ministry of Defence she found herself working as a waitress in strip clubs and night clubs, and being creatively inspired to write. She is a master of accents and very amusing in an almost Alan Bennett monologue kind of way but with a percussive rap enthused undertone. Her observations are deep and moving also; we were told at the end that she has been spotted by Working Title Films who are keen to use her as a writer.

I’m sure these inspiring artists will not remain underground or under radar for long.


Toots Thielemans is 90 this Sunday 29 April #toots90

Toots is 90 this Sunday. Here's the story (in Dutch) from Brussels TV. Quick synopsis: Toots Thielemans was invited to the Belgian Royal Palace in Laeken earlier this week by King Albert II and Queen Paola - and Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo - and gave a private concert. Toots' wife Huguette reports on her conversation with the Queen, comparing how long they've been married. Toots talks about his 90th birthday concert tour, whoch was sold out in three days. Happy Birthday for tomorrow to a jazz legend!


A simple change to our Jazz in London banner

An astute reader came up with one of those blindingly simple ideas today. Rather than linking through to the Jazz in London website from the banner on the left hand side, how about link to a pdf of the current issue of Mary Greig's completely indispensable publication. No sooner said than done.

The May edition of JiL is up on the JiL website already and copies are in the usual places. And Mary has supplied a surprise bit of news - and I would say a disappointment - on the bottom right hand corner of page 16.


CD review: Ernie Watts Quartet - Oasis

Ernie Watts Quartet - Oasis
(Flying Dolphin Records FD 1008. CD review by Chris Parker)

Perhaps because he’s the ultimate professional – studio musician supreme, guest saxophonist with everyone from Steely Dan to Aretha Franklin, frontline soloist with Charlie Haden’s Quartet West etc. etc. – Ernie Watts has never received quite the personal acclaim that is routinely granted to, say, Sonny Rollins or Joe Lovano.

Here, though, backed by his regular band – pianist Christof Saenger, bassist Rudi Engel and drummer Heinrich Koebberling – Watts demonstrates just what an accomplished player he is: possessed of an utterly distinctive sound, a highly affecting, intensely personal, grainy, singing warble that can flutter through ballad material and tear it up, like a terrier worrying a rat, at the most murderous of tempos, he addresses five in-band originals, a couple of delicious ballads, a bop staple (‘Shaw Nuff’) and – a standout performance – a lengthy examination of Coltrane’s ‘Crescent’ with all the elegance, power and control of a master craftsman at his peak.

Equally adept at the rich-toned theme statement and the double-time solos to which it frequently gives rise, Watts imbues everything he plays with sheer class, his time impeccable, his musical imagination delightfully fecund, his rapport with his impressive, sparky band faultless; he’s simply one of the most assured, resourceful saxophonists on the planet, and this album contains ten superb examples of his art.

Ernie Watts is at Ronnie Scott's on May 7 and 8.


Children and music venues: Can anything be done?

This discussion between a parent in Leeds and the management of Colin Towns' band Blue Touch Paper just doesn't feel right:

PARENT: My 12 year old son (big Benny Greb fan) and I look forward to seeing you in Leeds... It's just dawned on me, is a twelve year old allowed in?

BLUE TOUCH PAPER Hello [S]. We regret to say that unfortunately the Wardrobe in Leeds state a 14+ only policy for this event. 14s to 18s must be accompanied by an adult. There are plans for future tours if that's any consolation.



John Fordham's brand new Guardian Take Five Blog

The leading jazz critic in the UK, John Fordham, has a new monthly blog from the organization on the floors above me here at Kings Place, The Guardian.

John's first column, published today,  has:

1) The 50th Anniversary of Sonny Rollins album The Bridge

2) A feature on Tineke Postma from Herrenveen in Holland

3)The New York Standards Quartet

4) Corea /Burton

5) Tributes to the sadly departed: Teddy Charles, Pete Saberton, Tony Marsh


NB: It is necessary to register with the Guardian, supplying an email and a password in order to post comments for the first time.


Angela Kearney wins at Angela Carrington Open Mic Awards

The Angela Carrington Awards is a competition for open mic singers celebrating the diversity of the open mic scene in and around London. Now in its 7th year, this year’s audition day held in March, was organised and run by Catherine Lima at the Vortex Jazz Club.

Catherine writes:

"Thank you to everyone who took part in this year’s event. We had a great day with 24 participants from a wide variety of open mic venue across London. Our judges this year were: Lee Gibson, Paul Pace and
Charlotte Keech – many thanks to all three of them for their time on the day and to Paul Higgs, our fantastic accompanist.

The four nominated singers from the audition process were:

Dawn Cooper- (The Ram Jam)
Noa Alvarez – (The Swan and the Orange Tree)
Angela Kearney – (The Vortex)
Su Holliday- (Little Bread Big Jam).

These four singers went on to sing at the Angela Carrington Awards Ceremony, hosted by Singer/Songwriter, Brian Shaw on the 8th April. The judges on that night were Oliver Weindling of the Vortex and jazz singer, Dexter Moseley.
Angela Kearney, pictured above, was the worthy winner of the Angela Carrington Award 2012. The awards ceremony night was very well attended and over the two events a total of £1,232 was raised for Bipolar UK.

The event was started by Brian Shaw in 2006 in memory of Angela Carrington, a jazz singer and classically trained musician and a firm supporter of the open mic circuit. Whilst suffering from clinical depression, she took her own life in 2005. Raising awareness of mental health problems plays a significant part in this annual event."


Review: Mario Castronari Quartet at the Golden Lion, Sydenham

Mario Castronari Quartet
(The Golden Lion, Sydenham. Review by Rob Mallows - organiser, London Jazz Meetup)

New York. Chicago. Paris. New Orleans......But Sydenham?This London suburb isn't somewhere one instantly associates with jazz. Yet once a month, the Golden Lion puts on great live jazz music for an enthusiastic crowd (and there are separate blues nights too). With the London Overground making central London only 25 minutes away, it's well placed to flourish.

Thanks to the enthusiastic efforts of Fiona McSorley - who has patiently built up these monthly jazz nights without website or email, relying solely on word of mouth - the pub is host to some great small-scale gigs which deliver big results. The ambience is good - think 'south London boozer', with embossed wallpaper, pictures of local scenes on the wall and regulars clustered at the bar. And this is a good thing: it's a place to meet, to chat, escape the stresses of life in London.

The jazz is in a back room, with a capacity of around 45. It's friendly and intimate, a mix of regulars and newcomers like me, there with seven members of the London Jazz Meetup. The sound is good, thanks to an cracking Bose PA and overall it's a cosy spot for London's players to stretch their jazz muscles. Sadly, the piano has now gone.

That didn't matter on the night I attended (24th  April 2012), with bassist Mario Castronari 's quartet playing a 2 hour set of standards and jazz-twists on modern soul and pop classic - Black Orpheus, Night in Tunisia and Watermelon Man the highlights. Mario uses every inch of fingerboard real estate to deliver wonderful grooves. Joined by sax player Brian Iddenden, Dominic Grant - whose finger-style acoustic guitar bought a latin tinge to proceedings -, and Jasper Morrissey on drums, his quartet entertained us properly and thoroughly.

Location: 115 Sydenham Road, London SE26 5JX

Venue information:


CD Review : Marbin - Breaking the Cycle

Marbin - Breaking the Cycle.
(MoonJune Records MJR038. CD Review by Chris Parker

Marbin is a name derived from the band’s core duo – saxophonist Danny Markovitch and guitarist Dani Rabin – and this is their second album, the line-up expanded to include bassist Steve Rodby and drummer Paul Wertico. They’re basically a jazz-rock outfit, though their time-signatures are not as devilishly tricksy as those often associated with this subgenre; they favour open, airy, accessible – even downright hummable – themes that have accommodating chord sequences providing the musical equivalent of open goals for the band’s soloists.

The opening track, ‘Loopy’, is an arresting, anthemic piece, skilfully propelled by the ever resourceful Wertico (the album is notable throughout for the extraordinary array of percussion sounds provided both by him and guests Jamey Haddad and Makaya McCraven ) and decorated by eloquent saxophone and hard-hitting guitar solos, but thereafter, the material (all written by Markovitch and Rabin) is a little softer, deploying acoustic-guitar mellifluousness to underpin insinuating soprano sax statements, or conjuring up an almost lullaby-like atmosphere (as on the gorgeous ‘Mom’s Song’, which also features subtle vocal embellishments from Matt Davidson and Leslie Beukelman), or an evocative, filmic feel (‘Bar Stomp’).

Concluding with an almost minstrel-like contribution from guest lyricist/vocalist Daniel White, this is tasteful, elegant but often surprisingly gutsy music, impeccably performed – those who like their rock music lovingly burnished to a fine shine will find much to admire in its eleven absorbing tracks.


Review: Poets at the Horse Hospital

Tom Raworth, Gunnar Harding, Anselm Hollo
The Horse Hospital, London, April 2012
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2012. All Rights Reserved
A Summit Of Joyful Old Savages - poets Anselm Hollo, Gunnar Harding, Tom Raworth and Andrei Codrescu
(The Horse Hospital, 18th April 2012; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

'We can't sing, that's why we write!' Anselm Hollo's humorous, self-deprecating aside, on behalf of this esteemed quartet of poets, encapsulated the spirit of this unique, intimate and joyful occasion.

Masterminded by poet and publisher Steven (SJ) Fowler, this was a gathering of four of the most significant poets of their generation, who made their initial mark in the early 60s, and continue to exert a profound influence on subsequent generations.

Gunnar Harding, originally an artist and jazz drummer, takes much of the credit for diverting the paths of Swedish and northern European poetry away from their historical preoccupations with nature. Anselm Hollo, Finnish born, resident in the USA after spending a few years in England, was introduced as 'the greatest translator of the twentieth century', whereupon he recounted that his fascination with language(s) extended to the challenges of translating from those he didn't know to those he did! He is also holder of the coveted, subversive United States Anti-Laureate award for 2001.

Tom Raworth, whose recent reading with Thurston Moore at Café Oto had inspired my attendance, was introduced as our 'greatest living poet', and Andrei Codrescu, a Romanian exiled in the USA since the 60s, where he is an eminent literary broadcaster and teacher, was cast as an iconoclast and poet primarily involved in 'recent social realism'.

Jazz is closely bound up with the experiences of all four, going back to the 60s. In the lively conversation and reminiscences which followed their individual readings, Tom Raworth recalled Michael Horowitz's seminal 60s poetry, jazz and new music venture, New Departures, which spawned some of the most adventurous jazz performances of the time, as well as the eponymous, long-lived poetry journal. Andrei Codrescu commented that, for years, he'd enjoyed reading and performing on tour with jazz musicians, most recently with New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars, then caused some light controversy when he claimed that jazz drummers were the musicians he found most difficult to work with, as they always moved things on too quickly and suggested that poets shouldn't work with them! This prompted a defensive response from Gunnar Harding who'd started out as a jazz drummer himself in Sweden - with New Orleans outfits, as he told me after, which weren't always the most flexible when it came to incorporating poetry in their performances! Harding also remarked that performing with musicians had made him a much better reader. Raworth added to this, saying that if he wrote something rhyming the musicians always liked it, especially if, like Steve Lacy with whom he'd performed, they were 'avant-garde'. By the end of the evening Raworth had all but resolved to set up a poetry and jazz drumming event!

It was a moving experience to hear each of this venerable group read for about 20 minutes, bringing  subtleties and intonations to their delivery of their own words, as well as irrepressible, often wicked wit.

Harding linked his presence at the Horse Hospital to his experiences as an army cavalryman, the subject of 1962 (K4 in Umeå) - 'In the winter we dressed up as snow.' He read from Tidewater, spinning threads of narrative, insight and imagination - 'where the alphabet ends the universe begins' ... 'free admission to the shores of forgetfulness' - crediting Hollo for adding something extra in his translations.

Hollo pulled the listeners back to 1923 with his reading of William Carlos Williams's exquisite Rose from the collection, Spring and All, which he noted as 'one of the greatest documents of modernism'. Somewhat wistfully, he mused that 'being a poet these days is a little like being a harmonica player ... even Charles Olson has not been the same since the academics ate him!' Pygmy Hut turned on 'an instance of possibly creative mistakes' where heavy [rain]drops made a 'plopping sound' as they 'hit the poodles. Shouldn't that be puddles? No ... poodles', a point picked up later by Codrescu, describing 'mishearing' as 'an important poetic technique.'

Hollo dedicated his improbably titled poem, Or, to Hocus the Animals of the Pursuers by Changing their Dream Cassettes (old Thibetan Trick) to Tom Raworth, who recalled their first meeting at Camden Town Hall in January 1961. Raworth's sharp, intensely pulsed delivery complemented his pithy, dense confections, which, with the economy of a haiku, can pull up short to leave the sense of his ideas ringing in the ears. His views on the present Poet Laureate were undisguised - one poem was so 'slimy, sentimental' that he was moved to respond in the only way he knew - a spirited Dadaist deconstruction - to make an anagram of every line. Astride the Palindrome was his bemused and irate reaction to the American Republican's Palin phenomenon which he had witnessed at first hand in 2008.

Codrescu's poetry is the vehicle for his wry, acerbic commentary. He is an admirer of Joel Dailey's neo-mimeo publication, Fell Swoop, which he described as 'the last remaining outpost of resistance to perfection', a grass roots bastion against the alienation wrought by technology. He reminded us of the value of poet Ted Berrigan's dictum, 'to keep old hat in secret closet', before his reading of Secrets, which began 'In the 20th century people used to have secrets', a chilling indictment of the Facebook generation, driven by its propensities to reveal all - 'there are too few vices and too much competition, manufacturing secrets is big business now'.

As with the most challenging and rewarding jazz and new music, there is always resistance from the establishment, and Harding, in their conversation, laughingly remembered 12-hour, non-stop readings in protest against publishers not publishing poetry. At which point I came to the conclusion that poetry can be as exciting as music - with each, it has to be in the right hands.


Get a lawyer. Livestreamed. For EUR 2.99

The 55 Arts Club in Berlin live-streams gigs and charges EUR2.99 for a download. They will have Ernie Watts' European Quartet on 5th May, for example.

Tonight they're trying something different. They're live-streaming a talk event featuring three gentlemen with expertise in the area of entertainment law, flatteringly (?) humorously for Germany (?) described in the advance publicity as "The Band":  

Alan Bergman: Drummer and lawyer handling legal & business affairs for the Monk Estate, Ron Carter, Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette and Ahmad Jamal  

Tom Kjellberg: Bassist and lawyer

Steven Reich: Pianist, music publisher and entertainment industry lawyer 


CD Review:Synkoke - The Ideologist

Synkoke - The Ideologist
(Kokeplate KOKE1102. CD Review by Chris Parker)

Synkoke is a Norwegian quintet (keyboardist Kristian Harnes, saxophonist/vocalist Erik Nerheim, bassist Ellen Andrea Wang, drummer Kurt André Aase and guitarist Ole Ådland) that plays in a style they themselves refer to as ‘punked prog-jazz’.

This churning, thrashing, full-on approach has a pedigree going back to Last Exit and continuing through to contemporary bands such as Trio VD or Troyka, and Synkoke’s roiling, cacophonous overall sound often resembles that of another so-called ‘punk jazz’ outfit, Led Bib, filtered through a heavy-metal outfit such as Metallica, or even Slipknot.

Alternating between a fierce scrabble (which occasionally, courtesy of its sheer unpredictability and oddly earnest eccentricity, calls that mysteriously neglected UK band Cardiacs to mind) and a mesmeric gloomy clangour that would serve as a perfect soundtrack for a Roger Corman Poe film, The Ideologist is not for the faint-hearted, but will delight admirers of any of the above-named bands, and anyone who enjoys no-holds-barred, utterly committed collectively produced music. The band’s name means ‘boil together’ and (as anyone who witnessed any of their gigs with World Service Project last autumn will attest) it’s an extremely apt label for what their website calls their ‘aggressive, energetic … jagged music’.


This week's prize draw- His and Hers LondonJazz T-Shirts

This week we've partnered up with to provide newsletter readers with something completely different .... the official LondonJazz Fruit of the Loom T-Shirt. Two prizes, a his prize and a hers prize, or if you aspire to be London's greenest couple, put your names in the hat for both! Newsletter subscribers should let us know what size T-shirt you will want.


Review: Alice Zawadzki Band

Alice Zawadzki Band
(Green Note, Camden. 22nd April 2012. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

Debut gigs do not come more assured than this one. The Alice Zawadzki Band was making its first appearance ever at Camden's Green Note last night, (nice room!) but there was absolutely nothing half-cooked about the performance. With their professional performance energy, and an infectious sense of enjoyment, they are totally gig- and festival-ready, and if they were to walk straight into a studio this morning, with their strong material, they would record a very convincing album indeed.

Alice Zawadzki is Anglo-Polish, in her mid-twenties, from Abingdon in Oxfordshire. She studied undergraduate classical violin at RNCM in Manchester, followed by the RAM postgraduate jazz course as a singer and composer. Think of the possibilities. It's Curved Air with Sonja Kristina not just singing and leading the band from the front, but being Darryl Way and playing the violin. And writing the songs too.

The material covers all the ground from Sephardic and Greek folk-songs to Polish ballads to reggae to Joni Mitchell. Working with the immensely capable trio of Kit Downes on Hammond organ, Alex Roth on guitar and Jon Scott, drums, the range of textures and colours, the expressive possibilities seemed more or less infinite. Olivier Messiaen meets Jimmy McGriff. Hell yes. Chill-out lounge to dance floor. Walk this way.

Zawadzki is an appealing and versatile vocalist with a Karin Krog-ish lower register, but she also conveys both authority and emotion. She fronts the band confidently, but is a musician of class who can also hide herself in the texture as instrumentalist. At one point she was crouching, pushing out some rhythmically provocative slow double-stopped ricochet bowing, and letting Alex Roth's gentle guitar have the limelight. The next she would up on her feet nailing a powerfully emotive lyric ( which she can do in Polish as well as in English).

Any festival programmer who chooses to book them for this summer will not regret it. With this level of versatility and quality of material, this band should definitely be going places.


Lined up for Jazz Line-Up : J Gwizdala (29 Apr) and M Speake (20 May)

Jazz Line-Up has recorded two programmes in the past week. Looking for one of those irrelevant and specious common are two world-class players who were both born in years ending in an "8" in outer London boroughs: saxophonist Martin Speake hails from Barnet, US-based electric bassist Janek Gwizdala, he's from Mitcham.

1) For broadcast on 29 April is a set recorded at the Jazz Bar in Edinburgh feaaturing Janek Gwizdala - Bass, Gary Husband - Keys, Bob Reynolds - Sax and Louie Palmer, Drums. This is the band whose London gig was enthusiastically reviewed for us by Rob Mallows

2) For broadcast on 20th May is a lovely programme recorded in Kings Place Hall Two. Martin Speake played a short gentle, mellifluous set in duo with guitarist Colin Oxley - as featured in the album above.  A highlight was a beautifully paced Besame Mucho. Then a quartet set with Barry Green on piano, Chris Hyson on bass and Tom Skinner on drums.

Hall Two of Kings Place now definitely has the right vibe for this kind of intimate gig, and one could sense that all the players were in the right frame of mind from the start. Martin Speake had been inspired by the call to devise a programme for Jazz Line-Up to write some new compositions. He said the inspiration had taken a while to come. But there is no doubt: it did. These new tunes will bear repeated playing, listening, pure class.

I thought the two three-four numbers were stunningly good, and brought out the poise, balance and musicality of this group, particularly bassist Hyson, who was neatly grounding the three in every bar with an elegantly stated, deftly placed first beat. Folksong for Paul, dedicated to Paul Motian, and Keep in Touch both had me thinking as the tunes ended that I wouldn't want to miss out on hearing them again. The broadcast is already in the diary 


Review: Anker, Taborn, Cleaver at the Vortex

Craig Taborn. Vortex, 17th April 2012
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2012. All Rights Reserved 
Anker, Taborn, Cleaver (Vortex, 17th April 2012. Review and drawings by Geoff Winston)

Lotte Anker: soprano, alto and tenor saxophones
Craig Taborn: piano
Gerald Cleaver: drums

Craig Taborn and Gerald Cleaver are familiar for their collaboration in the pianist's trio, yet this was Lotte Anker's evening - which was a nice, if gentle surprise.

She had convened the trio back in 2003, and they have recorded three albums to date, two in the studio and one live. This Vortex performance was articulated by subtle shifts of emphasis, crafted with an instinctive shared awareness that saw the pianist and drummer continually redefining the platform, allowing Anker her full voice in a dynamic range of melodic and textural improvisation on three different saxes.

It was clear from Anker's first trilled notes on soprano that she was setting the pace with an openness and a sense of clarity. The purposeful thrust of Anker's playing found the perfect complement in the lightly sprung foundation that Taborn and Cleaver wove. Hardly audible initially, Taborn followed her melodic lines with faint, reflective echoes. Cleaver kept it light, initially using cane rutes, merely touching the cymbals, hardly working the drum pedal. Anker maintained the thread with gymnastic authority. Resubmitting phrases for continual reworking, her alto tone could be gritty, sharp, strident, raw, gutteral, avian. The trio gelled in confident discontinuity, kicking out a bamboozling funk from a standing start, lightening up and slowing down without notice, but all with total connectedness. Taborn's unpredictable, syncopated solo - his hands virtually thrown up the keyboard - had Cleaver responding with a melody of rolls, and Anker pushing out sustained, slowly rolling tenor hums. Her explorations, even with a brief Getz-like flow, always asked questions of the instrument, there was no acceptance of the given.

Lotte Anker on tenor, Vortex, 17th April 2012
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2012. All Rights Reserved

Reconvening after the break, Taborn invoked silence. Leaned on the piano. Single notes. Plucked at the piano wires. Cleaver just used fingers, knuckles, fingernails, scraped the surfaces, pushed the skins with his thumbs, held the sticks vertically on a small cymbal. Anker wafted flibberts of breath over the mouthpiece, then chilling, penetrating tones. Haunting terrain. A subterranean interlude as Anker's water bottle became a mute in the tenor's bowl with hazily impressionistic aquatic hints thrown in from the perimeter. Suddenly the tempo changed to an intensely animated massacring of light and shade - layered, concentrated, fast-moving - a shimmer of classic jazz, then a circular return to the minimally understated. To round off, a great grin from Taborn, and a super-fast passage, an invasion of the keyboard, no less. Anker's measured return on alto ramped up a fierce crescendo with no let up or let down.

The trio pulled the threads together, leaving a resolved, bright statement in their wake. Natural balance, tremendous playing.


Jack's been thinking...about launch concerts for the new CDs on his label

Columnist Jack Davies looks forward to two launch concerts for the albums on his new label:

Monday 30 April will see the culmination of a project that has taken a year to complete: recording three albums and releasing them on my own record label, V&V Music. Next week we have two concerts to celebrate – the Label launch on Friday 27 at The Forge in Camden, and a Platform 33 event on Thursday 26 at Dalston's Servant Jazz Quarters.

Platform 33 is a cross-arts showcase, where part of the deal is to talk about your work, explaining why or how you do what you do. This set me thinking - I have learnt a huge amount in the last year, and a lot of that learning was about the process: how do you actually make an album? It emerged pretty quickly that the music making was going to be a fraction of the work involved. Obviously the music is always the most important thing, something which the commercial sector seems to have forgotten, but it had to be conceived and crystallised before the decidedly unglamorous admin and organisation began.

The recordings were all completed before Christmas in the space of a few months, and the process since then has been trying to figure out what needed to be done in advance, sometimes failing, and having to learn, fast. A year ago I had no idea what mastering was, what PRS, PPL and MCPS were, why barcodes existed, or if making three albums in a year was actually practically possible. The last year was me learning all those things, and included falling asleep in mastering sessions (it turns out mastering is both fascinating and tedious), a few terrifying, near-disastrous errors, and some of the most fun I've ever had.

The musicians that I work with are always a prime motivator, and recording these albums (and in particular the big band album) has allowed me to work with, and learn from, more of the UK's great jazz musicians. Some are friends who I have played with for a very long time, like Rob Cope, who is on all three of my albums, others are players I met on the jazz scene in London, like Josh Arcoleo (whose debut album Beginnings has just come out on Edition Records), James Opstad and Alex Munk. Others are musicians I admired, who I have been lucky enough to rope in: Martin Speake, Nick Smart, Colin Towns.

Colin said that if he closed his eyes and listened to the players in my big band, he would never guess that many of them are recent graduates. I think he's right. It has been a genuine privilege to hear these musicians playing my music, and seeing them find depth in places I hadn't thought of. Please come and join us on Thursday or Friday (or both!) and at the rest of dates on the tour.

You'll be happy to know that it turns out barcodes are more important than you can realise, and making three albums in a year is definitely possible.


Two late night jazz proms - NYJO plus Django Reinhardt

The Proms programme, announced on Thursday, has two late night jazz proms ('Read More' for programme details and more). The Bachtrack site has a full listing of all the Proms over just two pages.

1) Prom 38 on 10th August features NYJO, and includes a BBC Commission from Tim Garland

2) Prom 65 on August 31st features a Django Reinhardt tribute from the Guy Barker Orchestra with Martin Taylor

We also list an eclectic selection, quoting from the advance material: John Cage, the other Youth Orchestras (those are "strands") and the world music Proms


Prom 38

Ellington Rockin' in Rhythm (6 mins)
Nikki Iles Hush (8 mins)
Kenny Wheeler Sweet Time Suite – Know Where You Are (6 mins)
Monk 'Round midnight (arr. M. Armstrong) (5 mins)
Jerome Richardson Groove Merchant (7 mins)
Chris Whiter The Change (8 mins)
Tom Stone Return Flight (7 mins)
Ellington Caravan (arr. Callum Au) (8 mins)
Ellington The Queen’s Suite – Sunset and the Mockingbird (4 mins)
Tim Garland Agro Alegría (c8 mins)


Prom 65 Friday 31 August

Martin Taylor/Guy Barker The Spirit of Django – orchestral suite (54 mins) London Premiere

Martin Taylor guitar
Britten Sinfonia
Guy Barker Jazz Orchestra
Guy Barker conductor

3) "YOUTH"

The Youth strand  involves commissions of new music

Nico Muhly’s Gait for the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain conducted by Vasily Petrenko (4 August).

Agro Alegría by Tim Garland, performed by the National Youth Jazz Orchestra under Mark Armstrong (10 August)

Gavin Higgins’s Der Aufstand, premiered by the National Youth Wind Orchestra under James Gourlay (12 August)

Gavin Bryars’s After the Underworlds, presented by the National Youth Brass Band under Bramwell Tovey (12 August).


Late Night Prom featuring accordionist José Hernando Arias Noguera and his mentor Columbian Egidio Cuadrado, showcasing the results of their nine-month collaboration (31 July)

Malian duo Amadou & Mariam appear in an August Bank Holiday Proms Family Matinee (27 August)

Congolese street musicians Staff Benda Bilili make their Proms debut, joined by Baloji, the Congolese-Belgian ‘sorcerer of words’, in a Late Night Prom that promises to be a creative melting pot set to the beat of the rumba (6 September).


John Wilson returns for his fourth consecutive season, this year with two Proms.

Alongside his hand-picked John Wilson Orchestra, he presents his first recreation of a complete musical at the Proms, the Broadway classic My Fair Lady. The semi-staged production uses André Previn’s Academy Award-winning orchestrations from the 1964 film, topped off by a star-studded cast, led by Anthony Andrews and Annalene Beechey (14 July).

John Wilson and his John Wilson Orchestra return later in the season for The Broadway Sound, a gala celebration of the Broadway musical (27 August).

Presenting a timeless sweep from the earliest triumphs of the genre in the 1920s, through the Great Depression of the 1930s and into the Golden Age of the 1950s and 1960s, with excerpts from classics including West Side Story, Hello, Dolly! and The King and I, the gala showcases tunes from some of the greatest Broadway composers, including George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim.


For the first time since 1914 the work of Ivor Novello will be heard at the Proms, as the Hallé under Sir Mark Elder, a passionate advocate of Novello’s work, celebrates one of the UK’s most successful composers of musical theatre. With British theatrical legend Simon Callow acting as Master of Ceremonies, this Late Night Prom features singers Sophie Bevan and Toby Spence performing such familiar numbers as We’ll gather lilacs and Keep the home fires burning (9 August).


The Proms do the John Cage Centenary


CD Review: Oriole - Every New Day

Oriole - Every New Day
(F-IRECD 51. CD Review by Chris Parker)

Oriole's leader/composer Jonny Phillips wrote much of the music on this, the octet's third album, in Cadiz, and there is a gentle warmth and mellow beauty infusing all ten of his pieces here.

The band's many admirers will know exactly what to expect by now: over Seb Rochford's elegant, shuffling latin rhythms (tellingly augmented by the percussion of Adriano Adewale), the smooth, gliding theme statements of saxophonists Ingrid Laubrock and Idris Rahman, underpinned by cellist Ben Davis, give way to laid-back solos from Phillips himself (on acoustic guitar), or to multi-textured, slow-building solos from the saxophonists, or to the pungent piano contributions of Nick Ramm.

Ruth Goller grounds the whole with her deft, full-bodied bass, and the result is an utterly beguiling, sweet but surprisingly lively sound, full of subtle nuances, but immediately accessible not just to jazz listeners, but also to lovers of latin music, from which Phillips's insinuatingly lovely compositions typically draw their rhythms.

Winsome and charming – even dreamy – the overall impression may be, but Oriole's music is none the less compelling for being so uncomplicatedly appealing.


Impossible Gentelemen on Tour June and July

Steve Swallow. Gwilym Simcock, Mike Walker, Adam Nussbaum

Something exciting for June and July, a tour by the Impossible Gentlemen. In addition to the music of the first - brilliantly received album - they toured last year, the band members have been writing new compositions, including acouple of joint Mike Walker/ Gwilym Simcock co-composotions. "One's a ballad, one's got Southern rock, Zappa, all sorts really", Mike walker told me, and a new tune by Steve Swallow. The good news for Londoners is that there are FOUR dates at Pizza Express. Here are the complete tour dates from


Fri 22 Manchester, Band on the Wall

Sat 23 Leeds, Seven Arts

Sun 24 Zeffirellis, Ambleside

Mon 25 - Thur 28 (FOUR NIGHTS) Pizza Express, Dean Street, London

Sat 30 Portsmouth Festivities


Wed 4 Rotterdam, Lantaaren-Venster

Thu 5 Frankfurt Palmgarten

Fri 6 Bimhuis, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Sun 8 Comblain-la-Tour, Belgium


Cast your vote in the Scottish Jazz Awards

Nominations for the Scottish Jazz Awards are open to anyone. The public round closes on June 1st. To mark your "X" FOLLOW THIS LINK


CD Review: Fly - Year of the Snake

Fly- Year of the Snake
(ECM 277 6644, CD Review by Chris Parker)

The New York-based trio Fly was formed, according to bassist Larry Grenadier, 'out of a desire to share all the knowledge that we've accumulated separately and bring it together in this bare-bones format', and both on this and on their debut ECM album, Sky & County, what a recent reviewer termed a 'selfless, collaborative spirit' characterises their music.

Drummer Jeff Ballard actually founded the band, and it is his assertive (yet often oblique) drumming that binds the group sound, his almost telepathic musical sympathy with the lithe, vigorous but subtle Grenadier (they also perform as Brad Mehldau's rhythm section) providing the perfect setting for tenor player Mark Turner's insinuating, deceptively softly spoken approach to soloing.

'Deceptively' is the operative word here; as anyone who's heard Turner live (or has listened to Phil Robson's The Immeasurable Code) will know, he has an uncanny
ability to build satisfying climaxes from the sparest ingredients, moving almost imperceptibly up through the gears from musing contemplation to powerful (but quiet) intensity with graceful ease and elegance.

The material here is provided by all three bandmembers, Ballard's 'Benj' and his 'Salt and Pepper', co-composed with Turner, perhaps the most immediately accessible pieces, the trio's sporadic bursts of collective improvisation ('The Western Lands I–V') occupying the freest end of the spectrum. But whether they're exploring all the nooks and crannies of Grenadier's multi-hued 'Kingston', its vigorous arco passages giving the band sound a highly effective extra dimension, or providing a platform for Turner's mesmerising tenor journeys before swapping soloing duties with all the assurance of a well-drilled sprint-relay team, Fly continue to produce some of the most thoughtful, absorbing – and enjoyable – music on the contemporary scene.


CD Review: Jack Davies' Flea Circus

Jack Davies' Flea Circus
(V&V Music VAVM0001. CD review by Chris Parker)

Flea Circus is a quartet led by trumpeter Jack Davies and completed by clarinettist Rob Cope, accordionist Aidan Shepherd and bassist James Opstad. The music on this, the band's first album (all written by Davies except an intriguing version of 'Sehr Gesangvoll', a beautiful melody from Mahler's First Symphony), touches bases ranging from Balkan dance music to bal-musette, and from freely improvised to more straightahead jazz – appropriately enough, given the band's name, a sort of musical circus in miniature – but such eclecticism is by no means merely a bolted-on accessory, rather (as with Davies's great inspiration, Dave Douglas) the spirit infusing everything the quartet plays.

The textures available to such an unusual line-up are skilfully exploited by Davies's pieces, and his own trumpet tone, which ranges from the pure, pin-sharp sound often associated with the classical instrument, through to the rips, smears, growls and flaring brilliance of the jazz tradition, sets the standard to which the whole band aspires.

The front-line (if such an outfit can be said to possess such a thing) combination of trumpet and clarinet is particularly attractive, and with Shepherd and Opstad carrying out both their solo and accompanying roles with equal aplomb, this is a thoroughly absorbing, thoughtful and lively set from a subtly interactive and accomplished band.


CD Review: Joanna Wallfisch - Wild Swan

Joanna Wallfisch -Wild Swan
CD Review by Alison Bentley

Joanna Wallfisch's CD artwork -a young woman sitting on a rocky coastline with a New York skyline in the hazy distance- suggests a mixture of English Romanticism and NY complexity. Joanna Wallfisch travelled to New York to record her debut CD with US musicians, and her dreamy lyrics and sweet voice work together well with their modern melodies , unexpected harmonies and free improvisation.

Joanna is firmly in the tradition of English jazz singers with a clear, understated tone and inventive approach to improvisation, such as Norma Winstone, Tina May and Jacqui Dankworth.

Norma Winstone travelled to the US 20 years ago to record her lyrics to The Peacocks (A Timeless Place) with the composer, pianist Jimmy Rowles. Joanna begins her version with no piano-she sings the exquisite melody beautifully in duet with a free sax solo from Sam Newsome.

The moods vary- from the gentle tango of Any Dream Will Do to the humorous Latin Leopard Skin Shoes, with a Marc Ribot-style guitar solo from Jay Vilnay. Her poetic lyrics to John Taylor's gorgeous Windfall (a melody from Azimuth days) and expressive vocal solo draw the listener in to her imaginative world.

Drummer Rob Garcia has written a number of the tunes on the album, and plays sympathetically and subtly. Eternal Ebb and Flow has a gentle, almost hip hop back beat, which, with the Fender Rhodes solo, takes it into Gretchen Parlato territory.

Blue Red and Grey - a Who song by Pete Townsend- has a simple folk quality here, as does the voice, with a touch of Katie Melua. The soprano sax sound is sweet, interacting with the vocals in the 4s. In My Wish, Art Hirahara's gorgeous Bill Evans-like piano anchors the swooping vocals.

The lyrics are very important throughout: the singing follows the rhythm of the words to express the meaning fully. I Could Tell You starts almost declaimed over a fine solo bass from Joe Martin, then a bluesy melody , but the focus is on the intimate lyrics. Several Times in the Past Week is a translation of a Sufi poem set to Garcia's haunting tune.

In The Sea, The Sea, the unpredictable character of the sea becomes a metaphor for a lover. It starts with free improvisation, and the soprano recalls Wayne Shorter. Luciana Souza's vocals spring to mind, but Joanna's voice sounds lighter-toned and more classical. There's a hint of Mingus-era Joni, but less bluesy. Cohen's Suzanne concludes, its sparse arrangement focusing on the poetry.

Joanna's voice is strong, natural and distinctive, and the band is superb. This is a lovely, romantic, atmospheric album, hopefully the first of many to come.


CD Review: Esbjörn Svensson Trio - 301

Esbjörn Svensson Trio - 301
(ACT Music 9029-2. CD Review by Tom Gray)

Following on from Leucocyte, 301 is the second posthumous release from the Esbjörn Svensson Trio since the pianist’s tragic death in 2008. Like Leucocyte, this album is taken from sessions recorded at Sydney’s Studio 301 and points tantalisingly towards new directions that the trio might have taken.

In contrast to the earworm anthems of E.S.T.’s earlier output, much of the material here is scant in terms of pre-composed melodic content and the pieces pivot around minimal harmonic progressions. Nevertheless, the group sustains interest on these extended jams (three of which exceed ten minutes) though searching improvisations, second-to-none group interaction and above all, their ability to build a mood.

The mood is one of Massive Attack-like brooding on ‘Inner City, Inner Lights’, enhanced by atmospheric distortions from sound engineer Ake Linton, effectively the ‘fourth member’ of E.S.T. ‘The Left Lane’ sees Svensson at the peak of his improvisational prowess, stretching out with his characteristically blistering, straight-note flourishes.

The album’s centrepiece is the two-part ‘Three Falling Free’. This progresses from a hushed and elegiac rubato section to some of the group’s most exhilarating rock playing, propelled by a tornado-like assault on the toms from Magnus Öström and the over-driven double bass of Dan Berglund. This is followed by the beautiful closing track, ‘The Childhood Dream’, on which Svensson’s serene playing occasionally hints at Abdullah Ibrahim.

As a whole, this album may not be E.ST.’s most satisfying (my personal choice would be ‘Good Morning Susie Soho’), but repeated listening offers increasing returns and it possibly comes closest of all their studio recordings to capturing the spirit and energy of their much-missed live shows.


Review: Jonathan Kreisberg Quartet at the Spin, Oxford

Jonathan Kreisberg Quartet
(The Spin Jazz Club, Oxford, 12th April 2012. Review by Alison Bentley)

Jonathan Kreisberg's band is on a European tour- he told us they'd been travelling by snowmobile and donkey, but last night's gig was just up a tightly-winding staircase in an atmospheric pub room .

There was a full house and total concentration from the audience for this remarkable band. You got the feeling Kreisberg himself could play absolutely anything with his amazing technique. He ranged from early Metheny to Allan Holdsworth-style rock (hints of Durutti Column?), Bill Frisell spacey sounds with volume pedal, Kurt Rosenwinkel and even Bach's harpsichord pieces in his lovely concluding cadenzas. He played a semi-acoustic guitar rather than a solid-bodied one, which gave a real jazz feel to all his styles of playing.

Microcosm for Two heard guitar and sax in unison and harmony, with a Scofield style of hinting at the harmony with two notes sometimes a semitone apart. Will Vinson's rich, deep alto sax reminded me at times of Joe Henderson and John Coltrane, rather than alto players, though he named Paul Desmond as his current big influence. Jonathan has a great sense of humour, and spontaneously named a new tune after the club - its guitar and sax harmony and unison in asymmetrical phrases recalling the classic Lovano/Scofield era.

The styles were varied: Zembekiko was based on traditional Greek melodies, using harmonic minor modes which cropped up elsewhere in Jonathan's solos. The funky double- bass groove moved into fast swing, and there were wonderful drum rolls and shimmering cymbal sounds towards the end from Colin Stranahan, who often looks to electronic music for rhythmic ideas.

Horace Silver's ballad Peace (featuring the "low frequency poetry" and gorgeous melodic solo of Joe Martin's double bass) was a beautiful contrast to the exciting drum and bass feel of Stir the Stars .

Stella by Starlight was given a minor reharmonisation but Relaxin' at Camarillo kept its be-bop structure. The range of moods went from the yearning From the Ashes (Kevin Eubanks and Dave Holland?) and the ballad Being Human , mostly in 3, with unusual drum accents. The final funky drum beats of The Common Climb had everyone on the edge of their seats with its freeform grooves and edgy M-Base intensity, and the expressiveness and humanity present in the whole gig.

As the unsung heroes of jazz- the organisers- hoicked the borrowed instruments and amps off stage, there was a sense of being part of something international in this small club with a big heart.


Rewriting History (2) The Live Music Act, the MU and a poem by Brecht

Here's the Musicians Union writing about their "huge victory" the Live Music Act.

With reference to Tim Clement-Jones, Don Foster, Deborah Annetts, Phil Little, John King, Dale Collins, Simon Mehigan, Andy Grimsey, John Whittingdale, Tony Colwyn, Michael Grade, Dick Laurie, Dave Gelly, Annie Bright, Stephen Spence and Louise McMullan from Equity, Joan Bakewell from the National Campaign for the Arts, Hamish Birchall and many others....

....I will take the liberty of quoting from a poem byBrecht:

Caesar defeated the Gauls.
Did he not even have a cook with him ? [..]

Frederick the 2nd won the 7 Years War.
Who else won it ?


Jazz Journalists Association Awards Nominations Announced

Hank Jones collecting his 2009 JJA Award

The finalist nominatinations for the sixteenth JJA (Jazz Journalists Association) Awards, in thirty-nine categories, have been announced. Follow this link. The Awards ceremony will be on June 20th in at the Blue Note in New York. Blue Note are a sponsor, as are North Coast Brewing. President of the JJA is Howard Mandel.

Declaration of interest: Sebastian Scotney is a professional voting member of the JJA.


Rewriting history

Allegedly....according to this article from yesterday's Independent, jazz has "secretly invaded pop music."

History gets rewritten. Or, as Ronnie Scott used to say from behind a pillar: "You've just made a happy man feel very old."


Something for the weekend?

There is an astonishing range of appealing gigs on offer. Here are seven of them, which I picked out for this week's newsletter. Don't get mad if something's not there. Just add it in the comments.

-Pianist Alan Broadbent, briefly over in the UK, is at the <100 capacity Bulls Head on Sat 14th. Last time he was here was with Charlie Haden's Quartet West at the 1,950 capacity Barbican.

- While Fiona Talkington and Nick Luscombe co-curate an Anglo-Norwegian evening on Saturday at Pizza Express: BJ Cole and Norwegian piano trio In the Country.

- Also Saturday 14th: Partikel are bringing the music of their highly regarded second album to Kings Place

- Sunday lunchtime 15th at the Hideway: Anthony Strong

- And at 4pm at the Vortex- the London Jazz Orchestra celebrates Pete Saberton

- I keep on hearing how good the last Pete Churchill/ Anita Wardell/Nia Lynn Sunday 5 30 Forge gig was. There's one this Sunday 15th

- Sunday night jazz at the White Hart in E2 has the Frank Griffith nonet for their second gig of the day having played Ronnie Scott's at lunchtime

- Mike Chillingworth Quartet (Kit Downes, Sam Lasserson, Jeff Williams) plus Tom Taylor / Jack Davies duo are at the North London Tavern


CD review: Floratone - Floratone II

Floratone - Floratone II
(Savoy Jazz SVY17855. CD review by Chris Parker

'Futuristic roots music' is the genre tag applied to Floratone's approach, and it's as good a label as any to describe the carefully layered, meticulously studio-produced sound that the basic duo – guitarist Bill Frisell and drummer/percussionist Matt Chamberlain – and their producer-collaborators, Lee Townsend and Tucker Martine, come up with in thirteen shortish cuts on this, the band's second album.

Frisell's penchant for this sort of thing, his ability to apply his utterly distinctive guitar technique to everything from blues to country music, relatively esoteric jazz to straightforward rock etc., ensures that a wide variety of musical bases are touched in this set, and Chamberlain's stylistic net is cast just as wide, but – as with a number of recent Frisell projects – admirers of the guitarist's work with the likes of Power Tools, the Paul Motian Trio, or his own bands under the 'downtown' rubric in the 1990s, are likely to to regret the absence of the unfettered, hard-edged soloing that characterised his playing in those outfits.

This may, however, be to miss the point of Floratone, which exists to explore the range of textures and timbres that can be produced in a studio context, and the thirteen shuffles, wispy floaters and intriguing grooves laid down by the core quartet, and augmented by viola player Eyvind Kang, cornetist Ron Miles, bassist Mike Elizondo and keyboard player Jon Brion, certainly do this, in spades.


Review: Matt Ridley Quartet

Matt Ridley at the Salisbury
Drawing by Geoff Winston. All Rights Reserved

Matt Ridley Quartet
(The Salisbury, 8th April 2012; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

This double-bill in the Salisbury's vibrant jazz season served as a reminder of the abundance of prodigious talent out there in the young British jazz scene.

The first set matched the spacious flow of Andrew Woolf's mellow tenor with Ryan Williams' hanging chordal backdrops and bright melodic fretboard spins. 'Jürgen Klinsmann', a Williams composition introduced as "The greatest German centre forward since 1986", synched his lightly clipped phrasing, Jim Hall-style, with a carefully stated response from Woolf and had the guitarist sampling to complete the lightly funky, on-field vignette. Neil Young's 'Don't Let It Bring You Down' went through quiet, gritty explorations before its theme welled up with heartfelt momentum. They countered with sparse, peppery interplay on Steve Coleman's 'Micro-Move' and the minimalist rigour of Woolf's 'Temenos', a candidate, perhaps, for a large group arrangement with its ancient Greek and Jungian references to sacred, protected space.

Bassist Matt Ridley's quartet just asked to be listened to. Their fiery opening gambit had the quartet powering through 'Stompin' at the Savoy' with all the drive of Chick Webb in his heyday. Tom Challenger and Alam Nathoo on saxophones traded earthy phrases, boldly out on their own, blasting with an ebullient confidence and the gutsy bravura of a Zoot Sims - Al Cohn duet. The maturity of the delivery extended to the rhythm section, with drummer Nick Smalley absolutely aware of when to exercise a less-is-more attack to pin down the pace and Matt Ridley's calm flourishes making every note count. Not to get typecast they tackled the tight tensions of Sam Rivers' 'Fuchsia Swan Song' with Nathoo digging in to the lower registers and Challenger taking up the hi-speed reins in a manner that would have pleased its author.

Ridley staked out the ground with his delicate solo in their warm definition of Wayne Shorter's mid-60s ballad, 'Vonetta'. Smalley applied bare knuckles and soft mallets and the saxes pulled back with conviction and impressively constrained style to complete the magical portrait. Ridley's 'One Near Miss Once', based on a Kenny Wheeler chord progression, fielded raw, driving and well-drilled tenor interplay with the knowing restraint of the rhythm section, who put down the markers at exactly the right points.

This was an impressive, engaging performance, full of vitality and ingenuity. The quartet had absorbed and learnt, found their voices and further consolidated the case for the burgeoning new generation in British jazz.

Williams/Woolf Duo
Ryan Williams: guitar
Andrew Woolf: tenor sax

Matt Ridley Quartet
Matt Ridley: double bass
Tom Challenger: tenor sax
Alam Nathoo: tenor sax
Nick Smalley: drums


A touch of the Bollani

If you can get  youurself to an Odeon in Covent Garden and Wimbledon, or the Cineworlds in High Wycombe, Milton Keynes or West India Quay, or the Showcase cinemas in Reading (that's the one right out in Winnersh isn't it?) or Bluewater, near a romantic stretch of the M25 (this is getting surreal), then on Saturday 21st at 6.45pm you can see a concert live from La Scala including Stefano Bollani playing the Gershwin Piano concerto (and Catfish Row and An American in Paris. In 5.1 Surround Sound and HD. Thank you for this, La Scala, UniCredit, XDC Entertainment, and Nexo Digital.


What is it about Porthcawl? Festival this weekend...

Porthcawl. Friendly people. Czech pianist Emil Viklicky found it sufficiently inspiring to write this tango-ish tune (the music starts at 2'45")..It's home to a famous (well, famous-ish) poet

This weekend also sees the annual Porthcawl International Jazz Festival, centred on the Grand Pavilion.

Here are the headliners:

The John Miller Orchestra (nephew of Glenn Miller).
Pasadena Roof Orchestra.
Nik Turner Quartet (Hawkwind founder).
Michael Janisch New York Standards Quartet
The Cottle Brothers
US guitarist B D Lenz
From France, Gabrielle Ducomble with her Quartet
The Capital City Jazz Orchestra from Cardiff

Bookings and more at the FESTIVAL WEBSITE


CD review: Claire Martin & Kenny Barron - Too Much in Love to Care

Claire Martin & Kenny Barron - Too Much in Love to Care
(Linn AKD 390. CD review by Chris Parker)

Noting what she terms 'a faint audible sigh of relief whenever I start singing something familiar at gigs', Claire Martin has finally succumbed to this politest form of pressure and recorded (for the first time) an album entirely devoted to the Great American Songbook.

The result will undoubtedly delight said sighers, for not only does Martin herself turn in a flawless performance, but she has also enlisted the services of arguably the greatest living interpreter of such material, pianist Kenny Barron, impeccably supported by bassist Peter Washington, drummer Kenny Washington and flautist/saxophonist Steve Wilson.

Beginning with a relatively obscure standard, the Kriegsmann/Coates title-track ('virtually untouched since Carmen McRae recorded it in 1954' according to liner-note writer Will Friedwald), Martin subsequently ventures into more familiar territory, including an affecting duo with Barron on the evergreen 'Embraceable You', a touching visit to 'How Long Has This been Going On?' and – a triumph of revitalisation, considering how frequently it's been recorded – a perfect rendition of 'I Only Have Eyes for You'.

Martin's great strengths – crystal-clear diction, an apparently informal ease of delivery that conceals considerable art, an ability (springing from a keen intelligence) to inject precisely the right amount of emotion into a lyric – are all on display throughout a thirteen-song set, and with the Washingtons, Wilson and the peerless Barron (characteristically combining luminously delicate lyricism with sparkling vigour as required) in top form, this is an unalloyed treat from start to finish.


RIP Tony Marsh

Tony Marsh
Photo credit:Scott McMillan

In sadness. Oliver Weindling's blog is reporting the death from cancer yesterday of the ever-inventive drummer Tony Marsh. RIP.

Oliver Weindling writes: "What a great man! He was a person who belied his age, playing through to his last weeks. Just recently playing with Roscoe Mitchell (reviewed HERE). He had what I would call a beautiful rolling style, with elegance and intensity. His great trio with Evan Parker and John Edwards sadly never recorded. It was a privilege to hear them every month. Next week's gig on 19th was supposed to be this trio. It'll be quite a night."

Geoff Winston writes: "Whenever I saw Tony Marsh play he was, without fail, creative, constructive, versatile and a consummate technician – not a hint of ill health (to the public) - and, one could gather just by watching, a quiet perfectionist – even though he could make a racket if the situation demanded! One of the anchors and true leading lights of the London jazz and improv scene – those who played with him and those who came to hear him play will sense the void, but will treasure his legacy."

Tony Marsh biography/ discography




London Jazz Orchestra - Vortex Sundays - 4pm 15th Apr and 7pm/ 9 30pm 13th May

Scott Stroman writes about two events featuring the London Jazz Orchestra :


Next Sunday, 15 April, the London Jazz Orchestra will dedicate our monthly concert to a "Celebrating Saberton", playing much of the music Pete wrote for the LJO. Pete was a founder member of the LJO and held the piano chair for 19 of our 21 years (Nikki Iles took over for a few years in the middle, and will be returning to become the LJO's pianist from September). Players include Henry Lowther, Paul Clarvis, Pete Hurt, Martin Speake, Phil Lee, Noel Langley, Robbie Robson, Pete Beachill, Trevor Mires.......all the top guys will be there. The monthly gig is at 4PM.

GIL EVANs' 100th BIRTHDAY, feat. MILES EVANS, SUNDAY 13th MAY, 7pm and 9 30pm:

The LJO will be joined by Miles Evans, Gil's trumpet-playing son (and named after Miles Davis) to celebrate Gil Evans 100th birthday with two performances of Miles Ahead, being recorded for the BBC from the Vortex in front of a live audience. Each performance will be preceeded by a short talk/discussion with Miles Evans, Henry Lowther (who will share solo duties) and Scott Stroman, who previously directed the UK premiers of all of the Evans/Davis collaborations (Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess, and Sketches of Spain) with the Guildhall Jazz Band and soloists Randy Brecker, Dave Liebman, and Henry Lowther.

The London Jazz Orchestra is 21 years old this year. See our 2011 feature celebrating its 20th birthday


Review: New York Standards Quartet at Oxford Jazz Festival

Michael Janisch (with new bass-bridge)and Gene Jackson at Oxford Playhouse
Photo credit: Nick Atkins/ Oxford Jazz Festival 2012

Michael Janisch and the New York Standards Quartet
(Oxford Playhouse, part of Oxford Jazz Festival, 7th April 2012. Review by Alison Bentley)

The iconic Oxford Playhouse was home to several Jazz Festivals in the early 90s. This time the Jazz Festival (which receives no subsidy) co-hosted this extraordinary band with the theatre itself.

Charlie Parker and the be-boppers wrote new tunes to the chord sequences of well-known popular songs. The New York Standards Quartet put new chord sequences behind the melodies of well-known jazz standards. Part of the pleasure was hearing fragments of the melodies emerging: the chords made perfect sense but took the melodies to unexpected places. Instead of using more conventional cadences, the music moved between tense modes and bright reassuring ones.

From the start we were swept up by the breathtaking virtuosity of these musicians. How High the Moon was unusually in a minor mode, and I Love You moved from a funky 7/4 riff into David Berkman's beautiful piano solo, cushioned on effortless swing. The patterns of his solos were not just abstract but emotional too.

In Blue in Green's dreamy mood and in Tim Armacost's sweet soprano solo, Herbie Hancock's album River came to mind. Ornette Coleman's Turnaround began with everyone playing the last 4 bars of the melody, overlapping and riffing freely in Prime Time-style, moving into a slowish blues that Tim Armacost later called an 'adult tempo!' Tim Armacost's warm tenor tone here reminded me of Joe Henderson (and a hint of Phil Woods' throatiness?) His solos were modal and chromatic , but with something of Sonny Rollins in the rhythm.

Giant Steps shifted between 4/4 and 7/4, showing the amazing rapport between all the musicians . In Secret Love, the interplay between Michael Janisch's strong bass and Gene Jackson's drums was magical- when the shifting freeform grooves settled into swing, it was mesmerising. The bass solo was like a dramatic, rhythmic partita. Desafinado's changing keys and Tim Armacost's exquisite flute recalled Toninho Horta's music. All the Things You Are and Summer Night had exciting polyrhythms from Gene Jackson's drumming, erupting into driving drum rolls- we were in the presence of a master.

The evening ended with a groovy gospel rock version of Old Folks recalling Keith Jarrett, with Tim Armacost playing bluesy growls. The band had charmed and engaged us all with their total focus on their art- and their sense of humour! It was a wonderful start to their major UK tour.

New York Standards Quartet Tour Dates and David Berkman's preview


Review : Abram Wilson at @OxJazz

Left to Right: Alex Davis, Abram Wilson, Dave Hamblett
Oxford Jazz Festival 2012
Photo credit: Nick Atkins/ Oxford Jazz Festival

Abram Wilson
(Randolph Hotel 6th April 2012, part of Oxford Jazz Festival. Review by Alison Bentley)

Trumpeter Abram Wilson brought a little bit of New Orleans to Oxfords's very English Randolph Hotel. By the end of the show, the audience were on their feet cheering as Abram walked out still soloing and the band carried on playing the blues. In the foyer you could tell who'd been to the gig by the smiles on their faces.

Abram had taken us through the life of mixed-race New Orleans piano prodigy and political journalist Philippa Duke Schuyler- his original tunes were linked together by the narrative. Different scenes from Philippa's life inspired various moods, and the audience was drawn in to the story from the start.

Some tunes expressed her childhood innocence and passion for life. Adventures in Black and White opened the set, with its modal chord sequence, propulsive bass and sensitive drum fills. Abram communicated warmly and passionately in both his narration and playing. The lyrical playing of fellow New Orleans trumpeter Terence Blanchard sprang to mind, and the bluesy keening and musical humour of Jack Walrath. Abrams plays like a singer, with beautiful phrasing that never loses the listener's attention. He plays as if he means every note.

In Goldfish and the Wolf, with its sense of childhood wonder, we heard Abram singing in his soft tone with a Stevie Wonder-like sweet vibrato. The Harlemites celebrated Harlem's cultural richness. Abram promised the bright chords would be uplifting, and indeed they were. Reuben James' strong motivic piano soloing stood out, with its swaggering McCoy Tyner-ish chords, rhythmic stabs and cross-rhythms.

Other tunes expressed Philippa's ambivalence about her racial identity: the Naima-ish ballad Longing for Love (beautifully sung and played from the heart by Abram) and the fast swing of Lord Have Mercy. In Trouble on the Home Front Abram played exciting high trills and squeals over its afro-latin grooves and almost rock piano riffs.

Philippa became disillusioned by white treatment of black musicians. In Find a New Soul, her move into journalism was portrayed by the clattering urgency of a TV news theme, 60s afro-latin grooves and Debussyesque piano chords to depict her journalism in the far east. The audience especially loved this one.

The dark thrum of The Cogdells recalled the Texan racism of Philippa's maternal family. Its edgy broken rhythms atonal melody moved into a dark minor groove in 5/4 . Dave Hamblett's drum solo had lots of energy, sparkling cymbals and a big sound

As the audience yelled for more, Hidden Blues started like a Jelly Roll Morton stomp with an Armstrongy trumpet feel, a fine rootsy bass solo by Alex Davis, swinging blues and huge sense of fun.

This young British band is in the middle of a tour to celebrate 10 years of Abram Wilson living in the UK, but he has New Orleans in his soul.