Over 100 videos on the Whirlwind Recordings Youtube Channel

News to me. It's only a moment since I noticed the Whirlwind Recordings Youtube Channel, including this energetic account from 2008 of John Coltrane's 1957 tune at Charlie Wright's.

It's one of over 100 videos on the channel. Bristolian now US-emigre saxophonist Will Vinson is first soloist, then Kurt Rosenwinkel, (the video cuts not long after he starts - shame!), plus Jochen Rueckert on Drums and Whirlwind label proprietor Michael Janisch on bass.



CD Review: Miles Davis Quintet - Swiss Radio Days Jazz Series Volume 31

Miles Davis Quintet- Swiss Radio Days Jazz Series Volume 31
(TCB 02312. CD Review by Chris Parker)

Olivier Senn, in his liner notes for this live recording (Zurich, 8 April 1960), goes straight to the heart of the matter: ‘There were strong centrifugal forces at work within the Miles Davis Quintet when it toured Europe in spring 1960’, pointing out that the great trumpeter’s response to modal jazz (the liberation of soloists from ‘the constraints of dense bebop harmony’) was profoundly different from that of his star soloist, John Coltrane, and that the resultant contrast ‘fills the performance with an intensity that, for many contemporary listeners, was difficult to bear’.

Such tensions are apparent in the quintet’s first number, ‘If I Were a Bell’, which, while it leads Davis to ‘pursue a more minimal style’, sees Coltrane (after a concentration on a repeated phrase that is almost painful for the intensity of its questing self-absorption) immersing himself in the tumultuous ‘sheets of sound’ approach that he was to pioneer so memorably in his subsequent career as a leader.

It is the late Richard Cook, however, who most succinctly describes the effect on listeners of this group tension: ‘The playing of the two lead voices would be close to exhausting … if it weren’t for [pianist] Wynton Kelly, [bassist] Paul Chambers and [drummer] Jimmy Cobb. Kelly’s ability to come up with a long drink of water after the wood alcohol of Coltrane is miraculous on number after number, and he does it without greatly depressurising the music or taking any turns towards the trivial.’ As Cook also points out, the rhythm section concentrates throughout on making the music swing in the conventional manner, whether they’re playing the aforementioned standard, with its relatively tricky changes, or the overtly modal Kind of Blue material that follows: ‘So What’ and
‘All Blues’.

Coltrane’s solo on the former in Zurich (Cook is talking about the Stockholm leg of this JATP tour) is possibly the highlight of the whole hour’s music – slow-building, intense, at times positively incandescent – providing an intriguing (if often unsettling) contrast with Davis’s spearing, spare approach which, at times, as with Coltrane, sees him paint himself into a corner, repeating a single, harsh note in an almost anguished crying tone.

This recording (appearing officially for the first time) therefore provides an intriguing snapshot of a band ‘on the edge’, not only embodying all the musical contradictions of the contemporary bop/modal transition, but also playing out the more personal, emotional differences between two of post-war jazz’s most influential figures.

Not easy listening by any means, but irresistibly compelling throughout.

A copy of this CD will be the Prize Draw for LondonJazz weekly newsletter readers, on Wednesday 5th September. To be added to this list send an email to the new sign-up address list-subscribe (at) londonjazznews.com


The Dedication Orchestra - A final celebration this afternoon at the Vortex

This afternoon the Vortex will host the Dedication Orchestra's final celebration gathering. It marks the end of a unique venture of far-reaching significance. During its long existence it has involved Alan Skidmore, Django Bates, Mike Westbrook, Kenny Wheeler, Elton Dean, Lol Coxhill, Evan Parker, Paul Rutherford, Keith Tippett, Louis Moholo Moholo, Julie Tippetts and Maggie Nichols...

Evan Parker writes:
The story of the Dedication Orchestra is long. When we started the project the apartheid system was still in place, South Africa was under the control of an exploitative white minority and Mandela was still in prison.

We were the unwitting beneficiaries of that situation when the Blue Notes, escaping that regime via the Antibes Jazz Festival and Zurich came to live in London. The Blue Notes gradually evolved into the Brotherhood of Breath and many smaller groups involving Blue Notes and their new London colleagues sprang to life. Death - the unavoidable - took Mongezi Feza, Johnny Dyani, Chris McGregor and Dudu Pukwana.

In each case the survivors had marked their loss with a musical offering. When only Louis Moholo-Moholo was left, we formed the Dedication Orchestra so that we London musicians could pay tribute.

That was in the 1990s, with those initial recordings at Gateway. It began as an entirely charitable venture, all the musicians and others involved giving their services freely. All who are still with us have been invited to be here. Thanks for coming.

Nimbus Records were especially generous and as a consequence we were soon able to pay for the traditional funeral ceremonies and decent grave markers. It was clear there would be a surplus and our first thought was to pay for a young South African musician to come to London to study. History rudely but thankfully interrupted us: Mandela was released from prison, apartheid fell and the era of Truth and Reconciliation began.

The money accumulated and the amount was soon too much to give to one individual even if we had been clear about how to decide who it should be. Louis was by this time living back in Cape Town and reporting back to us in London.

Finally the situation was considered stable enough to transfer the money, much to Hazel Miller(*) 's relief, and the Blue Notes Bursary has been founded. (For more information see this article about the Blue Notes Bursary)

Thank you all for your generous part in making this possible.
(*)Hazel Miller was married to Harry Miller the bass player from South Africa who came to live in London in the apartheid era, shortly after the Blue Notes arrived here. They founded Ogun Records together and issued many recordings of musicians with South African connections. She has been very supportive of the scene and musicians generally, has helped Louis Moholo-Moholo with his European touring since he has been based back in Cape Town. Hazel is currently doing work to promote a benefit concert for Lol Coxhill's widow with a cast of thousands on September 19 at Cecil Sharp House.


A Prayer for Abram Wilson (30 August 1973 - 09 June 2012 )

In sadness. It would have been Abram Wilson's 39th birthday today. It still feels impossibly cruel that he was taken from among us so early.

This performance of Prayer from Porgy and Bess was with Southampton University's Progression Ensemble conducted by Dan Molinero at Turner Sims Hall, Feb. 25th, 2011.

The Foundation which has been set up by Abram's widow Jennie to continue his work has so far raised over $22,000.


Three Free Talks at the National Jazz Archive, Sep 7-8

More strange sightings reported from Essex today. The National Jazz Archive, in Loughton, will be hosting three talks during the National Heritage Open Days.

Friday 7th September, 2 pm ‘Journeys of a Jazz Curator.’
Speaker: Andy Simons, Curator of Printed Historical Sources at the British Library and editor of Jazz Research Quarterly.

Saturday 8th September , 12 noon: 'British Jazz in the 1960s'
Speaker: Duncan Heining, writer for The Independent, Jazzwise and Jazz UK.

Saturday 8th September, 2 pm ‘Jazz in British Cinema.’
Speaker: Dr Nicolas Pillai, Warwick University.Author of recent articles ‘The authentic’ jazz film’ and ‘Ten Great Jazz Films’ in The Jazz Rag.

The Press Release also states: "The Archive will be open throughout Heritage Open Days 10am – 4pm Thursday 6th – Saturday 8th September. In addition to talks there will be children’s activities, live music, tours of the Archive and the opportunity to handle Archive material." And possibly this new Essex anthem too?


Mike Gibbs' next recording will be on Whirlwind

Mike Janisch's Whirlwind Recordings label announces that they will be recording a new album with a 12-piece ensemble by Mike Gibbs in December, and releasing next year. The great composer/arranger's 75th birthday falls on September 25th this year.



CD Review: Yuri Honing Acoustic Quartet - True

Yuri Honing Acoustic Quartet - True
(Challenge Records CR73336. CD review by Chris Parker)

Oprn-minded, gutsy adventurousness has always been one of the hallmarks of saxophonist/composer Yuri Honing’s music, and this acoustic quartet album, with its wide variety of both tempos and subgenres (from popular-music classics to electronica to relatively straightahead jazz material), can only solidify his reputation.

It begins with the affectingly mournful title-track, in which Honig’s characteristically dry but pure-toned saxophone is driven by a heavy snare backbeat from regular drummer Joost Lijbaart, the lithe bass of Ruben Sanama and the tasteful keyboard contributions of Wolfert Brederode, but thereafter, there is everything from pleasantly nervy pieces (the Will Gregory/Goldfrapp composition ‘Paper Bag’) through free-ish excursions involving judicious use of electronics (‘Yasutani’) and brisk, muscular fare (‘Nobody Knows’), all characterised by the snappy interactiveness and hair-trigger (but frquently downright rambunctious) attention to nuance of a lively, alert band.

Appropriately enough, this album was recorded (in a day) in one of the contemporary homes of such rich artistic eclecticism, Berlin, but London will also be able to experience this sparky, imaginative band at the Pizza Express Jazz Club on 20 September.


Preview: Voice (feat. Jasmine Cooray) 6th Sep- Forge, Camden


Clemmie Franks writes about the upcoming gig at The Forge, Camden, Thursday 6th September by her trio 'Voice' with poet Jasmine Cooray.

Voice, (Victoria Couper, Clemmie Franks, Emily Burn), is the culmination of over a decade of singing and music making together. We grew up together in Oxford where we were lucky enough to work with a broad range of inspirational musicians / composers such as the baritone, Roderick Williams, Dufay Collective folk and early music vocalist Vivian Ellis and instrumentalist / composer Stevie Wishart .

We pursued separate studies after school but came together again in 2006 (when two of us were studying Ethnomusicology at SOAS) to form a vocal trio so that we could continue singing the music we loved while growing up, but also explore other a cappella vocal music for three voices from other musical traditions.

Following a gig at a pub in East London with the promoter NONCLASSICAL run by Gabriel Prokofiev, we were heard by composer Marcus Davidson. Since this meeting we have worked with Davidson a lot and he has written us a number of pieces including Angelica the Doorkeeper which takes inspiration from both Hildegard of Bingen medieval chant, Eastern European folksongs and a poem by the Iraqi-Assyrian poet Sargon Bolous.

Voice met Jasmine Cooray at a gig promoted by Last Mango in Paris at Stoke Newington International Airport a few years ago and while sharing the same bill as her we were blown away by her honest, emotive poetry and her beautiful delivery. Although it has taken a couple of years, we are very happy to finally be working with her and developing new projects together.

The next stage in our collaboration will be on Friday 2nd November at St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, London, when we will present Megaphones for the Unheard which includes new poetry by Jasmine, and new compositions by Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Helen Chadwick and Stevie Wishart celebrating the female voice through music and poetry.

Thursday 6th September 2012, The Forge, Camden Town - Tickets

More information about Voice and forthcoming projects, including a 2013 US tour is HERE


Callum Au Big Band Something's Coming Album Crowdfunding

Blackpool-born trombonist/ arranger Callum Au (INTERVIEWED BY US HERE IN MAY) is rapidly on his way towards raising the £500 he needs to support a forthcoming album project.

It's at Sponsume- just follow this link to get involved... while stocks last..


Review: Simon Spillett Quartet at The Bulls Head

Simon Spillett
Simon Spillett Quartet
(The Bull’s Head, Barnes, August 24th, 2012. Review by Andrew Cartmel)

It was a rainy Friday night in late August and the London village of Barnes was quiet, with many of the locals on their annual pilgrimage to Tuscany or Provence. But at the Bull’s Head things weren’t quiet. They were cooking.

Tenor man Simon Spillett’s quartet were up on the stage. John Critchinson was playing piano, Alec Dankworth upright bass, with Trevor Tomkins on drums (subbing for Clark Tracey). I had last seen Spillett’s outfit at the Polish centre in Hammersmith, on a memorable winter’s evening when an impressively drunken audience member had purchased a copy of John Critchinson’s CD, taken the disc out of the cover and flung it at the pianist (“He hadn’t even had a chance to listen to it,” reflected Simon).

Tonight things were comparatively restrained in terms of audience participation, but the performance was even more energetic. Looking as dapper as ever in his suit, the leader opened proceedings with ‘Speak Low’ and we were immediately and gorgeously immersed in Kurt Weill’s lovely melody, with Simon Spillett building towering structures on the chords, swooping down before soaring to a climax. The pace only increased with John Critchinson’s solo, which danced nimbly through the joyous theme.

It was a high octane start to an unforgettable set. Alec Dankworth was agile, musical and expressive as they swapped solos, then it was back to Simon Spillett and the rhythm section resumed the role of forceful and judicious backing. Trevor Tomkins made the final statement of this ravishing piece and then the entire room exploded into applause. “Wow!” shouted someone in the crowd — and they were right.

From this point on, the energy level was way up.

Next came ‘Off the Wagon’, which Simon prefaced with a reminiscence about Tubby Hayes, composer of the tune and once a regular player on this very stage, “In the halcyon days of the Bull. This one is dedicated to everyone with addictive tendencies — but you look like a pretty abstemious lot.” Simon Spillett is an expert on Tubby Hayes and his knowledge and passion for the subject informed his playing. Trevor Tomkins played delicate, subtle, tactical drums behind Spillett’s gorgeous big-toned solo. It was laid-back and grooving, stepping in parallel with John Critchinson, who segued into his own perfect miniature of a solo, which was like a man skimming stones an impossible distance across placid water, each note placed just so, with Alec Dankworth and Trevor Tomkins chugging in support. Simon stood at the edge of the stage, contented and jubilant, digging these three before returning to bestow on us another richly textured series of statements, cascading, conversational and beguiling.

He obviously loved playing his hero’s tune.

Alec Dankworth contributed a loping and witty solo and Trevor Tomkins added some lovely cymbal flourishes.

The shade of Tubby Hayes must have been smiling as the boys brought it home as a single, polished unit. They were jolly and sophisticated — and jolly sophisticated.

The next treat in store was Fran Landesman and Tommy Wolf’s ‘Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most’. Here Simon Spillett’s playing was rhapsodic, open and rich. It was hard to believe, but things were getting even lovelier. His saxophone seemed literally to sing the song. Like Lester Young before him, Simon Spillett is obviously a player who makes a point of knowing the lyrics. John Critchinson contributed delicate and artful decorations that circled the tune, turning, returning and overturning it playfully.

Critchinson could show Monet a thing or two about using tiny splashes of colour to paint a picture.

Alec Dankworth was grinning with delight as Simon Spillett played the final statement. This was a band that was having fun — and making music.

Sonny Rollins’ ‘Oleo’ was given a driving, hard-bop treatment. Trevor Tomkins got our pulses racing, riding the beat with relaxed precision as the leader launched a galloping solo. There were roars of approval from the audience. When he stopped playing, John Critchinson joined in seamlessly, like a man jumping onto a moving horse, and took over. The excitement was tangible in the room and even the immaculate Simon Spillett was breaking a sweat. Alec Dankworth kept up the pace as he soloed, plucking at the resonant strings, racing like a thoroughbred.

‘Alone Together’ by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz followed. “This starts with some free jazz — jazz you wouldn’t pay to hear,” joked Simon Spillett. And indeed it did, reminding this listener that Sun Ra had covered this gem of a melody. John Critchinson was lyrical and ferocious while Trevor Tomkins built walls, ceiling and a floor for the music. Simon Spillett played with fire-siren urgency and Alec Dankworth provided a strutting, resonant, conversational solo, caressing opulent music from the strings.

The second half of the set opened with ‘The Night has a Thousand Eyes’ — the Jerome Brainin and Buddy Bernier standard and not, as Simon Spillett was quick to point out, the Bobby Vee song. The highlight here was the amazing, bouncing delicacy of Trevor Tomkin’s playing. Better was yet to come, however.

A little known ballad by Gene Lees and Armando Manzanero, ‘Yesterday I Heard the Rain’ showcased Trevor Tomkins. The drummer played with tender, swinging precision. Simon Spillett’s shimmering purity of tone was also very much in evidence and there were cries of ‘Wonderful’ from the audience. Here Alec Dankworth’s playing was majestic and profound, every note carefully chosen and plucked to perfection.

But the real highlight of the evening came next. Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo’s ‘Tin Tin Deo’. This was a small, or maybe not so small, masterpiece. It was a feature for Trevor Tomkins but started with Alec Dankworth playing unaccompanied. “Good luck, son,” called John Critchinson dryly from the piano. But no luck was required as the bass alone, then the bass and drums suddenly conjured an insinuating Latin presence into the room. And then the sax and piano came in and it was Afro-Cuban heaven. Shivers down the spine swiftly transformed into an urge to get up and dance. This wonderful piece concluded with a tour de force drum solo from Trevor Tomkins, playing infectious, propulsive and intoxicatingly complex rhythms first with his hands, then stick and hand, then stick, hand and elbow.

It was the high point of a gig which was, itself, one of the high points of the year so far in live jazz.


And those who decamped to Tuscany and Provence have no idea what they missed.


Review: Laurence Cottle Big Band - Celebrating Jaco

Laurence Cottle Big Band - Celebrating Jaco
Ronnie Scott's 25th August 2012. Review by Cai Marle Garcia)

It takes a brave bass player to cover Jaco Pastorius material. It takes a world-class talent to rearrange his material for big band and perform it at Ronnie Scott's. Laurence Cottle and his big band's 'A Portrait of Jaco' managed this feat with finesse.

Cottle had the rare privilege of meeting and spending time with the late Pastorius (see LondonJazz's preview/ interview) , and his encyclopedic knowledge of Jaco's back-catalogue helped to treat the crowd to hits both famous and more obscure.

With 2012 marking the 25th anniversary of Pastorius's untimely death, the show threw Cottle's finely-honed skills as an arranger, as well as bassist, into the limelight. Opening with 'Domingo', the band then blitzed through a formidable version of 'Donna Lee' complete with Pastorius's original solo played by Cottle and harmonised by the woodwind section. Cottle clearly knows Jaco's material inside-out and the delicate attention paid to riffs, stabs and flourishes would have delighted any Jaco aficionado.

Cottle had assembled a top-notch band to share the stage with, including longtime collaborator Nigel Hitchcock on sax and Gareth Lockrane on flutes and piccolo. Hitchcock's balance of the sensual and the intense was perfect on 'Three Views of a Secret' and Lockrane (who also weighed in with his own arrangement of 'Punk Jazz') was flawless on his featured tracks 'Used To Be A Cha Cha' and 'Reza'. Cottle and the band paid homage to the little-known album masterpiece 'Holiday For Pans', and the finale of Jaco classics 'Liberty City' and 'The Chicken' had the audience shouting for more.


LondonJazz passes its two-millionth page-view

In the small hours of Saturday morning, LondonJazz reached its two millionth page view. Since we sarted in Jannuary 2009, LondonJazz has become more and more a collaborative effort. Geoff Winston was kind enough to send in this screen-shot (Thank you!) .


CD Review: Rick Simpson - Semi Wogan

Rick Simpson - Semi Wogan
(SaySo Records SEHSO04CD, CD review by Chris Parker)

‘Highly sophisticated and beautiful’ is altoist Martin Speake’s reaction to the music and playing of pianist Rick Simpson, and this, the latter’s debut album as a leader, contains nine examples of his impressive compositional and instrumental talent.

His sprightly, eloquent, often quirky piano is at the heart of proceedings, whether the piece is a lively meditation on John Wyndham’s post-apocalyptic novel The Day of the Triffids or one of a series of absorbing explorations of contemporary jazz developments incorporating everything from hectic post-bop group interplay to the odd burst of free improvisation, but Simpson is sensitively but robustly supported throughout by a supremely sympathetic, adaptable and resourceful band: tenor player George Crowley, bassist Dave Manington, drummer Jon Scott, joined on the album’s closer, ‘Almost’, by the serene vocals of Brigitte Beraha.

Simpson’s credits include work with Speake, Stan Sulzman and Alan Barnes (all keen and perceptive observers of the UK jazz scene), so he comes with impeccable credentials, and this fresh and original set is a fine calling card.

Album launch 12 September, Pizza Express Jazz Club. Other tour dates here


The Bad Plus at Ronnie Scott's, October 23rd and 24th

Made Possible, The Bad Plus' eighth studio album, is released in the UK on October 22nd. The Ronnie Scott's dates are the first European dates of the band's tour. 


Kit Downes - Quiet Tiger and I didn't see it coming. Animations by Lesley Barnes

Kit Downes - Piano
Calum Gourlay - Bass
James Maddren - Drums
James Allsopp - Bass Clarinet
Adrien Dennefeld - Cello

from Quiet Tiger - Basho Records


CD Review: Kwartet - Seventh Daze

Kwartet - Seventh Daze
(Home Made Records HMR 053 – CD review by Chris Parker)

The two saxophonists whose close musical rapport forms the foundation for this pungent but occasionally playful album, Tim Whitehead and Tony Woods, are both powerful and highly individual soloists and skilful composers (Woods with a more overt penchant for traditional-folk roots), so this set of often quirky in-band compositions and three standards/jazz classics is characterised throughout by originality and assurance.

Joined by electric bassist Patrick Bettison and the idiosyncratic but always resourceful drummer Milo Fell, the saxophonists sinuously intertwine, robustly joust and generally strike creative sparks off each other throughout a widely varied programme.

Everything from a stirring arrangement of the traditional ‘Blackwaterside’ through a danceable funk piece (Bettison’s ‘Bustling Stomach’) to rousing two-tenor features such as Woods’s ‘Rowing Blues’ keep up the considerable momentum established by the opener, the intriguingly multi-hued and multi-textured title-track, and overall, this is a consistently lively and enjoyable album, at once imbued with the pleasing informality that results from close musical acquaintance and compatibility, and the attention to detail and nuance that comes from the front line’s wide experience.


Review: John Cage Prom + preview of BBC Radio 3 Cage Centenary

The BBC Scottish Symphony orchestra play Christian Marclay's Baggage
Photo Credit: BBC/Chris Christodoulou
© BBC/Chris Christdodoulou

Prom 47 - John Cage Centenary
(SW7 and Royal Albert Hall, 17th August. Review by Rob Edgar- with preview of Radio 3 Cage Centenary programming)

The prom began with a Cage inspired musical walk around South Kensington. Prior to the walk we had been given instructions to download a playlist consisting of music written and recorded specifically for the event, a highlight being Dai Fujikura’s I Dreamed on Singing Flowers. It was a nice idea on a pleasant afternoon.

The night was a long one (including the walk almost 6 hours) and presented some pretty challenging music but as Cage himself said “The first question I ask myself when something doesn't seem to be beautiful is why do I feel it's not beautiful? And very shortly you discover there is no reason.”

Cage’s music has a real sense of discovery about it and he was very much a pioneer of new forms, compositional techniques and devising new sounds. In 101, the Scottish Symphony Orchestra under the direction of conductor Ilan Volkov played a piece where Cage gives the performers only little fragments of melody and it is up to the player to decide how long to play it.

It is interesting how Cage plays with our preconceptions of what music is. But What About the Noise of Crumpling Paper is a piece written for pieces of wood, metal and bubbling or pouring water. After 15 minutes of this it becomes hypnotic. It was the same in Branches where the music and sound came from cacti and other plants. When you next hear the sound of a clarinet or violin, it sounds as though you are hearing it for the first time.

Robyn Schulkowsky playing a cactus in Branches
Photo Credit:© BBC/Chris Christodoulou

The piece that really worked was Cartridge Music and Atlas Eclipticalis with Winter Music, a combination of three different pieces from Cage’s indeterminacy period. We heard them superimposed over each other. It was for orchestra, an eclectic mix of everyday objects and four pianos. Despite the chance-based nature of this performance, it did genuinely sound like there was order in the chaos (and of course there could not have been); lines would make their way from the orchestra and would sound to be picked up by the pianos. At one point there was a tenth played in the brass which was immediately reiterated by Christian Wolff on the piano. Quite by chance.

Volkov’s programme really split the audience down the middle; especially noticeable after the interval was the steady trickle of people leaving the hall. Cage may have seen them coming - or going - in his Lecture on Nothing when he said “I am here and there is nothing to say. If among you there are those who wish to get somewhere, let them leave at any moment.”

BBC Radio 3 will be continuing Cage’s 100 year birthday celebrations with a series on Cage running from the 15th-22nd of September. Highlights include conductor Richard Bernas and sculptor Antony Gormley on Sunday 16th September detailing Cage’s considerable influence on the non-musical world. HERE IS THE BBC's PRESS RELEASE

The Programmes will be:

Music Matters: Saturday 15th September:
Tom Service examines how Cage’s music developed throughout his life.

Hear and Now: Saturday 15th & 22nd September:
Conductor Ivan Volkov leads the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in performances of Cage’s works including The Concerto for Prepared Piano.

Sunday Feature: Sunday 16th September:
Conductor Richard Bernas looks at Cage’s influence in disciplines beyond music with guests including Angel of the North sculptor, Antony Gormley.

Late Junction: Tuesday 18th – Thursday 20th September:
Anne Hilde Neset explores the world of John Cage through his music and writings, and the work of those he inspired. Highlights include Aphex Twin’s take on the prepared piano.

How To Prepare a Piano – Saturday 22nd September:
Pianist and comedian Rainer Hersch learns first-hand how to prepare a piano and composes his own work for the instrument.


CD Review: Daniel Herskedal and Marius Neset - Neck of the Woods

Daniel Herskedal and Marius Neset - Neck of the Woods
(Edition Records EDN 1034. CD Review by Chris Parker)

Although saxophonist Marius Neset will be familiar to many jazz listeners courtesy of his widely acclaimed recording Golden Xplosion, this recording, a duo project with tubaist/composer Daniel Herskedal, finds him in relatively restrained mode, largely eschewing the incandescent playing (correctly) suggested by his debut’s title.

Most of the pieces, which range from the lively title-track’s attractive mix of stirring skirling saxophone and unexpectedly buoyant tuba to the subtle, more contemplative intertwining of ‘The Shepherd’ or the appropriately jaunty ‘Ara’s Dance’, are overtly jazz-based, often spearheaded by Neset’s swirling, agile saxophones, but the standout track is perhaps Eg er Framand, on which soloist Hallvar Djupvik is featured performing lyrics in a beguiling traditional folk–jazz mélange. Other voices - the Svanholm Singers' - are also used, mainly as a somewhat anaemic vocal wash behind the duo’s instruments.

Concluding with a skilfully judged visit to Abdullah Ibrahim’s classic The Wedding (the hushed, reverent tone of which suits the pair’s approach perfectly), this is an unusual but consistently absorbing and intriguing album from two highly accomplished instrumentalist/composers, and provides yet more evidence of the resourcefulness and imagination of Edition Records.


CD Review: Joe Stilgoe - We Look to the Stars

Joe Stilgoe - We Look to the Stars
(NS&A B007N8Q9V6, CD review by Jeanie Barton)
We Look to The Stars is Joe Stilgoe’s newly released album of self-penned songs; a slick, punchy collection of high energy retro feel tracks evoking lindy hop hedonism.

Joe is an exceptional pianist and has peppered the mostly pop feel album with some jazz heavy moments; his first solo during the opening track Let’s Begin shows his dexterity at the keyboard and an ambitious George Benson-esque parallel ‘played and sung’ scat feature during the funky, Now Wasn’t that Fun. His influences in composition and arrangement are tightly melded; We Should Kiss modulates similarly to Mack The Knife and powers along in a Louis Prima-like showman style. I also hear a through-line of modern singer-songwriter influences, particularly the recurring “um-cha” groove which reminded me of more upbeat Gilbert O’Sullivan numbers.

(That’s The Way It Crumbles) Cookie Wise introduces a different vibe - a beautifully cascading piano ballad featuring rich string accompaniment. The song is born from a line in the film The Apartment starring Jack Lemmon, Billy Wilder and Shirley Maclaine. Just as Jack's character Bud is sure all will not end well, he states "That's the way it crumbles, cookie-wise" in the manner of 'perhaps it's not meant to be'. I think it could work very well as a feature song in a Richard Curtis film.

The album continues at a more leisurely pace and with a music theatre feel during The Chestnut Tree while Can’t Catch Me Out evokes the visuals of a Broadway show. Time to Fly utilises thick layered female backing vocals - all tracks are extremely tight musically and highly produced - which, for me, makes them become a little sterile as a result.

An acoustic cover of Ray Davis’ Waterloo Sunset performed by Joe alone at his piano is like a breath of fresh air in its simplicity and a relaxing way to end an album which showcases Joe’s vast and varied musical skill


on double/electric bass - Chris Hill and Mark Hodgson
drums - Ben Reynolds and Simon Lea
guitar - Mark Jaimes and Denny Ilett
trumpet - Mike Lovatt, Simon Finch, James McMillan, Graeme Flowers and Nathan Bray
trombone - Andy Wood
saxophone - Tom Richards, Jamie Anderson and Graeme Blevins
violin – Anna De Bruin Katie Read
viola – Sarah Button
cello – Natalie Rozario
backing vocals – Pricilla Jones, Tracey Riggan, Chris Hill, Ben Reynolds, Steve Trowell, James McMillan
percussion – John Blease


Just announced by the 606 - Mica Paris and the LVP

The 606 has just been given clearance by LOCOG to announce a special gig, part of the Cultural Olympiad:

Tuesday August 28th - 8.30pm. "For one night only, as part of the London 2012 Festival, British soul legend Mica Paris joins forces with the 14-voice London Vocal Project" .



The Canary Wharf Jazz Festival 2012 in pictures

Definitely the hottest day of the year! Here is a selection of Richard Kaby's cache of pictures from the ever-lively, free 2012 Canary Wharf Jazz Festival. (NB all photos are copyright. See Richard Kaby's Photostream for many more).
The crowd for Courtney Pine

Courtney Pine

Ben Cottrell, the power behind Beats n Pieces

Pedro Segundo in the sunshine in Dennis Rollins' Velocity Trio

Dennis Rollins on the big screen and the Canary Wharf Stage

Seckou Keita (kora) and Davide Mantovani (bass)- album launch is 24 Sep.


CD Review: Keith Jarrett - Sleeper

Keith Jarrett - Sleeper
(ECM 370 5570. CD Review by Chris Parker)

Given the universal acknowledgement of the uniquely influential and musically satisfying nature of Keith Jarrett’s ‘Belonging’ band, it seems almost unnecessary to do anything but simply note the appearance of this double album, which is taken from a previously unreleased live concert in Tokyo, 16 April 1979.

Familiar classics (chief among them ‘Personal Mountains’ and ‘New Dance’) received characteristically inventive quartet treatments, Palle Danielsson and Jon Christensen setting up an infectiously joyous but consistently musicianly rhythmic flow under Jarrett’s robustly lyrical piano, Jan Garbarek’s utterly distinctive skirling saxophones (and occasional flute), and the subtlety and power of pieces such as ‘Prism’ and ‘So Tender’ demonstrate just why they continue to be explored by Jarrett’s Standards Trio all these years later.

Dancing energy, irresistible forward momentum, delicate yet vigorous interactiveness – the Belonging band simply set the jazz standard for these qualities in subsequent decades of the music, and this album contains seven valuable and unequivocally enjoyable demonstrations of Jarrett’s musical genius, perceptively described thus by Garbarek: ‘His touch, his chord movements, the always present rhythm, the surprising melodic turns, the ability to make the piano sing in such a unique way, complexity and simplicity, abstractions and earthiness hand in hand …’


CD Review: Justin Swadling - Modus

Justin Swadling, Liam Waugh, Emily Francis

CD Review: Justin Swadling - Modus
(ASIN: B00725EV9W - CD Review by Alison Bentley)

Soulful sax, infectious grooves, good clean funk. Tenor-player Justin Swadling writes the tunes and leads the trio. The strength of their debut album lies in the tight band sound and in the tunes themselves. They're written like songs, with verses and choruses: the first hearing gives you the hook lines and irresistible rhythms. More careful listening reveals sophisticated compositions, thoughtful arrangements, attention to detail and fine playing.

Swadling calls his compositions 'singable melodies', and at times they recall Grover Washington's soulfulness. But Swadling's tone is tougher than Washington's - on the funky Chance his solo sounds more like Kenny Garrett - playing mostly within the harmonic structure, with some fast atonal phrases.

Nightlights is perhaps a nod to Donald Fagen's Nightfly, less lush but with a similar beat. There's a hint of 90s acid jazz, calling to mind Roger Beaujolais' Vibraphonic, but with a sparser sound. Maceo Parker's influence can be heard in Swadling's gravelly tone in Rush- a funky, dancey tune, with a melody so strong that the complex chord modulations slip by almost unnoticed. In the gentle hiphop ballad Visions and the meditative Adoration, his sweet, high sound conjures up Kirk Whalum.

Several pieces recall Steps Ahead (the line-up with Bendik on sax.) Matter is a good example, with its strong melodic riffs, and sections with different rhythms and moods. Emily Francis plays the Rachel Z role- in fact, a double role on both keyboards and synth bass. She has a remarkable, versatile sense of rhythm. She plays everything from Steely Dan/Supertramp-like Fender Rhodes chords on Chance and Rush, to spacey sounds on Fix. She even sounds like a moody rock guitar on Visions. It's so groovy you almost expect an Erykah Badu vocal to come in. Her solos on Fix and Underground are gutsy and bluesy, with a little Headhunters Herbie Hancock, or 60s Joe Zawinul. I'd love to hear her solo more.

Drummer Liam Waugh has a superb range of grooves in his repertoire, from understated hiphop to hard-hitting funk- there could be some influences from James Brown's Funky Drummer. Underground shows his gentler side, starting with Jack deJohnette-esque drum rolls, moving into jazzy 6/8, then rock. He solos creatively over perfectly-orchestrated stops.

Swadling calls the album 'smooth jazz', but the trio's individual musical personalities are too strong to sound truly 'smooth'- this is music that demands you really listen to it. Although the trio were still at the London College of Music until fairly recently, they've already played at festivals on the Isle of Wight, in Oxford and Ealing (with Mike Outram on guitar) and others- we'll look forward to hearing a lot more of them.

CD available here


Celebrating the Bundesjazzorchester at 25 (2)

The Bujazzo Jazz Vocal ensemble. Schloss Rheinsberg. August 2012
BundesJazzOrchester and Jazz Vocal Ensemble, Directed by Jiggs Whigham
(Rheinsberg Schlosstheater. 17th August 2012. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

Cards on the table, this can’t be an impartial review. When you've spent a few days sharing the same air, eating the same Schnitzel and Kartoffeln, witnessing the bright bushy-tailed enthusiasm of a rising generation of musicians queuing, Skyping, practising, when you’ve been hearing snippets of their programme wafting around a baroque castle courtyard, how could it be? It was fascinating to share the momentum of the build-up. And it was exciting to hear the end-product they'd been working hard to achieve.

The programme I heard was one of two which this Echo Prize-winning band had been working on during their week or "Arbeitsphase" at Schloss Rheinsberg in Brandenburg in Germany. There’s a fuller version of how the BuJazzO’s gets put together HERE.

Jiggs Whigham directed the band throughout the concert, and brought genuine warmth and encouragement to the young German players. Highlights were a stunningly well-delivered account of Marty Paich’s deliberately symphonic treatment of My Old Flame written for the Kenton band - of which Whigham is an alumnus -  neatly propelled by Mareike Wiening at the drum kit, and the encore, Francy Boland’s Sax No End which put the whole band through its paces for a final sprint to the tape.

The technical level which the band achieves is consistently high. For a band which is assembled just twice a year, they also achieved remarkably good balance and that sense of a convergence of purpose. A fair number of the players are in the top conservatoires in Germany, and absolutely know what they are doing. Tenor saxophonist Nils Wrasse from Windeck perhaps stands out as being a particularly assured soloist, with a story to tell. The programme gave him the most opportunities to shine, and he took them.
Tamara Lukasheva

And I won’t forget the sheer tingle factor, that sense of suddenly being transported, which happened when vocalist Tamara Lukasheva from Odessa in the Ukraine started to sing Ellington's Daydream, in an arrangement by Lennie Niehaus. This is a voice not just with power, gears, scale, but also character and a fabulous way of holding a slow phrase. Just as the white-tailed-eagle was meant to fly high over the River Dnieper, Lukasheva’s is a voice just made to soar over a big band.

There were other skilful players too, who made their mark in just a few bars. Alto saxophonist and flautist Anna-Lena Schnabel had a particularly assertive and fluent and imaginative way of giving predictable chord sequences the slip.

As Whigham announced at the end of the concert: “Sie haben erlebt…die Stars von morgen./ You have just experienced the stars of tomorrow”. It was fitting remark to crown the moment  to which a whole week, and all the anticipation of it had been building.


RIP Annie Kuebler Rutgers Archivist 1951-2012

Annie Kuebler. Photo credit: Ed Berger

Tad Hershorn has written to tell us of the death of his Rutgers University colleague Annie Kuebler (link to Tad's obituary of Annie.) She died of a brain haemorrhage last Monday August 13th. "In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to be made in Annie’s name to the Morroe Berger/Benny Carter Jazz Research Fund." In sadness.


Celebrating the Bundesjazzorchester at 25 (1)

The Bundesjazzorchester in concert.
Schloss Rheinsberg, 17th August 2012 

In this first of two articles celebrating the Bundesjazzorchester as it starts its 25th year, we describe a band which deserves to be better known outside Germany.

Meet the band. The German equivalent of NYJO is entering its 25th year. BuJazzO (pronounced Boo-Yats-Oh, and short for Bundesjazzorchester) was founded in 1988 by the late Peter Herbolzheimer (1935-2010) who ran it for nearly twenty years until 2006. Students enter the band from age of 18. There is an upper age limit of 24. Members  can only remain for two years, or for a total of four twice-yearly, week-long courses (known by the utilitarian word  Arbeitsphasen - workphases). The winter course normally takes place in Trossingen in Southern Germany. The summer course - such as the orchestra's 50th course since inception, which I witnessed -  in the former East.

In the Herbolzheimer era, the band played a lot of the Rumanian-born bandleader's charts. Every year fresh faces would come along and learn a limited repertoire. Those muscular Herbolzheimer charts, littered with punchy brass stab chords are still in the band's pad, but BuJazzO now plays in many more idioms, and works under different directors. Artistic Director - installed this year, but with a history of working with and inspiring the band - is Jiggs Whigham. The Cleveland-born trombonist and bandleader, at the forefront of the music has made his home in Germany, and in the Cologne/Bonn area where the band is based, since the mid-1960's. He speaks perfect Rhineland German, and the young members of BuJazzO clearly enjoy his lively and sympathetic leadership.

The band also has a Music Director, saxophonist/ composer Niels Klein, and on this course a Guest Director, Maria Baptist from Berlin, has also been directing the band in her own vivid compositions.

The office of the band is in Bonn, in the offices of the main funder, the Musikrat. The full-time administrative staff of three had been led since inception by Peter Ortmann. The summer the band's management has been taken on by Dominik Seidler. The 50th course which I witnessed marked the handover, Ortmann's major contribution right from the start being rightly celebrated.

The Bundesjazzorchester trombone section in rehearsal

The course I witnessed had thirty-eight members: a big band with alternates playing in all sections, plus a vocal jazz ensemble of eleven. These players are the top of the tree, with up to three thousand players eligible to apply as they emerge from the school-age bands in each of the Laender in Germany which fee their alumni into BuJazzO. At its foundation just before the fall of theBerlin wall - the band could only draw on the West German Laender. The band I saw had about a dozen fine young players whose jazz education has prospered in completely new entities during their lifetimes in the former East Germany. These players and  youth jazz in East Germany are, in fact,  more or less the same age.

I will review last night's Schloss Rheinsberg concert  in the second piece -meanwhile the band is off to play two more concerts in the East of Germany, one in Rostock, another in Werder an der Havel.

Contact details for BuJazzO are here. We have further information - just get in touch.


Corey Mwamba Orrery. Commissioned to Celebrate 30th Anniversary of Derby Jazz

Founded in 1982, the not-for-profit promoter Derby Jazz will celebrate its 30 - year anniversary this November, and has commissioned a piece from local Derby - based composer/vibraphonist Corey Mwamba

Orrery is inspired by the Derby-based 18th century artist Joseph Wright. In Wright's picture - which has been on display in Derby Museum and Art Gallery since 1884, and is one of Neil Macgregor's 100 Objects -  a group of people studying a mechanical model of the six planets of the then-known solar system.

To reflect this, Mwamba gives each front-line musician the role of a planet whilst symbolising the sun with the rhythm section. The frontline (which consist of 6 musicians) will move around the “sun” independently, sometimes eclipsing each other, sometimes moving in tandem.

Further lending itself to the idea of the solar system, Mwamba has arranged material written by the musicians themselves (which include influences from science, maths, poetry and mythology) to go into the piece giving the musicians a completely individual presence within the context of an organised whole.

Even the audience will be involved, at least during the first performance; there is no stage. Instead, the group will move around the audience allowing them to become “the cosmic dust in a jazz solar system.” The second performance will be more conventional with a stage and seats

Mwamba and Derby Jazz have had a fairly close working relationship over the years (this is the third piece they have commissioned). The night will also celebrate - and feature - national and international musicians whose careers started in or around Derby.

The 30th will feature:

Corey Mwamba - vibraphone

Alex Suckling - trumpet

Dave Kane - bass

Deborah Jordan - vocals

Graham Clark - violin

Jan Kopinski - saxophones

Joshua Blackmore - drums

Julian Siegel - bass clarinet

Tony Kofi - baritone saxophone

The two performances of the work will take place on Friday, 30th Nov, 8 pm, at:

Darwin Suite
Assembly Rooms
Market Place, Derby
Tel: 01332 255800 or book online. Under-16s go free.


Review: William Basinski - The Disintegration Loops

London Contemporary Orchestra. Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2012. All Rights Reserved

William Basinski: The Disintegration Loops with The London Contemporary Orchestra (Queen Elizabeth Hall, 12 August 2012; review and drawings by Geoff Winston)

'The most helpful and useful music I have ever known.' Antony Hegarty makes no secret of his affection for William Basinski's seminal work, Disintegration Loops, and programmed this orchestral reinterpretation as the finale of his Meltdown series at the Southbank.

This exquisite performance was much more than a transcription, it was a reimagining by Maxim Moston of the first two tracks, DLP 2.1 and DLP 1.1, of the original digital capture which constitutes Basinski's 4-CD 5 hour magnum opus, in their world and European premieres, respectively.

Disintegration Loops was assembled by Basinski in 2001 when he attempted to transfer the analogue sound from his original cassette tape loops dating from the early 80s to digital files, only to find that the surface of the tapes had partially perished over time and when he ran them again they continued to degenerate in direct contact with the recording heads, creating an other-worldly remoteness and additional strands of poignancy. Through temporal accident, Basinski played back the piece during the aftermath of the attacks on the twin towers, which has imposed an additional mythical dimension to the work.

This concert was also a piece of New York hitting London. Ryan McAdams, the evening's dynamic conductor had been invited to take the rostrum at the premiere of DLP 1.1 at a special concert at New York's Metropolitan Museum on the 10th anniversary of September 11th, and Basinski and Moston, also a member of Antony and the Johnsons, were in attendance.

London Contemporary Orchestra. Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2012. All Rights Reserved

The feathery tune-up to DLP 2.1 could have been its prelude. The 40-strong, black-clad orchestra, under the pin-sharp direction of McAdams, slowly and purposefully built up the intensity from the merest hints of sound with an extraordinary delicacy and clarity that offered a surprising insight in to the lightness of what might have been Basinski's original looped elements. Trombones, woodwind and string sections created an undertow of bass pulses and pastoral, minimalist threads that ran through the whole performance.

The grittiness of the digital recording was reconstituted in rustling, intricate percussion, fed through high-level speakers, which gave them a unique physical dimension in the acoustic mix. This was the underlying foundation, which allowed the emergence of the rounded, brass tones of the horns to evoke a nautical distance and hints of a painful, echoing emotion.

London Contemporary Orchestra. Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2012. All Rights Reserved

The sensitivity of the LCO's execution was emphasised in a passage which combined lightly plucked strings and a complex weave of percussive intrusions that conjured a distinct sense of timeless Japanese space and sound.

A smaller, 24-piece ensemble was convened to visit the lengthier DPL 1.1 and they set the tone with a prescribed vocal hum to focus players and audience, before embarking on a flowing journey of bright repetitions with intermittent, richly orchestrated glimpses of a regional American folk theme. Wistful syncopation between the three percussionists and within the body of the orchestra maintained a tension and balance, and vibraphone and slow clarinet contributed warmer, mellower aspects to the work's inevitable sense of decay. This was ultimately borne out in the silence of a few minutes which was held unflinchingly by McAdams, linking it to the remembrance of 9-11 with which Basinski's moving work has become linked. Basinski, with a characteristically baroque, braided hair style, and Moston took to the stage to share the applause from the enraptured audience.

The orchestra's ability to tread such a light path with its flickering shadows in the process of revealing the gossamer tensions in Basinski's composition was a major feat. The beauty of this achievement lay in the response that each of the young players brought to the arranger's vision and the conductor's evocation of that unique environment that constitutes the melancholy, glimmering emotional range of Basinski's composition.


Pop Uses of the Altered Dominant Chord - by Nick Malcolm

Trumpeter Nick Malcolm writes about the use of altered dominant chords in popular music…

Surely the most seductive of all the dominant 7th alterations, the Altered Dominant Chord (b9 #9 #11 b13) is responsible for those little spine-tingling jazz moments in over-the-top pop songs.

After a lifetime of self-loathing and social rejection, we jazz musicians are too cautious to express our true joy at these brief seconds of harmonic grace. Yet upon hearing them we awake, shiver with the thrill of possibility and gaze on longingly with regret at the life not chosen.

After posting this on Facebook I was amazed at the response and gratified with my friends and colleagues willingness to confess to love and knowledge of some extremely camp music. Clearly this has tapped into a long buried need like some sort of jazz confessional. Thanks to all those willing to risk becoming personal and professional pariahs in the name of truth and honesty.

Here are the best ten examples that we came up with.

1) Isn't She Lovely - Stevie Wonder


Probably THE textbook example. At Stevie's surpassing encomium, 'I never thought true love would be, making one as lovely as she' the Altered Chord steams into the second bar of the bridge. Grab your harmonica bebop licks chaps.

2) Run Away - Whitney Houston


Whether it's 'run to you-hoo-hooooo' or 'come to you-hoo-ooooooooo' in the fourth bar of the chorus, and annihilating Celine and Mariah on the way, Whitney blasts into orbit in the VI Altered dominant Space Shuttle from the Cape Canaveral of over-production. Cosmic!

The next three go together in what we’ll call the ‘Function Threesome’.

You’ve driven 764 miles down the M4. The sound check was at 11am so that you’ll be ‘out of the way’ when the guests arrive. The bride is asking if you wouldn’t mind just ‘hanging on for a couple of hours after’ so that the PA can be used by her cousin who is DJing and the band food stipulated in the contract is unremittingly beige. That postgrad at the Guildhall seems a very long time ago.

But fear not! A twisted redemption is possible. As you solo over one of the brief altered dominant moments in the following three songs, your jazz soul will soar with Bird, Trane and Dave Sanborn and you’ll guarantee an interrogation by the jazz fan uncle in the interval.

3) Horny - Mousse T

0.04’ (and throughout)

4) StreetlifeThe Crusaders & Randy Crawford


5) Sing It BackMoloko

0.10’ (and throughout)

6) All I Want For Christmas is YouMariah Carey


Nothing says Christmas like chromatic alterations to the mixolydian mode as MC reminds us here.

7) Watcha Gonna Do For MeThe Average White Band


Confirming Dundee’s reputation as a centre of harmonic opulence, AWB demonstrate the international reach of the altered dominant.

8) SenoritaJustin Timberlake

The machismo from Memphis passes the altered dominant onto the MTV generation in the first chord of his 2002 hit. Cheers Justin!

9) Out Of My LifeMichael Jackson


We’d like to, as they say, slow it down a little bit now. MJ may not know whether to laugh, cry, live or die but he does know that whatever he does will be accompanied by the altered dominant. Good choice Michael.

10) Love On TopBeyonce 0.49’

Bringing us right up to date with her 2011 chart topper, Miss Knowles knows that the altered dominant, like love, is always on top!



Preview: The Sun Ra Arkestra Under the Direction of Marshall Allen - Barbican Hall

On  29th September, the Barbican will feature the “cosmic” Sun Ra Arkestra founded by the cult figure and multi-instrumentalist Sun Ra (1914-93) in the mid 50s. It is now under the direction of Arkestra veteran (he has been with them since 1958 and is now in his late 80s) saxophonist Marshall Allen

It is rare for the Arkestra to be asked to play in a space as large as the Barbican Hall and, to mark the occasion, they are expanding the Arkestra (exact size still TBC) to the size that they would sometimes up it to in the 60’s and 70’s, utilising instruments like thunder drums.

The Barbican have also invited the group Mystic Lights to come and do the lighting, a group that did the lights and stage design in venues like the Roundhouse and the famous UFO Club in the 60’s. "They are no strangers to psychedelic shows," according to Chris Sharp (Music Programmer at the Barbican). “We just wanted to make it a visual spectacular to match the musicianship which will of course be spectacular as it always is.”

The actual music itself has often been eclipsed by the gargantuan and eccentric personality that was Sun Ra, but many first time listeners can be quite surprised by just how varied and difficult to define it often is. Sun Ra started off writing in a similar manner to Duke Ellington and was grounded in the early swing and blues styles; Chris Sharp says, ‘I know a lot of jazz fans aren’t don’t feel particularly comfortable with that mystic stuff but for me…it was a good way in to experimental improvisatory jazz, it has a narrative and a mood that is quite approachable even though some of the actual musicianship is quite demanding.”

Sun Ra ‘left the planet’ in 1993 but his legacy as a teacher and a bandleader pervades through the group to this day. The Arkestra still perform all of the old music and the group were so thoroughly well trained and taught be Ra that, musically, the only element that has really changed is the soloing as new members continue to join and be replaced after his death.

In fact, Sun Ra wrote so much music throughout his lifetime that Allen has to do very little (if any) composition for the group, according to Sharp who met Allen the last time he was over, ‘Marshal Allen, rather endearingly, wanders around with them [arrangements and compositions] in a plastic bag overflowing with sheet music… He literally had a Tesco bag with a lever-arch file in it that had seen better days and music was spilling out of it. I said, “Crickey! Don’t you want to be a bit more careful than that?” he said “Sonny wrote so much music, you lose this there is always more.”’


Preview: Wayne Krantz Trio at Ronnie Scott’s 20-21st August

Wayne Krantz, Ronnie Scott's, 20th and 21st of August 2012, Preview by Rod Fogg

Those in the know will have got their tickets already, so if you have yet to discover this one of a kind guitar player here’s why you should be thinking about joining them.

Long to Be Loose, from way back in 1992, was his first trio album; just guitar, bass and drums. It is relentlessly funky, complex and eccentric – from the weirdest track names ever to scratchy, squeaky, chunky or full on rock toned guitar, with drumming that gets everywhere without ever losing the groove and spectacular loping bass lines that convince you anything is possible.

Over the years Krantz has concentrated on live trio albums (no overdubs allowed), aiming to discard influences from other guitarists and seeking an open and risky form of improvisation without ever losing the groove that ties everything together. 2009’s studio album Krantz Carlock Lefebvre added a wealth of possibilities, with overdubs allowing more complex chord sequences and an even greater variety of guitar tones - and vocal tracks. Yes, vocals. See, I said he was eccentric. They are more spoken than sung, as if reciting poetry, or a kind of low-key rapping. This year's Howie 61 adds even more lyrics, more tightly integrated and often shrewdly observed or with a wry sense of humour. It’s new, it's different; not exactly song and not rap, but jazz, with words.

This latest album involves a supporting cast of top players too numerous to mention here, but for the gigs at Ronnie's Krantz will be joined by Lefebvre and drummer Nate Wood, so it's back to the trio format. The standout thing for me in the latest albums is how he has honed his attention to tone – the range of colours on display within each track leaves me in a state of wonder and I can't wait to hear him do it live.


Review: Jeremy Sassoon - Ray Charles Revue

Jeremy Sassoon - Ray Charles Revue
(Ronnie Scott's, 11th August. Review By Sarah Ellen Hughes)

Sipping a mint julep, former Psychiatric Doctor Jeremy Sassoon coolly opened an exhilarating set paying tribute to the music of Ray Charles, his debut at Ronnie Scott’s. A compilation of hits and lesser-known tunes, Sassoon and his band presented a well-arranged, well-executed 80 minutes of music. Many of the arrangements came from jazz saxophone master Iain Dixon, making the most of the stars of the band: Winston Rollins on trombone, Martin Shaw on trumpet and the superb Mike Smith on drums.

And not forgetting of course, “Ray Charles” himself, Jeremy Sassoon. There’s no doubting from where Sassoon draws his inspiration - whether consciously or sub-consciously, he rocks on the piano stool while playing, head whipping from side to side, getting into the groove of the music.

Sassoon is a charming and witty front-man, one of his skills being that he can make the audience feel immediately at ease, and can almost relate to the crowd on a personal level. Such an atmosphere made the sold-out crowd - presumably brimming with Ray Charles fans - applaud wildly for each tune and soak up the infectious feel-good vibe.

Vocally, the highlights were a raw, aching You Don’t Know Me, and Bye Bye Love, with spot-on backing vocals from Annabel Williams, Tor Hills and LaDonna Harley-Peters.

The Ray Charles Revue certainly has longevity, as a sold out Saturday night crowd will testify, but Sassoon is also a skilled writer, and is showcasing a number of new compositions at the JazzFM discovery show in September. Recommended listening.


Preview: Richard Michael and family on the Edinburgh fringe

Hilary Michael
Scots musician and educator RICHARD MICHAEL previews The Great American Songbook - St Marks artSpace Edinburgh, 21-3 August.

What's the best way for a jazz musician to get together with his family? Rather than book a family holiday taking in St Marks Venice, why not, I thought, book a 3-night gig for the family in St Marks artSpace Edinburgh, as part of this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe!

Bass player nephew Paul Michael, daughters Hilary and Joanna on sax/violin and violin will play their own take on the Great American Songbook on 21, 22 and 23 Aug at 7.30.

Paul is active on the London jazz scene, having played Ronnie Scott's with Julian Joseph. Hilary plays with the Academy of Ancient Music as well as jazz gigs, and Joanna is the leader of the New Edinburgh Orchestra.

And don't miss out on the jazz at this year's Festival - Ian Shaw, Lillian Boutte, Paul Kirkby and a host of others at various venues including the Jazzbar.

Richard presents his sell out show from last year, The History of Jazz Piano, also at St Marks artSpace on Saturdays 18 and 25, also at 7.30


Preview/ Full Programme: Canary Wharf Jazz Festival

(Preview: Canary Wharf Jazz Festival, Canada Square Park, Canary Wharf, London)

Now in its sixth year, the free admission Canary Wharf Jazz Festival (“One of London’s most respected”) is back from Friday 17 – Sunday 19 August. Party time in Canada Square Park.

This year promises a wide variety of acts from Courtney Pine to Beats and Pieces and also features a good dollop of world music.

Friday night will feature the big band Lokkhi Terra and will close with a performance of James Morton’s new band the James Morton Soul Collective; a funk and soul influenced sextet, they will be joined by Mary Pearce and Afro-Cuban percussionist: Snowboy.

Headlining on the Saturday night this year will be Courtney Pine. Playing with him will be: Rob Fordjours on drums, Karl Rasheed-Abel on bass, Cameron Pierre on guitar and Omar Puente on electric violin. The set promises to be lively and energetic.

Also on Saturday: contemporary jazz/funk crossover trio, Dennis Rollins’ Velocity at 5pm, and up-and-coming vocalist Alexander Stewart.

Sunday will see acts like Voices of Nature and The Soul Reformers, featuring 4 members of the Amy Winehouse band, before building to the headliners, the ever energetic Beats and Pieces. Led by Ben Cottrell, they seek to redefine the idea of a big band and draw their material from areas as diverse as Radiohead, Loose Tubes and Polar Bear.


Friday 17th

7pm – 8pm: Lokkhi Terra

8.30pm – 10pm: James Morton’s Soul Collective with special guests, Mary Pearce and Snowboy

Saturday 18th

1.30pm – 2.45pm: Josh Arcoleo Quartet

3.15pm – 4.30pm: Bansangu Orchestra

5pm – 6.15pm: Dennis Rollins’ Velocity

6.45pm – 8pm: Alexander Stewart

8.30pm – 10pm: Courtney Pine

Sunday 19th

.30pm – 2.45pm: Davide Mantovani Sextet

3.15pm – 4.30pm: Voices of Nature

5pm – 6.15pm: The Soul Reformers

6.45pm – 8.15pm: Beats & Pieces


RIP Von Freeman (1923-2012)

The Chicago Tribune reports the death on Saturday August 11th of Von Freeman, a giant of the tenor saxophone who sayed loyal to his home town of Chicago, at the age of 88. Known as Vonski, he was the father of Chico Freeman. He received the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award earlier this year.A recently released album recorded at the 2002 Berlin Jazz Festival HERE. RIP. 



Left to right: Bob Martin, Ryan Trebilcock, Pete Lukas, Matt Home
(out of picture: Leon Greening)
Pete Lukas / Bob Martin Quintet
(Bulls Head, August 11th 2012. Review by Alison Bentley)

'Bopcentric' is baritone-player Pete Lukas' name for his own recording label, and it describes his music perfectly. London-based American alto-player, Bob Martin, (his 'partner-in-crime') was the ideal foil for Lukas' rich, warm tone.

Bebop is a hard taskmaster, with its precise timing, intricate harmony, tricksy passing tones- and sheer speed and virtuosity. Lukas studied alto with Martin, but switched to baritone to focus on one musical direction, recently gigging with Alan Barnes and Gary Smulyan. Lukas found inspiration in the baritone of the late Pepper Adams and transcribed his solos to get to the heart of the style.

Several tunes written or played by Adams were featured on the gig, and the Latin Sans Souci and Adams' Trentino contrasted with the mostly hard-swinging pieces. Martin's solos had a pure, vital sound. We were swept along by the urgency of his phrases- fierce, fast notes in fragile delicate patterns, lasting for only seconds, smooth as silk on glass. Bebop phrases tend to start and end in unexpected places in the bar – Martin would pause with eyes closed and wait for the notes to come to him like a visitation.

On the rare occasions when Pete Lukas picks up a tenor sax, he finds the sound too weak - he's in thrall to the range of bari timbres, and they were all there in his feature: Adams' ballad Now In Our Lives. Lukas slides up to the notes with real tenderness, heart-felt vibrato, and relaxed trills and turns. Leon Greening's superb piano picked up sax phrases and echoed them, playing rippling fills between the melody lines.

Greening's solo in It Could Happen to You dug bluesily into the rhythm, Wynton Kelly-style, then Shearing-like block chords and delicate Bud Powell-isms – the fingers were a blur.

Some tunes were at combustible tempos. In Miles Davis' Dig, it was amazing that such an apparently cumbersome instrument as the baritone could sound so agile and incisive - like the 'knife' that was Adams' nickname. Yet Lukas really caresses the sound, even at speed. Drummer Matt Home sat very still but created huge energy and perfect time, with sizzling cymbals and dramatic 'dropping bombs'.

Ryan Trebilcock's steady, compelling bass pulsed through the whole gig (fine bass solos, keeping the bop lines and never losing momentum.)

Some of the most exciting moments were where Lukas and Martin improvised together. At the end of My Shining Hour the two horns had a good-humoured conversation; the earthy and bright tones a fascinating contrast.

Two more fine alto players sprang up from the audience to sit in on Star Eyes and Blues For Alice - Alison Neale and Jamie O’Donnell (often to be heard with Bob Martin at La Brocca in West Hampstead). They all had the energy and authenticity of bebop - a lifetime spent playing it, not just as an academic exercise but as self-expression.

The audience loved it - the tempos and the room heated up, people danced in the aisles. Who says you can't dance to bebop?

The two baritone saxes of Pete Lukas and Gary Smulyan will be on tour in November


Rochester 2013 Made In The UK showcase - applications open

Applications from bands hoping / wishing to appear in the 2013 Made In The UK showcase at the 2013 Rochester-NY Jazz Festival (above) have just opened. Last day to apply is September 30th.