A Nudge about the Paul Hamlyn Composer Awards -

A trick-or-treating publicist has just contacted us with strong hints as to the identity of the winners of this year's very valuable Paul Hamlyn Awards for Composers, won last year by John Butcher (above) . All will be revealed at a ceremony tomorrow November 1st. In the meantime here are various nudges and winks. The winners,we read, are:

- a famous folk singer

- a young composer who writes for concert halls, film, dance floors, installation and choreography

- a musician in his 60s known for his free improvisation and experimental music for a wide variety of instruments.


Preview: Jim Hall and Kenny Wheeler Big Band - Double Bill, Queen Elizabeth Hall, 18th Nov (LJF)

Jim Hall and Kenny Wheeler Big Band Double Bill
(Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, Sunday 18th Nov. LJF. Preview by Jack Davies)

At this year’s London Jazz Festival, the best has definitely been saved till last. On the final day of the festival, the Southbank’s Queen Elizabeth Hall hosts two of the jazz world’s greatest octogenarians - Kenny Wheeler and Jim Hall.

Guitarist Jim Hall rarely visits the British capital – his last appearance was with Dave Holland in 2006. A living link to jazz history, Hall’s understated clean guitar tone has been heard alongside Chet Baker, Sonny Rollins and Bill Evans. However, Hall is no museum piece – he has also collaborated with former student Bill Frisell, fellow guitarist Pat Metheny and pianist Geoffrey Keezer.

He appears with a New York trio of bassist Steve LaSpina and drummer Anthony Pinciotti. “I like either duos or trios” he said recently, preferring the space which a smaller group offers. This space can also be heard in the detail of his playing – he says: “A phrase should have a destination, and you take a breath and  let your brain - and maybe the audience - think about it.” Perhaps this is the trait which can be heard most clearly in those he has influenced, such as Frisell.

This concert presents a rare chance to hear those thoughtful, definitive phrases live on stage.

A chance to see Kenny Wheeler’s big band should also never be passed up – this is an ensemble that gathers together rarely, and each time it does feels like a special occasion. The band’s 2012 album is titled The Long Waiting – and aptly so – it is 22 years since Wheeler’s last big band album, the classic Music for  Large and Small Ensembles was released.

Kenny Wheeler is treasured by the musicians around him, So much so that the band members themselves organised the two days of recording at Angel Studios last year, and put up the money for the sessions. Kenny had written a new suite of music for his 80 birthday tour, and the band felt that this music was so important, such a musical treasure, that documenting it as an album was an imperative.

These musicians themselves are the highest echelon of British jazz:  John Taylor, Stan Sulzmann, Martin France and Henry Lowther. Judge a composer and musician like Wheeler by the company he keeps.

Kenny also maintains a close relationship with London’s Royal Academy of Music, due in no small part to his friendship with Nick Smart and Pete Churchill. The Academy recently acquired his archive of scores, and there is a free pre-concert performance of some of Kenny’s rarely heard works by the exceptionally good RAM Big Band.

Tickets  £10-25  HERE


CD Review: Neon Quartet - Subjekt

Neon Quartet - Subjekt
(Edition Records EDN1036. CD Review by Chris Parker)

The music produced by the Neon Quartet is at once muscular and thoughtful, rich and subtle, its four members bouncing ideas off each other with infectious enjoyment.

Over the characteristically assertive but sensitive drumming of Tim Giles and the careful shadings and textures of Kit Downes’s piano and Hammond, saxophonist Stan Sulzmann is – as always – both burly and sinewy, his tenor (and occasional soprano) simply bursting from the vigorous ensemble sound, his energy tempered by musicianly grace; vibraphonist Jim Hart’s cascading but measured solos provide welcome textural and dynamic contrast.

The album’s six pithy, rousing original compositions are by Downes, Sulzmann and Hart, but a particular highlight is a delightful version of Monk’s classic ‘Bye- Ya’, which brings out all Downes’s suitably idiosyncratic soloing skills after an intriguing solo introductory excursion.

The quartet began life as ‘Neon’, a band comprising Sulzmann, Hart and pianist Gwilym Simcock; since replacing the latter with Downes and adding Giles, the band has honed its absorbing, elegant but forceful sound into a subtly interactive bustle that promises much from their live performances; overall, this is an impressive collective effort from an accomplished set of world-class musicians and yet another classy album from Edition.


BBC Performing Arts Fund Community Music Grants Announced

Congratulations to Wonderbrass in Cardiff and Dales Jam in Skipton on being successful in the 2012 BBC Performing Arts Fund Community Music Grants. The full list of grant recipients can be read HERE


Preview: Nu Civilization Orchestra, Parallel: A Tribute to Joe Harriott

Nu Civilization Orchestra - Parallel: A tribute to Joe Harriott
(Purcell Room, South Bank Centre, Saturday Nov 17th, 7.45pm. LJF. Preview by Jon Turney)

Zeitgeist moves in mysterious ways. Science sees more simultaneous discoveries than can be easily explained. Music, too, finds players striving for similar goals even though they haven't discussed them.

The titles of the coruscating Jamaican alto saxophonist Joe Harriott's key recordings, Free Form (1960) and Abstract (1962) declared his determination to get beyond be-bop to something freer from ready-made structure. That idea, it's often said, resembled the explorations around that time of Ornette Coleman's first quartets. The results, not so much. Harriott was less interested in pure melody than Coleman, more in shifting ensemble textures,and his quintet featured a piano alongside sax and trumpet. But he still drew heavily on the vocabulary of blues, be-bop and Caribbean music. The results now sound so accessible - here the comparison with Coleman does work - that it's hard to credit how radical they once seemed.

Ornette, praise the powers, is still performing. Harriott's career ended with his early death in 1973. His work is more talked about than listened to - though some later free players such as Ken Vandermark have explored his compositions. Now the Nu Civilisation orchestra, one of bassist Gary Crosby's remarkable stream of projects, reinvent them completely, to startling effect.

The quintet pieces from the two recordings have been re-worked for the eleven-piece orchestra by pianist, arranger and conductor Peter Edwards. In Bristol recently, they were heard as a prodigious 90-minute suite, with Harriott's pieces interspersed with new work by Edwards inspired by him. In London, we may hope, there will be an intermission - it was a lot to take in all at once. But it was absolutely worth the effort.

Complex arrangements full of interesting twists and turns, and fine soloing from the likes of Nathaniel Facey, Byron Wallen and Will Gibson, give a new lease of life to a great musician's best work. The show is part of a larger programme of events put together by Crosby and his cohorts to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Jamaican independence. It is also, along with the concerts by visiting superstars in larger halls, exactly the kind of thing jazz festivals are about.

Lively Up Festival Website


CD Review: The Aruán Ortiz & Michael Janisch Quintet feat. Greg Osby - Banned in London

The Aruán Ortiz & Michael Janisch Quintet feat. Greg Osby - Banned in London
(WR4628. CD Review by Alison Bentley)

What happens when such creative, dynamic musicians meet? Light the fuse and listen to the fireworks. London-resident US bassist Michael Janisch plays sensitively, and yet is a driving force. The album opens with his fine rootsy solo on his own tune Precisely Now. You’re carried along by its rhythmic determination into a moody tune, with dusky modal chords. It's loosely in 5, with some tripwire bars of 6, and Cuban pianist Aruán Ortiz’ piano comes straight in with an altered chord- no concessions made to sweetness. Spanish trumpeter Raynald Colom's solo has an incandescent tone, with an undertow of breathiness, and unpredictable intervals redolent of Woody Shaw. Long ringing notes alternate with blazing chromatic runs. He's worked with Randy Brecker and has some of the latter’s bravura style. The whole band responds with massive energy.

US altoist Greg Osby (who LondonJazz interviewed at the beginning of his project) is perhaps the best known in the band- the album title harks back to his 1998 live album Banned in New York. Osby recorded Waller's Jitterbug Waltz on his Invisible Hand CD, and this Banned in London version is very jittery indeed, sketching the melody and darkening the harmony. It begins with an extraordinary sax cadenza. It's as though Osby’s transcribed his musical phrases from the intonation of human speech, like Steve Reich. He's one of the most imaginative saxophonists around today. His solo has tantalising hints of M-BASE, Steve Coleman-esque phrases, but less cerebral, more emotive. Each note is cool and clearly-defined, with very few bent notes, as if the sax is a piano.

Any relaxed bluesiness is undermined by Ortiz' dissonant piano chords- lots of tritones, banned in Medieval Church music, but fortunately not banned in London. Monk's Ask Me Now is the other standard here, and is a gentle contrast to the other tunes, a breathing space. Ortiz' rubato opening is Monkish but more Romantic, with pedalled sweeps. Osby and Colom play exquisitely: high gentle sax (a little Charles Lloyd) and deep vocal trumpet.

Ortiz' compositions, The Maestro and Orbiting, provide the pyrotechnics. Orbiting could almost be a Kenny Wheeler melody, but without the elegiac feel. It starts with an infectious bass/piano heavy riff, with some fab drum 'n' bass energy from the US’ Rudy Royston (last heard with Bill Frisell). The trumpet solo starts with a bang, then un-builds, with tender crooning notes over the wild rhythm section. Like Osby, Ortiz never plays the obvious notes in his solos, and his piano tone is drier here, and less legato. Sometimes a repeated riff can be too restrictive behind a drum solo, but Royston plays against it with huge fretful energy- then just as you think he might explode, everything dissolves.

The Maestro concludes the album, interspersing staccato phrases with smooth harmony lines and skittish percussion. Osby's solo is mesmerising, savvy and beautiful over swing. Royston rarely states the time obviously, but by some alchemy creates a strong groove. Ortiz' piano solo recalls Xenakis in its firecracker complexity and intensity. All the musicians are maestros on this superb album, recorded at a sold out gig. In Osby's words, it has the 'reckless, relentless, curious spirit' of jazz.

The group also has a tour which sees them at:

Alt Jazz Club, Istanbul, Turkey, November 2nd, 3rd and 4th
Jazz at Camera, Weisbaden, Germany, November 5th and 6th
St George's, Bristol, November 8th
Turner Sims Concert Hall, Southampton, November 9th
Purcell Room, Southbank Centre (part of LJF), November 10th
Hare and Hounds, Birmingham, November 11th


The Guinness Cork Jazz Festival - Finding the Right Bar

I know what you're thinking: it must be a tough assignment to find your favourite bar in Cork, but, hey, someone has to do it. Everyone I spoke to in Cork  wanted to make recommendations. Nobody had just one. I took time out from the main festival venues to check out some of them...

A couple of people had their favourite tiny, cosy snug bars, like the Hi-B or Hibernian, at 108 Oliver Plunkett Street. I noticed that it even has a conveniently located Chemist's shop directly under it.

It was cosy, yes, but at Festival time full to bursting. Another popular small bar recommendation was Dan Lowrey's in McCurtain Street: again,  absolutely heaving!

So I just wandered. On festival weekend the city is completely alive, there is music just everywhere. On the main shopping street St Patrick's Street a banjo and accordion led trio had a "I still hate Thatcher" sticker on display, and were punching out marching songs.I passed by the Oliver Plunkett  itself (top picture). It's very central and  quite a magnet, with a good local rock n' roll and jump jive band,  the Roaring Forties performing.  I passed a bar called the Woodford where a brylcreemed retro blues band was knocking it out. There were tribute bands performing My Generation,  bars for the older clientele which always seemed to have My Way on the CD player. I tried a couple more recommendations: other names which had come up were the vast Bodega in Cornmarket Street - one of the festival venues, I landed between sets -  and the Roundy, which also seemed full of character and friendly.

The choice is mesmerising, so you go on looking. And eventually-  I can now vouch from personal experience - everyone should be able to find their perfect spot. With a cold Paulaner Weizbier in hand, I certainly found mine. The trio of vocals/ alto / clarinet (Carolyn Goodwin) with guitarist Sam Barker and bassist Neil O'Loghlin were performing at the Cornstore Bar & Grill. Goodwin is a singer/ musician active on both the Cork and Dublin scenes. Barker is originally from Lymington in Hampshire, and has a regular gig at the Cornstore on Friday nights and Sunday lunchtimes. O'Loghlin is a skillful and understandably busy bassist originally from Co. Clare, now based in Dublin.

Carolyn Goodwin sings the standards repertoire with a poise, charm and musicality which instantly turned an onerous duty (OK, hardly) into the greatest of pleasure. She also plays a Konitz/ Desmond infused alto with imagination and class. I look forward to hearing Carolyn Goodwin again. People around the music scene in Cork whom  I spoke to are definitely aware of her, but she definitely deserves to be more than just their well-kept local secret. 

For more about Cork try the Bradt guide by Linda Fallon. I was the guest of the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival and of Tourism Ireland.


Becca Stevens at the Revoice! Festival

Left to right: Liam Robinson, Becca Stevens, ChrisTordini.
Out of picture:  Jordan Perlson. Photo credit: Dave Ohm

We've just had this picture sent in by Dave Ohm, which brings back memories of a superb gig, the Becca Stevens Band's (long overdue?!) debut as leader of her own band (*), one of the highlights of Georgia Mancio's Revoice! Festival at Pizza Express.

This is a band consisting entirely of New School alumni, which has really gone places. They have fascinating material - both originals and covers -  it's stunningly sung and (as above, Dave's caught them really well) harmonized. Here's a feature about the making of her last album. They were talking at the gig that a new album will be on its way...

(*) She had appeared with Elan Mehler at the Vortex in 2009.



Preview: Jazz Live Dance, Rose Theatre Kingston, Sat 10th Nov

Tim Whitehead writes...

Most jazz gigs are designed for a seated audience which has always seemed a bit wrong to me - I want to move when I hear something that moves me. A diet of Northern Soul and Tamla Motown in my formative years, I've never lost the taste for a groove and have always wanted to play for dancing - after all that's where jazz has its roots.

Talking with London Jazz Awards Best Jazz Vocalist 2010 Cleveland Watkiss recently I discovered he had the same idea, so I asked him to come down to the Rose Theatre Kingston to make music to dance to. Our first gig is on Saturday 10th November 2012

Admission is £8, doors open at 7:00pm, food is available and the music starts at 8:30pm. The Heads and Feet House Band features Winston Clifford, drums, Jonathan Gee, piano, Neville Malcolm, bass and myself on saxes. See the flyer, attached. It would be lovely to see you there.

Best wishes Tim


Review: Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O at Cafe Oto

Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2012. All Rights Reserved
Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. + / HI / ZO / U / BU / TU
(Cafe Oto, Tuesday 23 October 2012. Review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

The humour of Acid Mothers Temple is of a particularly disarming kind, but it is also what binds together their performances - such as last week's sold-out night at Café Oto. There are two strands to the Japanese hardcore/experimental scene, as Kawabata Makoto, the band's founder (and self-styled 'speed guru') has remarked:   there's the po-faced, serious side, which cultivates mystique, as exemplified by Keiji Haino; and there are  the mischievous rockers like AMT who naturally embrace parody and humour, and who are rooted in the boisterous, earthy, centuries-old traditions of Japanese popular humour such as manzai.

AMT is essentially a morphing collective of personnel, monikers and collaborations which has released scores of albums - including the recent Son of a Bitches Brew, very much a deconstruction with the flavour of the Miles original. The epithet, 'the greatest, the most extreme trip psychedelic group in the world' is perhaps intentionally misleading - in concert they came across more like Spinal Tap meets Sun Ra, the Grateful Dead and Hawkwind with a more than respectable smattering of improv, jazz, funk, folk and rock and roll. Chameleon-like, continually changing their musical colours throughout two sets, they mixed respect and irreverence in equal doses, and what they lacked in originality they made up for with drive and wicked wit.

Tsuyama Atsushi, bassist, spokesman and 'cosmic joker', in the midst of a sequence of duets and trios explained, as though to the uninitiated, that Higashi Hiroshi was playing a "very mysterious instrument ... called synthesiser”, which was briefly exchanged for a harmonica in a blues harp/vocal duet that had the band in stitches. A Fairport diversion degenerated gleefully into a dancing jig and had guitarist Tabata Mitsuru, wearing Ban the Bomb spectacles, camping it up with gusto.

Guitarist Makoto abandoned high-flying guitar pyrotechnics to set about on metal industrial lampshades with AMT's deceptively tight and focused drummer, Shimura Koji, in a spell that Han Bennink would surely have found to his liking as they used the shades as hand-held cymbals with Koji dragging and beating them mercilessly about the stage.

Atsushi threw in a dynamic Cecil Taylor-tinged piano interlude despite his repeated protestations - "I'm very sorry, we can't play real jazz, we're just a psychedelic rock and roll band." Introduced as Begin the Beguine, the Tubular Bells theme was treated with a touch of love and a great deal of disrespect, its inescapable refrain transformed into crashing percussive mayhem and chordal thrash by the ensemble.

He then intoned the text from the 'Supersilent' flier (distributed outside the venue) in a suitably mock-grandiose poetic tone (they'd already covered mock Led Zep) before being drowned out by twin guitar interplay.

Blooping and bleeping space-jazz and space-rock found its way into the nooks and corners of their sets, put in its place by the rhetorical question, "Are we experimental?" "No!" came back the answer followed by bird whistles.

In the final numbers and the encore they wigged out at locomotive pace with a mix of anthemic rock (not many bands would get away with that at Cafe Oto!) and in Steve Hillage/Hawkwind style, with great sound balance highlighting their technical proficiency.

Earlier, performance artist Satoshi Yamada (aka / HI / ZO / U / BU / TU ) had set the tone with a combination of the serious and the absurd - he was all in black, his hair scooped round to cover his face (echoes of The Residents) and the lights were turned out, but in response to the flash photographic barrage he implored "please take my photo". Percussive hums, cracks and feedback ensued intermittently, then a plea, "I need more beer" before the serious business of using an amplified power drill on his cello.

Not quite what it said on the tin but underneath it all, refreshingly self-deprecating all-round.

Acid Mothers Temple
Tsuyama Atsushi: bass, voice, soprano sax, cosmic joker
Shimura Koji: drums, latino cool
Higashi Hiroshi: synthesizer, dancin' king
Tabata Mitsuru: guitar, guitar synthesizer, maratab
Kawabata Makoto: guitar, speed guru


Preview: Live Recording of Harold Sanditen's Shades of Blue at the Pheasantry, 2nd ans 3rd November 2012

Harold Sanditen makes his second CD as a live recording. He writes…

When I made my first CD in September 2010, I found it a very stressful experience. Granted, I did the entire CD from recording to mixing in 10 days, so that alone is a monumental feat, which, naively, I didn’t fully realise at the time. Friends who’d made CDs told me it was going to be terrific fun, but I found singing to no one just didn’t work for me. On top of that, when you make a CD in a studio, you can add musical instruments later in the process, and you have the ability to tweak or change every note in striving for perfection, which began to feel unnatural. I liken this to the question of whether or not to have plastic surgery. Sure, you might look better afterward, but it could all go pear-shaped, and in the pursuit of a perfect face or physique, the quirks that give you true sex appeal are overlooked. On top of that, sometimes, you just don’t know when to stop.....so you can end up with a product that just isn’t really you!

So, it was an easy choice when I decided to make my second CD, to do it as a live recording. I have to admit I absolutely love the magic that comes from performing live. Audiences feed singers, so you almost always get something in a live performance that you simply cannot replicate in a studio. I’ve added all the instruments to the live show so that nothing will be added after the recording. I’ll have a jazz quintet playing for me, who play some 9 instruments between them – piano, bass, drums, tenor sax, clarinet, flute, trumpet, flugelhorn and violin.

SHADES OF BLUE is an evening of jazz, Latin and blues. I sing some blues, wear blue, tell blue jokes and have fun with the variety of meanings the word “blue” has taken on. The CD will be the 15 songs in the show, plus several “bonus tracks” which are favourite’s of mine that didn’t make it onto my first CD. Here’s the line-up: Harold Sanditen (vocals), Michael Roulston (piano and back-up vocals), Dave Olney (bass), Bob Sydor (woodwinds), Steve Bentley-Klein (brass/strings), Paul Merser (drums).

I think most people consider me to be a cabaret singer, but I want to be seen as someone who straddles the world between cabaret and jazz, and this is primarily a jazz show and a jazz CD. And boy, am I jazzed!

SHADES OF BLUE will be recorded live at The Pheasantry, 152-154 King’s Road, London SW3 4UT, on Friday, 2nd and Saturday, 3rd November. Doors open at 7 pm, show at 8.30 pm. All tickets purchased will get a free download when the CD is released. Tickets £15 in advance, and £20 on the door.

Bookings: At the Pheasantry's Site or call 08456 027 017 (option 8). More information form Harold's site.


A walk in Cork

Cork has been bathed in sunshine for the Saturday of the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival, for which I'm here as the guest of Tourism Ireland. How deeply ironic to discover the most prominent presence in this city of hundreds of bars:  Father Mathew The Apostle of Temperance. In 2005 there was a threat to move the statue which was fiercely, soberly resisted.

The NewYork Brass Band (from Yorkshire)  were out on the street playing Eurhythmics' Sweet Dreams Are Made of This and drew an appreciative crowd.

The attractive and popular1790's English Market, restored in the 1980's, was visited by the Queen on her historic visit to Ireland in May 2011.

The sun brings out the best in the architecture. This is the Crawford Art Gallery. On a greyer day, one might be tempted go in, but not today.


Gregory Porter, Roy Hargrove and Roberta Gambarini in Cork

Gregory Porter, Guiness Cork Jazz Festival, 2012

Gregory Porter's final numbers Real Good Hands followed by 1960 What? brought a full house in Cork's 650-seater Everyman Theatre unanimously to its feet. Alto saxophonist Yosuke Sato had burned through his solos with real conviction. After the show Porter was straight there manning a CD stall in the foyer, and must have sold about 100 CDs, and posed for photos with 30-40 audience members.

After the interval of tonight's concert in the 2012 Guinness Cork Jazz Festival.Roy Hargrove's quintet played a generous mega-set, finishing just before midnight, with vocalist Roberta Gambarini guesting with the band on a couple of numbers. Hargrove himself may have got the strongest and most heartfelt applause when he sang on September in the Rain. The band ended Farewell Symphony-style, each member in turn walking off, to leave bassist Ameen Saleem alone on stage to bring the night to a deeply sonorous, satisfying allargando close.
Roberta Gambarini, Guiness Cork Jazz Festival 2012


CD Review: David Sanborn - Then Again: The Anthology

David Sanborn - Then Again: The Anthology
(Rhino/Warner Jazz 8122797288. CD Review by Chris Parker)

The liner-note writer for this two-CD compilation of saxophonist David Sanborn’s own selection of his favourite tracks from two decades of his illustrious career (1975–96), David Ritz, refers to Sanborn as ‘a hot-blooded storyteller’, and the man himself defines his artistic ambition thus: ‘I find that light [that lets us grow] in song. And if I can inhabit a song, if I allow the light to let me in, I can find the right voice to tell a story that I believe is true.’ Asked what that ‘story’ is about, he replies: ‘Everything I feel, and nothing I can explain.’

This anthology, which begins with ‘The Whisperer’ (featuring Michael Brecker), and proceeds (non-chronologically) through the altoman’s collaborations with producers Hal Wilner, John Simon and Marcus Miller et al. up till 1996’s ‘Missing You’, will probably not convince the more hardline members of the jazz police, suspicious of what they regard as Sanborn’s glibness, his ability to wring every last drop of emotion from a popular song or straightforward light-funk chord sequence, that he is not the chief source of ‘smooth jazz’ (a charge he fiercely rejects); the less censorious, however, will find much to enjoy in his fierce, utterly accessible, declamatory heart-on-sleeve playing, and the flawless, impeccable arrangements in which it is set like a precious jewel.


Preview: Grand Union Orchestra at the Hackney Empire. 11th November

Tony Haynes of the Grand Union Orchestra writes about the orchestra's upcoming gig at the Hackney Empire on 11th November 2012, 7:30pm

There are two basic ways to look at jazz. First, there is the literal, historical view – seeing the music as a chronological development from New Orleans roots, through its big band days to bebop and beyond. On the other hand, it can be seen as a revolutionary attitude to music-making – the emphasis on improvisation and the personality of the individual musician, and its capacity to absorb and treat creatively virtually any musical idea or tradition.

Liberation and Remembrance, Grand Union’s contribution to this great Festival, attempts to link both. It pays tribute to iconic figures in jazz history through whom the music developed, from the descendants of African slaves through Buddy Bolden and Jelly Roll Morton to Charlie Parker – that’s part of the ‘remembrance’ bit! – while celebrating the musical freedom jazz has opened up for us; and helping tell this story are some very fine present-day jazz soloists – Chris Biscoe, Tony Kofi, Louise Elliott, Paul Jayasinha, Byron Wallen, Kevin Robinson

But that’s only part of the story, of course, as anyone familiar with Grand Union Orchestra shows will realise. Given the date, Armistice Day, it’s an appropriate occasion to acknowledge also the reality of war and the experience of those caught up in conflict or fleeing religious or political persecution. Among them are migrants and refugees now living in East London, and their culture, their music and their musicians are also woven into the show.

Jazz cannot but be identified with oppression and resistance, but like the music that emerged from New Orleans a century ago, the legacy of centuries of slavery, the music forged in this modern-day cultural melting pot is equally glorious and uplifting, full of energy and life.

So jazz is both the music of the liberated and the most liberated of musics; but what ultimately defines it, and distinguishes it from other musics, is that it’s also a music that must constantly re-invent itself – there can be no going back, it’s the most progressive of art-forms.

We shall certainly be true to that spirit on the Hackney Empire stage on November 11th!

Tony Haynes, Grand Union Orchestra

More information can be gleaned from Grand Union's WEBSITE. You can also discover more from Tony Hayes at HIS BLOG


Podcast: A Few Minutes with.... Laura Jurd

LondonJazz has just recently recorded and edited its first podcast. We interviewed Laura Jurd  about her upcoming debut Landing Ground (released 5th November), the launch gigs, and the concept behind the album. Also featured are two excerpts from the CD. (pp)


LondonJazz's podcast theme to be Kate Williams: I'm still Awake from Scenes & Dreams (2005)

Thanks to a lot of hard work by Rob Edgar, we are about to launch our first podcast, "A few minutes with...Laura Jurd"

The opening and closing music for the recording, to be used on future podcasts is from a track with something unusual about it. The title: I'm Still Awake is an anagram of the name of the composer, Kate Williams. It is from her 2005 trio album Scenes and Dreams. 


BASCA Award Nominees: Laura Jurd, Alex Roth, Christine Tobin

The nominees in the category "Contemporary Jazz Composition" in the 2012 British Composer Awards organized by BASCA are:

- Laura Jurd , for Giant’s Causeway

- Alex Roth, for The Charm of Impossibilities

- Christine Tobin, for Sailing to Byzantium

The FULL SHORTLISTS ARE HERE. Matthew Herbert also gets a nomination for One Pig in the Sonic Art category. The winners in each category will be announced at Goldsmiths’ Hall on Monday 3rd December.



Review: Lively Up! Festival at Queen Elizabeth Hall

Photo Credit: Ben Amure

Lively Up! Festival
(Queen Elizabeth Hall. 24th October 2012. Review By Rob Edgar)

1962 saw Jamaica confirm its status as an independent country. Last night saw the London leg of the Lively Up! Festival tour at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, one of 7 dates around the UK celebrating this with a reworking of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ seminal debut Catch a Fire, plus other well-known tunes.

The sold out concert featured the Jazz Jamaica All Stars, The Urban Soul Orchestra under the baton and watchful eye of Kevin Robinson, and Voicelab .

This entertaining evening featured unmistakeable references to
the original music of The Wailers: the close-knit harmonies of the delightful backing singers Zara McFarlane, Valerie Etienne, and Rasiyah Jubari on Slave Driver being one pleasing example. Slave Driver also featured a solo from newcomer to Jazz Jamaica, baritonist Teresina Morra. She played a laid-back solo that was lazy and just a bit behind the beat (in a good way!) cementing her place in the band.

No More Trouble, in the intro, sounded as though it would not have been out of place in a gritty 1940’s cop film before the 80 strong Voicelab choir (under the direction of Mark De-Lisser) sounded together at maximum volume; combined with the luscious string arrangements played by the Urban Soul Orchestra lead by violinist Stephen Hussey (who, just moments before in Stir it Up had played a Stéphane Grappelli-esque solo with Miles Brett replying in a more pentatonic and straight ahead but no less gratifying way) gave almost everyone in the audience goose pimples.

This is a complex production, and the practicalities of manoeuvring total of up to a hundred and ten people on- and off-stage meant that the opportunities for individual adventure and creativity are limited. But as Bob Marley once said: “Me only have one ambition, y'know. I like to see mankind live together." And on those terms the evening was a success. Before long, thanks to talented singer Brinsley Forde's engaging if occasionally formulaic MC-ing, the entire audience was up dancing, singing along, as one.

Lively Up! is produced by Dune Music and Tomorrow’s Warriors and supported by Arts Council England and PRS for Music Foundation.


Review: Tim Lapthorn Trio / Kerenza String Quartet: Transport Album Launch

Tim Lapthorn (photo from www.timlapthorn.com)
Tim Lapthorn Trio, Kerenza String Quartet, Bobby Wellins, Polly Gibbons
(Pizza Express, 23rd October 2012. Review by Frank Griffith)
The Tim Lapthorn Trio were making their debut at this venerated Soho nightclub, launching the new album Transport (Pathway Records), and embarking on an album launch tour. They brought with them an olio of different musical timbres and colours: a string quartet, an illustrious tenor saxophonist, and a guest vocalist. Tim Lapthorn's pianistic abilities include a formidable technique and delicate touch, a wonderfully rich tone from the instrument. His equal command of strong melodicism, a loamy harmonic sense and an acute rhythmical drive make him the consummate jazz pianist. One particularly remarkable quality is his mounting of intensity in his solos creating cascades of tumultous rhythmic dynamism from the trio, which can then, at will, be simmered down quickly to a quiet close. Bassist Arnie Somogyi's solid control, holding down, the fort, was complemented by his painstakingly melodic solos. He never overplays. Drummer, Tristan Maillot, mediated all of his responsibilities magnificently in tackling a variety of odd meters, as well as providing a sensitive dynamic to underpin the strings.

The celebrated Navarra String Quartet, who were widely billed for the date were obliged to pull out at the last minute, but were more than ably replaced by the Keranza Quartet. Their leader, violinist, Kerenza Peacock was joined by Hayley Pomfret, second violin, Alex Gale, viola, and cellist Daisy Vatalaro. The quartet's sonorous tone and subtle shadowing of the trio brought about a warm glow-like effect. The viola was highlighted briefly on one piece, and Alex Gale demonstrated a haunting sound quality in the extreme low register of her instrument. The Kerenzas stepped in as last minute replacements but rose to the occasion admirably. They are a group to look out for in future.

The venerable Scottish saxist Bobby Wellins guested on three numbers, most notably on a poignant reading of It Never Entered My Mind. His plaintive lyricism imbued with short but telling melodic bursts was offset by his settled and engaging tone.

The addition of vocalist, Polly Gibbons featured a gospelly number co-written by Tim and herself, bringing a welcome change of mood and idiom for the listeners. This was followed by a closing romp through Cole Porter's What Is This Thing Called Love, by the quartet, building to a steaming, boisterous and satisfying close.

Tour dates at Tim Lapthorn's website.

The Frank Griffith Big Band will be performing as part of the London Jazz Festival on 14 November at The Bulls Head in Barnes.


Montreux Jazz Cafe and Boutique launched at Harrods

Claude Nobs, the founder of the Montreux Jazz Festival was in town tonight. He officially opened the first "Montreux Jazz Cafe and boutique" on the third floor of Harrods. Harrods, it turns out,  is packed with restaurants... Nobs also played a blues chorus on harmonica with teenage guitar sensation Andreas Varady and his dad Bandy Varady, who then played on. In the audience, Boris Becker....

The Swedish cafe manager told me that the plan is to have a couple of musical events in the cafe each month. Claude Nobs also announced a joint project with the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, three concerts scheduled for July 2013.

It's all part of a plan to make the Montreux Jazz Festival more visible. It has cafes at the airports in Geneva and Zurich (one in Sydney was tried but closed) and the next project will be a gourmet restaurant in the Gare de Lyon in Paris, opening next year. Montreux is also in the process of digitizing its extensive video archive, in collaboration with the EFPL University in Lausanne (MORE ON THIS PROJECT HERE).

There is also a Montreux Jazz Festival Japan, in Kawasaki, with the second edition due next month. There are also luxury brand tie-ups, with Chateau Haut-Brion and artisan luxury watchmaker Parmigiani Fleurier from canton Neuchâtel both represented - "not that we're trying to sell you anything", said Claude Nobs....with his characteristic, broad smile.

TO keep up with this strong flow of news from around the world, try the Montreux Jazz blog.


Preview by Ian Shaw and Sachal Vasandani - Hideaway, Sunday 11th Nov.

Photo Credit: Cat Munro

Ian Shaw and Sachal Vasandani talk about their London Jazz Festival gig at the Hideaway in Streatham on Sunday 11th November 2012 

IAN SHAW:  Rare beasts that we blokes-wot-sing-jazz are aside, it's always a thrill to stumble upon a new singer (couple of years ago now) whose spontaneity and sense of storytelling, both with words and otherly jazzy stuff, seem to stroll close to your own meandering insensibilities.

Lightly stalked was he, by me...on a music-sharing site (guess which one?)...only to lead to the realisation that the rather marvellous Sue Edwards revealed that she knew him in New York in as much as anyone could know him. “He never answers his phone, let alone replies to adoring comments on his MySpace page" she ruefully would add. “Okay” I thought. “Shelve it. The bugger'll find me eventually”.

Whizz forward to LJF 2010 and me giving it rock all on Elton's red piano at The Elgar Room in The Albert Hall, Sachal Vasandani jumping up with me and stunning the room with his musical mischief...and that voice! Dripping in honeyed, vibratoless long notes, interlaced with an impro trip-switch that is for sure a direct line back to bebop and beyond, Sachal comes armed with colourful arrangements (wait 'til you hear his That's All I Want From You, a tune that Nina does on that tricky '76 LP, produced by Richard Perry) that afford him bold, yet uber-connective links to a listening crowd.

We rehearsed in a tiny room off Oxford Street for a date down the Pizza in the March this year. Instant musical lock-horn I thought. I love having a great singer (Martin, Mancio, Carroll, Wilson, Herbert, Bell, Lewis, Detroit, Gordon, de Laria...email me for first names) up there with me. I relish the accompanying AND the vocal jousting.

Vasandani is smart and cheeky enough to love these things too.

I can't wait to be up on the stage with him at the brilliant Hideaway for LJF 2012. He's breaking an insane long-haul couple of dates to come back to London for the festival.

You'd be potty to miss this exclusive. Do come.

Ian Shaw. October 2012.


SACHAL VASANDANI: It's gonna be a blast to sing again with Ian Shaw. He's a total riot on and off stage - I love his energy. He's generous with me and my music, and was from the start, without even knowing me; wish I could say that about more singers. That quality alone reflects a deep confidence, something I respect highly.

When we've worked together, a couple of memorable times now, I've been delighted by both his capacity to tell a story and the humor in his singing, all while effortlessly running the whole range of the piano's colours. And in the spirit of a true collaborative jazz artist, he takes the songs further than I anticipated, pushing them in creative spaces that are challenging and musical both. Singing along with him is a fantastic and spontaneous treat.

Maybe it's because he's so at home singing and owning the piano and just being himself that audiences totally love his shows. I know I do. He's been kind enough to invite me to sing with him again. With Ian at the helm I fully expect that the show will swing from the heartbreaking to the hilarious, and I can’t wait to go along for the ride.

Sachal Vasandani. October 2012.

Start is 8:30 pm (doors 7:00 pm) -  TICKETS  £15


Review: Nathan Haines at Ronnie Scott's

Nathan Haines
(Ronnie Scott’s, Sun. 21st Oct. 2012. Review By Alison Bentley)

In Ronnie Scott's foyer, a young crowd was queuing to buy New Zealand saxophonist Nathan Haines' new vinyl album. A scene from the past- I almost expected Ronnie himself to appear, muttering, 'There's no accounting for taste!' Reaching into the past, Haines had recorded the limited edition LP (The Poet's Embrace) in a 60s Kind of Blue style: live over two days, using antique analogue equipment.

Back in the present, five tunes from the new album (out on CD next year) were played on the gig. Haines' Realisation opened with burnished cymbals- young New Zealander Alain Koetsier recalling Elvin Jones on Coltrane's Love Supreme. You could hear Coltrane's motivic patterns in the tenor sax; Haines has imbibed Coltrane's harmony, but his sound was calmer. There was a dash of George Coleman and Joe Lovano- Haines studied with them in New York. The tone felt like the most important thing: rich, lush and breathy, then, in a heartbeat, squally and stormy. The Poet's Embrace could have been 'the saxophone's embrace’- we were cocooned in its warm sound. Dexter Gordon playing Body and Soul in Tavernier's film Round Midnight came firmly to mind. Kevin Field is a very expressive pianist, and he helped create the atmosphere in his ethereal solo intro.

Other sides to Haines' playing: in his Ancestral Dance, his fast swing was a little like Joe Henderson, while his Universal Man, with its 6/8 minor modal feel, invoked Coltrane's Favourite Things. Haines' speedy scalar phrases perhaps owed something to Eric Alexander whilst keeping Trane's spirit. UK bassist Andy Hamill's solo raised cheers from the crowd- although playing double bass, he sounded remarkably like Jaco Pastorius, with his high wavering pizzicato and bluesy double-stopping.

Other composers, other effects. In Roy Brooks' Eboness (iconically recorded by Yusuf Lateef), Haines played with aching, carefully slurred, blurry notes, as if he had nothing left to prove. He took on Lateef's unhurried, languid style. Koetsier's drum solo was untethered from the groove, full of sparky paradiddles. Field's composition Good Friday had more modern modal harmonies, and he won the audience over with his Herbie Hancockian virtuosic solo.

The theme from the film Get Carter ('60s London updated') and a Scott Walker Kerouac-influenced ballad (It's Raining Today sung moodily by Haines) kept true to the era. The first had a fine arch-top guitar intro and solo from 'Aussie mate' Leon Stenning (just a hint of sitar) and some lovely folk-tinged flute from Haines. Mike Patto's keyboard sounded first uncannily like a Minimoog, then a groovy Fender Rhodes. Vanessa Freeman (UK soulful singer and force of nature) concluded each set. The contrast between her deep powerful tones and Haines' high fluttering flute was very satisfying, especially when they improvised together on Little Sunflower. In Vanessa Rubin's Mosaic she moved from a Jill Scott belt, to Thelma Houston gospel and a velvet whisper-we were eating out of her hand.

Perhaps the young crowd had been drawn in partly by Haines' hi-profile musical past, which fused rave music with jazz sax. But on this gig they loved the way Haines reached into jazz history to find his future.


British Jazz Awards - Most (Updated - all) of the Winners

Derek Nash, Alan Barnes, Alec Dankworth, Steve Brown
2012 British Jazz Awards, Concorde Club, Eastleigh

Big Bear Music's 2012 British Jazz Awards were given out last night at the Concorde Club in Eastleigh. There were sixteen categories. Thanks to the alertness and the good memory of the winner ofthe tenor saxophone award, pictured above, we have most of them......UPDATE- we completed the list when the results came in: 

Alto Saxophone - Alan Barnes

Tenor Saxophone - Karen Sharp

Vocalist - Liane Carroll

Newcomer - Jamie Brownfield

Trombone - Mark Nightingale

Trumpet - Enrico Tomasso

Guitar - Martin Taylor

Piano - Dave Newton

Drums - Steve Brown

Bass - Alec Dankworth

Miscellaneous - Courtney Pine (soprano sax)

Small Group - Digby Fairweather's Half Dozen

Large Ensemble - SNJO

Album of the Year - Derek Nash - Joyriding

Reissue - Stan Tracey: Leader and Sideman Clarinet - Alan Barnes


CD Review: Barb Jungr - Stockport to Memphis

Barb Jungr - Stockport to Memphis
(Naim naimcd179. CD Review by Chris Parker)

Barb Jungr has always been celebrated as one of the jazz world’s most skilful and accomplished song-interpreters, burnishing everything from Ray Davies’s ‘Waterloo Sunset’ to the Monkees’ ‘Last Train to Clarksville’ to their original pristine glow courtesy of her scrupulous attention to their subtlest nuance. She is perhaps less famous for her own songwriting, however, so this album, which contains four songs Jungr has co-written with pianist Simon Wallace, is particularly welcome.

The feisty title-track is both a perfect opener and a succinct and witty summing up of Jungr’s musical journey (see this YOU TUBE CLIP for a fascinating first-hand account), and her other originals are similarly affecting, more than worthy of taking their place alongside such established classics as Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ (here given a typically sensitive reading emphasising the painful nature of the wait as much as the determined anticipation of change), Neil Young’s touching ‘Old Man’, Dylan’s ‘Lay Lady Lay’, Joni Mitchell’s wistful, self-deprecating ‘River’ et al.

Featuring a supremely adaptable, sparky band (including drummer Rod Youngs, bassist Neville Malcolm and stellar background vocalists Sarah Moule and Ian Shaw), and intelligently programmed so that the whole can be experienced like a carefully prepared live set, this is a wholly enjoyable album, immediately accessible but thoughtful and considered enough to richly reward repeated listening.


Review: Dave Douglas / Joe Lovano Soundprints

Dave Douglas, Joe Lovano. Copenhagen 2012. Photo Geoff Countryman from Geenleaf Music

Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas - Soundprints
(Ronnie Scott's October 18th, first night of two. Review by Sebastian Scotney

In the corporate world and in business schools there is an endless debate as to whether a dual CEO arrangement can ever work. (if I've put you off with this irrelevance read Ivan Hewett's succinct and spot-on review - or John Fordham's thoughtful five-star-er ).Perhaps, as in many areas of life, jazz can be allowed to lead the way, and show how unselfishness and respect can make things work. The mutual  trust between Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas is palpable. They both compose for this band, they introduce each other generously, each listens intently to what the other plays, but above all they leave space. In fact Joe Lovano's playing in this band gives true expression to that phrase of the veteran baroque 'cellist and teacher Anner Bylsma: " a rest is never nothing." Lovano built a whole solo around rests. When he chose - theatrically, at the last split-second - to leave another idea unsaid rather than said, you could see the expression of sheer glee light up his face. It makes the listener appreciate all the more the sheer presence and humanity of his saxophone sound as it returns.

Equally, completely at home in this setting, Dave Douglas gives the impression of playing what he needs to play, saying what he needs to say, and then handing over to another member of the band whom he respects. That warmth is the governing principle, and it absolutely works.

The three rhythm section players also stay as strong individuals, but catch that same collective spirit. Pianist Lawrence Fields prefers delicate,unshowy, subtle expression. utterance. Much talked-about bass-player Linda Oh is precisely the phenomenon which the musician buzz has been promising. Bassists normally get taught that the left hand has to "shift". Linda Oh's left hand doesn't shift, it flies. It as if the hand can simultaneously be in all places at once. And her sense of enjoying both her own and her colleagues' playing was infectious. Drummer Joey Baron is unmatchable in creativity, in presence, in responsiveness.

The support band led by Jim Mullen brought a rare treat. It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty to salute the presence of pianist John Critchinson, who worked in Ronnie's quartet for more than a quarter of a century. How wonderful, WONDERFUL to find him on Thursday right back where he belongs behind the pillar at Ronnie's. Pure delight.


JazzFM Awards 2013 - nominees announced

The Jazz FM Awards 2013 list of Nominees has been released. The nominees are:

International Jazz Artist
Kurt Elling
Brad Mehldau
Sonny Rollins

Cutting Edge Award for Jazz Innovation
Django Bates
Robert Glasper

Album Of The Year
Robert Glasper: Black Radio (Blue Note)
Keith Jarrett: Sleeper (ECM)
Pat Metheny: Unity Band (Nonesuch)
Gregory Porter: Be Good (Motéma)
John Surman: Saltash Bells (ECM)
Ryan Truesdell: Centennial - Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans (artistShare)

Jazz Media
AllAboutJazz.com (website)
Do The Math (website of Ethan Iverson of The Bad Plus)
Jazzwise (magazine)

Best UK Newcomer
Beats and Pieces Big Band
Josh Arcoleo
Roller Trio

Public Vote - UK Jazz Artist of the Year - Voting opens on 1st November 2012
Neil Cowley Trio
Jamie Cullum

UK Vocalist of the Year
Carleen Anderson
Liane Carroll
Ian Shaw

UK Instrumentalist of the Year
Nathaniel Facey (saxophonist with Empirical)
Ivo Neame (pianist with Phronesis)
Phil Robson

Live UK Shows of the Year
Gregory Porter
PB Underground

Best UK Jazz Venue
Band on the Wall
Café Oto
Ronnie Scott’s

The nominators were:

Steve Rubie (Promoter / 606 Club)
Ross Dines (Promoter / Pizza Express)
Mike Flynn (Jazzwise)
Rosemary Laryea (Jazz FM)
Paul Pace (Promoter / Ronnie Scott’s)
Mike Hobart (FT jazz writer)
Helen Mayhew (Jazz FM)
Seb Scotney (London Jazz Blog)
Stuart Nicholson (Jazzwise)
Rob Adams (freelance journalist)
John Kelman (editor AllAboutJazz.com, US)
Peter Schultze (Jazzahead, Germany)
Howard Mandel (Chair of Jazz Journalists Association, US)
Wulf Muller (All-in Music, Jazz consultant to Sony/BMG)
Alex Dutilh (Radio France jazz broadcaster, journalist)
Nathan Graves (Consultant to Universal)
Clive Davis (Times jazz writer)
Mike Chadwick (Jazz FM / Manchester)

The judging panel for the Awards (except UK Jazz Artist of the Year) includes:

John Cumming
Tony Dudley-Evans
Alex Webb



Preview: Tim Garland writes about Korea Moves, 14th Nov (LJF)

Heo Yoon-Jeong

Tim Garland writes about KOREA MOVES, his upcoming gig on Wednesday 14th of November 2012 at St James's Piccadilly in the London Jazz Festival :

A great privilege of the travelling musician is the opportunity to meet and play with, musicians from cultures far and wide. Lighthouse has always been a group particularly keen to accept the challenge of creating such musical encounters.

Rehearsing in Korea recently, we were introduced to the Komungo, an instrument from the 7th century still played today. Heo Yoon-Jeong, who plays the Geomungo as well as the Komungo (further information HERE), has collaborated with musicians from all over the globe on her chosen instrument. It’s a very cool thing to hear how the electric guitarist Jean Oh, (also on the bill with us) uses similar techniques on his own instrument, like a Korean accent in music.

His orchestra of effects creates soundscape after soundscape. This feeling of expanse, exploiting a truly unique array of colours, is what will form the basis of this gig which will sound amazing in St. James.

I predict that this will be one of the most surprising of musical encounters at the whole festival, and hopefully one of the most beautiful too.

Tickets cost £15-20 HERE. Playing alongside Lighthouse Project will be the Christoph Stiefel Inner Language Trio


CD Review: Mahogany Frog - Senna

Mahogany Frog - Senna
(MoonJune Records MJR048. CD Review by Chris Parker)

Winnipeg’s Mahogany Frog specialise in ‘unashamedly grandiloquent psychedelic jazz-rock’ (to quote my review of their 2008 release, DO5), and their carefully layered, slow-building pieces touch on everything from kraut-rock to ambient music and most bases between. As a consequence, they are likely to remind listeners of the slightly batty, rickety earnestness of Cardiacs one minute, and the eccentric bombast of Muse the next.

The eight tracks on this, the band’s sixth album, range from almost grungy, multi-textured mood pieces to rousing, climactic rock anthems often utilising relatively tricksy time signatures, and are as likely to feature an extraordinary variety of keyboard sounds as fierce guitar (Graham Epp and Jesse Warkentin), all driven by a rock-solid but consistently imaginative rhythm section (bassist Scott Elenberger and drummer Andy Rudolph).

Also including judicious and sparing use of electronics, and the odd natural-sound sample (wildfowl, whales), this is state-of-the-art prog rock, accurately and perceptively described thus by a recent All Music Guide reviewer, Michael Nastos: ‘As ungainly, unwieldy and chameleonic as their name, they also aspire to a much higher level of art rock than many current contemporary ensembles.’


Plymouth premiere for new work by Mike and Kate Westbrook Saturday 27th

Plymouth University has been celebrating it 150th birthday with a series events, such as gathering 1,750 people on Plymouth Hoe for the commemorative photo above. (MORE PHOTOS HERE).

For a concert this Saturday 27th, and a commemorative CD, the university has commissioned five new musical works. (MORE DETAILS). These commissions include So above, as below by BAFTA award winning composer Nick Ryan who will also give an introductory lecture, and  Five Voyages by Mike Westbrook and Kate Westbrook.

Mike Westbrook writes:

"To mark the origins of the University of Plymouth as a School of Navigation, we made the starting point for our song a sea crossing. The simple words take the form of five prayers, which move from the origins of life itself to a death at sea. Cycles, as of tides, waves and weather, are embedded in the sequence of piano chords."

The Westbrook Trio celebrates its thirty year anniversery with the launch of a new CD three into wonderfull, and a concert at Kings Place on November 10th in the London Jazz Festival. BOOKINGS.


Boaters Live Jazz at Twenty-Two

Mornington Lockett, Simon Carter, Mike Bradley, Laurence Cottle
Boaters 21st October 2012
Two little ducks, twenty-two. The Sunday night gig by the Thames in Kingston is twenty-two years old. Congratulations to Simon Carter (out tonight at this friendly pub with Mornington Lockett, Laurence Cottle, and Mike Bradley). They played a storming, burning opener, Speak Low. The pin-point accuracy of a Mornington Lockett's arrangement of Juan Tizol's Caravan, played at ferocious speed, with alternating 5/4 and 4/4 bars made quite a few musicianly jaws drop. One of London's very best free gigs. Long may it prosper.


Goodbye Twinkle Toes by Stan Tracey

A beautiful piano piece by Stan Tracey, in memory of Sarah Georgiou (nee Tracey) 1962-2012. In sadness, and with sympathy to the Tracey family.


CD Review: Caro Emerald presents Drum Rolls and Heartbreaks

Caro Emerald Presents Drum Rolls and Heartbreaks
(Grand Mono Dramatico/ Universal. CD Review by Sebastian Scotney)

To misquote Rene Magritte, this is not a Caro Emerald album. The CD describes itself as "The music that inspired Caro Emerald and her producers to make Deleted Scenes From the Cutting Room Floor."

That 2010 album by the 31- year old Amsterdam-born singer Caro Emerald (real name Caroline Esmeralda van der Leeuw) reached the Top 10  in the UK, Emerald is due to be touring, so there is an obvious pretext for releasing the album. But... what is the album itself? It is a double CD presenting an unashamedly nostalgic collection of popular music, thirty-three tracks originally released from the 1940's to 1960's, involving some well-known tracks and some less familiar material. Plus a final "bonus track":  Caro Emerald singing Dream a Little Dream - with the mastering engineer's valedictory conceit: some added-in 78rpm surface noise at the beginning and the end.

The album may be a convenient source for familiar versions - Dean Martin singing Sway or Fats Waller's Your Feet's Too Big, or Della Reese's Why Don't you Do Right, Eartha Kitt's My Heart Belongs to Daddy. There will probably not be many (any?) undiscovered truffles for the specialist here. Doris Day's and the Andrews Sisters' appearances seem almost mandatory in this kind of collection. Yodel Polka? I guess you have to live through it - once...An appealing version of One Night in Brazil by the Enric Madriguera Orchestra - with an unnamed vocalist (Patricia Gilmore?) and with no date given for the recording, certainly had its charm. And I'm encouraged to seek out more recordings by the Mexican bandleader Luis Alcaraz.  Sarah Vaughan singing Whatever Lola Wants is almost surreal. The documentation about the tracks was disappointingly thin. But the album is a very good advertisement indeed for the mastering skills of Darius van Helfteren of the Amsterdam Mastering Company, which also produced the 2010 album.

Drum Rolls and Heartbreaks has a UK release date of 22nd October.
Full Track Listing.
Caro Emerald will be on tour in the UK in March 2013.


Laura Jurd (trumpet) Elliot Galvin (piano) and homemade dinosaur puppets

Laura Jurd's new album Landing Ground launches on November 5th. The launch gig is at the Vortex on December 3rd. This is one of three freely improvised duets on the album.


Review: Lichens, Lorenzo Senni, Richard Sides at Café Oto

Lichens (Rob Lowe). Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2012. All Rights Reserved

Lichens, Lorenzo Senni, Richard Sides
(Café Oto, 16 October 2012; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

Lichens is the solo venture since 2004 of Rob Lowe - Chicagoan, now based in New York. Lowe's brand of exploratory, trance-like improvisation with voice and a seemingly ancient analogue modular synth, all blinking lights and streams of spaghetti, defined the sound quality. Extending an eerie, lightly whistling drone background with intense, purposeful focus, indistinct combinations of looped and superimposed layers merged with an overwhelming, mesmeric presence. Deep, thudding bass patterns were dropped in at a measured pace, creaks and tensions escaped the flow and a feeling of closeness to the flight paths of distant prehistoric birds briefly pervaded the room. The abstract qualities of Lichens' unbroken drifting piece evoked the atmospherics of early Pink Floyd, in keeping with the retro 60s-style scientific and psychedelic projected visuals. Lowe's distinctive silhouetted shadow and concise, elegant hand gestures played their part in the visual texture.

Lowe has said that he is always aware of the audience during his performances, although he doesn't see them and as he kicked in with a faster beat, Lowe pushed himself into an intensely internalised, shamanistic zone, only the whites of his eyes visible, and the non-verbal vocalisations turned to wails. Captured in essence in about 40 minutes, Lichens offers more, as evidenced a while back with his impressive performance with White/Light at the same venue. It would be rewarding to see him take on a full 2-day residency and the challenges of more than one relatively brief set.

Whereas Lichens fully engaged the attention of an atypically diverse Cafe Oto audience, Lorenzo Senni's retro 90s explorations had created something of a club atmosphere which had many in the audience talking all the way through his ambient hard-wired electronics. Senni built up a pleasantly compelling backgrounding, working with a Roland synth with its analogue modelling sound source bridging the digital and analogue worlds. However, he seemed to play it safe sacrificing expressive capabilities in his homage to techno and trance, barely deviating from replication.

Richard Sides, opening the evening, is a recent sculpture graduate and has been concerned with aspects of performance in music venues. Kneeling at an Apple laptop he moved from a recording of his own prose read by an American, whose accent imposed a faux archive feel, to crystal clear digital polyrhythms and concentrated clashes of genre with a primarily upbeat feel, playing out his set in melancholic mood.

These three diverse electronics performances mapped out ground between analogue and digital technologies, inviting reflections on where originality resides. It was a good demonstration of quite how wide the range of possibilities is now, for practitioners who want to combine live and processed music.


Jazz Line-Up Celebrates John Taylor's 70th - transmission Sunday

It felt like a very special night in a packed Radio Theatre inside the newly re-furbished BBC Broadcasting House. Radio 3's Jazz Line-Up celebrated John Taylor's 70th birthday (the actual day was three weeks ago) by presenting him in five different formats: (1) Solo; (2) in quartet with Julian Siegel, Chris Laurence and Martin France; (3) in a two-piano duo with Richard Fairhurst; (4) in a duo with Oren Marshall on tuba;  and (5) the full sextet.

Presenter was Claire Martin. The transmission goes out at 11.50pm on Sunday on Radio3. THE FULL SET-LISTS ARE HERE

What moment will I want to recapture particularly on Radio3? Loads, but the deliciously quiet endings to all three of the piano duet numbers felt special. What will I as a listener  have to imagine? John Taylor's rapt expression of complete delirious enjoyment as Oren Marshall was playing. Belated  happy birthday. 


CD Review: John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension - Now Here This

John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension - Now Here This
(Abstract Logix ABLX037. CD Review by Chris Parker)

For all those listeners who first came to electric fusion music through being exposed to the likes of Miles Davis’s Jack Johnson and the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Inner Mounting Flame, the return of those recordings’ featured guitarist, John McLaughlin, to the jazz/rock style he helped pioneer in the early 1970s will no doubt trigger fond memories of suddenly being able to sneak the odd ‘jazz’ recording on to the turntables of their rock-obsessed contemporaries.

Others will simply marvel at what McLaughlin’s publicity release accurately identifies as the recording’s three defining features: ‘fire, finesse and freewheeling interplay’.

The apparently effortless combination by McLaughlin of the first two qualities has always been his hallmark, and on the eight tracks that make up this utterly compelling album, he plays everything from dazzling runs to mellow swoons with his customary grace and passion; the last-named feature sees him strike sparks off, blend and joust with a supremely sensitive but consistently punchy band: keyboardist/drummer Gary Husband, bassist Etienne M’Bappe and drummer Ranjit Barot.

Most importantly, given the imminence of the band’s appearance at the LJF next month, their delight in performing McLaughlin’s music is both palpable and infectious.

John Mclaughlin will be appearing in the London Jazz Festival


RIP David S Ware

There are affectionate tributes to the saxophonist from Pitchfork and Peter Hum


Review: Simon Spillett at The Home Guard Club, SW14

Simon Spillett Quartet
(The Home Guard Club in East Sheen, October 18, 2012. Review by Andrew Cartmel)

A gloomy autumn evening with the traffic in gridlock in southwest London might not seem auspicious, but in fact it was the beginning of a notable date on the jazz calendar. For a start, the venue was new to me. There was a time when the map of Britain was dense with small jazz clubs. Sadly, many or perhaps even most have fallen by the wayside. Not so the Home Guard Club. Tucked away behind a suburban street in SW14, you wouldn’t even know it was there unless you went looking for it.

The club was founded just after the Second World War by members of the Home Guard who didn’t want to surrender the camaraderie of the wartime years — and who were sharp enough to buy the freehold. And for anyone who is accustomed to the school-hall level of comfort usually afforded by most small jazz clubs, it’s a revelation. With plush green chairs and banquettes occupying a warm, comfortable bar area it pulls off the trick of being both spacious and cosy. Factor in cheap beer and excellent jazz and it’s hard to imagine a better place to shelter from the tribulations of traffic and the onset of winter.

The jazz gigs at the Home Guard are run by Kelvin Christiane and his wife Leslie. Leslie is a gifted singer and Kelvin a formidable sax player. Which brings us to this evening’s jazz. Outstanding tenor player Simon Spillett, last seen performing a knockout gig at the Bull in Barnes, is here tonight with a new and remarkable quartet — the magnificent Trevor Tomkins is still in the drum seat but on bass we now have Paul Morgan and, fascinatingly, the fourth member is Roger Beaujolais on vibes. “Sounds like it's time for me to dig out those Getz albums with Gary Burton,” confided Simon Spillett when he was first contemplating this intriguing new line up.

Everyone arrives late because of the traffic nightmare. “Two hours from Clapham Common,” says Trevor Tomkins as he sets up his drum kit. There’s a Tubby Hayes CD playing as the musicians prepare, which gives us the delightful experience of hearing Simon Spillett play along with his hero as he checks out his reeds. It’s fascinating, too, to watch Roger Beaujolais setting up his vibraphone. The quartet launches into its first number, Green Dolphin Street by Bronislau Kaper and Ned Washington. Simon Spillett opens with a virile, swaggering tone and we get something special from the very opening chords as Roger Beaujolais drops in with a virtuosic burst of vibes. Simon and Roger exchange a smile — it works!

This is the first time the quartet has ever played together, unbelievably. They’re a very tight and cohesive unit. The tune turns into a feature for Paul Morgan on bass. He provides a rippling, harmonious, honeyed buzzing. The quartet is still sounding out the room, and each other. It’s an exciting experience.

Next up is Lover Man, composed by Jimmy Sherman, Jimmy Davis and Roger Ramirez and immortalised by Billie Holiday. The quartet have reinvented it in waltz time. Simon Spillett’s playing is lovely and lyrical, searching and exploring the melody. He even throws in a cheeky little snatch of My Favourite Things. Then the tempo slows for Roger Beaujolais to play a solo of glittering transparency, deft and ringing, with an impressive lightness of touch. Paul Morgan is coaxing and nurturing his bass while Trevor Tomkins provides the foundation on which everything is built. Simon and Roger are laughing together now, relaxing as the band settles in. Simon Spillett concludes with clarion urgency, softening to silence. “Lovely,” says somebody in the audience.

On Armando Manzanero and Gene Lees’ forgotten ballad Yesterday I Heard the Rain the audience is treated to gentle, delicate ensemble playing with Trevor Tomkins providing more warmth than I thought it was possible to coax from a drum kit. The music is simultaneously thrilling and, well, smoochy. The quartet advances together, united and measured, before Simon Spillett steps back and Roger Beaujolais is featured, ringing and plangent, playing sweetly sustained chords. Simon Spillett is mounting a one-man campaign to revive this lost classic, and it features on his new CD.

Next comes I Remember April by Gene de Paul, Patricia Johnston and Don Raye. Now Kelvin Christiane joins the band, sitting in on tenor and providing the opportunity for some wonderful unison sax playing. He and Simon Spillett play in parallel, then go their separate ways, then reunite. Kelvin Christiane’s tone is rich and powerful, with great projection. He’s a fluid, elegant player. Simon Spillett and Roger Beaujolais are listening and smiling as he plays. This is instant artistry of a very high order, from a unit who have never played together before. Simon Spillett takes over again for a sweet, dense solo with bossa flourishes.

Kelvin Christiane stays on stage for Jerome Kern’s All the Things You Are and the two sax men illuminate this beautiful tune from different angles with their diverse talents. It’s an extravagant asset to have two sax players of this standard exploring the melody. Kelvin Christiane’s playing ranges from a finely detailed astringency to a big, rich fullness, swinging and celebrating.

On Angel Eyes by Matt Dennis, Leslie Christiane joins her husband on the bandstand to provide us with the bonus of a sumptuous jazz vocal. The soft caress of her voice floats over the backing — the bright tones of the vibes, the plump throbbing of the bass — then the combined forces of Trevor Tomkins’ high precision drumming and the two saxes come in. Kelvin Christiane moves to the fore with a superlative, silky solo that gives way to Roger Beaujolais stepping through the tune, building a picture with smoothly echoing tone fragments.

The song is one of the highlights of the evening. As it concludes — all too soon — Leslie Christiane says, “I’m tingling. I hope you are, too.” We are. And I wonder if the good folk of Richmond Park Road have any idea of the splendid music being made here, just a few yards away, as they watch television and eat their dinners.

Joe Henderson’s Recorda Me features Roger Beaujolais’ sunny, sweeping vibes and high voltage sax from leader Simon Spillett, assertive and full toned. Paul Morgan plays with the richness of a whole rhythm section while Trevor Tomkins offers pulsing drum support with an utter precision that sets the heart racing.

Anthropology by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie sees Roger Beaujolais delivering an amazing solo of express-train energy. Simon Spillett and Kelvin Christiane trade fiery licks in an explosive ending to the evening.

Simon Spillett’s new quartet with vibes is something special, and I envy anyone who hears them on future dates, when they’ve had a chance to hone their already spectacular skills. And the Home Guard Club proves decisively that the small jazz venue isn’t dead in Britain. In fact, it’s thriving. The only complaint about the whole evening? My jazz mad friend, trying to read the program notes, was grousing about the lovely moody, low illumination in the club. “The lighting at jazz gigs,” he said, “I don’t know…” Mind you, he could have removed his dark glasses.