Flugelhorn soloist is Henry Armburg Jennings. We're looking forward to the album. MORE HERE.
MooV - Here
(Squeaky Kate Music. CD Review by Chris Parker)
‘Intimate songs with a dark edge’ is how Squeaky Kate’s accompanying publicity sheet describes the thirteen tracks on this, MooV’s second album for the label, which was set up in 2006 to record and promote the music of composer Colin Riley and associated groups.
Riley wrote all the music for the album, which draws in elements of everything from avant-pop, minimalism and jazz to electronica, and is performed by Riley himself (piano, electronics, producer), cellist Natalie Rozario, bassist Pete Wilson and percussionist Rob Millett. The songs are sung, in a tender, wistful manner, by Elisabeth Nygård, whose breathy seriousness infuses their often esoteric, somewhat mysterious lyrics with an almost Bjørk-like urgency and power at full volume, and a darker intensity in quieter moments.
Along with Nygård’s sensitive vocals, what is ultimately most striking about this album is the extraordinary variety, of texture and timbre, of the musical backing: all the above-mentioned musical bases are touched, but the final product is absolutely unclassifiable. Riley is that rarest of birds, a genuine original, and his music is sui generis, but consistently haunting and often beautiful.
The WDR3 Jazz Festival in February 2013 has an award ceremony. The next edition features a new category of award, for the best contribution to jazz radio programming in the German-speaking countries, with a total prize value of EUR 5,000. I was a member of the jury. The winner was a programme made by Karsten Mützelfeldt report for DLF, about the Austrian Inntoene Festival.
We also chose a runner-up, a programme by young reporter Nabil Atassi for NDR on the scene in London, broadcast in January 2012, and focused on the 2011 London Jazz Festival. NDR in Hamburg have just made the programme available to listen online HERE (for German -speakers).
- Liam Noble informs us he's fundraising for the Movember / Prostate cancer charity. HERE's his fundraising page.
- He has also just put the entire, magical St James's Piccadilly Solo Piano LJF concert on Soundcloud.
- He will also be doing a solo piano set at the Laura Jurd Landing Ground Album launch at the Vortex on Monday December 3rd.
- By which time the moustache, presumably, will have gone. These solo piano outings are in preparation for an album to be recorded in Cologne in February 2013 as part of the WDR Jazzfest.
|Laura Jurd Quartet: Elliot Galvin, Laura Jurd, Conor Chaplin,|
Corrie Dick. Photo Credit: Andy Sheppard
Monday's triple bill of Jazz in the Round at the Cockpit Theatre, presented and curated by Jez Nelson featured a set from the Laura Jurd Quartet, a solo set from drummer Mark Sanders and James Allsopp's Golden Age of Steam in its expanded, quintet format. The bands and the particular atmosphere of the gig - it is exactly as described, in the round - have been well caught here by photographer Andy Sheppard.
Photo Credit: Andy Sheppard
|Kit Downes and Tim Giles from the Golden Age of Steam.|
Photo Credit: Andy Sheppard
|Golden Age of Steam. Left to right: Kit Downes,Tim Giles, Ruth Goller, Alex Bonney, James Allsopp. Photo credit: Andy Sheppard|
(Jellymould Jazz JM-JJ008. CD Review by Chris Parker)
Waterford-born bassist/composer Mick Coady began his musical life playing with local R&B and rock bands, but was diverted on to a jazz path by his celebrated fellow countryman Ronan Guilfoyle. While Coady was subsequently performing sideman duties in New York, he met alto saxophonist David Binney, and they decided to collaborate for this, Coady’s debut recording as a leader.
Binney proves an exceptionally suitable choice for this role, bringing his open-eared, expressive approach to music that is equally eclectic in style, Coady being interested not only in rock and folk, but also in African and Brazilian traditional music. The resulting album contains seven lively, wide-ranging but consistently sparky and robust Coady tunes, one by Binney, and another by the band’s pianist Ivo Neame.
Binney melds well with front-line partner Michael Buckley (tenor), and the whole is driven firmly along by drummer Sean Carpio, its pleasantly nervy, twisting themes often settling in to solid grooves that provide great platforms for Binney and Buckley’s urgent but controlled saxophone solos. Coady is a Loop Collective member, and his music is in many ways typical of that aggregation: restlessly inventive, vibrant, democratic.
|Devon Youth Jazz Orchestra|
At last night's Will Michael Awards ceremony held at the Royal Academy of Music, Diplomas for outstanding achievements in jazz education in 2011/12 were awarded to:
One Education Music (Manchester)
SoundStorm (Bournemouth and Poole)
A Diploma of Special Merit was given to Devon together with a special trophy donated by Yamaha Music Europe - UK, in recognition of the fact that Devon have now won six Diplomas on the trot, four of them of Special Merit.
The Will Michael Awards are part of the National Music Council Local Authority Music Education Awards Scheme, and are supported by Yamaha Music Europe. More background to the awards is HERE
The awards were presented by:
Prof Jonathan Freeman-Attwood - Principal of the Royal Academy of Music
Juliette Kelly - Trustee of Jazz Services
Mike Ketley - Yamaha.
The Awards Presentation was followed by a performance; Frank Griffith Writes:
I attended a concert last night at the Royal Academy of Music in London presenting a programme entitled The Lost Kenny Wheeler Scores, performed by The Academy Big Band conducted by Nick Smart;The soloist playing the role of Kenny was the eminent British trumpeter and flugelhornist, Henry Lowther. The concert included several pieces from the 1960s and early 1970s, lesser known big band works by Kenny Wheeler from the Academy's newly acquired archive. The titles will be familiar to Kenny Wheeler fans although more as small group pieces. They included:
Introduction to no particular song
Who Are You (lyrics by Norma Winstone)
The band performed these works brilliantly in both their ensemble playing as well as solo forays. Fourth year vocalist, Emma Smith, acquitted herself admirably on Norma Winstone’s Who Are You.
As is often the case with great and important writers their signature sound and strengths are often established early, as was also the case with Gil Evans’s scores for Claude Thornhill in the 1940s. His orchestrations (use of horns, tuba, flutes, clarinets) and counterlines were being put to use well before his epical scores for Miles on Columbia in the late 1950s. Similarly, Kenny’s rich harmonies and rhapsodic melodies borne out with open brass and saxes were fully evident in these relatively early works of his.
Just to give one an idea of the significance of the occasion, many key figures from British jazz were in the audience including Stan Sulzmann, Pete Hurt, Dave Green, Juliet Lewis, Phil Robson and Mark Armstrong.
A beautiful hour of music indeed.
"Join us to explore how war, race, sex and politics shaped the most important music of the 20th century," says the South Bank's new microsite launched this morning, explaining a year long Festival entitled The Rest is Noise,"telling the story" of the 20th Century, with over 100 (mainly classical) music events. In the words of Jude Kelly, South Bank Centre Artistic Director at this morning's press conference attended by over 100 people:"We've got to show how classical music can find a place where it's central to contemporary society". BBC4 TV are producing a documentary series linked to the South Bank's programmes - The Sound of Fury: A Century of Modern Music
There is a small amount of jazz there, if you burrow deeply. In the materials distributed this morning covering the period to May - the rest is for later - I found:
10th Feb 2013 - Julian Joseph introduces 'le jazz' the influence of jazz on composers in Paris in the 20's. Part of the Paris weekend.
25th February 2013 - Dylan Howe, Will Butterworth Julian Siegl and Nick Pini perform Stravinsky's Firebird Suite and Rite of Spring
24th March 2013 QEH 7 30pm - Nu Civilisation Orchestra join the BBC Concert Orchestra in a pogramme including Ellington and William Grant Still. Part of the America weekend, including Breakfast With Ellington with animateur Fraser Trainer
Preview: Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival
(Friday 1st March - Sunday 3rd of March 2013. Preview by Jon Turney)
Bristol's inaugural International Jazz and Blues Festival made its ambitions clearer when it unveiled its full programme last night (Nov 26). The new festival will have plenty of good time music to appeal beyond the contemporary jazz cognoscenti. And it will be a broad showcase for the lively Bristol and South West jazz scene.
The three nights and two days festival (March 1-3) will make it easy for visitors by running in a single venue, Colston Hall, making use of its splendidly appointed new foyer spaces as well as the two main concert rooms. The launch party underlined its populist appeal with a short set from charismatic singer Lillian Boutté alongside local resident and sax legend Pee Wee Ellis. They have separate gigs in the main hall during the festival, along with already announced headliners Richard Galliano and Birelli Lagrene in duo, John Scofield's Organic Trio and a rare UK appearance by trumpeter Arturo Sandoval.
Bristol's best known player, Andy Sheppard, will appear with Trio Libero, and artistic director Denny Ilett's broad church also embraces Alyn Shipton's Buck Clayton Legacy Band, a performance of Ellington's Sacred music with Yolanda Quartey, a South West big band and the City of Bristol Choir expanded to 180 singers, and the Bateman Brothers Jazz Band's tribute to Louis Armstrong. Friday night also sees an appearance by The Big Chris Barber Band, led by the trombonist and British blues pioneer who first appeared in Bristol in 1953. And you thought Sonny Rollins had been on the road a long time…
Colston Hall's foyer will see free music all day, with a stream of Bristol players, including bands led by trumpeters Andy Hague and rising star Nick Malcolm, saxophonists Kevin Figes and James Morton, guitarists Jerry Crozier-Cole and Ilett himself. "We want to highlight what a healthy jazz scene this city has", he said. Bristol's newly-elected independent Mayor, George Ferguson, is a jazz enthusiast, and genuinely pleased the festival is coming early in his term. "I want to make Bristol the New Orleans of the UK!", he declared. Well, one of this city's nicest squares, ringed with former merchants' houses, was built on a swamp, so we're almost there already.
Mingus Big Band
(Ronnie Scott’s, Monday 26 November. Review by Chris Parker)
Seeing the Mingus Big Band is always one of the most profound pleasures live jazz has to offer, not simply for nostalgic reasons (though Mingus’s music was the reason I was first bitten by the jazz bug, courtesy of a friend at university who patiently played me Tonight at Noon, Tijuana Moods and Black Saint and the Sinner Lady until I ‘got it’, and Mingus was the first jazz act I ever saw at Ronnie’s, back in the early 1970s), but also because they are, quite simply, the most dedicated and accomplished interpreters of what must be (Ellington’s aside) the greatest body of composed work in the genre.
The personnel, of course, has constantly changed since the inception of the band in the early 1990s – ‘an experiment with a one-month contract’ in producer Sue Mingus’s words – but its aim, again in her words, remains the same: ‘to stay true to Charles’s spirit: unpredictable, risk-taking, explosive’. All three adjectives still apply (in spades) to the music produced by this particular version of the band, led by virtuoso bassist Boris Kozlov and fiery but elegant trumpeter Alex Sipiagin.
They began with ‘explosive’: the quintessential Mingus driving blues ‘E’s Flat Ah’s Flat Too’ (first soloist the admirably sinewy and eloquent baritone player Lauren Sevian), then eased into one of Mingus’s most affecting ballads: ‘Invisible Lady’, a feature for the sonorous, emotive trombone of Conrad Herwig and accommodating a perfectly judged tenor contribution from Abraham Burton.
‘Risk-taking’ and ‘unpredictable’ were represented by a piece as extended and unexpected as its title: ‘The Shoes of the Fisherman’s Wife are Some Jive-Ass Slippers’, introduced by Kozlov as a pioneering work melding classical and jazz forms, its numerous twists and turns faultlessly negotiated by the ensemble, and its standout solo, appropriately combining tumultuous power and delicate precision in equal proportions, performed by pianist Helen Sung, who is a real find, strikingly arresting in her solos, and wholly assured in her accompanying role.
Another ballad followed: ‘Diane/Alice’s Wonderland’, a vehicle for the sweet-toned but vibrant alto of Scott Robinson and the slow-burning, steady flare of Philip Harper’s trumpet. Brass players then left the stage for a reeds-only feature: ‘Bird Calls’, a tribute to Charlie Parker giving rise to some delightful quickfire saxophone jousts from the above-mentioned practitioners as well as section-mates Jaleel Shaw and Brandon Wright.
Culminating in a rousing visit to another blues, a valedictory salute to Eric Dolphy, ‘So Long, Eric’, this 80-minute set provided not only a perfect vindication of Sue Mingus’s stated aim in forming the band – ‘the point is to keep a balance between the hits – the fun, swinging pieces and the blues and gospel – and the more difficult, extended, through-composed pieces’ – but also a welcome sign that putting on big-band music is still an attractive (and viable – the club was packed, for a first early Monday-night set) option for club promoters in these economically straitened times.
Congratulations to Ronnie’s for continuing Ronnie Scott’s and Pete King’s dedicated pursuit of core jazz values, all of which are epitomised by this rumbustious, hard-swinging but consummately musicianly fourteen-piece band.
Listen to our interview/preview with Sue Mingus HERE
Review: Paco Séry
(New Morning Jazz Club, Rue des Petites Ecuries, Paris. Review by Alison Bentley)
Drummer Paco Séry’s new album is called The Real Life, and that’s exactly what this gig felt like. Born in 1956 in Côte d'Ivoire as one of eighteen siblings (in Divo, he then moved to Abidjan), Séry left his native country in 1979 at the invitation of pianist Eddy Louiss to begin a Parisian career, during which he has played alongside many of the greats: Joe Zawinul, Nina Simone, Wayne Shorter,Marvin Gaye and Bobby McFerrin....
Throughout this evening, his huge new musical ‘family’ joined him on stage in different permutations, but Séry was the galvanising force. His energy was extraordinary, like a coiled spring.
On the way into the club he shook everyone`s hand: `Welcome to the family.’ It was as if we’d been invited to Séry`s special party. He`s clearly a huge favourite among the demonstrative Parisian jazz fans, and he could do no wrong. The club felt like an intimate theatre, with its red walls, moulded black plastic chairs, and rickety lighting rig and ceiling fans. And indeed Séry has a strong sense of theatre and spectacle. Bright images of dancers and urban scenes were projected on to screens behind the stage, superimposed on live video of Séry- just as he himself lays jazz over West African music, creating something new.
Séry’s jazz family stretches into the past too. He worked with Joe Zawinul's Syndicate for nine years, and the influence is still strong. The late Zawinul called Séry the best drummer in the world, and Séry dedicated the funky Thankful to him. He sat almost still at the drums at times, with focused energy and a spellbinding bass drum beat coming up through the floor. The keyboard timbre was a soundalike of Zawinul in Weather Report`s Black Market. A high point was Séry’s scat vocal with Cedric Duchemann's agile keyboard- then Séry soloed with impossibly fast rolls on the toms (as if he'd been secretly speeded up) over an asymmetrical keyboard riff. The crowd standing in the pit at the front clearly wanted to dance- but the club was so full they could hardly move. Nobody seemed to mind.
Séry also worked with Jaco Pastorius. (When Jaco heard his almost superhuman drumming, he famously asked, `What planet are you on, man?`) The Dry Cleaner from DeMoines (The Joni classic, and the only tune not a Séry original) was a tribute to Jaco. Sophia Nelson`s deep rich lead vocal gave a gospelly, Aretha-like gravitas to the song. Bassist Hadrien Feraud played the Jaco role superbly with precision and bubbling energy.
Fleeting references to Miles Davis’ funk era were everywhere: synth stabs from Tutu and funky grooves from Amandla, with W. African influences. Miles in the Jungle featured the three backing vocalists in call and response with Séry in a Côte d'Ivoire language- Séry arranges all the vocal harmonies, and there's an intoxicating mix of jazz and traditional. Miles’ experiments with rap were revisited: 'Miles Davis...when I heard the beat I almost had a heart attack!' Only one of the two trumpets had a Harmon mute, wistfully drifting across the horn section.
Séry changed mood in the gentle Sanza- he roamed the stage with his kalimba (thumb piano), with its complex W African rhythms and shimmering textures. He duetted at speed with soprano sax and drew the audience in to total silence as he improvised with a string quartet! Rencontre unveiled more traditional African singers, and Cheick Tidiane Seck, guesting on keyboard, bent the notes to echo the vocalists' quarter tones.
The tempos accelerated. Gérard Carocci’s percussion sparked. The tight four-horn section had roller coaster chromatic arrangements by Séry. They contrasted with the simple chord sequences throughout the gig, and added lightning to the thundering grooves of the encore Nasty Girl.
The mood was part family gathering, part festival. As Séry introduced the 'band'- 24 and still counting- with charisma, determination and a sparkly baseball cap, all eyes were focused on him: the animating spirit.
Jacqui Dankworth writes about her concert with the Brodsky String Quartet in Kings Place Hall One on Friday 7th December, 7:30pm:
I auditioned for the Brodsky Quartet about 15 years ago now. It was in their studio near London Bridge and I was quite nervous but excited. I was asked to learn music from their album - The Juliet Letters - a concept album they collaborated on with Elvis Costello. I learned all the songs (in Costello's keys) and came and sang with them. It seemed to go well - even if I sounded a bit strange because of the low keys - and so I (and Ian Shaw) joined them on the road touring the UK performing a variety of material. As part of the concert we would showcase music written by children who had been learning to write string quartets during the day. It was a great experience and the beginning of a long, musical (and personal) friendship. The group are now celebrating 40 years of making music together.
When I first started working with them it was a bit daunting initially as they all knew each other so well. I had to ‘feel my way’ through the dynamic of the group as it were - but with time we all became more relaxed... Singing with the quartet is a joy for me - and a challenge. In a way - for the timespan of the concert - the voice becomes the fifth member of the group. It's a great opportunity to allow the subtleties and passion of the human voice to shine through. When we rehearse - the attention to detail is intense and often it can take 10 minutes to talk about one nuance which was slightly alien at first. I love working with them and on material that I don't usually perform in my own concerts. We do some beautiful songs from many different genres - for example Speak Low When You Speak Love by Kurt Weil /Ogden Nash (my father John Dankworth did this arrangement) and we do Paul Cassidy's arrangement of Elvis Costello's Rocking Horse Road - a song about love gone wrong. We also perform Britten's Sally Gardens - a song about regret - and some original settings of poems by Shakespeare, Lorca, Edmund Waller and others. We also include a Björk song called Play Dead and other joyful surprises. So you can tell there's quite a range of material covered! I love this aspect of the programme - it challenges me technically, musically and emotionally. Singing with these great musicians is always an honour! I'm thrilled they have asked me to be part of their 40th year celebration series.
Working at Kings Place is going to be heavenly. I've been to a few concerts there and been so impressed with the hall but I've never worked there myself. The acoustic and the atmosphere of the place are lovely. I think the venue will lend itself perfectly to the programme and be a wonderful place to celebrate this musical collaboration with an extraordinary quartet.
The Brodskys at 40 - A Celebration at Kings Place
A selection of Jacqui Dankworth and the Brodsky's repertoire:
She Moves Through The Fair - trad
Rocking Horse Road - Costello
Speak Low - Weill/Nash
Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer's Day – Brough / Shakespeare
Sally Gardens - Britten
Go Lovely Rose - Brough / Waller
Close To You - Hoffman, Lampl, Livingston; recorded by Sinatra
Play Dead - Björk
Sitting On Top Of The World - Walter Vinson, Bo Chatmon
Time Takes Its Time – Dankworth / Gordon
Please Answer - Dankworth
Narcisso - A Dankworth
My Romance – Rodgers / Hart
Like Someone In Love - Van Heusen / Burke
Pete Cook reads three passages from Road Rat's Tips.This new book by Pete, with a foreword by Imelda May, available from roadratstips.com, offers advice (interspersed with stories) to musicians, on the practicalities of 'keeping comfortable, safe, sane and employed on the road.' It is one of this weeks prize draw items for newsletter readers.
00:00-01:46: The Four Most Important Things
01:46-02:56: What to Wear
Uncredited in the programme summary on the BBC website, Uri Caine was the guest of Radio 3's In Tune on Friday. He talks about Beethoven and improvisation, and improvises on the third, fast minuet movement of Beethoven Symphony No.1. [Start 48:40/ music from 50:26 / end 58:15] LISTEN AGAIN HERE
On the the website of the prolific label Leo Records of Newton Abbott, Devon, we read (thank you Lance for the spot): END OF THE WORLD SALE
Before we all perish on 21.12.2012 Leo Records offers a unique opportunity to all music fans to find out more about the music on this legendary label. Who knows, may be this music will make your transition into a different reality much smoother. Apart from that, you cannot find a nicer and cheaper Christmas present for your friends and relatives! THE SALE LIST IS HERE.
Prices: each CD is £ 2.00 (double CD counts as two CDs, four-CD box counts as four CDs, 9-CD box counts as 9 CDs); Orders: minimum order ten CDs (you can only buy 10, 20, 30, etc. CDs); Postage: for each 10 CDs: U.K. - £3.50; Europe - £ 7.82; Rest of the world - £ 14.00; Payments: postal orders, cheques, credit cards, or cash to Leo Records, 16 Woodland Avenue, Kingskerswell, Newton Abbot TQ12 5BB; or by PayPal to leorecords[at] blueyonder.co.uk
The Leo Records catalogue is vast, monumentally so. Alexander Hawkins has picked out three places to look for something special:
Anthony Braxton/Evan Parker - Duo (London) 1993 - given Braxton's stated influences, it's maybe a little facile to draw the Lee Konitz/Warne Marsh parallel - but I do think there's something in it here. Fascinating to hear two of the absolute masters of modern solo instrumental playing deal with the very different territory of a duo setting. [IMHO - the 'classic' Braxton Quartet recordings made in 1985 in Coventry, Birmingham, and London for Leo are all stone classics, but they don't appear to be in the sale!]
Sun Ra - Piano Recital Teatro La Fenice - I always think that Ra would have been renowned as a great even if he had never gone anywhere near a big band - he's that great on piano! I love the choice of repertoire here: from 'Penthouse Serenade' and an ingeniously-melodically-twisted A Train to free improvisations and Ra classics (there's an extremely beautiful 'Love in Outer Space' here - one of his greatest melodies IMHO)
Cecil Taylor - I couldn't choose between Live in Vienna or Live in Bologna. They're both the same edition of the Unit - featuring Leroy Jenkins (the greatest post-Stuff Smith violinist?) and Carlos Ward (so great with Abdullah Ibrahim...similarly here!)...and Thurman Barker has long been one of my favourite drummers for Cecil. Magnificent band. There's lots of great Cecil on the sale list: Tzotzil/Mummers/Tzotzil is nice; Chinampas is crazy - an all-poetry and percussion date (no piano) - if I remember right.
Nicholas Costley-White writes about the debut album from the Dixie Ticklers, and explains the album title - with the help of a dictionary definition ...
Standing Pat, the debut album from The Dixie Ticklers is an in depth study of New Orleans jazz. The band has put today's date on early jazz, teaming it up alongside groove-based shuffles and thoroughly modern treatments whilst staying true to the polyphonic sound that shaped the music of the initial pioneers such as Louis Armstrong, King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton.
Led by clarinettist and composer Dom James, the six piece ensemble combine their deep love and understanding of the feel templates and language of early styles whilst each expressing their own musical voice. Daoud Merchant AKA 'Washboard Merch' (John Law, Empirical) and Zands (Karl Jenkins) head the rhythm section with whilst Will Rixon (Joss Stone) paints a modern image of the great early trumpet players. Bassist Tommy Antonio pays homage to Jelly Roll as he sings Ballin' the Jack, and I'm on guitar.
Recording to two inch tape with Ben Lamdin at Fishmarket helped us achieve that warm analogue sound and encouraged the band to perform there and then with less flexibility in the edit.
1. To oppose or resist change.
2. In poker or blackjack, to play one's hand without drawing more cards.
(ECM 370 9456. CD Review by Chris Parker)
Manu Katché has produced a series of immediately accessible albums for ECM, their changing personnel ‘inspired by meetings and encounters’ and resulting in the French-Ivorian drummer/composer concentrating on slightly different aspects of his music to accommodate them. For his label debut, Neighbourhood, Katché secured the services of Jan Garbarek, and on this album (as on its predecessor, Third Round) he features another Norwegian saxophonist, Tore Brunborg, explaining that ‘when I write new music … his sound has become the sound that I hear in my head’.
Said sound is a slightly warmer version of the famous Garbarek skirl, set against the multi-hued Hammond of Jim Watson (‘the sound of the organ surrounds you … it opens up many new dynamic possibilities for me as a drummer’ is Katché’s comment) and sharing front-line duties with Nils Petter Molvær, who ‘glue[s] the album together’ with his loops and immediately recognisable trumpet contributions.
Again speaking of Watson, Katché says: ‘We’re both coming from this other cultural corner, the pop world’, and this influence is readily discernible throughout this eponymous album in the direct simplicity of its melodies (some, as with much of Katché’s work, almost hummable on first acquaintance) as well as the relatively straightforward rhythms they are played in.
Although, in terms of label output, this album in many ways occupies the opposite end of the musical spectrum to, say, the Art Ensemble of Chicago or Tim Berne, it is, in its concentration on nuances of texture and timbre, and above all on the sheer beauty of its sound, very much an ECM product.
(Clore Ballroom, Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, Sat 17 Nov 2012. Review and Pictures by John L. Walters)
A highlight of the LJF's second weekend's was the free gig by Stonephace Stabbins, the five-piece, all-acoustic band that grew from Larry Stabbins' drum'n'bass-facing 2009 album Stonephace. What's remarkable is the way saxophonist Stabbins and principal collaborator, Mobo-winning pianist Zoe Rahman, have taken some of the more uncompromising aspects of jazz and made them accessible for a wide audience.
A visiting friend of a friend contrasted the wide age range of the Clore Ballroom audience, and the large number of women present with his local provincial jazz club, which was usually dominated by 50-something blokes (nothing wrong with them of course - salt of the earth).
Stabbins and Rahman have wrought a dynamic musical partnership - they first met playing in Jerry Dammers' Spatial AKA. Rahman is a forthright soloist and an imaginative cornerstone of the rhythm section: she puts her two-fisted stamp on the band while remaining completely within Stabbins' 'spiritual jazz' vision, which harks back both to the jazz dance revival of the 1980s, and the "new thing" of the late 1960s without sounding retro.
In a festival dominated by star piano soloists and trios, it's good to be reminded of the essential contribution that jazz pianists make as part of the band. (Laurence Hobgood, Kurt Elling's longstanding accompanist and arranger, is the not-so-secret weapon in the singer's albums and concerts, and a brilliant musician.)
Stonephace Stabbins' repertoire was mainly taken from Transcendental, with stirring and tuneful Stabbins originals such as Noetic and White Queen Psychology, plus Working Week and favourite, Soul Train.
The quintet plays a kind of fusion, but its splashy, loose-limbed texture seems like a (complementary) polar opposite to the ultra-tight, ultra-funky Snarky Puppy. They swing and groove to a different kind of pulse, and it is thrilling to hear LA percussion (played by Crispin "Spry" Robinson) used in such a free-flowing jazz context. The sound mix was spot on, too.
Stabbins was on splendid form, leading the band with tenor playing that was by turns explosive, abrasive, transcendentally melodic and magisterial.
Simon Picard Writes...
Some months ago I was in conversation with the management at my local bar in Kings Cross, The Harrison, and it was suggested that a regular evening of jazz would be possible there. They have recently converted their cellar into an intimate space for music, not unlike some of the famous clubs in downtown Manhattan that are essentially basements of houses, and I felt it would be an ideal venue for a small group.
As there was no piano, I got to thinking about a quartet with guitar, bass and drums. A lot of my earlier years developing with the saxophone were spent listening to the great players from the sixties. Aside from the Coltrane legacy that is monumental to just about every horn player, I was into Joe Henderson and Wayne Shorter among many others. So the idea to play some of their classic tunes from that era came about. I also felt that working with a guitarist would open up some new territory for us to develop in our approach to these pieces: lines can be doubled, voicings can sound different to the piano, there's the spatial element with sustain etc. However it is essentially the interaction of all the group members that make the music live, and I am very happy and fortunate to be collaborating with some fine young talented musicians.
Hence the launch of a new project, NO ONE4, a quartet with Alex Roth (guitar), Olie Brice (bass) and Simon Roth (drums). And also the launch of a new venue in central London, where we shall be playing on a regular basis.
The opening night is on Tuesday 27th November from 8.30 pm, and the address is 28 Harrison St, WC1H 8JF
|Tony Kofi. Photo Credit: Paul Wood|
Tony Kofi Quartet
(St James Theatre Studio SW1, 23rd November 2012. Review by Frank Griffith)
The St James Theatre Studio on Palace St near to Victoria Station is a new and welcome venue for Jazz. James Albrecht, the Associate Artistic Director responsible for the Studio Bar has wisely enlisted sometime thespian and jazz pianist, Dorian Ford, to curate a Friday night jazz concerts series, and what a fine job he has done so far. Boasting seating capacity for 120 the main room is laid out well with tables and comfy chairs, a handy bar and very helpful staff who are not ominpresent or overbearing. There is also upper balcony seating for those who prefer a higher angle on things as while there is a full PA present the overall sonic ambience of the room is organically an acoustical one.
The Tony Kofi Quartet presented an exciting and eclectic programme with pieces by Wayne Shorter, George Adams, Thelonious Monk and Chick Corea as well as the classic standard, If I Should Lose You. Their refresing take on this chestnut borrowed from a 1980s quartet in NYC called Sphere (with Kenny Barron and Charlie Rouse) and their treatment of the same song.
The leader's alto sax combines a rich mix of tonal influences from the likes of Sonny Stitt and James Spaulding coupled with the dry wistfulness of Sonny Criss if not a dollop of the tubby jocularity of the late James Moody. He sports a full tone throughout the entire contours of the horn and is not afraid to display his circular breathing skills. These allow him to not break his tone or phrase in order to inhale more air, a technique often resorted to by lesser players as an end of pier, sideshow like gimmick that one can tire easily from. Mr Kofi only employs it sparingly though and musically effectively at that. His Moody-like humour was evident in his many quotes, most notably Exactly Like You during his solo on George Adams' Flower For A Lady.
The fine trio showcased the talents of pianist, Trevor Watkiss, who rose to the occasion admirably tackling several new pieces with aplomb. His supportive accompanying skills were matched by his lyrical melodicsms and sensitive touch. The deeply swing bassist, Larry Bartley, provided the bulk of the engine room responsibilities for the group as well as contributed some credible solos. His fluent melodies were enhanced by his strongly percussive and insistent rhythmic integrity. 20 year old drummer, Moses Boyd, is clearly a face for the future with his light but driving touch and general attentiveness to all matters ensemble. His fluid and ringing tone on his ride cymbal went a long way to instilling a fully swinging comfort zone from the rhythm section.
An excellent evening of jazz by an exemplary quartet in a most ideal of settings. Do access the St James Theatre sooner rather than later and book yourself in for their upcoming season of Jazz on Fridays.
|Left to Right: Fapy Lafertin, Andy Crowdy, Dave Kelbie, |
Andy Aitchison, Bob Wilber. Wimbledon, 23rd November 2012
Fapy Lafertin Group with Bob Wilber
(Sacred Heart, Wimbledon, Part of International Wimbledon Music Festival. 23rd November 2012. Review by Sebastian Scotney)
The predominantly classical International Wimbledon Music Festival is in its fourth year and starts to feel like an established part of the scene. The festival's forays into the historic end of jazz have been unusual and very worthwhile: in 2011 IWMF featured Claude Bolling whom we interviewed, and who vaunted his particular connection with tennis and Wimbledon. This year an unusual collaboration took place, between Fapy Lafertin on guitar with his English group, and guest Bob Wilber instigated by festival supporter Maggie Black. Tcha Limberger was featured on all the advance publicity as appearing too, but didn't. (Uh?).
Fapy Lafertin's guitar playing completely, constantly commands the attention. Guitar heroes come in many forms, but Lafertin is one, without doubt. My scribbled notes on last night's concert mainly consist of a list of the times he managed to add yet another surprising feature to his game. As soloist he takes so many unexpected turns, you soon forget that that this music harmonically often seems to have one foot nailed to the floor. The sheer range of tone colour and articulation that he can bring to music make you look up and check if another guitarist hasn't suddenly turned up. Silences create anticipation of what new direction he will take. In the supporting role he creates an infinite variety of counter-melodies, cross-currents and commentaries, the soloist always has something to respond to. One I caught was a passionate counter-melody in tenor register in the first number of the second set, the perfect foil for Andy Aitchison's delicate violin solo up there in soprano. Fluency and expression are just everywhere. He can also change the mood of the band in a flash by inserting either stab chords or fast or accelerating tremolando. It would be wonderful to hear him at closer quarters next time he appears at the London's home of Gypsy jazz, the Quecumbar in Battersea.
With such a protean force around, the others in Lafertin's group play supporting roles. For some people I know, last night will have been their version of jazz heaven: only one bass solo all evening (well-taken by Andy Crowdy, deft harmonics) and no drummer present. Rhythm duties were assured by Dave Kelbie, quietly, supportively taking care of business.
Guest Bob Wilber left it right until the very end - till after the MC had told him and the band that chucking-out time had already past - to give us his trademark of old, the dizzyfingers clarinet playing of Wequassett Wail. But he had given some fine moments, notably Stardust on straight soprano, an instrument which Wilber studied way back when he was the disciple and favoured pupil of Sidney Bechet.
There was also a wonderful bit of jazz generosity from Wilber towards Lafertin. In mid-number in Poor Butterfly the American tucked the clarinet under his arm in to join in the audience applause for a particularly mesmerising solo. When an easy walk tempo loses all associations with the pedestrian, it is necessary, even imperative to salute genius.
Breach - Borders
(BREACHCD02. CD Review by Chris Parker)
For their second self-released album, the Scotland-based trio Breach (electric guitarist Graeme Stephen, English organist Paul Harrison, Canada-born drummer Chris Wallace) have stuck pretty closely to the formula that produced their debut, On the Walk: eight in-band originals deftly and intelligently explored by a mutually responsive band, its music embellished by sparing but telling use of electronics.
Over the slow-building energy provided by the brisk, supple drumming of Wallace, Stephen produces a series of spiky, powerful solos and Harrison is either rousing or pleasingly discursive as appropriate, anchoring the band sound with his bass pedals. With Asaf Sirkis’s trio, Troyka and Chris Higginbottom’s latest band all exploiting this supremely adaptable format in different and highly individual ways, the organ/guitar/drums trio has seldom been in better shape than at present, and Breach’s take on the form is an impressive and enjoyable one, resulting in this album -– although the music on it is not as left-field as that produced by Stephen and Wallace in their trio NeWt with trombonist Chris Greive – packing a considerable, if relatively subtle, punch.
We spoke to the McCormack and Yarde Duo, Andrew McCormack and Jason Yarde, in a very noisy hotel in central London. The duo told us about their concert at LSO St Lukes on Tuesday 27th November with the Elysian String Quartet, Yarde's upcoming commission from the LSO (featuring McCormack) and other plans. Andrew McCormack is left channel, Jason Yarde right channel.
|Pete Lukas (left), Gary Smulyan (right) |
Pizza Express, November 22nd 2012, Photo credit: Roger Thomas
Friday 23rd November
Gary Smulyan & the Leeds Jazz Orchestra
Plays the music of Pepper Adams
with arrangements by Tony Faulkner
31(a) Harrogate Road
Saturday November 24th
Gary Smulyan & Pete Lukas Quintet
w. Leon Greening, Dominic Howles, Matt Home
Pinner Parish Church,
Sunday November 25th - Lunchtime 1.30 - 3.30
Three Baritones - Gary Smulyan, Pete Lukas & Tony Harper
The Lion at Basford
44 Mosley Street
Sunday November 25th - Evening 8.30
Swing Low Sweet Baritones - Gary Smulyan, Pete Lukas & Alex Garnet
w. Leon Greening, Dominic Howles, Matt Home
The Terrace Suite
Welwyn Garden City
Monday November 26th
Gary Smulyan & Tony Harper
180 Nottingham Rd
Saturday December 1st
Gary Smulyan & Pete Lukas Quintet
w. Leon Greening, Dominic Howles, Matt Home
373 Lonsdale Rd,
|Gary Smulyan. Photo credit: Roger Thomas|
Brassroots/Mimika Mak Murtic Double Bill
(Rich Mix, 14th November, LJF. Review by Adam Tait)
Rich Mix in Bethnal Green is a small venue with a maximum capacity of 350 standing. Nevertheless, there is still something of the cavernous feel of the much larger Roundhouse about it. Last Wednesday, a chaotic melee was swarming around it, and the place was abuzz with expectation.
Mimika Mak Murtic are one of the most visually striking groups you are likely to come across at the moment. Dressed all in virginal white and going about their performance with an almost military precision, they’re hard to look away from. After a while however, Mimika’s stage presence begins to approach the frightening. While not playing, all the musicians stand dead still, instrument rested over their left shoulder, staring towards the back of the room. For large portions of the performance they seem almost oblivious to the audience.
The 15 musicians create swimming, fluid music. The vocals are tense and packed with emotion. Part of what seems most exciting about Mimika is the cultural blend in their music. At times their music seems somewhat reminiscent of New Yorkers painted in an Art Deco fashion and snapping their fingers, at other times Eastern European colours can be heard. The lively rhythms of Balkan beat mix with snappy hip-hop beats, all of it held together with the vibrancy of jazz.
o o o o o o o
Brassroots are an eight-piece band formed on the streets of East London, combining at least five different nationalities, into a cohesive unit. There is a snappy liveliness to their music that excites audiences, but they also manage to embody the slurred essence of New Orleans jazz and funk. American Trombonist and frontman Jerome Harper makes the crowd comfortable and talks to them like everyone in the room is an old friend.
Brassroots grab hold of what makes jazz, jazz and somehow to conflate it with something else. They make it beefier, bolder. There’s such terrific impact to their music. They just seem cool, in everything they do. Their version of Seven Nation Army drew an excited reaction from the crowd.
Putting these bands together was a great idea, because their innovative approach to brass music is something they very much have in common. The chaotic nature of the venue on the night was a bit of a drain, but once you found your spot and firmly planted your feet, the stage became the firm focus for all of us.
The Soulculture site has the sad news of the so far unexplained death of young Californian pianist Austin Peralta at the age of just 22 . He made his first album at 15 with Billy Kilson and Ron Carter. Born October 25, 1990. Died 21st November 2012. Tragic.
UPDATE: A good news piece in the Los Angeles Times . And a track featuring Heidi Vogel. She writes on Facebook: I track I sang on on Austin Peralta's album....What a beautiful moment we had in the studio...
|Double Tandem, Vortex, 15th November|
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2012. All Rights Reserved.
(Vortex, 15 November 2012; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)
Double Tandem comprises a trio of the most respected, inspired and technically accomplished improvisers out of Chicago, Norway and the Netherlands respectively. Ken Vandermark and Paal Nilssen-Love, who had just completed an intense two-day stint with the Brötzmann Chicago Tentet at Café Oto were joined by frequent comrade-in-arms, notably as a guest of Lean Left last year, Ab Baars.
The meaning of the name Double Tandem remains - to me at least - obscure, possibly implying a quartet rather than a three-piece. Notwithstanding, this turned out to be two sets of fast-changing combinations of their chosen instruments - two clarinets, two tenor saxes, Vandermark's baritone sax, Baars's hefty Japanese bamboo flute, the shakuhachi and Nilssen-Love's percussion. Brightly accented textures and timbres were built up and broken down, the unexpected was tirelessly pursued.
The silence of a typically respectful and listening Vortex audience was riven by Vandermark's opening volley, honking unrestrainedly on his bari, bringing to mind a massive American Peterbilt 281 truck barrelling down the freeway, Duel-style, answered by whacks on the drumkit while Baars wailed on clarinet with the anguished tones of Bechet. The interplay between Baars and Vandermark on twin clarinets got close to reinventing the flavour of the liquorice stick. Baars's impeccable, delicate technique morphed in to a squawking, searing cry, and when they opened the second set in tandem with a shrill, piercing duet the physical vibrations were palpable! Equally compelling was the sequence when Vandermark's bari took to the higher ranges and Baars plumbed the deep registers on his tenor, this tandem offering a case of mistaken identity.
Throughout, Nilssen-Love moved between background and foreground, leading the pack with touches of melodic and atmospheric articulation added to the rhythmic imperative. His rounded, metallic gong timbres linked to the far eastern flavour that Baars evoked on shakuhachi then dropped back to offer a classic small group jazz swing beat just when the reeds needed it. Again, as if to confound expectations, after his hands had lightly padded all over the cymbals, Nilssen-Love applied the brushes sharply, viciously in combination with the bass pedals to heighten the punctuation, brows furrowed in acute concentration.
The honking truck returned and Vandermark swerved into minimalist loops and a discernible solid soul pumping beat to take up responsibility for the backdrop to the formidably inquisitive seam of invention which is the hallmark of Double Tandem.
With respect to the great Ahmad Jamal, these trio excursions, in the intimate confines of the Vortex, could be seen as one of the many successors to his concept of Chamber Music of the New Jazz - as with his 50s trio adventure, there was everything to listen to and to hold the attention, albeit with a significantly modified argot.
As an afternote, Oliver Weindling announced the great news that Baars will be back in January/February next year for a 5-day residency at the Vortex playing in the unmissable Instant Composers Pool Orchestra, on an all-too-rare visit to these shores.
Ab Baars: clarinet, tenor sax, shakuhachi
Paal Nilssen-Love: drums/percussion
Ken Vandermark: clarinet, baritone and tenor saxes
Paco De Lucia
(Royal Festival Hall, 16th November, LJF. Review by Don Mendelsohn)
Walking out alone onto a palm-filled stage to the adulation of a sold-out Royal Festival Hall, flamenco's greatest living exponent seated himself dead centre among the flora and began an unaccompanied improvisation that had every member of the audience holding their breath with awe. For the next two hours he played music of such spirit and nuance that at the end virtually the entire hall leapt to its feet to demand an encore.
Along the way we were transported to the streets, bars and dance halls of southern Spain, every picado drawing exclamations from band and audience members alike. Joined after his opening solo by a seven-piece band comprising three outstanding singers (one of whom almost stole the show with several virtuosic displays of traditional baile or dance), harmonica, bass, percussion and additional guitar, Paco showed why he is able to draw such crowds wherever he goes.
It is almost impossible to speak of flamenco without at some point uttering the word “passion”, and that was at the heart of tonight's performance, from the guitarist's legato flourishes to the rhythmic drive of the cajon and the immensely powerful voices that seemed to contain hundreds of years of history, a sound capable of reaching the deepest corners of the soul.
There were spotlight moments for each member of the troupe, with a couple of brilliant jazz-infused harmonica solos standing out (if only he had left the synth alone!). But even in an accompanying role, Paco's quiet authority and musical generosity suffused the stage.
While other high-profile guitarists like John McLaughlin and Al Di Meola (both of whom Paco has worked with) have continually reinvented themselves, dabbling in a range of styles and sound-worlds, De Lucia's approach has essentially remained steadfast throughout his illustrious six-decade career. Now regarded as the figurehead of nuevo flamenco (a style he all but invented), the world has come to him, and he rewards its attention with music of depth, maturity and finesse.
Mick Hutton Writes...
I have organised a benefit gig for pianist Russ Henderson M.B.E. This is our chance to repay him for all the great music he has brought to us over the past 60 years. It is on 8th January 2013 at the 606 Club.
After a career dating from the early fifties in this country and over ten years before that in Trinidad, Russ is no longer able to play the piano due to multiple hand problems which have plagued him for several years. In addition to his jazz/latin piano playing, Russ was instrumental in the introduction of steel bands (his band being prominent on the UK scene for many years) to this country and the setting up of the Notting Hill Carnival. The Russ Henderson Trio was a fixture at the 606 Club for over twenty-five years and also during that time appeared regularly at other London venues such as the Pizza Express.
The line-up for the gig is:
19:30 - 20:30: John Parricelli, Kate Williams, Steve Watts and Paul Robinson
20:45 - 21:45: The Jim Mullen Reunion Quartet featuring Gareth Williams and Enzo Zirilli
22:00 - 23:00: Mark Cherrie/Mick Hutton Band featuring special guests.
Admission £12.00 - advisable to book in advance
606 Club / 020 7352 5953
LondonJazz spoke to Sue Mingus (musical director of the Mingus Big Band and widow of Charles) about the band's upcoming series at Ronnie Scott's (Monday 26th Nov-Saturday 1st Dec; 12 gigs in 6 days), the band, and her other projects.
Meditations for Moses from the album Mingus Plays Piano (1963)
Moanin from the album Blues and Roots (1960)
Dice Factory - Dice Factory
(Babel BDV12110. CD Review by Chris Parker)
Although the composing credits for this, Dice Factory’s debut, eponymous album, are shared between pianist George Fogel, tenor saxophonist Tom Challenger and bassist Tom Farmer, the quartet’s sound and overall approach (they’re completed by ubiquitous drummer Jon Scott) are relatively consistent throughout the recording’s ten tracks.
Over an emphatic but pleasantly nervy rhythmic pattern (the Mancunian Scott among the jazz world’s most skilled contemporary providers of same, which is why he is involved in so many bands at present) Challenger and Fogel (and occasionally the rhythm section too) solo and interweave, Challenger with the mature, warm-toned, restless inventiveness that characterises his work with his own band Ma and the Loop Collective’s Outhouse, Fogel more overtly vigorous, his percussive insistence occasionally drawing on minimalism, but always firmly rooted in jazz improvisation.
The resultant music is thus imbued with the slightly pent-up, brooding energy associated with approaching thunderstorms, and, like them, frequently breaks out into crackling bursts of pyrotechnics, urged on by the whip-smart Scott. Like many contemporary bands, Dice Factory privilege tension and release and tricksy rhythmic energy over melody and straightforward fleetness, but as with, say, Phronesis, the reward is a highly effective fierce interactiveness that promises much from live performance.
Sad to report the death after a long illness on Sunday of Scottish pianist, drummer, and bandleader Stan Greig. Greig was at the Royal High School in Edinburgh with clarinettist Sandy Brown and trumpeter Al Fairweather, and they all played together as teenagers. After a move to London he played, among others, in the bands of Ken Colyer, Humphrey Lyttelton and Bruce Turner and Acker Bilk. He later founded the London Jazz Big Band. A fuller tribute will appear here later in the week.
Clip above: Stan Greig (piano), Humphrey Lyttelton (trumpet), Pete Strange (trombone), Bruce Turner (clarinet), John Barnes (baritone), Paul Bridge (bass) and Adrian Mackintosh (drums). Thank you for those Peter Vacher, whose obituary of Stan Greig is in the Guardian.
UPDATE 11th December: Alyn Shipton's Obituary of Stan Greig has appeared in The Times. (Paywall)
Stanley Mackay Greig. Born August 12, 1930, died 18th November 2012
The organizers of the first Love Supreme Festival, to be held at Glynde Place in East Sussex on July 5-7 2013, have announced some of the headliners and put the first batch of tickets on sale this morning (PRICES AND AVAILABILITY HERE):
JOOLS HOLLAND AND HIS RHYTHM & BLUES ORCHESTRA (Headlining Sunday 7th)
BRANFORD MARSALIS QUARTET
NEIL COWLEY TRIO
"Further acts, including Friday and Saturday night headliners, will be announced in the coming months," says the Press Release
Love Supreme declares itself to be "the only green-field jazz festival in the UK, and the first major UK festival of its kind in over 20 years." It will take place over three days - Friday 5, Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 July 2013 and have four stages (a main stage, a unique green-field festival indoor seated Jazz stage, a newcomer stage and a dance stage). Admission is to the whole festival, rather than gig by gig.
History: " The Love Supreme Jazz Festival revives a great tradition of open-air jazz festivals that stretches back to 1956, when the Beaulieu Festival was launched at Lord Montague’s country house in Hampshire. Others followed, including the National Jazz and Blues Festival, which started during the 1960s, changed its musical style and evolved into today’s Reading and Leeds Festival. The first of its kind for more than 20 years, the Love Supreme Jazz Festival will provide great food from around the world, luxury and standard camping, chill out and relaxation zones, family friendly activities accompanied by a blend of core and cutting edge jazz artists, crossover jazz musicians and great artists from the worlds of soul, blues and funk."
The Love Supreme Jazz Festival is presented by Jazz FM in partnership with Neapolitan Music and Ingenious Media. Serious are programme consultants.
|Soweto Kinch. Photo credit: Benjamin Amure|
(LJF, various venues. Review by Sebastian Scotney)
During the LJF I caught three important pieces of work-in -progress by UK musicians. They're all things to latch on to, as they develop and grow:
1) Vocalist Emma Smith was performing a lunchtime concert at St James Piccadilly.She gave a first outing for with-strings project which as yet doesn't have a name, but which sounded very promising , and could well eventually turn into an album project.
Joni Mitchell's Blue, the last tune was a highlight. She also arranged Juju by Wayne Shorter, using lyrics by Gretchen Parlato, and there was a very moving renditon of I'll be Seeing You (In All The Old Familiar places) dedicated to her trombonst/ arranger grandfather.
Andrew McCormack is definitely the right pianist for this kind of project, perfectly adaptable, just able to find the right voicings and moods.
Emma is very busy indeed, she's just taken the place of one of the Puppini Sisters. Her new project had been put together quite quickly , but Smith led the band and got the results she wanted from the musicians. It was as if bandleading is nature rather than nurture. A particular word for the subtle bass-walking of Adam Speirs on 'cello.
2) Liam Noble – also heard at St James Piccadilly - the pianist will be recording a solo piano album for WDR on the first weekend in February. Liam Noble is one of the best -kept secrets in British jazz, but this might be the project which gives him something of the recognition he deserves. I'm due to be blogging from the festival in Cologne when he records. Can't wait. UPDATE : Liam Noble has made the whole concert available on Soundcloud
3) Soweto Kinch was trying out his a new album and touring project The Legend of Mike Smith at the Albany in Deptford on Friday 16th. His playing of tenor and alto saxophones is mesmerizing, Karl Rasheed-Abel on bass and Shane Forbes on drums formed the rest of his pianoless trio. It would have been Joe Henderson's 75th birthday, and hearing Soweto in that format brought back strong memories of the great, endlessly inventive tenor saxophonist commanding the stage. “Not enough music” was a comment I overheard. TLoMS is a fascinating take on contemporary culture. It's witty, fearsomely clever, and on the way towards something interesting, and is bound to be making waves next year.
(Crazy Coqs Cabaret Room at Brasserie Zedel. 19th November 2012. Review by Sebastian Scotney)
Any plans for Thanksgiving this Thursday? This week's show at the Crazy Coqs cabaret room in Brasserie Zedel by Piccadilly Circus is a piece of genuine Americana. (On that subject by the way, master-novelist Richard Ford makes a rare London appearance next Wednesday here at Kings Place).
Steve March-Tormé, son of Mel Tormé, a regular in the Met Room in New York, is in residence for the week. In the show you get his full life story, starting in Scarsdale, up in those idyllic privileged wooded suburbs North of New York, then among the stars and the wannabes in Beverley Hills, and most recently in Appleton, Wisconsin (you get a song about taking children to the park). The cultural references are almost all American, it needs a few more Americans in this great little room than were there last night to make it buzz, which it can, and probably will.
The show has an awful lot of referencing of Mel Tormé and his life in music, and a few of his arrangements. Fine bassist Dave Olney was often dealing with five or more pages of manuscript.
There's one confusion which definitely needs clearing up: two of the five children of the Velvet Fog from his four marriages, in fact both of the sons, ply their trade as singers. Steve is Mel's eldest son and eldest child, from his first marriage. The other, James (born 1973), is the youngest, from his third marriage. There'll be a test later.
I thought there was one genuinely great moment last night, a deliciously long-phrased Kern/ Hammerstein The Folks Who Live on the Hill with just pianist Steve Rawlins accompanying, Tormé showing off perfect legato and sostenuto. He's a genial host, and on Monday night he was by some margin the neatest-dressed person in the room.
The Crazy Coqs room, soft-launched earlier in the year is really taking shape. It has a brand new sound and lighting rig, for example. It's a 66-seater room right in the heart of the West End - with a great French brasserie and a comfy bar attached.
And without wanting to spoil anything... you will get into the Thanksgiving/ early Christmas mood with a song Mel Torme happened to co-write .. about stuff like chestnuts ....and an open fire.... and see his son looking up, still boyishly, and without irony, "to see if reindeer really know how to fly"
|Tower of Power, Shepherds Bush Empire, 18th November 2012|
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2012. All Rights Reserved.
(Shepherds Bush Empire, 18 November 2012; review and drawings by Geoff Winston)
'Nuclear explosion in Shepherds Bush', the headline might have read. How could Tower of Power follow their amazing gig at Ronnie's earlier this year? Well, they blew the roof off the Shepherds Bush Empire on Sunday with a total scorcher.
Not even listed as a LJF concert - on a night where the punter was spoilt for choice - due to the over-programming that besets the LJF - this had to be the one with the highest octane power drive in the city. From a standing start to speed of sound in seconds they adapted perfectly to the Empire's faded baroque splendour and the excellent sound mix hooked every hook this sensational 10 piece delivered, on this, the final date of the European leg of their 45th anniversary tour.
The wickedly tight arrangements, the finely-honed discipline and sheer musicianship - they get it right every time. The Tower blasted through a mixture of Power favourites, but never gave short shrift to any of them - they sounded as though they just relished playing every note. They were not averse to slamming on the brakes and the slower-paced So Very Hard to Go was a stand out; their cover of Me and Mrs Jones was sheer classic soul.
Larry Braggs has grown in to the role of MC and rabble-rouser as well as the sweet-soul vocalist who has succeeded illustrious forbears, including Lenny Williams, and articulated the Tower's personality down to a tee. Founder Emilio Castillo joined in on the front line, clearly really enjoying the energy he was getting back from the audience - new recruits and those who had followed them since their early days.
|Tower of Power, Shepherds Bush Empire, 18th November 2012|
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2012. All Rights Reserved.
Roger Smith was picked out for solo Hammond spots flecked with touches of Wild Bill Davis. Jerry Cortez's guitar solos were concentrated, raw, honed to the max; Tom Politzer headed front stage to belt out tenor solos with an assurance and drive that leaves most in the dust - and the brass section work ... well, there isn't a brass section like it! Not to mention the rhythm section - drummer David Garibaldi has just been inducted in to the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame, the industry's highest honour and bassist Rocco Prestia set down the bass grooves that underpinned every nuance of the funk.
A sensational evening - they are one of the great bands.
Emilio Castillo - bandleader, 2nd tenor sax, vocals
Stephen "Doc" Kupka - baritone sax
Rocco Prestia - bass
David Garibaldi - drums
Larry Braggs - lead vocalist
Roger Smith - keyboards
Tom Politzer - lead tenor sax
Adolfo Acosta - trumpet
Jerry Cortez - guitar
Sal Cracchiolo - trumpet & trombone
|Photo Credit: Emile Hoba|
John Surman, Bolsterstone Male Voice Choir
(Queen Elizabeth Hall, November 18th. LJF. Review by Jon Turney)
A slight feeling of disappointment clouded the start of this gig. The festival programme writer reckoned that we would hear John Surman play "a short solo set", followed by a new commission for larger forces. His new release from ECM Saltash Bells is perhaps the summit of his solo achievement - as he explores the possibilities of high level jazz improvisation as a way of exploring one particular variety of Englishness - so that would have been great to hear. But it didn't happen.
Still, our finest baritone and soprano sax player joining 60 male voices and old associate Howard Goodall on keyboards ought to offer good things to make up for that, right? Well, up to a point.
The nine part choral suite, Lifelines, was a joint commission by Radio 3 and the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, featuring the massed ranks of the Bolsterstone Male Voice Choir. Surman's deep feeling for choral music came through in the composing and arranging. The lyrics, though, gave the set an uneven quality. The first trio of songs opened with a piece inspired by a Japanese painting - and choir and soloist worked as one. When the voices mused on "an old man fishing, alone in the snow", with tenor recorder commenting, we felt the chill. An aboriginal-flavoured song followed, and then a splendidly rhythmic hunting song inspired by native Brazilians.
That last piece was in their language, so unintelligible, and the effectively wordless vocal worked especially well. The next sequence of three were less effective, for me, although described as the centre of the work. They paid homage to the industrial history of Yorkshire, but the words made the choir's contribution seem a little flat. Sample verse:
Such is the price of coal
The mine has taken its toll
And we are reminded once again
How nature controls the fate of men
This seems folk music's territory. When Stan Tracey commemorated the Industrial Revolution in a long ago festival commission, The Crompton Suite, he did it without words. If you do use them, they had better be good. These didn't quite rise to the occasion, especially if you were thinking of songs by June Tabor, say, Martin Carthy, or the Albion Band. It might have worked better to take an existing song - The Gresford Disaster is the obvious choice for a miners' lament - and re-work it.
Things perked up in the final three song section. This saw a shift to the West Country, where the saxophonist obviously feels more at home. And the lyrics now came from other sources - a poem turned into a rousing smugglers' anthem, an old sailor's drinking song Surman heard as a child. The words were more stirring - "pop your nose in a jug of this!" was the refrain (now we were in Fairport Convention territory) - and the choir more inspired, I fancy.
So a mixed bag. The choir sounded splendid. So, of course, did the composer, especially as the suite neared the end and he opened out a little on the final songs - Surman's baritone is pretty much made for evoking the jauntiness of a sea-shanty.
Needless to say, he played brilliantly throughout, and it is always a delight to see him in London. The best bit? For me, that was after the Bolsterstone brigade's departure, when he finally treated us to a brief solo piece, nodding to Saltash Bells. Surman-plus-choir has plenty to hold the interest, but I'd still be happy to hear him next time without.