Valamar Jazz Festival - Final Night Report

The 4th Valamar Jazz Festival is coming to an end, just 24 hours before Croatia becomes the 28th member of the EU. Croatia's saga of joining the EU has been the longest-ever accession process, with discussions starting in the 1990's and a formal application first having been made in 2003. The majority of Croatians I have met here see the move as positive: it will above all give them, and in some cases their businesses, easier and cheaper access to the single market.  It's clearly good for tourism, which is a strategically important industry. Bookings are significantly up on last year, the vibe of the  town is much busier. Meanwhile this week the Croatian press has been gripped by other things: Angela Merkel's decision not to show up for tonight's accession bash in Zagreb, which may or may not be related to the complexities of the Perkovic extradition saga. This is not a simple country..

It was a relief, then, that things on the final night of the Valamar Jazz Festival were kept so straightforward. This jazz festival, which makes such effective use of two of the things Croatia has in abundance - history and a stunning coastline - brought ferryload after ferryload of people over to the island of Sveti Nikola to sample a night of unashamedly infectious rhythm and the opportunity to get up and dance.  This  is my fifth and last report - there should also be a round-up on the Telegraph website later.

The energetic young Berlin-based funk unit Mo'Blow (above) did exactly in the live context what Laurence Jones in his  Jazz Breakfast in his CD review said they had done on record: delivered a "full-on quality work-out" of 21st century funk, the sax/Rhodes/ electric bass line-up complemented with the use of electronics such as looping, a sax wah-wah pedal... and a didgeridoo. The band has its regular gig at Quasimodo in Berlin, tours a lot, and has recently put out a Nils Landgren-produced third album,  their second for Siggi Loch's ACT Music label.

Rounding off proceedings was a rousing set from Eddie Palmieri's seven-piece touring band, including three percussionists. The sound which mainly echoed round the bay was that of Jonathan Powell, an inheritor of astonishing, blazing Maynard Ferguson trumpet chops. My ear was also caught by the playing of saxophonist Louis Fouché, whose interesting life-story I have been reading HERE. As the percussion engine was roaring around him, as front-line colleague Powell hit the high notes, Fouché was catching the attention by standing impassively, improbably still. Without histrionics, without stage antics, he was delivering playing of real quality. More please.


Review: Marcin Wasilewski Trio / Buster Williams Quartet/ afterparty jam at the Valamar Jazz Festival

Marcin Wasilewski Trio / Buster Williams Quartet/ Afterparty Jam
(Valamar Jazz Festival, Sv. Nicola Island stage, Poreč, Croatia. 26th June 2013. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

The second night on the island stage brought two completely contrasted visions of contemporary jazz from opposite sides of the Atlantic. Marcin Wasilewski's regular trio with bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz and drummer Michal Miskiewicz brought material from their third ECM album Faithful (2011) such as the upbeat, motoric, Night Train To You and their soothing, rhapsodic, rubato version of Hanns Eisler's "An den kleinen Radioapparat", plus re-workings of Bach keyboard pieces. The Valamar Festival audience were palpably being drawn in - on not the warmest of nights - to the trio's delicate art. For an outdoor stage, the vibe was surprisingly intimate, but there again, the sound balance in the first 15-20 rows of seats is superb.

For the second set, the Buster Williams Quartet gave the American flip-side of contemporary jazz. This was a more energetic set, but one which was more reliant on a knowledge of the jazz canon.

Eric Reed, Buster Williams, Cindy Blackman-Santana

The American tradition in jazz is to show veneration not just for the canin, but also for  elder statesmen, such as the seventy-one year old bassist and bandleader.  He is the commanding figure onstage, and the younger players left him all the space he needed to project. The picture here, however, published on saxophonist Mark Gross's Twitter feed, and taken by him, shows the other three members of the quartet getting into the festival's holiday spirit. The Blue Taxis boat firm let the passengers briefly take the helm, and who could be more deserving occasionally to steer the ship than that propulsive pianist Eric Reed, seen here doing exactly that? His moments of gospelly extroversion in the band's set last night were among the highlights; and if Cindy Blackman-Santana looks completely relaxed here, her driving, building final solo on I Didn't Know What Time It Was built carefully to a massive climax, and completely won over the late-night audience.

Luka Žužić. Photo credit: Tatjana Genc
A third aspect of the scene came to the fore in the afterparty in the grounds of the Villa Polesini. This was an occasion to showcase a group of musicians resident in Croatia. Festival Director Tamara Obrovac, a singer of considerable renown, is plugged into the scene here, and has a particularly sure step when it comes to choosing the bands to appear in this slot. I heard some great players last night, such as the fine, fluent, fascinating Russian tenor saxophonist Igor Kireyev, who now makes his home in Pula, an hour south of here.  Also featured was trombonist Luka Žužić who has a fabulous sound, is a fluent soloist but also blends in brilliantly, and as last year, the subtle yet authoritative Rijeka-based guitarist Elvis Penava. They were part of a band who deserve promotion to the main stage, and would be at hme on jazz stages anywhere in the world. Having said that, the gardens of the Villa Polesini are a completely unforgettable, unique place to hear music. There are (probably Roman?) pillars at one edge of the stage. This must be one of the very greatest late night jazz hangs in the world, and I for one feel privileged just to be here.


Bulls Head closes tomorrow night for refurbishment - Stan Tracey tonight, and a petition

Stan Tracey. Portait by William Ellis. All Rights Reserved

There are just three more gigs in the music room at the Bulls Head in Barnes SW13 before it passes into new hands and closes for re-furbishment. The venue has hosted music continuously since 1959. The standout gig is tonight, the Stan Tracey Quintet, with Mark Armstrong, Simon Allen, Andrew Cleyndert and Clark Tracey. William Ellis's portrait (above) is in the National Portrait Gallery. Probably the last man to leave will be Les Circle, when he packs up the drum kit tomorrow night. LISTINGS HERE.

When we covered the story and spoke to Geronimo Inns, they described their plans for it as being open-ended. However, one group is definitely smelling a rat in the plans which Geronimo Inns have for the venue, and and are convinced that "they plan to change the existing famous and legendary Music Room into a restaurant."  We feel we need more information. The group has set up a petition:



UPDATE 3: We have just had this statement from Ed Turner - MD at Geronimo Inns:

"Geronimo Inns are delighted to be taking over The Bull’s Head in Barnes. The pub has an amazingly rich history as an integral part of the community and more importantly as a legendary music venue for over 50 years. There has been much speculation about the plans for the pub and whether Geronimo Inns intend to maintain the pubs musical heritage . So to be very straight; we have, and still do remain fully committed to hosting live music at The Bull’s Head seven days a week.

We have a track record with running live music pubs, including the Half Moon in Putney and the Elgin in Ladbroke Grove and we have a team dedicated to carrying on the great work overseen by Dan Fleming for the last 30 years. Dan has agreed to help advise us with music planning and music quality, and we are pleased to confirm that we have already booked artists including Salena Jones, Buddy Greco, Alan Price, The Humphrey Lyttelton Band and Stan Tracey to perform in 2013.

A public meeting, held at the beginning of June attended by 120 local residents, musicians and live music lovers, were told that Geronimo Inns will be creating a delicious pub that can further support the live music scene in Barnes and we are not looking to create a ‘gastropub that has music as an incidental offer’, but a pub for the community of Barnes with music very much at it’s heart.

It is true that we want to create a new music room at the venue however we will only do this if it is as good as or better than the existing room in terms of the musical experience. Geronimo Inns have sought planning permission to add to the current layout of the venue to enable us to improve the experience for fans attending shows; this includes, new loos, (including facilities for disabled customers) a first floor dining/ function room and an extension to the stables to create a music room of a similar size to the current one with its own bar and loos. With help from those who have been instrumental in creating the sound in the current music room, we will at least match, and preferably improve, on the current acoustics.

In October 2011, we took over the Half Moon in Putney, another legendary music venue. There had been similar concerns then about the future of the live music. In fact, the changes we introduced to the pub have made it more popular with locals and we have increased the number of artists performing and fans attending shows . In the last twelve months 35,000 music fans have passed through the doors, and they are now able to use the pub to eat, drink and socialise far more than before.

Geronimo Inns are aware of the "Save The Bulls Head" campaigns and wanted to take this opportunity to re-iterate our position and calm any concerns about our intentions. We will not run The Bull’s Head without live music as it is an integral part of the pub and to Barnes and we are committed to, and are aware of our duty to building on this tradition

Ed Turner


Evan Parker and Norma Winstone talk about Kenny Wheeler

This video entitled 'Kenny Wheeler, Master of Melancholy Chaos', is from the Royal Academy of Music's Youtube Channel


Review: Billy Childs Quartet and Trilok Gurtu at Valamar Jazz Festival

Billy Childs Quartet; Trilok Gurtu Quartet 
(Valamar Jazz Festival, Sv. Nikola stage, Poreč, Croatia. 27th June 2013. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

“This is paradise, this is beautiful, I would have liked to spend a week here,” said Billy Childs. Those were the first words spoken by a visiting musician from the Valamar Jazz Festival’s magically located stage, nestling right by the sea. A ferry taking less than five minutes brings the audience from Poreč harbour to the island of Sveti Nicola, for the first of three double bills of music. A holiday mood prevails here, not least because this time of year has two Croatian natonal public holidays. Last Saturday 22nd June was Anti-Fascist Struggle Day and Tuesday 25th was Statehood (or Constitution) Day. 

The highlights of the opening  set, from Billy Childs’ Quartet, were the two solos from alto saxophonist Steve Wilson. The Virginia-born reeds player certainly has pedigree: he's an alumnus of bands led by Chick Corea, Maria Schneider, Christian McBride and Dave Holland. (There's a good, short interview with him HERE)

Many alto saxophonists make the attempt to drive a band and inspire it to greater heights through force of presence, experience and personality, by sending out constant and probing challenges to the rhythm section. There can be very few – if any? - in the world in 2013, however, who are capable of doing it with the command, the fluency, the technique, the strength of tone, the fertility of ideas that Steve Wilson now has at his command. 

His solos on two of Billy Childs’ lengthy-song-form compositions, Aaron’s Song, inspired by the composer’s eldest son, and The Hunted, were also the moments when powerful bassist Hans Glawischnig, endlessly creative drummer Kendrick Scott, and the pianist/composer/bandleader Childs himself also gave of their very best. And their best, to misquote Longfellow, was very good indeed.

Billy Childs, Steve Wilson, Hans Glawischnig, Kendrick Scott

The second set featured Indian-born percussion legend Trilok Gurtu, heard very much on his own terms. Rather than his band with Paolo Fresu and Omar Sosa which was touring Scotland earlier this year, he appeared last night with a hand-picked band of younger players. It takes a powerful bassist to survive, let alone to thrive alongside Gurtu, and the Spanish-German bassist Jonathan Ihlenfeld Cuniado gave exactly the right kind of strong drive and insistent groove to give the band a solid foundation and a constant sense of propulsion. Classically- trained Turkish pianist Tuluğ Tırpan has not just strong technique but a vivid sense of colour on electronic keyboard, and Cologne-based trumpeter Frederik Köster has a strong personality and makes inventive and subtle use of electronics. But in the end this is a band in which the percussion master can allow his imagination free rein, can savour not just the sound possibilities of a vast range of percussion, but also the ironies and inconsistencies of his musical identity; and, as if those weren't enough to be going on with, also cajole, impress, tease...and completely entertain the appreciative holiday crowd.

This first night on the stage by the sea left the audience in a happy mood for its return journey across the water to Poreč's welcoming harbour-front. It set the holiday mood, and a high standard, for the rest of the festival.


Bristol in Poreč -@bujobristol and @BrisHornstars at the Valamar Jazz Festival

Two student ensembles from Bristol, both part of the University's Big Band Society, have been touring in Croatia, and finished their travels tonight in Poreč, playing early evening sets in the town's main square, Trg Slobode (Freedom Square) as part of the Valamar Jazz Festival's free 2013 'Jazz Guerilla' programme.

I missed the Bristol Horn Stars  set, but did catch just the very beginning of the Bristol University Jazz Orchestra's  set. I noted that this band had a ginger-haired music director... and that their set   which included the 1950 Milton DeLugg and Willie Stein song Orange Colored Sky...and pondered whether these two facts might be in some way connected. Definitely food for thought there.....


Vinyl EP Review: Mark Murphy - A Beautiful Friendship: Remembering Shirley Horn

Mark Murphy - A Beautiful Friendship: Remembering Shirley Horn
(Gearbox Records GB1515. EP Review by Jeanie Barton)

Legendary jazz singer and scat exponent Mark Murphy, now in his 82nd year, has released a 4 track vinyl EP in memory of Shirley Horn, however, the recording is just as much in memory of his long time accompanist George Mesterhazy. I was lucky to see them perform together at Morley College on the 30th January 2012, sadly George died quite unexpectedly in his sleep only a few months later on April 12th of natural causes - he had just turned 59. A protégé of Horn, it was he who originally suggested they record a tribute to her and although naturally consumed by grief, Mark was determined to complete the project.

This quintet of Alex Minasian on piano, Curtis Lundy on double bass, Steve Williams on drums and Till Brönner on trumpet have recorded in an easy going, classic style. Mark employs his swooping phrasing and tone with near the knuckle, precarious syncopation to all songs. The swinging opener A Beautiful Friendship (D. Kahn/S.H. Styne) exercises a liquid quality between the ensemble who give each other room to breathe. They follow traditional song form and solo exchange in all tracks.

Murphy excels in a ballad and But Beautiful (Jimmy Van Heusen/Johnny Burke) is just that - his indulgent yet focussed emotional style comes to the fore as does Till’s delicately melodic horn. Get Out Of Town (Cole Porter) returns us to an upbeat groove. It features a sinister Bond-like chromatic through-line as well as prominent percussion, verging on a tango or march, but releasing occasionally into swing.

The final track is the piano duo Here’s to Life (Artie Bulter/Phylis Molinary) and I am certain Mark is thinking about George especially during this number “who knows what tomorrow brings, or takes away…” Alex must be conscious of the boots he has to fill and keeps things simple - as my accompanist the late John China used to say “it’s all in the spaces”…

Murphy is of course best seen live and I was greatly moved by his duo set with George Mesterhazy. I am only happy I was able to exchange a few words of admiration for his playing. The relationship between a singer and accompanist is really an intimate one - they have to share your mood and anticipate with sensitivity your direction in a song. It is a chemistry that cannot be bluffed and does not necessarily improve with practice – you need to ‘connect’.

This EP is a warming tribute to two influential musicians with personal contributions from all involved (Willliams was Shirley’s drummer of 25 years and Lundy also a close friend.) Mark is of course the fulcrum; a contemporary of Horn’s who was abashed to be complimented by her “I thought I was good, and then I heard you!” I’m sure he didn’t expect George to go first but this record perfectly honours their Beautiful Friendship.


British Composer Awards 2013 - Nominations by 11th July

British Composer Awards 2012. Photo credit: Mark allen

The organisers of the British Composer Awards 2013 are seeking nominations, for works which received their UK premiere in the year to 31st March, before 11th July. Partners involved are the usual suspects BASCA, PRS for Music and BBC Radio 3  NOMINATION GUIDELINES AND FORMS.


CD Review: Bill Frisell - Big Sur

Bill Frisell - Big Sur 
(Okeh 8883717382. CD Review by Sebastian Scotney)

Big Sur, on California's Highway One, between San Luis Obispo and Monterey, has a particular place in American culture. It represents a retreat, the antithesis of the seething metropolis. Henry Miller lived there for many years, and once wrote: "Big Sur is the California that men dreamed of years ago, this is the Pacific that Balboa looked at from the Peak of Darien, this is the face of the earth as the Creator intended it to look.”

Half a century after Miller moved on, the area has been spared the ravages of development, and still remains relatively unspoilt. Bill Frisell availed himself of an opportunity offered to him by the Big Sur Land Trust to spend time quietly, alone, at their isolated Glen Deven Ranch, to settle down and to write a composition, for a first performance at the 2012 Monterey Jazz Festival. What emerged from this period is a fascinating nineteen-piece suite. The basic thematic material can often be disarmingly simple, but the whole work - and I would argue that it needs to be seen as an integral composition - is a fascinating, constantly shifting kaleidoscope.

The quintet performing it consists of three string players Jenny Scheinman (violin), Eyvind Kang (viola), Hank Roberts (cello) plus Rudy Royston (drums), and Frisell himself. They perform an ambitiously interlinked and intertwined work, in which Frisell often follows Paul Klee's simple maxim of “taking a line for a walk,” or - once two parts get going - sets up what Boulez calls "a dog going for a walk around its owner".

 The core vibe of the album is spacious, mesmerically slow, often quiet. The strings play with featherlight bowing, mostly vibrato-less. A simple phrase is stated, absorbed, inevitably repeated. In one piece I counted the same falling melodic line within a fifth occuring no fewer than forty-one times.

Sometimes Frisell's writing lets the string writing turn from homely apple-pie to deliberately, knowingly sour. As the title track Big Sur progresses, the semitone clashes really start to scrunch, in tantalisingly repeated slo-mo. Gather Good Things has the two upper strings starting unaccompanied, in a world very close to that of the simple Pillow Dances and Wedding Songs of Bartok's 44 duos for two violins. Then Royston enters, and it turns into a stand-to-attention what-are-we-fighting-for march which could be by Hanns Eisler.

That crisply insistent drumming from Rudy Royston can give a whole range of moods and colours. The gentle dance rhythm of On the Lookout gets ideal 'alt. country' propulsion from his rocky backbeat. In Cry Alone, he keeps the slow three going, often with a shimmering cymbal, and with an irregular deep heartbeat from the bass drum.

The Animals, for strings alone, has Roberts progressively slowing the music down with a beguilinging soft single-note cello drone. The final track Far Away has it all: disarmingly simple to start, but developing an immersive cats cradle of counterpoint before returning to calm and innocence, as if a retreat back to rural simplicity can blank out all memory of the sensory overload of the city.

Frisell's compositional language is confident, personal, heterogeneous, yet clearly all of a piece. It might be best to treat Big Sur like a good Pinot Noir from Bernardus in Carmel, and certainly not attempt - yet - to declare it a vintage, or indeed a masterpiece. But lay it down, keep it in your cellar. The subtleties and the puzzles of Big Sur will be enjoyed for many years.


Renaud Garcia-Fons at the Valamar Jazz Festival

Weren't people supposed to talk though bass solos? During tonight's 80-minute solo bass recital in the 5th Century Euphrasian Basilica in Poreč,Istria/ Croatia Renaud Garcia-Fons' virtuosity, versatility, range of styles and gentle good humour kept a capacity audience so quiet, you could hear the swifts and the seagulls in the air above. Tonight's programme was mostly from the ENJA CD/DVD The Marcevol Concert. I still can't forget the first time ENJA boss Matthias Winckelmann told me how good it was. Having listened to the album a lot, it was a joy to see how all the effects, timbres and ridiculously speedy fingerwork happens, and to be in an appreciative audience in magical surroundings. We were so keen on what we'd heard, we begged the bassist back for three encores.


Review: Steve Noble/Ikue Mori duo and Pat Thomas solo at Café Oto

Steve Noble and Ikue Mori at Café Oto
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2013. All Rights Reserved

Steve Noble/Ikue Mori duo and Pat Thomas solo
(Café Oto, 24 June 2013; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

Rarely does a percussionist get the opportunity to give a solo recital. To find two percussionists in duet is even more elusive. In this case the imaginative empathy between London-based acoustic drummer, Steve Noble and electronic percussionist, Ikue Mori, a New Yorker since 1980, has just yielded their new release, Prediction and Warning. Mori had made a rare appearance behind a conventional drumkit, with Body/Head at Meltdown (read Geoff's review HERE) a few days earlier, and this was their third duo concert at Café Oto since 2010. An additional bonus was Pat Thomas' solo piano performance which set the tone of the evening in dramatic style.

Pat Thomas commandeered Café Oto's new Yamaha, like Keith Tippett and Alexander von Schlippenbach recently, to stretch out to the limit and make use of its superb acoustic qualities to articulate the full range of nuance and expression he summoned up in an intense round of rich improvisations. Big chords, cascading surges and rapid condensed runs contrasted with fluttering, burrowing and scuttling movements in a pianistic tour de force.

Delving in to play the piano wires with both hands, dampening wires, and returning to the keyboard in an encore to put down an off-beam Monk-ish left hand rhythm and crazed oom-pahs, while the right hand staggered and jumped to its own time, he became a veritable human mechanical piano, the epitome of concentration and inspiration.

Noble and Mori spurred each other on in a stunning forty minute improvisation which was symphonic in its range. Noble revelled in the opportunity to draw on the full depth of his formidable technical and imaginative reserves. The model of focused energy and economy of movement, he unleashed a flow of gyrations and inflections which had cymbals detached, sticks applied vertically, and a collection of hand cymbals, gongs, bamboo and wooden blocks brought on to the toms to release a glistening gamut of sizzling sequences and soundings.

Mori, serene, virtually motionless at the laptop, added, with great subtlety, a further spatial dimension - the language of the spheres, with punctures, drizzles, bleeps, and deeply resonant hums - to complement Noble's rapid stream of invention. At times it was impossible to distinguish the acoustic from the electronic, as each was so adept at coaxing the most unexpected sounds from their kit. They conjured the distant echoes of the harbour, nautical bells and looming horns, and dribbled and chased high definition glints in tandem.

Noble's blur of hands and sticks allowed no respite and with an energy and application that would have done Buddy Rich proud, he carved out an essay in metallic and rhythmic fusion, positioned by Mori's carefully crafted flux, that evoked, on an intimate scale, the drama of the Bow Gamelan Ensemble's sonic universe.

In a short trio with Thomas, Noble's flurry of softly applied mallets gave way to an intergalactic storm set off by Mori to conclude a spellbinding evening at Café Oto.

Steve Noble: drums, percussion
Ikue Mori: laptop electronics
And Pat Thomas: solo piano


LP Review: Simon Spillett - Square One

Simon Spillett - Square One
(Gearbox GB1512. LP review by Andrew Cartmel)

All the usual virtues of a Gearbox Records release are immediately apparent here. We have a heavy duty, precision engineered piece of vinyl packaged in the kind of striking cover art that Gearbox’s Darrel Sheinman favours with its clean, bold graphic design reminiscent of vintage Blue Note sleeves by Reid Miles. As usual, the record provides noise-free, deep and dynamic audiophile sound.

But in one crucial respect this latest LP is a significant departure from the norm. Previously Gearbox has concentrated on archival releases by departed jazz heroes like Tubby Hayes and Joe Harriott, using sources such as unreleased BBC tapes from half a century ago.

This album, in contrast, has been newly recorded specially for Gearbox and features one of today’s finest young British sax players, tenor man Simon Spillett. And it is as fresh as today. Or tomorrow.

Side One opens with a Dizzy Reece composition, Shepherd’s Serenade. It’s a jaunty, infectious blast — Latin flavoured and immensely catchy. Make sure your loved ones aren’t around to cruelly mock your embarrassing attempts at producing vocalese or dancing along when you’re carried away by this track. Simon produces an uninhibited heartfelt cry from the tenor, signifying and sermonising.

John Critchinson offers perceptive and deft precision piano with a lovely sense of time before handing over to a pulsing pairing of Alec Dankworth on double bass and Clark Tracey on drums who then hand back to the leader to put on the finishing touches. Simon Spillett joyfully explores the contours of Dizzy Reece’s hypnotic riff. And then the quartet stops on a dime.

Next up is Square One, an original by Simon Spillett. It is melancholy and hip, with a buttonholing theme stated by the leader before turning into a showcase for John Critchinson. There’s a slinky nocturnal 1960s feel to the piece which brings to mind neon lights, gleaming sports cars and rainy Soho backstreets.

Yesterday I Heard the Rain by Armando Manzanero begins with a Coltrane shimmer of sound before turning into a beguilingly pretty ballad featuring delicate, filigreed piano courtesy of John Critchinson and soulful rhapsodising from Simon Spillett. A lonely, searching lyricism is the order of the day. It’s a lovely and eloquent performance.

Side Two opens with a blast from the past in the shape of a composition by another Dizzy — Gillespie’s Night in Tunisia. It is, appropriately, a scorcher with fiery bop pouring from the leader’s horn and Clark Tracey’s pulsing, hypnotic drumming weaving complex patterns with shimmering cymbals.

The appropriately titled Bass House by Jimmy Deuchar displays Alec Dankworth’s warm, supple, insinuating upright bass. It’s a witty, insouciant piece — conversational and swinging. John Critchinson provides lyrical, concise and studied piano.

The last track is a headlong plunge into Cole Porter’s In the Still of the Night which here inspires an exemplary bop reading from the entire quartet — eloquent, ferocious and fast. Particularly of note is the nimbleness of John Critchinson, dropping seamlessly from solo to support as Simon Spillett takes over for a virtuosic conclusion, making for an exhilarating finale to an exciting album.

Gearbox Records should be congratulated on instituting a miniature jazz renaissance in the UK. Time was you could saunter down to your record shop and buy a long playing disc of superb jazz in a stylish cover and hurry home to begin many pleasurable hours at the turntable.

Now, thanks to Gearbox, those days are back again.


Congratulations 2013 Yamaha Jazz Scholars

Elliot Galvin
The Yamaha Jazz Scholars this year are:

Alex Woods - alto sax - Birmingham Conservatoire
Angus Milne - double bass - Leeds College of Music
Dave Ingamells - drums – Guildhall
Elliot Galvin - piano – Trinity Laban
Lloyd Haines - drums – Royal Welsh College of Music
Peter Johnston - piano – Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Sam Miles - sax – Royal Academy of Music

The Scholars will perform at the All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group's annual Summer Jazz event (in association with Jazzwise and PPL) in the Atlee Suite, Porticullis House at the House of Commons on the 2nd July from 7:30-9:30pm, where Helen Mayhew and Yamaha Managing Director Mark Rolfe will present them with their Scholarships.

They will also be featured on The Yamaha New Jazz Sessions 2013 promotional CD, which will be cover-mounted on Jazzwise's Christmas and New Year double issue. The CD will be launched at the 606 club on the 4th December.

Congratulations all


News: Neil Angilley Chango Album Launch at 606, 27th June, Feat. Snowboy

On Thursday the 27th June at 8:00pm at the 606, pianist Neil Angilley will launch his new album Chango, the follow up to his début Havana Club.

Fresh off his recent tour with Jeff Waynes’ War of the Worlds Musical, Angilley will be joined by his band, Davide Giovanni (drums vocals) and Davide Mantovani (bass), and special guest Snowboy (percussion).

More information and tickets HERE


Podcast: Interview with Jeff Williams (Part 2 of 3)

Part 2 of our in-depth interview with drummer Jeff Williams covers his move to London, his marriage, the parallels between the jazz scenes in the UK and the USA, he offers a thoughtful opinion on collaborations between UK and USA jazz musicians, and explains the album cover for his new album, The Listener featuring John O'Gallagher (sax), Duane Eubanks (trumpet), and John Hébert (bass). It was recorded live at the Vortex and is reviewed HERE.


Anderson, Reid - 5:40
Bley, Paul - 0:10
Green Barry - 2: 39
Iverson, Ethan - 1: 38, 5: 30
King, Dave - 6:03
Koller, Hans - 3:14
Lasserson, Sam - 6: 17
McHenry, Bill - 5:41
O' Gallagher, John - 3: 08
Speake, Martin - 1: 43

Part One is HERE


CD Review: Dan Nicholls - Ruins

Dan Nicholls - Ruins
(LOOP1017. CD Review by Chris Parker)

‘[A] highly immersive experience’ is what composer/pianist Dan Nicholls promises listeners to this, his first full-length album as leader.

To this end, his compositions deploy tapes, sampling and field recordings alongside more overtly conventional forces – his own keyboards (Rhodes and wurlitzer pianos, organ, Roland Sh-101); organ (Kit Downes); bass clarinet (Shabaka Hutchings); tenor/bass clarinet (James Allsopp); drums (Dave Smith) and occasional alto clarinet (Tom Challenger) – to explore what he terms ‘the media’s repeated and predictable imagery of disaster’.

Accordingly, the album’s opener, ‘Blinkers’, emerges from news-programme samples; ‘Chaos Happens’ is inspired by the ‘spontaneous and chaotic nature of riots and public uprisings’; ‘Voice Intercepts’ ‘alludes to phone hacking and other invasive press techniques’ etc.

If this suggests that Ruins might be simply a soundtrack to social protest, however, the album’s final track, ‘idontknow’, as its title suggests, dispels such a simplistic notion; the music is well able to speak for itself, reflecting, courtesy of touching a variety of bases (from avant-electronica to contemporary-jazz bustling, from spontaneous improvisation to more structured, interlinked thematic material), the complexity of contemporary life as observed (and manipulated) by the extraordinary variety of new media that have emerged in the post-internet age.

A thoughtful, committed piece of work that has understandably impressed the likes of Iain Ballamy (‘understated and suggestive – truly jazz of the 21st century’) and Liam Noble (‘a rich sounding palette of colours expertly handled by the kind of virtuoso players who can leave space as well as groove hard’).


Review: Anita Wardell and Norma Winstone at Songsuite Vocal Festival 2013

Norma Winstone, Anita Wardell. Songsuite 2013. Photo Credit Melody McLaren

Anita Wardell and Norma Winstone
(Songsuite Vocal Festival 2013, Sunday 23 June. Review by Matthew Wright)

This charming festival of jazz singing completed a second successful year at Jazz Cafe Posk in Hammersmith with a superb rendition by (arguably) Britain’s greatest living jazz singer, Norma Winstone, and the festival’s artistic director Anita Wardell. They were supported by singers participating in the Songsuite course Wardell had taught, who were understandably thrilled to be on the bill with Winstone. Their choice of repertoire was diverse; their singing highly enjoyable; and their enthusiasm galvanised the evening with the irresistible sense of fun that characterizes the best live music.

The festival was conceived by Wardell and promoter Tomasz Furmanek as a celebration of jazz singing, and platform for the highly impressive and (proportionately) numerous jazz vocalists from Poland and neighbouring countries. These included talented acts like Monike Lidke, Agata Kubiak, Alice Zawadzki and Brigitte Beraha.

Wardell set a daunting array of examples over the weekend, as tutor, director and singer; her performance, in the middle of the evening’s programme, was perhaps her most important. Her voice is a lithe and tender instrument, and she plays with words, rhythm and intonation with an excitingly delicate touch. Scatting displays her witty and intelligent sense of harmony, as well as her athletic vocal movement. Lacking, perhaps, the raw power of some singers, she compensates with delicacy and fluency, particularly in the lyrical bottom half of her range.

Her ability to scat, sing lyrics, or mix the two gives her an unusually wide range, and she impressed with both the Antônio Carlos Jobim’s bossa nova hit ‘Somewhere in the Hills’ and the harder bop edges of Bobby Hutcherson’s ‘The Kicker’. Wardell improvised on both tracks, dancing her way deftly through the chords with real jazz sophistication. Despite the gentleness of her tone, she sings with compelling expressiveness and drama.

She finished her set with a duet of the folk song ‘The Water is Wide’ with Winstone, a moving choice which advertised the complementary timbres and emotional potency of both singers. She was accompanied by Robin Aspland, who matched her variety and imagination with impeccable sensitivity and precision.

Booking Winstone was undoubtedly a coup for the festival. Her range, in every sense, is extraordinary; her voice can conjure all four seasons in an instant; her top register thrills with precision and purity, her mid-range is infinitely varied, and the lower register suggestively sumptuous but always under complete control.

Her choice of songs displayed a similarly commanding breadth. ‘Gold Mine’, by collective improvisers Take 6, a slalom of tongue-twisters negotiated with lightning dexterity, was followed by a fresh and unsentimental version of Paul Simon’s ‘I Do it for your Love’, a lustrous sound balanced by harmonic inventiveness.

She uses words and the harmony of scat equally well, meandering expertly among the harmonies while the words are sinking in. James Taylor’s ‘Shall I Tell you again’, Kenny Wheeler and Jane White’s ‘Everbody’s Song but My Own’, and Ralph Towner’s ‘Glide‘ all enjoyed this kind of brilliant alternation.

Perhaps the most complete display of her skills came in Steve Swallow’s song ‘Ladies in Mercedes’, using Winstone's own lyrics. With a deliciously lilting, swinging rhythm, compelling internal rhyme and an attitude poised irresistibly between satire and celebration, it had the audience hooked from the start, wondering where these glamorously coiffeured ladies’ next chauffeured destination would be. She ended on a sinking note, like an organ whose bellows have sprung a leak. Throughout the set, she ended wittily; so often an anticlimax, she has perfected the art of the ending.

She was accompanied beautifully on tenor sax by Mark Lockheart, and on piano by Gareth Williams. Williams‘ piano was expertly placed, though he rarely had the chance to stray from the background; Lockheart, on sax, was a model of refinement and delicacy, modulating both the volume and the phrasing so that it twined perfectly around Winstone’s vocal line.

This festival was a joyous event that said so many wonderful things about the state of jazz today, particularly its ability to bring all levels of jazz lovers together for a celebration of so many kinds of wonderful song. So successful has the festival been that plans are afoot, it was hinted, for some kind of expansion next year. Bring it on.


News: Roscoe Mitchell/Tony Marsh/John Edwards - Improvisations LP. Pre-order opens tomorrow (26th June)

Tomorrow (26th June 2013), Cafe Oto are opening up pre-orders of their latest LP Improvisations, a double LP taken from the recordings of saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell’s first night of his two-day residency at Café Oto in 2012.

He was joined by double bassist John Edwards and drummer/percussionist Tony Marsh who died just a few weeks later, making this his last documented performance. The album is dedicated to the memory of Tony Marsh.

First pressing will be 650 copies. More Information and pre order HERE


Festival Review: My Jazz Islands Part 1 (Cagliari, Sardinia)

My Jazz Islands Stage, Cagliari

My Jazz Islands Part 1
(Cagliari, Sardinia. 20, 21, 22 June 2013. Review by Alison Bentley)

A jazz festival next to the beach, under the setting sun and rising moon. Each night in the Lazzaretto di Cagliari Arts Centre, a film of strangely beautiful images was projected on to the courtyard wall next to the stage, flickering to the music. The kind of thing you might see in The Tanks at Tate Modern, but outside- imagine!

The first night featured the UK's Orphy Robinson on vibes and Sardinia's Antonello Salis on piano and accordion. They were billed as 'versus' each other, but this was a remarkable collaboration between two improvising musicians who had never worked together before. ‘We rehearsed getting on and off the stage,’ joked Robinson.

Salis, a wiry, spry figure in headscarf, looked as though he could have been out all day on the sea. Robinson, tall and urbane in cream suit and hat, took care of the technology. He collects sound samples- everything from big bands to electronic sounds, to inspire improvisation. Salis began with his grand piano prepared, using pieces of metal and plastic on the strings, and at one point a rustling plastic bag. Robinson’s vibes were looped and distorted over a sampled happy choir. The distorted sounds subverted the recording, but at the same time the ‘choir’ gave us a way in to understand how the improvisation was developing. Then the piano was sweetened, like an Aeolian harp over funky electronic beats, then nervy against the luscious vibes. A little orientalism, a little MJQ drifted across the ears, as suddenly and unexpectedly as the flock of wild flamingos flying overhead. Robinson hit the sides of the chimes, looping rhythms like voodoo beats, while Salis seemed to be climbing inside the concert grand, holding down the string with one hand and playing the keyboard with the other.

Antonio Sallis and Orphy Robinson

The mood changed as Salis moved to accordion, an instrument whose traditional associations can sound comforting. Salis played spooky tritones alongside Robinson’s hypnotic Steve Reichian grooves, moving into 7/4 as Robinson played some deliciously discordant chords. Then what sounded like Ligeti over a recorded Lucky Thompson monologue: 'Until you are sure that the idols that you worship are of your own choosing, you are indirectly supporting those who are exploiting the artists.' The vibes resonated eerily round the courtyard, with its De Chirico shadows. As the piano strings shimmered, surely it wasn't just the Mistral wind that made me shiver? But then these two artists tap-danced together to showing their respect for each other, playfully.

The two were given several unexpected tasks to fulfill. This was fascinating for the audience, giving insight into the improvising process. Robinson played in the style of Louis Armstrong, his ‘favourite musician.’ Improvisation can have a wonderfully random element: as Salis played romantic accordion (to ‘make an audience member fall in love with him’), the film projected images of bullocks walking backwards. But in a piece based on a ‘weather conversation’ the notes of the piano and vibes ran together like raindrops.

 Martin France, Filomena Campus

The second night was given to Sardinian singer Filomena Campus and her excellent UK band, joined by Salis. Most of the songs had been created by pianist Steve Lodder and bassist Dudley Phillips, with lyrics written or adapted by Campus- recorded on her Jester of Jazz CD (SAM 9032). Campus thinks of improvisation as springing from her acting as well as singing work. 'I want to play with jazz. It makes me free when I improvise.' They opened with Monk's Dance, its tricky intervals reminiscent of Monk's own writing, Lodder's sparkling piano interleaving with Campus' delicate vocals.

Some songs had a direct Sardinian reference. In Sabbia e Mirto, the dark, deep piano and bass chords invoked ancient Sardinian rituals, where the wind is '...carrying notes from the island.’ No Potho Reposare is a well-loved Sardinian song, beautifully-arranged by Phillips, undulating like the flying birds projected behind them. Bass and piano lines were delicately counterpointed as Salis played accordion phrases that sounded like a flageolet- and the moon rose behind the stage. Lodder's Summer Lights took inspiration from a poem by Sardinian Maria Carta, with perhaps some Abdullah Ibrahim, and Jarrett influences. The bass and drums (Martin France) followed the contours of the vocal line: ‘...sound of joy/In my voice, in my soul.' Phillips' Hoos Foos was based on a Stefano Benni poem.

The bass solo was a tour de force, with its expressive double-stopped sliding. France's drums were delicate, while keeping the strong Latin groove. Campus used vocalised sounds as well as singing. She drew on a nonsense language based on the Italian Commedia Dell'Arte, developed by Italian playwright (and Nobel Prize winner) Dario Fo. It was intriguing to hear the variation from the usual Ella-style scat syllables- noises that were funny, childlike and downright scary.

Campus was Flora Purim to Salis' Hermeto Pascoal- growls and ululating to the moon, like a wild jazz version of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. Campus' theatrical background informed a number of songs. Queen of Clowns was based on Benni poem for the late Franca Rame, Fo's wife. Campus sang with poise and charm, her voice high and and clear, with an affecting flutter in the lower registers. 'Harlequins are dancing for the revolution '. Salis' accordion fluttered between the lines of Lodder 's expressive solo. Boal (for Brazilian theatre director Augusto Boal) was a beautiful samba written by Lodder, sung gently by Campus in an Elis Regina style. Lodder's sparkling solo had a Bill Evans-like transparency.

Campus’ scat solo recalled her mentor Maria Pia de Vito in its agility. She had a warm stage presence, winning the audience over to her refreshingly experimental style: '...the freedom to dampen, tonight, to change, to live, to be happy.’ Day three juxtaposed Italian and British culture more broadly, from satire to Shakespeare. Renowned Italian novelist and poet Stefano Benni was there in person. Lodder and Philips had written music in an amazing range of jazz styles to accompany his poems and dialogues. God Save the Queen opened, a comic cavalcade of names and phrases suggesting British culture: '...To be or not to be... Beckham, Beckham, Molly Bloom, the Yellow Submarine. Imagine a jazz version of Walton's Façade. I Gatti, another Benni poem in Italian, had Campus and Benni yowling to the leaping music. Benni read his Queen of Clowns to a funky groove, with an astounding vibes solo from Orphy Robinson, skittish and virtuosic.

Benni recited his translation of Romeo and Juliet's Queen Mab speech, with the vibes accompaniment creating their own magic. Lodder's music, mysterious and modal, captured the mercurial quality of the original, with its alliterative language. Benni recited part of his translation of T. S. Eliot's The Wasteland. The shifting music had no obvious tonal centre, expressing the ambiguities of the poem, with its unsettling mixture of high art and comic bathos. Filomena Campus sang Philomel’s part of the poem with music by Sardinian Paolo Carrus, with 'inviolable voice.’

One Hand Jack was a very funny piece of satirical theatre by Benni, and the music told the story. ‘Jack’ wandered round the imaginary streets as funky grooves drifted out of imaginary bars. He wanted a new hand, but was given a bass instead. Phillips’ double bass brilliantly followed the intonation of Benni's speech. The band played some swinging blues and rhythm changes, sounding with Robinson's vibes very like the MJQ. Robinson literally played God (with great panache). The piece asked: was there anyone who couldn’t believe that God could be black?

The final song was a poignant Phillips arrangement of a much-loved Italian song by de Andre, Creuza de Ma. Lodder's spacey piano moved back and forth from major to minor, in a rocking motion expressing the sea. Benni joined on the chorus, the bass underpinning the lines beautifully, before the band burst into a final dancey rock groove.

To quote a character from one of Benni's novels: ‘ I never want that which ends well to end at all.’ But it hasn't ended, because Sardinia, with its atmosphere of warmth and vivacity, is coming to London’s Pizza Express Jazz Club in November. Hats off to Nicola Spiga of ‘Forma e Poesia nel Jazz’ and Ross Dines of Pizza Express, for bringing together this mélange of the two cultures: romance, fun, satire, fine music, powerful performers, jazz from island to island.

My Jazz Islands Part 2: Nov. 11-13, Pizza Express, Dean Street, London, with Giorgio Serci, Adriano Adewale, Filomena Campus Qt., Paolo Fresu, Cleveland Watkiss, Stefano Benni.


Preview: Peckham Pandemonium, New Jazz Night at Peckham Liberal Club 25th June 2013

Simon Beresford writes:

Peckham Pandemonium is a new jazz night at the Peckham Liberal Club. I was inspired by Humphrey Lyttelton, who in the 1940s drew major-league international jazz talent to this working-class borough to help it rise out of wartime austerity. I see the same negativity in pockets of Peckham, and wanted to bring quality jazz to the area, and something fabulous into a venue that’s become very run-down.

I’ve been obsessed with jazz since I was 13. I used to busk in Covent Garden with my spoons, and one day Alan Cooper, founder of the Temperance Seven, stopped and asked me to play a gig with him. After that, I spent years meeting jazz musicians and playing all over the world.

The musicians I’ve lined up for our launch are the best I’ve ever played with. They’re all at the top of the game, the very best in Britain and even Europe. To get them all under one roof on one night is a logistical feat!

Guitarist Francesco Lo Castro is the lynchpin of the band, very emotional and sensitive, a beautiful and inspiring player. Nick Pini, on double bass, is the rock of the band – he’s creative, he plays session, he keeps the whole thing together, even for me as a drummer. Roberto Manzin on sax is terrifying to play with! There’s nothing abstract or background about him – he’s a purist, a total artist. Jay Phelps is the most charismatic, sophisticated young trumpet player around – he’s a legend. We have fantastic guest singers –  Raïssa Botterman, a rising star who trained at Les Ateliers de la Chanson in Brussels, and Karen Lane, who has a beautiful moody voice and has sung with the band over the years. We also have the incredible Count Indigo coming to MC and sing.

Peckham All Stars

Jay Phelps – trumpet
Roberto Manzin – saxophone
Francesco Lo Castro – guitar
Nick Pini – double bass
Simon Beresford – drums and spoons
Raïssa Botterman - guest vocals
Karen Lane - guest vocals
Count Indigo - MC and guest vocals


Peckham Liberal Club
24 Elm Grove, SE15 5DE

Tuesday 25 June 2013, 7pm till late. The organizers are expecting a full house, and hoping to start holding this night on a regular basis after the summer break, from September

Tickets £5 from Review Bookshop, Bellenden Lane / 07449 535128


Review: Andrew McCormack and Jason Yarde at The Vortex

Andrew McCormack and Jason Yarde
(The Vortex, Friday 21st June. Review by Matthew Wright)

These two extraordinary virtuoso performers have been working together on and off for five years now. Their recorded début, My Duo, came out to widespread acclaim in 2009, and a distinguished successor, Places and Other Spaces, in 2011. Technically exquisite, emotionally profound and formally adventurous, they push the duo to new levels of sophistication.

Unsurprisingly, both players are in widespread demand elsewhere. Their technical accomplishment is sought by many classical ensembles; both also compose. This gig was presented as a reunion of two hugely talented performers who know each others' playing completely. Their interaction was intricate,  intimately probing,  their understanding of one another’s movements instinctive, their styles complementary .

They adapt well-known standards from jazz and elsewhere: their version of ‘Something’s Coming’ from West Side Story was as fresh as an arctic breeze through the stale, overheated atmosphere of Bernstein arrangements. There were also original compositions. For this gig, a combination of tracks from the two albums was interspersed with new material, some by McCormack, some Yarde, and some written jointly. One was so new its title was discussed with the audience. (They both have charismatic stage presences, Yarde, in particular, showing off a fine dry wit.)

In the past, critics have commented on the ultimately limited range available to a duo of piano and sax. But the overwhelming impression from an evening with these two performers was how fully they both inhabit the harmonic space. There are so many notes. They are such effusive and generous players that it’s difficult to know what another instrument could do when they play like this, other than cramp their style.

There was a kind of pattern to their performances. Adopting a fulsome minimalism, Andrew McCormack would construct a complex harmonic platform on which Jason Yarde’s sax would writhe, run, burst and cry. McCormack was the surging ocean swell, lifting both players with his seething harmonic tide; Yarde the flying fish launching from the mass of notes into beguiling flight before plunging back into the depths.

This freshness and evocation of outdoors is reflected in several track titles: ‘Vista’, with its gentler, more melodic exploration, and ‘Antibes’. Yarde candidly conceded he’d never been to Antibes, and indeed his surf-like hissing tone, and seagull-squawk, uncannily evocative though they were, made it sound more like Scarborough in March than a Riviera playground.

  But McCormack never felt outdone or wallflowerish, though inevitably, with solo sax playing of this quality, there were moments when he was effectively accompanying Yarde. During sections of the track ‘Breezabeth’, 14 minutes of mind-warping intensity, his colossal, explosive reach sounded more like Shostakovich than Nyman, his more usual stylistic guide. And there were several tunes in which the two exchanged positions. In ‘Something’s Coming’, the piano had the spikier, more involved improvisation, while the sax played the melody straightahead.

Yarde’s saxophone improvisation was world class. There were multiphonics, blown into a reverberent piano lid for extra distortion, as well as voicing, flutter-tonguing and growling.  Sometimes he was a scalding, spurting geyser of notes, at others, his sax cooed and fluttered like a caged bird. There was, of course, virtuosic speed, but more striking was the variety of sound, and the speed with which he changed mood. ‘Thank U4 2 Day’, one of the shorter pieces, compressed anger, lyricism, humour and sadness into four minutes of fervent drama.

Compositions tended to reflect the predominant playing style of each performer, so McCormack’s, on the whole, had longer melodic lines and allowed for pianistic exploration of harmony, while Yarde’s tended to offer more scope for explosive, percussive improvisation. But the extraordinary feature of this duo, like any great artistic collaboration, was how skilfully they combined their distinctive characteristics into a compelling whole.

Both performers are superb in larger ensembles, and are now enjoying great success on a wide range of stages. But you miss out on some of their intensity. This was an exhilarating performance, and anyone interested in composition and performance at the boundaries of our art should seek them out.


CD Review: Buck Clayton Legacy Band - Claytonia

Buck Clayton Legacy Band - Claytonia
(BCLB001. CD Review by Kai Hoffman)

What comes across immediately on 'Claytonia' is the gorgeously unified, wonderfully rich sound that the Buck Clayton Legacy Band produces - a warm, rounded quality created by the beautiful blend between the horns and the rhythm section. The gorgeous tone of the saxes and beautiful bell-like roundness of the brass shines out across the whole album, which was recorded live and lovingly produced by Keith Loxam.

Having enjoyed the album over and over again, it's been challenging to pick out individual tracks to mention: they're all really swingin', with plenty of energy, and loads of fantastic ensemble playing on the tutti sections of Matthias Seuffert's charts.  The fantastic sound quality (especially for a live recording!) is particularly in evidence on medium-tempo "I'll Make Believe", with its melody and answering counterpoint lines, whilst the descending lines and drum interjections of "Party Time" have that wonderful, toe-tapping feel-good factor you can only get from an expertly played swing tune.

The evocative, cinematographic sound of "Horn of Plenty" had me thinking of film scenes - perhaps in a 1930s Chinese nightclub of Buck Clayton's younger days, with lovers, dancers and lots of long, sideways glances at the camera coming out loud and clear in the music.  The rich, easy swing of the title track "Claytonia" is such a rare feel to hear performed these days, and so mellow - like a smooth chocolate mousse you can savour spoonful by slow, melting spoonful - it can do nothing but bring a sweet smile to the listener's lips.  The soloing across the whole album is brilliant, but on the last track, "Sir Humphrey", I particularly appreciated hearing Menno Daams and Ian Smith trading off on the trumpets, Adrian Fry's energetic lines and also Norman Emberson's driving, energetic drum solo - a great finale.

This live album includes a wonderful selection of Buck Clayton's finest tunes, energetically performed, with plenty of variety from song to song. Playing swing is an art and these gentlemen are some of today's masters - a very fitting legacy for Buck Clayton's music. Swing perfection!


Preview: Rachel Sutton at Pizza Express Dean St. 7th July at 8:00pm

Rachel Sutton writes:

As an emerging artist on the scene, it's going to be a real treat for me to play with the exceptional guitarist John Etheridge at Pizza Express Dean Street on Sunday 7th July at 8pm.  Originally from Kent, I began my career as a stage actress and moved into Jazz after a life long passion with the music, so my theatrical background adds an extra dimension to my performances.

Supporting me on this special evening,  will be a very fine headline act in his own right, the versatile and brilliant Roland Perrin 'guaranteed to get any room dancing' (Allaboutjazz), the hypnotic grooves of phenomenal bass player Curtis Ruiz, and the sensational beats of drummer Paul Robinson, who played with Nina Simone for many years. The wonderful John Etheridge will be sitting in on a variety of Jazz and Blues numbers.  For anyone who'd like a taster, go HERE, my interview with John on BBC Radio London for Simon Lederman.

The night's music will be comprised of some brilliantly arranged takes on classic Jazz, Blues, more contemporary material and a few originals. With this incredible band, it's not a night to be missed!

Tickets HERE


Preview: Spectrum at the Brunel Museum, Rotherhithe, 4th July 2013

Left to right: Shirley Smart, Nick Pini, Richard Jones

Shirley Smart writes about her gig at the Brunel Museum in Rotherhithe on the 4th July with her new string trio 'Spectrum' (link to tickets at the bottom)

I am excited about my new three-string instrument project Spectrum, it comprises myself on cello, Richard Jones on Violin and Nick Pini on double bass. We will be performing at the Brunel Museum in Rotherhithe on 4th July – suitably Independence Day, and even more suitably, we will be playing a programme of Jazz Standards.

The idea for Spectrum came about a few months ago when I met a very great musician and jazz violinist Richard Jones, and we found that we shared a similar desire to create an improvising string group focussed on jazz repertoire, as well as original compositions. I met Nick Pini though my work with accordionist and pianist Maurizio Minardi, and admired his playing very much, so…well, here we are.

Richard is particularly unique, as, unlike most string players – myself included, who veer off into diverse musical activities, he has never been classically trained, and his style of playing reflects this very much, particularly in his use of the bow. He is an especially ear-based player, as well one of the most natural string players I have encountered, and has an ability make the fiddle sound like pretty much anyone from Jimi Hendrix to Disney’s Dopey, as well as having some fairly scary jazz chops.

Nick Pini is probably familiar to many as the great bass player that he is, performing with many musicians on the scene, and I am sure needs no introduction, he will be laying down the bass for us, as well as throwing in some of his fine solos, and his fine chamber musician's sensitivity.

My role in the group is an interesting one for me, as I am quite often end up performing the ‘comping role, so it is a fascinating challenge to find ways to voice chords as a pianist or a guitarist might on the cello, as well as taking melodic lines. For once, I am not ending up playing bass on the cello!

In any case, this project is one that I am very much looking forward to developing and exploring, and it would be lovely to see some friendly faces in the audience on 4th July at the Brunel Museum, near Rotherhite.

Tickets can be purchased HERE

Directions HERE


Review: Body/Head with Ikue Mori at Yoko Ono's Meltdown (Queen Elizabeth Hall)

Body/Head with Ikue Mori at Yoko Ono's Meltdown; Kim Gordon, Ikue Mori, Bill Nace
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2013. All Rights Reserved

Body/Head with Ikue Mori
(Yoko Ono's Meltdown, 20 June, 2013; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

Short, sharp and loud. That was the format for the headlining trio of Body/Head with Ikue Mori and support duo, Mystical Weapons. It was all over by ten past nine, but the brevity was more than made up for by the intensity of the music. Compressed and densely textured, both sets offered a different angle on sounds that grew out of in New York No Wave and sixties psychedelia.

Mystical Weapons combined the mood of the historic underground with current noise threads. Greg Saunier's vigorously intent fusilade meted out on his drum kit, Sean Lennon's strained post-Zappa guitar and electronic mélange, the Indian-flecked tones and traditional imagery in the fast-moving projected film collage had the feel of a work-in-progress - assured in parts, fragmented in others, it packed a punch and it will be interesting to see where this project takes them.

Kim Gordon, guitarist and pivotal member of Sonic Youth, teamed up with in-demand Boston noise guitarist, Bill Nace, a couple of years ago to form the duo Body/Head after some informal improvisational jams. For the Meltdown concert she invited her contemporary, the percussionist, Ikue Mori, veteran of New York's punk, No Wave and improv scenes, and one of her primary inspirations, to join them. Mori's career has focused on computer-based percussion and she had apparently not performed in concert behind a drum kit for 25 years!

Gordon, "honoured to be asked" to participate in Yoko Ono's Meltdown, kicked off their set gently strumming while Nace picked, her husky vocals dropped in before a clatter and a crash announced Mori's presence and a ramping up of the tempo. Nace's sustains flowed alongside Mori's thoughtfully paced and accented substrate, and the mutually controlled decibel levels were indicative of the trio’s high quality interactivity.

Gordon has used the term 'experimental' to describe her position and, as the brew became more concentrated the performance took on the flavour of a laboratory of sound, a toxic power drain with a flow of crunching chords and wailing feedback, coloured with indistinct vocals and intermittent bleeps. Within the dense melee, Mori was an oasis of calm, laying down a firm, nuanced current of solid beats and thuds. Gordon took up dramatic, if somewhat anachronistic, poses with her guitar and her amplified harmonica added the rich tones of an accordion to the mix. Nace maintained the momentum, continually adding and exposing fresh layers within the dark waves of sound.

All the while, a slow-mo film (uncredited, as far as could be seen) played out in the backdrop, a non-narrative scenario of computerised and live action based on two characters in a loft-like setting, which lent a certain quality to the ambience.

Yoko Ono has said that "people have this incredible prejudice about age" and her surprise appearance for the trio's final number showed what a lithe and energetic octogenarian she is, with a piercing singing voice that cut through the crushing swamp of sound with clarion clarity, a balanced foil to Gordon's softer vocal delivery and a perfect high on which to end the concert.

See Geoff's drawing of Yoko Ono on stage with Kim Gordon of Body/Head HERE


Four Photos from Anita Wardell's Songsuite Festival

Monika Lidke. Songsuite 2013. Photo Credit: Melody McLaren
Four pictures from the first two nights of the Songsuite Festival, in its second year at Cafe Posk in Ravenscourt Park, taken by Melody McLaren, whose full photostream of over 220 images from the festival is HERE. The festival was conceived, masterminded, directed by Anita Wardell (second picture), with a lot of work also from drummer Tristan Maillot (fourth picture) and Tomasz Furmanek. Theirs was the behind-the-scenes graft which allowed singers such as Monika Lidke (above)to shine and another drummer, Jon Scott (third picture) to inspire Alice Zawadzki's Band. We will be publishing a report on the third night, with Norma Winstone as headliner, from Matthew Wright.

Anita Wardell. Songsuite 2013. Photo Credit: Melody McLaren

Jon Scott. Songsuite 2013. Photo Credit: Melody McLaren

Tristan Maillot. Songsuite 2013. Photo Credit: Melody McLaren


The Pay-to-Play Debate in jazz in the UK - with Update

Over at Barry Dallman's blog is a lively debate about the rights and mostly the wrongs of pay-to-play, with particular reference to the Brighton Jazz Festival.

(Logo above from website, set up specifically to draw attention to this issue by US drummer Bon Von Wheelie from Tacoma WA.)

UPDATE: In view of the actions taken, and logged in the comments on Barry Dallman's blog post, he has closed it for comments.


NEWS: Natalie Williams' forthcoming album Where You Are - Kickstarter campaign (UPDATE)

Phil Peskett, Natalie Williams, Chris Higinbottom, Al Cherry


23rd MAY: Soul Family host, the life and soul of many an evening at Ronnie's, and the person whose enthusiasm can make any quiz team feel like they're winning - we weren't, but it really didn't matter! - Natalie Williams announces today that she has  a new album for release in the autumn on the way. The songs are co-composed with Tom Cawley . Scroll down for a sampler.

She has launched an all-or-nothing Kickstarter campaign with benefit levels from entry/£8 which gets rewarded with a digital download, up to £1500/ top of the range which gets the buyer a private concert.


Review: Evan Parker Solo Recital in the Royal Naval Chapel, Greenwich

Evan Parker at the Royal Naval Chapel Greenwich.
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2013. All Rights Reserved

Evan Parker
(Solo recital in the Royal Naval Chapel and interview, 19th June 2013; part of Trinity Laban's summer jazz festival; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

In his seventieth year, saxophonist Evan Parker is something of a national treasure. Innovator and technical wizard, champion of the improviser's art, he supports musicians whom he respects, irrespective of their left-field or mainstream credentials, collaborates with those from all corners of the 'that's interesting' spectrum, encourages fresh voices and has written illuminatingly on the nature of the art.

Evan unfailingly asks questions of musical - and political - norms and throughout his career has built up a tremendous well of experience, learning on the hoof early on, absorbing the lessons that others bring to the jazz improviser's table, continuing to refine and develop techniques that are combined with his insights to shape his own highly distinctive voice.

In both his exquisite solo recital in the architecturally composed and finely decorated chapel and his fascinating interview by Martin Speake that followed in the theatre studio, what came across was the strong sense of the discipline that Evan applies to his playing and to the evolution of the patterns which form the foundations of his extemporisations. Evan offered an insight into the sheer effort of concentration and patience that lay beneath the surface of his multi-layered solo performance: "I'll keep ... refining and rejecting stuff I've done a thousand times before it is the basis for things I've never done before." He talked about the crucial role of repetitive, rhythmic elements which need to be played "8 or 15 times" before they are actually heard, and how he will work to a point where he can "do something I can't predict". Indeed, the third of his four recital pieces was "an attempt to surprise myself!"

Opening on soprano sax the air was filled with clear, warm tones that were absorbed into every corner of the chapel. Creating a trance-like tension with interplay between upper and lower registers, notes flew around the room, different tempos closed in on each other and overlapped, and it felt as though two instruments were being played simultaneously. This was a remarkable accomplishment, unamplified, unprocessed, intensely bound up with the physical presence of the work, partly down to breathing techniques that Evan termed "controlled circular exhalation" in preference to "circular breathing". "We all circular breathe till we die," as he put it, "the point is the control of the exhalation."

His one tenor sax excursion had a serial quality, with merest hints of a tune escaping between the quavering flux of left and right hand temporal interplay. With a clear image of where he was heading, a little roar was released, leading to a raw-edged jazz phrase, and the travelling rhythmic phrase was picked up to maintain the momentum and to provide the basis over which tones, harmonics and multiphonics were interwoven.

In a wide-ranging discourse around his love of jazz he had a few surprises - Paul Desmond's alto was Evan's way in to jazz, ultimately to be followed by the sheer impact of Coltrane. Often returning to the timelessness of Bach – Glenn Gould and Gidon Kremer were noted – he has also recently developed an appreciation of Steely Dan, which he said sends out shockwaves in certain company! Pharoah Sanders and Albert Ayler were significant influences, and the dynamic between John Tchicai's sax and Milton Graves' percussion in the New York Art Quartet was also singled out. He covered various aspects of his engagement with the British and German free jazz scenes and encapsulated for the many young players in the audience the essence of his unique magic, "transcend technique and get to the place where you sound like yourself."

Evan Parker: soprano and tenor saxophones
Interviewer: Martin Speake, Professor of Jazz Saxophone, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance


Reprise: Mike Stern and Bill Evans at Cheltenham by Ruth Butler / Chris Parker

Mike Stern and Bill Evans. Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2013
Photo credit: Ruth Butler. All Rights Reserved

Just something to brighten up a Saturday morning: an extra, particularly happy shot of Mike Stern and Bill Evans from this year's Cheltenham Jazz Festival by Ruth Butler which didn't make it into Chris Parker's Cheltenham round-up.

Chris wrote in his review:" A glance at the line-up for the early-evening concert in the Big Top told you everything you needed to know: Mike Stern (guitar), Bill Evans (saxes, occasional keyboards), Tom Kennedy (bass) and Dave Weckl (drums) are the definitive fusion band, the partnership between the frontline pair forged in the Miles Davis post-comeback 1980s band and continued in the present century in New Steps Ahead, the rhythm section old sparring partners with an almost telepathic mutual sensitivity. Stern is simply an unstoppable force, magnificently verbose, apparently possessed of an insatiable appetite for soloing, with his uniquely attractive spangly sound, on his own refreshingly simple themes, both furiously fast and sweetly slow; Evans is a throaty, tireless grandstander (in the best possible sense; this music positively demands such a full-on approach) with a great ear for a catchy tune – and with Weckl and Kennedy tight and tautly bristling under them, this was ninety minutes of pure unadulterated pleasure from four masters of the genre. As Evans commented, pointing at his bandmates: ‘They’re the best at what they do.’ Amen to that."


Drawing of Yoko Ono and Kim Gordon of Body/Head at Meltdown

Yoko Ono and Kim Gordon of Body/Head. Royal Festival Hall June 2013
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2013. All Rights Reserved

Read Geoff's review of the concert HERE